Publication Date


Document Type


Degree Name

M.A. (Master of Arts)

Legacy Department

Department of Anthropology


Mississippian culture--Tennessee; West; Indians of North America--Tennessee; West--Antiquities; Indians of North America--Warfare--Tennessee; West


The Mississippian period in the Southeastern United States was characterized by settlement hierarchies, intensive agriculture, and population growth. Each of these characteristics are argued to have led to endemic patterns of warfare within Mississippian communities. Although archaeological evidence in the form of warrior iconography and fortifications appears to support the notion of frequent, widespread warfare in the late prehistoric Southeast, osteological data is largely lacking. Only two single-site osteological analyses have been conducted to date pertaining to Mississippian warfare activities. This analysis examines the osteological and mortuary data of fourteen sites, including 632 individuals, within west-central Tennessee in order to provide a more holistic view of warfare activities during the Middle and Late Mississippian periods. Evidence for trophy-taking, embedded projectile points, stabbing, and blunt force trauma were each assessed, although only a total of eighteen individuals demonstrate evidence for possible warfare injury. Frequency of warfare varied considerably by site, and is shown to be the highest at sites peripheral to political centers. Although the threat of warfare may have been great at these centers, it appears that fortifications may have deterred attacks through intimidation. The general low frequency of warfare within the geographic region sampled does not support the theoretical arguments for endemic warfare patterns within the Mississippian time period.


Includes bibliographical references (pages [138]-149)


[xiii], 185 pages




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