That is, all cultures have subsets of people that form groups defined by age, sex, kinship, wealth, type of work, shared history, education, or religious belief. Each group, club, or association has its own interests, some of which may be loosely shared by all members of society while others reflect specific concerns and priorities of that particular association. The status and importance of a group in enforcing social rules of behavior necessarily vary with the size and wealth of the group. Consequently, the manner in which groups interact will vary depending on the situation and status of the groups affected. Archaeologists can detect many of these relations by examining the organization of cemeteries and the contents of graves, settlements, the contents of different houses, and the settlement system.
Although other schemes are possible, anthropologists often place a society in one of four classes (Service 1962): (a) band, (b) segmented or tribal, (c) chiefdom, or (d) state. Anthropologists must ask a number of questions in order to classify human societies. The types of data and questions posed for clues about a prehistoric society's level of social organization include the following:
Archaeologists must try to address these questions and classify past societies by examining the patterning of their material remains. The following references provide introductions to the archaeological study of human societies.
Earle, T.K. 1991. Chiefdoms: Power, Economy, and Ideology. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
Earle, T. 1997. How Chiefs Come to Power. Stanford University Press.
Johnson, A.W. and T.K. Earle. 1987. The Evolution of Human Societies: From Foraging Group to Agrarian State. Stanford University Press, Stanford.
Service, E. 1962. Primitive Social Organization: An Evolutionary Perspective. Random House, NY.
Mississippian societies, including that of the American Bottom, are the focus the following select references. Many excellent older papers exist in the professional literature, but this selection represents some of the most recent synopses of Mississippian society.
Anderson, D.G. 1994. The Savannah River Chiefdoms: Political Change in the Late Prehistoric Southeast. University of Alabama Press, Tuscaloosa.
Emerson, T.E. 1997. Cahokia and the Archaeology of Power. The University of Alabama Press, Tuscaloosa and London.
Emerson, T.E. and R. Lewis (editors). 1991. Cahokia and the Hinterlands. University of Illinois Press, Urbana.
Fowler, M.L. 1974. Cahokia: Ancient Capitol of the Midwest. Addison-Wesley Module in Anthropology 48:3-38.
Fowler, M.L. 1997. The Cahokia Atlas: A Historical Atlas of Cahokia Archaeology. revised edition. University of Illinois, Urbana.
Milner, G.R. 1998. The Cahokia Chiefdom: The Archaeology of a Mississippian Society. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, DC.
Muller, J. 1977. Mississippian Political Economy. Plenum Press.
Pauketat, T.R. and T.E. Emerson. 1997. Cahokia: Domination and Ideology in the Mississippian World. University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln.
Smith, B.D. (editor)1978. Mississippian Settlement Patterns. Academic Press, NY.
Stoltman, J.B. (editor) 1991. New Perspectives on Cahokia: Views from the Periphery. Prehistory Press, Madison.
The foundation of any scientific endeavor is the comparative approach. To understand past societies archaeologists must compare data from different regions. The following references may help you ask new questions about Mississippian Society in the American Bottom.
Blanton, R.E., S.A. Kowalewski, G. Feinman, and J. Appel 1981. Ancient Mesoamerica: A Comparison of Change in Three Regions. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
Drennan, R.D. and C. A. Uribe. (editors) 1987. Chiefdoms in the Americas. University Press of American, Lanham, MD.
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