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Title: The social networks and structural variation of Mississippian sociopolitics in the southeastern United States

Network approaches in archaeology offer a promising avenue for facilitating bottom-up, comparative approaches to sociopolitical organization. While recent applications have focused primarily on migration and demographic trends, identity and identity politics, and the dynamics of geopolitical and regional interaction, little in the way of comparative sociopolitical organization has been attempted. In this study, I present an alternative approach to the use of sociotypological models across southern Appalachia. In particular, I demonstrate the value in employing network analyses as a mode of formally and quantitatively comparing the relational structures and organizations of sociopolitical landscapes; in this case, those traditionally characterized as constellations of chiefdoms. By approaching southern Appalachian histories through the relationships upon which social, political, and economic institutions were actually built, I move the study of southeastern political systems beyond the use of models that emphasize the behaviors of elites and the ruling class as inspired by the ethnographic and ethnohistoric records. To these ends, using a robust regional ceramic dataset, I compare network histories and political landscapes for the southern Appalachian region between ca. AD 800 and 1650. The results of these analyses contribute insights to the study of small-scale political organizations by demonstrating that (i) as chiefdoms developed, leaders drew on preexisting social and political conditions; (ii) while networks of chiefly interaction were defined by instability, wider networks of interaction were much more durable; and (iii) quantitative network analyses and qualitative ethnohistoric accounts can articulate with one another to shed light on indigenous political organization.

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Author(s) / Creator(s):
Publisher / Repository:
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Page Range / eLocation ID:
p. 6707-6712
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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