The Prospect Spring site and the problem of the Late Woodland/Mississippian transition in the western Ozarks


How did the Late Woodland cultures in the western heart of the Ozark Province relate to societies submerged in the Emergent Mississippian stage of development? What kinds of historical conditions and processes were operating within indigenous Ozark societies to cause them to select or reject aspects of Mississippian influence? This article presents pertinent evidence from the Prospect Spring site (23GR711) in the upper Sac River valley of Greene County, Missouri, and many similar Late Woodland site assemblages in the western Ozarks dating to ca. A.D. 600—950. We find no diversification of ceramic forms and surface treatments, no evidence for nucleation of communities, no increase in extra-regional trade, no heavy reliance on plant domesticates, and no public architecture other than small burial mounds. Thus, few or none of the social and political processes associated with Emergent Mississippian social formations can be inferred. Selected aspects of Mississippian technology and symbolic artifacts entered the cultures of the Ozark highlands, and some "Mississippian" technologies, e.g., shell tempering, are in fact regionwide innovations that predate the development of ranked societies elsewhere in the trans-Mississippi South.


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Midcontinental Journal of Archaeology