Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

A Mortuary Analysis of the Structure 7 Cemetery at Town Creek, a Mississippian Site in the Piedmont of North Carolina
by Rosenwinkel, Heidi, M.A., East Carolina University, 2013, 144; 1545013
Abstract (Summary)

Town Creek is a prehistoric Native American site in central North Carolina. The Mississippian period occupation, from about A.D. 1150-1350, saw the most intensive use of the site. The community transformed from a residential village during the first half of the occupation to a necropolis later on. The cemeteries were created within the original public and domestic structures, the largest of which is Structure 7, the focus of this thesis. According to historic accounts of Southeastern Indian groups, communities were comprised of ranked clans made up of multiple kin groups that maintained separate household spaces. Through visual analysis and the spatial analysis of the distribution of burial attributes that include burial depth, age, sex, grave goods, body positioning and body orientation, I identify five spatially discrete groups within the Structure 7 cemetery. I argue that these five groups represent smaller social groups within the clan. The first group is a Central Square cluster that includes key members from the smaller social groups in the cemetery. There burials were arranged in a square, a formation repeated throughout Southeastern Indian ideology and site architecture. A small, Central cluster enclosed by the Central Square cluster, is consistent with ritual activity, as the interred are all children without any grave goods or other distinguishing attributes. A cluster in the northern part of the cemetery is made up entirely of adult males and children. This Northern cluster is interpreted as a politically-based grouping, as adult males most often held positions of political power in historic native groups. The children interred are likely kin or youth in line for positions of significant social status. Alternatively, they could represent ritual offerings associated with the interments of the adult males. Adult males, adult females, and children were found in the Southeastern and Southwestern clusters, which led to their interpretation as kin groups. Each of these groups was distinguishable through the distribution of specific artifact types and body positioning. The presence of all five of these groups contributed to the 50 person burial population in Structure 7, making it the largest cemetery at Town Creek. Its large size indicates that those interred in the Structure 7 cemetery were part of the largest and /or longest lasting group in the Town Creek community. Should other clans at Town Creek have had similar organization, the burial attribute patterning identified through this analysis may assist in the interpretation of other cemeteries at the site.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Boudreaux, Edmond A., III
Commitee: Avenarius, Christine B., Eween, Charles R., Perry, Megan A.
School: East Carolina University
Department: Anthropology
School Location: United States -- North Carolina
Source: MAI 52/02M(E), Masters Abstracts International
Subjects: Archaeology, Cultural anthropology, Native American studies
Keywords: Cemetery, Mississippian, Mortuary, North carolina, Piedmont, Town creek
Publication Number: 1545013
ISBN: 978-1-303-36995-7
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