The 82nd Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2013)


Middle Cumberland Regional Relationships and the Mississippian Geopolitical Landscape

GIOVANNA M. VIDOLI1, HEATHER WORNE2, DAWNIE W. STEADMAN3 and CHARLES R. COBB4.

1Department of Anthropology, Binghamton University, 2Department of Anthropology, University of Kentucky, 3Forensic Anthropology Center, University of Tennessee, 4South Carolina Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology, University of South Carolina

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This paper explores the population structure in the Middle Cumberland Region (MCR), Tennessee, during the Mississippian period and expands this information to reconstruct the region’s geopolitical landscape. Using population genetic modeling, we examine geographic and socio-political parameters that may have affected gene flow within the region and with external populations. Thus far, no studies have examined the population structure of the MCR and this paper examines the biological relationships of this prehistoric population with information about geographic distances and the natural environment, such as soil productivity and terrain visibility.

Cranial measurements and non-metric traits from 249 and 574 individuals, respectively, were analyzed from 14 sites in the Middle Cumberland Region to reconstruct the population structure using minimum genetic distances and the Relethford-Blangero method of heterogeneity for cranial measurements. In addition, Geographic Information Systems (GIS) methods provided data regarding spatial distance between sites and visibility, site density, and the natural environment around the sites. Mantel matrices tested for correlation between biological distances and geographic distances and the natural environment.

The results indicate that biological affinities do not correlate with geographic distances suggesting the isolation-by-distance model may not apply to this region and the island model may be more appropriate. Further, there is no correlation with the tested natural landscape factors. These results suggest equal gene flow within the region and few socio-political factors, such as conflict, or environmental factors which precluded population movement around the region. As such, the MCR socio-political landscape was one of balanced control over resources and power.

Supported by NSF grant to D.W. Steadman and C.R. Cobb (BCS-0613173).

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