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

Dietary Variation of Individuals from the Angel Site and Caborn-Welborn Villages: Implications on the Vacant Quarter Hypothesis


1School of Human Evolution and Social Change, Arizona State University, 2Department of Anthropology, University of Notre Dame

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The Vacant Quarter Hypothesis argues that the North American midcontinent was mostly depopulated well before the contact period. Many large Middle Mississippian chiefdom centers and their peripheral sites were abandoned before A.D. 1500, yet the Caborn-Welborn phase, which arose 50 km to the west of the Angel Chiefdom around the time of its abandonment, persisted throughout this time. Stable isotope evidence from human burials at the Caborn-Welborn villages of Hovey Lake and Mann and the Angel Site tests the hypothesis that the Caborn-Welborn phase began as a resettlement of the displaced Angel people. These data also serve to examine the effects of the social instability inherent in the Vacant Quarter Hypothesis through evidence for movement between Caborn-Welborn groups.

The average δ13C and δ15N dietary values for individuals at these three sites are significantly different (p<0.05; p=0.04). The average δ13C values for the individuals at the Angel, Hovey Lake, and Mann sites are 9.1±2.3‰ (n=61), 9.7±1.4‰ (n=13), and 10.3±0.8‰ (n=13), and the average δ15N values were 9.0±0.9‰ (n=61), 9.3±0.2‰ (n=13), and 9.8±0.5‰ (n=13) respectively. These differences suggest that the Caborn-Welborn phase likely developed in situ rather than as a movement of the Angel people as a result of chiefdom collapsed. Additionally, the Mann site exhibits two significantly different clusters of δ15N diets, with one averaging 10.2±0.1‰ (n=7) and the other 9.28±0.5‰ (n=6); (p=0.0). This indicates the fusion of distinct Caborn-Welborn groups, perhaps due to turmoil and social instability in connection with the implications of the Vacant Quarter.

Support for this research was provided by the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program, University of Notre Dame. The samples were analyzed at the Center for Environmental Science and Technology, University of Notre Dame.

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