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Editorial Reviews. Review. `The volume will appeal to a broad spectrum of archaeologists. Case Studies in Environmental Archaeology (Interdisciplinary Contributions to Archaeology) 2nd Edition, Kindle Edition. by Elizabeth Reitz ( Editor).
Table of contents



Cedar glades are rises covered primarily with cedar trees, with a grass ground cover where the soil is not eroded. The bottomland hardwood sample was taken in a forest of mixed sweetgum Liquidambar styraciflua , boxelder Acer negundo , sugarberry Celtis laevigata , Osage-orange Maclura pomifera , American and winged elm Ulmus americana and U. Quick gloss Zonitoides arboreus 1 21 4 Euconulidae Wild hive Euconulus chersinus 13 13 39 Oxychilidae3 Carved glyph Glyphyalinia cf. The upland hardwood sampling locales are more variable Table Sample 1 in that category was taken from a ridge with various hardwood species, but the tree cover within 10 m of the sample consisted almost entirely of Osage-orange.

This is a common tree in the Black Prairie and may occur in discrete stands, as was the case for three additional sampling locales. Opinions differ on whether this species is native to the Black Prairie or was introduced by Euro-Americans Brown ; Schambach , an important question given its excellence as a wood for making bows Schambach Upland hardwood samples 2 and 3 came from a broad, upland flat with a mix of shagbark and mockernut hickories Carya ovata and C.

Upland hardwood sample 4 came from an isolated clump of hardwoods surrounded by tallgrass prairie: Several other areas were sampled Table One sample was taken from a stand of native cane. Finally, one sample was taken from a stand of mature loblolly pines Pinus taeda planted on an acid cap surrounded by tallgrass prairie. These samples were washed in a micron screen with the largest plant detritus being washed and then removed. The remaining debris was hand-sorted. The mollusks were identified under low-power magnification; representative samples were identified using the extensive reference collection at the Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago, Illinois.

The identification of mollusks from archaeological contexts is not without problems. Some species are only identifiable by dissection of the soft body, in which case identification can only go to the genus or family level with shell alone. Where identification to species is possible using shell characteristics, some factors still need to be borne in mind: Thus, considerable experience is needed to make correct identifications of archaeological specimens.

Obtaining modern samples from the surrounding landscape is very useful.

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In most cases it is pos- sible to match at least some of the archaeological and recent forms so that iden- tification of the latter allows for identification of the former. Another problem with land snail analysis is that mollusk taxonomy is far from stable. Conversely, taxonomists revising a systematic group may combine previously separated species.

Finally, ongoing research and evolving methods of taxonomy and systematics lead to frequently chang- ing and sometimes controversial hypotheses regarding evolutionary relation- ships among species. As researchers adapt molluscan nomenclature to new systematic models, names of molluscan groups at all taxonomic levels change as well. For beginners it is highly recommended to have identifications and nomenclature checked by a specialist.

Correspondence analysis is a way of displaying ecological data, in which each sampling locale is rep- resented as a single point. Each point is measured against all other points in terms of species characteristics and is mathematically positioned in multidimensional space.


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An ordination diagram represents a two-dimensional slice through the resulting cloud of data points. Axes are drawn through the cloud in such a way as to represent as much variation as possible. Axis 1 lies as far away from all the points as a straight line can; Axis 2 must be perpendicular to Axis 1, but otherwise posi- tioned so as to account for as much of the remaining variation in the data as pos- sible Gauch ; Gower ; Ludwig and Reynolds The scale is not set because distance varies with the axes represented.

In general terms, sample points are described as being either positive or negative along individual axes, with the distance between them being a relative measure of similarity or dissimilarity. Patterns in the data are subjectively interpreted by the researcher. This process can be continued for any number of axes, but in most paleoenvironmental applications only the variation represented by the first two or three axes is meaningful.

Detrending is a complicated mathematical procedure that corrects for artificial pat- terns in the data which can occur if samples are taken along an ecological gradient ter Braak ; ter Braak and Prentice Many of the modern snail samples were taken along transects that ran through different adjacent environmental zones, so detrending is appropriate for these data.

Samples with twenty or more identifiable shells were used and rare species were downweighted. The modern cedar glade and prairie samples fall together on the left-hand side of the diagram, along with the two modern samples from 22OK and 22OK The pine stand, not surprisingly, is clearly separated from all other sample points. The remaining points are spread out along both axes, reflecting subtle variations in the soil conditions and vegetation of the sampling locales. The archaeological snail assemblages do not fall into any particular group, but clearly indicate that in the past the site locales were forested with hardwoods.

Major snail species associated with prairie and cedar glade settings include globular drop Oligyra orbiculata , white-lip dagger Pupoides albilabris , wing snaggletooth Gastrocopta procera , and whitewashed rabdotus Rabdotus dealbatus. Minority species include palmetto vertigo Vertigo oralis , ovate verti- go V. The pine stand sample consists almost solely of medium striate Striatura meridionalis , a species apparently able to tolerate highly acidic conditions. An ordination diagram showing the hyperspace distribution of snail sam- pling locales in the Black Prairie produced by Detrended Correspondence Analysis.

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The distribution of the points is based upon the characteristics of the snail assemblages from each locale, which in turn reflect environmental differences such as soil type and veg- etation cover. Axis length is related to similarities between assemblages, with Axis 1 accounting for Most of the variation along Axis 1 reflects the difference between prairie and hardwood snail species.


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The distribution along Axis 2 is primarily structured by the bottomland hardwood and pine stand assemblages, which have markedly different fau- nas. Other modern assemblages were obtained from various habitats in the Black Prairie. Two specimens of ice thorn Carychium exile also are represented, the only specimens found in either mod- ern or archaeological contexts.

The other samples are more difficult to character- ize because the species data do not group distinctly, an indication that the ecological preferences of some species e. Of particular interest is the recovery of 16 archae- ological specimens of fossaria Fossaria sp. This is a genus of amphibious snails not found in any of the modern samples.

Its pres- ence in archaeological contexts could indicate wetter conditions in the past e. Another expla- nation is that these mollusks were brought from elsewhere, perhaps when the pit was stocked with water from a creek.

Case Studies in Environmental Archaeology

However, the small size of the pit about 1. The freshwater mussels provide some support for the hypothesis that conditions were wetter in the past. Although not present in large amounts, mussel shell is found in a variety of contexts at most of the archaeological sites tested. These data are presented in Table as number of valves recovered.

In cases where more than one valve is present, attempts at matching valves showed that they were of different sizes, so differ- ent individuals are represented. The mussel species represented are commonly found in archaeological sites along the Tombigbee River, the largest waterway in the area, located about 32 km east of Starkville Peacock , but all are found in tributary streams as well e.

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Because mussels cannot survive extended periods without water, their presence in Black Prairie archaeological sites suggests that smaller streams historically recorded as intermittent once flowed year-round. It is possible that the mussels were obtained from far away, although this appears to have been uncommon in the southeastern United States Peacock Ultimately, chemical sourcing of mussel shells to specific waterways may make it possible to address this question directly Peacock et al.

Case Studies in Environmental Archaeology Interdisciplinary Contributions to Archaeology

The archaeological snail faunas from the two sites clearly indicate a hardwood setting. The exact nature of those hard- wood stands is unknown. Although it would be useful to examine snail assemblages from additional sites, the data from 22OK and 22OK indi- cate that these sites were not located in cedar glades. Nonetheless, con- tinued analysis of modern snail collections and comparison with other biotic data to refine our knowledge of former plant communities is appropriate.

Additionally, further study may resolve whether Osage-orange, a species of considerable economic importance in some parts of the region prior to Euro- American colonization, is native or introduced to the Black Prairie. The consistent presence of freshwater mussels at Black Prairie sites may be an indication that conditions in the past were wetter than those recorded during the past years.

Exactly when farming began in the province is still debated Hogue and Peacock ; Johnson ; Peacock and Rafferty ; Rafferty , but the presence of an established farming system by circa A. As more data become available, it will be interest- ing to compare the Black Prairie to other parts of the region. For example, Stahle and Cleaveland examined bald cypress Taxodium distichum tree rings in three southeastern states and found evidence for a circa year drought begin- ning in the midth century, a time approximately coincident with historical descriptions of water shortages in the Black Belt.

Given that colonial descrip- tions of forest conditions are corroborated, historical references to other land- scape elements such as the extensive cane brakes Mohr may also be accurate, providing additional subjects for ecological restoration. It is clear, however, that some landscape elements are gone and will be recovered only with great expense and effort. Such springs likely were most common along the edges of the Black Belt where residual alluvial soils were thickest Schmitz et al.

Those soils and springs, along with their plants and ani- mals, are lost due to human impacts. The accumulation of more paleoenviron- mental data from archaeological sites will be the only way to characterize these vanished communities and to provide further ecological baselines for restora- tion efforts. This is the case with many types of biotic remains found at archaeolog- ical sites. Environmental archaeologists must be willing to devote the time and effort needed to establish the ecological requirements of species recovered from the sites where they work.

Collaboration with specialists is essential in this regard, and may result in unexpected findings such as expanding the known ranges of species e. As with historical records, modern analogues for biotic communities identified in the archaeo- logical record cannot be assumed. We thank the following people for their help in the field or in the lab: We would like to thank Dr. Joe Seger, Director of the Cobb Institute, for his continuing sup- port.

All mollusks belonging to this family are referred to as Succineidae only. In Peacock and Melsheimer and Peacock et al. However, according to recent publications, the older name Lucilla has priority over the other generic names. The distinction between the two species L. Specimens resembling these two nominal species are referred to Lucilla sp. A few years ago, one of us was approached by a student who asked if we really knew anything about human behavior from environmental archaeology.


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  6. This student was taking an environmental archaeology course in which taphonomy and the biases of the techniques and methods used by environmental archae- ogists figured prominently. The goal was to train students to be informed users of environmental data. But the student, quite rightly, wanted to know if beyond taphonomy, recovery biases, and analytical biases, there was anything envir- mental archaeologists could say about the human condition. Her question was the stimulus for the first edition of this volume and continued to guide us as we edited this second edition.

    Our purpose is to show students and scholars, through a series of case studies, that there are things environmental archaeologists do know about the human-environmental relationship; many of which defy conventional archaeological expectations. To do so, however, we must break with the t- ditional organization of environmental archaeology along disciplinary lines. Environmental archaeology is intrinsically interdisciplinary. The demands of each discipline often mean, however, that specialists become further speci- ized in a very limited technical focus. While almost every environmental technique and method is represented in this edition, they are used as tools, not as ends in themselves.

    Environmental Archaeology and Historical Archaeology. Archaeozoology Art Documents and the Life Assemblage. Archaeological Food Remains and Cultural Diversity.