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Geoarchaeology of the Louisiana Coastal Plain

Geoarchaeology of the Louisiana Coastal Plain

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Published by etchplain
Draft copy of a Cultural Resource Management report on the archaeology and geoarchaeology of the Louisiana Chenier Plain and Mississippi River Delta. I am the author of Chapters III, IV, and V of this report.
Draft copy of a Cultural Resource Management report on the archaeology and geoarchaeology of the Louisiana Chenier Plain and Mississippi River Delta. I am the author of Chapters III, IV, and V of this report.

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Categories:Types, Research, Science
Published by: etchplain on Aug 15, 2009
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Marksville culture, represented by the Marksville site {16AV1}, is viewed as a localized version of the
elaborate midwestern Hopewell culture {Smith et al. 1983}. Burial practices and material goods reflect
participation in a trade network identified as the "Hopewell Interaction Sphere" {Struever 1964}. Marksville
culture Is a Lower Mississippi Valley culture complex. Marksville culture Is marked by an intensification of
ritual associated with mortuary activities, and a resurgence in inter-regional exchange of prestige items
{Cantley et al. 1984}.

Decorative motifs shared by Marksville and Hopewell ceramics include crOSS-hatching, U-shaped
incised lines, zoned dentate rocker stamping, cord-wrapped stick impressions, bisected circles, and raptorial
bird motifs {Smith et al. 1983}. Other Marksville traits include a chipped stone assemblage of knives,
scrapers, and drills; groundstone atlatl weights and plummets; bone awls and fish hooks; Gary projectile
points; and, trade network Items made of galena, mica, and copper. Treatment of the dead changed, with
the construction of conical burial mounds with log tombs or platforms, and ossuaries. A fairly high level of



social organization Is Indicated by the presence of log tombs, the abundance of grave goods accompanying _
Interments, and the construction of conical burial mounds and geometric earthworks.

Some archeologists suggest that Hopewellians relocated to the Marksville culture area because of
similarities In Marksville and Hopewell cultures (mound construction, burial patterns, and ceramics) (Muller
1983). Maize appears to have been Introduced Into the region; it probably first was utilized regionally by
Marksville peoples (Walthall 19S0). Maize and previously domesticated plant varieties, particularly pioneer
annuals and other tropical cultigens such as squash and gourd, supplemented intensive riverine subsistence
pursuits (Struever and Vickery 1973).

Marksville s~es generally are located on higher ground adjacent to rivers, or along floodplain lakes.
Settlements were located along natural levees of rivers and distributary channels in the Mississippi Valley.
Most Marksville sites are found within the Lower Mississippi Valley, along the Mississippi escarpment of
Macon Ridge (Smith et al. 19S3; Neitzel and Perry 1977). Houses were circular, fairly permanent, and
possibly earth-covered.

Three basic types of Marksville sites have been Identified within coastal Louisiana. Multiple mound
ceremonial complexes usually were situated at the confluence of trunk channels and major crevasse
distributary streams. These strategic locations were trade and communication centers providing ready
access to a variety of environmental zones for exploitation of food resources. Satellite residential
communities, often featuring a single mound, were situated along the natural levees between stream
junctures. Small seasonal resource procurement sites were scattered around the satellite communities to
enhance efficiency of obtaining food resources (Jeter et al. 1989). Relict crevasse splays probably formed
favored locations for satellite communities.

Few Marksville sites are recorded within the coastal zone; most of these represent minor
components within sites. For example, very few Marksville sites are known from around Lake Pontchartrain,
possibly reflecting a relative abandonment of the area from Tchefuncte to Marksville times. Most of the
Lafourche and Plaquemine parishes do not contain Marksville sites, reflecting the recency of these
landforms. Excavations at coastal Marksville sites have been limited to a few mound sites such as Coquille
(16JE37), Boudreaux (16JE53), Big Oak Island (160R6), and Magnolia Mound (16SB49); data collected at
these sites primarily reflect mortuary practices rather than the daily life-ways of the Marksville culture (Jeter
et al. 19S9).

Several Marksville phases have been identified tentatively In the coastal region. These phases are
based on geographic location, and on differences In ceramic assemblages. However, considerably more
data are necessary to define better the geographic extent and characteristics of these phases. Three
tentative phases have been Identified within southeastern Louisiana. The laBranche Phase, in the
Pontchartraln Basin, Is an early Marksville phase usually recognized as a minor component at earlier
Tchefuncte sites. The Marksville components at Tchefuncte (16ST1), Big Oak Island (160R6), and the Little
Woods Middens (160R1-5) are recognized as part of the laBranche Phase. The Magnolia Phase Is a late
Marksville phase identified within the St. Bernard Deltaic Complex, especially along Bayou La Loutre. These
sites typically also include Coles Creek and Plaquemine components. The Coquille Phase, named after
Coquille (16JE37), tentatively has been identified within the Barataria Basin south of New Orleans. The
validity of this phase has not yet been confirmed (Phillips 1970; Jeter et al. 19S9; Beavers 1977).

In the Teche and saltdome region of south central Louisiana, early Marksville sites are classified as
Jefferson Island Phase sites, while late Marksville sites are classified as Mandalay Phase sites (Toth 1977).
Tentative southwest coastal phases include the early Marksville Lacassine Phase identified at Strohe
(16JD10), In Jefferson Davis Parish; the late Marksville Veazey Phase recognized in the Grand Lake region;
and the late Marksville Lake Arthur Phase In the Lake Arthur region. Additional data are necessary to define
more fully these phases (Jeter et al. 19S9).


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