Thesis and Dissertation Abstracts

Paleopathology and Nutritional Health at the Nitschke Effigy Site Dodge County, Wisconsin

by Melissa Bradley
Abstract of Masters Thesis
Department of Anthropology 
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
December 2005

The focus of this thesis is to provide evidence for dietary information for the Late Woodland builders of effigy mounds from a site in Dodge County, Wisconsin. The effigy mound skeletal samples from the Nitschke Mound site in Dodge County, excavated by W.C. McKern in 1928, were examined for the paleopathological signs of a dependency on maize agriculture in order to determine the subsistence strategy of the people who were buried in effigy mounds in this section of southeastern Wisconsin. Although the skeletal remains have been inventoried previously for Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act purposes (Ruth 1997), they have not been examined in depth.

Paleopathological anomalies, such as dental caries, linear enamel hypoplasia, porotic hyperostosis, cribra orbitalia, Harris lines, and arthritis should appear in significant amounts if the population at Nitschke was dependant on maize as agriculturalists. In this study, paleopathologies related to the shift to maize agriculture were looked for while examining the Nitschke site remains at the Milwaukee Public Museum. A complicating factor in this study is that the Nitschke mound builders were almost definitely collecting and consuming wild rice (Zizania aquatica). Wild rice may have provided people at Nitschke with a nutritious dietary staple, preventing the typical pathological signs of maize horticulture on the skeleton.

The results of the study included 1.) a review of the osteological data and conclusions made during the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act inventory at the Milwaukee Public Museum; 2). the identification of relatively small levels of pathologies on the Nitschke skeletal remains; 3.) an approximate determination of the level of starchy plant foods in the subsistence strategies of the people buried at Nitschke; and 4.) an intersite comparison of the Nitschke population to other forager and agriculturalist groups.


Messages, Meanings and Motfis: An Analysis of Ramey Incised Ceramics at the Aztalan Site

by Katy J. Mollerud
Abstract of Masters Thesis
Department of Anthropology 
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
August 2005

Ramey Incised ceramics originated at the large Middle Mississippian site of Cahokia at the advent of the Stirling Phase (AD 1050-1150). The ceramic type is readily identifiable, and primarily characterized by distinctive vessel morphology and a series of incised motifs decorating the upper shoulders of the jar. Ramey Incised pottery appeared roughly contemporaneously at the large fortified village site of Aztalan, located in southeastern Wisconsin. In order to accurately characterize Aztalan Ramey Incised pottery, an attribute analysis was completed for the entirety of the curated Aztalan Ramey Incised ceramic assemblage. Aspects of vessel morphology, surface treatment, metric data and motif information were included for analysis.

With the intention of characterizing local varieties of Ramey Incised pottery, ceramic assemblages from Cahokia, and the John Chapman and Lundy sites of the Apple River region of northwestern Illinois were analyzed, as well. For the most part, the same attributes were recorded for the Ramey Incised ceramic assemblages of all the sites. A full description of each site's Ramey Incised pottery allowed the ceramic assemblages to be compared against one another in order to determine if any regional variation existed.

Several statistical methods including Chi-square tests, analysis of variance, and correspondence analysis demonstrate similarities and significant differences between the ceramic assemblages, and specifically between the motif suites of the four sites. First, several motifs specific to the hinterland sites were identified, and appear to be associated with a hinterland variation of the Ramey Incised design field. Second, Ramey Incised pottery from the Lundy site is morphologically different than its companion site in the Apple River region, and motif expression at Lundy is quite restricted when compared to the other three sites. Third, the motifs expressed at Aztalan and the Apple River sites are a sub-set of Cahokian Ramey Incised iconography. As a corollary, the results of this analysis suggest that Aztalan and the Apple River sites most likely were derived from Cahokia, but that Aztalan did not originate from the Apple River region.


The Ohio Hopewell Blade Industry and Craft Specialization: A Comparative Analysis

by Kevin Christopher Nolan
Director of Thesis: Mark F. Seeman
Abstract of Masters Thesis
Kent State University
August 2005

The Turner workshop is one of a growing number of blade-making sites recognized as associated with the major Hopewell earthwork complexes of the Ohio Valley. Blade-making is an important aspect of the Hopewell episode and a potential context for specialized production by craftsmen. Yerkes (2003:18) recently has suggested that craft specialization should be viewed as a continuum with specific situations representing one of many possible levels of intensified production. This thesis first examines the level of intra-Hopewell blade industry consistency among continuous and categorical blade and blade-core attributes. Next, the relative variability in continuous blade attributes within the Turner Workshop sample is compared with the relative variability of blade industries from other cultural contexts to gain perspective on the relative position of the Ohio Hopewell blade industry on the specialization continuum. Relative variability is measured by the Coefficient of Variation adjusted for bias (CV*), and CV*s are compared with a modified t-test as recommended by Sokal and Braumann (1980:61-62). Based on the high level of relative variability present within the Turner Workshop sample, the lack of standardization in the production process, and the high error rate evident in the final products of the industry it is concluded that craft specialization is not a characteristic of the Ohio Hopewell blade industry.


The Creation of Space and Place at Cahokia: Mound 72, Mound 96, and the Mound 72 Precinct

by Robert Joseph Watson
Abstract of Doctoral Dissertation 
Department of Anthropology 
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
May 2005

The Cahokia site is one of the most visually impressive archaeological sites in North America. Comprised of over 100 earthen mounds, expansive plazas, and other monumental constructions, prehistoric Cahokia was the largest and most populous expression of the Mississippian cultural pattern in North America. No other Mississippian community was built on the scale of Cahokia or contained as many monuments. In this study, the monuments of Cahokia are viewed as an active, and essential, component in the transformation of Cahokia into a culturally meaningful place, or sacred landscape. This study is focused on a portion of Cahokia that includes Mound 72 and the recently excavated Mound 96 in order to assess the importance of the creation of place in the early Mississippian period centralization of political control at the site. These data indicate that the construction of monuments was an early, and necessary, element of the creation of place at Cahokia and resulted in a built environment permeated with social meaning and value. As a socially meaningful place, Cahokia and its monuments formed a landscape of power used by elites to legitimize and justify their claims of ascendancy.

The material manifestations of the creation of place at Cahokia are seen in the artifacts and building sequences of Mounds 72 and 96. The comparative analysis detailed in this study is focused on the material cultural, context, structure, and place of Mound 72 and Mound 96 at Cahokia. Preliminary analysis of these data suggests that these two monuments constituted a significant place within the Cahokian sacred landscape. The importance of this place reached its peak during the Lohmann phase, a time that witnessed the development of a centralized political hierarchy at Cahokia.


Effigy Mound Sites as Cultural Landscapes: A Geophysical Spatial Analysis of Two Late Woodland Sites in Southeastern Wisconsin

by Kira E. Kaufmann
Abstract of Doctoral Dissertation 
Department of Anthropology 
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
May 2005

This dissertation is a spatial analysis of a class of sacred sites known as Effigy Mounds during the Late Woodland period in southeast Wisconsin, circa A.D. 700-1100. Effigy Mounds are earthworks in the shape of animals, conical, linear, or geometric shapes. The research is focused on the upper Rock River Drainage in southern Wisconsin, a region where Effigy Mounds are very common. Although there are many theories concerning the meanings of Effigy Mounds, there is no cohesive description of Effigy Mounds as landscape elements and their function in the use of space by Late Woodland people. This research connects cultural and cognitive aspects of Native American cosmology with physical manifestations on the landscape. Effigy Mounds are examined from ideological and physical perspectives that are not mutually exclusive. Effigy Mounds are viewed as signifiers with multiple levels of function and meaning including sacred space, territorial markers, and mechanisms of social control and cohesion.

Investigation at two Late Woodland Effigy Mound sites, Indian Mounds County Park in Jefferson County and Nitschke Mounds County Park in Dodge County, shows that landscape utilization varied significantly within and among Effigy Mound sites. An alternative model to understand Late Woodland Effigy Mound sites as ritual landscapes explores these features, their distribution across space, and the connection to internal site structures by synthesizing multidisciplinary data from historical ethnographic accounts, previous archaeological surveys, and new geophysical data. This multidisciplinary approach provides an example applicable to other landscape studies.


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