Common ground, contesting visions: the emergence of burial mound ritual in late prehistoric central Virginia

Dunham, Gary Herbert, Department of Anthropology, University of Virginia
Hantman, Jeffrey, Department of Anthropology, University of Virginia
Metcalf, Peter, Department of Anthropology, University of Virginia
Plog, Stephen, As-Anthropology, University of Virginia
Wagner, Roy, Department of Anthropology, University of Virginia

The late prehistoric period (ca. A.D. 900-1600) in central Virginia wi tnessed the gradual construction of a group of earth-stone and earthen accretional bur ial mounds, many of which contained the remains of over one thousand individuals. Their appearance coincides with a number of fundamental and relatively rapid cultura! transformations, including decreasing mobility, increasing reliance on agriculture, and growing social inequality and heterogeneity. Despite the steady attention of archaeologists since the eighteenthcentury excavation of Thomas Jefferson, the cultural significance of the mounds, and their relation to such farreaching changes in their surroundings, are largely unknown. On an empirica! level, this study represents the first comprehensive synthesis of the various burial forms contained wi thin and under the accretional mounds. On a theoretical level, this study represents an extended critique of current approaches to mortuary ritual and assumptions about symbolism in archaeology. An alternative, middle-range model of mortuary ritual, based largely on post-structuralist assumptions about ritual and meaning, is developed to link the documented, longterm changes in the form of mound burial practices to the concurrent transformations in social organization, mobility, and subsistence occurring outside of the grave.

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PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
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