Enduring Traditions and the (Im)materiality of Early Colonial Encounters in the Southeastern United States

Jacob Holland-Lulewicz, Victor D. Thompson, James Wettstaed, Mark Williams

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Hernando de Soto's expedition through the southeastern United States between 1539 and 1543 is often regarded as a watershed moment for the collapse of Indigenous societies across the region. Historical narratives have proposed that extreme depopulation as a result of early contact destabilized Indigenous economies, politics, networks, and traditions. Although processes of depopulation and transformation were certainly set in motion by this and earlier colonial encounters, the timing, temporality, and heterogeneous rhythms of postcontact Indigenous histories remain unclear. Through the integration of radiocarbon and archaeological data from the Mississippian earthen platform mound at Dyar (9GE5) in central Georgia, we present a case of Indigenous endurance and resilience in the Oconee Valley that has long been obfuscated by materially based chronologies and typologies. Bayesian chronological modeling suggests that Indigenous Mississippian traditions persisted for up to 130 years beyond contact with European colonizers. We argue that advances in modeling radiocarbon dates, along with meaningful consultation/collaboration with descendant communities, can contribute to efforts that move us beyond a reliance on materially based chronologies that can distort and erase Indigenous histories.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)694-714
Number of pages21
JournalAmerican Antiquity
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • History
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Archaeology
  • Museology


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