Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Anthropology
This dissertation analyzes botanical and faunal evidence from Feltus, a Late Woodland period mound site used between AD 700 to 1100, in order to understand what plants and animals were gathered, harvested, and hunted for community gatherings. This interpretation is based on data from unrestricted contexts around the plaza and a restricted context on a mound summit. Data from unrestricted contexts reveal three groupings of taxa brought to Feltus: amassed foods that were stored, those that were brought fresh, and special components. Amassed and stored foods, which involved a large degree of planning, include nuts, starchy grain seeds, and fruits. Amassed and fresh foods, which were prone to spoilage and compiled shortly before or during an event, included deer, rabbits, squirrel, and fish. Plants and animals that did not fit into either category are special components. Special plants were those associated with ritual and medicinal activities, while special animals included dangerous mammals, raptors and owls, and crawfish.In contrast, the restricted midden deposit on Mound B included specific dishes, labor-intensive ingredients, and conspicuous consumption. Mound-top meals not only incorporated a smaller range of taxa, indicating a focus on more specific dishes, but also highlighted labor-intensive ingredients, including nut oils, possible fish oil, and small grain seeds. Conspicuous consumption was demonstrated through younger cuts of deer focusing on roasted vertebrae and ribs, roasted squirrel, and bear paws.Combining data from unrestricted and restricted contexts reveals support for three interrelated activities: feasting featuring amassed stored and fresh taxa, rituals utilizing special plants and animals, and medicinal activities using plants associated with illness and purification. These activities also reveal discontinuities in the current Southeastern framework for delineating communal feasting and other activities; in particular, higher species richness and special taxa are not limited to elite private meals. This reversal of faunal patterns suggests the need for a more flexible set of subsistence expectations for pre-Mississippian communities. In turn, this flexibility may be better suited for identifying subsistence shifts among transforming Late Woodland societies.