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THE MISSISSIPPIAN FIN DE SIÈCLE IN THE MIDDLE CUMBERLAND REGION OF TENNESSEE

  • Anthony M. Krus (a1) and Charles R. Cobb (a2)
Abstract

Bayesian chronological modeling is used to investigate the chronology for a large-scale human depopulation event during the Mississippian period (AD 1000–1600) known as the Vacant Quarter phenomenon. The Middle Cumberland region (MCR) of Tennessee is within the Vacant Quarter area, and six villages from the final phase of Mississippian activity in the MCR have been subjected to radiocarbon dating. Complete radiocarbon datasets from these sites are presented within an interpretative Bayesian statistical framework. The results provide a unique history of each settlement and demonstrate that Mississippian occupations at each site likely terminated in the mid- to late fifteenth and possibly early sixteenth centuries AD, which is 50 to 100 years later than the most recent estimate for the timing of the Vacant Quarter. Mississippian abandonment in the MCR was relatively quick, likely occurring over less than a century. The exact reasons for abandonment are not entirely clear but appear to be linked to climate change. A radiocarbon simulation experiment indicates that future robust radiocarbon dating with well-selected samples could greatly improve the chronological precision for this late Mississippian activity. More broadly, this example demonstrates that model building with radiocarbon simulations can be used to address regional-scale chronological issues within the American Southeast and beyond.

Se emplea el modelado bayesiano para explorar la cronología del proceso de despoblación humana a gran escala que tuvo lugar durante el periodo Misisipiano (1000-1600 dC) y que se conoce como el fenómeno del “Sector Vacante”. Seis poblados del final de la fase de actividad misisipiana en la Región del Medio Cumberland (RMC) de Tennessee, ubicada a su vez dentro del área del “Sector Vacante”, fueron objeto de un programa de dataciones radiocarbónicas. Se presentan series completas de dataciones radiocarbónicas de estos yacimientos, interpretadas mediante el análisis cronológico bayesiano. Los resultados permiten trazar la historia de cada yacimiento y demuestran que las ocupaciones misisipianas en estos sitios probablemente finalizaron entre mediados y finales del siglo quince y posiblemente comienzos del siglo dieciséis dC. Este lapso es entre cincuenta y cien años más tardío que la estimación cronológica más reciente del “Sector Vacante”. El abandono de la ocupación misisipiana en el RMC fue relativamente rápido, probablemente abarcando menos de un siglo. Las causas del abandono no están completamente dilucidadas, pero parecen estar relacionadas con el cambio climático. Un experimento de simulación radiocarbónica indica que futuros programas de datación sobre muestras bien seleccionadas podrían mejorar de manera considerable la precisión cronológica para el final de la actividad misisipiana. En términos generales, esto demuestra el potencial de los modelos construidos mediante dataciones radiocarbónicas simuladas a la hora de abordar cuestiones cronológicas de escala regional, tanto para el sudeste de EE.UU. como para otras zonas.

Copyright
Corresponding author
(tony.krus@glasgow.ac.uk, corresponding author)
References
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