An examination of social transformations during the Archaic-Early Woodland transition in western New York using resilience theory and lithic analysis
Snyder, Daniel Joseph
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This research examines the transition from the Late and Transitional Archaic (ca. 4500–2800 BP) to the Early Woodland (ca. 2900–2200 BP) from a social perspective, as a time period of dramatic linked cultural and environmental change. Previous research in western New York is used as a starting point to discuss a suggested reorganization of society that occurred with the advent of the large scale Meadowood Interaction Sphere, which transported socially meaningful items across the Northeast. This innovation is interpreted as a fundamental break and change in identity from the preceding Late Archaic time period, which had developed highly territorial interactions with impermeable boundaries for exchange. The cache blade was the ubiquitous trade item and dominant diagnostic marker of the Meadowood. It was crafted from Onondaga chert, found in western New York and interpreted to be symbolically important for its ubiquity across vast areas. A chaîne opératoire perspective is used in conjunction with structuration theory for the interpretation of a lithic analysis of Early Woodland Meadowood assemblages in comparison to suspected Early Woodland assemblages and against archaeological test assemblages, to examine if affiliation with a group identity can be read through the measurement of debitage attributes which were controlled by the flint knapper and learned through passed down traditions. This study demonstrates the validity of this technique, which provides a direct link between the archaeological assemblage and the creation of socially significant items, as well as demonstrating how small-scale societies dealt with an unpredictable climate in prehistory.