Temporal trends in violence during the Mississippian period in the Middle Cumberland Region of Tennessee

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4 Scopus citations


This study utilizes a biocultural approach to investigate skeletal evidence for violence among Mississippian communities in the Middle Cumberland Region (MCR) of Tennessee. Bioarchaeological evidence for violence is placed within the local environmental and cultural context in order to better understand temporal trends in regional conflict. Bioarchaeological analyses were conducted on the crania of 599 adult individuals from 13 sites in the MCR. Approximately 7.2 percent of the sample (43/599) showed evidence of violent cranial injuries in the form of scalping, sharp force trauma, and blunt force trauma. While overall trauma frequencies appear to increase during the later Mississippian period, this may reflect a shift in the nature of violence, rather than simply an intensification of intergroup conflict. More fine-grained temporal comparisons are made for samples from the late Mississippian Averbuch site. The variability in the frequencies and types of violence observed within the MCR demonstrates the issues inherent in the reliance on broad generalizations about human behavior in the past and highlights the importance of utilizing both a regional and diachronic approach.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)171-182
Number of pages12
JournalSoutheastern Archaeology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2017

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This project was supported by an NSF grant awarded to D. W. Steadman and C. C. Cobb (BCS-0613173); Division of Behavioral and Cognitive Sciences. A special thank you to the following people and institutions for their help and granting permission to analyze skeletal collections from the MCR of Tennessee: The Tennessee Division of Archaeology, Boyce Driskell and Jennifer McDonough at the University of Tennessee Archaeological Research Laboratory, Lynne Sullivan at the McClung Museum of Natural History and Culture, Tiffiny Tung at Vanderbilt University, and Michele Morgan and Olivia Herschensohn at The Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology at Harvard University. I am grateful to Charles R. Cobb, Michael C. Moore, and Kevin E. Smith for sharing their archaeological knowledge and expertise. I would especially like to thank the anonymous reviewers, editors, as well as Giovanna M. Vidoli, Dawnie Wolfe Steadman, Erin Koch, Janet Mansfield, and Hilary Jarvis for their comments and suggestions on early drafts of this manuscript.

Publisher Copyright:
© Southeastern Archaeological Conference 2017.


  • Bioarchaeology
  • Mississippian
  • Tennessee
  • violence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archaeology


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