Democratic cooperation is a particularly complex type of arrangement that requires attendant institutions to ensure that the problems inherent in collective action do not subvert the public good. It is perhaps due to this complexity that historians, political scientists, and others generally associate the birth of democracy with the emergence of so-called states and center it geographically in the West, where it then diffused to the rest of the world. We argue that the archaeological record of the American Southeast provides a case to examine the emergence of democratic institutions and to highlight the distinctive ways in which such long-lived institutions were - and continue to be - expressed by Native Americans. Our research at the Cold Springs site in northern Georgia, USA, provides important insight into the earliest documented council houses in the American Southeast. We present new radiocarbon dating of these structures along with dates for the associated early platform mounds that place their use as early as cal AD 500. This new dating makes the institution of the Muskogean council, whose active participants have always included both men and women, at least 1,500 years old, and therefore one of the most enduring and inclusive democratic institutions in world history.
|Number of pages||20|
|State||Published - Oct 29 2022|
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
We thank the Department of Anthropology, the Laboratory of Archaeology, and the Center for Applied Isotope Studies at the University of Georgia (UGA). We also thank Stephen Kowalewski, Gary Feinman, and Amanda Roberts Thompson for their previous reading and thoughts on this article. Research at Cold Springs was supported in part by USDA Forest Service
We thank the Department of Anthropology, the Laboratory of Archaeology, and the Center for Applied Isotope Studies at the University of Georgia (UGA). We also thank Stephen Kowalewski, Gary Feinman, and Amanda Roberts Thompson for their previous reading and thoughts on this article. Research at Cold Springs was supported in part by USDA Forest Service. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the USDA Forest Service. We thank American Antiquity editor Debra Martin, the three anonymous reviewers, and Maggie Spivey-Faulkner for their comments, which improved the overall quality of this article.
Copyright © The Author(s), 2022. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of the Society for American Archaeology.
- American Southeast
- collective action
- democratic institutions
- Native Americans
- Woodland period
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)