At the time of Spanish contact in A.D. 1540, the Mississippian inhabitants of the great valley in northwestern Georgia and adjacent portions of Alabama and Tennessee were organized into a number of chiefdoms distributed along the Coosa and Tennessee rivers and their major tributaries. The administrative centers of these polities were large settlements with one or more platforms mounds and a plaza. Each had a large resident population, but most polity members lived in a half dozen or so towns located within a day’s walk of the center. This book is about one such town, located on the Coosa River in Georgia and known to archaeologists as the King site.
Excavations of two-thirds of the 5.1 acre King site reveal a detailed picture of the town’s domestic and public architecture and overall settlement plan. Intensive analysis of architectural features, especially of domestic structures, enables a better understanding of the variation in structure size, compass orientation, construction stages, and symbolic cosmological associations; the identification of multi-family households; and the position of individual structures within the town’s occupation sequence or life history. Comparison of domestic architecture and burials reveals considerable variation between households in house size, shell bead wealth, and prominence of adult members. One household is preeminent in all these characteristics and may represent the household of the town chief or his matrilineal extended family. Analysis of public architectural features has revealed the existence of a large meeting house with likely historical connections to 18th-century Creek town houses; a probable cosmological basis for the town’s physical layout; and an impressive stockade-and-ditch defensive perimeter.
The King site represents a nearly ideal opportunity to identify the kinds of status positions that were held by individual inhabitants; analyze individual households and investigate the roles they played in King site society; reconstruct the community that existed at King, including size, life history, symbolic associations, and integrative mechanisms; and place King in the larger regional political system. With excavations dating back to 1973, and supported in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Geographic Society, this is social archaeology at its best.