W2 Reflection Post

The Morton Project seemed to clearly display all three paradigms of contemporary archaeology: culture history approach, processual approach, and contextual approach.

In the Morton Project, the groups of people focused on from the lecture video were the Oneota and the Mississippians. This project is meant to reveal the form of the past, how they lived, who they lived with, etc. In order to figure out these questions, the archaeologists involved with the Morton Project use the culture history approach.

One of the most important questions that I think is being looked at using the culture history approach is if the Oneota and the Mississippians coexisted with one another? The processual approach is used to determine, or at least hypothesize, how and why events occurred. One of the things that previous research indicates is that there seemed to be a high level of violence. One of the questions archaeologists ask is “What was the social context within which persistent episodic small scale warfare took place?”. A very basic question I would ask is why is it that the skeletal analyses indicated a high level of violence? Was it normal in their culture or was it something else? I find this interesting because every culture and group of people have their own sets of morals and values. What we as a society think is cruel today may have been sacred to a group of people many years ago. This leads into the contextual approach.

The contextual approach focuses on the meaning in the past. We want to focus on the behaviors and see how they change. How did the group of people reach or attempt to reach civilization? What were the beliefs of the Mississippians and the Oneota? How did these cultures interact with one another? Did they even interact with one another?

All three of these paradigms of contemporary archaeology or approaches work together to form a picture of what life was like at the time within that specific society and gives the archaeologists more knowledge of the past. The questions that we ask may even require archaeologists to use more than one approach. There are/can be many explanations for each question, and the challenge is gathering enough evidence or research to confidently say what happened. I thought of that when the lecture video talked about “exploring alternative narratives about village life and violence”. I find this extremely fascinating about these three approaches and archaeology in general.

3 thoughts on “W2 Reflection Post

  1. Hello. I agree with your question about what level of violence was normal in their culture. I believe there was mention in the lecture that the skeletal remains seemed to show double the “normal” injuries due to violence as compared to other known Oneota cemeteries. I still have some questions about this though. Does it truly suggest they had long term violent interactions with the Mississippians, or perhaps a yet unknown outsider group? Or, could it have resulted from some internal fighting due to unknown stressors? I also think about mass casualty instances in our current culture. What if one single event could have accounted for an unusually high number of violent deaths?

  2. You raised a very good question when you re considered the validity of whether the skeletal damage was really from violence in the community. I never thought of it like that, but there could have been so many reasons behind the physical damage, including a cultural ritual, or a social norm. For instance, it was a cultural norm in China for women to bind their feet. While learning about the Mississippian and Oneota people during the lecture, I assumed that they lived at the same time. When I read that it is unknown whether they actually lived at the same time, it caught me off guard. There are so many layers to the history behind archaeological findings!

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