Ancestral Affiliation and the Production of Social Identity: Investigations of Mortuary Practices among Persistent Hunter-Gatherers in Archaic Indian Knoll, Kentucky



Rodan, Rebecca

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This thesis explores the utilization of the Archaic cemetery at Indian Knoll (ca. 4600-3500 BP) in Kentucky as a persistent mortuary landscape. Reconstructing mortuary practices and population structure among hunter-gatherers helps explain the formation of persistent places through identities affiliated with the ancestral dead. Grave good presence and absence as well as burial location within the midden was recorded. To analyze population structure, buccolingual and mesiodistal measurements were collected for each permanent tooth present for the sample. An R-matrix evaluated within-group phenotypic variation for the full sample and within temporal layers of the midden. Mantel’s partial correlation tests were employed to evaluate the relationship between biological and spatial distance within the total cemetery and between occupational layers. Phenotypic variation increased between the Deep (oldest) and Mid-Shell (intermediate) midden layers and decreased between the Mid-Shell and Low Shell (youngest) midden layers. Grave good usage became more inclusive between the Deep and Mid-Shell midden occupation, then decreased between the Mid-Shell and Low Shell midden. There were no significant correlations between biological and spatial distances. These results suggest that the social structure of the site moved from a more restricted, closely related group to a more diverse population, with a contraction in this diversity during the latest occupational phase. Burial proximity was likely a symbolic social strategy aimed at preserving the site as a persistent landscape through maintenance of social memory via adjacency to ancestral occupants.



Hunter-gatherers, Biodistance, Indian Knoll, Biological anthropology, Mortuary anthropology, Archaic