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CahokiaA World Renewal Cult Heterarchy$

A. Martin Byers

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9780813029580

Published to Florida Scholarship Online: September 2011

DOI: 10.5744/florida/9780813029580.001.0001

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The Early Terminal Late Woodland Period Sponemann Community Development

The Early Terminal Late Woodland Period Sponemann Community Development

(p.163) 7 The Early Terminal Late Woodland Period Sponemann Community Development

A. Martin Byers

University Press of Florida

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter interprets the Sponemann settlement pattern in developmental terms, as the working out over time of shifting proscriptive-prescriptive deontics arising from intensified cultivation and settlement as predicated under the Sacred Maize model. It begins by presenting the proscriptive/prescriptive settlement and subsistence dynamics. The chronological scheme of Communities 1 through 4 seems quite consistent with the predictions that flow from the Sacred Maize model. The chapter also discusses the Sponemann site ritual/ceremonial sphere. The interpretation of the Sponemann phase occupation is consistent with the Sacred Maize model in that it illustrates that the incorporation of maize as a major subsistence crop is correlated with the expansion of the population, the elaboration of world renewal ritual through the construction of a sequential series of keyhole structures, and the modification of the deontic ecological posture from a strongly proscriptive-settlement toward a less proscriptive-settlement orientation correlated with an intensifying prescriptive subsistence ceremonial orientation.

Keywords:   Sponemann community, settlement pattern, Terminal Late Woodland period, proscriptive-prescriptive deontics, Sacred Maize model, subsistence dynamics

Andrew Fortier and his colleagues (1991, 57) note that the Sponemann phase occupation of this site was made up of thirty-one rectangular single-post structures, six single-post features commonly referred to in the literature as keyhole structures, and associated pits and related features (plus one small circular single-post structure). These formed at least six spatial clusterings. As can be seen in Figure 7.1, the keyhole structures were distributed across the northern half of the site. Three of these—the most northern structure (Feature 685) and the two more southern keyhole structures (Features 730 and 762) connected by a “shared” ramp, along with their spatially associated pit features—form the northernmost sector of the site and were labeled as Cluster 6 by the excavators. The rest of the structures with associated pits were initially treated sequentially from south to north as Clusters 1 through 5. As a result of further analysis of this patterning, the initial Clusters 4 and 5 were combined into a single Cluster 4/5. These five clusters—Clusters 1, 2, 3, 4/5, and 6—were then interpreted as forming four chronologically sequential community occupations, numbered south to north as Communities 1, 2, 3, and 4 (Figure 7.1).

Interestingly, the six keyhole structures were lumped together as the cold-season dwellings of Community 4. Therefore, according to the excavators, Community 4 displays the most complex community plan, since its rectangular structures and associated pits (Cluster 4/5) have been interpreted as the warm-season dwellings and the linear cluster of six keyhole structures as the cold-season dwellings of the same community: “It is conjectured that this configuration of keyholes may represent a winter seasonal encampment. It is not clear which community is associated with this settlement, but it is argued here that Community 4 may be the best candidate” (Fortier et al. 1991, 155). This claim was supported by the observations that (1) both the Cluster 4/5 rectangular structures and the keyhole structures were in the northern sector of the site, (2) the average floor area of both keyhole and rectangular structures was the same (about 4.3 square meters to 4.6 square meters), and (3) tobacco seeds (p.164)

The Early Terminal Late Woodland Period Sponemann Community Development

Figure 7.1. Communities 1–4 of the Sponemann site. (Fortier et al. 1991, fig. 8.27, p. 149; Figure 8.28 , p. 150. Courtesy of the Illinois Transportation Archaeological Research Program, University of Illinois.)

The Early Terminal Late Woodland Period Sponemann Community Development
(p.166) and other rare items were found in some of the structures of both clusters. I say more about this claim later.

Sorting these clusters in terms of relative chronology is quite important. As noted in chapter 6, the Sponemann and Patrick ceramic assemblages are not useful for this purpose, since they are quite thoroughly mixed across the site.1 Since ceramics cannot be used for fine chronological ordering, the most useful attributes for this purpose might be the variable range of the average size of the structures. This is the approach that Fortier uses (Fortier et al. 1991, 133). He notes that the average size of the structures in the southern sector exceeds the average size of known Late Woodland Patrick phase structures of the American Bottom and concludes that these “Sponemann phase structures … appear somewhat anomalous in comparison with other structures from this period. This might add some credence to the view that this assemblage was intrusive into the American Bottom” (Fortier et al. 1991, 78). He uses the change in relative sizes of these structures as a rough relative chronology, reasoning that if the Sponemann jar and maize indicate a migrant population from upstream in the Mississippi drainage, then the migrants may also have brought with them the practice of building houses much larger than the Patrick phase norm of the Late Woodland period of the American Bottom: “Is it possible that those unusual structures represent facilities built by the initial Sponemann phase settlers of the American Bottom, or at least of this site?” (Fortier et al. 1991, 133).

In these terms, moving from the southern to the northern clusters, Fortier noted a distinct difference in the number of rectangular structures and associated pits, the average floor area size, and the relative areal size of the four communities (Fortier et al. 1991, 151). Community 1 had six rectangular structures averaging 6.8 square meters and also had seventy-one pits (Fortier et al. 1991, 131, 151), well above the average for other known Patrick phase structures in the American Bottom. These six relatively large structures were arranged (Figure 7.1) in a shallow northwest-southeast semicircular band about 80 meters long, and each was about 15 meters from its neighbors. The floor basins displayed little wall slumpage and had superimposed pits, indicating rapid abandonment, filling, and then postabandonment use, possibly as earth ovens. Presumably, this means that occupants of later structures—for example, those immediately to the north constituting Community 2—used the abandoned house basins of Cluster 1 as earth ovens (Fortier et al. 1991, 131). Community 1 also displayed the lowest maize ubiquity index (UI) of all the clusters.

Community 2 covered a larger area than Community 1 and formed an oval measuring about 70 meters north–south by 50 meters east–west (Figure 7.1). (p.167) It had almost double the number of rectangular structures—eleven compared to the six of Community 1, immediately south—and many more storage pits, about 122, although proportionally this is lower than the seventy-one pits of Community 1. However, the pits of Community 2 were generally larger and the average size of these rectangular structures was 8.85 square meters, distinctly larger even than the structures of Community 1 (Fortier et al. 1991, 151). As for Community 1, the maize UI for Community 2 was also relatively low.

Community 3 (see Figure 6.1) occupied the center portion of the total site, forming an oval 60 meters north–south and 50 meters east–west and covering an area about 50 square meters smaller than the area of Community 2. There were eleven rectangular structures, the same as in Community 2. However, these averaged 5.33 square meters (smaller than the rectangular structures of the latter community), and several of these appeared to be paired. Associated with these eleven structures were 274 pits, more than double the number that was associated with the eleven much larger rectangular structures of Community 2. As I comment in chapter 6, Fortier considers Cluster 3/Community 3 to have been occupied for a longer period than any of the other clusters. Interestingly, in support of this claim are the facts that the maize UI, as Fortier and his colleagues calculated it, was twice that of Community 2 and that Community 3 had three times the amount of limestone, which is generally recognized as important in the processing of maize.2

The structures of Community 4 were arranged roughly in a semicircle with its open side facing east. It was the smallest of the four, having six rectangular structures with 104 pits making up the compound Cluster 4/5. However, as noted above, according to the excavators the inhabitants of this community also occupied all of the keyhole structures during the cold season, although only a single keyhole structure, Feature 773 (Fortier et al. 1991, 142) was spatially located in Cluster 4/5. The average size of the six rectangular structures was about 4.3 square meters. Fortier notes that along with having the smallest average size of rectangular structures, Community 4 was also spatially the most dense (Fortier et al. 1991, 155).

In sum, four separate community plans are recognized as making up the Sponemann phase occupation of this site. Fortier suggests that the two southern clusters may be the earliest, basing this suggestion on the assumptions mentioned above, namely, that maize and the Z-twist, chert-tempered pottery were brought in by migrants from the upstream Mississippi Valley, where the Late Woodland period residential structures are thought to have been larger than those typical in the American Bottom. He reinforces this chronology by (p.168) noting that these two southern communities had the lowest maize UI of the Sponemann site, which is consistent with the suggestion that these communities would constitute the earliest known use of maize as a staple subsistence crop in the American Bottom. Community 3 would have then followed, and the more northern Community 4 would mark the terminal Sponemann phase occupation, with the six keyhole structures featuring as the winter or cold-season quarters of this occupation.


The chronological scheme of Communities 1 through 4, as summarized above, seems quite consistent with the predictions that flow from the Sacred Maize model. The contents of the Community 1 cluster display all the indications of the earliest occupation. Its houses had the second-largest average floor area. The lowest number and sizes of pits along with the lack of interior fire sources are the clearest indication of this cluster's having been occupied for only part of the year, primarily from early spring to late fall. The size of these large rectangular structures suggests that they could have been occupied by extended families. With the coming of winter, the community would likely have dispersed, with each extended family possibly remaining together. This can be expected for a community that is initially intensifying its subsistence regime, that is, the expansion of maize as a staple crop. Warm-season occupation with winter abandonment would count as a proscriptive tactic to reduce settlement-induced pollution. Community 1 also had the lowest maize UI, which would be consistent if it marks the initial introduction of maize as an important subsistence crop. Finally, the fact that the house basins were used as earth ovens after being abandoned suggests that Community 2, occupying the cluster immediately north, was responsible for this recycling, making that cluster second in the sequential occupation of this site.

The attributes of the Community 2 cluster seem to fit it best as the occupation following Community 1. Extended families seem to have been retained and enlarged, as the eleven rectangular structures have the largest average floor areas of the Sponemann phase occupation of the site. Simultaneously, its maize UI is not that much greater than that of Community 1, but the number of pits is greater, as is their size, suggesting that overall the proportion of food production is greater for this occupation than the preceding one. Also, if the earth-oven pits found superimposed in the basins of the Community 1 structures were (p.169) produced by Community 2, then these would have to be added to the total number of Cluster 2 pit features. The expansion of the size of the extended family, as indicated by the greater average floor area, the greater size of the pits, and the use of earlier house basins as earth ovens all indicate population expansion, as suggested under the Sacred Maize model. At this time, land was probably not felt to be at a premium—at least not when the community was initially laid out, since it covers a relatively expansive area. Keeping the individual structures well spaced could be a proscriptive settlement strategy, minimizing the pollution load per unit area. Occupation appears to have still occurred during only part of the year since there are no interior sources of heat in the dwellings and, as stated above, the major cooking was done outdoors by using the floor basins of the abandoned structures of Community 1 as earth ovens (Fortier et al. 1991, 136). Therefore, I would assess Community 2 as manifesting a proscriptive settlement and moderately less proscriptive subsistence regime (I discuss the ritual component below) since, in settlement terms, it sustained the part-year occupancy posture of Community 1 while the larger and greater number of pits suggests a development toward a less proscriptive subsistence orientation.

The layout of Community 3 may be expressing an emerging premium on gardening plots. It has the same number of rectangular structures as Community 2, but they are significantly smaller in floor area and the overall size of the distribution area is significantly smaller than is covered by the cluster of dwellings of Community 2. Furthermore, according to the excavators, it was probably occupied for a longer period than any of the other clusters. With the absence of internal sources of heating, Community 3 would appear to have sustained the pattern of cold-season abandonment with reoccupation in the warm season. As I suggest in the previous chapter, the focus on maize processing in the southeastern sector of Community 3 may reflect collective and spatially separated processing of this seasonally distinct and specially sacred crop.

A pairing of structures may also have occurred at that time, and with the smaller overall size of each structure, this might indicate a splitting of the extended families into smaller, possibly nuclear units. The pairing of structures, the longer period of overall occupation, and the suggestion of a premium on land imply that neighbors might have begun to occupy nearby ridges that had previously been available for gardening and, therefore, that the region surrounding Community 3 may have been experiencing an expansion of population, as would be anticipated under the Sacred Maize model.

These are the signs of a deontic ecological strategy under rising stress as the subsistence practices start to move away from the proscriptive and toward the (p.170) prescriptive pole. Therefore, the patterning of the rectangular structures making up Community 4 suggests a significant modification from the settlement patterning of Community 3. The Community 4 cluster is smaller in both the number of residential structures and the area incorporated, indicating a smaller overall warm-season population. Furthermore, the distinctly smaller average floor space and the possibility that this pattern continues to display the practice of cold-season abandonment suggest that the land premium was developing more intensely. What may have happened, therefore, was the beginning of the expansion and dispersion of settlement in hamlets across the landscape (away from the more favorable higher land bordering the eastern bluffs) and, at the same time, the spreading of maize agriculture. If this later Sponemann phase occupation is any indication of general settlement tendencies in this sector of the American Bottom at this time, then smaller communities had emerged, and they had sustained a dual cold-season/warm-season settlement posture, suggesting proscriptive ideological tactics with regard to settlement, coupled with an escalating move away from the proscriptive and toward the prescriptive subsistence strategic posture, since much more land was being used for cultivation. These changes would probably have been carried over into later phases, as I discuss in the following chapter.

However, the cold-season/warm-season settlement posture claim raises an important issue that clearly sets me at odds with the interpretation by Fortier and his colleagues, which, as I comment earlier, treats the Sponemann phase of this site as a year-round settlement. Fortier and Jackson (2000, 134), for example, assert that during the Patrick phase—and this would include the Sponemann phase of the Terminal Late Woodland period—intensively occupied villages had “permanent, year-round occupation.” However, I am inclined toward Brad Koldehoff 's 2002, 4) view in this regard. In Koldehoff 's recent analysis of the Woodland Ridge site, a bluff-top site overlooking the southern sector of the northern American Bottom, he raises the significant possibility that the degree of mobility practiced by Late Woodland American Bottom populations was greater than is generally assumed. The Sponemann phase populations of the northern sector of the American Bottom very likely had basically the same settlement practices as those responsible for the Woodland Ridge site, even though this southern-sector Patrick phase site had no maize or other Sponemann-related materials (although Koldehoff found one example of a Z-twist cordmarked bowl). In Koldehoff 's estimation, this bluff-top site, and possibly the Patrick phase occupations of the Dohack and Stemler Bluff sites (the latter being less than one kilometer from the Woodland Ridge site), were seasonal, (p.171) subseasonal, or short-term aggregation sites used primarily for activities mediated by feasting (Koldehoff 2002, 160–61, 164). The groups would have been small, in the nuclear family size (or, in my view, within the size range of an age-set of companions accompanied by their families), possibly only a few aggregating at a time. This claim would be consistent with the premise I have suggested that the floodplain village sites may have been occupied only during the warm season and that even during this period, small groups, such as age-sets of local cults, would have periodically met in the uplands at such sites as Woodland Ridge and Stemler Bluff.


This possibility not only raises the issue of seasonal compared to year-round occupation, but also raises the question that must now be addressed, namely, the nature of the ritual or ceremonial sphere at the Sponemann site. This means addressing the question of the settlement articulation mode as manifested in this site. The Dual Clan-Cult model characterizes the prehistoric social systems of the Eastern Woodlands as, for the most part, being based on relatively autonomous kinship-based and nonkinship-based groups, generically treated as clan and cult sodalities, respectively. As discussed earlier, these two relatively autonomous groupings would have maintained an arm's-length relation with each other. The manner by which this relation was sustained would have underwritten the settlement articulation mode. As noted under the Dual Clan-Cult model, clan ritual would be directed toward kinship concerns, such as midwifery subsistence and settlement rituals, marriage alliance, kin-based life-crisis cycles, and the like, while public, world-renewal/thanksgiving type ceremonies would be the primary concern of the age-grade cults.

In these terms, therefore, I postulate that the ritual sphere of the Late Woodland and Terminal Late Woodland periods would be divided into two sub-spheres: one clan related and the other cult related. Since clanrelated features would be in the majority, being basically embedded in the spatial relations of the residential dwelling structures, it is likely that cult-based ritual features would be in a distinct minority. The cult custodial duties would require conducting world renewal ritual on behalf of the whole community, and the structures that cult members would use would be built to serve this special purpose. Therefore, they would probably be distinctly different in form from everyday dwellings. This distinction is not arbitrary but is based on the special symbolic pragmatic requirements related to the felicitous performance of ritual that they (p.172) would mediate. Not only would their form serve this need, but they also should display artifactual and featural patterns that cannot be accounted for in terms of everyday domestic needs, even when midwifery ritual is intrinsic to the domestic routine.

Combining an ideological solution to enhancing the outcome of the ritual with a practical solution to maintaining the clan-cult arm's-length relation in such small and probably seasonally occupied clusters as described above would promote a spatial peripheralization of the cult features from the domestic dwellings. This would reinforce the relative autonomy of the clan and cult as well as ensure a separation of the sanctity of these special ritual structures from the pollution of everyday domestic life. Accordingly, I postulate that the form, the content, and the patterned distribution of the keyhole structures are consistent with these expectations.

Keyhole Structures

Keyhole structures are ubiquitous across the Midwest in the later Late Woodland; in general, their disappearance from the archaeological record marks the end of the Late Woodland period.3 As noted above, there are six recognized keyhole structures at the Sponemann site (Figure 7.1). However, all of these are found in the northern portion. Two are located within the Community 3 precinct, one is in the precinct of Community 4, and three make up Cluster 6, the northernmost part of the site. They were rectilinear to square semisubterranean buildings with single-post wall construction and had an average area of 4.61 square meters (Fortier et al. 1991, 155). Each had a shallow ramp or channel about 2 meters long and 43 to 70 centimeters wide, extending from the center of (usually but not always) the long side of the structure and usually terminated at the distal end by a shallow circular or semicircular basin that was 9–20 centimeters deep (Fortier et al. 1991, 78, 80–81, 151). For five out of the six structures at the Sponemann site, these ramps were oriented eastward. In some cases, several of these keyhole structures are “chained” by the ramp of one linking it to the floor basin of its proximal neighbor and the ramp of the latter linking it to its proximal neighbor, and so on, but only two keyhole structures (Features 730 and 762 in Cluster 6) were linked in this way at the Sponemann site.

Fortier and colleagues (1991, 147–48, 155) point out that none of the keyhole structures had an interior fireplace (and also stress that essentially none of the structures of this occupation, rectangular or keyhole, had interior fire features). They also comment on the low level of debris typically found on the (p.173) floors or mixed in the fill of the keyhole structures. However, some interesting materials were found. For example, there were only eighty-eight tobacco seeds found in the Sponemann phase occupation. Eighty-three of these were found in Feature 730, one of the northern keyhole structures (Fortier et al. 1991, 417). Also found were discoids, pipe fragments, and maize. Typically the ramp displays no packing that would have been caused if it had been used as a passage entryway. In fact, Fortier and colleagues point out that, in several cases, there were post molds in the middle of the ramp where it connected to the floor basin, indicating that there was no doorway at that point. The distal basin was also typically shallow and had little or no debris associated with it or its fill.4

Fortier and his colleagues explore several possible functions of the keyhole structure. They dismiss the possibility that it was a sweat lodge, since all these structures lacked interior hearths. Only one keyhole structure had an exterior pit immediately adjacent to a wall that showed signs of burning. Keyhole Feature 730 “also contained the remains of … tropical cultigens, maize and cucurbits, but none of the feature-associated materials except for the large number of tobacco seeds suggests possible ceremonial or ritual activities in or near the structure” (Fortier et al. 1991, 414). Fortier also points out that similar materials were found at the Range site and interpreted as indicating ritual activity. In any case, as pointed out above, Fortier concludes that the keyhole structure must have been a specialized cold-season residence, while the rectangular structures without ramps were used as summer or warm-season residences.

This is contradictory to my above postulate, which is that the keyhole structure embodied the cult-based ceremonial sphere of the Sponemann phase occupation. In my view, the reasons for making this assertion seem fairly obvious. The associated materials—tobacco, discoids, and pipes, as well as the very “clean” nature of their contents—strongly implicate ritual practices. Furthermore, the distinctive ramp–distal basin complex feature was clearly never used in a practical sense, nor could it have been, since there was probably no related doorway. Instead, where a door entrance would be expected, posts were inserted, suggesting that the “ramps” might mark a “spirit” entrance and/or exit. A similar, apparently deliberate blocking of free entry into a specialized structure was recognized by Robert Bell 1972, 163) at the Mississippian Harlan site in Oklahoma. He interpreted this blocking as marking a mortuary structure, an interpretation concurred with by James Brown (1975, 5).

In their report on the Fish Lake site, Fortier and colleagues (1984, 21–36, 48–52, 75–81) note that all but two of the nine structure features they revealed at this important Patrick phase site were keyhole structures, and at least three (p.174) of the latter (Features 32, 34, 81) had posts placed in such a manner as to seriously impede access and/or egress through the presumed eastern “entrance” at the point where the ramp and basins joined. In most cases these were free-standing posts. Also, in at least two cases there was clear indication of either a single or a dual line of posts directly associated with the ramp that would have made access into the structure basin through the ramp effectively impossible. As a result, Fortier and colleagues (1984, 80) conclude, “The narrow Fish Lake keyhole ramps and the presence of posts in the ramps would have effectively blocked access to anyone attempting to utilize these passageways as crawlways.”

In sum, while Fortier and his colleagues (1984, 1991) treat the keyhole structures as domiciles and claim that ramps and distal pits were heating components, in my view, the clear impediments to access reinforces the notion that the ramp/basin juncture might be better treated as a spirit entrance. In my reading, therefore, the keyhole structures are special-purpose ceremonial facilities demarcating the cult-based ritual sphere, or an important part of it, and the rectangular structures in general mark and constitute the domestic sphere.

Keyhole Structures and the Dual Clan-cult Model Critique

Part of the problem with this claim, however, is the distribution of the keyhole structures. For example, Communities 1 and 2, the southernmost and apparently the earliest, have no spatially associated keyhole structures. This would suggest that these two communities had no special-purpose ritual features, even though, according to the Sacred Maize model, they were undergoing the type of ecological stress that would promote the development of the world renewal ritual sphere. The centrally located and possibly longest occupied of the clusters, Community 3, has only two. Indeed, the largest concentration of keyhole structures is north of Community 4, the northernmost of the identified communities. That is, there seems to be considerable disparity between the distribution of the keyhole structures and the ritual needs of the sequential communities.

However, as suggested above, one tactic in conditions of rising settlement-induced sacred pollution that could be anticipated is to spatially distance the domestic and cult structures while maintaining a single, integrated settlement. Since the keyhole structure is postulated to be the primary ritual cult locale, finding that it is located apart from the residential structures would be consistent with the model and, in fact, would realize the arm's-length relation that clans and cults maintained as part of respecting their relative autonomy while (p.175) also maintaining the sanctity of the ritual locale. Therefore, it is notable that the southernmost keyhole structure, Feature 879, is located on the boundary between the rectilinear structures making up the northwestern and southeastern sectors of Community 3. This location suggests that this keyhole structure existed before Community 3 and that it was the first keyhole structure. If this is the case, then it would probably have been constructed by the cult sector of Community 1, the earliest occupation to the south. The position of Feature 879 at that time would have placed it north and away from the residential structures, thereby manifesting the arm's-length relation postulated above. When the community abandoned Cluster 1 and moved north to occupy Cluster 2, since the keyhole structure Feature 879 was still north of the new community layout, it was maintained. However, a second cult may have then formed, in this case constructing the keyhole structure Feature 839 north of the older keyhole structure and in the place that defined the (future) northwestern corner of Cluster 3. This also was the only one of the six keyhole structures that had its ramp oriented in a southwesterly instead of an easterly direction.

This expansion of the expression of the ritual sphere would be consistent with the intensification of the subsistence regime discussed above. This dual cult pattern could also be manifesting a dual ritual structuring, for example, based on male/female or junior/senior age-grade structuring, or a combination. As I discuss earlier under the Autonomous Cult model, generational and/ or gender structuring can be anticipated. This duality may be why these two keyhole structures were distant from each other and had their ramps oriented in different directions. Therefore, it is possible that the expression of a second communal cult emerged in Community 2, with one cult sustaining the use of the original keyhole structure, Feature 879, and the new cult responsible for building and using Feature 839 as its ritual structure.

With the community abandoning Cluster 2 and moving northward to construct the layout of Cluster 3, the expression of the dual cult system could have been retained. However, to respect the clan-cult autonomy, since Community 3 would have surrounded the original ritual keyhole structures, these would have been abandoned and two new ones built away from Community 3. This would account for Features 773 and 762, built to the north of this residential precinct. Even with the subsequent move of the community northward again, so that it occupied Cluster 4/5, Feature 762 would still have been north of the new community layout. Since Feature 773 would have been in the center of the new community layout, it would have needed to be abandoned. This would account for the construction of Feature 685, the northernmost structure of (p.176) the site. Since Feature 762 would have been quite old, having been built when Community 3 was founded, it may also have been replaced, in this case, by Feature 730. This latter keyhole structure was actually connected to Feature 762 by having its distal basin pit dug into the fill of the latter's floor basin, which suggests that a direct historical continuity of cult was being manifested.


In sum, the above interpretation of the Sponemann phase occupation is consistent with the Sacred Maize model in that it shows that the incorporation of maize as a major subsistence crop is correlated with the expansion of population, the elaboration of world renewal ritual through the construction of a sequential series of keyhole structures, and the modification of the deontic ecological posture from a strongly proscriptive toward a less proscriptive settlement orientation correlated with an intensifying prescriptive subsistence ceremonial orientation. In effect, the total Sponemann phase occupation of this site manifests a particular type of integrated settlement articulation mode in response to the earliest effects of expanding population and intensifying land usage. I term this the peripheral-integrated settlement articulation modal pat tern, and it is correlated with an emerging proscriptive settlement–prescriptive subsistence/ceremonial ecological strategy.

I call this a peripheral-integrated settlement articulation mode because of the reliance on the localized separation in space of the residential and specialized ritual locales, partly constituting and maintaining the relatively autonomous arm's-length relation of clan and cult and constituting this settlement as a complementary heterarchy. I characterize its ecological strategy in the above manner because the community was becoming fully reliant on a mixed maize/nonmaize cultivation regime (prescriptive subsistence orientation) and was maintaining the distal spacing of the residential dwellings while seasonally fallowing the settlement area by abandoning it in the cold season, before fully abandoning it after an extensive series of reoccupations (proscriptive settlement orientation). In ceremonial sphere terms, the settlement was definitely leaning toward a prescriptive orientation, as marked by the specialized nature of the keyhole structures and their distal spacing from the domestic dwellings, as well as the possibility that significant portions of off-season periods may have been devoted by the cults to upland-based ritual at such sites as Woodland Ridge and Stemler Bluff. All this suggests that, if the integrated settlement articulation mode is to be sustained under increasing ecological stress (for (p.177) example, should permanent, year-round occupation occur as a result of increasing demands on land), then a different variant of domestic clan and ritual cult integrated settlement articulation should develop. This would clearly entail a greater material presence of the cult since this type of occupation would signal greater settlement- and subsistence-related pollution, calling for more intensive, prescriptive-oriented world renewal ritual.

To strengthen the validity of the Sacred Maize model, I postulate that the clan-cult duality, initially manifested in the peripheral-integrated manner described above, further developed during the Terminal Late Woodland period, while remaining largely within the integrated settlement articulation mode. This development, therefore, should manifest changing patternings that can be more coherently accounted for in terms of the clan-cult duality postulated under the heterarchical polyistic locale-centric account than in terms of unitary clan kinship postulated under the hierarchical monistic modular polity account. Identifying these patterns requires assessing the Terminal Late Woodland settlement data following the Sponemann phase. I turn to this task in the next chapter by examining the Range site. I summarize the current interpretations of that site's community plans, critique them, and then offer the alternative, thereby establishing the interpretive background framework for addressing the Mississippian period, with special attention on the role of Cahokia within the regional system of the American Bottom.


(1.) As I argue in the previous chapter, however, this attribute reinforces the Sacred Maize model, since the mixing of the two types is consistent with the postulated proscription ensuring that maize and indigenous seed crops were kept separate during processing, especially cooking and storing.

(2.) In chapter 6, I note that 71 percent of the site wide features were sampled for archaeobotanical content, and I comment there that Cluster 3 had the largest sampling. Of the total 274 features making up this cluster, I counted 203 features as having been sampled, or 74 percent, which is the highest across the total site.

(3.) As Fortier and Jackson (2000, 138) put it, “Regardless of how [keyhole] … structures were used, they were a relatively short-lived innovation in the American Bottom. They continue to serve as an important chronological marker of both the Patrick and Sponemann phases there and possibly for the late Late Woodland period/ stage throughout a large portion of the Midwest.” In fact, Fortier and Jackson specify the keyhole structure as the primary chronological marker of the Patrick phase.

(4.) Fortier comments that there may have been other keyhole structures that they were unable to identify, largely because the ramps and distal basins were shallow and subject to damage from plowing and erosion (Fortier et al. 1991, 89). Therefore, (p.556) although identified as residences, one or more rectangular structures of the same size as the typical keyhole structure may have actually been keyhole structures, the ramps of which had been obliterated or not noted during excavation.