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Constructing HistoriesArchaic Freshwater Shell Mounds and Social Landscapes of the St. Johns River, Florida$
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Asa R. Randall

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780813061016

Published to Florida Scholarship Online: January 2016

DOI: 10.5744/florida/9780813061016.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM FLORIDA SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.florida.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University Press of Florida, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in FLASO for personal use.date: 23 September 2021

Shell Mounds and Hunter-Gatherers in Prehistory

Shell Mounds and Hunter-Gatherers in Prehistory

(p.21) 1 Shell Mounds and Hunter-Gatherers in Prehistory
Constructing Histories

Asa R. Randal

University Press of Florida

Freshwater shell sites are often characterized as trash heaps (middens). This interpretation has two very limiting consequences. First, it implies that such sites were not socially significant places for the hunter-gatherers who created them. Second, it treats hunter-gatherers as prehistoric phenomena subject only to evolutionary processes and without the capacity for making their own histories. Chapter 1 situates the “midden interpretation” within the history of archaeological thought, demonstrating that nineteenth-century excavations of shell sites in Florida were an important vector for “prehistory” as a theory. In order to construe shell sites solely as trash heaps, scholars up to the present day have had to ignore empirical contradictions to this construal. The chapter explores the implications of the midden interpretation and foregrounds contradictions to it in current thinking about hunter-gatherer mound building.

Keywords:   midden, interpretation, prehistory, evolution, hunter-gatherer, mound building, trash heap, social significance, shell site, theory

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