The view from mazique (22ad502): the Coles Creek / Plaquemine cultural transition from the perspective of the Natchez Bluffs region of the Lower Mississippi Valley
At AD 1200, in the wake of the Mississippian florescence, the late Woodland occupants of the Lower Mississippi Valley (LMV) underwent a major reorganization of lifeways. Through the selective adoption of new forms of subsistence, settlement, and socio-political organization, Coles Creek culture was succeeded by Plaquemine culture. Current perceptions of this transition are informed principally by studies conducted in the Lower Yazoo and Tensas basins that have produced conflicting models of Plaquemine origins: the External Stimulus model and the Internal Development model. This dissertation contributes an examination of the Coles Creek/Plaquemine transition from the perspective of a third region of the LMV, the Natchez Bluffs. The Mazique site (22Ad502) is a late prehistoric mound and plaza center located in Adams County, Mississippi. Previous archaeological collections recovered here have identified both Coles Creek and Plaquemine components, making Mazique an ideal vantage from which to inspect the changes wrought by the Coles Creek/Plaquemine transition. The primary objective of this research was to determine which model of Plaquemine origins best accounts for the circumstances observed at a single Natchez Bluffs mound and plaza complex by evaluating whether the Coles Creek and Plaquemine settlement strategies employed here were more alike or different using three separate measures: intra-site settlement patterns, subsistence as inferred from vessel forms, and the history of mound construction. In 2012 and 2013, members of the Gulf Coast Survey shovel tested nearly 13 acres of the site and excavated another eight contexts. The results reveal that Mazique represents a remarkably complete Balmoral phase (AD 1000-1100) mound and plaza complex that was abandoned during the Gordon phase (AD 1100-1200), and experienced only ephemeral Plaquemine reoccupation during the Mississippi period (AD 1200-1650). When the intra-site circumstances observed at Mazique are considered from the intra-regional scale of the Natchez Bluffs, the inter-regional scale of the Coles Creek/Plaquemine heartland, and the pan-regional scale of the LMV, it is apparent that neither External Stimulus nor Internal Development offers a unifying explanation of Plaquemine origins. Therefore, I contend that the Coles Creek-Plaquemine transition is more aptly modeled as the convergence of the Coles Creek and Mississippian interaction spheres.