Social houses at Carson Mounds, 22-co-518 as evidenced by dental morphological analysis
Social house theory offers an interpretative framework in which to understand the complex social organization of Mississippian era societies. This research focuses on the social organization demonstrated by the secondary mass burials from the Mississippian site of Carson Mounds. The dental morphology of 115 individuals from Carson Mounds was compared to the dental morphology of 84 individuals from the Historic Creek town site of Fusihatchee, the latter as a control group for matrilineal descent. Dental morphology is used as a direct measure of genetic distance, as the morphological features of teeth are under genetic control. A social house is composed of a biologically based kin group and additional members who attach themselves to the social house estate. The genetic composition based on the dental morphology should reflect this. Using a computed Gower’s matrix, which is included in the electronic supplements, from the statistical package R, hierarchical agglomerative clusters and average Gower distances were analyzed to determine the genetic heterogeneity present within burial groups at the two study sites. In general, the data suggest that Carson Mounds represents a homogeneous population that was genetically stable over several generations. Fusihatchee did not prove an effective control sample for what a matrilineal unit would look like genetically due to historic disruptions. Histograms of the Gower distances from individual burial groups at Carson Mounds show that each of the large burials contains a group of genetically related individuals and consistently includes genetically non-related individuals. This pattern reflects the group dynamics of social houses. Together with the mortuary practice and ancestor veneration at Carson Mounds, it can be concluded that social houses were present at Carson Mounds.