Friday, February 15, 2013

Statement of My Thesis Topic, Key Research Problem, Hypothesis, and Signifigance

One of the little secrets of graduate school, for me at least, is the prospectus. As I have come to find out, this is the first major hurdle one must clear before beginning her or his research. I would like to exhibit my progress through this initial process of thesis writing for your consumption.

The Archaic Period of the southeast is marked by dramatic change in the climate, flora, fauna, and landscape. For most, the Archaic has been only described as a time of localized adaptations to particular environmental niches causing increased sedentism and social stratification. While environmental adaptations do play their role in explaining material culture and resource exploitation, it does not explain or necessitate monumental architecture or the incredible Louisiana Late Archaic site Poverty Point. Simply put, data on corresponding changes in social organization, economy, and ritual behavior are severely limited.
The topic of my thesis will focus on the Downtown Technical Campus (DTC) site located in downtown Pensacola. DTC was a prehistoric Late Archaic site, unique in that no Archaic site has been identified in the Florida panhandle. To be clear, Archaic lithic biface artifacts have been recovered in the panhandle, an extensive site such as DTC has not. It is a completely preceramic site that yielded hundreds of microlithic tools (drills) and debitage, abraded sandstone, “roasting pit” features, Poverty Point Objects, and stemmed bifaces. A few radiocarbon dates were recovered and yielded dates of approximately 4200 B.P.A.
There are many questions of Archaic Florida to be addressed. Do biface types overlap through time and from one place to another? Are there temporal or geographical differences in non-point/biface lithic artifacts? Are cultural distinctions reflected in the differences between lithic assemblages? Are temporal or cultural distinctions reflected in bone other organic artifacts? Were Archaic peoples in Florida chiefly upland dwellers or coastal and river dwellers?  What is the distribution of variation of Archaic sites? Were there trade and exchange connections with the different regions of Florida and with the rest of the Southeast?
The key research problem I intend to resolve is whether or not DTC was a part of the Poverty Point cultural system and the level of interaction with Poverty Point. Alternatively, I would seek to determine if not directly linked to Poverty Point, if DTC was simply a socially distinct local manifestation of Poverty Point.  My working hypothesis is that through the morphology, lithic sourcing, and the stylistic components of material culture show a degree of participation in the Poverty Point complex while retaining a local regional culture unique to the Florida Gulf Coast.
The significance of an in depth, comprehensive understanding of what type of site DTC is will give us an overall greater understanding of the Southeast Archaic. We may be able to determine whether or not the lack of pottery was a purposeful resistance to the people of the large earthworks of Poverty Point who possessed pottery. We may also be able to determine what role DTC participated in the long range and elaborate trade system that was centered in Louisiana in the Late Archaic that extended from present day Naples Florida to the Upper Great Lakes.

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