Nav: Home

Early hunter-gatherers interacted much sooner than previously believed

October 07, 2019

BINGHAMTON, NY - A nearly 4,000-year-old burial site found off the coast of Georgia hints at ties between hunter-gatherers on opposite sides of North America, according to research led by faculty at Binghamton University, State University of New York.

A research team led by Matthew Sanger, assistant professor of anthropology at Binghamton University, analyzed human remains, stone tools and a copper band found in an ancient burial pit in the McQueen shell ring on St. Catherine's Island, Georgia. The burial at the shell ring closely resembles similar graves found in the Great Lakes region, suggesting an exchange network between the Great Lakes and the coastal southeast United States. Similarities in mortuary practices suggest that the movement of objects between these two regions was more direct and unmediated than archaeologists previously assumed.

"Our excavations revealed remarkable parallels between the shell ring in the coastal Southeast and in broadly contemporaneous sites in the Great Lakes including: the use of cremation to handle the dead, cremating the dead in an area separate from where the bones were eventually buried, the use of copper as a burial item, the burial of multiple people at the same time, and the use of ocher in the burial," said Sanger. "Not only are these practices very similar, our analyses clearly show that the copper found at the shell ring originated in the Great Lakes and was therefore traded between the two regions. Notably, all of these practices are rare, or entirely absent, from the regions between the Great Lakes and the southeast, which suggests that there was not some sort of general diffusion of traditions, but rather a direct "transplant."

According to the researchers, these findings challenge prevalent notions that view preagricultural Native American communities as relatively isolated from one another and suggest instead that wide social networks spanned much of North America thousands of years before the advent of domestication.

"These findings strongly suggest that Native Americans living in the Eastern Woodlands more than 3,000 years ago were far more interconnected than we have ever thought," said Sanger. "Rather than living in small groups with limited contacts, Native American communities were cosmopolitan; they traded with distant peoples, they engaged in complex social and economic relationships, and they had direct and indirect knowledge spanning hundreds if not thousands of kilometers. Amazingly, all of this occurred thousands of years before Native Americans invented agricultural practices - the point at which "social complexity" is thought to emerge by many archaeologists."

The discovery of long-distance exchange of prestige goods among Archaic period communities living in the U.S. Southeast challenges traditional notions of hunter-gatherers as living in relative isolation and instead suggests nonagrarian groups created and maintained vast social networks thousands of years earlier than typically assumed.

"Traditionally, archaeologists have thought that agriculture played a key role in the creation of long-distance interactions as domesticated food sources can produce massive surpluses, which can then be used to establish more complex social and political power structures and relations," said Sanger. "Increasingly though, archaeologists from around the world are finding that non-agricultural people engaged in activities long thought reserved for farmers. Our findings at the shell ring are part of a much broader revolution in archaeology where non-agricultural people are viewed as living far more complex, interconnected and interesting lives than previously assumed.
-end-
The paper, "Great Lakes Copper and Shared Mortuary Practices on the Atlantic Coast: Implications for Long-Distance Exchange during the Late Archaic," was published in American Antiquity

Binghamton University

Related Copper Articles:

Copper boosts pig growth, and now we know why
Pigs have better feed conversion rates with copper in their diets, but until now, scientists didn't fully understand why.
Cancer cells spread using a copper-binding protein
Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden, have shown that the Atox1 protein, found in breast cancer cells, participates in the process by which cancer cells metastasise.
Adding copper strengthens 3D-printed titanium
Successful trials of titanium-copper alloys for 3D printing could kickstart a new range of high-performance alloys for medical device, defence and aerospace applications.
Matrix could ensure vital copper supplies
Researchers have identified a matrix of risks that the mining industry must overcome to unlock vitally important copper reserves.
Do microbes control the formation of giant copper deposits?
One of the major issues when studying ore deposits formed in surficial or near-surface environments is the relationship between ore-forming processes and bacteria.
Copper compound as promising quantum computing unit
Chemists at Friedrich Schiller University in Jena (Germany) have now synthesised a molecule that can perform the function of a computing unit in a quantum computer.
Copper ions flow like liquid through crystalline structures
Materials scientists have sussed out the physical phenomenon underlying the promising electrical properties of a class of materials called superionic crystals through the investigation of CuCrSe2.
A copper bullet for tuberculosis
Tuberculosis is a sneaky disease, and the number one cause of death from infectious disease worldwide.
Copper stearate proved to be promising for heavy oil oxidation
Copper salts have found place in many industries, from pharmaceutics to agriculture, but they are rarely seen in petrochemistry and petroleum extraction.
Scientists fill in a piece of the copper transport puzzle
Researchers have identified the protein that carries copper into mitochondria, where copper is required for the functioning of the cell's energy conversion machinery.
More Copper News and Copper Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Climate Mindset
In the past few months, human beings have come together to fight a global threat. This hour, TED speakers explore how our response can be the catalyst to fight another global crisis: climate change. Guests include political strategist Tom Rivett-Carnac, diplomat Christiana Figueres, climate justice activist Xiye Bastida, and writer, illustrator, and artist Oliver Jeffers.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#562 Superbug to Bedside
By now we're all good and scared about antibiotic resistance, one of the many things coming to get us all. But there's good news, sort of. News antibiotics are coming out! How do they get tested? What does that kind of a trial look like and how does it happen? Host Bethany Brookeshire talks with Matt McCarthy, author of "Superbugs: The Race to Stop an Epidemic", about the ins and outs of testing a new antibiotic in the hospital.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Speedy Beet
There are few musical moments more well-worn than the first four notes of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. But in this short, we find out that Beethoven might have made a last-ditch effort to keep his music from ever feeling familiar, to keep pushing his listeners to a kind of psychological limit. Big thanks to our Brooklyn Philharmonic musicians: Deborah Buck and Suzy Perelman on violin, Arash Amini on cello, and Ah Ling Neu on viola. And check out The First Four Notes, Matthew Guerrieri's book on Beethoven's Fifth. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.