Paleodemographic modeling in the lower Mississippi River Valley
The three studies presented below address the relationships that exist between prehistoric population dynamics, settlement organization, climate, and subsistence in the central and lower Mississippi River valley and adjacent uplands, as well as how sampling strategies in archaeology affect the quality of data upon which we model these kinds of relationships. Evidence is provided that demonstrates that long-held commonsensical assumptions about the relationship between maize agriculture and population growth during the Woodland and Mississippi periods are unfounded. Results demonstrate that maize agriculture played little to no role in the region's period of major demographic expansion, which occurred ca. AD 650. The investigation of two episodes of population decline during the Late Archaic and late prehistoric periods reveal that changes in settlement organization associated with the movements of groups from upland to lowland environments, or vice-versa, represent major contributing factors to these episodes. The final study presents findings on the relationship between shovel-testing strategies and the accuracy and usefulness of the models of archaeological occupations that result from the information collected during shovel testing. These results demonstrate that some common approaches to shovel testing lead to faulty models that fail to accurately represent important occupational variables, thus compromising our ability to make valid significance determinations.