by Alleen Betzenhauser
Abstract of Doctoral Dissertation
Department of Anthropology
University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
This study is an examination of how sociopolitical change occurs, particularly the formation of large scale polities from culturally diverse populations. Drawing on Benedict Anderson’s concept of “imagined communities” and recent developments in archaeological theory, particularly agency and practice theory, I contend that the social construction of space and community identities at multiple scales were instrumental in the creation of the Cahokia polity in the American Bottom region of southwestern Illinois around A.D. 1050.
In this study, I employ a multi-scalar perspective that includes detailed analyses of material culture, architecture, and spatial organization at five sites located in the American Bottom floodplain near the monumental Mississippian site of Cahokia. All five sites include occupations dating to the Mississippian Transition (A.D. 975–1100) which spans the Terminal Late Woodland Lindeman and Edelhardt phases (A.D. 1000–1050) and the early Mississippian Lohmann phase (A.D. 1050–1100). The mapping, geophysical survey, excavation, and material analyses for each of these sites combined with regional comparisons using a Geographic Information System provide evidence for changes in the construction of space, movement of people into and around the region, and the simultaneous dissolution of local communities and the construction of a large–scale community identity centered on Cahokia.