Friday, January 29, 2016

A New Research Book for Pennsylvania Archaeologists
            This week our blog is announcing the publication of a new book on Pennsylvania archaeology. The Nature and Pace of Change in American Indian Cultures: Pennsylvania 4000 to 3000 BP. is the first in-depth synthesis of the Transitional period in decades. Three thousand to four thousand years ago, the Native Americans of the mid-Atlantic region experienced a groundswell of cultural innovation. This remarkable era, known as the Transitional period, saw the advent of broad-bladed bifaces, cache blades, ceramics, steatite bowls, and sustained trade, among other ingenious and novel objects and behaviors.

            In The Nature and Pace of Change in American Indian Cultures, nine expert contributors examine the Transitional period in Pennsylvania and posit potential explanations of the significant changes in social and cultural life at that time. The Introduction by R. Michael Stewart summarizes each of the chapters. Population density is a common theme and Stewart does an excellent job of analyzing this issue and its potential role in the development of the Transitional period.  He concludes with a discussion of the major trends - environment, technology, subsistence, settlement patterns, social organization – and examines possible explanations for their occurrence. In Chapter 1, Frank Vento sets the Paleoenvironmental stage for this period. The Transitional period generally corresponds to the warm and dry Sub-Boreal climatic episode and Vento spends some time addressing the issue of “how dry was it?” Robert Wall, in Chapter 2 reviews the Late Archaic developments that preceed the Transitional period in the Susquehanna Valley. Kurt Carr reviews the Transitional period in the Delaware and Susquehanna valleys in Chapter 3 and argues that population pressure and minor changes in the environment resulted in a new adaptive strategy. In contrast, Patricia Miller in Chapter 4 synthesizes this period in the Susquehanna Valley and argues that population pressure and a developing trade network are responsible for the changes during this period. Joseph Blondino, in Chapter 5, reviews what is considered the end of the Transitional period in the Upper Delaware Valley, the Fishtail phase. He offers explanations for the frequent use of floodplain settings during this time.  Heather Wholey examines population differences in Chapter 6, and identifies differences in site clusters in the Susquehanna and Delaware Valleys. Finally, in Chapter 7, Roger Moeller critiques many concepts typically associated with the Transitional period.
Table of Contents

            This book contains 56 figures and tables. They are in black and white but we suggest that you purchase First Pennsylvanians: the Archaeology of Native Americans in Pennsylvania where many of these artifacts are illustrated in color. Nature and Pace can be purchased from the Pennsylvania State University Press. The form below offers a substantial discount and the First Pennsylvanians can be purchased on line at or the State Museum Bookstore in Harrisburg.
First Pennsylvanians order form
 Nature and Pace order form

            If you are interested in actually seeing artifacts from the Transitional, visit the Hall of Anthropology and Archaeology at The State Museum of Pennsylvania in Harrisburg. 

For more information, visit or the Hall of Anthropology and Archaeology at The State Museum of Pennsylvania .

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