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Journal of Northeast Texas Archeology
This is a significantly revised version of a paper I presented at the 1994 East Texas Archeological Conference in Tyler, Texas. The gist of that paper was that the origins of the burial mound tradition in the Caddo area can be traced, not to the Coles Creek culture in the Lower Mississippi Valley as the conventional wisdom would have it, but to an independent Fourche Maline mound building tradition that developed in and around the Red River Valley beginning about 100 B.C.2 I still think that there was an independent Fourche Maline mound building tradition and I still think that, as I tried to show in my conference presentation, the earliest mounds at the earliest Caddo ceremonial center we know of, Mounds D and C at the Crenshaw site, were constructed in that tradition. As I will show in this paper, it is clear that the Crenshaw mounds were not "Coles Creek" mounds.
But in the three years since my conference presentation, I have changed my interpretation of the slightly later, late Fourche Maline period, full-fleshed, group burials that were also found in Mound Cat Crenshaw. These are the earliest graves found so far at any Caddo site that seem to be clearly in the tradition of the distinctive, high status "shaft tomb" burials of early Caddo culture in the Red River Valley. In my original presentation I argued that these graves, and hence the early Caddo mound burial tradition, could be derived from the old Fourche Maline burial mound tradition. But since then I have come to consider that argument unconvincing and untenable.
The new argument I offer here is that the stimulus for the early Caddo mound burial pattern did indeed come from outside the Caddo Area, as many archeologists have suggested, but it was not from Coles Creek culture as has commonly been supposed. I now think that these graves indicate the point in time when powerful influences from the "Emergent Mississippian" cultures to the northeast of the Caddo Area, perhaps from Cahokia itself, were beginning to transform the centuries-old Fourche Maline burial mound tradition into the essentially Mississippian early Caddo burial mound tradition. This transition must have entailed not just changes in the Fourche Maline burial mound tradition but also basic changes in the structure and importance of the elite stratum, if such there was, in Fourche Maline society itself. Thus, these graves would reflect an early stage in the transformation, under Emergent Mississippian influence, of the evidently still quite weakly developed elite social stratum in late Fourche Maline society into the well defined elite stratum that seems to have dominated early Caddo society; i.e., the social elite responsible for the deep, richly accoutered shaft tombs that were emplaced in mounds at all the important early Caddo ceremonial centers.
So in this paper I will first attempt to isolate and describe the old Fourche Maline burial mound tradition. Then I will try to show that the earliest mounds at Crenshaw were built in that tradition. Finally, I will try to show how that tradition was interrupted and significantly altered around A.D. 800, and I will argue that the Emergent Mississippians were behind this transition.
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