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Agency

Journal of Northeast Texas Archaeology

DOI

https://doi.org/10.21112/.ita.2016.1.57

Abstract

The George C. Davis site (41CE19)/Caddo Mounds State Historic Site in Cherokee County, Texas, is a Caddo site that was occupied by ancestral Caddo peoples between ca. A.D. 940 and the late 1200s (based on an extensive suite of calibrated radiocarbon dates, see below) on a large alluvial terrace of the Neches River in East Texas. The site is a planned civic-ceremonial center that has three earthen mounds—Mound A, a large platform mound with elite residences and special purpose structures; Mound B, a second platform mound; and Mound C, a burial mound used as a cemetery for the elite or ranked members of the society—a borrow pit, and a large associated village (estimated at more than 110 acres) with more than 100 known or suspected structures. The structures include the domestic residences of the commoners that lived at the site as well as the residences for the elites.

The George C. Davis site is an archaeological site that has yielded information of major scientific importance concerning the origins and development of the Caddo peoples, a still little-known but significant stratified and complex society that lived in the far western reaches of the Southeastern United States and whose cultural traditions have lasted for more than 1000 years. The expansive nature of the archaeological investigations at the George C. Davis site since 1939 has obtained unique information on Caddo community organization and social logic, the nature of Caddo symbolism and ideology, as well as the early existence of important community political, social, and religious activities within special precincts near Mounds A and B. The archaeological work has also obtained key insights into the domestic nature of the community, with residential domiciles dated as early as ca. A.D. 940 organized into compounds with small courtyards; this was not a vacant mound center. Demonstrating great continuity in Caddo community and social organization, the same kinds of domestic compounds seen ca. A.D. 940 and after at the George C. Davis site have also been documented from a 1691 map prepared by a Spanish expedition to a Nasoni Caddo civic-ceremonial center on the Red River in East Texas.

The George C. Davis site archaeological record from sacred as well as domestic contexts contains important Caddo data relevant to each of these broad themes. This includes evidence from features for the earliest origins of the community at ca. A.D. 940 as well as features that demonstrate a continuous occupation that lasted until the late A.D. 1200s. The use of tropical cultigens preserved in features has been shown to have been an important subsistence resource in the community, intensifying in use after ca. A.D. 1200 among East Texas Caddo societies, during a period of climate (the Medieval Warm Period) favorable for agriculture in the Caddo area. A crystallization of religion, ideology, and iconographic practice as a measure of complexity is seen in the archaeological record of these early Caddos, denoted by the development of platform mounds with temples and other specialized structures for use by the political and religious elite, the acquisition and exchange of non-local prestige goods, details of architecture and mound construction (the use of berms and selective use of brightly colored soils), and the kinds of elaborate burial features (several with multiple individuals, probably indicative of retainer sacrifice) and associated grave goods in the Mound C mortuary at the site.

The George C. Davis has had the most extensive investigations of any Caddo mound site, including very large scale archaeo-geophysical work, and archaeologists have done an exemplary job in publishing the results of their investigations, beginning with the seminal 1949 study prepared by H. Perry Newell and Alex D. Krieger. Taken together, the extensive nature of the work, the quality of the archaeological investigations, and the unique archaeo-geophysical data set, suggest that the George C. Davis site strongly exemplifies the character of a Caddo civic-ceremonial community in the Caddo archaeological area, and through its study has shed unique light on the origins and elaboration of the Caddo cultural tradition.

In this article, I document, using a standardized protocol, the ancestral Caddo vessels and vessel sections that have been recovered from various kinds of features at the George C. Davis site since excavations began at the site in 1939. I also discuss the stylistic and functional character of this unique vessel assemblage. The analysis of the recovered ceramic vessels and sherds from the George C. Davis site has been ongoing since the 1940s, and has included innovative work in the chemical characterization of the ceramics as well as the preservation of lipids in samples of ceramic vessels and sherds. Dr. Robert Z. Selden has also obtained 3-D scans of many of the vessels discussed in this article.

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

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