BOONE, N.C. — Dr. Seth Grooms, assistant professor in the Appalachian State Department of Anthropology, is the lead author of a new study that has been accepted for publication in Antiquity, a top-ranked archaeology journal featuring research from across the world.
The study, titled "Convergence at Poverty Point: A Revised Chronology of the Late Archaic Lower Mississippi Valley, USA," focuses on Poverty Point, a UNESCO World Heritage Site located in northeast Louisiana. The site is commonly viewed as a center of innovation that exported new material culture, practices and identity to presumably contemporary sites in the region. However, recent archaeological data has revealed that Jaketown, a site in western Mississippi previously interpreted as a peripheral expression of Poverty Point culture, is earlier than the type site. Using Jaketown as a case study, Grooms - in collaboration with colleagues at Washington University in St. Louis - argues that assuming the radial diffusion of cultural innovations biases our understanding of social change and obfuscates complex histories.
"The mounds at Poverty Point were among the first built in the Eastern Woodlands after a millennium-long hiatus, and their enormous scale was unlike anything that came before and matched those of Mississippian chiefdoms two millennia later. The people who built Poverty Point lived on wild food resources. They hunted, fished and gathered food from the river bottoms and surrounding woodlands more than 1,000 years before food production became widespread in the region. The level of sociopolitical organization required to create such a place contradicts anthropological theories regarding the social structure of foraging societies. Consequently, the Poverty Point site is a globally-relevant example of highly-complex behavior by small-scale societies in the absence of hierarchical authority," explained Grooms. "For these reasons, the Poverty Point site and the communities that were part of the so-called Poverty Point culture, such as Jaketown, are important case studies for understanding the range of social organizational possibilities among non-agrarian societies."
"Furthermore, the Poverty Point phenomenon was a watershed moment in Native American history and important in its own right," Grooms added.
Grooms graduated with his Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and his Master of Arts and Ph.D. in Anthropology from the Washington University in St. Louis. In January 2023, Grooms joined the Appalachian State Department of Anthropology as an assistant professor. Grooms, an anthropological archaeologist and enrolled member of the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina, uses methods from geoarchaeology, landscape archaeology and chronological modeling to craft archaeological narratives of Native histories informed by Native American perspectives.
Grooms channels his research expertise into the two courses he teaches in the Department of Anthropology: "Introduction to Archaeology" and "Contested Histories and Landscapes: Western and Indigenous Perceptions of Time and Place."
About the Department of Anthropology
The Department of Anthropology offers a comparative and holistic approach to the study of the human experience. The anthropological perspective provides a broad understanding of the origins as well as the meaning of physical and cultural diversity in the world — past, present and future. Learn more at https://anthro.appstate.edu.
By Lauren Andersen
February 9, 2023