Project Goals and Objectives
A central goal of this project, then, is to reconstruct the rules and principles followed in the production of central Arkansas River Valley artworks. This will permit us to then examine their role in community identity displays in the context of regional social interaction. Such a study is based on the premise that rule-based properties of material production are linked to cultural practices associated with other institutions, including identity expression and social interaction. Such links are the product of ritualization, a process through which activities acquire stylistically distinctive properties—via the use of formal procedural codes and association with specific objects and places—that may be discerned archeologically (Bell 1997; Sabo 2008). We believe this approach brings us closer to understanding social identities as they were actually constructed by local communities, rather than as they may be imposed through archeological studies of varying frequencies of artifact types and varieties.
We are also dedicated to broadening the focus of this study to include topics of interest to our American Indian collaborators. Where archeologists generally attempt to reconstruct cultural sequences and then examine the processes generating those sequences from the past into the present, many American Indian communities embrace a perspective that proceeds in an opposite direction: how do present institutions, beliefs, and cultural practices reflect the legacy of the past and the maintenance of connections with the ancestors?
This combination of interests yields the following research questions:
- What comprises the overall corpus of artistic motifs in the central Arkansas River Valley, as represented in decorated ceramics, rock art, and other artifacts?
- What local variations, or “style zones,” can be discerned within that corpus, and do other classes of archeological evidence, such as settlement patterns and land use practices, demonstrate a corresponding distribution in support of hypothesized correlations between style zones and community boundaries? How are these communities arranged in time and space?
- What elements of the Craig style and other regional artistic traditions are reflected in the material culture of the central Arkansas River Valley, and in what archeological contexts?
- What rules and principles are reflected in the production of artworks within each stylistic community, and how are they manifested at different scales of spatial resolution (e.g., artifact/feature, assemblage/site, and landscape)?
- To what extent are the conceptual frameworks expressed in local artworks evident in other aspects of culture, such as identity projection and social interaction? What do these iconographic relationships indicate concerning the direction, strength, and nature of regional interactions? What do these relationships tell us about the identity of Carden Bottoms phase communities?
- What significance do pre-contact artworks from the central Arkansas River Valley have for modern Caddos, Osages, and Quapaws? To what extent do these artworks reflect historic and modern versions of traditions concerning origins and migrations and ideas about cosmology? How do modern Indian communities use artworks to represent their cultural identities?
- What cultural and philosophical perspectives frame modern academic (scientific and humanistic) and American Indian views concerning history and heritage preservation programs? What similarities and differences exist among these perspectives?