Native American Culture
The Eastern Agricultural Complex is a term used to describe the agricultural practices of the pre-historic Eastern Woodland Native Americans which took place in Canada and the eastern United States (Byers). It is one of about ten independent centers of plant domestication during the pre-historic world. The Native Americans on North America cultivated various species of plants in the 1800 BCE, and this enabled a smooth transition from an economy controlled by hunter-gathering and to an agricultural economy.
Ralph Linton is credited as the anthropologist who popularized the term Eastern Agricultural Complex (EAC). According to Linton’s suggestions, the tribes from the Eastern Woodland integrated maize from the Aztecs, and the Mayans currently referred to as Nicaragua and Mexico respectively to their pre-existing agricultural practices. Volney Jones and Melvin Gilmore who were ethnobotanists developed their understanding of the Eastern Woodland Agriculture from Ralph Linton and incorporated the understanding their work in caves and bluff dwellings in Kentucky and the Ozark Mountains in Arkansas. Other scientists such as George Quimby was involved in the popularization of the term Eastern complex in the 1940s.
In the Eastern Woodlands, maize was introduced from Mexico after 200 BCE, and this enabled the Native Americans to slowly change the present indigenous crops, and this resulted to the decline of indigenous crops other than squash. The first plants to have been domesticated include sunflower, marsh elder, goosefoot and squash. Other crops included little barley, erect knotweed, may grass and sump weed. Evidence used by paleoethnobotanists to determine whether carbonized seed came from the wild or domesticated plant includes bone chemistry as people are what they consume. Direct evidence exists primarily in the form of charred seeds, wood and other plants such as nutshells corn cobs and cupules, pollen and phytoliths. Indirect evidence is derived from cooking pots and storage pits, charred food residue found in containers and artefacts
Adena refers to an early Native American culture that is centered in Ohio River from about 10th BC to 2nd century and was known for its circular earthworks, elaborate burial mounds as well as a highly developed artistic style (Cross). Definitional problems that exist in discussing Adena vs. Early Woodland culture is that the Adena culture was a pre-Columbian Native American culture that existed from 1000 to 200 BC, and this time was referred to as the Early Woodland period. Based on this, the Adena culture can be defined as being the Early Woodland culture as they can be used interchangeably.
The Hopewell mound and earthwork complexes found in southern and central Ohio are composed of great geometric earthworks and are among the most impressive Native American monuments that exist throughout the American prehistory (Ruby). The mounds have various geometric shapes and also rise to impressive heights. The gigantic sculpted earthworks take the shapes of animals, humans, writhing serpents and birds and bears, for example, the Octagon and Newark earthworks. However, most of the mounds contain various types of burial and this has been attributed to the presence of precious burial goods in the mounds such as adornment made of mica, copper and obsidian which were imported from other far regions.
Other objects found in these sites include stone and ceramics which were fashioned into intricate shapes. Other than for ceremonial purposes, the mounds and earthworks were also used for social and economic purposes. The raw materials were traded or obtained from distant places such as copper from the northern Greta Lake areas, mica from the southern Appalachians and mollusks from the Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic. Obsidian was also obtained from the northern Rocky Mountains while the stones were obtained from the Knife River in the western Great Plains. Most of these raw materials were obtained through trade.
Byers, A. Martin. The Real Mound Builders of North America: A Critical Realist Prehistory of the Eastern Woodlands, 200 BC–1450 AD. Lexington Books, 2018.
Cross, John A. “Native American Landscapes in the Eastern United States.” Ethnic Landscapes of America. Springer, Cham, 2017. 21-46.
Ruby, Bret J. “Revealing Ritual Landscapes at the Hopewell Mound Group.” (2018).