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Archaeology and Social Change on the Plains

An archaeologist who studies the Great Plains will talk about social changes in the 1300-1400s that led to the appearance of modern Native American nations.

Dr. Douglas Bamforth, professor of anthropology at the University of Colorado, Boulder, will speak on "The Lynch Site and 13th and 14th Century Ethnogenesis on the Central Plains." His talk is part of a yearly series by the Archaeological Institute of America.

Plains farmers settled at the Lynch site in northeastern Nebraska during the latter decades of the 13th century, in the midst of a wave of social change and dislocation across the mid-continent as the Native American city of Cahokia collapsed and drought spread widely.

In contrast to the small homesteads on the central Plains before this time, Lynch covers nearly 200 acres, suggesting a community bigger than anything that had existed in the region before. Potters at the site made  Plains vessels and Midwestern Oneota vessels in households that were nearly side-by-side and mixed these styles together on other pots.

This lecture addresses the social changes at work in the mid-continent at this time along with the history of work at Lynch from the 1930s to the present, including geophysical prospecting and excavation in the last two years. Viewed in the context of the Plains as a whole, the changes at Lynch and nearby sites represent a sea-change in social formations and likely mark the appearance of the modern Pawnee and Arikara nations.

Dr. Bamforth is interested in the study of how ancient people made and used stone tools. His has focused on how human use of the Plains landscape responded to long-term environmental change during the Paleoindian period (from roughly 11,000 to 8,000 BC).

He also studies the archaeology of farmers on the central and northern Plains during the last 1,000 years. He is working in a long-term field project that examines the archaeology of the Ceramic Period along the Pine Ridge in northwestern Nebraska.


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Kirsten Day