Culture History

Projectile Points Pottery Ground Stone
Other Stone Tools Bone Tools

Material Culture is that whole domain of things made and used by human beings. Culture History is defining the material culture in temporal (time) and spatial frameworks.

Temporal-Chronological Frameworks- By E.S. Lohse
Originally published in Tebiwa 25(1) as part of the article "Northern Intermountain West Projectile Point Chronology"

Willey and Phillips (1958:11-18) declared that the overriding first step for archaeological research in a region was the development of a regional chronology. Basic building blocks were to be the phase or cultural period of defined temporal and spatial extent, the stage or larger temporal and spatial unit defined as a perceived level of societal complexity, the tradition or postulated historical connection between cultures, and the horizon or postulated historical connection across space usually defined as a shared style. This heuristic scheme, adopted whole or in modified form, has become the organizing framework for culture-historical reconstructions throughout North America. In practice, separate research areas or regions can be correlated in the form of a chronological chart that shows the temporal and spatial distnbution of artifact types and styles. Willey and Phillips' scheme has served its purpose: the careful layout of temporal and regional differences in the distribution of artifact types, styles, and cultures. However, they suggested this only as an initial step in areal and regional syntheses, and it may be argued that research has stunted its development by continuing to correlate archaeological types and postulated cultures rather than employ more effective measurement techniques that might better address contemporary research issues. Basic chronological frameworks using the Willey and Phillips (1958) scheme have been worked out and summarized for the Northern Intermountain West and Northwestern Plains (e.g., B. Fagan 1991a; Frison 1991; Jennings 1986,1989; Leonhardy and Rice 1970; Reeves 1970). Most researchers will agree in principle with Jennings' (1989:11) schematic representation of correlating archaeological traits and cultures for chronology building, and his definition of Paleoindian, Archaic and Formative stages for the North American continent. Squabbles break out over proper correlation or interfingering of regional and areal sequences, recognition of the best diagnostic types, any correctness of assigned dates, but the goal of broad regional comparison and synthesis holds. The clearest imposition of this standard culture-historical framework for the Intermountain West is Jennings' (1986:Fig. 2) chronological sequence for the Great Basin inclusive of the Upper Snake and Salmon River area. Here Jennings defines a Pre-Archaic or Paleoindian stage, and an Early, Middle and Late Archaic stage for all of the Great Basin, which subsume various phases and periods for six different areas defined by distinctive research histories. Jennings (1986: Figs. 3 and 4) correlates significant projectile point types with these stages and chronometric dates. Cultures are mentioned throughout, loosely and implicitly correlate with archaeological types, traits and site assemblages. Chronology building is certainly a necessary first step for broad scale synthesis but it cannot be the only goal for archaeological research, nor can we assume that the classes, styles and types defined are fully refined measures or the best measures that might be applied. The culture-historical review that follows outlines regional sequences and projectile point types defined for the Columbia Plateau and Great Basin of the Northern Intermountain West and the Northwestern Plains.