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Ghosts, Water Barriers, Corn, and Sacred Enclosures in the Eastern Woodlands Author(s): Robert L. Hall Source: American Antiquity, Vol. 41, No. 3 (Jul., 1976), pp. 360-364 Published by: Society for American Archaeology Stable URL: . Accessed: 22/02/2011 07:10 Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use, available at . JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use provides, in part, that unless you have obtained prior permission, you may not download an entire issue of a journal or multiple copies of articles, and you may use content in the JSTOR archive only for your personal, non-commercial use. Please contact the publisher regarding any further use of this work. Publisher contact information may be obtained at . . Each copy of any part of a JSTOR transmission must contain the same copyright notice that appears on the screen or printed page of such transmission. JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact

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1973b Summary of model building: how does one achieve a meaningful overview of a continent's prehistory? American Anthropologist 75:1755-67. Marcos, Jorge G. n.d. Loomed textiles in a late Valdivia context. Junius B. Bird Textile Conference at Dumbarton Oaks. (In press.) Meggers, Betty J. 1966 Ecuador. Thames and Hudson, London. Meggers, Betty J., Clifford Evans, and Emilio Estrada 1965 Early Formative period of coastal Ecuador: The Valdivia and Machalilla phases. Smithsonian Contributions to A nthropology 1. Myers, Thomas P. n.d. Formative period interaction spheres in the Intermediate Area. Proceedings of the IXth International Congress of A nthropological and Ethnological Sciences (In press.) Myers, Thomas P., and Gary L. Brouillard n.d. Ecology and trade in prehistoric Imbabura (Ecuador). Proceedings of the XLI International Congress of A mericanists. (In press.) Myers, Thomas P., and Van A. Reidhead n.d. Site stratification in a lacustrine environment: evidence from highland Ecuador. Indiana A cademy of Sciences, Proceedings 83. (In press). Norton, Presley 19722 Early Valdivia middens at Loma Alta, Ecuador. Paper presented at the 37th Annual Meeting, Society for American Archaeology, Bal Harbour, FL.

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Paulsen, Allison C. 1974 The thorny oyster and the voice of God. Spondylus and Strombus in Andean prehistory. American Antiquity 39:597-607. Paulsen, Allison C., and Eugene J. McDougle 1974 The Machalilla and Engoroy occupations of the Santa Elena Peninsula in south coastal Ecuador. Paper presented at the 39th Annual Meeting, Society for American Archaeology, Washington, DC. Paz Ponce de Leon, Sanco de 1964 Relaci6n y descripci6n de los pueblos del Partido de Otavalo. Imprenta "Cultura," Otavalo. Pickersgill, Barbara 1969 The archaeological record of chili peppers (Capsicum spp.) and the sequence of plant domestication in Peru. American Antiquity 34:5 1-61. Porras, Pedro I. 1973 Breves notas sobre la arqueologia del Ecuador, 2a. edicion corregida y aumentada. No publisher given, Quito. Reichel-Dolmatoff, Gerardo y Alicia 1956 Momil: excavaciones en el Rio Sinu. Revista Colombiana de Anthropologi'a V:111-333 Willey, Gordon R. 1971 An Introduction to American Archaeology Vol. 2: South America. Prentice-Hall, New York. Zevallos Menendez, M. C. 1971 La agriculturaen el Formativo temprano del Ecuador (cultura Valdivia). Casa de la Cultura Ecuatoriana, Guayaquil.

GHOSTS, WATER BARRIERS, CORN, AND SACRED ENCLOSURES IN THE EASTERN WOODLANDS ROBERT L. HALL Certain enigmatic prehistoric constructions in the eastern United States were possibly designed partly as barriers to restrict the movement of spirits or to protect the enclosed area from unwanted supernatural influences. Ethnographic accounts indicate that in historic times the belief was widely held in the United States that ghosts could not pass through water and that the geometry of a circle was effective in countering magic or supernatural forces. Some implications for archaeology are explored.

A number of archaeological sites in the eastern United States contain excavated moats or earthwork enclosures which have been variously attributed to ceremonial, agricultural, or defensive objectives or just left uninterpreted. The present commentary is intended to provide a possible explanation for some such features by considering ideological aspects of mortuary practices and early plant cultivation which have been neglected. The Fort Center site in Florida, reported by William Sears (1971) contained a series of circular ditches beginning with one about three

hundred feet in diameter. The earliest radiocarbon date, "just over 400 B.C., probably dates the later construction of the still present twelve hundred foot diameter ditch with its two causeways" (Sears 1971:326). Sears sees a basically economic function for the ditches, "to drain the enclosed land, making agriculture possible,' with support from palynological studies indicating the presence of corn pollen at two locations within the circle. These circles are compared by Sears to similar but somewhat later circles associated with the Adena culture in the Ohio Valley. The period A.D. 0 to 500


saw the appearance at Fort Center of a Hopewell-related ceremonial construction including two mounds, an earthwork, and an artificial pond within which was built a charnel platform with remains of 300 individuals. The platform burned and collapsed about A.D. 500. The unique feature of the charnel platform over water recalls aboriginal Indian practices and beliefs that water is a barrier for ghosts and supernatural beings. The Omaha believed, for example, that ghosts would not cross a stream, so "if a person was followed or chased by a ghost, he would make for a stream, wade it, or even jump across it," for "no matter how small the stream, it made an impassable barrier between himself and his ghostly pursuer" (Fletcher and La Flesche 1911:591). This is apparently not a recent or introduced belief as it is consistent with other Omaha practices. Members of the Omaha Wanon xe ithaethe society were men and women to whom ghosts had appeared in visions. They were believed to be able to foretell approaching death, and if death was foretold, to assist in averting it if and La Flesche (Fletcher requested Part of the ritual for this 1911:489-90). purpose involved the spilling of hot water outside the entrance of the lodge of the doomed person to prevent the departure of the spirit. Members of the society were also believed to have the powers to stop rain, another water association. In describing the Iroquois concept of the soul, J. N. B. Hewitt comments (1894:114-15):


Canada "the preferred graveyardwas an uninhabitedisland not too nearthe shore"(Wallis and Wallis 1955:266). There is also a belief in the eastern Mediterraneanthat allegedvampires "were unable to cross water" and the reported practice of using uninhabited islands for "vampire disposal" (e.g., Garden 1973:66). A

similar belief may account for the burial of a Scottish suicide victim of 1582 on an island rather than among "the Faithful" (Puckle 1926:152). Without commenting on the fine points of vampire lore, we may acknowledge that there is some basis in belief for associating water barrierswith ghosts or other supernatural beings. In some cases this associationis accompanied by explicit fear of ghosts, though admittedly not always. Malinowski says that spirits of the dead migrate immediately after death to a smallerislandnorthwestof the main island of the Trobriand archipelago but also

tells us that Trobrianders were "almost completely devoid of any fear of ghosts, of any of these uncanny feelings with which we face the ideas of a possible return of the dead" (Malinowski 1961:72). The ability of water to reflect an image may lie behind the believed power of water to thwart the progress of ghosts. Both in the New World and Old World the human image reflected from water or a mirror is identified with the soul. This belief probably explains the occasional use of the reflected image in divination or prognosis in medicine, or to judge the condition or quality of the soul as in early It is a common belief that these skeleton ghosts belief in Japan and Tibet or among the Aztecs dare not wade through cold water, preventing them and Pawnee. The European folk practice of from crossing in this manner fordable streams ... turning mirrors to the wall in a sick room must This knowledge, it is claimed, often enabled be related. The death of the Greek mythologpersons to escape from these skeleton ghosts, by seeking shelter on an island or on a rock ical character Narcissus after a period spent gazing at his image reflected in water surrounded by water. The concept of a water barrier is found also in presumably relates to the worldwide association folklore. In one Ojibwa myth the Flint brother of sickness and death with soul-loss. The of the trickster hare Nanabozho uses "a ring of inability of the soulless vampire Count Dracula pitch-like water" for his protection (Fisher of fiction to see his own image in a mirror is a literary expression of the same belief. Another 1946:232). The common placement of the spirit world literary example is the devil's capture of the beyond a river which must be crossed by boat soul of Hoffman with a hand mirror in or over a log may be an expression of similar Offenbach's opera Tales of Hoffman. Some of the difficulties of seeking explanabeliefs. In one Blackfoot Indian account graves were placed on the side of a river opposite the tions in the realm of belief include the village "in the belief that their ghosts would not tolerance of the "mind" to many kinds of cross the river to disturb the living" (Mc- contradictions, and a fluidity of associations Clintock 1935). Among the Micmac of Eastern where symbolism is concerned. A circle of



water or a water barrier may be believed effective in thwarting witches or other manifest,ations of the supernatural, but the very geometry of the circle or enclosure contributes to the magical effect, and ashes or other subFstances with special properties or associations may substitute for water. According to Alanson Skinner, the Prairie Potawatomi sprinkled ashes "all around, both inside and outside, in order to scare the ghosts away" from a house in which a death had occurred (1924:49) and the Cherokee similarly scattered old ashes around the yard of the house of the deceased (Swanton 1946:724). This is comparable to the Iroquois rubbing ashes on a nursing baby's face when taken out at night "so that the spirits will not trouble it" (Smith 1883:69). In European folklore even a finger ring may prevent the egress of a soul from a body or protect its wearer from a witch (Frazer 1963:283-84). Knots and netting (as a knotted fabric) may block the power or progress of ghosts. When worn by someone in mourning, they also protect others from the power of a lingering spiritual presence closely identified with the mourner. When an Indian scratches a circle around a meeting house for the stated reason that it is to keep out witches we infer that the circle itself is efficient for this magical purpose. How far may we extend this analogy? In a Wisconsin burial mound Samuel Barrett and E. W. Hawkes discovered a ring of bright red sand 33 feet in diameter encircling the burial features, a circle traced with a layer of sand a foot wide and about half a foot thick (Barrett and Hawkes 1919:43, Fig. 2,Pl. 3). In the Ohio Valley certain Adena-associated "sacred circle" or "sacred enclosure" earthworks with a ditch or "moat" interior to the wall have been found on excavation to contain a burned charnel house or simply a circular structure with paired post holes (Swartz 1971:127; Webb et al. 1941). Is the Adena enclosure of this kind merely a monumental expression of a belief which in other periods and among other Indians may be expressed in less conspicuous ways? If it is, then there is a pattern in the archaeological record which will assist us in inferring some of the less accessible information. Witches and the ghosts of suicides, murderers, or their vengeful victims are feared the

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world around. In European prehistory, preserved "bog people" pinned in their graves by driven stakes-through their person or as wickets over their limbs-give an even earlier example of the documented historical belief that staking is an effective means of immobilizing or restricting a particularly dangerous soul (Glob 1971:38, 45-48; see also Puckle 1926:208). Examples this dramatic are seldom met within American archaeology. Occasionally a skeleton is found buried in a face-down position, which reminds us of a widespread practice of disposing of some special individuals in a manner to confound their ghosts. When fear of ghosts is not pronounced or the ghosts are not considered abnormally fearful, efforts may be made merely to disorient the ghost, say by removing the body from the house through a wall or a window rather than through the normal doorway. As a more positive action, the widow or other survivors may make a walking circuit of the grave, so the spirit of the departed will not bother the living (Voegelin 1944:280, 388-99). There is no questioning the belief of Indians in the eastern United States in the effectiveness of a circle in offering protection from supernatural or other undesirable influences-either internal or external to the circle. More specific than the above is an example from the Potawatomi of the nullifying of a warrior's war medicine by a civil chief who walks around him: If the chief of a village is opposed to the scheme, he undertakes to prevent it, by influencing their superstitious fears. To this effect, he counteracts, as they suppose, the spells prepared by the warrior, by walking round him in a circle, and then resuming his place. This they so firmly believe to vitiate the medicine, that it immediately puts a stop to the expedition [Keating 1824 in Baerreis 1973:121].

The walking circuit of a corn field by the Cherokee apparently was also believed to have the effect of countering unwanted influences: At every full moon they are commonly apprehensive that some calamity may befall their crop, and, by way of keeping the Great Spirit on their side, the women have a custom of disrobing themselves, at the dead hour of night, and of walking entirely around the field of corn [Lanman 1856 in Swanton 1946:768].

Before the planting itself the area intended for planting was circumscribed by a walking procession:



Being a field-wisearchaeologistmay demand going beyond the data on paleoecology fortuitously preservedand easily recognizedin the archaeologicalrecord, as Donald Lathrap, Richard Ford, and others tell us (cf. Lathrap 1974:115-16). It may require seeking the pollen of cultivated plants in places experience has not alwaystaught us to look, much as Sears has done (1971), or exploring the full rangeof possible interpretationsof evidencethat experience has heretofore taught us to interpret in purely technological ways. Archaeology seeks The words "magic circle" and "sacred to explain the inner workings of cultures in enclosure" are both used in the full account. It which even baked clay jars were animatedwith ought not be surprising that an activity we their particularspirits. But, until as archaeoloconsider technological should have magico- gists we develop more than a little empathy for religious overtones. The skills of the hunter and the prehistoric Indians we presume to underwarrior may be considered worthless without stand, prehistorymay neverbe more than what the proper spells and propitiations or without it has become, the soulless artifact of a regard for the related taboos. The world view of dehumanizedscience. The moon being now at its full and a fitting location having been selected, the chiefs and magicians congregate together for the purpose of submitting to the annual ceremonies of purification made to keep out all evil spirits and enemies, and the medicine men then proceed to walk in single file, and with measured steps, completely around the spot which they would render sacred, and which is generally half a mile in diameter, marking their route by plucking a single leaf from every tree or bush which they may happen to pass, all these leaves being carefully deposited in a pouch carried for the purpose [Lanman 1856 in Swanton 1946:769 J.

the Indian did not sharply distinguish between the refleshing of the bones of game animals respectfully treated, the reincarnation of the Indian in the Indian's turn, or germination and the appearance of life in buried seeds. Germination was associated with darkness, the underworld, among the Pawnee with the dark of the new moon. Among the Mikmak there is even a tale "in which corn was brought back from the land of the dead by members of the tribe who had won it in gambling with Papkootparout, the master of souls" (Wallis and Wallis 1955:19-20). Some notion of a seed's possessing a soul, whether of rice, maize, or other grains, is widespread. Agricultural exchanges may be affected by the need to prevent the loss of the soul of the seed or the success of cultivation made dependent on the need to quicken seed by the presence of kernels of sacred corn. The line separating agriculture and religion during Early and Middle Woodland times in the eastern United States may have been very weak. Early agriculture in this area probably had a more important magico-religious dimension than is normally allowed for by our science. Under these circumstances the challenge for archaeologists is to think in Indian categories and to proceed deductively within this frame of reference. If burnt corn is gathered to feed the souls of the dead or plants volunteering in an abandoned field regarded as ghost food, are there any implications for archaeology?

Baerreis, David A. 1973 Chieftainship among the Potawatomi: an exploration of ethnohistoric methodology. The WisconsinArcheologist 54(3):1 14-34. Barrett, S. A., and E. W. Hawkes 1919 The Kratz Creek mound group. Public Museum of the City of Milwaukee, Bulletin 3(1): 1-138. Fisher, MargaretW. 1946 The mythology of the northern and northeastern Algonkians in reference to Algonkian mythology as a whole. In Man in northeastern North America, edited by Frederick Johnson, pp. 226-6 2. Robert S. Peabody Foundation for Archaeology, Papers 3. Andover, MA. Fletcher, Alice C., and Francis La Flesche 1911 The Omaha Tribe. Twenty-seventh Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology. Washington, DC. Frazer, James G. 1963 The golden bough. Macmillan, New York. Garden, Nancy 1973 Vampires. J. B. Lippincot, Philadelphia. Glob, P. V. 1971 The bog people. Ballantine Books, New York. Hewitt, J. N. B. 1894 The Iroquoian concept of the soul. Journal of American Folk-Lore 7:107-16. Keating, William H. 1824 Narrative of an expedition to the source of St. Peter's River, Lake Winnepeek, Lake of the Woods, etc. Performed in the year 1823 by order of the Hon. J. C. Calhoun, Secretary of War. Under the command of Stephen H. Long, Major. 2 vols. Philadelphia. Lanman, Charles 1856 Adventures in the wilds of the United States and British A merican provinces. 2 vols. Philadelphia.



Lathrap, Donald W. 1974 The moist tropics, the arid lands, and the appearance of great art styles in the new world. In Art and environment in native America, edited by Mary E. King and Idris R. Traylor, Jr., pp. 115-58. Museum of Texas Tech University, Special Publications No. 7. Lubbock, Texas. McClintock, Walter 1935 The Blackfoot beaver bundle. Southwest Museum Leaflets 2, 3. Los Angeles. Reprinted from The Masterkey 2:76-84, 108-17. Los Angeles, 1935. Malinowski, Bronislaw 1961 Argonauts of the western Pacific. E. P. Dutton, New York. Puckle, Bertram S. 1926 Funeral customs. T. Werner Laurie, London. Sears, William 1971 Food production and village life in prehistoric southeastern United States. Archaeology 24 :322-29. Skinner, Alanson 1924 The Mascoutens or prairie Potawatomi Indians. Public Museum of the City of

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Milwaukee, Bulletin 6(1):1-262. Smith, Erminnie A. 1883 Myths of the Iroquois. Second Annual the Bureau of Ethnology Report of (1880-1881), pp. 47-116. Washington, DC. Swanton, John R. 1946 The Indians of the southeastern United States. Bureau of American Ethnology Bulletin 137. Swartz, B. K. (Editor) 1971 Adena: theseekingofan identity. Ball State University, Muncie, IN. Voegelin, Erminie 1944 Mortuary customs of the Shawnee and other eastern tribes. Prehistory Research Series, Vol. 2, No. 4. Indiana Historical Society, Indianapolis. Wallis, Wilson D., and Ruth S. Wallis 1955 The Micmac Indians of eastern Canada. University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis. Webb, Wiliam S., and others 1941 Mt. Horeb Earthworks, Site 1, and the Drake Mound, Site 11, Fayette County, Kentucky. The University of Kentucky Reports in Anthropology and Archaeology V(2). Lexington.

QUARTER SECTIONS AND FORESTS: AN EXAMPLE OF PROBABILITY SAMPLING IN THE NORTHEASTERN WOODLANDS WILLIAMA. LOVIS, JR. Problems involved in the application of probability sampling strategies to woodland environments are discussed and illustrated by example. The results of the sample and the field tactics employed in its implementation are appraised. Some directions for the development of specialized field tactics in woodland environments, including the reduction of transect intervals, the use of test-pitting, and the generation of explicit means for survey strategy alteration, are suggested.

In recent years there has been increasing success in eliminating or at least minimizing biases in the collection of data. This trend may be seen at the regional level (Binford 1964; Struever 1971; Redman 1973; Thomas 1973; Mueller 1974) and at the site level (Binford and others 1970; Redman and Watson 1970) of field research. Among the problems considered in the cases above are those of community patterning and a definition of settlement systems. Where sufficient prior information is available, predictive models may be constructed through the locational analysis of settlement (Johnson 1972; Green 1973). Where it is not, more time-consuming strategies are required. In either analytic situation, however, natural variables affecting site location must be isolated and controlled. In spite of this, considerations

of time, money, and personnel often render complete isolation and control of such variables difficult, especially where there is little prior knowledge of settlement location. Local environmental problems may make the complete and intensive survey of a region impossible. In such situations it is most efficient to employ probability sampling techniques. Few archaeologists have been concerned with the problem of probability sampling in regions with low surface visibility. Field techniques developed for survey in the Upper Sonoran desert may have minimal application in northern forests. Local survey problems may thus preclude the use of sophisticated methods and techniques. In wooded areas, for instance, it may be impossible to intensively survey the spatial units selected by the sample (Mueller

Ghost, water, barrers-Hall  

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