Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy
This dissertation presents an examination of the manner in which archaeologists identify and interpret the material signatures of ritual practice when the obvious hallmarks of monumentality and material ostentation are absent. Focusing on the work of Catherine Bell and Roy Rappaport, I developed a loose analytical framework to facilitate such identification and interpretation. This framework was first applied to ethnohistoric ritual practice in a sample of societies in the Eastern Woodlands of North America. This served to test the framework and aid in contextualizing evidence of prehistoric ritual. The framework was then applied to a series of unknowns, Late Woodland hilltop enclosures, known as “stone forts,” purported to have served either defensive or ritual purposes. Based on the results of the analysis, I maintain that the stone fort sites were primarily constructed as loci of ritual practice. While practices may have varied from site to site, it appears that all sites were loci for ritual activities related to the production and maintenance of hafted bifaces, particularly projectile points.
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