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The Mantle Site


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Table of Contents

Acknowledgements List of Tables List of Figures Chapter 1.Understanding Northern Iroquoians Chapter 2. The Historical Development of Ancestral Wendat Societies Chapter 3. Situating the Mantle Site Chapter 4. Community History Chapter 5. The Necessities of Life Chapter 6. Production, Consolidation, and Interregional Interaction Chapter 7. Conclusions Bibliography Index About the Authors

About the Author

Jennifer Birch is an assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Georgia. Ronald F. Williamson is founder and managing partner of Archaeological Services Inc., a cultural resource management firm based in Toronto.


Archaeologists Birch (Univ. of Georgia) and Williamson (Archaeological Services, Inc., Toronto) interpret the circa 1500-1530 CE Mantle site, located 30 miles east of Toronto, Ontario. The seven-acre site was fully excavated due to potent Ontario historic preservation laws. The authors situate Mantle well by describing its historical and regional context and detailing the coalescence and movement of the community (northern Iroquoian towns moved periodically due to local resource depletion). They demonstrate that Mantle's occupants came to view themselves as an integrated social unit despite their origins in disparate small villages a couple of generations earlier. The book presents significant evidence for widespread warfare in the 15th century (prior to Columbus) and a subsequent lull during Mantle's occupation, which may be due to the formation of confederacies. Mantle has also yielded some of the earliest known European-derived artifacts in the interior Northeast. Descendants of Mantle's occupants moved northwest at the end of the 16th century to become part of the Wendat (also known as the Huron) confederacy. This book reads like a history but is entirely derived from archaeological evidence. Summing Up: Essential. Upper-division undergraduates and above. * CHOICE *
The authors produce an invaluable study that has much broader significance to understanding cultural development in late precolumbian North America and the methods and theory we use to gain that understanding. The authors first establish a theoretical framework based in practice and structuration and promote two important approaches: community-focused research and working with descendant stakeholders. These approaches drive the research and are ingrained into the analyses and interpretations, and the book is much stronger for having such noble, consistent themes. ... This work is at its best when Birch and Williamson analyze and interpret the Mantle site data to describe community life and its changes over time. They expertly integrate multiple lines of data and strike the proper balance of theorizing without stretching the data too far. ... The many strengths of this work include the thorough and painstaking research, the beautiful integration of method and theory, and, most importantly, the execution of multiscalar research focused on the community. . . . This work will make a lasting contribution to the study of Iroquoian cultures and to the study of settlement coalescence. It will quickly take its place among the other influential site monographs from North America because of its ability to help us better understand the evolution of late precolumbian Native American societies. * American Antiquity *
The Mantle Site: An Archaeological History of an Ancestral Wendat Community is a welcome addition to the library of all archaeologists interested in the dynamic history of Iroquoians in the southern Great Lakes region as well as those investigating coalescence. . . .This is an ambitious and interesting 'big picture' book. . . .Birch and Williamson have clearly demonstrated the dynamic nature of Iroquoian communities and the enormous potential of the datasets provided in the context of cultural resource management. * Canadian Journal of Archaeology *
Birch and Williamson have synthesized an enormous quantity of data to produce a compelling narrative. They... have produced a work that enlarges our understanding of past Iroquoians and their world. -- William Engelbrecht, Buffalo State College, State University of New York
The Iroquoian nations of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries had been vastly different just a few generations earlier. They changed profoundly-before European contact. Only archaeology can find this earlier and deeper history. In The Mantle Site, Birch and Williamson reconstruct how Iroquoian people came together, invented, and put into practice new kinds of social communities, new political orders, new ways of making a living, and new customs. So much for the notion of timeless tradition and peoples with no history. The Mantle Site is far more than a splendid study of one village. [T]his history is not just an Iroquoian story, because how people create new ways of coming together as political communities has something to say to us all. -- Steve Kowalewski, University of Georgia

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