Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Environmental Dynamics (PhD)

Degree Level



Environmental Dynamics


George Sabo, III

Committee Member

Marvin Kay

Second Committee Member

Jami Lockhart


Archaeology, Central Mississippi Valley, Mississippian, Mississippi period, New Madrid seismic zone, Resilience


This work examines the vulnerability and resilience of Mississippian people in the Central Mississippi Valley to the large-scale New Madrid seismic zone earthquakes of the late15th to early 16th century. This is done using the theory of eventful archaeology/anthropology to look at cultural materials both before and after an event (such as an earthquake and sand blows) to look for evidence of changes to the schema and resources on which a society relies. If changes are present, the event can be labeled as such, if there are no changes, it means that the society affected did not see the event as a problem which required a response. The Manley-Usrey site in northeast Arkansas was used to more accurately and precisely date the late 15th/early 16th century earthquakes to AD1460 ± 50, using Optically Stimulated Luminescence dating. This technique was employable due to the site being covered by sand from an earthquake induced sand blow while the site was occupied in the Late Mississippi period. The date of the earthquake coincides with the later part of the Late Mississippi period in the region. Based on the earthquake date, the material culture of Mississippi period sites dating to the Late Mississippi and Protohistoric periods were examined to look for changes from pre- to post-earthquake. Very few changes in cultural materials were found at any level of analysis from individual artifact types to settlement patterns within a site or across the landscape of the region. This suggests that not only did many of the region’s resources remain stable and therefore changes or substitutes were not needed, there was also no change in schema or beliefs that are detected archaeologically through changes in the material culture being produced. This lack of change from pre- to post-earthquake suggests that the people in the region did not view the large-scale earthquakes and sand blows as a disaster and were quite resilient to their effects.