Date of Award

Fall 2019

Degree Type

Masters Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Social Science and Global Studies

Committee Chair

Marie Danforth

Committee Chair School

Social Science and Global Studies

Committee Member 2

Bridgette Hayden

Committee Member 2 School

Social Science and Global Studies

Committee Member 3

Edwin Jackson

Committee Member 3 School

Social Science and Global Studies

Committee Member 4

Daniel Ladu

Committee Member 4 School

Social Science and Global Studies


The prehistoric Southeast region of the United States has had very limited archaeobotanical research focused on botanicals’ medicinal or ritualistic characteristics. An analysis of reported botanical remains recovered from Winterville Mounds (22WS500) and seventy- two other Late Woodland and Mississippian sites, from seven states, was conducted to identify their potential medicinal and ritual use of seventy-five botanicals based on reported ethnobotanical evidence. By classifying botanicals into four classes, modeled after the dissertation of Dr. Michele Williams in 2000, taxon frequency and feature ubiquity is configured and utilized to identify the possible ceremonial and medicinal use plants. At Winterville Mounds Site a Chi Square statistical analysis utilizing maize and purslane inclusions from four features identified a negative correlation between the two, suggesting a distinction between food consumption (feasting) and deposits associated with medicine-ritual activities, possibly medicine or sweat lodges, specifically in contexts associated with the site’s largest mound, Mound A. The results suggest the need for more research focusing on less commonly studied botanical inclusions.

Broadening the analysis to the remainder of the sample, the collateral effects of agriculture in the form of disease, land clearing, workload, and increased access to farmed subsistence products is shown to have both indirect and direct connections to changes in these botanical inclusions. Finally, this research acknowledges a need to broaden the analytical perspective of archaeobotany beyond simply economic and environmental interpretations by considering other plants’ associations with ceremonial and medicinal uses; and calls for professionals to include the Indigenous voice in their research.