Buchanan publishes first book on people of Common Field

Published: October 12, 2022

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Meghan Buchanan, associate professor of anthropology, has published her first book, “Life in a Mississippian Warscape: Common Field, Cahokia and the Effects of Warfare” (University of Alabama Press). The book explores the microscale of the daily lives of people living at Common Field, a large, palisaded mound center, during the period of Cahokia’s abandonment and the spread of violence and warfare throughout the Southeast. Buchanan posits that to understand the big histories of warfare, political fragmentation and resilience in the past, archaeologists must also analyze and interpret the microscale actions of the past.

Linking together ethnographic, historical and archaeological sources, Buchanan discusses the evidence that the people of Common Field engaged in novel and hybrid practices in these dangerous times. At the microscale, they adopted new ceramic tempering techniques, produced large numbers of serving vessels decorated with warfare-related imagery, adapted their food practices and erected a substantial palisade with specially prepared deposits. The overall picture that emerges at Common Field is of a people who engaged in risk-averse practices that minimized their exposure to outside of the palisade and attempted to seek intercession from otherworldly realms through public ceremonies involving warfare-related iconography.

Buchanan earned her bachelor’s degree in anthropology at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, her Master of Arts at Southern Illinois University Carbondale and her Ph.D. at Indiana University. She has taken part in archaeological projects throughout the Midwestern and the Southeastern United States and Mexico. She has directed archaeological projects in Missouri, Indiana and Alabama. Her research explores the intersections between warfare, sociopolitical transformation and daily activities among the indigenous towns and communities of the Southeastern United States during and after the Mississippian Period (ca. AD 1000-1600).

Since coming to Auburn University in 2016, Buchanan has taught a variety of on-campus and online courses such as Anthropology: Culture and Adaptation, World Prehistory, Archaeology, Curation, Archaeology of North America, Archaeology of the Midwestern and Southeastern United States, Applied and Practicing Anthropology, Archaeological Lab Methods, and Archaeological Field School.

Submitted by: Wendy Bonner