Testing contemporaneity : the Avonlea and Besant complexes on the northern plains
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The purpose of this thesis is to critically reexamine the notion, first put forth by Reeves (1983), that the Besant and Avonlea complexes were broadly contemporaneous on the northern plains. To achieve this goal, I examine three lines of archaeological evidence. Specifically, I examine the data produced by the radiocarbon dating of Besant and Avonlea components, the stratigraphic relationships that can be observed between Besant and Avonlea components when they occur within the same site, and any evidence of cultural interaction between the two complexes. As a case study, I describe and analyse the archaeological resources encountered at site EdNh-35; a site where both Avonlea and Besant artifacts were found within the same excavation level. I conclude that, despite an overlap between their respective radiocarbon age ranges, the Besant and Avonlea complexes did not coexist within the same geographic region of the northern plains for any significant amount of time. I also discuss various scenarios in which all three lines of evidence can be explained. Ultimately, it seems most likely that Besant groups occupied the eastern periphery of the northern plains (consisting of Manitoba, North Dakota, and South Dakota) while Avonlea groups inhabited the central and western portions of this area. The significance of this thesis to the study of plains archaeology lies with its rethinking of the established culture history of the Late Plains Period. In particular, it demonstrates that radiocarbon dates can occasionally be misleading and that more caution needs to be taken before assigning a radiocarbon date to a particular archaeological complex.