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Overview of the Middle and Upper Paleolithic Periods

In the Paleolithic period, specifically the middle and upper Paleolithic periods, humans were beginning to advance and culturally develop at an unprecedented rate. The production of food and the creation and implementation of different tools defined these periods as quintessential to growth and the progress of technology. A substantial part of these periods are the traditions and lifestyle habits that developed.
Starting of with the middle paleolithic period, humans had begun to develop a cultural sense of awareness, such as burying their dead with flowers. This is before more modern humans adopted a similar tradition in the Upper Paleolithic period of time (anthropology, 2017). We can assume that basic traditions like this would start in the earlier (middle) time period. The Upper Paleolithic period saw the beginning of traditions like spiritual awareness and beliefs, artistic expression, and trade between neighboring groups (anthropology, 2017). Groups in the Middle and Upper Paleolithic periods started to expand and eventually grow larger. These bigger groups were found to have built semi year-round settlements. Staying in certain environments for extended periods of time enabled these people to focus on improving their homesteads (more homesteads are found in the upper period than the middle period).
This segues into how the different tools of these time periods were manufactured to carve, build and hunt. Middle era tools included points, which could be tied on to shafts to make spears. (Smithsonian, 2018) Smaller points made from stone were also crafted and made into weaponry like darts and arrows. These darts and arrows enabled humans of this time to refine their hunting skills and self-defense. Shaved flecks of stone were transformed into scrapers that were useful in preparing animal hides for clothing. This and sections of wood were typical tools in the middle paleolithic age. (Smithsonian, 2018). Upper paleolithic tools are further along in design because of the cultural diversity that allowed more advancement. Different materials were introduced: Ivory, bone and antler as well as more stone. These different materials allowed more craftsmanship. The new materials also were more malleable than stone, which led to the tools being sharper and thus more effective. Each group developed their own cultural footprint and sought their own identity. Humans in both middle and upper periods discovered different ways of making things. (Smithsonian, 2018)
With the expansion of the human population, eventually the density of human groups increased to greater numbers. This led to competition and conflict over the best resources and land. (Kahn Academy, 2017). Due to the limited natural resources of the landscape, middle and upper paleolithic communities were smaller in size. They were however large enough to develop a degree of hierarchical organization: groups of labor, leadership and security. They also had exogamous patterns of reproduction, which is marring and producing outside of the standard group. (Kahn Academy, 2017)
Anthropologists have been able to draw these conclusions about Paleolithic humans by extrapolating different data from recent hunter-gatherer communities, like the Khoisan from the African Kalahari Desert. The theories and ideas based on the life and experiences of more modern societies help researches form an idea of what middle and upper paleolithic communities did. (Kahn Academy, 2017)
The increased numbers of people living in groups also highlights the hunting and gathering methods that were used. Hunting strategies that targeted large numbers of animals in herds that migrated seasonally became predominant (Johnston, Strayer 2020). Anthropologists know this from the cave art that occurs in different regions. Different art in different territories suggests a more defined sense of social organization. Burials started to become common which points to social differentiation (Johnston, Strayer 2020).
These two periods of time additionally saw the progression of cultural pursuits. The basic techniques of drawing, building sculpture, and painting, as well as the early inclusion of dancing, ceremonies and music are also seen (specifically more in the upper paleolithic) periods. (Adams, Pittioni, 2019). Humans of both periods also started to develop linguistic behaviors and symbolic thinking. Groups began to create and settle into villages, which led the way to more dynamic interactions and interpersonal relationships (Johnston, Strayer 2020) This had an important effect on daily human life. More communication let to more advances in almost every sociological/physical category.
In conclusion, both the middle and upper Paleolithic periods saw numerous areas of cultural and physical/social progress and growth. There were advancements in weaponry and agricultural cultivation, as well as art forms and language. The development of social practices and hierarchy are also very present, which is why the middle and upper periods changed the way humans operated which led the way to modern practices.
“Middle and Upper Paleolithic.” ISS 220: Time, Space,

Critical Approaches to the Archaeological Heritage

Introduction and Significance:
The Caddo people, also known as the Hasinai, at their peak circa A.D.1100, were the most highly developed prehistoric culture within the state of Texas. The area that is now Alto, Texas, was selected by Caddo Indians as a permanent settlement in A.D. 800 (Perttula, 1992). Geoarcheological evidence in the area shows that the alluvial prairie contained qualities that would benefit the foundation of a village and synchronous ceremonial grounds – good sandy loam that would sustain crops to provide abundant food resources. The surrounding forest provided numerous materials including a permanent water source of springs that flowed into the Neches River (Story, 1990). For approximately 500 years, the Caddo people dominated life in that area, creating economical and social ties with similar cultures via trade and a sophisticated system that was both ceremonial and political. The Caddo Mounds site served as the southwestern-most ceremonial center for the mound builders, which included the Caddo people. The mound builders were a collection of cultures that constructed earthen mounds as a way to memorialize the dead (O’Connor, 1995). Artifact analysis of raw geologic materials, such as shell from the eastern Gulf Coast, and copper from the Great Lakes region, show trading was occurring in Central Texas and as far away as present-day Florida and Illinois (Gregory, 1986). The site flourished until the 13th century, when most archeologists agree the ruling class left after a loss of their regional influence, and trade groups became less reliant on their cultural center for religious and political matters. The Caddo culture that remained in the area lacked its sophistication and material wealth (Swanton, 1942). Caddo groups continued to live in the area through the 1830’s in their traditional homeland but Anglo-American colonization efforts in the 1840’s saw all groups removed from the area and placed on the Brazos Indian Reservation in 1855, until the Caddo (1,050 people) were removed to Indian Territory, now western Oklahoma, in 1959 (Smith, 1994).
Assessment of Visitor Population and Site Objectives:
The Caddo Mounds site seeks to educate the public about the development and significance of the Caddo culture. While general enthusiasts traveling in or around East Texas are the most common visitors, this site also hosts various educational programs. Prior to the tornado on April 13, 2019, which ultimately shut the site down temporarily for reconstruction, an ongoing project was being completed by a Girl Scout troop in the area dealing with heritage, tracing descent, and social hierarchy. In Caddo culture, descent was traced through the maternal line, rather than the paternal as most research is done now. Similarities to American social classes were recognized within the Caddo cultures, as religious and political authority in Caddo society was kept within a hierarchy of positions in communities and groups. Due to the excessive amounts of backfill and dirt recovered from ongoing and past archeological excavations, volunteer opportunities are also available at the site, which gave visitors a chance to learn how artifacts are not only recovered but processed and prepared for curation as well. A phone interview with Rachel Galan, the Caddo Mounds assistant site supervisor, took place on October 24, 2019, and detailed much of the information in this document (Galan, 2019).
Site Layout:
The Caddo Mounds site is a prehistoric ceremonial and occupational site that includes the mounds and a number of additional features (Figure 1). Visitors can walk a 0.7 mile (1.12 kilometer) self-guided tour, with an additional 0.4 mile (.64 kilometer) path that falls along the El Camino Real de los Tejas, mentioned in detail later. Tours, either guided or self-guided, typically take between 1.5 to 2 hours. Upon entering the visitors center, several exhibits are featured, which showcase artifacts recovered from the site (Figure 2) and detail the everyday life of the Caddo peoples, from their agricultural processes to their clothes and appearance (Figure 3).

Figure 1: Display in visitors center of the site overview.

Figure 2: One of the many exhibits in the visitors center detailing Caddo life.

Figure 3: A few of the artifacts on display in the visitors center.
After exiting the visitors center, the first stop along the tour is the village life area, which features a grass hut replica (Figure 4) complete with a shallow hearth (Figure 5).

Figure 4: Caddo grass hut replica outside of the visitors center.

Figure 5: Shallow hearth inside of the grass hut.
Following along the trail, the second stop is the High Temple Mound (Figure 6), which is the largest mound at the site and was used for ceremonial purposes. As this is the largest of the 3 mounds, a Texas Historical Marker plaque has been placed here (Figure 7), which commemorates the site as an area that effectively changed the course of Texas history.

Figure 6: Mound #1, the High Temple Mound.

Figure 7: The Texas Historical Survey Committee plaque at the High Temple Mound.
The third stop is the Low Platform Mound (Figures 8