February 2022: Jacob Holland-Lulewicz

Thursday, February 17, 2022

Muskogean Council Houses and Indigenous Democracy in the Southeastern US

Jacob Holland-Lulewicz, Ph.D. Department of Anthropology, Washington University

Recent re-dating of the Cold Springs site in northern Georgia has led to the identification of the earliest known council houses in the ancestral Muskogean homeland by at least AD 500. This is roughly 500 years earlier than previously identified council houses in this region. These large round structures and their arrangement around a plaza along with two platform mounds also seems to represent the earliest manifestation of the traditional square-ground form. Both council houses and square grounds continue to serve as important institutions within the Muscogee communities of Oklahoma today. We argue that the archaeological record of the American Southeast provides a case to examine the emergence of democratic institutions, and to highlight the distinctive ways in which such long-lived institutions were, and continue to be, expressed by Native Americans. Unexpectedly, the 1,500-year continuous history of the use of council houses represents one of the oldest and most enduring democratic institutions in world history.

Jacob Holland-Lulewicz is currently a lecturer in the Department of Anthropology at Washington University in St. Louis. He received his PhD in 2018 from the University of Georgia. His research across the southeastern and Midwestern U.S. focuses primarily on the archaeology of governance, politics, and social networks.