Archaeological investigations in the Lower Mississippi Valley continue to demonstrate a penchant for studying mound-and-plaza sites at the expense of the less conspicuous villages and hamlets where the majority of the populace is presumed to have resided. Acknowledging this bias, this article contributes a comparative study of 10 nonmound Terminal Woodland period Coles Creek sites. Following a site-by-site discussion, a preliminary characterization of the complete Late Woodland settlement system is presented, focusing on site size, site layout, and immediate environment. The results underscore the importance of determining whether Coles Creek communities were organized as part of a settlement hierarchy or heterarchy, which has far-ranging implications that affect how we interpret everything from subsistence economics and sociopolitical organization to meanings, beliefs, and worldview of the residents of this region during late prehistory.

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