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  The Vacant Quarter Revisited: Late Mississippian Abandonment of the Lower Ohio Valley Minimize

Charles R. Cobb and Brian M. Butler


The idea that a substantial portion of the North American midcontinent centered on the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers confluence was largely depopulated around A.D. 1450-1550—Stephen Williams's "Vacant Quarter" hypothesis—has been generally accepted by archaeologists. There has been, however, some disagreement over the timing and extent of the abandonment. Our long-term research along the Ohio River in southern Illinois's interior hill country has yielded a substantial corpus of late Mississippian-period radiocarbon dates. Indicating that depopulation of the lower Ohio Valley occurred at the early end of Williams's estimate. Furthermore, the abandonment was a widespread phenomenon that involved Mississippian groups living in remote settings, as well as along major drainages. Although causes for the Vacant Quarter are still debated, evidence from other regions indicates that regional abandonment by agricultural groups was not a unique event in the Eastern Woodlands.


Los arqueólogos, en general han aceptado la hipótesis del "Cuadrante Vacante", es decir, la idea de que la mayoría de la zona central de los EE.UU. cerca de la confluencia de los ríos Ohio y Mississippi fue abandonada alrededor de 1450-1500. Sin embargo, existe desacuerdo sobre la fecha y la extensión del abandono. Nuestras investigaciones del interior montañoso del río Ohio en el sur de Illinois han resultado en un corpus de fechas de radiocarbono catorce que provienen del periodo Mississippi. Estas fechas indican que el abandono ocurrió al principio del periodo propuesto por Williams. Además, aunque las causas del "Cuadrante Vacante" todavía son debatidas, existe evidencia en otras regiones de abandono por grupos agricultores, que indica que el abandono regional no fue un evento aislado en los Woodlands del este.