Apalachicola Archives - Kendall College of Arts and Sciences


Risk management and resilience among the ancestors of the Creek Indians

For the past 15 years, Professor of Anthropology Thomas Foster has been researching the histories and cultures of the Indigenous peoples of the southeastern United States. In March this year, some of the fruits of his labors will appear between two covers in a new book: Apalachicola: Resilience and Adaptation of a Native American Community on the Chattahoochee River.

man in a pink shirt and grey blazer smiling at the camera while seated at a sidewalk cafe in Paris
Thomas Foster in Paris while conducting archival research and attending a conference

Published by Routledge, this study is a synthesis of research spanning archaeology, geology, geography, history, ecology and ethnography. It follows the history of the Apalachicola people who contributed to the culture that was later called the Creek Indians. The main focus is on how these people adapted to a changing environment over a long period, showing that specific institutions, subsistence strategies and social organizations developed as a risk management strategy and a form of resilience.

“My book is the result of extensive research and collaboration,” Foster remarked. “Some of the most enjoyable aspects of this work has been collecting data in the field with colleagues as well as students, including international students. The project I document in Apalachicola is very synthetic and holistic in a way that I haven’t seen before. So, I also enjoyed the design and execution of such a large, multifaceted endeavor.”

man in a short-sleeve white shirt kneeling on one knee while excavating archaeological remains
Thomas Foster excavating while others sift archaeological remains in the background

Read about Foster’s collaborative research on archaeological data associated with humans’ past land use in order to shed light on climate change.

Given the project’s interdisciplinary nature, Foster points to several interesting and impactful findings. “For one, we have a better understanding of this community and how human societies have dealt with uncertainty and risk in their lives,” he said. “I believe that our research also provides a new perspective and understanding of the people who inhabited the southeastern U.S. before European colonialism. In particular, we measured their effects on the plant and animal communities and the landscape.”

A synthesis of published essays and conference presentations, Apalachicola is not an end to Foster’s inquiries. Looking to the future, Foster noted, “there are still valuable environmental, ecological, historical and archaeological collections that will lead to more research.”

Does the interdisciplinary study of past societies and cultures beckon to you? Then consider the fascinating undergraduate and graduate pathways available when you study anthropology at TU.