Members of Hernando de Soto's 1540 march through the interior of the southeastern US, as well as other explorers at that time, described encounters with complex and powerful Indian chiefdoms. Until this work by Marvin T. Smith, first published in 1987, scholars had argued about the role that Europeans played in the disintegration of that Mississippian culture. Rejecting the notion that the aboriginal nations acculturated to a European pattern, Smith shows that Old World epidemic diseases caused immediate population loss in interior areas. He develops a chronological framework for the period 1540-1670 based on European trade goods, which allows him to date the aboriginal sites and to examine the tempo of demographic shifts with more precision than archaeologists before him commanded. The effects of early European contact - documented with data that include artifacts associated with burial practices, public works, and craft specialisation - travelled farther than the European explorers themselves, as depopulation led to political breakdown and social collapse. One product of this collapse, Smith argues, was the Creek Confederacy of the 18th century, a mix of refugee populations who banded together in defence of alliances against the Europeans and other Indians.