Defines household composition and social relationships at Moundville
Complex Mississippian polities were neither developed nor sustained in a vacuum. A broad range of small-scale social groups played a variety of roles in the emergence of regionally organized political hierarchies that governed large-scale ceremonial centers. Recent research has revealed the extent to which interactions among corporately organized clans led to the development, success, and collapse of Moundville. These insights into Moundville’s social complexity are based primarily on the study of monumental architecture and mortuary ceremonialism. Less is known about how everyday domestic practices produced and were produced by broader networks of power and inequality in the region.
Wilson’s research addresses this gap in our understanding by analyzing and interpreting large-scale architectural and ceramic data sets from domestic contexts. This study has revealed that the early Mississippian Moundville community consisted of numerous spatially discrete multi-household groups, similar to ethnohistorically described kin groups from the southeastern United States. Hosting feasts, dances, and other ceremonial events were important strategies by which elite groups created social debts and legitimized their positions of authority. Non-elite groups, on the other hand, maintained considerable economic and ritual autonomy through diversified production activities, risk sharing, and household ceremonialism. Organizational changes in Moundville’s residential occupation highlight the different ways kin groups defined and redefined their corporate status and identities over the long term.
Consisting of 18 earthen mounds and numerous additional habitation areas dating to A.D. 1250-1550, the Bottle Creek site was first professionally investigated in 1932 when David L. DeJarnette of the Alabama Museum of Natural History began work there to determine if the site had a cultural relationship with Moundville, connected to the north by a river system. Although partially mapped in the 1880s, Bottle Creek's location in the vast Mobile-Tensaw Delta of Baldwin County completely surrounded by swamp made it inaccessible and protected it from most of the plunder experienced by similar sites in the Southeast.
This volume builds on earlier investigations to present extensive recent data from major excavations conducted from 1991 to 1994 and supported in part by an NEH grant. Ten anthropologists examine various aspects of the site, including mound architecture, prehistoric diet, pottery classification, vessel forms, textiles used to make pottery impressions, a microlithic stone tool industry, water travel, the persistence of mound use into historic times, and the position of Bottle Creek in the protohistoric world.
The site is concluded to be the best remaining example of Pensacola culture, an archaeological variant of the widespread Mississippian tradition identified by a shell-tempered pottery complex and by its geographic association with the north-central coast of the Gulf of Mexico. Occupied for three centuries by a thriving native culture, Bottle Creek is an important remnant of North American peoples and as such is designated a National Historic Landmark. This published compilation of the research data should establish a base for future scholarly investigation and interpretation.
An important case study of chiefdom collapse and societal reemergence.
Caborn-Welborn, a late Mississippian (A.D. 1400-1700) farming society centered at the confluence of the Ohio and Wabash Rivers (in what is now southwestern Indiana, southeastern Illinois, and northwestern Kentucky), developed following the collapse of the Angel chiefdom (A.D. 1000-1400). Using ceramic and settlement data, David Pollack examines the ways in which that new society reconstructed social, political, and economic relationships from the remnants of the Angel chiefdom. Unlike most instances of the demise of a complex society led by elites, the Caborn-Welborn population did not become more inward-looking, as indicated by an increase in extraregional interaction, nor did they disperse to smaller more widely scattered settlements, as evidenced by a continuation of a hierarchy that included large villages.
This book makes available for the first time detailed, well-illustrated descriptions of Caborn-Welborn ceramics, identifies ceramic types and attributes that reflect Caborn-Welborn interaction with Oneota tribal groups and central Mississippi valley Mississippian groups, and offers an internal regional chronology. Based on intraregional differences in ceramic decoration, the types of vessels interred with the dead, and cemetery location, Pollack suggests that in addition to the former Angel population, Caborn-Welborn society may have included households that relocated to the Ohio/Wabash confluence from nearby collapsing polities, and that Caborn-Welborn's sociopolitical organization could be better considered as a riverine confederacy.
Moundville, located on the Black Warrior River in west-central Alabama, is one of the best known and most intensively studied archaeological sites in North America. Yet, in spite of all these investigations, many aspects of the site's internal chronology remained unknown until the original 1983 publication of this volume. The author embarked on a detailed study of Moundville ceramics housed in museums and collections, and hammered out a new chronology for Moundville.This volume is a clearly written description of the analytical procedures employed on these ceramic samples and the new chronology this study revealed. Using the refined techniques outlined in this volume, it was possible for the author to trace changes in community patterns, which in turn shed light on Moundville's internal development and its place among North America's ancient cultures.
This volume is a clearly written description of the analytical procedures employed on these ceramic samples and the new chronology this study revealed. Using the refined techniques outlined in this volume, it was possible for the author to trace changes in community patterns, which in turn shed light on Moundville's internal development and its place among North America's ancient cultures.
A synthesis of research on earthenware technologies of the Late Archaic Period in the southeastern U.S.
Information on social groups and boundaries, and on interaction between groups, burgeons when pottery appears on the social landscape of the Southeast in the Late Archaic period (ca. 5000-3000 years ago). This volume provides a broad, comparative review of current data from "first potteries" of the Atlantic and Gulf coastal plains and in the lower Mississippi River Valley, and it presents research that expands our understanding of how pottery functioned in its earliest manifestations in this region.
Included are discussions of Orange pottery in peninsular Florida, Stallings pottery in Georgia, Elliot's Point fiber-tempered pottery in the Florida panhandle, and the various pottery types found in excavations over the years at the Poverty Point site in northeastern Louisiana. The data and discussions demonstrate that there was much more interaction, and at an earlier date, than is often credited to Late Archaic societies. Indeed, extensive trade in pottery throughout the region occurs as early as 1500 B.C.
These and other findings make this book indispensable to those involved in research into the origin and development of pottery in general and its unique history in the Southeast in particular.
This is a detailed reconstruction of the waxing and waning of political fortunes among the chiefly elites at an important center of the prehistoric world.
At the time the first Europeans arrived in the New World, thousands of earthen platform mounds dotted the landscape of eastern North America. Only a few of the mound sites have survived the ravages of time and the devastation of pilferers; one of these valuable monuments is Etowah, located near Cartersville in northern Georgia. Over a period of more than 100 years, excavations of the site’s six mounds, and in particular Mound C, have yielded a wealth of artifacts, including marble statues, copper embossed plates, ceremonial items, and personal adornments. These objects indicate an extensive trading network between Mississippian centers and confirm contact with Spanish conquistadores near Etowah in the mid-1500s.
Adam King has analyzed the architecture and artifacts of Etowah and deduced its vital role in the prehistory of the area. He advances a plausible historical sequence and a model for the ancient town's complex political structure. The chiefdom society relied upon institutional social ranking, permanent political offices, religious ideology, a redistribution of goods and services, and the willing support of the constituent population. King reveals strategies used by the paramount chiefs to maintain their sources of power and to control changes in the social organization. Elite alliances did not necessarily involve the extreme asymmetry of political domination and tribute extraction. King's use of ceramic assemblages recovered from Etowah to determine the occupation history and the construction sequence of public facilities (mounds and plazas) at the center is significant.
This fresh interpretation of the Etowah site places it in a contemporary social and political context with other Mississippian cultures. It is a one-volume sourcebook for the Etowah polity and its neighbors and will, therefore, command an eager audience of scholars and generalists.
Gifts of the Great River
John H. House Harvard University Press, 2005 Library of Congress E98.M6815H68 2003 | Dewey Decimal 738.30899707679
In 1879 Edwin Curtiss set out for the wild St. Francis River region of northeastern Arkansas to collect archaeological specimens for the Peabody Museum. By the time Curtiss completed his fifty-six days of Arkansas fieldwork, he had sent nearly 1,000 pottery vessels to Cambridge and had put the Peabody on the map as the repository of one of the world's finest collections of Mississippian artifacts. John House brings us a lively account of the work of this nineteenth-century fieldworker, the Native culture he explored, and the rich legacies left by both. The result is a vivid re-creation of the world of Indian peoples in the Mississippi River lowlands in the last centuries before European contact. The volume's focus is Curtiss's collection of charming and expressive effigy vessels: earthenware bowls and bottles that incorporate forms of fish, birds, mammals, amphibians, and humans, including the Peabody's famous red-and-white head vase.
In 1981, James F. Cherry embarked on what evolved into a passionate, personal quest to identify and document all the known headpots of Mississippian Indian culture from northeast Arkansas and the bootheel region of southeast Missouri. Produced by two groups the Spanish called the Casqui and Pacaha and dating circa AD 1400–1700, headpots occur, with few exceptions, only in a small region of Arkansas and Missouri. Relatively little is known about these headpots: did they portray kinsmen or enemies, the living or the dead or were they used in ceremonies, in everyday life, or exclusively for the sepulcher? Cherry’s decades of research have culminated in the lavishly illustrated The Headpots of Northeast Arkansas and Southern Pemiscot County, Missouri, a fascinating, comprehensive catalog of 138 identified classical style headpots and an invaluable resource for understanding the meaning of these remarkable ceramic vessels.
Because textiles rarely are preserved in the archaeological record outside of deserts and permafrost areas, in many regions of the world very little is known about their characteristics, functions, production technology, or socioeconomic importance. While this fact is also true of organic fabrics produced during the Mississippian period in southeastern North Anerica, a wide variety of Mississippian textiles has been preserved in the form of impressions on large pottery vessels. From attribute analysis of 1,574 fabrics impressed on Wickliffe pottery sherds and comparison of the impressions with extant Mississippian textile artifacts, Drooker presents the first comparative analysis of these materials and the most inclusive available summary of information on Mississippian textiles.
John H. Blitz University of Alabama Press, 2008 Library of Congress E99.M6815B55 2008 | Dewey Decimal 976.143
Inaugural pocket guide from our new series of illustrated guidebooks
In the 13th century, Moundville was one of the largest Native American settlements north of Mexico. Spread over 325 acres were 29 earthen mounds arranged around a great plaza, a mile-long stockade, and dozens of dwellings for thousands of people. Moundville, in size and complexity second only to the Cahokia site in Illinois, was a heavily populated town, as well as a political and religious center.
Moundville was sustained by tribute of food and labor provided by the people who lived in the nearby floodplain as well as other smaller mound centers. The immediate area appears to have been thickly populated, but by about A.D. 1350, Moundville retained only ceremonial and political functions. A decline ensued, and by the 1500s the area was abandoned. By the time the first Europeans reached the Southeast in the 1540s, the precise links between Moundville's inhabitants and what became the historic Native American tribes had become a mystery.
Illustrated with 50 color photos, maps, and figures, Moundville tells the story of the ancient people who lived there, the modern struggle to save the site from destruction, and the scientific saga of the archaeologists who brought the story to life. Moundville is the book to read before, during, or after a visit to Alabama’s prehistoric metropolis.
Reconstructing Tascalusa’s Chiefdom is an archaeological study of political collapse in the Alabama River Valley following the Hernando de Soto expedition.
To explain the cultural and political disruptions caused by Hernando de Soto's exploration deep into north America, Amanda L. Regnier presents an innovative analysis of ceramics and theory of cultural exchange. She argues that culture consists of a series of interconnected models governing proper behavior that are shared across the belief systems of communities and individuals. Historic cognitive models derived from ceramic data via cluster and correspondence analysis can effectively be used to examine these models and explain cultural exchange.
The results of Regnier's work demonstrate that the Alabama River Valley was settled by populations migrating from three different regions during the late fifteenth century. The mixture of ceramic models associated with these traditions at Late Mississippian sites suggests that these newly founded towns, controlled by Tascalusa, comprised ethnically and linguistically diverse populations. Perhaps most significantly, Tascalusa's chiefdom appears to be a precontact example of a coalescent society that emerged after populations migrated from the deteriorating Mississippian chiefdoms into a new region.
A summary of excavations at Late Mississippian sites also includes the first published chronology of the Alabama River from approximately AD 900 to 1600.