Caddoan Mississippian culture

Last updated
Map of the Caddoan Mississippian culture and some important sites Caddoan Mississippian culture map HRoe 2010.jpg
Map of the Caddoan Mississippian culture and some important sites
A map showing approximate areas of various Mississippian and related cultures. Cahokia is located near the center of this map in the upper part of the Middle Mississippi area. Mississippian cultures HRoe 2010.jpg
A map showing approximate areas of various Mississippian and related cultures. Cahokia is located near the center of this map in the upper part of the Middle Mississippi area.

The Caddoan Mississippian culture was a prehistoric Native American culture considered by archaeologists as a variant of the Mississippian culture. [1] The Caddoan Mississippians covered a large territory, including what is now Eastern Oklahoma, Western Arkansas, Northeast Texas, and Northwest Louisiana. Archaeological evidence that the cultural continuity is unbroken from prehistory to the present; that the direct ancestors of the modern Caddo Nation of Oklahoma included the speakers of the Caddo and related Caddo language in prehistoric times and at first European contact, is unquestioned today. [2]

Native Americans in the United States Indigenous peoples of the United States (except Hawaii)

Native Americans, also known as American Indians, Indigenous Americans and other terms, are the indigenous peoples of the United States, except Hawaii. There are over 500 federally recognized tribes within the US, about half of which are associated with Indian reservations. The term "American Indian" excludes Native Hawaiians and some Alaska Natives, while Native Americans are American Indians, plus Alaska Natives of all ethnicities. Native Hawaiians are not counted as Native Americans by the US Census, instead being included in the Census grouping of "Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander".

Mississippian culture Mound-building Native American culture in Midwestern, Eastern, and Southeastern United States

The Mississippian culture was a mound-building Native American civilization archeologists date from about 800 CE to 1600 CE, varying regionally.

Oklahoma State of the United States of America

Oklahoma is a state in the South Central region of the United States, bordered by Kansas on the north, Missouri on the northeast, Arkansas on the east, Texas on the south, New Mexico on the west, and Colorado on the northwest. It is the 20th-most extensive and the 28th-most populous of the fifty United States. The state's name is derived from the Choctaw words okla and humma, meaning "red people". It is also known informally by its nickname, "The Sooner State", in reference to the non-Native settlers who staked their claims on land before the official opening date of lands in the western Oklahoma Territory or before the Indian Appropriations Act of 1889, which dramatically increased European-American settlement in the eastern Indian Territory. Oklahoma Territory and Indian Territory were merged into the State of Oklahoma when it became the 46th state to enter the union on November 16, 1907. Its residents are known as Oklahomans, and its capital and largest city is Oklahoma City.




The Caddoan Mississippians are thought to be an descendants of Woodland period groups, the Fourche Maline culture and Mossy Grove culture peoples who were living in the area around 200 BCE to 800 CE. [3] They were linked to other peoples across much of the Eastern Woodlands through trade networks. This time period saw the introduction of pottery making from peoples to their east, and by 500 CE the bow and arrow from the Southwest. By 800 CE early Caddoan society began to coalesce into one of the earlier Mississippian cultures. Some villages began to gain prominence as ritual centers, with elite residences and temple mound constructions. The mounds were arranged around open plazas, which were usually kept swept clean and were often used for ceremonial occasions. As complex religious and social ideas developed, some people and family lineages gained prominence over others. This hierarchical structure is marked in the archaeological record by the appearance of large tombs with exotic grave offerings of obvious symbols of authority and prestige. [3]

Woodland period period of North American pre-Columbian cultures

In the classification of Archaeological cultures of North America, the Woodland period of North American pre-Columbian cultures spanned a period from roughly 1000 BCE to European contact in the eastern part of North America, with some archaeologists distinguishing the Mississippian period, from 1000 CE to European contact as a separate period. The term "Woodland Period" was introduced in the 1930s as a generic term for prehistoric sites falling between the Archaic hunter-gatherers and the agriculturalist Mississippian cultures. The Eastern Woodlands cultural region covers what is now eastern Canada south of the Subarctic region, the Eastern United States, along to the Gulf of Mexico.

Fourche Maline culture Woodland Period Native American culture

The Fourche Maline culture was a Woodland Period Native American culture that existed from 300 BCE to 800 CE, in what are now defined as southeastern Oklahoma, southwestern Arkansas, northwestern Louisiana, and northeastern Texas. They are considered to be one of the main ancestral groups of the Caddoan Mississippian culture, along with the contemporaneous Mill Creek culture of eastern Texas. This culture was named for the Fourche Maline Creek, a tributary of the Poteau River. Their modern descendants are the Caddo Nation of Oklahoma.

Hopewell tradition Common aspects of Native American culture that flourished in northeastern and midwestern United States

The Hopewell tradition describes the common aspects of the Native American culture that flourished along rivers in the northeastern and midwestern United States from 100 BCE to 500 CE, in the Middle Woodland period. The Hopewell tradition was not a single culture or society, but a widely dispersed set of related populations. They were connected by a common network of trade routes, known as the Hopewell exchange system.

Caddoan Mississippian culture pottery Caddoan Mississippian pottery2 HRoe 2010.jpg
Caddoan Mississippian culture pottery

By 1000 CE a society now known as "Caddoan" had emerged. This included the increased prominence of ritual centers and the development of a more stratified social hierarchy with some lineage and kin groups exerting more control over the community. This is evidenced by the tomb burials of people thought to be leaders, accompanied by elaborate grave goods and sacrificial retainer burials of family members and followers. [3] Major sites such as Spiro and the Battle Mound Site are in the Arkansas River Valley and the Red River Valley, respectively, these valleys being the largest and most fertile areas in the Caddoan region, where maize agriculture would have been the most productive. [4] The Caddoans had developed a distinct type of pottery making, later described by the de Soto expedition as some of the finest they had seen, even in their European homeland. By 1200, the numerous villages, hamlets, and farmsteads established throughout the Caddo world had begun extensive maize agriculture. [3]

Spiro Mounds

Spiro Mounds is a major Northern Caddoan Mississippian archaeological site located in present-day Eastern Oklahoma. The 80-acre site lies near the Arkansas River, seven miles north of the town of Spiro.

Battle Mound Site

The Battle Mound Site (3LA1) is an archaeological site in Lafayette County, Arkansas in the Great Bend region of the Red River basin. The majority of the mound was built from 1200-1400 CE. The site has the largest mound of the Caddoan Mississippian culture. It measures approximately 670 feet (200 m) in length, 320 feet (98 m) wide, and 34 feet (10 m) in height.

Arkansas River major tributary of the Mississippi River, United States

The Arkansas River is a major tributary of the Mississippi River. It generally flows to the east and southeast as it traverses the U.S. states of Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas. The river's source basin lies in the western United States in Colorado, specifically the Arkansas River Valley, where the headwaters derive from the snowpack in the Sawatch and Mosquito mountain ranges. It then flows east into the Midwest via Kansas, and finally into the South through Oklahoma and Arkansas.

Recent excavations have revealed more cultural diversity within the region than had been expected by scholars, particularly in sites along the Arkansas River. Caddoan Mississippian towns had a more irregular layout of earthen mounds and associated villages than did towns in the Middle Mississippian heartland to the east. They also lacked the wooden palisade fortifications often found in the major Middle Mississippian towns. Living on the western edge of the Mississippian world, the Caddoans may have faced fewer military threats from their neighbors. Their societies may also have had a somewhat lower level of social stratification. The location of the western edge of the Eastern Woodlands may account for these differences. The climate west of the woodlands was drier, hindering maize production, and the lower population on the plains to the west may have meant fewer neighboring chiefdoms with whom to compete and contend. [4]

Palisade defensive structure; typically a fence or wall made from wooden stakes

A palisade—sometimes called a stakewall or a paling—is typically a fence or wall made from iron or wooden stakes, or tree trunks and used as a defensive structure or enclosure.

Social stratification population with similar characteristics in a society

Social stratification is a kind of social differentiation whereby a society groups people into socioeconomic strata, based upon their occupation and income, wealth and social status, or derived power. As such, stratification is the relative social position of persons within a social group, category, geographic region, or social unit.

However, around 1400 CE, Caddoan populations had peaked. After this point many ritual centers begin to decline in population. A more dispersed settlement system developed, with the bulk of the people living on scattered homesteads and small farms rather than in large villages. By this time the earlier broad cultural unity of the area also began to break down, with many distinct local variations developing. [3]


Engraved whelk shell from the Craig Mound showing a tattooed figure Spiro s.e.c.c. tattooed figure HRoe 2005.jpg
Engraved whelk shell from the Craig Mound showing a tattooed figure

Caddoan Mississippian peoples were connected to the larger Mississippian world to the east and other cultures to the southwest by trade networks which spanned the North American continent. Artifacts found in "The Great Mortuary" (Craig Mound) at the Spiro site included wood, conch shell, copper, basketry, woven fabric, lace, fur, feathers, and carved stone statues. Some artifacts came from as far away as Cahokia in Illinois, Etowah and Ocmulgee in Georgia, and Moundville in Alabama. Many featured the elaborate symbolism of the Southeastern Ceremonial Complex, a multiregional and pan-linguistic trade and religious network.

Copper Chemical element with atomic number 29

Copper is a chemical element with symbol Cu and atomic number 29. It is a soft, malleable, and ductile metal with very high thermal and electrical conductivity. A freshly exposed surface of pure copper has a pinkish-orange color. Copper is used as a conductor of heat and electricity, as a building material, and as a constituent of various metal alloys, such as sterling silver used in jewelry, cupronickel used to make marine hardware and coins, and constantan used in strain gauges and thermocouples for temperature measurement.

Basket weaving the weaving of pliable materials

Basket weaving is the process of weaving or sewing pliable materials into two- or three dimensional artifacts, such as mats or containers. Craftspeople and artists specialized in making baskets are usually referred to as basket makers and basket weavers.

Mississippian stone statuary

The Mississippian stone statuary are artifacts of polished stone in the shape of human figurines made by members of the Mississippian culture and found in archaeological sites in the American Midwest and Southeast. Two distinct styles exist; the first is a style of carved flint clay found over a wide geographical area but believed to be from the American Bottom area and manufactured at the Cahokia site specifically; the second is a variety of carved and polished locally available stone primarily found in the Tennessee-Cumberland region and northern Georgia. Early European explorers reported seeing stone and wooden statues in native temples, but the first documented modern discovery was made in 1790 in Kentucky, and given as a gift to Thomas Jefferson.

Exotic material from other regions found at Caddoan Mississippian sites included colored flint from New Mexico, copper from the Great Lakes, conch (or lightning whelk) shells from the Gulf Coast, and mica from the Carolinas. [5] The Spiro site is the only Mississippian site where an artifact from Mesoamerica has been found. This is a piece of black obsidian from Mexico, likely reaching this site through Caddoan Mississippian trade with peoples to the southwest. [6] Using these valued materials, Mississippian artists created exquisite works of art expressing their cultural identity and their complex spiritual beliefs.


The Caddoan Mississippians were speakers of many Caddoan languages. [2] The Caddoan languages once had a broad geographic distribution, but many are now extinct. The modern languages in the Caddoan family include Caddo and Pawnee. Both are now spoken mainly by tribal elders.


Battle Mound Site Located in Lafayette County, Arkansas in the Great Bend region of the Red River basin and has the largest mound of the Caddoan Mississippian culture
Belcher Mound Site Located in Caddo Parish, Louisiana [7] in the Red River Valley 20 miles north of Shreveport [8] and about one-half mile east of the town of Belcher, Louisiana [9]
Bluffton Mound Site Located in Yell County, Arkansas on the Fourche La Fave River. [10]
Caddoan Mounds State Historic Site Also known as the George C. Davis Site (41CE19), located in Cherokee County, Texas 26 miles west of Nacogdoches, Texas on Texas State Highway 21 near its intersection with U.S. Route 69 in the Piney Woods region of east Texas
Gahagan Mounds Site Located in Red River Parish, Louisiana [11] in the Red River Valley
Spiro Mounds Spiro Aerial HRoe 2016.jpg One of the best-studied archaeological centers of Mississippian culture; located in Eastern Oklahoma in Le Flore County near the modern town of Spiro

European contact

de Soto route through the Caddo area, with known archaeological phases marked Caddoan Phases in the 1520s map HRoe 2010.jpg
de Soto route through the Caddo area, with known archaeological phases marked

When the Spanish conquistador Hernando de Soto led an expedition into what is now the southeastern United States in the 1540s, they encountered Native American groups recorded as the Naguatex, Nishone, Hacanac, and Nondacao. They are now believed to be Caddo villages.

It is estimated that in 1520, the many tribes of people numbered about 250,000. [12] Over the next 250 years the population of these Caddoan-speaking peoples was severely reduced by epidemics of diseases inadvertently brought by Spanish and French coming to the Americas and spread by indigenous trading networks. Sometime after the coming of the Europeans, the Caddo organized into three confederacies—the Natchitoches, Hasinai, and the Kadohadacho. All Caddoans were linked together by a common language.[ citation needed ]

Caddo today

The Caddo Nation of Oklahoma (previously known as the Caddo Tribe of Oklahoma) is a federally recognized tribe. A tribal constitution provides for an elected tribal council of eight members with a chairperson, based in Binger, Oklahoma. [13] The tribal complex, dance grounds, and the Caddo Heritage Museum are located south of Binger. 5000 people are enrolled in the tribe, with 2500 living within the state of Oklahoma. The tribe operates its own housing authority and issues its own tribal vehicle tags. [14] They maintain administrative centers, dance grounds, several community centers, and an active NAGPRA office.

Several programs exist to invigorate Caddo traditions. The tribe sponsors a summer culture camp for children. [15] The Hasinai Society [16] and Caddo Culture Club [17] both keep Caddo songs and dances alive, while the Kiwat Hasinay Foundation is dedicated to preserving the Caddo language. [18]

See also

Related Research Articles

Caddo confederacy of several Southeastern Native American tribes

The Caddo Nation is a confederacy of several Southeastern Native American tribes. Their ancestors historically inhabited much of what is now East Texas, Louisiana, and portions of southern Arkansas and Oklahoma. They were descendants of the Caddoan Mississippian culture that constructed huge earthwork mounds at several sites in this territory. In the early 19th century, Caddo people were forced to a reservation in Texas; they were removed to Indian Territory in 1859.


The Hasinai Confederacy was a large confederation of Caddo-speaking Native Americans located between the Sabine and Trinity rivers in eastern Texas. Today they are enrolled in the Caddo Nation of Oklahoma.

Caddo language Native American language

Caddo is a Native American language, the traditional language of the Caddo Nation. It is critically endangered, with no exclusively Caddo-speaking community and only 25 speakers as of 2009 who acquired the language as children outside school instruction. Caddo has several mutually intelligible dialects. The most commonly used dialects are Hasinai and Hainai; others include Kadohadacho, Natchitoches and Yatasi.

Indigenous peoples of the Southeastern Woodlands Indigenous groups in the US

Indigenous peoples of the Southeastern Woodlands, Southeastern cultures, or Southeast Indians are an ethnographic classification for Native Americans who have traditionally inhabited the Southeastern United States and the northeastern border of Mexico, that share common cultural traits. This classification is a part of the Eastern Woodlands. The concept of a southeastern cultural region was developed by anthropologists, beginning with Otis Mason and Frank Boas in 1887. The boundaries of the region are defined more by shared cultural traits than by geographic distinctions. Because the cultures gradually instead of abruptly shift into Plains, Prairie, or Northeastern Woodlands cultures, scholars do not always agree on the exact limits of the Southeastern Woodland culture region. Shawnee, Powhatan, Waco, Tawakoni, Tonkawa, Karankawa, Quapaw, and Mosopelea are usually seen as marginally southeastern and their traditional lands represent the borders of the cultural region.

The Kadohadacho are a Native American tribe within the Caddo Confederacy. Today they are enrolled in the Caddo Nation of Oklahoma.

The Nacono were a Native American tribe from eastern Texas. Today they are part of the Caddo Nation of Oklahoma, a federally recognized tribe in Oklahoma.

The Ouachita are a Native American tribe who lived in northeastern Louisiana along the Ouachita River. Their name has also been spelled as Washita by English speakers. Many landscape features and places have been named for them since colonization of the region by Europeans and Americans.

Nacogdoche Native American tribe from eastern Texas

The Nacogdoche are a Native American tribe from eastern Texas.

The Tula were a Native American group that lived in what is now western Arkansas. The Tula are known to history only from the chronicles of Spanish conquistador Hernando de Soto's exploits in the interior of North America.

Belcher Mound Site

The Belcher Mound Site (16CD13) is an archaeological site in Caddo Parish, Louisiana. It is located in the Red River Valley 20 miles north of Shreveport and about one-half mile east of the town of Belcher, Louisiana. It was excavated by Clarence H. Webb from 1959 to 1969. The site gives its name to a local phase of the Caddoan Mississippian culture, the Belcher Phase, which radiocarbon dates suggest lasted from 1400 to 1600 CE.

Bluffton Mound Site

The Bluffton Mound Site is a Caddoan Mississippian culture archaeological site in Yell County, Arkansas on the Fourche La Fave River.

Gahagan Mounds Site

The Gahagan Mounds Site (16RR1) is an Early Caddoan Mississippian culture archaeological site in Red River Parish, Louisiana. It is located in the Red River Valley. The site is famous for the three shaft burials and exotic grave goods excavated there in the early twentieth century.

Caddo Mounds State Historic Site

Caddo Mounds State Historic Site (41CE19) is an archaeological site in Weeping Mary, Texas. This Caddoan Mississippian culture site is composed of a village and ceremonial center that features two earthwork platform mounds and one burial mound. Located on an ancient Native American trail later named by the Spanish as El Camino Real de los Tejas, the settlement developed hundreds of years before the arrival of Europeans and Africans to the region. Archaeologists believe the site was founded in approximately 800CE, with most major construction taking place between 1100CE and 1300CE.

Mississippian copper plates

Mississippian copper plates, or plaques, are plain and repousséd plates of beaten copper crafted by peoples of the various regional expressions of the Mississippian culture between 800 and 1600 CE. They have been found as artifacts in archaeological sites in the American Midwest and Southeast. The plates, found as far afield as Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Wisconsin, were instrumental in the development of the archaeological concept known as the Southeastern Ceremonial Complex. Some of the more notable examples are representations of raptorial birds and avian-themed dancing warriors.


  1. Peregrine, Peter N. (1995). Archaeology of the Mississippian culture: a research guide. Garland Publishing. p. 165. ISBN   978-0-8153-0336-7.
  2. 1 2 "Tejas-Caddo Fundamentals-Caddoan Languages and Peoples" . Retrieved 2010-02-04.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 "Tejas-Caddo Fundamentals-Caddo Timeline" . Retrieved 2010-02-04.
  4. 1 2 "Tejas-Caddo Fundamentals-Mississippian World" . Retrieved 2010-02-04.
  5. "Spiro Mounds-A Ceremonial Center of the Southern Cult" . Retrieved 8 September 2013.
  6. Pauketat, Timothy R. (2004). Ancient Cahokia and the Mississippians . Cambridge University Press. ISBN   978-0-521-52066-9.
  7. "Locality information for Faunmap locality Belcher Mound, LA". Archived from the original on 2011-08-20. Retrieved 2010-02-22.
  8. "The Caddo Indians of Louisiana". Archived from the original on 2009-11-09. Retrieved 2010-02-22.
  9. "Historical-Belcher" . Retrieved 2010-02-22.[ permanent dead link ]
  10. "History of the Ouachita Mountains" . Retrieved 2010-02-23.
  11. "Notice of Inventory Completion for Native American Human Remains and Associated Funerary Objects in the Possession of the Louisiana State University Museum" . Retrieved 2010-02-22.
  12. Juliana Barr, Peace Came in the Form of a Woman: Indians and Spaniards in the Texas Borderlands (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2007) p. 20
  13. Constitution and By-Laws of the Caddo Indian Tribe of Oklahoma. Archived 2013-06-30 at National Tribal Justice Resource Center. (retrieved 13 September 2009)
  14. Oklahoma Indian Affairs Commission. 2008 Pocket Pictorial Archived April 6, 2010, at the Wayback Machine . Page 5 (retrieved 13 Sept 2009)
  15. Hasinai Summer Youth Camp. Hasinai Society. 2008 (retrieved 13 Sept 2009)
  16. General Information. Archived 2009-01-05 at the Wayback Machine Hasinai Society. 2008 (retrieved 13 Sept 2009)
  17. Edge, Donald. Caddo Culture Club. Archived 2009-07-04 at the Wayback Machine Caddo Nation: Heritage and Culture. (retrieved 13 Sept 2009)
  18. Background. Kiwat Hasinay Foundation.(retrieved 13 Sept 2009)