Mississippian culture

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Approximate areas of various Mississippian and related cultures Mississippian cultures HRoe 2010.jpg
Approximate areas of various Mississippian and related cultures

The Mississippian culture was a mound-building Native American civilization archeologists date from about 800 CE to 1600 CE, varying regionally. [1]

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 and US territories such as Puerto Rico. 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".

Contents

It was composed of a series of urban settlements and satellite villages (suburbs) linked together by a loose trading network. [2] The largest city was Cahokia, believed to be a major religious center. The civilization flourished from the southern shores of the Great Lakes at Western New York and Western Pennsylvania in what is now the Eastern Midwest, extending south-southwest into the lower Mississippi Valley and wrapping easterly around the southern foot of the Appalachians barrier range into what is now the Southeastern United States. [1]

A satellite village is a term for one or more settlements that have arisen within the outskirts of a larger one.

Cahokia archaeological site near East St. Louis, Illinois, United States

The Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site is the site of a pre-Columbian Native American city directly across the Mississippi River from modern St. Louis, Missouri. This historic park lies in southern Illinois between East St. Louis and Collinsville. The park covers 2,200 acres (890 ha), or about 3.5 square miles (9 km2), and contains about 80 mounds, but the ancient city was much larger. In its heyday, Cahokia covered about 6 square miles (16 km2) and included about 120 manmade earthen mounds in a wide range of sizes, shapes, and functions.

Great Lakes System of interconnected, large lakes in North America

The Great Lakes, also called the Laurentian Great Lakes and the Great Lakes of North America, are a series of interconnected freshwater lakes primarily in the upper mid-east region of North America, on the Canada–United States border, which connect to the Atlantic Ocean through the Saint Lawrence River. They consist of Lakes Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie, and Ontario. Hydrologically, there are only four lakes, because Lakes Michigan and Huron join at the Straits of Mackinac. The lakes form the Great Lakes Waterway.

The Mississippian way of life began to develop in the Mississippi River Valley (for which it is named). Cultures in the tributary Tennessee River Valley may have also begun to develop Mississippian characteristics at this point. Almost all dated Mississippian sites predate 1539–1540 (when Hernando de Soto explored the area), [3] with notable exceptions being Natchez communities that maintained Mississippian cultural practices into the 18th century. [4]

Mississippi River largest river system in North America

The Mississippi River is the second-longest river and chief river of the second-largest drainage system on the North American continent, second only to the Hudson Bay drainage system. Its source is Lake Itasca in northern Minnesota and it flows generally south for 2,320 miles (3,730 km) to the Mississippi River Delta in the Gulf of Mexico. With its many tributaries, the Mississippi's watershed drains all or parts of 32 U.S. states and two Canadian provinces between the Rocky and Appalachian mountains. The main stem is entirely within the United States; the total drainage basin is 1,151,000 sq mi (2,980,000 km2), of which only about one percent is in Canada. The Mississippi ranks as the fourth-longest and fifteenth-largest river by discharge in the world. The river either borders or passes through the states of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Louisiana.

Tennessee River river in the United States, its largest city is Knoxville, TN

The Tennessee River is the largest tributary of the Ohio River. It is approximately 652 miles (1,049 km) long and is located in the southeastern United States in the Tennessee Valley. The river was once popularly known as the Cherokee River, among other names, as many of the Cherokee had their territory along its banks, especially in eastern Tennessee and northern Alabama. Its current name is derived from the Cherokee village Tanasi.

Hernando de Soto Spanish explorer and conquistador

Hernando de Soto was a Spanish explorer and conquistador who was involved in expeditions in Nicaragua and the Yucatan Peninsula, and played an important role in Pizarro's conquest of the Inca Empire in Peru, but is best known for leading the first Spanish and European expedition deep into the territory of the modern-day United States. He is the first European documented as having crossed the Mississippi River.

Cultural traits

A priest with a ceremonial flint mace and severed sacrificial head, based on a repousse copper plate Chromesun mississippian priest digital painting.jpg
A priest with a ceremonial flint mace and severed sacrificial head, based on a repoussé copper plate
Mississippian copper plates Spiro Wulfing and Etowah repousse plates HRoe 2012.jpg
Mississippian copper plates
Reconstruction of the Birdman burial at Cahokia. Bird Man Cahokia USA.jpg
Reconstruction of the Birdman burial at Cahokia.
Mass grave burial at Cahokia of fifty-three sacrificed Native American women Mound 72 sacrifice ceremony HRoe 2013.jpg
Mass grave burial at Cahokia of fifty-three sacrificed Native American women
Shell tempered ceramic effigy jug with swirls painted in clay slip, Rose Mound, Cross County, Arkansas, U.S., 1400-1600 CE, 8" (20 cm) high Mississippian Underwater Panther ceramic.JPG
Shell tempered ceramic effigy jug with swirls painted in clay slip, Rose Mound, Cross County, Arkansas, U.S., 1400-1600 CE, 8" (20 cm) high

A number of cultural traits are recognized as being characteristic of the Mississippians. Although not all Mississippian peoples practiced all of the following activities, they were distinct from their ancestors in the adoption of some or all of these traits.

  1. The construction of large, truncated earthwork pyramid mounds, or platform mounds. Such mounds were usually square, rectangular, or occasionally circular. Structures (domestic houses, temples, burial buildings, or other) were usually constructed atop such mounds.
  2. Maize-based agriculture. In most places, the development of Mississippian culture coincided with the adoption of comparatively large-scale, intensive maize agriculture, which supported larger populations and craft specialization.
  3. Women typically ate more maize, whereas men ate more animal meat. [5]
  4. Shell-tempered pottery. The adoption and use of riverine (or more rarely marine) shells as tempering agents in ceramics.
  5. Widespread trade networks extending as far west as the Rockies, north to the Great Lakes, south to the Gulf of Mexico, and east to the Atlantic Ocean.
  6. The development of the chiefdom or complex chiefdom level of social complexity.
  7. The development of institutionalized social inequality.
  8. A centralization of control of combined political and religious power in the hands of few or one.
  9. The beginnings of a settlement hierarchy, in which one major center (with mounds) has clear influence or control over a number of lesser communities, which may or may not possess a smaller number of mounds.
  10. The adoption of the paraphernalia of the Southeastern Ceremonial Complex (SECC), also called the Southern Cult. This is the belief system of the Mississippians as we know it. SECC items are found in Mississippian-culture sites from Wisconsin (see Aztalan State Park) to the Gulf Coast, and from Florida to Arkansas and Oklahoma. The SECC was frequently tied into ritual game-playing, as with chunkey.

The Mississippians had no writing system or stone architecture. They worked naturally occurring metal deposits, such as hammering and annealing copper for ritual objects such as Mississippian copper plates and other decorations, [6] but did not smelt iron or practice bronze metallurgy.

Writing system any conventional method of visually representing verbal communication.

A writing system is any conventional method of visually representing verbal communication. While both writing and speech are useful in conveying messages, writing differs in also being a reliable form of information storage and transfer. The processes of encoding and decoding writing systems involve shared understanding between writers and readers of the meaning behind the sets of characters that make up a script. Writing is usually recorded onto a durable medium, such as paper or electronic storage, although non-durable methods may also be used, such as writing on a computer display, on a blackboard, in sand, or by skywriting.

Annealing, in metallurgy and materials science, is a heat treatment that alters the physical and sometimes chemical properties of a material to increase its ductility and reduce its hardness, making it more workable. It involves heating a material above its recrystallization temperature, maintaining a suitable temperature for a suitable amount of time, and then cooling.

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.

Chronology

The Mississippi stage is usually divided into three or more chronological periods. Each period is an arbitrary historical distinction varying regionally. At a particular site, each period may be considered to begin earlier or later, depending on the speed of adoption or development of given Mississippian traits. The "Mississippi period" should not be confused with the "Mississippian culture". The Mississippi period is the chronological stage, while Mississippian culture refers to the cultural similarities that characterize this society.

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.

In anthropology, a tribe is a human social group. Exact definitions of what constitutes a tribe vary among anthropologists. The concept is often contrasted with other social groups concepts, such as nations, states, and forms of kinship.

A chiefdom is a form of hierarchical political organization in non-industrial societies usually based on kinship, and in which formal leadership is monopolized by the legitimate senior members of select families or 'houses'. These elites form a political-ideological aristocracy relative to the general group.

Regional variations

Middle Mississippian

Replica of a Mississippian house from over 1000 years ago excavated at the Aztalan site of the Oneota region in an exhibit at the Wisconsin Historical Museum Native American homestead - Wisconsin Historical Museum - DSC02854.JPG
Replica of a Mississippian house from over 1000 years ago excavated at the Aztalan site of the Oneota region in an exhibit at the Wisconsin Historical Museum
A mound diagram of the Mississippian cultural period showing the multiple layers of mound construction, mound structures such as temples or mortuaries, ramps with log stairs, and prior structures under later layers, multiple terraces, and intrusive burials. Mississippian culture mound components HRoe 2011.jpg
A mound diagram of the Mississippian cultural period showing the multiple layers of mound construction, mound structures such as temples or mortuaries, ramps with log stairs, and prior structures under later layers, multiple terraces, and intrusive burials.
Cahokia, the largest Mississippian culture site Cahokia Aerial HRoe 2015.jpg
Cahokia, the largest Mississippian culture site
Kincaid, showing its platform mounds and encircling palisade Kincaid Mounds 1300 CE HRoe 2017.jpg
Kincaid, showing its platform mounds and encircling palisade

The term Middle Mississippian is also used to describe the core of the classic Mississippian culture area. This area covers the central Mississippi River Valley, the lower Ohio River Valley, and most of the Mid-South area, including western and central Kentucky, western Tennessee, and northern Alabama and Mississippi. Sites in this area often contain large ceremonial platform mounds, residential complexes and are often encircled by earthen ditches and ramparts or palisades. [10]

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.

Middle Mississippian cultures, especially the Cahokia polity located near East St. Louis, Illinois, was very influential on neighboring societies. High-status artifacts, including stone statuary and elite pottery associated with Cahokia, have been found far outside of the Middle Mississippian area. These items, especially the pottery, were also copied by local artists.

South Appalachian Mississippian

Stone effigies found at the Etowah Site Etowah statues HRoe 2007.jpg
Stone effigies found at the Etowah Site

The term South Appalachian Province was originally used by W. H. Holmes in 1903 to describe a regional ceramic style in the southeast involving surface decorations applied with a carved wooden paddle. By the late 1960s, archaeological investigations had shown the similarity of the culture that produced the pottery and the midwestern Mississippian pattern defined in 1937 by the Midwestern Taxonomic System.

In 1967 James B. Griffin coined 'South Appalachian Mississippian' to describe the evolving understanding of the peoples of the Southeast. [13] South Appalachian Mississippian area sites are distributed across a contiguous area including Alabama, Georgia, northern Florida, South Carolina, central and western North Carolina, and Tennessee. Chronologically this area became influenced by Mississippian culture later than the Middle Mississippian area (about 1000 CE as compared to 800 CE) to its northwest. It is believed that the peoples of this area adopted Mississippian traits from their northwestern neighbors. [10]

Typical settlements were located on riverine floodplains and included villages with defensive palisades enclosing platform mounds and residential areas. [10] Etowah, Ocmulgee, and Moundville are prominent examples of the South Appalachian Mississippian settlements.

Caddoan Mississippian

Map of the Caddoan Mississippian culture Caddoan Mississippian culture map HRoe 2010.jpg
Map of the Caddoan Mississippian culture
Spiro, in eastern Oklahoma Spiro Aerial HRoe 2016.jpg
Spiro, in eastern Oklahoma

The Caddoan Mississippian area, a regional variant of the Mississippian culture, covered a large territory, including what is now eastern Oklahoma, western Arkansas, northeastern Texas, and northwestern Louisiana. Archaeological evidence has led to a scholarly consensus that the cultural continuity is unbroken from prehistory to the present, and that the Caddo and related Caddo language speakers in prehistoric times and at first European contact are the direct ancestors of the modern Caddo Nation of Oklahoma. [14]

The climate in this area was drier than areas in the eastern woodlands, hindering maize production, and the lower population on the plains to the west may have meant fewer neighboring competing chiefdoms to contend with. Major sites such as Spiro and the Battle Mound Site are in the Arkansas River and Red River Valleys, the largest and most fertile of the waterways in the Caddoan region, where maize agriculture would have been the most productive. [15] The sites generally lacked 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 Caddoan people were speakers of one of the many Caddoan languages. [16] 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, now spoken mainly by elderly people.

Hernando de Soto led an expedition into the area in the early 1540s, he encountered several native groups now thought to have been Caddoan. Composed of many tribes, the Caddo were organized into three confederacies, the Hasinai, Kadohadacho, and Natchitoches, which were all linked by their similar languages.

Plaquemine Mississippian

Map showing the geographical extent of the Plaquemine culture and some of its major sites Plaquemine culture map HRoe 2010.jpg
Map showing the geographical extent of the Plaquemine culture and some of its major sites

The Plaquemine culture was an archaeological culture in the lower Mississippi River Valley in western Mississippi and eastern Louisiana. Good examples of this culture are the Medora Site (the type site for the culture and period) in West Baton Rouge Parish, Louisiana, and the Anna, Emerald Mound, Winterville and Holly Bluff sites located in Mississippi. [10] Plaquemine culture was contemporaneous with the Middle Mississippian culture at the Cahokia site near St. Louis, Missouri. It is considered ancestral to the Natchez and Taensa Peoples. [17]

Known Mississippian settlements

Although the Mississippian culture was heavily disrupted before a complete understanding of the political landscape was written down, many Mississippian political bodies were documented and others have been discovered by research.

Mississippian peoples were almost certainly ancestral to the majority of the American Indian nations living in this region in the historic era. The historic and modern day American Indian nations believed to have descended from the overarching Mississippian Culture include: the Alabama, Apalachee, Caddo, Chickasaw, Catawba, Choctaw, Muscogee Creek, Guale, Hitchiti, Houma, Kansa, Missouria, Mobilian, Natchez, Osage, Quapaw, Seminole, Tunica-Biloxi, Yamasee, and Yuchi.[ citation needed ]

Contact with Europeans

A map showing the de Soto route through the Southeast DeSoto Map HRoe 2008.jpg
A map showing the de Soto route through the Southeast

Scholars have studied the records of Hernando de Soto's expedition of 1539–1543 to learn of his contacts with Mississippians, as he traveled through their villages of the Southeast. He visited many villages, in some cases staying for a month or longer. The list of sites and peoples visited by the Hernando de Soto Expedition chronicles those villages. Some encounters were violent, while others were relatively peaceable. In some cases, de Soto seems to have been used as a tool or ally in long-standing native feuds. In one example, de Soto negotiated a truce between the Pacaha and the Casqui.

De Soto's later encounters left about half of the Spaniards and perhaps many hundreds of Native Americans dead. The chronicles of de Soto are among the first documents written about Mississippian peoples and are an invaluable source of information on their cultural practices. The chronicles of the Narváez expedition were written before the de Soto expedition; the Narváez expedition informed the Court of de Soto about the New World.

After the destruction and flight of the de Soto expedition, the Mississippian peoples continued their way of life with little direct European influence. Indirectly, however, European introductions dramatically changed native societies in the Eastern United States. Because the natives lacked immunity to new infectious diseases, such as measles and smallpox, epidemics caused so many fatalities that they undermined the social order of many chiefdoms. Some groups adopted European horses and changed to nomadism. [18] Political structures collapsed in many places.

At Joara, near Morganton, North Carolina, Native Americans of the Mississippian culture interacted with Spanish colonizers of the Juan Pardo expedition, who built a base there in 1567 called Fort San Juan. Expedition documentation and archaeological evidence of the fort and Native American culture both exist. The soldiers were at the fort about 18 months (1567–1568) before the natives killed them and destroyed the fort. (They killed soldiers stationed at five other forts as well; only one man of 120 survived.) Sixteenth-century Spanish artifacts have been recovered from the site, marking the first European colonization in the interior of what became the United States. [19]

By the time more documentary accounts were being written, the Mississippian way of life had changed irrevocably. Some groups maintained an oral tradition link to their mound-building past, such as the late 19th-century Cherokee. [20] Other Native American groups, having migrated many hundreds of miles and lost their elders to diseases, did not know their ancestors had built the mounds dotting the landscape. This contributed to the myth of the Mound Builders as a people distinct from Native Americans, which was rigorously debunked by Cyrus Thomas in 1894.

See also

Notes

  1. 1 2 Adam King, "Mississippian Period: Overview", New Georgia Encyclopedia, 2002, accessed 15 Nov 2009
  2. Metropolitan Life on the Mississippi
  3. "Mississippian Period Archaeological Sites". About.com Education. Retrieved 2016-12-13.
  4. Barnett, Jim. "The Natchez Indians". Mississippi History Now. Retrieved 1 Oct 2013.
  5. Ambrose, Stanley H.; Buikstra, Jane; Krueger, Harold W. (September 2003). "Status and gender differences in diet at Mound 72, Cahokia, revealed by isotopic analysis of bone". Journal of Anthropological Archaeology. 22 (3): 217–226. doi:10.1016/s0278-4165(03)00036-9. ISSN   0278-4165.
  6. Chastaina, Matthew L.; Deymier-Black, Alix C.; Kelly, John E.; Brown, James A.; Dunand, David C. (July 2011). "Metallurgical analysis of copper artifacts from Cahokia". Journal of Archaeological Science. 38 (7): 1727–1736. doi:10.1016/j.jas.2011.03.004.
  7. Pauketat, Timothy R. (2003) "Resettled Farmers and the Making of a Mississippian Polity," American Antiquity Vol. 68 No. 1.
  8. Pauketat, Timothy R. (1998) "Refiguring the Archaeology of Greater Cahokia," Journal of Archaeological Research Vol. 6 No. 1
  9. Sullivan, Lynne P., Archaeology of the Appalachian Highlands, University of Tennessee Press, 2001 ISBN   1-57233-142-9.
  10. 1 2 3 4 5 "Southeastern Prehistory:Mississippian and Late Prehistoric Period". National Park Service . Retrieved 2011-06-16.
  11. David Pollack (2004). Caborn-Welborn - Constructing a New Society after the Angel Chiefdom Collapse. University of Alabama Press. p. 24. ISBN   978-0-8173-5126-7.
  12. Hudson, Charles M. (1997). Knights of Spain, Warriors of the Sun. University of Georgia Press.
  13. Ferguson, Leland G. (October 25–26, 1974). Drexel A., Peterson (ed.). South Appalachian Mississippian: A Definition and Introduction (PDF). Thirty First Southeastern Archaeological Conference. Atlanta, Georgia. pp. 8–9. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-03-14.
  14. "Tejas-Caddo Fundamentals-Caddoan Languages and Peoples" . Retrieved 2010-02-04.
  15. "Tejas-Caddo Fundamentals-Mississippian World" . Retrieved 2010-02-04.
  16. "Tejas-Caddo Fundamentals-Caddoan Languages and Peoples" . Retrieved 2010-02-04.
  17. "The Plaquemine Culture, A.D 1000". Cedar Mesa Project. Retrieved 2013-10-02.
  18. Bense pp. 256–257, 275–279
  19. Constance E. Richards, "Contact and Conflict", American Archaeologist, Spring 2004, accessed 26 Jun 2008
  20. Hudson pp. 334

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References