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Lecture 12

Lecture 12 Part 2– Mississippian Society


Department
Anthropology
Course Code
ANTH 2231F/G
Professor
Christopher Ellis
Lecture
12

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Lecture 12 Part 2 Mississippian Society
Characteristics of Mississippian
1. Largely confined to river valleys
o Fertile soils, replenished by flooding
2. Elaborate Mounds
o Some burial mounds
o 3 kinds: ridgetop, conical, platform
o Temple Mounds: usually square with a flat top with beveled sides
Not burial mounds, not built over dead
Had structures built on top of them
No doubt they were ceremonial
Some where the elite lived, some were charnal houses
o Impressive in size
E.g. Monk’s Mound, Cahokia, Illinois
Europeans built a monastery on top
Third largest pre-Columbian structure (pyramids in
Mexico)
Over 30 meters tall, 316x210 meters, covers 16 acres
Usually one dominant, multi-level, ceremonial mound
Some have ramps up to the top, logs used as steps
Not built all at once, building episodes
3. Large settlements and population centers
o Had obvious public spaces
o Hundreds of houses
o Laid out for cosmological movements evidence of master plan
o “Woodhenge” – posts (always multiple of 12), rebuilt several times to
line up with celestial movements
o Cahokia covers 13 square kilometers, population at height 10,000-
15,000 people
4. Defensive Works
o Earthworks encircling villages, bastions built of wood
o Stockades and palisades
o Ditches on the outside of the structure, definitely defensive
Some built close to water so it would flood, early moats
o Very large borrow pits, some became filled with water small lakes
o Moundville, Alabama found shell and copper fish hooks, evidence
of stocking lakes
5. Housing
o Large, standing posts, wove flexible wood material between, then
plastered with walls with clay/mud mixed with grass
Waddle and Daub construction
Needs to be constantly fixed and replaced
o Wall trenches dug a trench, put in posts, then filled it back in
o Roofs: hard to reconstruct, usually covered in thatch
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