Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

Visualizing the Sacred: Cosmic Visions, Regionalism, and the Art of the Mississippian World

Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

Visualizing the Sacred: Cosmic Visions, Regionalism, and the Art of the Mississippian World

Article excerpt

Visualizing the Sacred: Cosmic Visions, Regionalism, and the Art of the Mississippian World. Edited by George E. Lankford, F. Kent Reilly III, and James F. Garber. Linda Schele Series in Maya and Pre-Columbian Studies. (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2011. Pp. xviii, 357. $60.00, ISBN 978-0-292-72308-5.)

The fourteen essays in Visualizing the Sacred: Cosmic Visions, Regionalism, and the Art of the Mississippian World stem from the annual Mississippian Iconographic Workshop held at Texas State University-San Marcos for nearly two decades. The editors' introduction establishes the role of this extremely important volume within the context of the workshops and describes how participants divided the workload. George E. Lankford sets the stage in the opening chapter, "Regional Approaches to Iconographic Art," by providing the historical context for the "Southeastern Ceremonial Complex" construct (p. 3). Philip Phillips and James A. Brown's in-depth analyses in the late 1970s of the engraved marine-shell materials from the Spiro center in eastern Oklahoma established the basis for the iconographic and stylistic debates that are taking place today. In chapter 3 Brown returns to the Spiro carved-stone imagery and offers important insights into the regional underpinnings of the Braden art style and Dhegiha cosmograms.

One of the most important chapters is by James R. Duncan, an Osage scholar, who lays out the ethnohistorical and ethnographic foundations of Osage cosmology. His essay significantly assesses the contribution of Dhegiha-speaking societies to the Braden art style and the cosmology of the ancestral midwestern Mississippian societies centered on Cahokia.

Duncan's description of this multilayered cosmology, with its axis mundi of the sacred tree, is also employed by others to address different aspects of this cosmos. Lankford (chapter 11) examines the swirl-cross as a symbol of the Beneath World, while F. …

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