The Archaeology of Everyday Life at Early Moundville

By Gregory D. Wilson | Go to book overview

2 Mississippian Communities
and Households

Mississippian peoples throughout the southeastern United States drew from a common suite of architectural elements to build and organize their communities. Mounds, plazas, courtyards, palisades, and cemeteries were basic components of a Mississippian architectural grammar that defined major settlements throughout the greater Southeast and Midwest (Lewis and Stout 1998). There was also considerable variation among Mississippian communities in regard to scale and composition. On one end of the organizational spectrum there were densely populated, multimound civic- ceremonial centers. On the other end of the spectrum there were small, dispersed villages.

Examples of the largest Mississippian communities include sites like Etowah, Cahokia, and Moundville. Each of these sites consists of multiple, contemporaneously used platform mounds and residential areas arranged about one or more plazas (King 2003; Knight and Steponaitis 1998; Fowler 1989). These sites were also fortified by the construction of palisade walls and/ or moats at some point in each of their occupational histories. While larger and more complex than many other communities in the Southeast, these three mound centers also differed considerably from one another (Wilson et al. 2006). In the case of Cahokia, multiple plazas are present, each of which is surrounded by numerous mounds and residential areas. Both Etowah and Moundville, on the other hand, consisted of fewer mounds and one main plaza. At its peak Cahokia also had a population several magnitudes larger than either Etowah or Moundville (Pauketat and Lopinot 1997; Steponaitis 1998). The vast majority of Mississippian communities had significantly smaller populations and fewer mounds (Payne 1994). Sites like Town Creek Indian Mound in North Carolina and Cardin Farm II in Tennessee consisted of only about a dozen houses arranged around a central plaza (Coe 1995; Schroedl 1998).

The differences between Mississippian communities were not all scalar in nature. Individual communities were uniquely shaped by their developmental histories. Just as there were organizational differences between communities, individual communities also changed dramatically over time. For instance, a nucleated village organizational pattern characterized many Mississippian communities only for a restricted portion of their occupational history and for some communities never at all (Knight and Steponaitis 1998; Pauketat and Lopinot 1997; Rogers 1995). Patterns of nucleation tend to correspond well with periods of political consolida-

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The Archaeology of Everyday Life at Early Moundville
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Illustrations ix
  • Acknowledgments xiii
  • 1: Introduction 1
  • 2: Mississippian Communities and Households 10
  • 3: Moundville Households in Space and Time 30
  • 4: Architecture and Community Organization 48
  • 5: Ceramics at Early Moundville 93
  • 6: Discussion and Conclusions 128
  • Appendix 1 139
  • Appendix 2 147
  • Notes 151
  • References Cited 153
  • Index 169
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