Mississippian Mortuary Practices: Beyond Hierarchy and the Representationist Perspective

By Lynne P. Sullivan; Robert C. Mainfort Jr. | Go to book overview

Preface

The mortuary practices of the Mississippi Period have been instrumental in inspiring archaeological interpretations of late prehistoric cultures in the southeastern and midwestern United States. The well-crafted artwork often interred with individuals of this time period and other evidence of complex societies, such as large towns with earthen pyramidal mounds, naturally raised questions for anyone who observed these antiquities–questions about the ancient peoples who had farmed and built towns along the region’s fertile river valleys, long before European explorers intruded and forever disrupted these peoples’ ways of life. After many decades of study, the diversity in the cultural practices of “Mississippian” peoples is only now beginning to come into focus. And the study of their mortuary practices is once again at the forefront of new, nuanced understandings of how these peoples organized their lives and communities as well as their beliefs, rituals, and symbols. Our goal for this collection of essays was to provide a sampling of these new ideas across the entire geographic area inhabited by these late prehistoric peoples. We believe that to a large extent we have succeeded in this endeavor, but there are of course many areas in which more work needs to be conducted or in which relevant studies have been done that we were unaware of. We offer our encouragement to those doing research in the former category and our apologies to those in the latter.

This volume was inspired several years ago by Meredith Morris-Babb, director of the University Press of Florida. Meredith suggested to the editors that a book focused on Mississippian mortuary practices was needed and would be well received by the archaeology community. So we put this project on our respective to-do lists and in 2006 were able to begin work by organizing a symposium for the annual Southeastern Archaeological Conference (SEAC) in Little Rock. We thank Meredith for the inspiration and all of the participants in the SEAC session for getting this book project off the ground.

Most of the presentations in the 2006 session have now been transformed into the chapters in this book, with a few exceptions. The papers by Tony Boudreaux, Lynne Goldstein, and Jon Marcoux were added after the conference session. Mainfort and Rita Fisher-Carroll added a second essay and both of their essays are quite different from the original SEAC presentation with Douglas Bird. Christopher Rodning and David Moore were unable to

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