Mississippian Mortuary Practices: Beyond Hierarchy and the Representationist Perspective

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

6
Aztalan Mortuary Practices Revisited

LYNNE G. GOLDSTEIN

The Aztalan site (47JE1) sits on the banks of the Crawfish River in Jefferson County, Wisconsin, between the modern cities of Milwaukee and Madison (see Figure 6.1). The site has been protected as a state park for more than 50 years. While several occupations have been discovered at this multicomponent site, Aztalan is best known for its Late Woodland and Middle Mississippian components that range from A.D. 800 to A.D. 1200. Grit-tempered collared wares represent the majority of the Late Woodland occupation, and shelltempered ceramics indicate the Middle Mississippian occupation. Prominent architectural features such as a substantial stockade and platform mounds are believed to date to the Mississippian Period (Barrett 1933; Birmingham and Goldstein 2005; Goldstein and Freeman 1997; Richards 1992).

The first published description of Aztalan appeared in 1837 (Hyer 1837). The first excavations at Aztalan took place in 1838 and were carried out by W. T. Sterling in an attempt to ascertain the nature of the “ruins” of the stockade (Sterling 1920). Sustained investigations began in 1850 with the work of Increase A. Lapham, Wisconsin’s prominent antiquarian. His work consisted of some limited exploratory excavations as well as a detailed mapping of the site (Figure 6.2; Lapham 1855). The first modern excavation came early in the twentieth century with the work of Samuel A. Barrett of the Milwaukee Public Museum. This research culminated in the publication of Ancient Aztalan (Barrett 1933), a seminal work that is the most complete description of the site and has had a lasting effect on interpretations of the site. In the 1950s and 1960s, a variety of excavations were related to the development of the site as a state park, some of which were done in the context of reconstructing a portion of the stockade and two of the platform mounds. Much of this work was conducted under the auspices of the Wisconsin Archeological Survey in the 1950s and later under the direction of Joan E. Freeman, then state archaeologist. Beginning in 1976, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, under Lynne Goldsteins direction, initiated a sustained research effort directed at the site

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