Mississippian Mortuary Practices: Beyond Hierarchy and the Representationist Perspective

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

10
Pecan Point as the “Capital” of Pacaha
A Mortuary Perspective

RITA FISHER-CARROLL AND ROBERT C. MAINFORT JR.

The famous old Pecan Point site has gone into the Mississippi River.
(Phillips et al. 1951: 387).

Many years ago, the Pecan Point site attained near-legendary status among professional and avocational archaeologists. It is not the size of the site or its mounds (both of which are poorly documented) that made Pecan Point of such interest but rather the large collections of mortuary ceramics from the site. For instance, Holmes (1886:125) stated that the “pretty decided focal center” of his “Middle Mississippi Province” was Pecan Point, and Phillips et al. (1951:165) mention “classic Pecan Point head vases,” of which the site has yielded several examples (Cherry 2009).

Our focus here, however, is not on ceramic artistry but on mortuary patterning, particularly with regard to intimations of social ranking and possible indicators of group identity. The data come largely from the unpublished field notes of C. B. Moore, whose excavations at Pecan Point were his most extensive in northeast Arkansas (Fisher-Carroll 2001a; Moore 1911), resulting in the documentation of 349 human burials.

The Pecan Point site was located on a prominent bend of the same name located a very short distance west of the Mississippi River in Mississippi County, Arkansas, about 15 km south of Middle and Upper Nodena (see Figure 10.1). The site takes its name from the former Pecan Point plantation, purchased in the 1870s by R. W. Friend and owned by him during the only reported excavations. The earliest known mention of the site appears in a letter written in March 1881 by Capt. Wilfred P. Hall, who collected a great deal of archaeological material (including human remains) from the region on behalf of the Davenport Academy of Sciences (Hall to Pratt, March 21, 1881, Capt. Wilfred Peter Hall Correspondence, #3442, Putnam Museum of History and Natural Science, Davenport, Iowa). In December 1881, Edward Palmer of the Smithsonian Institution excavated at Pecan Point and provided some description of

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