Mississippian Mortuary Practices: Beyond Hierarchy and the Representationist Perspective

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

11
Mound Construction and Community Changes
within the Mississippian Town at Town Creek

EDMOND A. BOUDREAUX III

The Mississippian Period was a time of significant political and social change within the native communities of the southeastern United States (Griffin 1985: 63; Smith 1986b: 56–63; Steponaitis 1986: 388–391). Political changes within Mississippian societies included increases in power and authority for community leaders and the establishment of multiple-community political entities known as chiefdoms (Hally 1996; Scarry 1996; Steponaitis 1986: 383). Relatively large settlements were established that were occupied for generations in some cases (Holley 1999). These large communities were formally arranged towns that contained clearly demarcated public and domestic spaces (Hally 1994: 233; Holley 1999: 28; Lewis et al. 1998). Significant architectural changes occurred within these towns during their occupation, and the most obvious change in many cases was the construction of one or more platform mounds on which public buildings were placed. It has been proposed that the placement of public buildings and residences on mound summits was a physical manifestation of concomitant social and political changes (Emerson 1997:250; Lewis and Stout 1998:231), namely the centralization of political authority that occurred during the process of establishing chiefdoms (Anderson 1994:119–120, 1999: 220; DePratter 1983: 207–208; Rudolph 1984: 40). In particular, within the regional variant of Mississippian culture known as South Appalachian Mississippian (Ferguson 1971), platform mounds at a number of sites were preceded by a distinctive type of earth-embanked public building called an earthlodge (Crouch 1974; Fairbanks 1946; Larson 1994:108–110; Rudolph 1984). Based on their architectural attributes and their analogy with the council houses of historic Indians (see Hudson 1976: 218–226), earthlodges in the Southeast have been interpreted as places where a council of community leaders came together to make decisions based on consensus (Anderson 1994: 120, 1999: 220; DePratter 1983: 207–208; Wesson 1998:109). In contrast to the more inclusive function proposed for premound earthlodges, it has been ar-

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