Rethinking Moundville and Its Hinterland

By Vincas P. Steponaitis; C. Margaret Steponaitis | Go to book overview

6
The Distribution of Hemphill-Style
Artifacts at Moundville

ERIN E. PHILLIPS

This study uses techniques of mortuary analysis to examine the meanings and uses of Hemphill-style pottery, stone palettes, stone pendants, and copper gorgets at Moundville. I suggest that if there is patterned distribution of these items in Moundville burials, they probably mark specific social identities. In an attempt to determine whether such identities are indicated, burials possessing these four artifact genres were compared with one another and with other contemporaneous burials, specifically examining burial location, age and sex of the interred individual, and the other contents of the burials. While previous studies have described Moundville burials (McKenzie 1964) and have discussed social statuses within that population (Peebles 1971, 1974; Peebles and Kus 1977), this study tracks the contexts in which specific artifact genres are found, to investigate their possible association with particular identities.

Several individuals have examined Moundville burials over the years. Burials were intentionally sought out and excavated by Moore in 1905 and 1906, and again by the Alabama Museum of Natural History from 1930 to 1941. Later researchers used the excavation records of these early archaeologists for their studies (McKenzie 1964; Peebles 1971, 1974; Peebles and Kus 1977). Integral to Peebles’ work, and that of others at the time, was the Binford–Saxe approach, which suggests that “age, sex, social position, sub-group affiliation, cause of death, and the location of death” (Binford 1971: 18; Saxe 1970) have a determining effect on the characteristics of a burial. Peebles’ work was criticized by Parker Pearson (1999), who suggested that, rather than reflecting the deceased, burials more accurately reflected mourners of the dead. While this may be a theoretical possibility, I would argue that if patterning is found with respect to the age, sex, and

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