Mississippian ritual


Material Information

Mississippian ritual
Physical Description:
ix, 172 leaves : ill. ; 28 cm.
Knight, Vernon J ( Vernon James ), 1953-
Publication Date:


Subjects / Keywords:
Mississippian culture   ( lcsh )
Indians of North America -- Rites and ceremonies -- Southern States   ( lcsh )
Anthropology thesis Ph. D   ( lcsh )
Dissertations, Academic -- Anthropology -- UF   ( lcsh )
bibliography   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )


Thesis (Ph. D.)--University of Florida, 1981.
Bibliography: leaves 162-171.
General Note:
General Note:
Statement of Responsibility:
by Vernon J. Knight, Jr.

Record Information

Source Institution:
University of Florida
Rights Management:
All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
aleph - 028130733
oclc - 07883836
System ID:

Table of Contents
    Title Page
        Page i
        Page ii
    Preface and acknowledgements
        Page iii
        Page iv
        Page v
    Table of Contents
        Page vi
    List of Figures
        Page vii
        Page viii
        Page ix
    Chapter 1. Scope and definition
        Page 1
        Page 2
        Page 3
        Page 4
        Page 5
        Page 6
        Page 7
    Chapter 2. Earlier perspectives on Mississippian expressive culture
        Page 8
        Page 9
        Page 10
        Page 11
        Page 12
        Page 13
        Page 14
        Page 15
        Page 16
        Page 17
        Page 18
        Page 19
        Page 20
        Page 21
    Chapter 3. Allegory and core symbols
        Page 22
        Page 23
        Page 24
        Page 25
        Page 26
        Page 27
        Page 28
        Page 29
        Page 30
        Page 31
        Page 32
        Page 33
        Page 34
        Page 35
        Page 36
        Page 37
        Page 38
        Page 39
        Page 40
        Page 41
        Page 42
    Chapter 4. Platform mound ceremonialism
        Page 43
        Page 44
        Page 45
        Page 46
        Page 47
        Page 48
        Page 49
        Page 50
        Page 51
        Page 52
        Page 53
        Page 54
        Page 55
        Page 56
        Page 57
        Page 58
        Page 59
        Page 60
        Page 61
    Chapter 5. Theme and variation
        Page 62
        Page 63
        Page 64
        Page 65
        Page 66
        Page 67
        Page 68
        Page 69
        Page 70
        Page 71
        Page 72
        Page 73
        Page 74
        Page 75
        Page 76
        Page 77
        Page 78
        Page 79
        Page 80
        Page 81
        Page 82
    Chapter 6. Space and meaning
        Page 83
        Page 84
        Page 85
        Page 86
        Page 87
        Page 88
        Page 89
        Page 90
        Page 91
        Page 92
        Page 93
        Page 94
        Page 95
        Page 96
        Page 97
        Page 98
    Chapter 7. In and out of the Charnel-house
        Page 99
        Page 100
        Page 101
        Page 102
        Page 103
        Page 104
        Page 105
        Page 106
        Page 107
        Page 108
        Page 109
        Page 110
        Page 111
        Page 112
        Page 113
        Page 114
        Page 115
        Page 116
        Page 117
        Page 118
        Page 119
        Page 120
        Page 121
        Page 122
        Page 123
        Page 124
        Page 125
        Page 126
    Chapter 8. The character of Mississippian ritual
        Page 127
        Page 128
        Page 129
        Page 130
        Page 131
        Page 132
        Page 133
        Page 134
        Page 135
        Page 136
        Page 137
        Page 138
        Page 139
        Page 140
        Page 141
        Page 142
        Page 143
        Page 144
        Page 145
        Page 146
        Page 147
        Page 148
        Page 149
        Page 150
        Page 151
    Chapter 9. Of mounds and metaphors
        Page 152
        Page 153
        Page 154
        Page 155
        Page 156
        Page 157
        Page 158
        Page 159
        Page 160
        Page 161
        Page 162
        Page 163
        Page 164
        Page 165
        Page 166
        Page 167
        Page 168
        Page 169
        Page 170
        Page 171
    Biographical sketch
        Page 172
        Page 173
        Page 174
Full Text






Copyright, 1981


Vernon James Knight, Jr.


It is a common sentiment among anthropologists of nearly all

paradigmatic persuasions that one cannot confidently discuss the whole
arena ol symbolic representations and meanings in the absence of a full
ethnographic context. In archaeological research, where that context

is dissolved into a mere shadow, and where informants are not available
to answer the pertinent questions, it seems to many that the exploration
U of prehistoric mental life is a vain hope ensnared in the subjectivity
C of interpretation. Such would not be science. If that sentiment were
right, my effort of the past few months would have to be judged of

little worth.

But despite the complexities I have encountered, I am not prepared
to admit that that opinion is correct. My optimism comes from the

simple recognition that the material residues of expressive culture are representations-objectifications of thought. In a metaphorical sense, the sacred objects, the ritual structures, and their spatial

relationships in archaeological data are like a corpus of myths expressed

in a particular idiom, referring to particular ways of thinking about things and categorizing them. With an adequate hermeneutic, it should'

be possible to partially decode these "texts."

I have only gradually come to this conclusion. On the occasion of

remembering the peculiar set of circumstances over the years that has partially predetermined this mind-set, it would be redundant here to

list literary influences to which I obviously owe some degree of debt.

Their frequency of citation should do the job. More important here iii

is to acknow ledge the greater debt to those who have consistently provided a generous dole of positive reinforcement. Foremost among these are my family members, especially Judith G. Knight and Vernon J. Knight, Sr. All of my teachers and colleagues who have made it possible for me to immerse myself in the data and traditions of Southeastern archaeology and ethnohistory are owed more than I can ever return. It is my opinion that this study or any other like it would be hopelessly hollow and arcane without both boots being thoroughly caked with Southeastern dirt. Among my providers I continue to hold Mr. David L. Dedarnette of Orange Beach, Alabama, in greatest esteem. He may not agree with much that I have to say, but I consider myself mainly his student.

Although it has-;been a clear relief to finally get these hesitant and tentative thoughts down on paper (many of which seem to have occurred to me in daydream-moments distracted from the proper business of thinking about potsherds and type frequencies), I now realize how much more could have been done. The fact that this much is complete reflects on the marvellous faith of my doctoral committee, who must have sensed that I knew my business. I cannot understand, but I gratefully acknowledge anyway, the pampering I have gotten from Jerald T. Milanich in allowing me the unshamed indulgence of structural dialectics and wholly narrative format. Among other current modes in archaeology of defending one's competence for a doctorate, that will make this dissertation ... well, different. I am well aware of the present thinness of the empirical ice in this study, and the responsibility of justifying its many faults rests with me alone. I will be satisfied in my naive idealism if I can redirect the attention of some of my colleagues to the sources which have proven most enlightening to me.


Here, then, is my first approximation of an "adequate hermeneutic" for interpreting the ritual symbols of the prehistoric chiefdom-type societies in the Southeastern United States.




PREFACE AND ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS . . . . . . . . . . iii

LIST OF FIGURES . . . . . . . . . . . . . vii

ABSTRACT . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Yiii




CHAPTER V THEME AND VARIATION . . . . . . . . . . 62

CHAPTER VI SPACE AND MEANING . . . . . . . . . . 83



BIBLIOGRAPHY . . . . . . . ... . . . . . . 159

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH . . . . . . . . . . . . 169




1. Structural Analysis of the Chekilli Legend of Kasihta ..... 31

2. Assimilation of Core Symbols......... .. .. .. .. .. .. 34

3. Chekilli Legend: Dialectic Progression .. .. ... ......37

4. Cross-section of a Charnel House Mound: Lenoir Site ... .. ....49

5. Cross-section of a Town-House Type Mound: Estatoe Site .... 49

6. Premound Precinct Complex, 9Cla62. ...... ... .... 68

7. Plan of an Eighteenth Century Seminole House . .. .. .. ..89

8. Conceptual Plan of the Bosten House . .. .. .. .. .. ..91

9. Thomas' Plan of the "Lakeville Settlement'" Missouri ..... 96

10. Macon Earth Lodge. .. ..... ... .. .. .. .. .. .. 97

11. Choctaw Mortuary Ritual .. ....... . .. .. .. .. .. 117


Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the
Graduate Council of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment
of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy



Vernon J. Knight, Jr.

June, 1981

Chairman: Jerald T. Milanich
Major Department: Anthropology
A study was undertaken to assess the symbolic foundations and institutional organization of public ritual among the Mississippian societies of the prehistoric Southeastern United States. The term Mississippian refers to the horticultural chiefdom-type societies which practiced a distinctive platform mound ceremonialism at large

village sites in the Southeast during the period A.D. 900-1600.

Earlier investigators of Mississippian expressive culture,

notably John R. Swanton, Antonio J. Waring, Jr., and James H. Howard, have made liberal use of ethnohistorical and ethnological accounts of more recent Southeastern Indian ritual in the interpretation of archaeological indications of ritual behavior. The thesis generally adhered to by earlier scholars was that the historic ritual expressions of the Southeastern Indians were attenuated or debased forms of an earlier Mississippian religious complex.

Structural analysis of a Southeastern migration myth, the Chekilli

Legend, reveals core symbolism basic to Southeastern cosmology as a whole.

The fundamental opposition, between "red/Earth" andl"white,/Society"


imagery, can be shown to underlie Mississippian platform mound ceremonialism as a rite of intensification emphasizing autochthony, burial, and purification. The symbolism of the platform mound as Earth is largely independent of secondary uses of the mound summits in various sociocultural contexts. This has caused some confusion in the classification

of platform mounds.

The disjunction between the ritual symbols underlying platform

mound ceremonialism on the one hand, and the cosmogonic symbolism of the Southeastern Ceremonial Complex on the other, suggest that discrete cult institutions are responsible for the two ritua 1 phenomena. Specifically, evidence is marshaled in support of a model of Mississippian ritual organization in which there is a dichotomy between chiefly and priestly ritual. Mississippian societies are hence provisionally aligned with a worldwide class of pre-state societies in which chiefly and priestly cult institutions are held in tension and opposition. In such societies, the power deriving from ritual sanctity does not all flow from a single source, as in "divine kingships,"I but instead is dichotomized in a politically asymmetrical but ideologically diametric structure.



Having waZked in some viZZage of infideZs, have you neared where they make some ceremonies with
the intention of Learning them?
Timucuan confessionary 1613

This study takes as its subject matter a segment of the expressive culture of a group of prehistoric societies in the Southeastern United States. These are the societies which have gone under the rubric. "Mississippian," by which is generally meant the chiefdom-type, horticultural peoples that lived in I.-he Southeast during the period A.D. 900-1600. These related societies were ancestral to the historic Southeastern Indians, including the Cherokee, the Muskogee, the Choctaw,

the Chickasaw, the Natchez., and numerous lesser-known groups.

More specifically, this essay moves towards an analysis of the

symbolic bases for Mississippian public ritual. Since many different societies in different settings and times are included in the basic Mississippian construct, this is still a broad (even vast) set of phenomena to consider in a single short treatment. The approach must necessarily be selective and honed down. But the topic itself, set apart in this way, unmasks a crucial prejudice which might as well be admitted plainly at the outset. It is that there is an important unity among the phenomena of Mississippian public ritual wherever they occur in time and space. This is a unity which transcends provincial cultural boundaries and linguistic boundaries, and which crosscuts significant interactional networks. It is a reflection, I think, both of a common cosmological substratum or collective world view, and of



common institutional mechanisms for projecting this cosmology into concrete, behavioral objectification. In addition, then, to attempting to lay bare some of the deeper levels of symbolism evident in traditional Southeastern expressive culture, it is equally important to explore the institutional frameworks within which these symbols operated and achieved meaning to ritual participants. Roughly, the first and major part of this essay will be devoted to inferences about symbols and meanings. Toward the end, the emphasis will shift toward the consequences of institutional organization in the understanding of the archaeological remains.

First, a series of definitions will serve the purposes of clarifying the theoretical premises and frame in which Mississippian public ritual will be discussed here, and of introducing some of the key terms.

Public ritual may be considered as a stereotyped set of symbolic acts in series, having seven basic characteristics as follows:

1. Public ritual has a "religious" character. This means that the set of symbols which public ritual evokes is considered sacred, and is charged with a sense of ultimacy. In terms of cognitive processes, these religious symbols and their connections constitute a deeply rooted system of thought, bearing on everyday behavior. A universal characteristic of such thought is that it anthropomorphizes the supernatural realm in its attempt to account for the world of everyday experience (Guthrie 1980), that is, it imposes social distinctions on the nonhuman world.

2. These religious symbols act metaphorically at a deep level in the symbolic repertoire of individuals. They provide the ritual actor with a flexible system of "paradigmatic imagery", applicable to any


number of environmental percepts in any number of contexts (Whitten 1978). Ritual symbols are "multivocal", meaning that they are predicated upon a variety of objects and events in the social and material world (Turner 1969:52). Such symbols, at the deepest level of cognitive process, may be justifiably called "core symbols", in reference to the operation of a layered hie rarchy of symbols and metaphors in that process. Core symbols, then, constitute a general, analogical, organizational model oil the world, mediating percepts and social action.

3. Public ritual is dramatic. It tends to occur "on stage".

Ritual stages (for example courtrooms, churches, and lecture halls) are designed to materially reflect the concepts and symbols associated with the ritual itself. Inherent in these stages are ritual boundaries and thresholds, which serve, for example, to segregate order from disorder (Turner 1969:23), or to symbolize the protection of important concepts or states from incursion, with accompanying taboo (Douglas 1966). In many cases, ritual stages for rites of intensification or rites of passage are simplified, symbolic microcosms, directly reflecting in their spatial order a greater, cosmological order (Leach 1976:85-86).

4. Public ritual operates through repetition or redundancy,

ultimately focusing upon and highlighting a set of core symbols and relations. It acts as a dramatic, public reminder of the cosmological nature and sacredness of these symbols. It characteristically suspends normal space and time in a metaphorical sense to achieve this effect (Leach 1961). Among its participants, the stereotyped actions and interactions of public ritual serve to promote a given version of reality. It provides a focus for the construction of a mutual sense of what is real. Ethnomethodologists call this property "reflexivity".


5. It is essentially a communicative act, both among ritual actors (Leach 1976) and between society and the supernatural (Guthrie 1980:190). It includes both verbal and nonverbal performances. It should be noted that the performance of myth is neither excluded nor given special status in this definition: it is considered a variety or mode of public ritual. While some investigators have assigned myth to the realm of "belief", saying that it provides a charter for ritual (Wallace 1966:243), it should rather be emphasized that myth is no less a performance or objectification than any other ritual mode. Nor is it more "mental".

There are, importantly, no pure or proper versions of myths; they exist in their telling.

6. Public ritual is sponsored by one or more "cult institutions". The concept of cult institution emphasizes that rituals for a given society belong to one or another distinguishable, institutional complex. Each of these complexes may be associated with a differently defined social group, with its own mythology and ceremonial trappings. Several such institutions generally exist concurrently; Wallace (1966:76) counts six of them for the contemporary Iroquois. In this study, when we say we are dealing with Mississippian public ritual, we really refer to only a part of what might collectively be called Mississippian religion. For example, the rites of intensification represented by Mississippian platform mound ceremonialism certainly reflect only one variety of cult institution, that probably associated with an official
priesthood, among several in simultaneous existence. The later include possible shamanic institutions, and specialized religious complexes associated with and addressing other social groups, e.g., ramified systems of warrior-chiefs and their lieutenants.


7. Public ritual and its archaeological manifestations admit of an analytical methodology which treats ritual structures and features as elements of diachronic and synchronic "texts". The exegesis of these texts is made possible by considering replicating correspondence structures along time and space axes (the structural method). These replicating correspondence structures provide clues to deep symbolic structures. In practice, one searches for an appropriate and comprehensive analogical model (theory) which most coherently and neatly illuminates the empirical data.

This beginning exploration into the nature of symbols and metaphors in Mississippian public ritual will explicitly consider both rites of passage (Van Gennep 1960 (1909)),and rites ofl intensification (Chapple and Coon 1942). Rites of passage constitute a general class of noncalendrical ritual (Wallace 1966:71; Fortes 1962) generally performed to accompany individual changes of status, office or physical location (e.g.L puberty rites, marriages, and funerals). These may or may not be communal (Titiev 1960). Rites of intensification are always communal, normally calendrical rituals in which the status of the group as a whole is changed (e.g., new year's celebrations, holidays, and annual harvest ceremonies). These two general types have in common a three-phase diachronic structure, demonstrating symbolic separation, transition, and reaggregation (Van Gennep 1909).

Finally, there is some vagueness and uncertainty in the archaeological literature over just what constitutes "Hississippian". Most generally, it includes the majority of Southeastern United States archaeological cultures of the post-A.D. 900 period. Some investigators


have recently begun to doubt the appropriateness of the common usage of this reified taxon, which has grown by accretion over the years and has come [to include a large number of apparently dissimilar manifestations. Others have tried to restrict the more common usage by suggesting certain definitive criteria, but this exercise only ends in the creation of untenable boundaries. I prefer to leave the concept relatively open, except to suggest that its Wo most important characteristics are 1) a chiefdom level of social organization, implying both social ranking and an economy capable of supporting it; and 2) participation in a distinctive Southeastern platform ;iound ceremonialism, which will be partially defined later on. While these characteristics are not always explicitly demonstrable in specific cases, they best approximate, in r.iy opinion, the most popular current use of the term.

Now, as a general outline to what will follow, the discussion will be arranged into several largely independent chapters, each addressing a selected topic relevant to the broader domain of Mississippian period ritual. The strategy in laying out materials and their interpretation will generally be to discuss in some detail a small number of carefully selected examples taken from the broader corpus of potential data. This, I think, is justifiable vis-\a-vis the other alternative, a survey or quantitative approach, insofar as the examples selected have broad relevance or special significance in clarifying key concepts; I have tried to make this relevance clear in each case, and have made much use of materials with which I have firsthand familiarity.

Following a literature review, the course will be first to search for a set of core symbols or an organizing metaphor within a postMississippian text, a Muskogee migration myth. This will be accomplished


by separating the metaphorical and metonymical dimensions of Lhe myth by means of the structural method. The first and main test of these symbols against Mississippian data will take the form of a treatment of the major objective feature of Mississippian ritual: the platform mound. Such moundsin their various sociocultural contexts, will be seen to clearly embody the substratum of symbolism brought out in mythological form. Next will be an exploration of the use of deliberate change diachronically within a platform mound center. Such behavior will be shown to relate to definite notions of time, the representation of "this:other" or "we:they" ideas, and to notions of change and pollution. This will be followed by two rather more divergent topics: the first an abstract consideration of the possibilities for recognizing meaning in the arrangement of ritual space; the second an analysis of a major rite of passage, the funeral, based upon historic Choctaw data. Finally, an attempt will be made to summarize the major symbolic features of Mississippian public ritual and to relate them to what seem to be two distinct organizational or institutional spheres, perhaps generally identifiable as chiefly ritual versus priestly ritual.


It will be worthwhile reviewing some of the conclusions of those investigators, Swanton, Waring, and Howard, who have approached the topic of Mississippian ritual largely without the burden of functionalist preconceptions. Among their insights, which are variously based, may be found previews of themes to be developed further in the present essay. Their influence is accordingly acknowledged along these lines. While none of them may be said to have held special theoretical interests in symbolic aspects of culture per se, their researches clearly exhibit emphases on structural relationships of meaning in the interpretation of both archaeological and historical manifestations.

Had John R. Swanton not been encumbered by the gross lack of Mississippian archaeological data at the time of his major work on Creek Indian beliefs, he would undoubtedly have carried much further than was then possible the diachronic structural comparison of the two complementary sets of data.- historic and prehistoric. Swanton was the foremost authority of his time on the form and variation of Creek ritual practices (1928a, 1928b), based both upon his own ethnological fieldwork among the Oklahoma Creeks (1911-1912) and his exhaustive research in Southeastern ethnohistory while affiliated with the Bureau of American Ethnology.

His thoughts on the nature of Mississippian ritual are summarized in a brief essay, "The Interpretation of Aboriginal Mounds by Means of Creek Indian Customs" (1928c). The thrust of that essay has its historical basis in the lingering bias that immediately prehistoric


ceremonialism in the Eastern United States, as manifested at abandoned centers dominated by large earthworks, was somehow qualitatively different in its elaboration and extensiveness, and reflected a higher level of cultural development, than anything seen among the historically encountered aboriginal groups.

This bias was simply a milder restatement of the myth of cultural

retrogression largely put to rest by Cyrus Thomas in the last quarter of the 19th century (Willey and Sabloff 1974:49), of which some versions survive today. Swanton himself often referred to the modern Creek

ceremonial practices as "attenuated", but this was in reference to ethnohistorical accounts of comparable events prior to the Removal and generally untouched by white interference. It is clear that Swanton believed that the attenuation over the years of elaborate ritual practices was due as much to population decline and displacement as to any normative shifts in belief among its practitioners, and that he recognized the distinction between qualitative retrogression in an evolutionary sense, and, on the other hand, the effects of colonization

and acculturation.

Swanton set out to rectify this bias and to establish definite

links between prehistoric mound building practices, the accounts of early travelers such as the De Soto chroniclers and William Bartram attesting to mound construction among historic chiefdoms, and the ceremonial practices of modern Southeastern groups. He noted that the Yuchi, the Seminole, and the Oklahoma Creeks have in modern times built small ceremonial mounds for use in calendrical rites of intensification, principally their respective "green cornil ceremonies (Witthoft 1949), and that the Tuckabatchee have also engaged in a type of earth platform


ceremonialism related to traditional dancing. Swanton saw in such practices clear analogs in prehistoric mound building, through making the crucial observation that the act of prehistoric mound construction itself, and not just the final product, reflected important community ritual and contained evidence of religious beliefs of the same character as those held by modern Creek Indians. He felt justified in seeking,

within the ethnological materials, mode.1s accounting for the earlier practices.

Swanton points out that William Bartram, whose Travels during the Revolutionary War contributed so much to the popular notion of a prehistoric "Mound Builder" race and civilization, had himself prepared for publication a drawing showing an early eighteenth century "Creek" ceremonial ground complex in which both the square ground and rotunda were situated upon earthen platform mounds. They were located on the opposite ends of a bounded chunkyy yard" similar to the ball grounds in use at a later time. This American Ethnological Society publication, however, was never widely distributed. All but about 25 of its original copies, printed in 1853, were destroyed by fire, and it was not reprinted until 1909 with the revival of that society. The "ancient" ceremonial grounds illustrated by Bartram are arguably based wholly or in part on the arrangement seen by him in July of 1775, at the then-abandoned "ancient Apalachucla" on the Chattahoochee River. This was the Hitchiti speaking Apalachicola town of the period ca. 1715-1755. There Bartram witnessed "the mounds or terraces, on which formerly stood their town house", and he also visited an older, adjacent site at which there was a large, rectangular platform mound conjoining a slightly sunken chunkyy yard" (Harper 1958:246). Swanton here

implies that Bartram was fully aware of historic platform mound ceremonialism among the Southeastern Indians, but diminished it in his accounts so as not to draw credence from a more romantic, "lost Mound Builder race" hypothesis. Bartram was, of course, not the last to ignore such evidence for contact period mound building. Swanton reviews this evidence, citing Garcilaso, Adair, and French accounts of Natchez and Tunica platform mounds, some of which had been widely circulated at an early date.

In attempting to account for the variability among the outward

manifestations of Mississippian ceremonial centers, i.e. among platform mound-plaza arrangements, Swanton made an important observation critical to their modern analysis. Briefly, it is this: variability in such arrangements is analogous to the kind of variability found among modern Creek ceremonial grounds (Swanton 1928a), that is, the apparent uniqueness of many such arrangements is simply due to spatial recombination of a small number of essential elements. These elements, for Creek ceremonial grounds, he identified as 1) the square ground, which could be oriented with either sides or corners opposite cardinal points; 2) the rotunda or "hot house", which was a usually circular building variously positioned with respect to the square ground; and 3) a chunkyy yard" or ball ground, which was a bounded, open space for various public rituals, dominated by a large, isolated ball post.

Swanton sought analogs for these elements among documented,

complex Mississippian centers including Myer's Gordon Group in central Tennessee, the Selsertown (now Emerald) mound group in Mississippi, Squier and Davis' Prairie Jefferson (now Jerden) group in Louisiana, the Taylor Shanty group in Arkansas documented by Cyrus Thomas, and


finally the large St. Louis and Cahokia ceremonial centers. He was at a disadvantage both in his selection of more complex centers, whose final forms represent decades or centuries of accretion, and in the fact that none of the sites had seen a useful amount of professional excavation (Moorehead's report on Cahokia appeared in 1928, the same year as Swanton's essay). These comparisons were explicitly tentative, and intended only to illustrate his point that uniformity could be found within apparent diversity, and that this uniformity conceivably consisted of familiar elements arranged and recombined in various ways.

A final obstacle to comparison was the magnitude of the prehistoric earthworks vis-a-vis the seemingly different modern mound building efforts of insignificant scale. In answer to this Swanton proposed that the large earthen platforms could have been erected in ritual contexts similar to those in which modern mound ceremonialism occurred-that is, in the context of annual rites of intensification such as the busk (Swanton 1928a), in which large resident and non-resident populations could be mobilized. Although he was perhaps unaware of the almost universal periodicity inherent in Mississippian mound construction, lie was correctly suggesting that their erection constituted periodic, public ritual of the same kind, if not the same scale or frequency, as that still practiced among the Creeks. In this.contextual respect, the small ceremonial and dance mounds made by modern Indians of the former Creek Confederacy might be linked to their massive prehistoric counterparts. This implied, importantly, that the ultimate use of the mound in both cases might be of less symbolic consequence than the circumstances of its erection. Swanton summarized his argument as follows,:


We may conclude, then, by saying that the historic
ceremonies and ceremonial mounds of our southeastern
Indians, or, for that matter, of the Creeks alone,
suggest psychiCal and technical forces sufficient to
account or all of the mounds of the Mississippi
Valley and the districts north of the Gulf of Mexico (1928c:506).

The same diachronic problem was also a subject of inquiry for Antonio J. Waring, Jr., building on Swanton's observations on Mississippian ritual. Waring's initial interest was in the iconography of the Southeastern Ceremonial Complex (or as he called it, the Southern Cult). This is a set of ostensibly related artistic motifs, both representational and abstract, which normally occur in late, ritual contexts (Waring and Holder 1945). This interest was expanded in

later paper (Waring 1968) treating the much broader topic of relationships and possible relevance of historic Creek ceremonialism. and mythology to Mississippian forms. The latter paper, "The Southern Cult and Muskhogean Ceremonial: General Considerations", is the major source of his comments relevant to the present essay.

Much of that paper is devoted to Southeastern Ceremonial Complex iconography and to the "Muskhogean" traditions and myths which he felt illuminated them. "Muskhogean" here seems to be a confused usage referring at once to the language family, the specific language, and the loosely-knit town group of the Creek Confederacy, all bearing that name. Waring was convinced that the spread of the Complex could be linked to "a common ceremonial in the historical accounts of the Muskhogean people". He point-led outt that groups speaking Muskhogean (family) languages held territories roughly corresponding to the area within which Southeastern Ceremonial Complex iconography was found. Also, mirroring what was known of the "Mississippian radiation" at


the time, Waring noted that some Creek migration legends specified that their respective "ceremonials" were obtained at an earlier time in the Middle Mississippi drainage, prior to an eastward migration. He therefore tended to accredit the "cult-bringer" myths of such groups as based on fact. The historical variability among specific elements of calendrical ceremonies in different parts of the Southeast could be accounted for, he reasoned, by the attrition through time of this "basic Muskhogean ceremonial" (-'the Southeastern Ceremonial Complex) and the addition of "extraneous material".

There are difficulties with these aspects of his argument,

partly stemming from the confusion surrounding the usage "Muskhogean people", in context implying some former cultural whole vis-a-vis other cultures. This, unfortunately, is an illusion no matter how "the Muskhogean people" are defined. While there is much to recommend the idea that some Mississippian manifestations represent peoples of the ruskogean linguistic family, Waring's notion that such towns as Tuckabatchee, Kasihta, and Coweta were the originators and carriers of a "basic" Mississippian ceremonial complex lacks support. It has been strongly suggested that, in various places, Siouan, Iroquoian, Timucuan, Yuchi, and Caddoan speaking peoples were also responsible for Mississippian archaeological cultures, and there seems to be no reason to suppose that speakers of the various Muskogean languages had any monopoly on the iconography in question. In historic times, conceptually equivalent green corn ceremonialism freely transcended linguistic boundaries, suggesting the possibility that Mississippian rites of intensification, as a class, crossed linguistic barriers in similar fashion.


These problems aside, Waring proceeds to attempt, after Swanton, to trace the elements of the Creek ceremonial grounds back to their Mississippian prototypes. In this he achieves considerable success, putting to use the archaeological data gathered during the Depression years. To the three elements discussed by Swanton, the square ground, rotunda, and ball ground, Waring adds a fourth, the mortuary temple. He marshals evidence attempting to document the historical development of each of these elements.

Much of Waring's most innovative thinking appears in his interpretation of the square ground complex. This he felt was derived from a large, rectangular "town house" structure type found on Mississippian platform mounds, typified by the structures found archaeologically at the Hiviassee Island Site in Tennessee (Lewis and Kneberg 1946).

Evidence presented in support of such a derivation is as follows. Firstly, the interior benches of the square ground were referred to as "beds", the same term used for the low benches (also used as beds) found along the interior walls of houses. Similar interior benches are commonly encountered in the ethnohistorical literature, and evidence for them is known archaeologically within large, public "town houses" on mound summits. Secondly, a common name for the square ground was tcoko-thZako, translated as "big house". While most historic square grounds consisted of four isolated "cabins" surrounding an open square with a central fire, Waring cites Swanton and Adair to the effect that some squares were formerly covered or enclosed under a single roof. Thirdly, Bartram's sketch of an "earlier" Creek square ground mound platform supports a connection with platform mound ceremonialism.


This established, a prototype for the square ground Complex may be found in the large, semi-public chief's houses known both ethnohistorically, and by inference, archaeologically.

Waring found a possible archaeological equivalent for the "holy of

holies" of the square ground, the rear chamber associated with various taboos in which ceremonial paraphernalia was kept, in the enclosed rear chambers found associated with buildings on mound summits at Hiwassee Island. These Mississippian buildings faced eastward, and %were paired on mound summits in a manner suggesting to Waring the moiety structure of Creek social organization.

More convincing is his demonstration that the periodicity of

Mississippian mound construction is conceptually analogous to rites of renewal in the annual busk ceremonies of the Creeks. The busk emphasizes the removal of accumulated pollutions of the past.year, including the

ritual renewal of the square ground. This involved at one time the creation of a new surface by replastering the four cabins with clay, and by either sweeping, or more suggestively, adding a blanket of sand to the central court. Elements of the busk, then, according to Waring, could be shown to be "survivals" of mound ceremonialism, since the periodic addition of mound mantles achieved the same effect, and the mound-square ground connection was already made. Mississippian mound mantles, Waring noted, were designed primarily to cover all previous structures.

The conclusion- is that the sealing off of the old structure was more important than the purely architectural consideration of creating an imposing temple
foundation (.1968:58).

The implication of this argument is clear. Mississippian mound building


was primarily a symbolic, ritual activity in the same tradition as the busk (which Waring thought its direct descendant), guided by similar conceptions.

He was consequently disturbed that typical Mississippian mantle addition was clearly not annual activity, but instead represented intermittent intervals of longer span. in response he suggested, rather implausibly, that such activity was initially more frequent, but became less so through time because of increasing cost and inefficiency of mantle addition as the rounds grew in size.

For the Creek rotunda or "hot house", Waring found a prototype

in the large circular structures found at some Mississippian sites. He was particularly impressed with the comparability of the typical Creek tckofa, and the circular, Early Mississippian earth lodge at Macon, Georgia (Fairbanks 1946).

Waring's fourth element of the Creek ceremonial grounds, the

mortuary temple, he thought to have passed out of existence among the

Huskhogeans in early historic times. This complex was defined archaeologically at such charnel house-mortuary platform mound sites as Mound C at Et(-owah (Moorehead 1932:66-87) and the Hollywood Mound (Thomas 1894:317-326), both in Georgia. Ethnohistorical examples included the "temples"at Talimeco, vis-ited by De Soto, and at the Grand Village of the Natchez, described by Du Pratz. For the former, and apparently also for the archaeological examples, Waring accepted an

identification as "Creek", in concert with his a ttributi on of the complex as a whole to an early Creek level. That identification, however, is exceedingly tenuous, and the term Creek is completely inapplicable to any time period prior to the eighteenth century. For this reason we


must discount it, while recognizing on the other hand that the isolation of a distinctive type of Mississippian mortuary ceremonialism is important and justifiable.

In sum, two of Waring's conclusions, building on the earlier

interpretations of Swanton, are most directly relevant to our purposes. These are; 1) the identification of the square ground complex with the commrion class of large, semi-public chief's houses recognized archaeologically on mound substructures, and 2) the recognition of a conceptual affinity between historically recorded rites of renewal associated with green corn ceremonialism and the addition of platform mantles at Mississippian sites.

James H. Howard's (1968) concern has again been mainly directed

toward the interpretation of Southeastern Ceremonial Complex motifs by means of modern Southeastern Indian practices and ethnohistorical documentation. His discussion, however, contains some additional items of interest in this investigation of 11ississippian public ritual. Howard, like Waring, considers Southeastern green corn ceremonialism a relativelyy pure survival" of Mississippian mound ceremonialism. He discusses four structural elements of Creek, Seminole, Natchez, Yuchi, and Chickasaw ceremonial grounds. These are;1) the square ground, 2) the rotunda or hot house, 3) the ball pole and ball ground, and 4) one or more small earthen ceremonial mounds (cf. Swanton 1928a), "usually associated with the calling of the birds feature of the feather dance [at tile busk] and with the Buffalo dance" (Howard 1968:124).

Of the Mississippian counterparts of the first three, Howard

reviews the evidence largely presented earlier by Waring, with some amplification. Hie thus discusses the square ground ball ground


arrangements in relation to mound-plaza arrangements at Mississippian sites, and again notes the probable relationship of the historic rotunda to various Mississippian circular structures. On the topic of ball poles, he adds a note that foundation pits for large, ceremonial., isolated posts have been found at some Mississippian sites, notably the Mitchell site near Cahokia (Porter 1969).

Howard's comments on the small ceremonial mounds found in

association with modern square grounds are of considerable interest. In 1965, Howard found examples of such mounds at various square ground sites in Oklahoma. Those fie and His associates saw were "two or three feet high and about five feet in diameter". He was told by a native informant that "they are referred to as taXo fi-ki [="mound heart"] and are considered the heart of the (square) ground by the Creek". Howard was also told that if the square ground was moved, the ceremonial mound would have to be rebuilt at the new location. lie noted that a number of busk-related ritual activities make use of it. He concludes,

Whether these small present-day tumuli are derived from the giant temple mounds of Mississippian times
remains to be demonstrated. Their continued presence
and strong ritual associations would certainly argue
in favor of this interpretation (1968:149).

Of the ritual nature of these small mounds I will have more to say elsewhere.

A number of modern investigations of Mississippian ritual, none of which will be reviewed here, eschew any concern with content and meaning in favor of various functionalist preoccupations. They generally make use of ethnographic analogy to point out that the rites of intensification represented by Mississippian ritual features and structures probably functioned;1) as modes of heightened exchange,


redistribution, and information transfer during periods of maximum productivity, and 2) as events sanctifying and solidifying political offices in complex social systems. These aspects of Mississippian ritual are undeniably important, although these approaches uniformly fail 4.-o credit the ritual process and structures with their role as analogical models of aspects of the world, that is, as contemplative devices. The symbolic repertoire they reflect clearly mediated, at a deep level, actions which had "functional" significance from a materialist perspective. Far from being "masking superstructures" rationalizing a cultural world of necessity, the symbolism of Mississippian ritual undoubtedly provided the very imagery by which and through which day-to-day problems of existence were formulated and solved. It was in this basic sense a flexible and adaptive means of dealing with the experiential contradictions and disharmonies faced in changing physical and social environments.

Functionalist models of ritual are inherently ambiguous and cannot come fully to grips with the content of their object, because they invariably attempt to define means in terms of apparent ends., These ends are seldom fully justified themselves, and of course any number of

means can achieve the same ends (Guthrie 1980:183n). The statement, for example, that a given calendrical ritual functions as a rationale for heightened exchange or communication neither justifies itself vis-a-vis other possible interpretations, nor accounts for most of the detailed content of the ritual, which in this light seems superfluous. But just such an account is desirable when we realize that ritual systems represent systems for the contemplation of things. They are thereby models for much decision-making, including that with practical


significance for survival as well as that directed toward understanding the nature of things, and these often overlap.


The analysis will begin with the investigation of a myth. But at once this may seem inappropriate, since more than 300 years separate the my-Ch from most Mississippian cultures. It was observed in the previous chapter that the time difference between historic and Mississippian cultures has tended to deter meaningful use of ethnographic analogy in the study of prehistoric ritual forms. Nevertheless, as we have seen, at some structural level there is comparability, and the same is no doubt true of the relationship of surviving myth to prehistory. Rather than focusing interest in the specific motifs or "story" of the myth, which is known to be rather mutable in an historic sense, we are much more concerned with its underlying structure'; which is historically more "robust". Within this structure may be sought the basic terms of Mississippian ritual, recalling that the performance of myth is ritual behavior. This structure should provide a point of departure in identifying and discussing 1-1ississippian core symbols.

It is important, then, to consider more carefully the articulation of myth with tile remainder of the domain of public ritual behavior, as we find it manifested at archaeological sites. It has already been said that public ritual is organized within a series of "cult institutions", several of which exist simultaneously for a given societ.y. This is also the social armature for the performance of mythl, and types of myth correspond to this organization. There are, for example, cosmogonic myths, culture hero myths, migration myths, healing myths, fairy



tales, and other classes, each of which is performed in a specific organizational context. One task is to identify classes of myth which can be identified with the specific kinds of ritual behavior under consideration.

As a first approxi mate solution, an hypothesis may be forwarded that the class of myths known as migration legends display underlying structures identifying them with the class of rites of intensification we will mainly consider, namely platform mound ceremonialism. These are not cosmogonic myths; they do not generally deal with such cosmological topics as the origin of the earth or the sky. Cosmogonic myths instead provide "conceptual background". for other. classes of myth including migrati on myths. And migration myths are far more than the distorted oral histories of actual migrations, as some investigators have speculated. Migration myths seem to constitute a class specifically related to ritual procedures for renewal and purification. Their allegorical tales of pilgrimage outline formulas for the resolution of conceptual oppositiobns to achieve these ends.

Selected for analysis among these, for its wealth of detail, is the well known Chekilli migration legend (Gatschet 1884). Ethnographically, the myth pertains to the Muskogee town of Kasihta, on the Chattahoochee River i southwest Georgia. Kasihta was one of the major towns in the Creek confederacy, where it was a "white" town in the town moiety system. Chekilli styled himself as "emperor of the Upper and Lower Creeks", and delivered the myth as a speech in the presence of Governor Oglethorpe, at Savannah, Georgia, in 1735. The Chekilli migration myth is not the only recorded Southeastern migration myth which could serve the present purpose, but it is perhaps the most colorful. For the Creeks alone, it is paralleled by a number of other myths


originating among various towns (Swanton 1928a:33-75). There are also a number of non-Creek myths, for exaniple the Choctaw migration legend recorded by Lincecum (1904), which would well repay attention in the present light.

The Chekilli legend is translated as follows:

"At a certain time the Earth opened in the West, where its mouth is. The Earth opened and the Cussitaws came out of its mouth, and settled near by. But the Earth became angry and ate up their children; therefore, they moved further West. A part of them, however, turned back, and came again to the same place where they had been, and settled there. The greater number remained behind, because they thought it best to do so. Their children, nevertheless, were eaten by the Earth, so that, full of dissatisfaction, they journeyed toward the sunrise.

"They came to a thick, muddy, slimy river-came there, camped there, rested there, and stayed over night there. The next day, they continued their journey and came, in one day, to a red, bloody river. They lived by 'Chis river, and ate of its fishes for two years; but there were low springs there; and it did not please them to remain. They went toward the end of this bloody river, and heard a noise as of thunder. They approached to see whence the noise came. At first they perceived a red smoke, and then a mountain which thundered; and on this mountain was a sound as of singing. They sent to see what this was; and it was a great fire which blazed upward, and made this singing noise. This mountain they named the King of Mountains. It thunders to this day;

and men are very much afraid of it.

"They here met a people of three different Nations. They had

taken and saved some of the fire from the mountain; and, at this place,


they also obtained a knowledge of herbs and of other things.

"From. the East, a white fire came to them; which, however, they would not use. From Wahalle (the South) came a fire which was blue; neither did they use it. From the West, came a fire that was black; nor would they use it. At last, came a fire from the North, which was red and yellow. This they mingled with the fire they had taken from the mountain; and this is the fire they use to-day; and this, too, sometimes sings. On the mountain was a pole which was very restless and made a noise, nor could any one say how it could be quieted. At length they took a motherless child, and struck it against the pole; and thus killed the chil-d. They then took the pole, and carry it with them when they go to war. It was like a wooden tomahawk, such as they now use, and of the same wood.

"Here they also found four herbs or roots, which sang and

disclosed their virtues: First, Pasaw (pasa), the rattlesnake root; second, Micoweanochvw (miko hoyanidja), red root; third, Sowcztchko (sowatcko), which grows like wild fennel, and fourth, Eschalapootch-ke (hitci laputcki), little tobacco. These herbs, especially the first and the third, they use as the best medicine to purify themselves at their Busk. At this Busk, which is held yearly, they fast, and make offerings of the first fruits. Since they have learned the virtues of these herbs, their women, at certain times, have a separate fire, and remain apart from the men five, six, and seven days, for the sake of purification. If they neglected this, the power of the herbs would depart; and the women would not be healthy.

"About this time a dispute arose, as to which was the oldest,

and which snould rule; and they agreed, as they were four Nations, that


they would set up four poles, and make them red with clay which is yellow at first, but becomes red by burning. They would then go to war; and whichever Nation should first cover its pole, from top to bottom, with the scalps of their enemies, should be the oldest.

"They all tried, but the Cussitaws covered their pole first,

and so thickly that it was hidden from sight. Therefore, they were looked upon, by the whole Nation, as the oldest. The Chickasaws covered their pole next; then the Atilarias (Alabamas); but the Obikaws (Abihkas) did not cover their pole higher than the knee.

'At that time there was a bird of large size, blue in color, with a long tail, and swifter than an eagle, which came every day and killed and ate their people. They made an image in the shape of a woman, and placed it in the way of this bird. The bird carried it off, and kept it a long time, and then brought it back. They left it alone, hoping it would bring something forth. After a long time, a red rat came forth from it, and they believed the bird was the father of the rat. They took council with the rat how to destroy its father. Now the

bird had a bow and arrows; and the rat gnawed the bowstring, so that the bird could not defend itself, and the people killed it. They called this bird the King of Birds. They think the eagle is also a great King; and they carry its feathers when they go to War or make Peace; 1the red means War; the white, Peace. If an enemy approaches with white feathers and a white mouth, and cries like an eagle, they dare not kill him.

"After this they left that place, and came to a white footpath.

The grass and everything around were white, and they plainly perceived that people had been there. They crossed the path, and slept near


there. Afterward they turned back to see what sort of path that was, and who the people were w*ho had been there, in the belief that it might be better for them to follow that path. They went along it to a creek called Coloose-hutche, that is, Coloose-creek, because it was rocky there and smoked.

"They crossed it, going toward the sunrise, and came to a people and a town named Coosaw. Here they remained four years, The Coosaws complained that they were preyed upon by a wild beast, which they called man-eater or lion, which lived in a rock.

"The Cussitaws said they would try to kill the beast. They digged a pit and stretched over it a net made of hickory-bark. They then laid

a number of branches, crosswise, so that the lion could not follow them, and, going to the place where he lay, they threw a rattle into his den. The lion rushed forth in great anger, and pursued them through the branches. They then thought it better that one should die rather than all; so they took a motherless child, and threw it before the lion as he came near the pit. The lion rushed at it, and fell in the pit, over which they threw the net, and killed him with blazing pine-wood. His bones, however, they keep to this day; on one side, they are red, on the other, blue.

"The lion used to come every seventh day to kill the people;

therefore, they remained there seven days after they had killed him. In remembrance of him, when they prepare for War, they fast six days and start on the seventh. If they take his bones with them, they have good fortune.
"After four years they left the Coosaws, and came to a river

which they called Nowphawpe, now Callasi-hutche. There they tarried


two years; and, as they had no corn, they lived on roots and fishes,

and made bows, pointing the arrows with beaver teeth and flint-stones, and for knives they used split canes.

"They left this place, and came to a creek, called Wattoola-hcvkahutche, Whooping-creek, so called from the whooping of cranes, a great many being there; they slept there one night. They next came to a river, in which there was a waterfall; this they named the Owatunka-river. The next day they reached another river, which they called the


"The followiing day they crossed it, and came to a high mountain, where were people who, they believed, were the same who made the white path. They, therefore, made white arrows and shot at them, to see if they were good people. But the people took their white arrows, painted them red, and shot them back. When they showed these to their chief, he said that it was not a good sign; if the arrows returned had been white, they could have gone there and brought food for their children, but as they were red they must not go. Nevertheless, some of them went to see what sort of people they were; and found their houses deserted. They also saw a trail on the opposite bank, they believed that the people had gone into the river, and would not again come forth.

"At that place is a mountain, called Moterell, which makes a noise like beating on a drum; and they think this people live there. They hear this noise on all sides when they go to war.

"They went along the river, till they came to a waterfall, where they saw great rocks, and on the rocks were bows lying; and they believed the people who made the white path had been there.


"They always have, on their journeys, two scouts who go before the main body. These scouts ascended a high mountain and saw a town. They shot white arrows into the town; but the people of the town shot back red arrows. Then the Cussitaws became angry, and determined to attack the town, and each one have a house when it was captured.

"They threw stones into the river until they could cross it, and took the town (the people had flattened heads), and killed all but two persons. In pursuing these they found a white dog, which they slew. They followed the two who escaped, until they came again to the white path, and saw the smoke of a town, and thought that this must be the people they had so long been seeking. This is the place where now the tribe of Palachucolas live, from whom Tomochichi is descended.

"The Cussitaws continued bloody-minded; but the Palachucolas

gave them black drink, as a sign of friendship, and said to them: 'Our hearts are white, and yours must be white, and you must lay down the bloody tomahawk, and show your bodies as proof that they shall be white'.

Nevertheless, they were for the tomahawk; but the Palachucolas got it by persuasion, and buried it under their beds. The Palachucolas likewise gave them white feathers, and asked to have a chief in common. Since then they have always lived together.

"Some settled on one side of the river, some on the other. Those on one side are called Cussetaws, those on the other, Cowetas; yet they are one people, and the principal towns of the Upper and Lower Creeks.

Nevertheless, as the Cussetaws first saw the red smoke and the red fire, and make bloody towns, they cannot yet leave their red hearts, which are, however, white on one side and red on the other. They now know that the white path was the best for them; for, although Tomochichi was a


stranger, they see he has done them good; because he went to see the great King with Esquire Oglethorpe, and hear his talk, and had related it to them, and they had listened to it, and believed it."

This is a complex myth, and to understand it requires that its

narrative format be abandoned as it is presented above. The structure of the myth will become apparent by charting its replicating correspondences, those elements or bundles of elements which repeat in slightly different form throughout the myth, across a two-dimensional matrix. The horizontal dimension of this matrix, the metonymic axis, will contain the narrative, read left to right like a printed text. The replicating correspondences, the metaphoric axis, will be charted as vertical columns. By following this method, the myth may be understood by interpreting the referents of the vertical columns, that is, by examining what the elements in these columns have in common, and then by comparing columns.

The replicating correspondence structure of the Chekilli legend is shown in Figure 1. It may be seen that the myth consists of eight narrative "episodes", which have a cormion format and comparable elements.

The first episode defines a basic polar opposition of the
linature:culture" type: Earth, as the objectification of a cluster of related images, and Society, as a similar cluster represented by the towns of Kasihta and Coweta. The people emerge from the mouth of the Earth, that is, a former unity is postulated out of which there arises a separation. The remainder of the myth is devoted to finding ways of justifying and clarifying the nature of this separation.

Put another way, the myth addresses a rational paradox arising

.01STE,, returned BY A NOISE 02 PEOPLE UITH A CONTRA- (opposed to (Opoosite column
c or apnroached BY ASSOCIATION DICTION "overstedning") three)

The mouth of the Twice it eats The people escape
Earth, in the their children to the west,
,est when the people then to the east
are nearby
ountain with It thunders, and They are afraid They obtain Comatihble oniv
fire (discovered has red smoke, of it (named some of its fire with fire fro :
at the end of a which is a fire "Kina of iloun- the north (war)
red river) tains")

A cole (dis- It moves, and motherless child They took the It is a war
covered on the makes noise (struck against cole club (atasi)
mountain of red pole; the child
smoke) dies)

Some herbs (dis- They sina, and Two of the four
covered on the disclose their herbs are "white'
mountain of red virtues used at Busk,
smoke) others are "red"

A large, blue It eats the Presented with it goes off, co- Red rat and (compared with -hite feathers
biro with a long people daily the image of a habiting with the people conspire: an eagle) u-sed for neace,
tail (blue=south) (called "King of woman (a false image, bearing a rat chews bow- red for war
birds") wife) helpful rat son string of bird

A wild beast, at It lives in a The beast is Motherless child They lay branches It falls into a Its bones are useful in war
Coosa, a white rock, near a cree called "Man- sacrificed, across its path; trap (a man-made keot: they are
town, after fol- wiich is rocky eater" enticed with it rushes through nit); it is set half blue, half
lowing white path and smokes "false noise" them afire red

Sone people They live at a white ("peace- Houses are deser(thought to be high mountain, ful") arrows shot ted; people are
"white") which makes noise at them; returned submerged in a
during war red river

People with flat Near a waterfall, White arrows shot All but two Escapees lead Apalachicola
heads (thought with rocks on at them, persons are them to Apala- persuades them
to be "white") which bows are returned red killed, "white chicola (white to make peace
lying dog" spared town)



from strongly held but contradictory postulates. The argument, which is one of identity-seeking, maY be put as follows:

1. People are cultural, not natural beings.

2. But. they are born of the Earth. This is an inescapable heritage, and people are therefore symbolically "dirty" (Douglas 1966). . 1

3. They must cleanse themselves of this residual "dirt" in order to

affirm their identity as humans.

4. But to completely sever the link, to clearly define an uncrossable boundary between Earth and Society, humans would lose their power.

That is because humans must necessarily live in a complex relationship to their natural environment, from which they obtain their

means for subsistence. Therefore their power, that is, their

success in survival and in the proliferation of non-natural

culture, lies in the Earth-Society interface.

5. Their purification, consisting of an attempted divorce with the Earth in search of a completely human, non-animal identity, thus

can never be complete. As one Creek Indian put it, "man cannot sell

his own mother" (Swanton 1928b:480). The former unity must, in

some sense, be reestablished and reaffirmed for the sake of

survival, yet at the same time, the Earth must be symbolically

overcome and the separation confirmed.

6. This may only be accomplished through compromise measures.

In the initial episode of the Chekilli legend, the separation of

IlEarth and Society is achieved. But there is immediately some ambivalence about the separation, resulting in a division of Society into two groups. One group elects to move to an encampment some distance from the mouth of the Earth, symbolically an attempt at purification, upon


realizing that the Earth has become a hostile entity (it eats their children). A second group, however, elects to remain behind, symbolically in the direction of compromise. But Earth does not discriminate, a.nd devours their children also, forcing them to follow the lead of the others and escape to the east, completing the separation.

While the Society-Earth division is in relatively abstract terms, it may immediately be seen that there is an analogy to this separation in the more concrete realm of social organization among the Muskogee towns. The Chekilli legend refers specifically to the sister towns of Kasihta and Coweta, and these historically belonged to two opposing town moieties. The division of Society in this and other Southeastern myths into an advance body and a hesitant body left behind, must refer to this social division.

The town moiety with which Kasihta was affiliated was represented by the color white, and was characterized by an attitude of peace and purity. The opposite town moiety, to which Coweta belonged, was likewise represented by the color red, and an attitude of war. The two moieties were mutually indifferent or hostile,.and were opposed in the traditional ball game (Swanton 1928a:249-259).

The Muskogee moiety division helps substantially to illustrate the process by which the basic polar categories proposed in the myth are assimilated to a concrete phenomenon, in this case dual social organization. That this requires an assimilation of imagerY rather than a simple metaphorical transfer of symbols is clearly shown by the fact that the whole social domain should properly fall toward the abstract pole we have termed Society. But here, Society itself is unfolded and is shown to harbor elements which belong properly to the "Earth" nexus


of ideas. Thus in the Chekilli'legend, the color white represents Society and purification (the white path), while red is the color of the opposite term, hostile Earth. But in the assimilated, institutional form these color terms are transformed: white now represents Society in its warlike (Earthlike) mode. This relationship is diagrammed in Figure 2. The example reveals in a clear way the nature of the fundamental opposition. Rather than constituting definite, concrete symbolic notions to be applied directly to experiential phenomena, the "core symbols" and organizing metaphors are instead whole complexes of indefinite but powerful imagery held in opposition. It is this imagery, and not the specific symbolic predictions such as those which occur in association with colors, which is important where these ideas surface in objective form. Similar assimilations are expectable, and in fact occur, within other ritual domains.

natural power purif ication
I red white
(red) moiety moiety (white)
(war) (peace)


r FIGURE 27 4

Interestingly, the myths attribute to the "red" moiety (accepting this identification) a tendency for hesitating, for being left behind, or for following and then turning back. The opposite social unit, the "white" moiety, has a similar tendency for "overstepping". This correlates with the observation that historically, the town of Kasihta


was located on the east bank of the Chattahoochee River and Coweta on the west bank. The direction east, in the myth, is associated with the Society/purification pole and is the direction of migration, while west is associated with Earth.

Proceeding with the analysis of the Chekilli legend by columns

(Figure 1), it can be seen that the first column is about Earth. Earth represents itself to society in various manifestations, but repeatedly in an ambiguous or disguised form. After the initial episode, Earth appears only once in "earth-like" form (as a burning mountain), twice in vegetable form (as a pole and as some herbs), twice in animal form (as a monstrous blue bird and as a wild beast), and twice in quasihuman form. The disguises are of such a nature as to cause non-recognition of Earth; the monstrous bird is blue, not red; the wild beast is discovered at Coosa, a white moiety town, after following a white path; both groups of supposed "people" encountered by Society are "thought to be white", but investigation proves otherwise in both cases. Here red Earth poses as its polar opposite: white Society.

In the second column, these disguises are seen through and the Earth manifestations reveal their true identity. This recognition comes through a number of signs, including revealing the color red, smoking, making a noise, or revealing an association with mountains,

rocks, or warfare.

The masquerade now revealed, the hostility and dangerous quality of Earthkis made apparent to Society in the third column. The mouth of Earth eats the people's children; the people are afraid of the fiery mountain ("King of Mountains"); the monstrous blue bird devours people

daily ("King of Birds"); the beast at Coosa town is called "man eater".


The fourth column concerns actions taken to thwart this danger, and to simultaneously solve the paradox of separation. The people accomplish this by acting in a manner directly inverse to the behavior shown by Earth. Earth's disguises generally take the form of nature mimicking culture. Tile fiery mountain sings, the pole moves and makes constant noise; the herbs sing; the final two episodes have Earth mimicking Society itself, as people living in villages.

Now the people confront Earth in column four with similar

absurdities, entities which are neither natural nor cultural. Twice a "motherless child" is sacrificed. Once, Earth is presented with a "false wife". In the episode of the wild beast of Coosa, the beast is enticed with a rattle. Rattles are made from natural materials, for example, a gourd and stones, and they make a noise which mimics natural

noises, and yet they are cultural products and are used culturally. This ambiguity makes them ideal as nature-culture boundary markers (Leach 1976:62-63). They make natural noise culturally, as opposed, for example, to the singing herbs of the myth which make cultural noise naturally. The white arrows used in the final two episodes constitute a parallel absurdity. Arrows are instruments of war, and shooting them into a village is certainly a hostile act. Yet the arrows are initially white, the color associated with peace. All of these devices are ambiguous with respect to the imagery defined earlier. By being neither one nor the other, neither here nor there, they are appropriate mediators, or rather, symbols of mediation of tile two polar terms.

In the fifth column, Earth responds by being temporarily delayed. This delay is parallel to the hesitating or trailing behind noted earlier for the "red" town moiety in certain myths.


The sixth column sees Earth overcome by Society as a result of the behavior in column four. In this defeat the emergence of Society from Earth is fully accomplished, and the earthly dominance appearing in column three is reversed. In the sixth and seventh columns, the virtues of Earth are recovered by Society for various useful purposes. That is, the resolution of the initial paradox is accomplished; Earth is on the one hand overcome through cultural boundary-marking behavior, and Society emerges as a distinct entity, yet the virtues of earth, which are nece ssary for survival, are retained and the link is in a sense preserved.

Now, to compare the relations between the columns, we may diagram the progress of the myth in overcoming the initial paradox, the irreconciled nature of the two initial terms, Earth and Society.





Disguised Earth


... ... r FIGURE 3-1

The two principal terms, Earth and Society, are replaced in the myth by two other terms, both of which are characterized by some sort of compromise; cultural behavior is "naturalized" through a special kind of boundary-establishing sacrifice; natural entities are similarly compromised in the direction of culture. That is, nature becomes


1 anthropomorphized. This second set of terms in turn allows mediation, in which Society emerges as distinct and potentially purified through sacrifice, and also through this sacrifice is able to retain some of the benefits of Earth's powers (e.g. success in hunting, fishing, or war).

If this interpretation is roughly correct, and if this mythological structure has the time depth we have suggested, we should be able to perceive these or similar terms in Mississippian ritual behavior. As it happens, this is exactly the case. By keeping these terms and relations in mind, we have a ready guide to the interpretation of platform mound ceremonialism.

Summarily, the Chekilli legend is, ostensibly, about the intellectual problem of autockhony, and the ritual means of overcoming it in establishing human identity. Further, the myth pOescribes the kin d of ritual procedure and the kind of symbols employed in accomplishing this "defeat" of earth ties. But, as the points of correspondence of the myth to the town and moiety system show, its performance and the consequent revelation of its implicit cosmological categories and boundaries are not simply intellectual riddles; they have direct practical significance. With the limitations of the present data we cannot fully trace out these implications for social regulation. But vie may know something of their scope and influence as reflecting a world-constituting system of thought. Durkheim, in his project of demonstrating the social origins of classificatory systems, argued that the powers of the cosmos, both hostile and beneficent, were fundamentally the products of social conventions. Cosmological entities were set up, granted autonomous existence, and placed in reserve as conceptual background, in order to insure that these conventions of interaction would survive (1915).


To violate them would be to do the unthinkable-to profane the sacred, unleashing a powerful moral backlash. For Kasihta, the rules of social existence governing kinship (the moiety-phratry-clan system), rank, and exchange were undoubtedly hedged by supernatural sanctions. Here Earth was depicted as a hostile monster to be placated, ready to inflict harm and pestilence should directives governing marriage, relations with outsiders, production, rankand war be sidestepped. The polar imagery of Earth and not-Earth constituted a sacred = axis on which the decisions and rules of social existence could be played out. As in all cosmologies, this was a shared, normally implicit system of unquestioned knowledge of self-evident truths (Douglas 1975). Our interpretation of these symbols, while admittedly very roughly worked out and tentative in this form, is nevertheless central to any understanding of Mississippian ritual behavior as a manifestation of the high tradition of Southeastern cosmology.

This developing portrait of paradigmatic imagery associated with Earth:Society core symbolism is clearly relatable to a model of Southeastern Indian cosmology independently derived by Charles Hudson (1976:122-69). There seem to be some significant divergences between the present formulation and Hudson's, however, and so this relationship requires some attention and clarification.

Hudson's model is, first of all, a composite sketch intended to portray a generalized Southeastern Indian view of the nature of the cosmos-thus glossing over minor differences in the diverse mythological sources which address this topic. But despite the intended generality, it is nevertheless clear -that the model is directly inspired by


cosmogonic myths which are specifically Cherokee. Many of its particular elements are corroborated by sources from other Southeastern groups, but it should also be made explicit that many are not. This is due undoubtedly to the incompleteness of the record for such groups as the Chickasaw, Choctaw, and Natchez, for which we have only bare suggestions of anything resembling the cosmos which Hudson describes. On the other hand, one might suspect that some of the minor elements in his portrayal, e.g. the four ropes from which This World is suspended, or the rock constitution of the celestial dome, are particularly Cherokee and might have little significance in relation to Southeastern cosmology as a whole or to its prehistoric precursors. This criticism aside, there is no doubt that the main features of Hudson's cosmological model correctly represent widely held beliefs of certain antiquity.

Hudson describes the Southeastern cosmos as consisting of three

worlds: the Upper World, which existed above the dome-shaped sky vault; This World, i.e. the present, tangible world; and the Under World, which existed below This World. Each of these worlds had distinctive properties and inhabitants, and the Upper and Under worlds were constantly opposed in a state of tension. Besi'des housing a number of deities of more or less importance, the Upper World and the Under World were each associated with a cluster of related ideas reflecting the opposition. The Upper :'World was associated withhorder, expectableness, purity, beneficence, structure, stability and past time. The Under World was associated with a set of opposite traits: "inversions, madness, invention, fertility, disorder, change, and future time." It was the duty of mankind, living in the more recently formed This World, to "strike a balance" between the two (128).


As compared with the paradigmatic imagery derived from the Chekilli legend, the correspondence between the cluster of ideas we have called "Earth" and Hudson's "Under World" are clear. They are for all practical purposes the same idea. Nevertheless the assigned terms are a potential source of confusion: we tend to see "earth" as a manifestation of this, the present, world; and the term Under World seems to exclude the earth's surface, streams, etc. Whatever term we assign this nexus, however, it should be understood that in the belief systems at hand, the ,,earth's surface and surface water are potential manifestations and symbols not of the immediate world, but of the maleficent world below.

The remainder of the comparison ison a superficial levelmore difficult. While the Chekilli legend offers only one further term (Society), Hudson's model has two (This World and the Upper World). At first glance it might seem that the proper equation is Society with This World, but that is on reflection clearly a mistake; Society in the Chekilli legend is an emergent, positively valued entity, while on the other hand Hudson's This World is characterized as effectively neutral. Rather, the imagery associated with Society (e.g. "white" symbolism, beneficent, positive valuation) are largely equivalent to those ascribed to the Upper World. This is resolved by recognizing that for the purposes of the Chekilli legend, temporal societyhumankind-is assimilated to the Upper World symbolic nexus in order to effectively oppose it to Earth. The assimilation is not absolute: purification and separation from Earth are not completely achieved.

There is in the last analysis no important disjunction between

the two sets of core symbols identified. The Earth:Society opposition,


in terms of underlying imagery, is equivalent to Hudson's Under World: Upper World. Hudson's mediating term, This World, while it is not implied in the Chekilli legend, is logical and probably to be corroborated in the structural analyses of further Southeastern myths.


The most distinctive and archaeologically visible manifestation of Hississippian ritual is platform mound ceremonialism, a feature which in large part serves to define Mississippianism. As will be seen, this important rite of intensification embodies a symbolic foundation entirely compatible with that discovered within the Chekilli legend in the previous chapter.

Mississippian cultures, however, are not the only prehistoric cultures in the Southeastern United States to have used earthen platforms in ritual, and so it is necessary to point out the distinction. Earlier Woodland cultures employed platforms commonly in mortuary ritual, where they are found below conical mounds as repositories for disposing the dead. There are a few instances, generally within the Hopewellian Sphere, of platform mounds used as charnel house substructures. Woodland period substructure mounds for other types of buildings, including residences, appear to be either rare or entirely lacking, one possible exception being Garden Creek Mound #2 near Canton, North Carolina. The latter mound, which bears a radiocarbon date of A.D. 80585 (GXO 593) was built in two stages, with a mass of post molds, pitsand hearths being identified on each surface. The post molds indicate possibly circular buildings on the successive summits. Keel (1972:110) considers Garden Creek Hound #2 to be the earliest true substructure mound in the Southeastern United States. There are possibly analogous situations at such sites as Mandeville (Kellar, Kelly,



and McMichael 1962) and Kolomoki (Sears 1953), but sufficient data are not available to demonstrate the exact nature of the large platforms at these sites.

The class of Mississippian platform mounds may be segregated from these earlier phenomena not only by the contexts of their use, which include a broader spectrum of activities than before, but more significantly in the feature of deliberate ritual rebuilding through the periodic addition of earth mantles. It seems fairly clear that the time depth shown by this feature closely correlates with that of the rise of chiefdom level sociopolitical organizations in the Southeast.

At this point mention ought to be made of potential problems arising in the traditional nomenclature surrounding Mississippian platforms. Largely because of earlier analogies with Mesoamerican pyramids, coming at a time when very little was known about the variability of the Mississippian platform class, there has been a longstanding tendency for investigators to arbitrarily call these mounds "temple mounds". With the extensive excavation of significant numbers of such mounds, however, beginning in the 1930's, it has become increasingly apparent that true "temple" substructures are not the most common type of Mississippian platform. It seems preferable to drop this appellation entirely as it applies to the whole class as defined by their form and rebuilt nature, in favor of simply, "Mississippian platform mounds". Secondarily, as data are available pertaining to the specific social context or contexts in which the platforms primarily functioned, this information may be used to classify varieties. Minimally, there are the following types


1. Semi-public chief's house platforms (e.g. Mound B at the Cemochechobee site) (Schnell, Knightand Schnell 1979).

2. Public temple platforms (e.g. Mound C, the Fatherland site) (Neitzel


3. Mortuary platforms (e.g. the Funeral Mound, Ocmulgee National

Monument) (Fairbanks 1956).

4. Charnel house platforms (e.g. the Craig Mound, the Spiro site)

(Brown 1966).

5. Earth lodge-town house platforms (in the South Appalachian

Mississippian area, e.g. the Coweta Creek Mound) (Ferguson 1971).

6. Residence platforms (see e.g. Kelly 1938:46).

7. Square ground and rotunda platforms (documented in Bartram 1909).

8. Dance platforms (Swanton 1928c, 1932).

These platform types are not immutable nor are they particularly coherent classes as regards form. At the Spiro site in the Fort Coffee area of Eastern Oklahoma, a charnel house platform mound is capped by a conventional 'Woodland" conical burial mound. At the same site, residences without substructures are similarly capped by conical mounds, reportedly a common occurrence in the Caddoan area (Brown 1966:118). In this instance, we see burial symbolism alternating between conical and platform mound types. In other cases, it can be demonstrated that Mississippian platform mounds served as substructures for buildings

which obviously had different functions, either sequentially or at the same time. The large mound at Hiwassee Island in the Tennessee Valley, for example, supported both quadrilateral "town house" type structures, and circular "rotundas" (Lewis and Kneberg 1946). The same may be said of Mound B at the Cemochechobee site on the Chattahoochee River,


where a single mound stage supported three contemporaneous buildings, each of different form (Schnell, Knight, and Schnell 1979). Finally, it must be noted that a common feature of substructure mounds which otherwise fall into one or another of the categories listed above, is the occurrence of mound stages which lack structures altogether.

All of this suggests that while the variability among Mississippian platform mounds is largely a function of contexts of use, these uses 11were not always completely stable through time. 'Thus a mound supporting a chief's house, under changed circumstances could have mortuary uses. But underlying the various social subsystems which defined particular uses of platform mounds, and giving the class coherence in this diversity of uses, is a deeper level of symbolism which crosscut these uses. This in large degree accounts for the formal outward similarity among Nississippian mounds which initially led to their being incorrectly ascribed similar functions.

We must now proceed to define the nature of this underlying

symbolism, keeping at hand the core symbols and relations discovered in the Chekilli myth.. First, the proposition will be introduced that the platform is a symbol for Earth, one of the two principal terms. Mississippian earth platforms are particularly suitable for use as such symbols. First of all, they are with few exceptions quadrilateral in form and flat on top. The four sides, thencorrespond to the fourworld-quarters concept in Southeastern Indian cosmology, a concept which finds prehistoric expression as the cross symbol in the r1ississippian Southeastern Ceremonial Complex. And as the surface of the earth is flat, so is the surface of the platform mound. As a symbol,


platform mounds might reach appropriately imposing scales, but they remained, importantly, manipulable. Their size, orientation, the nature of their summit features, and their use could all be changed. The efforts of Society to manipulate the platform, that is to manipulate Earth, represent the same theme seen in the Chekilli legend: the attempt to control, defeat, or remove Earth from Society, as Society aspires to purification.

The identification of platform mounds with Earth and the Under

World makes comprehensible the report by Schoolcraft's informant (1853

(1):311) that the Chickasaw referred to mounds as "navels". "They thought that the Mississippi was the center of the earth, and those mounds were as the navel of a man in the center of his body." Our use

of the term "earth" in Engl ish to mean both 'the-world" and "dirt" obscures the fact that there is no necessary connection between the two concepts. Thus a Muskogee term for "mound", ekun-hu'Zwuce_ ("the earth raised in the air") probably refers not to the piling up of dirt but to the symbolic affinity of the artificial mound with Earth. Similarly Choctaw terms used in reference to artificial mounds (bokko, nanih) refer equally to hills or mountains, again apparently emphasizing Earth relationships rather than the cultural character of the constructions.

One poorly documented but apparently widespread mode of platform modification was change in orientation through time. This can be documented for a number of reported Mississippian mounds: Cemochechobee Mound B (Schnell, Knight, and Schnell 1979), Angel Mound F (Black 1967), the Jewel site "Area B" (Hanson 1970), and probably the Sixtoe Mound (Kelly et al.. n.d.). In general, these changes in orientation from one stage to the next are slight, and they correspond with changes in


superstructure orientation.

While these orientations undoubtedly had meaning, this meaning is not always clear. At a number of sites, there is a definite tendency to orient structures and mounds to the cardinal points. However, Reed (1969), in a survey of Mississippian mound centers, concludes that the orientation of major river courses adjacent to sites was as much a determinant as any other factor. At the Cemochechobee site in Georgia, the orientation of Mound B fluctuated between 70 0 and 78 0 east of north, with alignments generally corresponding to various sunrise positions from April to August. In the latter case, it may be that each new construction project was oriented with respect to a current sunrise position during the summer ceremonial season. The affected alignments included all structures located within the Nuclear Zone, or ceremonial/ administrative nucleus of the site.

Although it has at times been conjectured that certain alignments at Mississippian sites have solstitial or equinoctial significance, there have not been,in my opinion, any convincing arguments in support of this case to date. It must be remembered in light of the above that the orientation of an unexcavated mound only represents its terminal orientation, and this may not correspond favorably with earlier mound facings.

The defining mode of Mississippian platform modification is symbolic "burial" by the addition of mantles. And given that the

platform is a symbol for Earth, this burial is a symbolic defeat of Earth. By periodically renewing an old, mana-laden platform by completely covering it up, a separation is achieved in time and space from potentially "dangerous" spiritualized entities.



C.-r Pw,

Plo. Z- Old '.11 U

B.M1.,- 1960


There are essentially two kinds of platform mantles: blanket mantles and substructural mantles. Blanket mantles are generally thin coats

of earth, sometimes only a few centimeters thick, which completely cover an old construction. They usually bear no summit features, their summits perhaps being left idle for years at a time. This type of mantle most clearly portrays Earth-burial symbolism.

The second type of mantle is not a separate idea, but is rather an elaboration on the simple blanket mantle concept. This is the substructural mantle. It likewise covers all prior constructions, but is further modified to receive a specific number and type of summit structures. Unlike blanket mantles, whose edges, slopes, and flat summit may be


softened or dulled with respect to an ideal geometric form, substructural mantles are generally very regular. They may be very thick, and it is this type of mantle which constitutes much of the volume of many Mississippian mounds.

The possibility of combination of these mantle types within single

mounds may be illustrated by the sequence shown in Mound B at the Cemochechobee site. The initial construction, Stage BI, was a low

platform of the substructural type housing a structure classified as an elite domestic residence. This was followed in sequence by an interrupted blanket mantle, Stage lII, upon which an irregular, perhaps temporary, building stood. Next came two blanket mantles, Stages BIII and BIV, followed by three successive substructural mantles, Stages BV, BVI, and BVII. Finally, the mound was capped by a succession of three blanket mantles, Stages BVIII, SIX, AND BX. Thus while Mound B at the Cemochechobee site generally served as a foundation for semi-public chief's house type buildings, there were several distinct intervals in its history where the summit lay bare of any structure.

This alternation of mantle types may be contrasted with other Mississippian mounds, for example the large mound at Hiwassee Island on the Tennessee River, where each of the successive mantles seems to be of the substructural type. Nevertheless, the burial symbolism is in each case maintained. Lewis and Kneberg note,

The fiwassee Island Focus method of rebuilding the foundation
o f public buildings suggests, even more clearly than the
Dallas culture, that it was done with the intention of
renewing the area completely and to cover all evidence of the former architecture. Frequently a new summit barely exceeded
in height the highest remaining feature of the previous
level and in some instances entirely serviceable clay stairways
and platform-is were covered by only a few inches of newly
added clay (1941:22-23).


There is some evidence at the Cemochechobee site that the planned

abandonment of mounds followed a stereotyped pattern of blanket mantle addition in the form of a clay cap. Both the mortuary platform mound (Mound A) and the substructure mound (Mound B) exhibited identical terminal caps consisting of a thick coat of clay overlain by a layer of brown sand. Both of these final caps lacked any evidence of summit features. Correspondingly, there are a number of other reported instances of terminal clay caps on Hississippian platform mounds, all lacking evidence of final structures. This pattern, and the symbolism of the blanket mantle concept, suggest that the planned obsolescence of such mounds required a final ritual burial of the mound itself.

Plow it is recalled that the symbolic separation of Society and Earth, which mound ceremonialism ritually accomplishes, ought to be accompanied by some sort of sacrificial mediation, in order to be complete and yet to preserve the beneficial Earth ties necessary for survival. Appropriately the earth (dirt) generally used to construct mantles is not ordinary, unadulterated earth but instead village midden. It is earth full of cultural debris, and is therefore in a sense "compromised earth", belonging fully neither to the realm of Society nor to Earth. It might be suggested, then, that it is this compromised earth which fulfills the mediating role taken by the motherless children or the false wife discovered earlier in myth.

While this may sound far-fetched, there is little doubt that the use of village midden in mound construction as opposed to "clean" mined earth is deliberate in most cases. There is a corollary: borrow pits will always be located within village boundaries. Sometimes the effort to use compromised earth seems exaggerated. For example, the Stage BIIa


construction in Mound B at the Cemochechobee site consisted largely of redeposited hearth ashes, recalling the mound of hearth ashes gathered from busk fires at the Creek Tuckabatchee town (Swanton 1932). In the same construction stage at Cemochechobee were piles of burned daub and other remains of what appeared to be a house burned elsewhere in the village, the debris of which was added to the mound as fill.

Generally, the ritual of platform mantle addition which characterizes Mississippian mound ceremonialism, in its effort to purge Society of undesirable Earth powers, suggests a number of symbolic oppositions, which can be grouped into three categories. Time Relationships Space Relationships Quality Relationships

present:past2. surface:subsurface clean:unclean (dirty)

(unburied:buried) (pure:impure)

close:distant life:death


The significant metaphors move between these columns. Of the spatial relationships, which find direct expression along the vertical axis of the platform mound, it follows that the depth of burial, that is, the thickness of the mantle, is related to the relative need for thorough purification.

Having intimated that there is a connection between "compromised earth" and the accumulation of undesirable mana, we find that platform mound ceremonialism is symbolically related to those rites of intensification worldwide which employ a scapegoat as an embodimentt of spiritual ills. Such rites were early recognized as a class by Sir James G. Frazer, who devoted a volume to the subject as a part of his lengthy work, The Golden Bough (1913). These are, on the whole, aspects of


"rites of separation" in Van Gennep's (1960) framework, on a community scale. They are characterized by a periodic transfer of accumulated Itevil" to a publicly designated object, which is frequently an animal or human, but may also be inanimate.

In the present case, the role of the scapegoat is taken by the

inanimate platform, and the "compromised earth" which constitutes it is the material symbolically invested with undesirable Earth powers. Purification is achieved by periodically removing this dirt from the village, the realm of Society, and burying it at a place symbolizing Earth.

This kind of behavior may be further illustrated by comparison with an ethnographic example. Selected from among those cited by Frazer is an account of ritual purging of a community among the Hos of West Africa (Frazer 1913:134-136). This annual ceremony is initiated by the chiefs, who summon the priests and shamans to direct the event. The latter create bundles consisting of poles to which leaves of a certain tree are bound by vines. These bundles are then coated by a paste made from ashes, and the priests pray "that all the ills of the town may pass into the bundle and be bound". The bundles are then thrown on the ground, where they are mocked by the community at large. After this, the bundles supposed to contain all the community evils are removed from town and are set up along various roads. Next comes a ritual facewashing by the entire populace, using medicines prepared by the elders.

All of the houses and surrounding yards are then thoroughly swept out, with the refuse being cast out of town. This portion of the ritual is completed by binding an animal scapegoat, a toad, to a palm leaf and dragging it through the town in the direction of a certain sacred


mountain n. This purging accomplished, the priests announce that they will proceed to remove all sickness from the community. They institute a temporary taboo against lighting fires or eating for one night, and the next morning the houses are again swept clean, with the dirt and hearth ashes deposited on broken wooden plates. The participants then dress themselves in torn mats or worn-out clothing, and upon the announcement of a priest, they shout and run out of town toward the sacred mountain. Upon reaching a specified tree near there, they deposit the refuse they had brought, saying "Out today! Out today! That which kills anybody, out today! You evil spirits, out-today! and all that causes our heads to ache, out today! Aulo and Adaklu [the sacred mountain] are the places where all ill shall betake itself!" They then return home and again wash themselves with a ritual medicine, and prepare for the harvest feast.

While these sketchy details do not allow a detailed symbolic

analysis, certain features can be recognized. Both animate and inanimate scapegoats are repeatedly used in the purification, and twice the village is cleansed of "contaminated" earth along with other used or worn out objects.

The sweeping out of contaminated or polluted earth is parallel to the early historic Creek preparation of the village and square ground for the annual busk ceremony. Adair describes how the square ground was swept out and cleared "of every supposed polluting thing", with the hearth ashes carefully removed and carried out (Adair 1930:106). Preparations on the household level are particularly noted by Bartram, who says of the Creeks of Atasi, that "having previously provided themselves with new cloatH s, new pots, pans, aM other household


utensils and furniture, they collect all their worn out clothes and other despicable things, sweep and cleanse their houses, squares, and the whole town, of their filth, which with all the remaining grain and other old provisions, they cast together in one common heap, and consume it with fire" (Harper 1958:323). Milfort adds that the women break and shatter everything that makes up their household goods and furnish their homes anew (Milfort 1959:98). In this case, noting the Earth symbolism involved, earthenware ends its utilitarian lifetime by being treated literally as Earthen-ware, that is, culturally modified Earth (clay).

Turning to the social contexts of platform mound ceremonialism, it will be recalled that both Swanton and W.,aring surmised a functional equivalence with the Creek busk, or annual harvest ceremony. In the terminology we shall adopt, they were suggesting that such ceremonies constituted rites of intensification.

The term, "rite of intensification,"was originally proposed by

Chapple and Coon in their textbook, Principles of Anthropology (1942). The concept was formulated to distinguish calendrical community focused rituals from ordinary rites of passage which generally have individuals or small groups as their subjects. Arnold Van Gennep, in his early work, The Rites off Passage (1960), had not made a clear distinction between the two types of ritual, preferring to concentrate on their structure rather than on their organizational contexts. And structurally, rites of passage and rites of intensification are very similar, sharing a common diachronic formula. They begin with rites of separation, designed to remove the subject or subjects symbolically from the influence of a past condition. Following the rite of separation is a


period of transition which is characterized by role reversal and humility. Turner calls this generalized condition '"communitast (Turner 1969). The third and final phase is one of reaggregation, in which the new status of the subject or subjects is affirmed. The primary distinction, then, between rites of passage and rites of intensification is not one of differing structure but one of differing goals. Rites of passage are intended to solve problems of status transition arising from the social growth of individuals, whereas rites of intensification are directed toward communicating solutions to the cosmological problem of the difference between one segment of the ritual calendar and the next. These goals may in practice overlap, making the boundary between the two types occasionally fuzzy.

The concept of rites of intensification has found little exposure in the archaeological literature, but Robert Wauchope may be credited with an attempt at using it in his analysis of the Mayan remains at Zacualpa, Guatemala (1948). Wauchope tried to interpret ritual features at this site in terms of archaeologically represented rites of passage (e.g. burials) and probable rites of intensification (e.g. large architectural features which suggested community involvement in ritual).

Platform mound construction, requiring periodic intensive community involvement, is thus comfortably accommodated by the concept of rites of intensification. But just as obviously, Mississippian platform mound construction differs from the historic Southeastern green corn ceremonies in not being annual activity. Apparently spans of several years, probably decades, separate construction levels in Mississippian mounds. At the Cemochechobee site in southwest Georgia, by dividing the estimated duration for the site based on radiocarbon dates by the number


of construction stages, the resulting figure is an average of L01 to 24 years between constructions. It seems that these rites of intensification were, initially at least, non-calendrical, being instead initiated by crisis situations resulting from the buildup of dangerous mana and the increasing need for ritual purging over a space of several years.

In identifying platform mound ceremonialism as a rite of intensification, we may look for archaeological correlates of the three phases: separation, transition, and reaggregation. In general, mantle addition itself is a rite of separation; it serves to symbolically separate through burial. Mantle addition may in some cases be preceded. by the deliberate destruction of a superstructure. This may be regarded as yet another manifestation of separation. We have no evidence of transitional rites following mantle addition, but we may suppose that such rites existed which did not leave archaeological evidence. Reaggregation is suggested by the occasional rebuilding of summit features in the location of former summit features, and the whole construction was perhaps rededicated with some concluding ceremony.

In terms of the "cult institutions" mentioned earlier as responsible for different organizational classes of ritual, we may surmise that the type involved here may be identified, using Wallace's classification as "communal". That is, these rites were community sponsored and actively participated in by the lay public, although specialists were responsible for making the arrangements (Wallace 1966:86-87). It was the community as a whole, rather than some more particular or specialized groupwhich was the subject of the rite.

The periodicity seen in platform mound ceremonialism presupposes

an oscillating view of ritual time, rather than one based on a model of


natural growth and aging or on "progress". Leach (1961) has described such a system, in which time is represented by ritual actors moving back and forth between two conceptual poles. The poles are represented metaphorically by arbitrary markers in time. In the case of platform mound ceremonialism, the subject (the community) oscillates between relative Earth pollution (the situation before the rite of intensification) and the relative purity (the situation after the rite of intensification). The rite itself, then, serves as a boundary marking a change of status for the community with respect to the Earth:Society scale. It emphasizes a transition between a relatively profane and a relatively sacred state.

Beyond saying that the entire community was probably involved

in Mississippian platform mound ceremonialism, including mantle addition, there is some evidence pointing to the type of labor organization involved in the mound building projects. Returning once again to the Cemochechabee site in southwest Georgia for an illustration, we note that there seem to be two kinds of mound fill represented in Mound A. These two kinds are exemplified by Stages AII and (later) Stage AIII. The AII mantle is described as a very homogeneous zone within Mound A, consisting of dark brown sand mottled with pale sand (Schnell, Knight, and Schnell 1979:98). The estimated fill volume is 147.6m 3 (ibid:45), and the fill appears to have come from a single source. This is in marked contrast to the overlying Stage AIII mantle. The latter is described as composed of variegated fills from many sources, including sands and clayey sands arranged throughout the zone in large distinct lenses. Each of these lenses represents an estimated two to three cubic. meters of fill, that is, each apparently consists of a number


of concurrent basket loads from the same source (ibid:103-104). Stage AIII as a whole had an estimated fill volume of 279.7m 3 (ibid:45). The variety of fills within this mantle suggests that the soil was brought from many areas within the site, some at a considerable distance from the mound.

In the case of the homogeneous mantle, it is possible that a fulltime, organized labor crew recruited from the community is responsible, whereas for the variegated mantle, some sort of kin-based quota system may be proposed as plausible, with each unit bringing some amount of earth from various areas within the site until the mantle was completed. Such an organization could easily account for the mantle within the time from a single ceremonial season.

It will be appropriate to conclude this chapter by quoting from the Choctaw migration myth recorded by Gideon Lincecum (1904). The Lincecum myth, which details the supposed emigration of the Choctaws to the site of Nanih Waiya in the state of Mississippi, also contains a prescription for the erection of a mortuary platform mound. This platform was built, as the myth tells it, to rid the nation of an "oppressive" and "evil" accumulation of ancestral skeletons which had been carried along with the people on their journey. The relevant passages are as follows.

"Men were then appointed to select an appropriate place for the mound to be erected on, and to direct the work while in progress. They selected a level piece of sandy land, not far from the middle creek; laid it off in an oblong square and raised the foundation, by piling up earth which they dug up some distance to the north of the foundation. It was raised and made level as high as a man's head and beat down very


hard. It was then floored with cypress bark before the work of placing the sacks of bones commenced. The people gladly brought forward and deposited their bones until there were none left. The bones, of themselves, had built up an immense mound. They brought the cypress bark, which was neatly placed on, till the bone sacks were all closely covered in, as dry as a tent. While the tool carriers were working with the bark, women and children and all the men, except the hunters, carried earth continually, until the bark was all covered from sight constituting a mound half as high as the tallest forest tree.

"The minko [chief] kindled the council fire, and, calling an

assembly of the people, told them that the work on the great monumental grave had been prosecuted with skill and wonderful industry. He said that the respect which they had already manifested for the deceased relatives was very great; that notwithstanding the bones were already deeply and securely covered up, the work was not yet completed. Yet it was sufficiently so to allow them to suspend operations for a season-Then, after the corn is grown and the new corn feast and dance is celebrated and over, the nation can again prosecute the work on the mound, and so on, from year to year, until the top of the great grave of the dead nation shall be as high as the tallest forest tree. And it shall be made level on the top as much as sixty steps (halbi) in length, and thirty steps in width, all beat down hard, and planted thick with acorns, nuts, and pine seeds. 'Remember my words',' said the chief, 'and finish the work accordingly. Now go and prepare for winter'.

"The amount of ground necessary to plant what corn they had was small, and was soon planted. Then having nothing else to be working at, a thoughtful old man, pointing to the great unfinished mound


(yokni chishinto) said, 'the weather is cool and pleasant, and the grave of your dead kindred is only half as high as a tall tree". Taking the timely suggestion of the man, thousands went to work, carrying dirt to the great mound at any time they were not engaged at work in their domestic vocations.

"Years rolled round; the work on the mound was regularly prosecuted; and at the eighth green corn dance celebrated at Nunih Waya, the committee who had been appointed at the commencement, reported to the assembled multitude that the work was completed and the mound planted with the seeds of the forest trees, in accordance with the plan and direction of the minko, at the beginning of the work.

"The minko then instructed the good old Lopina, who had carried

it so many years, to take the golden sun to the top of the great mound and plant it in the center of the level top.

"The feast and dance, as was the custom, continued five days. After this, in place of the long feast, the minko directed that, as a mark of respect due to the fathers and mothers and brothers and sisters, for whom they had with so much labor prepared such a beautiful and wonderfully high monumental grave, each iska should come to the mound and, setting up an ornamental pole for each clan, hold a solemn cry a whole moon. Then, to appease the restless spirits of the deceased nation and satisfy all the men and women with what they had done with the sacred relics of their dead, the Choctaws held a grand and joyous national dance and feast of two days. And returning to their tents, they remembered their grief no more" (Lincecum 1904:529-532).


Having considered the symbolic dimension of platform mound renewal, the broader pattern of deliberate change in public ritual "stages" of which it is a part may now be examined. It will be found that, for a given Mississippian community, the ceremonial nucleus is made up of a number of distinct structural elements, and that periodic change is manifested through recombination of these elements in space. One example will be considered in detail, and then the significance of this

kind of pattern as it contrasts to the broad, normnative shifts to which archaeologists are more accustomed will be discussed.

Selected for particular attention will be the Cemochechobee site,

previously referred to briefly. Cernochechobee is located in Clay County, southwest Georgia, on the lower Chattahoochee River. The component of interest here is assignable to the Rood phase, an Early Mississippian construct for the lower Chattahoochee Valley which is dated at approximately A.D. 900 to A.D. 1400. The Cemochechobee site bears 18 radiocarbon dates which place it firmly between A.D. 900 and A.D. 1350, thus spanning most of the range estimated for the phase.

The site, discovered in 1974, was investigated during 1977-1978 by the Columbus Museum of Arts and Sciences, Inc., under contract to the U. S. Corps of Engineers, Mobile Districtand to the Heritage Conservation and Recreation Service, U. S. Department of the Interior. The data herein referred to are largely contained in the unpublished report entitled "Cemochechobee: Archeological Investigations at the Walter



F. George Dam Mound Site, 9Cla62, Clay County, Georgia" (Schnell, Knight, and Schnell 1979). That report contains a more detailed account of the sequence reported in condensed form in the following pages, and includes justifying remarks for many of the generalizations presented here. The author of the present study served as Field Archaeologist for the project.

The Rood phase is poorly known, but evidence suggests that within the Rood phase sphere, Cemochechobee was one of a string of minor ceremonial centers in the Chattahoochee Valley stretching from about Eufaula, Alabama, south to Columbia, Alabama. Each of these minor centers has one to three platform mounds. There are two major, multiple mound ceremonial centers assignable largely to the Rood phase,* neither of which has been intensively investigated. Both are in Stewart County, Georgia. One is the Rood's Landing site, briefly excavated by Joseph R. Caldwell (1955); the other is the Singer-Moye site, tested by the Columbus Museum from 1967 to 1971 (Knight 1979).

While classified as a second-order site, Cemochechobee is nevertheless large, with evidence of occupation covering approximately 61 hectares of Chattahoochee Valley floodplain near Fort Gaines, Georgia. Not all of this area was necessarily occupied at the same time, but the expanse and density of Village debris nevertheless suggests a permanent community of substantial size. Unfortunately very little of this area has been tested archaeologically, and much of it is now destroyed.

The Columbus Museum excavations at Cemochechobee centered on a

small area of the site termned the Nuclear Zone. The Zone is dominated by three platform mounds, designated A, B, and C, and was apparently the ceremonial nucleus of the community and the place of residence of


its administrative body. Extensive excavations within the Nuclear Zone revealed a stratigraphic sequence of 19 discrete stages of rebuilding and reorganization. Four of these stages occurred prior to any mound building within the Nuclear Zone, and the remaining 15 involved the addition of mound mantles.

Within the premound midden zone found beneath Mounds A and B, an

Early Premound construction stage could be distinguished, consisting of a number of features all intruded by features of the next stage. Central to this group of features was a large post foundation, equipped with a slide trench to one side, extending down into the basal clay substrate at the site. Evidently this area was at one time dominated by a large, upright isolated pole.

Substantial isolated post pits of this sort are known from other Mississippian sites, associated with mound and plaza groups. Below Mound 72 at the Cahokia site in Illinois, Fowler reports a large post foundation reinforced with horizontal log cribbing. He interprets the former large pole as a marker for the north-south axis of the Cahokia site (1969:19). A similar large post foundation pit was discovered in the central plaza area of the Mitchell site, also located in the American Bottoms area immediately north of Cahokia. Within this post pit the lower portion of a 3 --foot in diameter bald cypress log was recovered. It is interpreted as being the central pole for the Mitchell site (Porter 1969:143). At Ocmulgee National Monument in central Georgia, the excavation of the "Funeral Mound" revealed another isolated large post foundation. This was found on the summit of the primary mound (Fairbanks 1956:24).


The most obvious historic analogs for these prehistoric features are the widespread large poles reported within towns for several Southeastern Indian groups. These large poles were most commonly observed in historic times to be associated with the "single pole ball game". The game involved two teams, generally among the Creeks men versus women, and the object was to strike a target placed atop the pole using a ball (Swanton 1946:681-682).

There is reason to believe, however, that the full symbolic

significance of the upright pole among the Southeastern Indians goes- well beyond its use in the single pole ball game. For one thing, the pole and its surrounding area, the latter ritually swept of surface debris, constituted one of the three principal units of each Creek ceremonial ground, a sacred context apparently out of proportion to the relatively simple significance of the ball game. Swanton notes provocatively that on occasion the actual games were not played around this sanctified pole, but elsewhere at a second pole apart from the ceremonial grounds (1946:682). Further, there are a number of other contexts in which upright poles play a significant part in Southeastern ethnohistory and folklore. We have already seen that in the Choctaw migration myth furnished by Lincecum, an upright pole serves as an Earth symbol. In the same myth, as in other Southeastern migration myths, an upright pole serves a kind of oracular function, magically determining by the direction it leans the route to be followed by the migrating group. Again in the Lincecum myth cited earlier we find reference to upright poles serving as clan symbols. Finally, Bartram has furnished a plan of an "early"

chunky yard which illustrates two "slave posts" in addition to a central pole, which interestingly is situated upona low platform mound (Bartram 1909).


In light of the various historical and folkloric references to upright ceremonial poles put to other uses than for the single pole ball game, it is doubtful that the Mississippian examples at Cemochechobee, Cahokia, and other sites can be interpreted as ball poles. And in some cases, as at Cahokia Mound 72 and at the Ocmulgee Funeral Mound, the location of the large post pits with respect to other features argues forcefully against such as assignment.

On the other hand, we must not ignore the possibility of a symbolic continuity for upright poles from prehistoric to historic times. It is distinctly possible that all of these ceremonial uses for upright poles are related to the very widespread cosmological "world tree" complex (Lankford 1975: passim .

Surrounding the central post foundation of the Early Premound

stage at Cemochechobee were a number of other features. Two of these were small pits. One of them contained only a few sherds, but the other yielded an interesting collection of items which set it apart from the abundant refuse pits found in later stages. These items were a fragment of sandstone, several lumps of white micaceous clay, several sherds, and what appeared to be a fragment of a soft fired figurine. These items suggest a ritual context, perhaps a deliberately buried sample of raw materials. Two other features near the central post pit were large pits with similar contents. The upper pit fill of each was nearly sterile, suggesting that they had been dug and immediately filled in again with sterile excavated sand. Near the bottom of each pit was a deposit of ashes. Adjacent to the ash deposit in one of the pits was a very large upturned clam valve. These two pits suggest a ritual burial of hearth ashes, and the clam valve perhaps contained


some prepared "medicine" included as an offering.

The contemporaneity of this cluster of features, which in general

hint at ritual rather than common domestic activity, with other features within the premound zone could not be demonstrated with certainty. However, there was one set of premound features, consisting of parallel wall trenches, which could not be correlated with any of the other premound stages and which therefore are likely candidates for an Early Premound assignment. One of these features was a fragment of a wall trench located approximately 15m to the north of the large post foundation. Two other trenches, parallel to this trench and to each other, formed a dual partition to the south of the feature cluster. Apparently none of these trenches were portions of house walls, and together they suggest a walled ceremonial area, 26m in diameter, in which the large pole stood as the central feature.

As this arrangement was dismantled, a new enclosure took its place, defining the second construction stage. This is called the Premound Precinct Complex (Figure 6), because it is during this stage that the division of the Nuclear -Zone into two functional parts is first defined. Throughout the subsequent history of the Zone, the southern half was reserved exclusively for mortuary ritual, while the northern half admitted a number of more secular structures including probable chief's houses, special purpose buildings, and ceremonial enclosures.

The central feature of the Premound Precinct Complex was an openair, puddled clay hearth with a raised rim. This hearth served as the boundary between the northern and southern precincts, and marked the center of a boundary zone between the two. This boundary zone was 6m wide from north to south, in which there were no other constructions.



1000- Bo.-- 2B, : : o

327 Bu B26 ~28 --1

994 __ - -k

991- .


988- GN1

985- 9 CIA 620 20 30 40 L
FIG. 6 17f.

N 991 994 997 1000 1003 1006 1009 1012 1015 1018 1021 1024 1027 1030 1033 1036



Adjacent to and associated with this hearth was an isolated, unique burial. It was placed in a deep, rectangular tomb east of the hearth within the boundary zone. The remains were those of an adult male, fully extended on the back with the head to the east. In his right hand was a long, greenstone 'pole spud", probably a rank symbol representing a stylized, sociotechnic war axe. There were no other grave associations except for a small fragment of sheet copper. The burial had been covered in the tomb by four or five logs or bark strips placed lengthwise, and then filled in with soil.

Immediately to the north of the boundary zone was a walled

rectangular compound. The eastern and western walls of this compound were set in deep, narrow wall trenches, while the southern wall, facing the boundary zone, consisted of individually set posts chinked with red clay. A gap in the center of this wall indicates an entrance facing the open-air hearth. The northern wall of this compound was beyond the limits of the excavation. Within this compound were a number of partitions, or baffles, set perpendicular to the east and west walls. While there is no direct artifactual evidence in support of a functional assignment for the compound, its form and superimposition on the Early

Premound features strongly suggest that it served as a bounded public ceremonial area, perhaps reserved for dances and games. Both this compound and its Early Premound predecessor are best interpreted as analogous to the historically recorded "chunkey yards" of the Creeks, and they apparently constitute an important structural component of the Cemochechobee Nuclear Zone.


To the south of the central boundary zone, opposite the northern compound, were two structures of comparable size. One of these was a wall trench structure with eight central roof supports and an offset hearth. Its most notable attribute was an almost total lack of floor debris, in sharp contrast to most of the other quadrilateral structures at the site. It cannot therefore be interpreted as a domicile, and it must have had some special mortuary use in which the floor area was kept free of any debris.

The adjacent mortuary structure was of single post construction with two probable central roof supports, and a possible narrow porchlike structure to the north. Beneath the floor of the mortuary were 13 burials.

Two classes of burials were recognized from the mortuary floor area. The first class consisted of primary and secondary interfilents of adults, placed in deep rectangular tombs oriented with the cardinal directions. The second class, consisting of child and adolescent burials, was spatially segregated in the area near the western wall. These secondary remains were placed in both deep and shallow oval graves. Both classes of burials received grave goods, including exotic items made of raw materials foreign to the site area. These included artifacts of marine shell, greenstone celts, and a copper "arrowhead" headdress. Deposits of pottery vessels were found in five instances. If these remains may be attributed to an elite group meriting deposition in the mortuary, as seems likely, then it is apparent that membership in this group was ascribed rather than achieved, since all age groups are represented. This is to be expected in a ranked social system, characteristic of Mississippian societies, and probably in this case it


is the chiefly clan which received mortuary burial.

South of the mortuary and its adjacent building was a final feature assignable to this stage. This was a wall trench bounded by isolated posts, running east-west. With respect to the overall Premound Precinct Complex arrangement, this wall trench seems to have formed part of the southern boundary of the mortuary precinct.

Following the dismantling of the structures just described, there was a functional shift within the northern precinct, which until this time had been the locus for a public ceremonial area. It now became the site of an elite domicile, Structure 7, and together with the features accompanying this building, the stage is called the Structure 7 Complex.

Structure 7 was a rectangular building, with walls set in very

shallow trenches. There was a suggestion of corner entrances. The interior contained twin hearths, both of which, along with the floor area, contained abundant evidence of plant and animal food remains. The western wall of Structure 7, unlike the other three walls, consisted of widely spaced posts, and to the rear of the building was another post mold alignment indicating an auxiliary rear chamber or narrow room.

The unprepared floor of this structure was littered with debris,

indicating a domestic use. Along with the standard utilitarian pottery fragments, there were fragments of "special" ceramic wares including decorated beaker and bottle sherds. Other artifacts thought to be associated with the floor area included several elbow pipe fragments, a small number of chert retouch flakes, a piece of unworked mica, and an unmodified fossil shark tooth. Of particular interest in the northern half of the floor area was evidence of the manufacture of marine shell artifacts, including scraps of unworked whelk shell, cut


columellae, an unfinished columella bead, and a fragmentary shell disk. The location of Structure 7 within the Nuclear Zone at Cemochechobee, and the kind of remains found associated with it, argue for its assignment to a class of elite, possibly chiefly residences at the site. These buildings are characterized by a combination of domestic debris, such as plant and animal food remains and utilitarian pottery, and specialized remains such as fine decorated ceramic wares, non-local objects such as marine shell, and other artifacts suggestive of possible status differentiation.

Flanking Structure 7 to the north and south were free-standing

partition walls, set in narrow wall trenches. These two screens would have shielded the structure from view except from the east, since the back of the building abutted the bluff of the Chattahoochee River. To the north, south, and east of Structure 7 were a series of 13 shallow refuse pits containing miscellaneous domestic debris generally including fish bone and ceramic sherds.

Replacing this elite domicile in the northern precinct was a series of circular structures similar to circular structures encountered at other Early Mississippian sites such as Hiwassee Island and Bessemer. These structures are perhaps analogous to the Creek tckofa, or ceremonial council chamber.

There were three such structures identified in the premound zone. Although none of the post mold patterns were complete due to erosion of the bluff on the western side, enough remained to indicate that each pattern formed a true compass circle, with small posts individually set and closely spaced. The largest of these three buildings was 8.96m in diameter, while the smallest measured 6.10m. The only structure whose


axial point survived erosion appears curiously not to have had a central hearth. Unlike the Creek tckofa, which had a cone-shaped roof, the circular structures at Cemochechobee were probably dome-shaped, employing a bent pole framework. The floors of each of the structures were not well defined. One case of post mold intrusion showed that one of the three buildings was a replacement for an earlier circular structure, and it is likely that the three were sequentially constructed.

It is clear that the replacement of Structure 7 by a series of buildings probably having non-residential use, perhaps as council chambers akin to the well-known Macon earth lodge at Ocmulgee National Monument, represents a significant rearrangement of the northern precinct. That the domicile may have been shifted to the north at this time is indicated by two segments of linear wall trenches discovered in the area directly north of the circular structures. These were located in a test trench and it was not possible to follow them out. These are possibly contemporaneous with the circular structures.

Shifting attention to the southern, or mortuary precinct, the

stratigraphic sequence again reveals modification. The first identifiable construction following the dismantling of the mortuary and its adjacent building was the addition of a low blanket mantle designated Stage Al. This was the first mound building effort at Cemochechobee. It was a low, rectangular platform, of yellow sand, designed apparently to completely cover the site of the old mortuary.

Although there was no building on the summit of the platform, there were four identifiable summit features and an isolated burial. Near the center of the summit was a well-defined hearth. Offset to one side was a large, deeply excavated pit intrusive from the summit which, however,


was apparently empty. Near the southern and western crests of the platform were two probable ritual deposits of pottery. One deposit consisted of a broken, double-spouted vessel accompanied by sherds of an incised bottle which showed an interior coat of red ochre. The other deposit consisted of an effigy adorno bowl with the adorno detached and missing. These ceramics were apparently placed as an offering just prior to the burial of the Stage AI mantle.

This "burial" was accomplished by the addition of a second, blanket mantle designated Stage AII. Unlike the earlier platform,

the Stage AII mantle was constructed of mottled dark brown sand, supported around the margins by buttresses of red-orange clay.

There was no summit structure, and no burials are assignable to this stage. Nevertheless, there was evidence of ritual activity in the form of a central hearth and two ritual deposits of pottery placed just prior to the next mantle addition. One of these deposits consisted of 15 plain and incised ceramic beakers, in a compact cluster together with fragments of four large jars. The other consisted of an isolated, unique red filmed jar.

Overlying Stage AII was a third mantle, designated Stage AIII, which approximately doubled the height of Mound A. The fill of this mantle contrasted with that of the earlier zones, being variegated sand and clay collected from a number of source areas. Included within the fill were 17 burials, deposited without pits before and during the time that fill was being added.

These burials contrast with the earlier mortuary burials both in their lack of burial pits and in a general disregard for interment with respect to the cardinal directions, which had been strongly indicated


before. The two groups are comparable, however, in the kind and quantity of grave associations, and in the secondary nature of most of the interments. In both cases the remains seem to have been stored in a charnel facility for some time prior to burial, resulting in a loss of bones. Grave associations included such items as greenstone celts, marine shell beads, a busycon dipper, and various ceramic vessels including two negative painted effigy forms. Judging from the comparability of these grave associations with those of the earlier mortuary, it seems that the same superordinate population is represented in Stage AIII.

Meanwhile, replacing the last circular structure in the northern

precinct, a separate small mound platform was built. This is designated

Stage BI, constituting the beginning construction of Mound B. The platform featured a rectangular, ramp-like projection facing east. On its summit, to the rear of the platform, was a building designated Structure 6. It featured a well defined floor area, a central hearth, and scattered interior posts. Unlike the remainder of the buildings at Cemochechobee, however, no clear pattern of wall posts could be defined. Floor associations included abundant ceramic sherds, animal bone, mussel shell, a greenstone celt and a greenstone pin, collectively allowing an interpretation of the building as a domicile. Its presence on a mound platform and the occurrence of "special" ceramic wares among the associated summit remains indicate that, like earlier Structure 7, the building must have housed individuals of relatively high prestige in

the community.

Associated with Stage BI on the basis of its alignment was a

rectilinear pattern of post molds north of the platform. Most of this


pattern had been lost to erosion and its significance could not be determined. Within its limits was found an isolated child burial.

The next addition to Mound B consisted of a blanket mantle combined with a horizontal extension to the east. This stage is designated BII. On the summit was a small, simple structure with a central hearth and individually set wall posts. The wall pattern was a slightly asymmetrical rounded square, the configuration indicating a small dome-shaped hut. With the removal of the old Structure 6, which belonged to the proceeding stage, the area to the rear of the hut was covered over by a very irregular earth mantle consisting of piles of village debris, a large amount of ash, and burned daub from some village structure. The whole mound, following the removal of the small structure on the Stage BII summit, was next covered over with a thin but regular blanket mantle designated Stage BIII. This did not bear a summit structure or other summit features.

The next stage in Mound B, Stage BIV, consisted of yet another blanket mantle. It was thin, like the one proceeding it, but its content was a unique, gray ashy sand foreign to the other construction stages. It appeared as though this material was gathered from around a number of hearths, because the fill was liberally interspersed with burned wood flecks, ash, and carbonized botanical remains.

There was no summit structure, but instead there occurred, offset to one side, a truncated raised altar-like structure or dais. A small pocket of wood ash found atop this altar or dais indicated a small fireplace.

At the northern foot of the Stage BIV platform, a circular semisubterranean structure was built. Structure 8 was 7.34m in diameter,


with a very regular series of wall posts indicating a domed roof. A central hearth consisted of a pile of wood ash. Few artifacts were found in association with the floor, suggesting that like the earlier circular structures, it did not serve as a domicile, but rather as a specialized building analogous to the historic Southeastern hot house. There were three sub-floor pits, two of which were shallow. The third was a relatively large, belled-out storage pit.

Following Stage BIV and the dismantling of the adjacent circular structure, another mantle, designated BV, was added to Mound B. This mantle featured a ramp with modeled steps, added to the eastern flank. The summit was slightly arched, and although it contained no definite evidence of a summit structure in the form of a well defined post mold pattern, there were nevertheless a number of hearth areas and scattered post molds indicating summit activity. It is possible that these features represent one or more temporary buildings.

The next Mound B addition was an architectural mantle designated Stage BVI. This very regular pyramidal mantle increased the dimensions of the mound both vertically and horizontally. Covering the old, eastfacing ramp was a new ramp, this time without steps but lined with posts.

The summit of this mantle was occupied by a square wall trench

structure, designated Structure 1 (XUB). The wall trenches were very shallow, almost vestigial in appearance. The floor area had been prepared by burning. Two central support posts and two smaller interior posts were identified. The structure displayed an auxiliary western or rear chamber, defined by an adjoining pattern of closely spaced post molds, in one place set in a shallow wall trench. This resembled, and probably corresponds to, the rear western chamber of the earlier Structure 7.



Sherds and chert flakes were scattered across the floor of Structure 1 (XUB), and quantities of charred botanical remains were recovered near the western wall. The structure is classified, like earlier Structures 6 and 7, as an elite domicile, analogous to the semi-public chief's houses recorded in Southeastern ethnohistorical literature. Structure 1 (XUB) was destroyed by burning, and the debris was apparently thrown in the narrow gap between Mound B and directly adjacent Mound A, which were beginning to converge as each mound received new mantle additions.

After the destruction of Structure 1 (XUB) on the Mound B summit, adjoining Mound A witnessed the addition of its final two mantles, designated Stages AIV and AV. As suggested earlier, this undoubtedly preplanned sequence of abandonment of the mound took the form of a symbolic burial consisting of two blanket mantles; the first a clay cap, followed by a second mantle of sand. In the central summit area of the AIV addition was a deposit of pottery, perhaps sacrificially placed as was clear for earlier deposits in the events just prior to new mantle addition. The sand coat, Stage AV, contained yet another pottery deposit, this one diffusely scattered instead of clustered. Again, ritual connotations are suggested. The deposit consisted of four whole or restorable ceramic vessels, along with seven other sherd clusters generally representing broken sections of jars. One of the vessels in this deposit was small and very crudely modeled from a lump of clay. It suggests that some vessels may have been made on an ad hoc basis for ritual purposes, perhaps by male priests rather than by female potters.


The next construction stage identifiable within the Nuclear Zone, BVII, consisted of a redesign of Mound B to accommodate three buildings. An architectural mantle was added to the existing mound, doubling it in size and summit area and greatly expanding it horizontally to the north. The east-facing ramp of the earlier mound was covered over with no effort to replace it. The summit area, prior to the construction of the three buildings, received a thin coat of yellow sand.

Taking the place of the elite domicile of Stage BVI was another building of the same class, a quadrilateral wall trench structure designated Structure 4. It had a large, irregular hearth area near the center of the floor. Associated artifacts included sherd clusters, scattered chert flakes, and two finely polished anvil stones.

The second of the two Stage BVII buildings, Structure 2, was also rectilinear, occupying the northwest corner of the summit. It featured single-post construction, a central hearth, and a crescent-shaped raised earth :dais surmounted by a small fireplace. The dais perhaps reflects some special use for the structure.

The third building, Structure 3, was small and nearly circular,

occupying the northeast summit area. It had a dished-out, saucer-shaped floor with two internal hearth areas and a sub-floor pit. It might be interpreted as a small hot house or isolation lodge.

Superimposed on the Stage BVII construction were three final

blanket mantles, designated Stages BVIII, SIX, and BX. Each of these lacked summit structures. The final two mantles consisted respectively of a clay cap followed by a brown sand coat, the sequence mirroring that preceeding the abandonment of Plound A. It is possible that this sequence of blanket mantle addition, representing a final burial for the


symbolic Earth platform, was the norri for planned abandonment of platform mounds for this Mississippian society.

On the whole, this stratigraphic sequence has the appearance of a

rather dry list of unrelated or poorly relatable configurations. Beyond the maintenance of the two functional precincts through time, there is virtually no perceivable change in any aspect or attribute of the Nuclear Zone which transcends the persistent, stage to stage shifts and reversals which characterize the sequence. There are, for example, no permanent shifts in architectural design over the 450 year period. Each structure is noticeably different in some major detail to all others. There is no consistency and there are no perceptible trends in sources of mound fill, which are different from stage to stage. There are no permanent trends in the relative location of structure types within the northern precinct. All of these add up to a picture of "anti-historical" change-periodic deliberate redesign of every facet of the ceremonial arena, following no broad patterns other than obvious disdain for and avoidance of all previous patterns.

This is perhaps too strongly put, but it is the crucial feature of the sequence. It seems unfamiliar because we are unaccustomed to finding any kind of change archaeologically which is not broad-based, either in response to some combination of causal factors or to stylistic drift. This is not evolutionary change, at least in a narrow sense of the term; the stage to stage modifications are not adaptive responses to external stimuli. Nor is the change accountable as mere style drift, or any process of diffusion. Instead, the pattern of Nuclear Zone change at Cemochechobee defies a tacit uniformitarian sense which dictates that change be detectable gradual, and always in response to


some identifiable process with a predictable outcome.

But neither is this change completely capricious. There are four

identifiable elements which are repeated in the sequence, which consti- tute the framework within which the stage to stage renewals are made.

These four elements are 1) the mortuary complex, comprising the charnel house and a series of blanket mantles in Mound A; 2) circular structures, of which there are five in the sequence representing perhaps council houses or "hot houses"; 3) elite domiciles, or quadrilateral "chief's house" type buildings, of which there are also five; and 4) ceremonial areas or compounds, which are found twice. It is possible that each of these four elements was present during each of the 19 stages defined, and that the limited expanse of the excavations within the Nuclear Zone is responsible for the missing elements in each stage.

This allows a redefinition of the type of change identified as being anti-historical. We may now say that it is a deliberate rearrangement and redesign of four elements of the ceremonial nucleus of the community, ritually motivated, and showing a periodicity equivalent to that seen in platform mound renewal. It involves a sort of taboo on all past configurations, including structural design, materials, orientation, and style.

It can be immediately seen that this pattern of modification is in harmony with the symbolism of ritual reburial encountered in platform mound ceremonialism. It must be seen in the same social context, as a manifestation of a rite of intensification strongly emphasizing the value of spiritual renewal for the community. The periodic changes in the ritual "stages" in which these values were communicated are an objective reflection of these symbolic ideas. Clearly, such change is not


inconsistent with an oscillating view of time, as mentioned earlier, in which time is personified by ritual actors moving back and forth along a relatively sacred to relatively profane axis.

If change in ceremonial configurations at a Mississippian site are an effort to distinguish the present from the past, and if this arises from the same deeply held core symbolism which underlies all Mississippian platform mound ceremonialism-that is, if it is part of the Mississippian ritual corpus-then we must hold in suspicion any efforts to detect "uniformitarian" change of any variety in the context of ritual structures at Mississippian sites. The differences to be expected from one configuration to the next in sequence ought to be similar to the kinds of ethnic markers which societies employ to distinguish themselves from their neighbors. This is the principle which accounts, in large measure, for the wide variation among ceremonial structure configurations of the Creek taZwas or towns. Leach (1976:64) has described this phenomenon as follows.

The question of whether a particular tribal community burn
or bury their dead, or whether their houses are round or rectangular may sometimes have no functional explanation
other than that the people concerned want -to show themselves different from and superior to their neighbors down the road.
In turn their neighbors, whose customs are just the
opposite, feel equally confident that their way of doing
things is correct and superior. The more similar the general
,,cultural patterning of the two communities, the more critical'
will be the significance which is attached to such minor
points of reversal.

Much inter-community variation among contemporaneous Mississippian societies is undoubtedly of this type. It is essential to recognize, however, that in the present case the phenomenon occurs not only on a synchronic place, but on a diachronic plane as well within particular communities, due to the value systems and ritual mechanisms in operation.


No symbolic structure can operate independently of its physical or phenomenal objectification. It is by means of these objectifications, endowed with shared meanings, that-a sense of social order can be created among humans, renegotiated, and transmitted. It certainly behooves the student of social and symbolic orders, then, to become familiar with the principles by which the physical structures of the created environment, and the meanings assigned to these structures are linked.

At the beginning of this study a dramaturgical metaphor was invoked in defining the characteristics of public ritual. It was said that public ritual is normally "staged", meaning that public ritual usually takes place in the context of an artificial umeLt or structured scene. The structuring of a given stage is not capricious or random; since it is designed to accommodate a particular corpus of ritual acts, there must be a direct relationship between the structure of the setting and the structure of ritual action. Considering ritual as a messagebearing set of events, clearly the meaningful structuring of space and the physical trappings and decor of the ritual arena are as much a part of the message of the ritual "text" as is the behavior of the

dramatis personae.

If ritual stages can be seen to embody interpretable codes transposable to other dimensions of ritual, then this circumstance should be of special value to the archaeologist, whose ritual data are gleaned



largely from spatial information-forms and relationships among stages and props. One class of inferences can be made by comparing diachronic arrangements of these structures, as was attempted in the previous chapter. Another class of inferences can be made through an attempt to ascertain the meanings assigned to various synchronic elements of the ritual umweZt, or stage. This chapter, in order to expand upon statements already made about "ritual structures", and in preparation for the chapter to follow on mortuary features, will present some general thoughts on the possibilities for understanding the symbols and meanings attached to attributes of 'these spatial structures. This is a conceptually difficult task, and the present remarks should be construed only as a brief glimpse of some major issues which require much more theoretical attention.

The position is taken here that the artificially structured spaces employed in public ritual are so arranged not just as a matter of convenience or of pragmatic concerns, but rather in order to constitute in themselves symbolic representations meaningful to the ritual actors and observers. These objective structures can be said to be products of the structure of symbolic worlds, given material representation by a metaphorical process. As a symbolic representation, the ritual umezt can be likened to a printed text,, to be read by successive bodies of participants and observers (and finally by ourselves, distantly removed in time and space).

Miles Richardson (1580) has discussed the text-'like feature of

ritual material culture as it serves to convey meanings to successive sets of "readers" in ritual. Using the contrasting examples of the Spanish American iglesia and the Baptist church of the American South,


Richardson observes firstly that these stages fixate a nexus of core symbolism in time and in space, conveying in addition to these deeper meanings messages about the specific cultural present and its circumstances. In other words, the ritual stages carry the message that they are in and of a particular society at a particular time. We have already mentioned this kind of messaging in the context of ritual structures at the Cemochechobee site. This is the sense in which we can distinguish a nineteenth century novel from a twentieth century one, or a British novel from an American one, regardless of the intended meanings to be conveyed in the texts. A second text-like feature of ritual settings is that they are in an important respect alienated from the intentions and wishes of the authors, that is the planners and the builders. The intended meanings, through the abstraction of a concrete medium, are not iialways transmitted intact, because of the contribution of the ritual participant in reconstituting those meanings. Thus the meanings of the objective symbolism of a ritual stage are left relatively open, subject to various readings. Thirdly, the ritual stage is a medium for cultural transmission: the building up of symbolic repertoires among the participants in concert with the deeply embedded symbolic worlds of the authors or "old hands". Despite the abstraction and alienation of the objectified setting from the original symbolic nexus, it serves as the medium by which that nexus is reconstituted in the repertoires of newcomers. The umweZt is transformed again into a weZt. The accretion of extraneous features and meanings in the process of objectification is a cognitive source of culture change.

To the participants in ritual, who are normally attending to the events rather than to the setting, it may not always be clear that the


setting or ritual facility itself is a symbolic representation. It may often seem to them that the features of the setting are matters of mere convenience, because of the tacit way in which these features are

comprehended as symbols in the backgrounded knowledge of the participants, and because of the general nature of the symbols themselves. The meaning of these symbols remains for the most part submerged, and seems largely self-evident.

This generality of meaning is often required of the features of ritual stages, since the setting is often designed to accommodate not one but several different kinds of ritual. This is especially true of permanent facilities-take the example of a U.S. courtroom, which accommodates scenes of arraignments, hearings, jury trials, etc.-each of which requires a different ritual agenda and different.dramatis personae..

The same familiar example of the courtroom demonstrates the symbolic nature of the use of space in the design of a ritual stage. The courtroom is first of all divided into three discrete zones, usually separated by actual walls restricting passage from zone to zone. These are the space occupied by the judge, the opposite space occupied by the gallery, and an intermediate space occupied by attorneys, the defendant, the jury, etc. Even by extinguishing all knowledge of the kinds of proceedings which occur there, the spaces and artifacts themselves betray the basic nature of the social divisions represented.

The three zones, for example, are clearly arranged on a polar axis. The seating facilities in the two polar zones plainly mark oppositions: the one versus the many; authority versus community. The zone of authority is hedged by a bastioned, fortress-like wall. There are two


further markers within the zone: ritual sacra (flags) and the use of the vertical axis to further bolster a social distinction-i.e. the judge's seat is elevated. Seating within the opposite zone, on the other hand, emphasizes homogeneity, community, and lack of social distinction.

The seating arrangements in both of the polar zones serve to

focus attention on the intermediate zone, from which the inference could be correctly made that the intermediate zone is *the site of the most significant ritual action. We could recognize it as a zone of liminality, in Van Gennep's terms, and indeed the characteristic feature

of the ritual actors occupying this zone is that their status is in flux, betwixt and between normal social roles. The central liminal actor is the defendant. Court liasons, attorneys, and public defenders are institutionalized advocates and mediators. The jurors are between the major roles defined by the setting; they are selected as representatives of the community (one polar zone), but are tem porarily invested with sacred power to acquit or indict, emanating from the opposite zone of authority.

Many Am~erican Christian churches possess the same polar, tripartate structure as the courtroom, emphasizing a similar sacred versus secular opposition in the positioning of sacred paraphernalia, in seating arrangements, etc. But whereas in the courtroom each of the three zones was literally walled in, in the Christian church these barriers are completely absent. There are different-messages being conveyed in the two cases: the courtroom is designed to emphasize liminality rather than status transition, but the church must accommodate rites of passageas in a wedding, where initiates are escorted by ritual elders progressively across the three zones and back again. These are inferences of


a type which do not require full ethnographic context, and are therefore available to the archaeologist.

It can also be perceived in these familiar examples the way in which the structure of the ritual setting can, in effect, be a representational microcosm of a larger social and natural world of distinctions-a simplified cosmology. As Rom Harr6 puts it, "the UmweLt structure may be an icon of a particular people's theory of their own society; that is, the

physical structure of the unweLt may function as a meaning-bearing entity, an icon of the content of certain propositions within the cosmology of a people" (1978:166). Harr6 observes that such an objective microcosm can express the macrocosm in two ways, either by exhibiting an isomorphism of structure, or by the conventional assignment of meanings to

features. The compact, boiled-down, simplified nature of the objective microcosm, which puts cosmological propositions in everyday,material, orderly, tangible form, has as its primary message a kind of social reassurance of the correctness and inviolability of those positions (ibid:144). It is a conservative message.

Much of the published research demonstrating the nicrocosmological symbolism of architectural features and the social uses of space has focused upon domestic architecture rather than upon facilities for public ritual. As for other domains, domestic space tends to be organized as an expression of social distinctions and of notions concerning relationships between society and nature. Deetz (1977:92-117), for example, has shown how the development of Anglo-American house architecture during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries precisely mirrors pervasive and deep-seated changes in world view, from a corporate and organic "medieval" pose to an ordered, mechanical, Renaissance-influenced


pose. As another example, Tambiah (2969) has described how house architecture in northeast Thailand reflects social distinctions of age, sex, and degree of intimacy, and furthermore provides a code for translating these social distinctions to similarly patterned sets of discriminations and classifications made within the natural world. Bourdieu (1971) has made a comparable analysis of the microcosmological significance of the features of Berber use of domestic space.

Closer to the topic of Mississippian society and symbolism, we may examine the conceptual plan of an eighteenth century Seminole house as described and illustrated by William Bartram (1909:37-38). The house

belonged to a Seminole chief who was known to the traders as tithe Bosten or Boatswain' (Figure 7).



It was composed of three oblong uniform frame buildings [e], and
a fourth, foure-square [a] fronting the principal house or
common hall, after this manner, encompassing one area [A]. The
hall was his lodginghouse, large and commodious; the two wings
were, one a cook-house, the other a skin or ware-house; and the
large square one was a vast open pavilion, supporting a canopy
of cedar roof by two rows of columns or pillars, one within the
other. Between each range of pillars was a platform, or what
the traders call cabins [Fr. cabanecot or berth], a sort of
sofa raised about two feet above the common ground, and ascended
by two steps; this was covered with checkered mats of curious
manufacture, woven of splints of canes dyed of different colors;
the middle was a four-square stage or platform, raised nine inches
or a foot higher than the cabins or sofas, and also covered with

The rectangular "principal house" opposite the large square structure is identifiable as the usual "winter house" found among the Creeks. Here it is a single room structure; the column-lined compartment facing the central plaza represents an open porch or ramada. One of the lateral wings is described as a "cook-house", which would have incorporated the corn crib, and the opposite one is a "skin or ware-house" (We are not told which of these is which, but that is irrelevant to the analysis). The two wings are identical structures, divided transversely into two rooms. Finally, the "vast open pavilion", the large square open structure, is an especially elaborate version of the common "summer house" found among the Creeks.

From Bartram's description one may reconstruct the conceptual plan of Bosten's house. It is, first of all, clearly organized along two perpendicular axes, and the poles of these axes are assigned contrasting values. Furthermore both of these sets of discriminations are ways of classifying the natural world, that is, of imposing social order upon it, so that cultural activities regarding nature may be systematized and regulated. The first axis represents an arbitrary division of the solar cycle into winter versus summer. The second axis similarly discriminates


between types of food: animal products of hunting versus vegetable products of gathering and horticulture. The latter opposition further connotes a sexual division of labor. Hunting was exclusively a male activity, while horticulture and plant food gathering was nearly always women's work. It is not surprising that these two sets of oppositions, between winter and summer and between the sexes, should be among the prevailing ones in Southeastern Indian societies (Hudson 1976:259). The plaza defined by the floor structures is plainly "liminal space". It would not be far from the mark to characterize the whole housecomplex as a microcosm or condensed classificatory model describing certain relations between society and the natural world.

Since the two conceptual axes logically intersect, it is possible to define four quadrants of social activity by combining the polar terms of the perpendicular axes in pairs, as shown in Figure 8 below. These allow predictions of the particular uses of the unidentified compartments in the two wings of Bosten's house.

masculine feminine

Winter Activities
storing cooking
hunted stored food
animal products vegetable
products products of
of hunting processing/ horticulture
in skins vegetable food

Summer Activities