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Mississippian ritual

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Mississippian ritual
Creator:
Knight, Vernon J ( Vernon James ), 1953-
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English
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ix, 172 leaves : ill. ; 28 cm.

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Amplification ( jstor )
Bones ( jstor )
Buildings ( jstor )
Civic rituals ( jstor )
Legends ( jstor )
Platform mounds ( jstor )
Religious rites ( jstor )
Rites of passage ( jstor )
Rituals ( jstor )
Symbolism ( jstor )
Anthropology thesis Ph. D ( lcsh )
Dissertations, Academic -- Anthropology -- UF ( lcsh )
Indians of North America -- Rites and ceremonies -- Southern States ( lcsh )
Mississippian culture ( lcsh )
City of Vernon ( local )
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bibliography ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )

Notes

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

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MISSISSIPPIAN RITUAL





BY

VERNON J. KNIGHT, JR.
















A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE COUNCIL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN
PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS
FOR THE DEGREE OF DOCTOROF PHILOSOPHY











UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA 1981
































Copyright, 1981

by

Vernon James Knight, Jr.













PREFACE AND ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

It is a common sentiment among anthropologists of nearly all

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

is dissolved into a mere shadow, and where informants are not available
Z
to answer the pertinent questions, it seems to many that the exploration
r
0
U of prehistoric mental life is a vain hope ensnared in the subjectivity
U
Z
0-4
C of interpretation. Such would not be science. If that sentiment were
Z
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
0
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.

iv









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.














































v













TABLE OF CONTENTS

Page

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

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

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

CHAPTER I SCOPE AND DEFINITION . . . . . . . . . I

CHAPTER II EARLIER PERSPECTIVES ON MISSISSIPPIAN EXPRESSIVE CULTURE 8 CHAPTER III ALLEGORY AND CORE SYMBOLS . . . . . . . . 22

CHAPTER IV PLATFORM MOUND CEREMONIALISM . . . . . . . 43

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

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

CHAPTER VII IN AND OUT OF THE CHARNEL-HOUSE . . . . . . 99

CHAPTER VIII THE CHARACTER OF MISSISSIPPIAN RITUAL . . . . 12T CHAPTER IX OF MOUNDS AND METAPHORS . . . . . . . . 152,

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

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


















vi













LIST OF FIGURES

Page

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
























vii









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




MISSISSIPPIAN RITUAL


By

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"

viii









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.



















ix













CHAPTER I
SCOPE AND DEFINITION

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

1






2


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





3


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".





4


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
4
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.






5


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






6


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






7

4
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.












CHAPTER II
EARLIER PERSPECTIVES ON MISSISSIPPIAN EXPRESSIVE CULTURE

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
8






9


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






10


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






12


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,:






13

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






14


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.






15


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.






16


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






17


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






18


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






19

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,






20


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






21

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












CHAPTER III
ALLEGORY AND CORE SYMBOLS

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


22






23


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






24

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,






25

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






26

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






27

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






28


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

Aphioosa-pheeskaw.

"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.






29


"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






30


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











A"BiGUOUS OR IS RECOGNIZED; IS DANCEROUS: IT IS TAUNTED BY IT IS TEPO- IT IS PRACTICALLY ITS VIRTUES ARE FOP ;';
3G.UISED EARTH REVEALS ITSELF IT DEVOURS PRESENTING !T RARILY DELAYED OVERCOrIE RECOVERED SESL
.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)

FIGURE 1: STRUCTURAL ANALYSIS OF THE CHEKILLI LEGEND OF KASIHTA






32


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






33

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






34


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.


ASSIMILATION OF CORE SYMBOLS ABSTRACT OPPOSITION
EARTH SOCIETY
natural power purif ication
I red white
(red) moiety moiety (white)
(war) (peace)


SOCIAL DOMAIN


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






35

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".






36

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.






37


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.


CHEKILLI LEGEND: DIALECTIC PROGRESSION


Society

Sacrifice

Mediation

Disguised Earth

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






38


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).






39


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






40


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).






41

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,





42


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.












CHAPTER IV
PLATFORM MOUND CEREMONIALISM

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,


43






44

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






45


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

1965).

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,






46


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,






47

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






48


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.






49








FIGURE 4. CROSS-SECTION OF A CHARNEL HOUSE MOUND: LENOIR SITE.







C.-r Pw,




Plo. Z- Old '.11 U



B.M1.,- 1960


FIGURE 5. CROSS-SECTION OF A TOWIN-HOUSE TYPE MOUND: ESTATOE SITE.



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






50


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).






51


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






52

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

free:bound

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






53


"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






54


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
t






55

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






56

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






57


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






58


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






59


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






60

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






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(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).












CHAPTER V
THEME AND VARIATION

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


62






63


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






64


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).






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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).





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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






67


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.





























W IC03 MORTUARY 9

ERODED
18
0 MOUND

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





327 Bu B26 ~28 --1


NORTHERN CEREMONIAL t
7U:Z-j COMPOUND
994 __ - -k





991- .


STRUCTURE I 1.

988- GN1



PREMOUND PRECINCT COPE F 0 0 0
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
XUA AUB








00





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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.






70

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






71


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






72


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






73


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,






74

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





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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





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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,






77


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.

1






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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.






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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





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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






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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






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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.












CHAPTER VI
SPACE AND MEANING

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


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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,






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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






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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






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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





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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





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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).


















Fe "FIGURE 7. PLAN OF AN EIGHTEENTH CENTURY SEMINOLE HOUSE.






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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
mats.

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






91


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


Summer Activities

FIGURE 8. CONCEPTUAL PLAN OF THE BOSTEN HOUSE.




Full Text
CHAPTER II
EARLIER PERSPECTIVES ON MISSISSIPPI EXPRESSIVE CULTURE
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
8


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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 Mississippi an sites such as Hiwassee Island and Bessemer.
These structures are perhaps analogous to the Creek tckofa, or cere
monial 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


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 compre
hensive analogical model (theory) which most coherently and neatly
illuminates the empirical data.
This beginning exploration into the nature of symbols and metaphors
in Mississippi an public ritual will explicitly consider both rites of
passage (Van Gennep 1960 (1909)) and rites of intensification (Chappie
and Coon 1942). Rites of passage constitute a general class of non-
calendrical ritual (Wallace 1966:71; Fortes 1962) generally performed
to accompany individual changes of status, office or physical location
(e.g. 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 archaeolog
ical literature over just what constitutes "Mississippian". Most
generally, it includes the majority of Southeastern United States
archaeological cultures of the post-A.D. 900 period. Some investigators


145
"organizational networks", is another matter. These three "networks" are
1) an elite associated with war related sociotechnic paraphernalia such
as batons, ceremonial axes, and the "bi-lobed arrow"; 2) a more
exclusive elite associated with falcon paraphernalia, which Brown
associates at Spiro with a specific "war captain" status; and 3) the
mortuary temple system (ibid:126-127). Not to overlook the extremely
significant point made by Brown that the status/prestige systems
of Mississippian chiefdoms are linked by the Southern Cult to a
warrior or warfare complex, there is nevertheless some reason to
question the partitioning of the Cult materials in this way. This is
especially the case since the division is made mainly on the basis of
subject matter rather than on context.
The first two divisions are, as Brown acknowledges, different in
scale. Essentially, one is a subset of the other. The elaborate
falcon impersonator theme has consistent association with the trappings
of the more general warrior-elite group. While different roles or
offices within superordinate social strata are definitely suggested by
such associations and are expectable, it has not been demonstrated that
such offices and roles pertain to broader social units that are in any
way discrete. To point out that superordinate segments of chiefdom-type
societies are internally ramified, with different symbol-sets and
trappings associated with various offices, ranks, and roles, is not to
invalidate the thesis that the segment itself is a coherent unit ideo
logically and symbolically.
The troublesome third "organizational network", the mortuary temple
complex, does not seem to hold up alone as an institutional source of


39
To violate them would be to do the unthinkableto 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, rank, and 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 under
standing 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 South
eastern 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


131
a community rite of intensification was of both archaeological and
historical importance. The rites of incorporation within tertiary
burial can be shown to be the logical point of articulation between
funeral customs and platform mound ceremonialism, accounting for specific
archaeological situations.
Nearly all of the foregoing has been devoted to issues which revolve
around cosmology: those intricate, coherent, and deeply rooted sets of
symbols, meanings, and relations which provide the paradigmatic imagery
for thinking and acting in social worlds. There is no doubt that
cosmological systems are intrinsically interesting in anthropology,
witnessed by the vast literature devoted to them. They often seem to
the observer to have a life of their own, with hidden relationships a
appearing at every turn and reinforcing their often astounding (to us)
logical coherences, Though once a matter of some debate, it has today
become almost a truism that such "primitive" systems of thought are
manifoldly complex and thoroughly rational.
It is no wonder then, that large amounts of anthropological
energies have been spent on unraveling non-Western belief systems. But
there is a danger here: that this can become an end in itself, a sort
of detective hobby whose marginal anthropological relevance makes it
difficult to justify. Some care should certainly be exercised in avoid
ing this trap, by consistently and explicitly relating cosmological
schema to bodies of theory which link them to their sociological arma
tures. On this issue I would take up the Durkheimian banner in assert
ing that there are positive and causal connections between the structures
of cosmology and the structures of social relations. Elucidating the
one illuminates the other.


126
In general, the benefit of Hertzian analysis of mortuary ritual,
which separates the events into sequent symbolic components, is that
it offers the archaeologist a framework within which to discuss the
interrelationships of the symbols and meanings which can be inferred
from the archaeological data. It puts the events in terms by means of
which they can be compared with other mortuary rites universally.


92
It is important to remark here that neither the form nor the con
ceptual plan of the Seminole house just described can be taken as a
standard for Southeastern or even eighteenth century Seminole practice,
because, like the variability among Creek talwas in ceremonial arrange
ments, house patterns were quite mutable even within particular towns.
Only three adequate descriptions of comparable houses of the period
have survived, and each of the three is different. Although information
is scarce, it seems probable that much of this variability was of the
discriminatory type discussed earlier. That is, specific house patterns
were probably used to mark the clan membership or generational status
of particular households among the Creeks and Seminles. The distinction
of this mode of variability from codes reflecting core symbolism has
been established earlier.
Had more detailed descriptions of eighteenth century Creek and
Seminole houses survived, it would surely become possible to map out
the various symbolic transformations according to which house forms
and uses varied in time and space. Bartram's (1909:56) descriptions of
a generalized "Upper Creek" house and of a Cuscowilla (Oconee Seminole)
house (Harper 1958:122) are suggestive, but these data are inadequate
to pursue a comparative project in search of replicating correspondences.
The Cuscowilla house, unlike the square ground-like house of Bosten, was
T-shaped in plan, consisting of two separate buildings rather than four.
Nevertheless, the Cuscowilla house can be viewed as a fairly simple con
ceptual transformation of the former. In it, the masculine-feminine
axis is almost completely collapsed, surviving only in a bipartate
transverse division of the winter house into a "cook-room" versus a
"lodging room". The summer-winter axis remains intact, with a granary


70
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 porch
like 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 interments
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


35
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 quasi
human form. The disguises are of such a nature as to cause non-recogni
tion 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 Earthliis 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".


121
Southeastern method for coordinating events. Bone-pickers were generally
well-respected older adults (though Halbert disputes their prestige),
who carried as a badge of their occupation long nails on the thumb, first,
and middle fingers.
The bone-picker having arrived on the announced day, the relatives
would assemble once again around the scaffold and upon the mourning
benches. There would then ensue a period of loud wailing, followed by a
more subdued weeping during which the benches were removed. The bone-
picker would at this time be occupied by the construction of a hamper to
receive the bones, made of split cane to which bone splints were sometimes
added. This was painted red if the deceased had been a chief, and each
hamper bore a clan insignia. The relatives would then either remove
the corpse themselves from the scaffold to be defleshed, or allow the
bone-picker to climb the scaffold to perform the task within it. The
bone-picker would completely deflesh and dismember the bones, using only
the fingernails. The bones were washed and allowed to dry, emphasizing
their now purified state. If the work had been done upon the scaffold,
the bone-picker would next descend with the bones, presenting them to
the assembled kin with a speech., The skull was painted red, and the
bones were placed within the hamperAdair says in anatomical order, so
that they might easily be reunited when the dead were eventually revived
by a powerful spirit. The hamper was enclosed with a cloth. Milfort
adds that at this time one of the bones was restored to the family, but
there is no information regarding the use to which this removed bone was
put. The defleshing was followed by another round of wailing.
The removed flesh was disposed of by throwing it into a field, or
by burying it, or by setting it afire along with the burial scaffold!


12
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 Swanton1s 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
occurredthat 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 con
struction, he 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 prehis
toric 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,:


103
The variability in Mississippian mortuary treatments is evident at
several levels: among separate Mississippian cultures and periods,
among sites, and within sites where many different treatments may appear
contemporaneously within the same community. Primary interments are
commonly extended, but may be flexed or semiflexed with variations such
as sitting burials occasionally occurring. In a number of Mississippian
cultures and social segments the axis of orientation of the corpse is a
consistent feature, and may be solstitial or equinoctial. Items deposited
with the dead range from none to elaborate ritual paraphernalia in the
graves of high-ranking individuals at ceremonial centers. Grave goods
have been successfully used as indicators of social ranking within
Mississippian communities, and evidence of artifactual symbols of office
within rank hierarchies has been reported. Similarly, burial features
range in elaboration from simple earth coverings without pits, through
stone-lined graves, to deep log-covered tombs, with numerous other
possibilities. Burials may be grouped within discrete cemeteries, in
which spatial and artifactual differentiations related to social rank
may be discerned. Alternatively, burials may be deposited beneath the
floor of a mortuary structure or charnel-house. Such mortuaries can
normally be considered facilities used by a discrete corporate group of
lineal descent (see Saxe 1970:119), e.g. the bone-houses used by
separate Choctaw clans. In cases where Mississippian ceremonial centers
yield one such central or especially elaborate mortuary facility, it is
reasonable to suppose that it is the product of a superordinate kin group.
The same may be said of 1imited :populations of burials placed within and
around platform mounds reserved for this purpose, as were maintained
among such Mississippian cultures as Cairo Lowland, Tennessee-Cumberland,


is to acknowledge 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. DeJarnette 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 disserta
tion ... 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.
TV


170
Titiev, Mischa
1960 A Fresh Approach to the Problem of Magic and Religion.
Southwestern Journal of Anthropology 16:292-298.
Turner, Victor
1969 The Ritual Process: Structure and Anti-Structure.
Chicago: Aldine.
1974 Dramas, Fields, and Metaphors: Symbolic Action in Human
Society. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
Van Gennep,
1909
Arnold
Rites de Passage.
Paris: Emile Nourry.
1960 The Rites of Passage. Translated by Monika B. Vizedom and
Gabrielle L. Caffee, with an introduction by S. T. Kimball.
London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.
Wallace, Anthony F. C.
1966 Religion: An Anthropological View. New York: Random House.
Waring, Antonio J., Jr.
1968 The Southern Cult and Muskogean Ceremonial. Paper No. 2,
Waring Papers. Edited by Stephen Williams. Peabody
Museum Papers 58. Cambridge.
Waring, Antonio J., Jr., and Preston Holder
1945 A Prehistoric Ceremonial Complex in the Southeastern United
States. American Anthropologist 47:1-34.
Wauchope, Robert
1948 Excavations at Zacualpa, Guatemala. Tulane University,
Middle American Research Institute, Publication 14.
New Orleans.
Whitten, Norman E., Jr.
1978 Ecological Imagery and Cultural Adaptability: The Canelos
Quichua of Eastern Ecuador. American Anthropologist
80:836-859.
Willey, Gordon R., and Jeremy A. Sabloff
1974 A History of American Archaeology. San Francisco: W. H.
Freeman and Company.
Williams, Stephen
1975 Maps and charts for "Some Correlation Problems". Unpublished
Paper Presented at the Dallas Symposium: Reviewing
Mississippian Development.


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 for 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 i
a later paper (Waring 1968) treating the much broader topic of relation
ships 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 pointed out 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


49
FIGURE 4. CROSS-SECTION OF A CHARNEL HOUSE MOUND: LENOIR SITE.
80III0U I960
FIGURE 5. CROSS-SECTION OF A TOWN-HOUSE TYPE MOUND: ESTATOE SITE.
i¡ 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 substruc
tural 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


58
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 intensifica
tion) 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
Cemochechobee 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 All and (later) Stage AIII.
The All 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^ (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


146
Southern Cult iconography. In both Moundville and Spiro iconography,
death-related motifs such as skulls and forearm bones interchange
freely with motifs related to warfare and other subjects. Other than the
fact that items bearing such motifs are found in burials, there is no
demonstrable connection with the charnel-house facility itself at
any site. Similarly,the "mortuary figurines," at least at Etowah
(Larson 1971:65), occur in contexts indistinguishable from those which
yield other kinds of Southern Cult paraphernalia, including sociotechnic
weaponry. And this fits rather well with the proposition of priestly-
chiefly structural independence being put forward here: In postcontact
times mortuary ritual was priestly, not chiefly, business in the Southeast.
Thus, while the point that distinctive subsets discernible within
the whole complex of supra-local Southern Cult iconography are linked to
particular offices, ranks, and roles is well taken, the proposition
that these were linked together within a single cult institution remains
intact. Brown's objection to relating the whole complex to a single
"religious cult" seems to stem mainly from an implicit restriction of
that term to very limited kinds of social phenomenawhich is quite dif
ferent from the definition of "cult institution" as the term is
invoked here. Brown's challenge turns out to be mainly a matter of
semantics.
Wallace's other criterion for the identification of cult institutions,
that their ritual uses be "explicitly rationalized by a set of similar or
related beliefs", is impossible to conclusively demonstrate for the
proposed chiefly cult institution at this point, although there are
many suggestive clues. We will, of course, never know how explicit


71
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 auxilliary 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


55
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 Waring 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
Chappie 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, Trie Rites of 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


113
found archaeologically beneath the floor indicates another, tertiary
interment episode not described in the documents, this time the vertical
axis being used to express the secondary-tertiary distinction. In this
instance, then, above-ground burial is always secondary, while sub-floor
burial may be either primary or tertiary, the important symbolic dis
tinctions being made vertically among successive phases in the burial
program.
We are now in a position to comment on a common and conspicuous
feature of Mississippian secondary/tertiary burial, which is a general
pre-interment neglect of both bones and associated artifacts. Skeletal
elements are frequently missing at random, can be found in the "wrong"
grave, and grave goods sometimes exhibit evidence of pre-interment
r
neglect o\maltreatment. In accounting for this it should be remembered
that it is generally only the close kin who have access to the corpse
during the liminal or transitional period; others stay away for fear of
becoming polluted. It is also during this period that gifts are
typically offered to the deceased to placate the soul. Contact in general
is very restricted, and if the initial disposal is remote and above-ground,
the corpse may be subject to the ravages of rats, vultures, and dogs as
well as more passive agents of decomposition. Further, neglect of the
corpse may be due to conscious motives arising from ambivalent feelings
of the mourners toward placation; they may wish to impress upon the soul
of the deceased its obligation to society for allowing it, through ritual,
to be transformed. Turner (1969:103) says that it is characteristic of
lirninal neophytes in general to "have to be shown that in themselves they
are clay or dust, mere matter, whose form is impressed upon them by
society". Liminal states typically deemphasize distinctions of age, sex,


MISSISSIPPI RITUAL
BY
VERNON J. KNIGHT, JR.
A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE COUNCIL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN
PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS
FOR THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA

Copyright 1981
by
Vernon James Knight, Jr.

Bound by DOBBS BROS. LIBRARY BINDING CO., INC., St. Augustine, Florida
I
3
>

PREFACE AND ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
It is a common sentiment among anthropologists of nearly all
paradigmatic persuasions that one cannot confidently discuss the whole
arena of 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
of prehistoric mental life is a vain hope ensnarled in the subjectivity
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 representationsobjectifications 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
i i i

is to acknowledge 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. DeJarnette 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 disserta
tion ... 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.
TV

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.
v

TABLE OF CONTENTS
Page
PREFACE AND ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS ii.i
LIST OF FIGURES vii
ABSTRACT vi i i
CHAPTER I SCOPE AND DEFINITION 1
CHAPTER II EARLIER PERSPECTIVES ON MISSISSIPPI EXPRESSIVE CULTURE .8
CHAPTER III ALLEGORY AND CORE SYMBOLS 22
CHAPTER IV PLATFORM MOUND CEREMONIALISM 43
CHAPTER V THEME AND VARIATION 62
CHAPTER VI SPACE AND MEANING 83
CHAPTER VII IN AND OUT OF THE CHARNEL-HOUSE 99
CHAPTER VIII THE CHARACTER OF MISSISSIPPI RITUAL 127.
CHAPTER IX OF MOUNDS AND METAPHORS 152,
BIBLIOGRAPHY 159
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 169
vi

LIST OF FIGURES
Page
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
vi i

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
MISSISSIPPI AN RITUAL
By
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" and "white/Society"
vi i i

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 socio
cultural 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 ritual 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," but instead is dichotomized in a
politically asymmetrical but ideologically diametric structure.
i x

CHAPTER I
SCOPE AND DEFINITION
Having walked in some village of infidels3 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, horti
cultural peoples that lived in the 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, unrnasks 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
1

2
common institutional mechanisms for projecting this cosmology into
concrete, behavioral objectifications. 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 super
natural 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

3
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 hierarchy of symbols and metaphors in that
process. Core symbols, then, constitute a general, analogical, organi
zational model of 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".

4
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 latter
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 compre
hensive analogical model (theory) which most coherently and neatly
illuminates the empirical data.
This beginning exploration into the nature of symbols and metaphors
in Mississippi an public ritual will explicitly consider both rites of
passage (Van Gennep 1960 (1909)) and rites of intensification (Chappie
and Coon 1942). Rites of passage constitute a general class of non-
calendrical ritual (Wallace 1966:71; Fortes 1962) generally performed
to accompany individual changes of status, office or physical location
(e.g. 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 archaeolog
ical literature over just what constitutes "Mississippian". Most
generally, it includes the majority of Southeastern United States
archaeological cultures of the post-A.D. 900 period. Some investigators

6
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 manifesta
tions. 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 two 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 mound ceremonialism, which will
be partially defined later on. While these characteristics are not
always explicitly demonstrable in specific cases, they best approximate,
in my 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 post-
Mississippian text, a Muskogee migration myth. This will be accomplished

7
by separating the metaphorical and metonymical dimensions of the 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 mounds, in 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 "werthey" 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.

CHAPTER II
EARLIER PERSPECTIVES ON MISSISSIPPI EXPRESSIVE CULTURE
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
8

9
ceremonialism in the Eastern United States, as manifested at abandoned
centers dominated by large earthworks, was somehow qualitatively differ
ent in its elaboration and extensiveness, and reflected a higher level
of cultural development, than anything seen among the historically en
countered 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 corn" ceremonies (Witthoft 1949),
and that the Tuckabatchee have also engaged in a type of earth platform

10
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, models accounting for the earlier
practices.
Swanton points out that William Bartram, whose Travels durinq 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 "chunkey 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 "chunkey yard" (Harper 1958:246). Swanton here

11
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 "chunkey 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

12
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 Swanton1s 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
occurredthat 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 con
struction, he 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 prehis
toric 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 for 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 i
a later paper (Waring 1968) treating the much broader topic of relation
ships 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 pointed out 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

14
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 Muskogean linguistic family, Waring's notion that such towns as
Tuckabatehee, 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.

15
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 inter
pretation 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 Hiwassee 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-thlako, 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.

16
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 thatthe sealing off of the old
structure was more important than the purely archi
tectural consideration of creating an imposing temple
foundation (1968:58).
The implication of this argument is clear. Mississippian mound building

17
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 mounds 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
tokofa, 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
Muskhogeans in early historic times. This complex v/as defined archae
ological ly at such charnel house-mortuary platform mound sites as
Mound C at Etowah (Moorehead 1932:66-87) and the Hollywood Mound
(Thomas 1894:317-326), both in Georgia. Ethnohistorical examples
included the "temples"at Talimeco, visited 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 attribution 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

18
must discount it, while recognizing on the other hand that the isolation
of a distinctive type of Mississippi an 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
common class of large, semi-public chief's houses recognized archaeolog-
ically 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 Mississippian public ritual.
Howard, like Waring, considers Southeastern green corn ceremonialism a
"relatively pure survival" of Mississippian mound ceremonialism. He
discusses four structural elements of Creek, Seminole, Natchez, Yuchi,
and Chickasaw ceremonial grounds. These are;l) 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 the 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. He thus discusses the square ground ball ground

19
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 he 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 ta£o fl-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. He 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,

20
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 Mississippi an
ritual are undeniably important, although these approaches uniformly
fail to 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

21
significance for survival as well as that directed toward understanding
the nature of things, and these often overlap.

CHAPTER III
ALLEGORY AND CORE SYMBOLS
The analysis will begin with the investigation of a myth. But at
once this may seem inappropriate, since more than 300 years separate
the myth 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 cotnparabil ity, 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 Mississippian core symbols.
It is important, then, to consider more carefully the articulation
of myth with the 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 institu
tions", several of which exist simultaneously for a given society. This
is also the social armature for the performance of myth, and types of
myth correspond to this organization. There are, for example, cosmo
gonic myths, culture hero myths, migration myths, healing myths, fairy
22

23
tales, and other classes, each of which is performed in a specific organi
zational 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 approximate 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
migration myths. And migration myths are far more than the distorted
oral histories of actual migrations, as some investigators have specu
lated. 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
oppositions 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
n
River is southwest Georgia. Kasihta v/as one of the major towns in
ithe 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

24
originating among various towns (Sv/anton 1928a:33-75). There are
also a number of non-Creek myths, for example 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 rivercame 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 this 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,

25
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 child. They then took the pole, and carry it with
them when they go to war. It was like a v/ooden 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, Micoweanochau (miko hoyanidja), red root; third, Sowatchko
(sowatcko), which grows like wild fennel, and fourth, Eschalapootehke
(hitei laputeki), 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 should rule; and they agreed, as they were four Nations, that

26
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 Atilamas (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;
Hthe 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

27
there. Afterv/ard they turned back to see what sort of path that was,
and who the people were who 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 Nowphaupe, now Callasi-hutche. There they tarried

28
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-hawka-
hutehe 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-rivev.
The next day they reached another river, which they called the
Aphoosa-pheeskaw.
"The following 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 Motevell, 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.

29
"They always nave, 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

30
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 corres
pondences, 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
fcr
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 common format and comparable
elements.
The first episode defines a basic polar opposition of the
"naturercul ture" 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

AMBIGUOUS OR
DISGUISED EARTH
MONSTER, returnee
ts or apnroached
IS RECOGNIZED;
REVEALS ITSELF
BY A NOISE OR
BY ASSOCIATION
IS DANCEROUS:
IT DEVOURS
PEOPLE
IT IS TAUNTED SY
PRESENTING IT
UITH A CONTRA
DICTION
IT IS TEMPO
RARILY DELAYED
(opposed to
"oversteoning")
IT IS PRACTICALLY
OVERCOME
(opoosite column
three)
ITS VIRTUES ARC
RECOVERED
FOR iT'.LFlFI '!
USES
The mouth of the
Earth, in the
west
Twice it eats
their children
when the people
are nearby
The people escape
to the west,
then to the east
A mountain with
fire {discovered
at the end of a
red river)
It thunders, and
has red smoke,
which is a fire
They are afraid
of it (named
"King of Moun
tains")
They obtain
some of its fire
Compatible only
with fire from
the north (war)
A oole {dis
covered on the
mountain of red
smoke)
It moves, and
makes noise
Motherless child
(struck against
pole; the child
dies)
They took the
oole
It is a war
club (atasi)
Some herbs (dis
covered on the
mountain of red
smoke)
They sing, and
disclose their
virtues
Two of the four
herbs are "white'
used 31 Busk,
others are "red"
A large, blue
biro with a long
tail (blue=south)
It eats the
people daily
(called "King of
birds")
Presented with
the image of a
woman (a false
wi fe)
It goes off, co
habiting with the
image, bearing a
helpful rat son
Red rat and
people conspire:
rat chews bow
string of bird
(compared with
an eagle)
White feathers
used for neace,
red for war
A wild beast, at
Coosa, a white
town, after fol
lowing white path
It lives in a
rock, near a creel
which is rocky
and smokes
The beast is
called "Man-
eater"
Motherless child
sacrificed,
enticed with
"false noise"
They lay branches
across its path;
it rushes through
then;
It falls into a
trap (a man-made
cit); it is set
afire
Its bones are
kept; they are
half blue, half
red
useful in war
Some oeople
(thought to be
"white")
They live at a
high mountain,
which makes noise
during war
white ("peace
ful") arrows shot
at them; returned
red
Houses are deser
ted; people are
submerged in a
river
People with flat
heads (thought
to be "white")
Near a waterfall,
with rocks on
which bows are
lying
White arrows shot
at them,
returned red
All but two
persons are
killed, "white
dog" spared
Escapees lead
them to Apala
chicola (white
town)
Apalachicola
persuades them
to make peace
FIGURE 1: STRUCTURAL ANALYSIS OF THE CHEKILLI LEGEND OF KASIHTA

32
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),
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 relation
ship to their natural environment, from which they obtain their
means for subsistence. Therefore their power, that is, their
success in survival and in the pro!iteration 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
"Earth 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

33
realizing that the Earth has become a hostile entity (it eats their
children). A second group, however, elects to remain behind, symboli
cally in the direction of compromise. But Earth does not discriminate,
and 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

34
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.
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

35
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 quasi
human form. The disguises are of such a nature as to cause non-recogni
tion 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 Earthliis 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".

36
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. The fiery mountain sings, the pole moves and makes constant
noise; the herbs sing; the final two episodes have Earth mimiking
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 the 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.

37
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
necessary 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.
CHEKILLi LEGEND: DIALECTIC PROGRESSION
Society
Sacrifice
Disguised Earth
Mediation
Earth
FIGURE 3
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

38
I 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.
Sumnarily, the Chekilli legend is, ostensibly, about the intellectual
In
problem of autoc^hony, and the ritual means of overcoming it in estab
lishing human identity. Further, the myth prescribes the kind 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 we 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).

39
To violate them would be to do the unthinkableto 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, rank, and 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 under
standing 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 South
eastern 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

40
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 undoubt
edly 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. Besides 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, how
ever, it should be understood that in the belief systems at hand, the
earth's surface and surface water are potential manifestations and symbol
not of the immediate world, but of the maleficent world below.
The remainder of the comparison is, on a superficial level, more
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 society
humankindis 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 corrob
orated in the structural analyses of further Southeastern myths.

CHAPTER IV
PLATFORM MOUND CEREMONIALISM
The most distinctive and archaeologically visible manifestation
of Mississippian 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,
pits,and hearths being identified on each surface. The post molds
indicate possibly circular buildings on the successive summits. Keel
(1972:110) considers Garden Creek Mound #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,
43

44
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 pyra
mids, 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
appelation 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:

45
1. Semi-public chief's house platforms (e.g. Mound B at the Cemochecho-
bee site) (Schnell, Knight, and Schnell 1979).
2. Public temple platforms (e.g. Mound C, the Fatherland site) (Neitzel
1965).
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
H were 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 Mississippian mounds which initially led to their being incorrect!
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, then, correspond to the four-
world-quarters concept in Southeastern Indian cosmology, a concept
which finds prehistoric expression as the cross symbol in the Missis
sippian Southeastern Ceremonial Complex. And as the surface of the
earth is flat, so is the surface of the platform mound. As a symbol,

47
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 manipu
late 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
(I):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 English 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-hulwuce ("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, nnih) 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
(Kel l.y et al. n.d.). In general, these changes in orientation from
one stage to the next are slight, and they correspond with changes in

48
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 and 78 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.

49
FIGURE 4. CROSS-SECTION OF A CHARNEL HOUSE MOUND: LENOIR SITE.
80III0U I960
FIGURE 5. CROSS-SECTION OF A TOWN-HOUSE TYPE MOUND: ESTATOE SITE.
i¡ 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 substruc
tural 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

50
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 BII, upon which an irregular, perhaps temporary,
building stood. Next came two blanket mantles, Stages Bill 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, BIX, AND BX. Thus while Mound B at the Cemoche
chobee 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 Hiwassee Island Focus method of rebuilding the foundation
of 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 platforms were covered by only a few inches of newly
added clay (1941:22-23).

51
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 Mississippian 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.
Now 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
¡I "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
(I
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 BIla

52
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 character
izes 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:past'; surface:subsurface clean:unclean (dirty)
(unburied:buried) (pure:impure)
close:distant life:death
free:bound
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.
Haying 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 intensifi
cation worldwide which employ a scapegoat as an embodiments 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

53
:i "rites of separation" in Van Gennep's (1960) framework, on a community
scale. They are characterized by a periodic transfer of accumulated
"evil" 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, v/here 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 face
washing 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

54
mountain. 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 inani
mate scapegoats are repeatedly used in the purification, and twice
the village is cleansed of "contaminated" earth along with other used
or v/orn 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 cl oaths, new pots, pans, and other household

55
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 Waring 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
Chappie 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, Trie Rites of 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

56
period of transition which is characterized by role reversal and humility.
Turner calls this generalized condition "communitas" (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

57
of construction stages, the resulting figure is an average of 21 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 intensifi
cation, 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 group, which
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

58
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 intensifica
tion) 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
Cemochechobee 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 All and (later) Stage AIII.
The All 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^ (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

59
of concurrent basket loads from the same source (ibid:103-104). Stage
AIII as a whole had an estimated fill volume of 279.7m (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 full
time, 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

60
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. Mow 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

61
(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).

CHAPTER V
THEME AND VARIATION
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, normative shifts to which
archaeologists are more accustomed will be discussed.
Selected for particular attention will be the Cemochechobee site,
previously referred to briefly. Cemochechobee 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 approxi
mately A.D. 900 to A.D. 1400. The Cemochechobee site bears 18 radio
carbon 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 District, and 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
62

63
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, A1abama, 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 never
theless 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 termed 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

64
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).

65
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"
chunkey yard which illustrates two "slave posts" in addition to a central
pol e, whi ch i nterestingly is situated upon a low platform mound (Bartram 1909).

66
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 Cemochecho-
bee, 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 foundati
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 open-
air, 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.

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1000
997
994
991
988
985
MORTUARY
flu.
\l9
1003
1006
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1012
1015
XUA i XUB
1018 1021
1024
1027 1030 1033
1036
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00

69
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 wal 1 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.

70
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 porch
like 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 interments
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

71
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 auxilliary 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

72
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 Mississippi an sites such as Hiwassee Island and Bessemer.
These structures are perhaps analogous to the Creek tckofa, or cere
monial 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 Cetnochechobee 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 identifiabl
construction following the dismantling of the mortuary and its adjacent
building was the addition of a low blanket mantle designated Stage AI.
This was the first mound building effort at Cemochechobee. It was a
low, rectangular platform of yellow sand, designed apparently to complete
ly 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,

74
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 All. Unlike the earlier platform,
the Stage All 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 con
sisted of 15 plain and incised ceramic beakers, in a compact cluster to
gether with fragments of four large jars. The other consisted of an
isolated, unique red filmed jar.
Overlying Stage All 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

75
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 A111.
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

76
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 BIT. 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 preceeding 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 Bill. 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 preceeding 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 semi-
subterranean structure was built. Structure 8 was 7.34m in diameter,

77
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, east
facing 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.

78
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 apparent
ly 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.

79
The next construction stage identifiable within the Nuclear Zone,
B V11, 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, BIX, 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 Mound A. It is possible that this
sequence of blanket mantle addition, representing a final burial for the

80
symbolic Earth platform, was the norm 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" changeperiodic
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 archaeological ly 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 detectably gradual, and always in response to

81
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, orienta
tion, 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

82
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 ceremonial ismthat is, if it is part of the
Mississippian ritual corpusthen 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 expect
ed 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 talwas 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.

CHAPTER VI
SPACE AND MEANING
No symbolic structure can operate independently of its physical
or phenomenal objectifications. It is by means of these objectifi
cations, 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 in
voked 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 umwelt 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 message
bearing 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 trans-
posable to other dimensions of ritual, then this circumstance should
be of special value to the archaeologist, whose ritual data are gleaned
83

84
largely from spatial informationforms 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 urmelt, 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 con
venience or of pragmatic concerns, but rather in order to constitute in
themselves symbolic representations meaningful to the ritual actors and
n
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 urrwelt
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 (1980) 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,

85
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 circumstan
ces. 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
always 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 partici
pants 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 new
comers. The lanwelt is transformed again into a welt. 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

86
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
¡i 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 facilitiestake 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 proceed
ings 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 distinctioni.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 representa
tives of the community (one polar zone), but are temporarily invested
with sacred power to acquit or indict, emanating from the opposite zone
of authority.
Many American Christian churches possess the same polar, triprtate
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 passage
as in a wedding, where initiates are escorted by ritual elders progress
ively across the three zones and back again. These are inferences of

88
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 distinctionsa simpli
fied cosmology. As Rom Harre puts it, "the Umuelt structure may be an
icon of a particular people's theory of their own society; that is, the
physical structure of the Umuelt may function as a meaning-bearing entity,
an icon of the content of certain propositions within the cosmology
of a people" (1978:166). Harre observes that such an objective microcosm
can express the macrocosm in two ways, either by exhibiting an isomor
phism 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 microcosmological
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 concern
ing relationships between society and nature. Deetz (1977:92-117), for
example, has shown how the development of Anglo-American house archi
tecture during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries precisely mirrors
pervasive and deep-seated changes in world view, from a corporate and or
ganic "medieval" pose to an ordered, mechanical, Renaissance-influenced

89
pose. As another example, Tambiah (1969) has described how house archi
tecture 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 "the Bosten
or Boatswain" (Figure 7).
FIGURE 7. PLAN OF AN EIGHTEENTH CENTURY SEMINOLE HOUSE

90
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. eabane=cot 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
mats.
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 struc
ture, 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

91
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 house-
complex 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 compart
ments in the two wings of Bosten's house.
animal
products
of hunting
masculine j feminine
Winter Activities
processing/
storing
hunted
products
cooking
stored food
trade
in skins
processing/
storing
vegetable food
Summer Activities
vegetable
products of
horticulture
FIGURE 8. CONCEPTUAL PLAN OF THE BOSTEN HOUSE.

92
It is important to remark here that neither the form nor the con
ceptual plan of the Seminole house just described can be taken as a
standard for Southeastern or even eighteenth century Seminole practice,
because, like the variability among Creek talwas in ceremonial arrange
ments, house patterns were quite mutable even within particular towns.
Only three adequate descriptions of comparable houses of the period
have survived, and each of the three is different. Although information
is scarce, it seems probable that much of this variability was of the
discriminatory type discussed earlier. That is, specific house patterns
were probably used to mark the clan membership or generational status
of particular households among the Creeks and Seminles. The distinction
of this mode of variability from codes reflecting core symbolism has
been established earlier.
Had more detailed descriptions of eighteenth century Creek and
Seminole houses survived, it would surely become possible to map out
the various symbolic transformations according to which house forms
and uses varied in time and space. Bartram's (1909:56) descriptions of
a generalized "Upper Creek" house and of a Cuscowilla (Oconee Seminole)
house (Harper 1958:122) are suggestive, but these data are inadequate
to pursue a comparative project in search of replicating correspondences.
The Cuscowilla house, unlike the square ground-like house of Bosten, was
T-shaped in plan, consisting of two separate buildings rather than four.
Nevertheless, the Cuscowilla house can be viewed as a fairly simple con
ceptual transformation of the former. In it, the masculine-feminine
axis is almost completely collapsed, surviving only in a bipartate
transverse division of the winter house into a "cook-room" versus a
"lodging room". The summer-winter axis remains intact, with a granary

93
and "potato house" (and also probably a skin warehouse) added to the
summer house. That is, the elements which in the Bosten house defined
the masculine-feminine axis are here transferred appropriately along
the summer-winter axis and conjoined with other elements. In addition,
a third dimension is added for the Cuscowilla house. This is a vertical
axis probably representing a culture/nature type opposition, by which
horticultural products were segregated from wild gathered plant products.
Here, then, are some possibilities for the archaeologist to consider
in analyzing Mississippian architecture, both domestic and public. But
an obvious feature of all of these examples is that the assignment of
meanings to objective features can be checked in their full ethnographic
context. The archaeological case is different. In it the conventional
meanings may be irretrievable, leaving only recourse to quasi-universal
principles for inferring general sets of meanings and oppositions.
Fortunately for the student of Mississippian ritual phenomena, such
conventional meanings and symbols are not totally obscured.! by time and
can be to some degree salvaged from ethnohistorical and historical data.
A primary aim of this study has been to make a convincing case for the
interpretability of many Mississippian ritual features in light of
particular conventions. For these "texts" it is possible to decipher a
grammar, and the rudiments of a lexicon.
The problem of conventional meaning remains, however, the most
ponderous and significant issue in the interpretation of archaeological
ritual. It appears that, without introductory clues found in the
historical record and in myth, the archaeologist lacks the initial
anchorage necessary to make sense out of a sea of arbitrary images. In

94
particular regard to the symbolic use of space, Mary Douglas (1972:521)
has spoken of this as "an insoluble, problem".
Nevertheless, a number of scholars have been interested in the
possibility of quasi-uni versa! principles in the symbolic ordering of
space which transcend specific ethnographic contexts. If such principles
can be shown to have general validity, they could be of some utility for
inferring meanings at a basic level regardless of the archaeological
obscurity of the interpreted phenomena.
As a simple example, one might observe that walls, a class of arti
ficial boundaries commonly encountered in archaeological remains, are
normally infused with important symbolic significance. They are in effect
objective taboos, channeling by their design human energies and marking
socially significant spaces. In contrast to the numerous "invisible"
social boundaries which are learned and maintained by individuals in
interaction, walls are exaggerated, intentionally insurmountable and
opaque social boundaries, conveying the message of differential symbolic
values associated with either side.
As another rather obvious illustration, it is usually possible m
to segregate facilities which are communal from those which are idio
matic. Often these are set in definite polar opposition. In cases of
ritual stages, the idiomatic facilities may be associated with sacred
paraphernalia (as in the courtroom example), allowing the interpretation
of the polarity as some version of the sacred/profane dichotomy. Edmund
Leach (1976:85) has formalized this proposition into what might loosely
be called a general theory of the public ritual wnwelt.

95
Every religious ritual, no matter whether it takes place
at a wayside shrine temporarily erected for the purpose
or in a permanent setting such as the sanctuary of a
cathedral, is performed within the confines of a stage,
the boundaries and segments of which are artificial. At
a structural level the components of such stages are
highly standardized. There are three essential elements:
Zone 1. The shrine proper, which, in the context of
the ritual, becomes extremely sacred. It usually
contains some iconic symbol which makes it
immediately apparent that this is where the
deity is, e. g. an image, an empty seat, a
crucifix.... In the context of the ritual this
"shrine proper" is treated as if it were actually
a part of the Other World.
Zone 2. The place of assembly of the congregation. The
essential point here is that this area must be close
to but separated from the shrine proper. In the
context of the ritual, ordinary members of the
congregation must not enter the shrine proper which
is reserved for priests and other religious
functionaries.
Zone 3. An area of middle ground on which most of the
action of the ritual takes place which is likewise
reserved for the priests.
Not all societies, of course, that have public ritual facilities
also have priesthoods, but as a general model for polar structures of
this type Leach's description has wide applicability. A similar polar
structure has already been examined in this study: the premound
features at the Cemochechobee site. In that instance the dichotomy
was between a bounded, communal space and a relatively sacred bounded
space reserved for mortuary ritual. These were separated by a
liminal zone containing a sacred symbol, the perpetual fire. Polar
structures of this sort can also be recognized at the level of
community plan. As an illustration, Figure 9 reproduces Cyrus Thomas'
plan of a Mississippian village in Stoddard County, Missouri. Here, as
in many other cases, the cultural world is structured and set off from
the natural world by conspicuous artificial boundariestwin embankments.
On the western side of the diagram are the house depressions which define

the community proper. While there is a size range among them, in general
they are a homogeneous and apparently randomly mixed group. To the east
of this communal zone is a featureless band, and to the east of the fea
96
tureless band are the sacred features of the site two platform mounds.
The mounds are of a different form, one rectangular and the other circular,
arranged along a north-south axis with the usual featureless zone in-between.
The arrangement of the mounds thus suggests a further, sacred dichotomy
linked to the socioreligious contexts within which each mound functioned.
iH'iMilliiiii'MiiiMiii'.fiiiimi'iidiiipiiiniiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiMiiir.li.iiiiiliiiiiiiiiii'iiii'ii'i.tiiiiiiiMiffm'iMim!:1!)
||lllill|lllliiHillHll|lllilillllliH|llllilllllilllllliHI|||IH!llll|HIHIIIIIII||lllllllHMIItllHllllllll|lllllili| a- i
N
A
G
O o
ono G Oo
O O o o O
o
o
o o
o
O
O
o
o O
Suitin'^
O
O
o o
FIGURE 9. THOMAS1 PLAN OF THE "LAKEVILLE SETTLEMENT," MISSOURI.
Polar structures of this type need not be arrayed along a single axis,
but can otherwise be concentric, with the sacred fcil ity or symbol in the center,
surrounded by a liminal zone, followed by a communal ring equidistant from
the center. The Mississippian earth lodge at Ocmulgee National Monument, de
scribed by Fairbanks (1946), displays such a concentric polar structure.
It is a circular structure, the center of which is dominated by a sacred symbol,
the fire pit. Surrounding the fire is a featureless zone (except for
support posts). Along the inner wall of the structure, equidistant from
the fire are 50 modeled clay seats, emphasizing homogeneity and lack of differ
entiation. Thus Leach's formula is reproduced concentrically or axially.

97

98
But in this example there is yet another polar axis superimposed
on the concentric one. This axis is defined by the entranceway on one
side of the earth lodge, and opposite this entranceway, another sacred
symbol: a modeled clay bird-platform. Three of the clay seats in the
outer ring surmount this bird platform, and are thus distinguished by
association with the sacred.
This superimposition of axes, each carrying a different message
about the seated participants (homogeneity in the one case; status
differentiation in the other), nicely illustrates a further point:
ritual stages can only project a very limited number of symbolic dis-
ll
criminations and still remain orderly, uncluttered, and coherent. But
the social bodies which normally make use of such ritual facilities
are, in direct contrast, usually organized by a highly complex and
multifaceted web of statuses and roles, which are symbolically repre
sented in various ways. Thus, as Lvi-Strauss (1963) has observed for
diametric structures, the structure of a ritual setting, in its
simplistic cogency, can be more an obfuscation than a reliable portrait
or reflection of social distinctions.
Such quasi-universal patterns of representation as diametry,
linear polarity, concentric polarity and triprtate division, while they
are interesting commentaries on the innately human search for order in
the construction of social reality, nevertheless cannot promise great
discoveries an analytical tools. For Mississippian studies, these
principles must be conjoined with the search for conventional meanings
in concrete symbols, which alone can further progress in penetrating the
richness of Mississippian world view.

CHAPTER VII
IN AND OUT OF THE CHARNEL-HOUSE
Up to this point the subject matter has been primarily rites of
intensification. Now it is time to focus our attention on the other
major class of ritual, the rites of passage. By definition, rites of
passage occur on the average at a smaller scale than do rites of inten
sification, but this does not necessarily mean that public facilities
for rites of passage must always be less conspicuous, or archaeologically
less visible, than those designed primarily to accommodate community
calendrical rites. Indeed, as Bloch (1971) has shown for the Merina of
Madagascar, sometimes a single set of customs concerning a rite of
passage, in that case funeral ritual, can come to dominate the religious
life to the point of becoming a central reference point for organizing
social relations within a society. Mortuary facilities are correspond
ingly the most elaborate and expensive possession of the average
Merina.
On the other hand, it is quite true that stages accommodating
lesser rites of passage can be very simple or even ad hoc affairs, and
that these should normally escape archaeological detection. Even
relatively important transition rites may take place in no more than a
cleared area, which although spatially structured in accord with
definite principles, have no permanent or imperishable features, the
material paraphernalia or sacra being imported to the site and removed
again following the ceremony to a place of storage. In such cases
the passage of a few years may effectively obliterate all evidence
of the structuring of the stage, or at least obscure what evidence remains.
99

100
Furthermore, common rites of passage such as marriage, puberty
1)
initiations, and births, leave little or no conspicuous material residue.
It is consequently impossible in most cases to address these customary
behaviors archaeologically. But funerals leave bones and grave features,
and so we must focus our labors on mortuary ritual.
The analysis of Mississippian mortuary patterning by a growing
number of investigators has proven exceptionally fruitful, especially as
applied to the problem of social organization and its evolution. Instead
of reviewing this literature, however, or attempting to build upon these
traditions of inquiry which have served other investigators well (e.g.
Saxe 1970, Binford 1971, Brown 1971, Peebles 1974, Goldstein 1976),
attention will be diverted here to a rather different perspective on the
same body of data. Specifically, two topics will be addressed: 1) What
is the meaning surrounding Mississippian secondary and tertiary burial?
We will want to examine the symbolism connected with charnel facilities
and with corporate group burial, with an eye open to archaeological
correlates. 2) What is the logical process by means of which funeral
I
rites can become intermeshed with broad-scale rites of intensification?
Or more precisely, what is the role of human burial within the context
of platform mound ceremonialism as discussed earlier? We will call
this process "embedding".
In an earlier chapter rites of passage were defined as they are
contrasted to rites of intensification, but it is appropriate at this
point to review briefly the concept as Van Gennep (1960) perceived it.
In the Western society with which we are most familiar, social life
tends to be conceived as a continuous or relatively uninterrupted
process from birth to death. But this is in marked contrast to simpler

101
societies which tend to see social life as a series of qualitatively
different, bounded states, which are sequentially occupied by the
individual. Rites of passage mark the nodes separating one state from
the next; that is, they draw attention to the complete and fairly sudden
redefinition of the social person as he/she passes into a new status
with new roles. These gross distinctions between sequent states mean
not only that the individual must completely readjust, but that the
society as a whole must readjust its various relationships as well, as
its continuity of social actors is recurrently broken. That is why, to
the degree that the initiate is influential in community affairs, rites
of passage are public, sometimes costly, emotional events of great
importance, often evocative of core symbolism.
Van Gennep noticed that the nature of these status transitions
dictated that their structure be triprtate, consisting of:
1) Rites of separation, by means of which the initiate throws off old
statuses and roles in preparation for the new. Frequently the initiate
is physically separated and isolated from normally structured society.
2) Rites of transition (1iminality), an intermediate period of
adjustment. Victor Turner (1969) has greatly expanded this concept,
pointing out that it is symbolically a time of "anti-structure" during
which role reversal is not uncommon. It is an optimum time for the
"reeducation" of the initiate concerning core values (sometimes
employing material sacra, or sacred symbols). The kind of transcendant
feeling of social unity or oneness which emerges in liminality once
normal social structure is ritually stripped away is called "communitas".
Van Gennep observed that, among other rites of passage, funerals with
their amplified attention to readjustment most strongly emphasize 1 iminal rites.

102
3) Rites of incorporation, by means of which the initiate is introduced
to the new status/role structure, and normal activity is resumed.
For Fortes (1962:86), rites of passage are symbolic ways of
binding together the individual with a socially defined status, which
are regarded as separate. "Ritual presents office to the individual as
the creation and possession of society or a part of society into which
he is to be incorporated through the office." In a fundamental sense,
then, rites of passage are public methods of conferring upon an
individual the proscriptions, rights, and privileges associated with a
given ascribed or achieved status, and of removing those of the prior
condition. These formulations apply as well to funerals as to initiatory
rites.
Mississippian mortuary practices, considered as a unit, are a
highly variable conglomeration in contrast to earlier Woodland practices,
which are relatively more uniform. Thorne Deuel's early definition of
"Mississippi Basic Culture", however, referred to specific burial traits
as characterizing the cultural complex. "Interment", Deuel alleged,
|i "was made in cemeteries, although important individuals were buried in
the top of temple (and domiciliary) mounds even in historic times"
(1935:433). Deuel's concept of Mississippian in 1935 largely took
the Dickson Mound site near Lewiston, Illinois as its prototype.
(Dickson had a Spoon River phase component which had yielded a large
Mississippian cemetery). Some later investigators have likewise con
sidered cemetery burial and extended primary deposition of corpses as
marker traits for Mississippian cultures, but within the Mississippian
construct as it has been expanded over the years and as it is being used
here, it is inaccurate to speak of this as a defining mode.

103
The variability in Mississippian mortuary treatments is evident at
several levels: among separate Mississippian cultures and periods,
among sites, and within sites where many different treatments may appear
contemporaneously within the same community. Primary interments are
commonly extended, but may be flexed or semiflexed with variations such
as sitting burials occasionally occurring. In a number of Mississippian
cultures and social segments the axis of orientation of the corpse is a
consistent feature, and may be solstitial or equinoctial. Items deposited
with the dead range from none to elaborate ritual paraphernalia in the
graves of high-ranking individuals at ceremonial centers. Grave goods
have been successfully used as indicators of social ranking within
Mississippian communities, and evidence of artifactual symbols of office
within rank hierarchies has been reported. Similarly, burial features
range in elaboration from simple earth coverings without pits, through
stone-lined graves, to deep log-covered tombs, with numerous other
possibilities. Burials may be grouped within discrete cemeteries, in
which spatial and artifactual differentiations related to social rank
may be discerned. Alternatively, burials may be deposited beneath the
floor of a mortuary structure or charnel-house. Such mortuaries can
normally be considered facilities used by a discrete corporate group of
lineal descent (see Saxe 1970:119), e.g. the bone-houses used by
separate Choctaw clans. In cases where Mississippian ceremonial centers
yield one such central or especially elaborate mortuary facility, it is
reasonable to suppose that it is the product of a superordinate kin group.
The same may be said of 1imited :populations of burials placed within and
around platform mounds reserved for this purpose, as were maintained
among such Mississippian cultures as Cairo Lowland, Tennessee-Cumberland,

104
Bessemer, Wilbanks, Rood, Macon Plateau, and Fort Walton.
Evidence of secondary and tertiary burial of defleshed bones after
temporary deposition of the corpse in a separate facility is also very
common among Mississippian cultures, and these practices will be explored
in some detail below. The percentage of secondary burials varies widely
among sites; from special corporate burial situations such as occur at
the Cemochechobee site (Schnell, Knight, and Schnell 1979) where
approximately 90% of the recovered burials are secondary or tertiary in
terments, to sites like Moundville, where only 40% are secondary or
tertiary (proportionately more within the mounds) (Peebles 1974:293).
Mississippian corpses were interred in various states of decomposition.
They might be partially articulated, with only an extremity or two out
of place. They might otherwise consist of an isolated skull or mandible,
or a bundle of disarticulated bones. Sometimes formerly disarticulated
bones had been rearticulated in the grave. In many cases large portions
of the skeleton are missing. Cremations, considered here as a subset
of secondary burial, are uniformly rare. Secondary and tertiary inter
ments may contain grave goods of the same order as primary interments,
although the presence/absence of such furnishings may be significantly
correlated with mode of burial.
The bulk of the evidence for secondary and tertiary burial among
Mississippian cultures comes from observations of the lack of body parts
and of skeletal articulation within burials. Evidence of facilities
for the initial burial are difficult to identify. At some sites
^reexcavated burial pits testify to the exhumation and reburial of the
corpse. This, however, is rather uncommon. Other possible modes for
initial burial, for example scaffolding as practised by many historic

105
Southeastern groups, have not been identified archaeologically at
Mississippian sites (because they generally leave no diagnostic evidence);
but based solely upon the frequency of secondary and tertiary burial
vis-a-vis identifiable firfet-burial facilities, such practices as
temporary scaffold burial must have been very common. Actual bounded
facilities, e.g. houses or compounds, for the initial collective placement
of the dead should not be a common feature, for reasons which will
become clear later.
Secondary burial was equally common among the historic descendants
of Mississippian societies. A minimum list of Southeastern Indian groups
practicing secondary burial of corpses reduced to skeletal remains in
the postcontact period would include the Powhatan, the Algonkian groups
of Virginia and Carolina, the Tuscarora and Santee, the Potomac, the
Tocobaga and Tequesta, the Choctaw, the Natchez, and the Chitimacha.
An anthropological approach to the subject of secondary burial
must begin with Robert Hertz's brilliant essay on the subject,
"Contribution a une Etude sur la Reprsentation Collective de la Mort"
(A Contribution to the Study of the Collective Representation of Death)
(Hertz 1907) published in Annee Sociologique. It is a cross-cul
tural study of the symbolism connected with secondary burial practices,
but it deals most extensively with the Dayak of Borneo, particularly
the 01o Ngaju. Hertz was a student of Durkheim, and like Durkheim he
used a method which explored the subject as it applied to a particular
people and region in exhaustive detail, calling in data from societies
farther afield only to ascertain whether the principles derived could be
further generalized. In Hertz's case the results have been applied by

modern fieldworkers (Huntington and Metcalf 1979) with good success,
and these fieldworkers have testified to their exploratory power.
Hertz begins with the idea that secondary burial, and the necessary
lengthening of the funeral rites that it implies, are linked to the
belief that death is not an instantaneous termination of biological
functions, as we tend to see it, but something more profound. He
observes that death "does not confine itself to ending the visible
bodily life of an individual; it also destroys the social being grafted
upon the physical individual and to whom the collective consciousness
attributed great dignity and importance" (Hertz 1960:77). Death is
therefore not just a natural phenomenon among societies bearing such
practices, but a sinister force which threatens the existence of society
itself; it is not sudden, but is gradual and structured like all other
1ife-passages.
Every change of status in the individual, as he passes
from one group to another, implies a deep change in
society's mental attitude toward him, a change that is
made gradually and requires time. The brute fact of
physical death is not enough to consummate death
in people's minds: the image of the recently
deceased is still part of the system of things of this
world, and looses itself from them only gradually by
a series of internal partings. We cannot bring
ourselves to consider the deceased as dead right away:
he is too much a part of our substance, we have put too
much of ourselves into him, and participation in the
same social life creates ties which are not to be
severed in one day (1960:81-82).
For the Dayak as for other societies, Hertz makes it clear that
mortuary customs including secondary burial are structured like any
other major rite of passage. Among the Dayak the first, temporary burial on

107
an isolated scaffold, and the observances surrounding it, were rites of
separation. The subsequent period of mourning during which the body
decomposed in its temporary grave was characteristically liminal. During
this time the soul was destined to be a homeless wanderer on earth,
and the mourning kin were ritually segregated from the remainder of the
community by taboo. At the final ceremony and feast the cleaned bones
were rearticulated and transferred in new wrappings to the charnel
house, the soul was ceremonially and finally directed to the community
of the dead, and the prohibitions concerning the mourners were lifted.
Thisr event was clearly a rite of incorporation to a normal, structural
state.
The mortuary rites of passage were not simply directed toward the
corpse, but toward three distinct categories of actors: 1) the corpse,
transformed from a corruptible body to an incorruptible and irreducible
skeleton; 2) the soul, generally separate from the body after death,
transformed from the community of the living to the community of the
dead; and 3) the mourners, who undergo a transformation in mental state.
These three kinds of transformations were among the Dayak structured and
concurrently achieved through ritual. Furthermore, and central to
Hertz's analysis, is the recognition that specific portions of the
funeral observances are not directed toward expediting the passage of
one category to actor versus the other two, but rather toward emphasizing
analogies between the respective passages of the different sets taken in
pairs (Huntington and Metcalf 1979:62).
Thus, the decomposition of the body and the separation of corruptible
flesh from incorruptible bones is taken as a natural metaphor both for
the processes of gradually changing the soul to its new condition among

108
the ancestors, and of gradually adjusting the status of the mourners.
When the decomposition is finished (and this of course can be manipulated
to hurry it up or slow it down), the other two processes are completed
as well. While the body is decomposing and is consequently between
states, the soul undergoes a kind of earthly probation "during which it
stays on earth in the proximity of the body, wandering in the forest or
frequenting the places it inhabited while it was alive" (Hertz 1960:34).
It is isolated from communion with either world, it is dangerous, and
it must be placated. At the same time the mourning kin are similarly iso
lated from society. They are subject to numerous prohibitions, and must
flag themselves by special dress and bodily decoration announcing their
state of pollution. They are also subject to spiritual attack by the
hostile soul, since they alone are in contact with the body and are
responsible for guarding it. These isolations, prohibitions, and taboos,
all of which segregate the actors from their respective normal communities,
clarify why the place of temporary burial is almost invariably isolated,
segregated from other burials. In direct contrast, the bones during the
final ceremonies of incorporation are brought to a charnel-house, which
is a communal facility, symbolizing the aggregation of the community of
the dead.
In a similar way, an analogy is made between the fate of the soul
and the fate of the mourners, emphasizing the idea that the community
of the dead is socially structured as a mirror of the community of the
living. Accordingly during the funeral ceremonies, the progress of the
soul in overcoming the obstacles in its path toward the world of spirits
is acted out in the human world. And the world of ancestral spirits finds

109
its objective analog in the charnel-house, which is commonly furnished
with material symbols and valuables of a quality befitting some revered
ancestors.
Hertz emphasizes that the final rites of incorporation surrounding
the placement of bones in the charnel-house effectively neutralizes the
obligations of the living, especially of the mourners, to the dead. But
he adds that "the bones are still endowed with a character such that a
too close contact with them seems dreadful and it is often preferred to
put a fair distance between the house of the dead and the living (ibid:56).
The bones are still a source of potentially malicious power, and further
ritual acts may be necessary to deal with this condition, especially as
the ancestors accumulate in number. Actually, cross-cultural comparison
shows that attitudes are variable toward "incorporated" skeletal remains.
Bones may be considered generally beneficial to the living, hence they
might be returned to the houses of relatives; this may be institutionalized
as an "ancestor cult". Or the bones may be considered so residually
polluting and dangerous that they require tertiary burial, or calendrical
rites designed to periodically remove the pollution accumulated in the
maintenance of charnel facilities. Tertiary burial seems to have been
an option chosen in some Mississippian societies, as it was for example
among the historic Choctaw and Natchez. We will explore Choctaw
tertiary burial in more detail, as a potential model for Mississippian
practice.
Parenthetically, Hertz points out in his essay that the cause of
death in particular cases, if it is exceptional e.g. by suicide, murder,
or accidentcan result in exceptions to the normal ritual procedures.
"Their bodies inspire the most intense horror and are got rid of

110
precipitately; furthermore, their bones are not laid with those of the
other deceased members of the group who have died a normal death. Their
unquiet and spiteful souls roam the earth forever (ibid:85). Recalling
the Premound Precinct Complex features at the Cemochechobee site
discussed earlier (Figure 6), this account accords well with the
circumstances surrounding central Burial 1 (XUA). This isolated
corpse, in contrast to those who gained burial within the adjacent
mortuary, was fully articulated and had thus been buried before decom
position vas complete. Furthermore the feet had been severed; they
were missing from the tomb. Appropriately for the fate of the soul, if
we may credit this interpretation, this corpse vas interred in the zone
we have identified as liminal space, between the objective ritual
representations of the community of the dead (the mortuary) and the
community of the living (the Northern Ceremonial Compound) (Schnell,
Knight, and Schnell 1979).
Now, in adopting a Hertzian analytical frame, it is clear that we
must distinguish archaeologically among facilities and features designed
1) for initial burial, 2) for secondary burial, and 3) for tertiary
burial. It has already been said that the first kind of facilities
will not generally be easy to recognize, because they may consist of
simple scaffolds, which leave mainly post molds; because they are usually
isolated; and because they are features associated only with a small
group of mourners, the close kin, and will be correspondingly simple
and transitory in comparison with the communal secondary repositories
which involve larger social units such as conical clans. Evidence of
exhumed burials, where encountered, can be considered conceptually
parallel to scaffold burial and other possible modes of initial burial.

Ill
Potentially, more than one mode can exist within the same community
synchronically, marking social distinctions (see Hertz 1960:30). Public
facilities designed for collective initial disposal of corpses contain
an element of incongruity, since these must find other than spatial
means of symbolizing separation. These consequently should be rare among
Mississippian groups practicing secondary burial, as they are worldwide.
As a counter-example, just such a facility occurs at the pre-Mississippian
(Weeden Island Period) McKeithen site in north-central Florida (Milanich
and Fairbanks 1980:135-136). But within that facility, as within other
conceivable ones, separation could have been maintained by processing only
one corpse at a time. If we are allowed to rationalize it that way, then
one can say that such structures are not communal after all, and differ
from other facilities for initial burial only in their size and permanence,
being used again and again as required.
Facilities designed for secondary disposal of cleaned bones are
commonly called charnel-houses or ossuaries. It should be made clear
however, that the term ossuary implies secondary burial specifically,
while the term charnel-house does not; modifiers may be used
accordingly to clarify the usage. The form of Mississippian structures
which have been interpreted as charnel-houses is quite variable, and it
is important to note that usually they can be identified only by
association with subsurface burials, which may not be secondary but
rather primary or tertiary interments. This of course is a complicating
circumstance, since charnel-houses may, and probably most often do, store
skeletal remains above-ground. The use of the vertical axis as an
additional spatial marker, for example in segregating subsurface burials

112
beneath the floor of a charnel-house from those stored directly above
them, is a special case denoting some particular opposition, e.g. between
the states symbolized by primary and secondary burial, between secondary
and tertiary burial, or some other distinction. It follows as a matter
of method that one must always be careful to identify to the extent
possible the exact sequential procedure followed in ritually processing
the remains, although this tends to be frustrated in practice by the
awful truism that burials prior to the terminal one generally do not
contain any bones. To help in clarifying this notion of vertical
oppositions, we may use the well known example of the charnel-house/
temple of the historic Natchez which was described by the French in the
early part of the eighteenth century. The archaeological remains of this
and somewhat earlier versions of the described structure were excavated
first by Chambers and later by Neitzel in Mound C at the Fatherland
site in Mississippi, the former Grand Village of the Natchez. Beneath
the floor of the charnel-house/tempie, Chambers and Neitzel found 1) ex
tended primary burials, 2) disarticulated skeletal elements in decayed
wooden boxes, 3) isolated skull burials, and 4) numerous large empty
pits (Neitzel 1965:41, 82-83). Correlation of these features with
documented burials of Natchez nobility, primarily from the accounts of
Du Pratz and Dumont describing the funeral in 1725 of Tattooed Serpent,
a war chief (Swanton 1911:144-157; Neitzel 1965:78-85), allow us to
state that the vertical axis was used to mark two oppositions. It was
first used to distinguish initial interment from secondary disposal:
Tattooed Serpent and his retainers were buried in the flesh below the
temple floor, later to be exhumed, the bones being placed in above-ground
hampers. The presence, then, of boxed bones and disarticulated remains

113
found archaeologically beneath the floor indicates another, tertiary
interment episode not described in the documents, this time the vertical
axis being used to express the secondary-tertiary distinction. In this
instance, then, above-ground burial is always secondary, while sub-floor
burial may be either primary or tertiary, the important symbolic dis
tinctions being made vertically among successive phases in the burial
program.
We are now in a position to comment on a common and conspicuous
feature of Mississippian secondary/tertiary burial, which is a general
pre-interment neglect of both bones and associated artifacts. Skeletal
elements are frequently missing at random, can be found in the "wrong"
grave, and grave goods sometimes exhibit evidence of pre-interment
r
neglect o\maltreatment. In accounting for this it should be remembered
that it is generally only the close kin who have access to the corpse
during the liminal or transitional period; others stay away for fear of
becoming polluted. It is also during this period that gifts are
typically offered to the deceased to placate the soul. Contact in general
is very restricted, and if the initial disposal is remote and above-ground,
the corpse may be subject to the ravages of rats, vultures, and dogs as
well as more passive agents of decomposition. Further, neglect of the
corpse may be due to conscious motives arising from ambivalent feelings
of the mourners toward placation; they may wish to impress upon the soul
of the deceased its obligation to society for allowing it, through ritual,
to be transformed. Turner (1969:103) says that it is characteristic of
lirninal neophytes in general to "have to be shown that in themselves they
are clay or dust, mere matter, whose form is impressed upon them by
society". Liminal states typically deemphasize distinctions of age, sex,

114
rank, and the possession of property or wealth (ibid:106-107)these
distinctions are restored in the collective charnel-house. This factor
may conceivably influence what is commonly held as axiomatic: that
status in death as reflected in grave accompaniments is a direct
indicator of terminal status in life.
To this point the discussion of the phenomenon of tertiary burial
has been left somewhat neglected, principally because our initial cues
were taken from Hertz. Hertz ended his analysis of mortuary ritual with
secondary burial and a "final ceremony" designed to restore order among
the mourners, the corpse, and the soul. To deal with the idea of
tertiary or multiple interments beyond the funeral rites of passage
per se, we need the additional concept of "embedding".
Given the three-phase diachronic formula for rites of passage and
rites of intensification outlined by Van Gennep, there is a sentence in
his text which at first glance seems a puzzling and unnecessary confusion
of this simple scheme. It speaks of "rites of separation from the usual
environment; rites:.of incorporation into the sacred environment; a
transitional period; rites of separation from the local sacred environ
ment; rites of incorporation into the usual environment" (Van Gennep
1960:82). Here we seem to have a five-phase formula rather than the
usual three. Fortes has commented upon this apparent contradiction, and
it exemplifies for him the way that the three terms can constitute a
"Procrustean Formula" (1962:55). That is, Fortes fears that the terms
can be applied to field data almost any way one wishes, which is tanta
mount to saying that all the formula accomplishes is a demonstration
that every ritual sequence has a beginning, a middle, and an end. But

115
this judgment is too hasty; field research by Collins (1969) on
the Peyote Ceremony at Taos Pueblo has shown that there are examples
of public ritual practices which really do have compound structures
like the one that Van Gennep described, and in no ambiguous or
equivocal way. Collins essentially showed that the three-phase struc
ture of separation-transition-incorporation can be embedded within
one or more of the terms in a larger structure of the same type.
The term "embedding" may be formalized to describe the process
by which the symbolic structures of ritual may be compounded. This
redundancy can be inserted at any one of the three stages or in all of
them, in order to impress their special significance to the initiates
or to emphasize particular passages where numerous classes of actors
are involved. For separation rites, this may take the form of a
rehearsal. For rites of incorporation, it may ease the transition
directly from a highly sacred to a profane state, where this is seen
as especially difficult. Finally, remembering that rites of passage
and rites of intensification have a common underlying structure, one
can show that one form may logically be embedded within the other.
As applied to the problem of Mississippian tertiary burial, one
must first observe that funeral rites culminating in a "final ceremony",
while these assure the successful passage of the corpse, soul, and
mourners, do not terminate the relationship between the living and the
dead. On the contrary they initiate a new sacralized state of relation
ship, since a new and powerful ancestral entity, closely associated with
the remaining bones, has been created and must now be dealt with. The
new responsibilities are exemplified by what Lawson reports of the
historic Algonkians of the Carolinas.

116
If they remove never so far, to live in a foreign country,
they never fail to take all these dead bones along with
them, though the tediousness of 1.their short daily
marches keeps them never so long on their journey. They
reverence and adore this quiogozon [charnel-house] with all
the veneration and respect that it is possible for such a
people to discharge (Swanton 1946:721).
To the degree that this relationship can be anxious or burdensome to
the living, further rites of passage are called for to mitigate this
effect. Thus the Lincecum myth describes the veneration of ancestral
bones during the allegorical march of the Choctaw to Nanih Waiya,
but it also speaks of the "extraordinary and overwhelming" accumulation
of such remains as "a great evil" and "oppressive" (Lincecum 1904:
521-524). That narrative pits the wishes of the Choctaw priesthood
against those of a paramount chief. The priests advise that,
This people must not cast away the precious remains of
the fathers and mothers of this nation. They are charged
by the spirits, who are hovering thick around us now, to
take care of them; and carry them whithersoever the nation
moves. And this we must not, we dare not fail to do. Were
we to cast away the bones of our fathers, mothers, brothers,
sisters, for the wild dogs to gnaw in the wilderness, our
hunters would kill no more meat; hunger and disease would
follow; the confusion and death would come; and the wild
dogs would become fat on the unscaffolded carcasses of this
unfeeling nation of forgetful people. The vengeance of the
offended spirits would be poured out upon this foolish
nation (1904:526).
To this portrait of terrible moral backlash is contrasted the opinion of
the chief.
I propose that we shall by general consent and mutual good
feelings..., in the most respectful manner, bring together
and pile up in a beautiful and tasteful style the vast amount
of bones.... After this,...let all persons, old and young,
great and small, manifest their respect for the dead, by
their energy and industry in carrying dirt to cover them up,
and let the work of carrying and piling earth upon them be
continued until every heart is satisfied...for us to pile
their bones all in the same heap and securely cover them up
will be more pleasing to the spirits, than it will be to
let them remain amongst the people (1904:528).

117
Thus the tale provides an agenda for restoring harmony amid ambivalent
feelings toward the dead: tertiary burial of the curated bones in the
context of a community rite of intensification. It can now be seen
how the sacrilization initiated by secondary burial in the charnel-
house, and the desacralization achieved by tertiary burial, can be ana
lyzed as a second rite of passage, the termination of which may be
thought of as embedded within a rite of intensification, with the logical
point of articulation being the common rites of incorporation.
As an illustration, let us follow this sequence of primary,
secondary, and tertiary burial through, as it was objectified among
the Choctaw as described by various sources (Swanton 1931:170-177).
This can be assisted with the aid of a diagram, Figure 11.
anonymous French officer, Adair, Milfort, Bartram, and Romans, allow us
to piece together a satisfactory account of mid-eighteenth century
practices. The traditions conveyed to Cushman, Folsom, Byington, and
Halbert date to a later time but can be used as supplementary sources.
From the perspective of these accounts, practices seem to have varied
CHOCTAW MORTUARY RITUAL
level of inclusiveness
family clan town
Van Gennep: separation- liminality incorporation
fate of
the corpse
initial burial
(scaffold)
decom
position
ossuary
(secondary)
. tertiarv
8 burial
i
j
fate of
the soul
separation
from corpse
wandering
on earth
world of
the dead
i

i
fate of the
mourners
separation
from society
period of
mourning
ceremonial
release
i
rite of intensification: separation |liminal j incorporation
I FIGURE 11 ~l
The accounts of Choctaw mortuary rites left by Bossu, by an

118
slightly among different segments of the Choctaw, but the essential
features prior to the abandonment of secondary burial in the early
years of the nineteenth century seem to have been fairly constant.
The rites of separation were well-marked, and they accord well
with the conceptual outline of such rites provided by Hertz. They
might be initiated by the actual death of an individual, or in the
case of grave illness, a priest might initiate the rites by diagnosing
impending death. In the latter case, physical separation of the body
was immediate. After being washed and having the face painted, the ill
patient was dressed in finery and placed on the ground outside the
door of the house. Patients were then treated as if they were
already dead, until actual death ensued from exposure; or alternatively
the neck might be broken by the priest. Mourning began immediately
upon accomplishing the physical separation of the body. The wife and
relatives would begin to wail and cry in a standardized fashion, and a
stereotyped rite of questioning the dead as to the cause of its
unhappiness with earthly life followed closely. The near kin were
required to make further preparations for mourning: the house of the
deceased and all its provisions might be burned, or these might be sold
at a nominal price. Dogs and horses belonging to the deceased would
be killed so that their souls might accompany their owner to the
spirit world. The meat of the slaughtered horses would be preserved
for the feast marking the close of the transition rites. *A fire would
be kindled near the corpse outside the house, and would be maintained
four days, in the belief that this would comfort the suddenly dispossed
soul. While these preparations were being made, hired criers might come
to the house to mourn. *

119
t The initial burial was effected by erecting an isolated scaffold
either near the house opposite the door or in a grove at the margin
of the town. The scaffold was built like a miniature house, with
watt!e-and-daub sides and a cedar bark roof, intended to serve as the
"residence" of the corpse during the transition period. It was raised
six or more feet from the ground on poles. The elaborateness of this
scaffold varied with the importance of the individual interred.' Those
of high status individuals were decorated with red paint, whereas that
of a child might be a simple pole framework. The sacred space defined
by the scaffold might be stockaded or fenced against intruders, and
mourning benches were placed around it or on one side. A chain made
of grapevine links, the symbolism of which has been lost, hung from one
of the poles.
The body was interred through one of the two open ends, covered with
a blanket of deer or bear skin, or fabric. A quantity of goods was
placed with the corpse, in the belief that they would be put to use
by the soul on its journey These goods might include a gun with
powder and balls, a change of shoes, and some food.
The rites to this point served to objectify the separation of the
corpse, the soul, and the mourners from their normally structured
roles. Now began the liminal period marked by prolonged mourning by
the immediate kin, the decomposition of the scaffolded corpse, and
the temporary probation of the disassociated soul on earth. This period
could last anywhere from two to eight months, the exact duration depend
ing on the importance of the individual § the end being rather arbitrarily
set by a class of itinerant priests known as "bone-pickers" The only

120
requirement seems to have been toallow enough time for the body to de
compose sufficiently so that the defleshing "tools" of the bone-pickers,
their fingernails, could be used effectively.
Both men and women in mourning distinguished themselves from the
remainder of society in various ways. For both sexes, normally elaborate
clothing and body painting was relinquished, and women in addition left
their hair undressed and uncut. According to Folsom, men acted subdued,
did not speak, ate little, and avoided the usual modes of male amusement.
Women in mourning stayed at home entirely. Visits to the mourning
benches at the scaffold were made twice daily. Such visits might last
for half and hour or more, during which the shrouded mourners, which
might include friends and visitors as well as the bereaved kin, would
cry loudly or wail. Both sexes would participate, but women were more
often seen at the scaffold than men.
The complex rites of incorporation, or final ceremonies in which
the soul was incorporated into the spirit world, the corpse into the
collective charnel-house, and the mourners into normal society, were
initiated and presided over by the bone-picker. There seem to have been
only a few bone-pickers among the Choctaw (Romans says there were five),
both men and women, and these circulated among the villages performing
the rites, having been previously informed about the deaths which had
occurred in each village. Claiborne asserts that this was a clan office,
that is, that there was one bone-picker for each of the clans, and this
seems probable. Halbert's informants remembered that the several bone-
pickers conferred with each other on the proper times to carry out
their tasks, and that bundles of counting sticks were sent out to the
bereaved kin to mark the days prior to the rites. This was a normal

121
Southeastern method for coordinating events. Bone-pickers were generally
well-respected older adults (though Halbert disputes their prestige),
who carried as a badge of their occupation long nails on the thumb, first,
and middle fingers.
The bone-picker having arrived on the announced day, the relatives
would assemble once again around the scaffold and upon the mourning
benches. There would then ensue a period of loud wailing, followed by a
more subdued weeping during which the benches were removed. The bone-
picker would at this time be occupied by the construction of a hamper to
receive the bones, made of split cane to which bone splints were sometimes
added. This was painted red if the deceased had been a chief, and each
hamper bore a clan insignia. The relatives would then either remove
the corpse themselves from the scaffold to be defleshed, or allow the
bone-picker to climb the scaffold to perform the task within it. The
bone-picker would completely deflesh and dismember the bones, using only
the fingernails. The bones were washed and allowed to dry, emphasizing
their now purified state. If the work had been done upon the scaffold,
the bone-picker would next descend with the bones, presenting them to
the assembled kin with a speech., The skull was painted red, and the
bones were placed within the hamperAdair says in anatomical order, so
that they might easily be reunited when the dead were eventually revived
by a powerful spirit. The hamper was enclosed with a cloth. Milfort
adds that at this time one of the bones was restored to the family, but
there is no information regarding the use to which this removed bone was
put. The defleshing was followed by another round of wailing.
The removed flesh was disposed of by throwing it into a field, or
by burying it, or by setting it afire along with the burial scaffold!

122
In the latter case the flesh would be bundled and set to one side within
the scaffold house by the bone-picker, and the whole would be summarily
put to the torch. With this event, the final transformation of the
corpse was complete.
This portion of the rites of incorporation was concluded by a
feast given by the bereaved kin for friends and visitors paying their
condolences. While the bone-picker was busy dissecting, the meal was
being prepared, partially consisting if possible of the meat from the
slaughter of the horses belonging to the deceased. The meal could only
be served by the bone-picker, who did so after defleshing the corpse but
without first washing his/her hands. This was a clear sign of the
continued state of pollution among the mourners, which had not yet been
relieved. The food was distributed according to rank, and Adair notes
that a cheerful attitude prevailed, in contrast to the earlier grief and
solemnity.
The final rites restoring the mourners to a profane state and
assuring the soul passage to the spirit world took the form of a solemn
procession to the charnel-house, at which the bones were deposited with
their hamper. The procession was led by the bone-picker, and while it
might be only a short walk to the edge of the village, it might other
wise be a matter of many days journey to a distant village in the case
of a male, because of uxorilocal residence.
The charnel-house was usually situated in a remote place on the
fringes of a village. According to some writers, including Bartram and
Romans, these charnel-houses were village-level facilities, but they
seem to have been mistaken, or rather misled on this point. Adair saw

123
three of them in one village, and further notes a taboo, which Lincecum
seconds, against depositing the bones of one clan with those of another.
The evidence weighs in favor of the proposition that Choctaw charnel-
houses were actually clan-level facilities, as Adair and Milfort both say
(in Swanton 1931:172, 174), and as Bushnell concluded (1920:98). The
illusion of village-level charnel-houses could have arisen in connection
with the documented association of clans with particular mother towns
(see Swanton 1931:80).
The form of the charnel-house seems to have been variable. Both
Adair and an anonymous French officer describe^ covered cabin, essentially
a larger version of the scaffold-house, in which the bone hampers were
placed in rows on poles? Like the scaffold-house, the charnel-house was
open on both ends and was strongly palisadedf Adair's description pro
vides other details: a ladder on one side, a grapevine' chain hung from
the ladder, and a carved "dove" (but more probably a bird of prey) sur
mounting the structure. Romans' drawing of a charnel-house, on the other
hand, depicts an open enclosure, together with seven poles bearing flags
and (grapevine?) chains which are obviously prototypes for the similar
poles placed around nineteenth century Choctaw burials.
The solemn procession to the place of secondary interment was led by
the bone-picker. The mourners, as a symbol of their release from obliga
tion, dressed in their finery. Women carried pitch-pine torches. The
anonymous writer mentions wailing along the way, but both Adair and Bossu
(in Swanton 1931:171-2) describe only subdued weeping. Arriving at the
charnel-house, the procession encircled it, placed the hamper on the ground,
and crouched with shrouded heads to begin the final wail. The bones were
then deposited in the loft, completing the rite, and after paying the

124
bone-picker the mourners, now released, went their separate ways.
We come now to consider Choctaw tertiary burial, in the context
of a calendrical rite of intensification in which the participation of
the opposite moiety was enlisted. It can now be seen how each of the
successive burials involves a larger segment of society: primary
burial obligates the near kin exclusively; secondary burial obligates
the clan exclusively; and tertiary burial obligates both moieties.
Among the Choctaw the rite of intensification was called the
"Feast of Souls". It is parallel to the Kut-nahin ceremony among the
Chitimacha (Gatschet 1883:8), and Swanton describes similar observances
during the Tunica "corn fast" (Swanton 1946:729). The motives
necessitating such rites have already been discussed. There is a
difference of opinion concerning the frequency of the Feast of Souls:
Bossu indicates an annual ceremony in early November, but Byington's
informants remembered two ceremonies, one in the spring and the other in
the fall. Bartram says that it depended upon filling the charnel-house,
and was held on an appointed day.
Three distinct types of ceremonies are documented. In the first,
each family (clan?) would assemble at the charnel-house to mourn. At
this time the bones were taken out and repainted red, and then restored
to their respective hampers. The kin then took up the hampers and in
rank procession, took them to a distant place, the general populace
following behind. The hampers were stacked in a pyramid and buried in
an accretional mound of conical shape, under about four feet of earth.
The procession is described by the early writers as a solemn event with
much weeping. Upon their return, a feast was held at the end of the day,
closing the ceremony. The second mode is described only by Byington,

125
whose informants remembered some details of the opposite moiety
participation. He says that on the first day of the ceremony, the
bereaved moiety would be occupied in wailing, while the opposite
moiety simultaneously danced. On the second day these roles were
reversed, symbolizing the release of obligations for the bereaved.
The bones would then be returned to the charnel-house, rather than
being interred. The third mode is discussed only by Halbert, who
says that on this occasion the charnel-house was simply buried
in place, that is, covered by a low mound.
The diagram (Figure 11 ) outlining primary, secondary, and tertiary
disposal of eighteenth century Choctaw dead may also, with some trans
position of specific modes, be used as a model of Mississippian forms
of secondary and tertiary burial procedures. It has been observed that
the addition of platform mantles at Mississippian mound sites is an
expression of rites of incorporation within the context of community
rites of intensification, and now the presence of tertiary burials
within such mantles should pose no mysteries. They are likewise
community expressions of rites of incorporation.
Examples of Mississippian mortuary practices can be cited that have
specific analogs in the Choctaw data. Binford's Galley Pond Mound, a
charnel-house covered in place by a low earth mantle (1972), is a
simple expression of the kind of ritual practice described by Halbert
for the Feast of Souls. More complex forms consist of repeatedly
buried charnel houses, e.g. the Craig Mound at Spiro (Brown 1966), the
Hollywood charnel-house mound (Thomas 1894:317-326), and the
Lenoir Mound illustrated earlier in profile as Figure 4.

126
In general, the benefit of Hertzian analysis of mortuary ritual,
which separates the events into sequent symbolic components, is that
it offers the archaeologist a framework within which to discuss the
interrelationships of the symbols and meanings which can be inferred
from the archaeological data. It puts the events in terms by means of
which they can be compared with other mortuary rites universally.

CHAPTER VIII
THE CHARACTER OF MISSISSIPPI RITUAL
The primary aim of this study has been to make an advance in under
standing some of the symbols which provided the imagery for public ritual
in Mississippian societies. This subject matter is broad and complex,
and the published data relating to it form a large corpus from which
to identify problems and select examples for investigation. My approach,
therefore, has necessarily focused on a narrow set of sites and topics,
out of which it was hoped would emerge some general heuristics which
could explain and be tested against larger bodies of data. It is
appropriate here to briefly review the line of argument.
Within an historical perspective, the theme of previous investiga
tions of these issues by Swanton, Waring, and Howard was a demonstration
of the importance of the diachronic link from Mississippian archaeology
to the ethnohistorical record of the Southeastern Indians. These investi
gators found positive links between historically recorded ritual, icons,
and myths on the one hand, and Mississippian ritual features and icons
on the other. They concluded, from different perspectives and attending
to different data, that historical Southeastern aboriginal religion was
in essence a debased form of a uniform religious complex which reached
its peak in Mississippian times, and that historical manifestations
could therefore be used to make inferences about the ancestral forms
known to archaeology.
This general argument was part of the justification for selecting
as a point of entry for this study, an historic migration myth, the
127

128
Chekilli legend of the Muskogee Kasihta town. By applying the structural
method of isolating replicating correspondence structures, a set of core
symbols and relations were identified which could then be traced through
metaphorical and concrete objectifications in Mississippian ritual
features. It was observed that core symbols refer to the operation of a
layered hierarchy of symbol sets in cognition; that is, that some symbol
sets and metaphorical links are more deeply entrenched, and more
broadly applicable and evocative than others. The concept of core
symbols, then, designates a relative condition rather than an absolute
within culturally shaped cognitive repertoires. What we seek to identify
in Mississippian ritual is, in Firth's (1975:14) and Turner's (1974:64)
terms a "root paradigm", which is in turn similar to Whitten's (1978:841)
notion of a "master image paradigm". Turner (1974:64) develops the idea
of a root paradigm as referring,
not only to the current state of social relationships existing
or developing between actors, but also to the cultural goals,
means, ideas, outlooks, currents of thought, patterns of belief,
and so on, which enter into those relationships, interpret them,
and incline them to alliance or divisiveness. These root para
digms are not systems of univocal concepts, logically arrayed;
they are not, so to speak, precision tools of thought.... Para
digms of this fundamental sort reach down to irreducible life
stances of individuals, passing beneath conscious prehension
to a fiduciary hold on what they sense to be axiomatic values,
matters literally of life or death. Root paradigms emerge in
life crises, whether of groups or individuals, whether institu
tionalized or compelled by unforeseen events.
Whitten (1978:841) emphasizes their role in everyday, as well as ritual, affairs.
u
We find Canelos Quiera paradigmatic imagery to be as clearly
discernable in contexts involving indigenous response to alien
cultural logic and praxis as in contexts of shamanistic per
formance and pottery manufacture. Although the semantic trans
formations and symbolic processing of the master image para
digm is context-specific, the paradigm itself transcends con
textual ity. Paradigmatic structures are presumably part of a
semiotic system by which imagery is transmitted through a
contrastive set of signs. Symbolic processing is based on
positional arrangement.

129
The Chekilli legend is appropriate to the task of seeking core
symbolism because it, like other Southeastern migration myths, is an
elaborate allegory referring not as much to an actual historical move
ment of people as to an agenda for community ritual and an expression
of social relationships. Analysis of the myth revealed two polar terms,
which were designated as Earth and Society. These are held in dynamic
tension, and their mediation is the object of the prescribed ritual.
The color symbol associated with Earth is red, and Earth is assigned a
negative value (malevolence); the color symbol for Society is white and
Society is assigned a positive value (benevolence). The myth turns
out to be about the cosmological issue of autoc.htho.ny the overcoming of
a primordial Earth-origin, in search of a separate identity for the
cultural sphere. One may test this set of proposed core symbols against
the paradigmatic imagery they evoked in historic Muskogee (and other
Southeastern Indian) institutions: the issues are manifested, with the
color symbols retained, in the sphere of social organization, by
definition of town moieties and clan moieties, and in burial programs
(see Adair, in Swanton 1928a:389-391). The core symbols are appropriately
assimilated to the institutional complex, and are consequently modified
from the more fundamental sense in which they appear in myth. It might
be proposed that these symbolic images constitute an important component
of the "high tradition" of Southeastern world view, a relatively coherent
symbolic order which can be prehistorically as well as historically
identified. Moreover, these images are not inconsistent with the
cosmological triad of Linder WorldrThis World:Upper World proposed by
Hudson (1976:122-128).

130
It was argued that platform mound ceremonialism, a rite of intensi
fication and a principal defining mode of Mississippianism, can be seen
fruitfully as an objectification of the EarthrSociety paradigm. The
mound is an Earth symbol within the community, which Society must effec
tively extinguish through periodic ritual burial, employing "compromised
earth," or culturally modified dirt.
In examining diachronic variability at a specific Mississippian
mound site, Cemochechobee, it could be seen that the periodicity inherent
in platform mound burial was in fact part of a larger periodicity, in
which all ritual structures were regularly transformed stylistically,
materially, and spatially. This was not normative uniformitarian or
evolutionary change; it was deliberate masking and contrasting of success
ive configurations within the same community. This pattern was found to
be consistent with the notion of past configurations as mana-laden,
polluted, and taboo. Change was an aspect of ritual renewal through
rites of intensification.
A brief look at synchronic spatial aspects of Mississippian and
historic Southeastern "stages" or structures was intended to illustrate
that such structures partition space to materially reflect concepts and
symbols related to the ritual and domestic activities for which they are
designed. They can frequently be recognized as microcosms symbolizing
a limited range of basic cosmological ideas.
Finally a major category of rites of passage, funerals, were
examined against Hertz's precocious formulation of the symbolic aspects
of primary and secondary burial. Historic charnel-house ritual among
the Choctaw was reviewed with this frame of reference, from which it
was concluded that the phenomenon of tertiary burial in the context of

131
a community rite of intensification was of both archaeological and
historical importance. The rites of incorporation within tertiary
burial can be shown to be the logical point of articulation between
funeral customs and platform mound ceremonialism, accounting for specific
archaeological situations.
Nearly all of the foregoing has been devoted to issues which revolve
around cosmology: those intricate, coherent, and deeply rooted sets of
symbols, meanings, and relations which provide the paradigmatic imagery
for thinking and acting in social worlds. There is no doubt that
cosmological systems are intrinsically interesting in anthropology,
witnessed by the vast literature devoted to them. They often seem to
the observer to have a life of their own, with hidden relationships a
appearing at every turn and reinforcing their often astounding (to us)
logical coherences, Though once a matter of some debate, it has today
become almost a truism that such "primitive" systems of thought are
manifoldly complex and thoroughly rational.
It is no wonder then, that large amounts of anthropological
energies have been spent on unraveling non-Western belief systems. But
there is a danger here: that this can become an end in itself, a sort
of detective hobby whose marginal anthropological relevance makes it
difficult to justify. Some care should certainly be exercised in avoid
ing this trap, by consistently and explicitly relating cosmological
schema to bodies of theory which link them to their sociological arma
tures. On this issue I would take up the Durkheimian banner in assert
ing that there are positive and causal connections between the structures
of cosmology and the structures of social relations. Elucidating the
one illuminates the other.

132
The next few pages, then, will attempt to make good the promise
made at the beginning of this study that some consideration would be
made of the institutional organization of Mississippian ritual. There
is nothing so separate or distinctive about this topic that it can be
treated independently of its ritual content, although some investigators
have proceeded as if this were so. On the contrary, I would suggest
that the greatest barrier to the recognition of particular institutional
complexes in Mississippian societies has been a lack of attention to
the patterning of their associated symbols. My argument, which follows
from the discussion of core symbolism in platform mound ceremonialism,
is that it is useful to distinguish two discrete sets of institutional
complexes within Mississippian ritual.
It could be argued that a traditional point of view among Southeast
ern archaeologists in regard to the institutional basis for Mississippian
ritual has been that, for each regional Mississippian culture, the ritual
belief corpus was a single system associated particularly with paramount
social statuses. Mississippian cultures were sometimes considered to be
primitive "theocracies" ruled by "priest-chiefs", who served not only as
secular administrators but also as principal religious functionaries.
Many of these ideas seem to be fabrications, but others were based, at
least loosely, on the historic accounts of Natchez social organization.
Natchez society was highly stratified, dominated by the "Great Sun", a
despotic paramount chief whose office was surrounded by elaborate ritual
prescriptions and taboos.
Within such a model for Mississippian society, the most facile and
least troublesome way of accounting for the elaborate ritual parapher
nalia and iconography that was known from the larger Mississippian

133
"ceremonial centers," was to regard it as a single "ceremonial complex"
central to Mississippian ritual. The idea of a single, ancestral
"ceremonial" underlying historic Natchez, Creek, and Chickasaw ritual is
explicit both in Waring and Holder's initial definition of the "Southern
Cult" (Southeastern Ceremonial Complex) (1945:27) and in Waring's later
amplification (1968:31). The initial hypothesis of the spread of the
iconographic complex as the result of a messianic revitalization
movement similar to the Ghost Dance Religion was not long lived. But
both the recognition of the "Southern Cult" as an acceptable taxon
for investigation and the assumption of its premier role in a religious
complex associated with chiefly power have remained intact. Waring's
(1968:66) early summary may be quoted in full.
The following hypothesis seems to us the best explanation
of the present data: The archaeological spread of Middle
Mississippi represents the original migration from a small
area of groups possessing a closely-related ceremonial
which was strongly oriented to agriculture. It probably
contained the basic fire-sun-deity beliefs, fire ceremonial,
and the chieftain in a strong central position. The
temple mound was also in use in its dual function as temple
and dwelling of the Chief. The Southern Cult seems to
represent the appearance of a new ceremonial integration
on a somewhat later and more mature level, yet based largely
on the earlier ceremonial.
Here already, and despite the restrictive connotations of the term
"cult" (Phillips and Krieger had immediately objected to the usage),
the conventional gestalt of the complex was clearly that of a major
pervasive series of religious ideas. Waring's term "ceremonial"
appears in context to mean an integrated central corpus of public ritual.
There is little room here for any other possible modes of Mississippian
ritual which might have had little to do with the Southern Cult..

134
Phelps (1970:89-90) has compared the complex to a "state religion
partially similar to that commonly shared by the cultures encompassed
in the Mesoamerican area." More recently, Phillips and Brown (1978:169)
virtually equate the Southern Cult with the whole of Mississippian
ideology.
"Cult" is, however, a misnomer, a word of insufficient
coverage. It would probably be more accurate to
describe the phenomenon as an interconnected medley of
cults, partly syncretized, on the way perhaps to be
coming a pan-Southeastern ideology.
Elsewhere Brown (1976:116) approves of the view that "The Cult is essen
tially the ceremonial 'culture' of the Mississippian period." Perhaps
the labels themselves are sufficient to make the point that the icono-
graphic complex in question has continually been in some way equated
with the whole sphere of Mississippian ritual as it has been vaguely
perceived. One speaks of The Southeastern Ceremonial Complex, not
A_ Southeastern Ceremonial Complex.
Perhaps this needs to be clarified. I have no quarrel with the
usefulness of the Southern Cult taxon. Like Phillips and Brown (1978:169)
I believe that it is "as much in need of investigation as ever,"
especially in regard to the question of conventional meanings. Nor do I
wish to downplay the obviously critical role played by Cult paraphernalia
within Mississippian cultures. And finally, it would be futile to deny
that Southern Cult iconography is intimately connected with, and arises
from, a broad ideological base. The point is simply that the complex of
symbols and meanings known as the Southern Cult, even if it were
possible to decode it in some detail, would not be equivalent to
Mississippian religion, belief, or ideology, and especially could not

135
be linked at all to whole, and I would suggest crucial, blocks of
Mississippi an public ritual.
The need for a subdivision of the institutional basesfor public
ritual in Mississippian societies can, i!think, be demonstrated at
least in a preliminary way. The dichotomy in symbolic discriminations
between those discussed earlier for platform mound ceremonialism and
those which underlie the Southern Cult should already be obvious.
n
Whereas this study has discussed autochthotfiy, and has dealt mainly with
the paradigmatic imagery of such formulae as Earth:Society, the
Southern Cult invokes a completely different set of symbolic images: again
following Waring, "The Southern Cult was based on maize agriculture and.. .
cyclic new-fire rites and the fire-sun-deity concept were at its core"
(1968:69). The two different symbolic sets may well be related at
some deep ideological level, but it would certainly be a mistake to
ignore that their objectifications at Mississippain sites are context
ually distinct as well. The situation seems to call for an integrative
concept allowing the recognition of more than one institutional framework
in the organization of ritual and belief for a given society.
Just such an integrative concept is provided by Anthony F. C.
Wallace. This is his "cult institution", which is defined as "a
set of rituals all having the same general goal, all explicitly
rationalized by a set of similar or related beliefs, and all supported
by the same social group" (1966:75). There are typically several
discrete cult institutions within the same "religious" community, having
different sets of directors ("clergy") and participants, and different
sets of supporting myths. "Each of these cult institutions is related
to others, in one way or another, and many of them join forces in major

136
ritual sequences, dovetailing and overlapping in scheduling, personnel,
material apparatus, and beliefs, but each maintaining a distinct and
autonomous role" (ibid:76). Thus within what might loosely be called
"Mississippian religion" (a rather unsatisfactory usage), one might
expect to identify specific institutions that are more tightly organized
internally than is the religious sphere in general. It is important
to the present argument to keep in mind that each cult institution
may conjure a distinct set of symbolic imagery, and that each is
typically directed by a discrete class of "officers", depending on
the relative formality of the institution.
Now, as applied to the Mississippian case, it can be demonstrated
with some confidence that at least two relatively independent symbolic
complexes occur, and furthermore that these turn up in consistently
different ritual contexts. One set is associated primarily with platform
mound ceremonialism and mortuary ritual. Its symbolic foundations can
be identified with the problems of autochthony and purification, and
with a fundamental EarthrSociety dichotomy whose elements in turn
evoke a nexus of associated images that pervade such realms as social
organization. Another set is associated primarily (exclusively?) with
ritual surrounding superordinate social segments including warrior-chief
offices. Its symbolic foundations are drawn from several sources;
largely from cosmogonic mythology, also from the technological apparatus
of warfare.
This is the basis for inferring a preliminary model of ritual
organization among Mississippian societies. I propose that there were
at least two distinct sets of cult institutions, in Wallace's sense of

the termtwo "Southern Cults," if you will-which in each society
existed in opposition and controlled different segments of ritual. A
good case can be made for identifying the Southeastern Ceremonial
Complex as a reflection of a chiefly cult institution. The other cult
institution marked by platform mound ceremonialism is arguably an
independent priestly ritual association normally subordinate to the
former, yet wielding considerable power far beyond that of potential
rival cult associations. To the degree that this dichotomy between
chiefly and priestly ritual can be supported, it becomes possible to
align Mississippian societies of the Southeastern United States with
a worldwide class of pre-state societies in which chiefly and
priestly ritual are held in tension and opposition, e.g. the Tallensi,
the Choctaw, the Ndembu, etc. (see Turner 1969:99). In such societies,
the power deriving from ritual sanctity does not all flow from a single
source, but is dichotomized in a structure which, though politically
asymmetrical, is ideologically diametric. Such a ritual structure
acts, arguably, as a power buffer for chiefly authority, which is
absent in "sacred kinship" types of state society in which the
authority of cult institutions are effectively combined under the
auspices of the state.
In the discussion that follows, the use of priestly and chiefly
ritual as general dichotomous terms in reference to Mississippian ritual
will be understood to mean that such dualisms existed within
particular Mississippian societies. While the implication is that
these institutional types viere roughly comparable in their major
features across political boundaries, I am not asserting that either

138
priestly or chiefly cult institutions were in any way organizationally
linked together across the Southeast. There is no good evidence for any
institutional structures transcending the provincial chiefdom. A case
can be made, nevertheless, that the priestly cult/chiefly cult opposition
as a diametric type of ritual organization arose concurrently throughout
much of the Southeast and contributes much to our present-day gestalt
of what Mississippianism is.
I am thus in full agreement with the statement of Phillips and Brown
cited earlier that the Southeastern Ceremonial Complex reflects a
syncretized set of contemporaneous cults. This is what I am claiming
to be the "chiefly cult institution", one half of a ritual pair among
Mississippian chiefdoms. There are two qualifications: Firstly, I
insist on the separation of the iconographic complex from the institutional
complex, an important distinction not always observed. Secondly, I am
not quite sure what their term "interconnected" means in reference to
this set of cults. They are certainly connected as regards iconography
and style of paraphernalia, and there are obvious, though poorly
understood, exchange relationships; however I would eschew any implication
of cooperative enterprise or formal mechanisms of protracted interaction
among complementary cults.
While a number of southeasternists, most recently Phillips and Brown
(1978:157-209), have devoted considerable energies to the description of
these "connections", there have not been to my knowledge any recent
in-depth attempts to anthropologically model in an explicit way the
nature of the exchange of ideas and objects that the distribution of
the Southern Cult represents. Since the popular demise of the revitali
zation movement hypothesis of the 1940's, the predominant trend in

139
reference to these distributions seems to have been the use of such
serviceable but essentially noncommittal terms as "trade", "exchange",
"contact", "interaction", "syncretization", etc.
It is obvious that the nature of this dimly perceived long-distance
exchange is bound up with the social significance of the exchanged
ideas and objects. The thrust of recent research suggests that that
significance consists of their role in the sanctification of power in
developing rank societies where coercive authority was otherwise lacking.
As Durkheim taught, and as Rappoport (1971) has reiterated, the
concept of the sacred or of sanctity can be thought of as a sociological
mechanism of conserving conventional behaviors and orders, by investing
them with unquestionable truth. Those who are in a position to control
the flow of ultimate truth are also in a position to sanctify their
offices, and consequently to undergird their real power. As Mary Helms
(1979:176) has recently pointed out,
Those assigned to leadership positions must evidence control
of a particular kind of knowledge: knowledge of the nonordinary
and of the nonconcrete; knowledge that explains and reaffirms
the validity, the truthfulness (the sanctity) of the cognized
model in terms of which the rulership claims its powers and
position and the members of society are enjoined to act. This
esoteric knowledge of that which is most abstract and non-
mundaneof the "origins" and "nature" of things (the cosmos),
of the fundamental or universal "processes" by which all things...
operate, of the place of human society in such a universal
systemthen becomes a resource itself, a controllable form of
"elite goods", a resource that is as important for the operation
of society as are the material products of the economy.
As a model for the long-distance transfer of exotic goods and ideas among
chiefly elites, Helms' study (ibid) of the behavior of Panamanian chiefs
is worthy of close attention. Helms argues that foreign exotica, includ
ing "sacred" gold ornaments, were sought by Panamanian chiefs in the
context of gathering foreign esoteric knowledge as a "scarce resource",

140
in order to enhance their personal prestige and power. Citing ethno-
historical evidence, she suggests that chiefs and younger "leaders
in training" themselves travelled great distances to other chiefly
centers in their quest for knowledge and esotrica.
Many southeasternists feel that the continued use of the term
"cult" in reference to the Etowah/Moundvi11 e/Spiro iconographic complex
is a bit of ant.iquarianism that pays unnecessary homage to the long-
abandoned idea that the complex represented a kind of messianic
revitalization movement. For these, "Southern Cult" joins the ranks
of the earlier jargon associated with the phenomenon, e.g. "Buzzard
Cult", in favor of the more noncommittal "Southeastern Ceremonial
Complex". Thus my insistence upon reintroducing the term "cult" in
a sociologically specific sense in discussing these issues will
undoubtedly appear inexcusably anachronistic and reactionary to some.
My defense is in the definition of "cult institution" as a unit of
analysis by means of which ritual practices within a given society
may be segregated according to their socio-structural configurations.
The term has none of the connotations of ephemeral status, reactionary
basis, or subcultural emphasis associated with familiar kinds of cult
behavior, nor does it necessarily imply active participation in a
revitalization movement.
The next case to be made is that the contexts and uses of the icons
and paraphernalia of the bulk of the Southern Cult are consistent with
Wallace's criteria for a cult institution, that is, that the ritual uses
are "rationalized by a set of similar or related beliefs, and all
supported by the same social group." The second criterion, that of
support by a definite social segment, will be taken up first.

141
From the earliest discussions of the Southern Cult as a coherent
entity, it was recognized that the artifacts in question pertained not to
the whole of Mississippian expressive culture, but to a specialized
segment of it with ritual connotations, hence the term "cult" (Phillips
1940:366). Holder went further in 1947, citing the occurrence of the
materials in burials receiving highly differential treatment, as indi
cating a link between the Cult and "class stratification, clans, and
class prerogatives" (in Williams 1968:77). Thus a connection between
ritual paraphernalia and chiefly power in the prehistoric Southeast was
suspected as probable over 30 years ago, although the lack of contextual
data and the theoretical apparatus of the time did not allow further
refinement.
More recently, a great deal of better controlled data and analyses,
especially at the "Big Three" Cult sites (Etowah, Moundville and Spiro),
have made possible a quantum advance in understanding the hierarchical
structures of Mississippian chiefdoms and the contexts (if not the roles
and meanings) of ritual paraphernalia within these social structures.
The literature that has accumulated relevant to this issue is too
unwieldy for a critical review in short space, and with that as an
excuse I will include only brief commentary here. The conclusion of all
of this work that is most relevant to the present issue is stated summar
ily by James Brown: "As symbols the artifacts and art motifs [of the
Southern Cult] relate to prestige structures based on the sanctity of power
in chiefdom-type societies" (1976:126). Holder's suspicion of 1947, in
other words, has become explicitly justifiable through modern research.
s
Lewis Larson's excavations during the late 1950^ for the Georgia
Historical Commission at the Etowah site (Larson 1971) have served to

142
clarify the archaeological contexts of the rich Southern Cult materials
recovered earlier by Cyrus Thomas and Warren K. Moorehead at Mound C of
that site. Mound C was a five-staged platform mound supporting a
series of successive nondomestic structures of unknown use. A palisade
like wall surrounded .the mound, rebuilt several times. Associated with
the final mantle, around the mound periphery, was a series of elaborate
tomb burials many of which contained exotic Southern Cult furnishings
and adornments. By comparing these burials with those in the common
cemetery areas at the site, Larson concluded that the Mound C burials
indicated an internally ranked, hereditary descent group controlling
trade in exotic materials, and that the Cult icons and paraphernalia
were "used by them to express and validate their social position" (ibid:67).
Mortuary remains from the largest of the "Big Three" Cult centers,
Moundville, have been analysed in depth by Christopher S. Peebles (1974).
The data were derived from the early excavations at the site by Clarence
B. Moore and from the massive work accomplished during the period
1929-1941 by the Alabama Museum of Natural History. Based on a data set
consisting of a matrix of 719 provenienced burials against documented
classes of grave associations, Peebles clustered the burials using both
agglomerative and subdivisive numerical strategies. These analyses
produced clusters of related burials tending to confirm his hypothesis
that two major "dimensions" (strata) should be discernable: one ascriptive
and associated with sociotechnic items of dress and office, the other
reflecting achieved statuses without the associated sociotechnic
paraphernalia. Peebles' conclusions relative to the "same social
group" criterion for the Southern Cult as a reflection of a single,
discrete type of cult institution are as follows.

143
Both cluster analyses produced the expected two dimen
sions of burials and social personae. The first
dimension is defined by inclusion of supra-local,
Southern Cult items of dress and office as grave goods.
These definitive items are copper axes, small copper
celts, copper ear spools, round and oblong copper
gorgets, copper hair ornaments, copper symbols badges,
stone ceremonial celts, stone discs and palettes,
various minerals, shell beads, shell gorgets and perhaps
effigy vessels. The second dimension is defined by the
use of various vessel forms, discoidals, projectile
points, bone awls and a number of other technomic
items as grave goods, (ibid:181-182).
James A. Brown (1971) has similarly reanalysed the mortuary data
from the Spiro site in search of patterns suggesting ranking in a chiefdom-
type social organization. Brown's data come primarily from a series of
elite burial contexts within the spectacular Craig Mound, a rebuilt
mortuary facility. The abundant Southern Cult materials from the Craig
Mound are associated with an ascribed status dimension which is itself
internally ranked. As Peebles found for the Moundville data, Brown
sees evidence for definite offices linked to particular Southern Cult
artifact classes. According to Brown (ibid:101),
... it can be advanced that the copper plate and extended
burial define a special segment of the Spiro population
with all ages and both sexes represented. Within this
pool there are ascribed rights to copper plate burial
available to some, possibly only males, and that adults
(presumably males) are eligible for attaining the third
status which is at the pinnacle of power [litter burials
accompanied by engraved Southern Cult Busycon shell cups].
The latter status carries with it an office and the power
to accumulate and distribute objects of high ascribed value.
All told, then, the present data are not inconsistent with the prop
osition that Southern Cult iconography and paraphernalia represent a
discrete symbolic assemblage intimately associated with "the same social
group", that is, that we are dealing with a cult institution in Wallace's
sense. The general type of social organization encountered in Mlssissip-
pian systems has been productively modeled as consisting of a ranked

144
series of exogamous kin segments (clans), including a superordinate
segment from which were drawn the candidates for ramified systems of
warrior-chief offices. Thus the nature of the social group deriving the
benefits and prestige from the sanctified symbol set we call the
Southern Cult, is clearly on the order of a chiefly clan (although the
usage is guarded), within which more particular Southern Cult icon sets
and presumably the accompanying esoteric knowledge were the property of
the holders of office.
Brown (1976:128), however, has explicitly denied that the
Southern Cult can be a reflection of any single cult "in the socio
logical and ideological sense", since most of the Cult objects can be
demonstrated to be status-displaying symbols within different
"organizational networks". For Brown, "the use of...Cult features
for symbolizing privileged status is most obviously a hierarchical
feature of Mississippian Period cultural systems and only secondarily an
ideological one" (ibid). The first thing of concern here is the
apparently unnecessary and unjustified distinction between symbols as
markers of status versus symbols as markers of specialized religious know
ledge (ideology). As stated earlier, ritual paraphernalia and knowledge
can be manipulated as a "scarce resource," increasing the prestige of
and sanctifying otherwise secular social domains. In such cases the
hierarchical meanings of a given symbol set necessarily imply the
ideological meanings of the same set. It is far more efficacious, it
seems to me, to view the two levels of meaning as interdependent.
The other part of Brown's argument, that the iconographic complex
cannot reflect a single cult because it relates to three distinct

145
"organizational networks", is another matter. These three "networks" are
1) an elite associated with war related sociotechnic paraphernalia such
as batons, ceremonial axes, and the "bi-lobed arrow"; 2) a more
exclusive elite associated with falcon paraphernalia, which Brown
associates at Spiro with a specific "war captain" status; and 3) the
mortuary temple system (ibid:126-127). Not to overlook the extremely
significant point made by Brown that the status/prestige systems
of Mississippian chiefdoms are linked by the Southern Cult to a
warrior or warfare complex, there is nevertheless some reason to
question the partitioning of the Cult materials in this way. This is
especially the case since the division is made mainly on the basis of
subject matter rather than on context.
The first two divisions are, as Brown acknowledges, different in
scale. Essentially, one is a subset of the other. The elaborate
falcon impersonator theme has consistent association with the trappings
of the more general warrior-elite group. While different roles or
offices within superordinate social strata are definitely suggested by
such associations and are expectable, it has not been demonstrated that
such offices and roles pertain to broader social units that are in any
way discrete. To point out that superordinate segments of chiefdom-type
societies are internally ramified, with different symbol-sets and
trappings associated with various offices, ranks, and roles, is not to
invalidate the thesis that the segment itself is a coherent unit ideo
logically and symbolically.
The troublesome third "organizational network", the mortuary temple
complex, does not seem to hold up alone as an institutional source of

146
Southern Cult iconography. In both Moundville and Spiro iconography,
death-related motifs such as skulls and forearm bones interchange
freely with motifs related to warfare and other subjects. Other than the
fact that items bearing such motifs are found in burials, there is no
demonstrable connection with the charnel-house facility itself at
any site. Similarly,the "mortuary figurines," at least at Etowah
(Larson 1971:65), occur in contexts indistinguishable from those which
yield other kinds of Southern Cult paraphernalia, including sociotechnic
weaponry. And this fits rather well with the proposition of priestly-
chiefly structural independence being put forward here: In postcontact
times mortuary ritual was priestly, not chiefly, business in the Southeast.
Thus, while the point that distinctive subsets discernible within
the whole complex of supra-local Southern Cult iconography are linked to
particular offices, ranks, and roles is well taken, the proposition
that these were linked together within a single cult institution remains
intact. Brown's objection to relating the whole complex to a single
"religious cult" seems to stem mainly from an implicit restriction of
that term to very limited kinds of social phenomenawhich is quite dif
ferent from the definition of "cult institution" as the term is
invoked here. Brown's challenge turns out to be mainly a matter of
semantics.
Wallace's other criterion for the identification of cult institutions,
that their ritual uses be "explicitly rationalized by a set of similar or
related beliefs", is impossible to conclusively demonstrate for the
proposed chiefly cult institution at this point, although there are
many suggestive clues. We will, of course, never know how explicit

147
the rationalization of Southern Cult iconography was to the ritual
participants. But the very interchangeableity-of many Southern Cult
motifs and the predictability of their themes do point toward the
coherence of the ideological subset they represent. We actually know
very little about the meanings of these elements, and little research
has been directed to this issue. The few, piecemeal studies that have
appeared, however, (e.g. Waring 1968:33-47; Hudson 1976:122-169;
Lankford n.d.), uniformly suggest direct relationships between the
iconographic motifs and the cosmogonic segment of the Southeastern
mythological corpus, i.e. those myths which address "origins". Lankford's
(1975) research strongly indicates that this cosmogonic corpus arises
from a series of archaic pan-American mythological strata, many of the
elements of which predate Mississippian cultures in the Southeastern
United States (cf. Phelps 1970).
Turning back to the provisionally proposed priestly cult institution,
it may now be reiterated more strongly that both the symbolic foundations
and the apparent social contexts of platform mound ceremonialism differ
markedly with the respective symbolic foundations and apparent social
contexts of the Southern Cult. This is not to say that chiefly ritual
in the Southeast was solely bound up with cosmogonic imagery, or that
it had nothing to do with the Earth:Society core symbolism. Certainly
among the historical examples this was not the case. We might pro
visionally state the relationship in terms of color symbolism as follows:
if priestly ritual is a cult of the red-and-white, then chiefly ritual
is an esoteric cult of the white alone. The major objective point of
overlap is predictably mortuary ritual, since while the mortuary rites

148
of passage may have been within the priestly sphere (e.g. the Choctaw),
nevertheless chiefs and their retinues die and must be processed
appropriately.r
Other than platform mound ceremonialism, we can unfortunately point
to virtually no other direct evidence of the organization of the
priestly sphere in Mississippian societies. This may be the combined
result of the actual lesser visibility of priestly paraphernalia in the
archaeological remains, and simply not knowing what to look for. Such
evidence might, for example, lie in the procedure of placing ritual
offerings on a mound summit just prior to the construction of a mantle
(Schnell, Knight,and Schnell 1979:195-196).
Thus the archaeological case for a separate priestly cult institution
is not particularly strong in itself. Nevertheless, accepting Waring's
argument that the historic Muskogee busk ceremonies are the recent trans
formations of prehistoric rites of intensification involving platform
mounds, it seems highly significant that the Muskogee busk was essentially
a priestly function with the enlisted assistance of chiefs, warriors,
and heniha.
In summary then, I have argued for the existence in Mississippian
cultural systems of cult institutions that were diametrically opposed
ideologically, a politically paramount one centering around a warrior-
chief, his retinue, and kin, and the other centering around a priesthood.
The ritual complex constituting the priestly cult institution included
and focused upon community rites of intensification emphasizing purifi
cation-most conspicuously platform mound ceremonialism, an intensive
enterprise suggesting considerable power. The symbols invoked by this
institution consists of modifications of the paradigmatic Earth¡Society

149
formulae. These symbols, like those invoked by the chiefly cult
institution in the display of sanctity and power, are deeply embedded
within streams of folklore and belief which can be shown to predate the
systems at hand.
This is about as far as the argument can be carried at this point
without further directed research. One might well, indeed, accuse the
proposition of being already far too conjectural. In defense of it,
I will readily admit that such a dichotomy may be ultimately too simple
and too naive to account for the formidable and complex array of
Mississippian period ritual. Its main value, and the reason it is
formulated in this way, is to draw attention to the classificatory
distinction between the types of ritual examined in this study, and the
ritual relevance on the other hand of the well-known Southern Cult,
seen here as a coherent corpus of ritual symbols.
Since the claim has been made that the opposition of chiefly and
priestly cult institutions may have arisen as a diametric type of ritual
organization, it is imperative to document the concurrence of the rise
of each of the two proposed institutions. If this surmise is correct,
it has implications that must be taken into account in explaining the
evolutionary development of incipient chiefdoms in the Southeast out of
essentially egalitarian tribal "Big Man" societies. It is of interest,
then, to quickly recount the circumstances of historical development
of the two key ceremonial complexes, the platform mound complex and
the Southern Cult, as they are presently known.
The imagery of the EarthrSociety distinction underlying platform
mound ceremonialism, especially as reflected in redrwhite color

150
symbolism, is definitely present in the pre-Mississippian Southeast.
Indeed the idea of a mound-as-Earth symbol probably underlies much
of the Hopewellian stratum of mortuary ritual (though not as employed
in rites of intensification). Mississippian platform mound ritual can
in this sense be seen as a reformulation of older elements on a new
(Mesoamerican?) model and in the context of a new cult institution. The
Mississippian class of platform mounds as defined earlier, on the basis
of current dating evidence, appeared no earlier than A.D. 800, and by
A.D. 900 the idea had spread throughout most of the nuclear Southeast.
Whether or not we are justified in linking its spread to the appearance
of a particular class of cult institution among various societies, the
rapidity of this spread must be considered quite remarkable.
The rise of the distinctive social use of cosmogonic imagery which
is the Southeastern Ceremonial Complex, has, in contrast, a more spotty
history, but one fully concurrent with the former. Certain icono-
graphic elements and artifacts that have been included in the complex,
such as the pole spud, the forked eye, and the long-nosed god mask appear
at about A.D. 900. These are geographically widespread, from Aztalan in
Wisconsin, to Harlan in Oklahoma, to Grant Mound in Florida. Most of the
other elements in the complex were introduced later (Brown 1976:123-125;
Williams 1975; Kneberg 1959; Muller 1966; Phillips and Brown 1978),
including the well-known "falcon-impersonator" paraphernalia. Within
the complex various late phases can also be identified, with survivals
into historic times. Few of the particular motifs themselves have
histories pre-dating Mississippian times in the Southeast (Phelps 1970),
but as stated earlier, many of them seem to be based upon ideas which

151
can be shown to have been present within a pre-Mississippian folkloric
stratum.
In a sense, then, both types of provisional cult institutions can
be viewed as revitalizations of older elements in new iconographic and
institutional dress (cf. Wallace 1966:209-215). Both types rose to
prominence concurrently, although the respective histories are asymmetri
cal. Judging strictly by measurable public energies expended in ritual,
the platform mound mode of ceremonialism is vastly more impressive than
any other for the period. This is perhaps to be expected; the paradig
matic imagery behind platform mound ceremonialism we judge to be funda
mental public modes of Mississippian world view. But the socially
specialized and limited use of esoteric cosmogonic imagery as legitimiz
ing political authority is much more superficial in character, though
it validated greater political power. The difference is, perhaps, in
some ways analogous to the contrast between the Christian Old and New
Testaments, and their respective cults in the early Christian era.
Thus the story of the evolutionary rise of chiefdom-type societies
in the Southeastern United States is perhaps closely linked to the story
of the concurrent rise to prominence of two complementary types of cult
institutions, each of which was differently administered and each of
which sponsored different ritual complexes. These institutions were
importantly asymmetrical in power, influence, and ideological foundations.

CHAPTER IX
OF MOUNDS AND METAPHORS
As we approach the topic of the validation of the heuristics
introduced in this study, let us return momentarily to the diachronic
problem of reconciling Mississippian ritual features with historic South
eastern Indian ritual. This was the starting point for the important
early attempts by Swanton, Waring, and others towards understanding
the symbolic dimensions of Mississippian ritual, and it was also the
starting point of this study. And while it might to some degree be
an artifact of method, our findings have done nothing to discredit the
idea that the two different periods are fundamentally comparable as
regards world view and the symbolic foundations of ritual. Sets of
possible analogies based upon ethnohistorical literature are abundant
and suggestive; these leads have not been followed here because of the
much narrower goals of this study. Nevertheless it is more than just a
possibility that many historical manifestations of Southeastern ritual
are logical, metaphorical transformations in an unbroken stream of
Mississippian, let us say Southeastern, ritual thought. Part of the
test of adequacy of our present notions will depend upon thorough
symbolic analyses of Southeastern ethnohistorical sources and linguistic
data. This is a task which offers great promise, yet it has been
barely begun.
The understandings which are forthcoming from such studies are not
solely one-way. The illumination of Mississippian symbolism has perhaps
as much to contribute to understanding historical manifestations of
152

153
Southeastern ritual as the other way around. Not to eschew the vital
study of change, there is little excuse for arbitrarily building analyti
cal walls between archaeological, ethnohistoric, ethnographic, folkloric,
and linguistic data, if the goal is to understand symbols and meanings.
Certainly locked up within the grammars and lexicons of extant Southeast
ern languages, whose divergences are glottochronologically placed at times
predating the Mississippian Period (Springer and Witkowski 1980), is
information not only on Mississippian ritual symbolism, but also on
social organization, economics, technology, warfare, migration, etc.
My discussion elsewhere of the Muskogee term taco and how it clarifies
the symbolism of mound ceremonialism (Schnell, Knight, and Schnell
1979:206-210) is only a minor example of what can be accomplished.
One further example will be presented to bolster the case for a
symbolic perspective on diachronic problems. The issue at hand is that,
while in Mississippian cultures huge earthen mounds supporting public
buildings were made, their historic descendants seem to have dropped the
practice suddenly and entirely. Instead, the recent Creek, Yuchi, and
Seminole have constructed miniscule earth mounds, only a few feet in
diameter and height, in association with the square ground complex.
These small, bare piles of dirt were used mainly as speaker's platforms
or as elements in busk-related dances. The question is whether or not
this is really a "remnant" or somehow a vague remembrance of the vast
mound building rituals of earlier centuries.
James Howard (1968:149) suspected that there must be some relation
ship between the two types of mound building, based simply on the
observation that both types had ritual associations. He found no way,
nevertheless, of demonstrating the link. A later contribution on my part

(Schnell, Knight, and Schnell 1979:206, 209) to this perplexing historical
disjunction was to point out that the Tuckabatchee, prior to the Removal
in the early nineteenth century, employed quite large platform mounds
(without summit structures) in ritual (Swanton 1932), and that they again
used large dance platforms of earth during the early twentieth century
in Oklahoma (Swanton 1928a:PI. 5; Fig. 47). But this observation still
contributes little to any appreciation of the significance of the pro
posed link.
A much better insight is prefigured by the conclusion earlier in thi
study that the Mississippian mound itself is a symbolic representation
independent of its post-construction institutional use. The most basic
symbolic meaning of the mound has nothing to do with its size or specific
"configuration, which varies with intended uses in various sociocultural
contexts divorced from the ritual circumstances of its construction.
Thus the fact that modern Creek, Yuchi, or Seminole ceremonial mounds
are small, and that they lack summit structures, presents no symbolic
difficulty, since summit structures and consequent size of platform
mounds were never connected directly with the core ideas of the platform
mound in the first place.
The search for and systematization of patterns of Mississippian
symbols results in a picture which is essentially static and descriptive,
which belies the dynamic nature of paradigmatic imagery. Allusions have
been made from time to time concerning the role of metaphor in linking
the symbols and in determining their objectified permutations in realms
of social life. These allusions betray some theoretical assumptions
which need to be laid out more explicitly.

155
The first assumption is that public ritual is structured to convey
information. In Wallace's (1966:236) terms, it is "stereotyped
communication," which "coordinates the preparation for action among sev
eral organisms, and which does...this more quickly and reliably than
can be accomplished...by non-stereotyped, informational communication."
The meanings and intentions which are conveyed in ritual are multiple
and complex, and may be apprehended by the participants at different con
scious and unconscious levels. But its highly structured nature dictates
a simplifying effect: "...the content of ritual refers to a simpler
homogeneity and explains the mystic unity which lies behind the
phenomenological diversity. Thus ritual, and its supporting belief
system, constitute a world of symbols that is simple and orderly"
(ibid:239). Part of the message is usually related to the social order:
the nature of statuses and their relations, and the position of the social
order within a cosmological system of classification. As stated in the
introduction, myth is treated here as a category or mode of ritual, not
simply a charter for ritual and a rationalization for it, as Wallace
has it (ibid:249), nor completely a discursive mode with a life of its
own, divorced from behavior (Lvi-Strauss 1973:473). That is, the
distinction between myth and ritual is not to be equated with the
1
distinction between thought and behavior.
The second assumption is that symbols are not free-floating images,
but are connected in definite ways. Their connections are the "grammar"
of ritual as an idiom. They are structured in thought by 1) the creation
of a dialectic of oppositions, and 2) their arrangement in formal
analogies. The idea of an analogy rests on the recognition of two types
Vl of relationship, contiguity (metonymy) and likeness (metaphor)

(Jakobson and Halle 1956). It is by means of analogies that relatively
deep and static symbolic paradigms or image clusters are cognitively
related to phenomenal events. This is what is meant by the metaphorical
transformation of core symbolism in ritual objectifications.
A third assumption is that metaphor is the "engine" of symbolic
action, and consequently of adaptation as mediated by symbol systems.
Metaphor provides ritual with its dynamic aspect, by allowing ritual
actors to reformulate their present statuses and situations in light
of symbolically defined ideals. As James Fernandez puts it, "the
semantic movement accomplished by metaphor is from the abstract and
inchoate in the subject to the more concrete, ostensive, and easily grasp
able in the metaphoric predicate" (1974:123).
Fernandez's useful description of metaphors in relation to ritual
action (ibid:125) emphasizes how metaphors provide a dynamic for ritual
in contrast to symbols, which considered alone are static. He introduces
the notion of "quality space": a series of axes or dimensions along
which metaphor valuates its subjects, e.g. as good or bad, this-world
or other-world, static or dynamic. Thus ritual in operation defines for
each participant, through its stereotyped imagery related to core symbols
their respective position in relation to quality space. Metaphor
provides a plan for correcting inappropriate positions. Participants en
ter into ritual in the belief that their place in quality space is
incorrect, to be transformed toward a more suitable, usually a more
sacred, state.
A ritual is to be analysed, then, as a series of organizing
images or metaphors put into operation by a series of...
ceremonial scenes. Each of these scenes plays its part in
realizing the implications of the image-plan....Through such
ceremonial scenes, men become the metaphor predicated upon
them (ibid:125).

157
It has been shown that the Earth:Society (or Under World:This World:
Upper World) axis in Mississippian thought is a valuated dimension, with
negative and positive values respectively. It is a dimension along
which ritual actors (as in the Chekilli legend) defined themselves as
being either in a satisfactory or an unsatisfactory state. Thus
Mississippian ritual, through various procedures, served to provide
explicit plans for the redefinition of social persons on this dimension.
This is reflected in the common perception of Southeastern Indian
religious values as emphasizing "purification".
An important task, then, is neglected in the search for Mississippian
symbols and meanings as static forms. These need to be probed in
search of their "grammar", the metaphoric and metonymic connections
through which ritual acts achieved relevance in day to day experience.
And this, again, points to the importance of reexamining historical
materials in search of deeper understandings of Southeastern ritual.
A fourth assumption concerns the domain of culturological studies.
Culture is exclusively defined as a shared body of symbols and meanings
within a community (Schneider 1976). This study has been informed, if
that is not already obvious, by the tradition of symbolic_anthropology.
The type of symbolic archaeological research that is advocated
(not to say well exemplified) in this study, emphasizing the discovery
^and elaboration of heuristics to be used deductively in relation to
empirical data, is obviously of limited scope so far as the total range
of Mississippian studies are concerned. But the method and its goals are
not necessarily incompatible with many of the aims of modern, materialist
processural research, especially of ecologically oriented archaeology.

158
Until fairly recently nearly all archaeological studies of Missis-
sippian cultures in the Southeastern United States have taken as their
research focus one or another, or some combination, of only four limited
'cultural concerns: stylistic relationships, settlement, subsistence,
*]
and (on a primitive level) social organization. These traditional
concerns have become so firmly entrenched as theoretically and methodo
logically appropriate issues, that others have, in a sense, been
automatically treated as out-of-bounds. Archaeological studies which
have specifically dealt with aspects of mental life have especially
borne a certain stigma, since the unfamiliar and non-materialistic
methodologies used in its illumination tend to sound, to the uninitiated,
like so much hocus-pocus.
This study, by taking as its subject matter the symbolism of public
ritual, obviously and deliberately breaks out of the traditional mold,
and thereby invites the burden of much closer than usual scrutiny and more
suspicious than usual criticism. But there is much more to it than that.
There is reason to be concerned with the "image" of symbolic analysis i
within an increasingly materialist-dominated archaeology, which has to do
ultimately with the relevance and adequacy of the paradigm itself.
The importance of symbolic analysis in Mississippian studies is
that it forces the recognition of a great proportion of prehistoric human
; behavior as fundamentally symbolic in content, reflecting the operation
of an integrated, coherent system of symbols and meanings a world view
that can be reconstructed from its phenomenal manifestations. Such a
reconstruction is derived and presented as a generalized model, which
like any other archaeological model, seeks to account for patterning in
the archaeological record. The primary example from the present work is

159
the formulation of a preliminary set of core symbols whose imagery, when
projected against the platform mound data, was found to match adequately
enough to infer that such imagery underlies the ritual behavior respon
sible for platform mounds. At this level, such models are admittedly
iigross representations of a highly complex reality, but they can also
be improved upon and refined. Once it is accepted that it is both
desirable and possible in archaeological research to discern some of
the basic features of the collective cognitive repertoires operative
among the subject population, then the implications may be seen for
the study of diverse matters. To name a few: ceramic style patterning
in time and space, scheduling of subsistence pursuits, division of
labor, dietary habits and prohibitions, the use of domestic space,
and (as in this study) public ritual. This exploratory study is intended
to do nothing more than to make a rude beginning toward building a
suitable and useful model of basic Mississippian world view and its
ritual expressions, and to examine some potential avenues and methods
of research.
As indicated earlier, the goals of a symbolic research paradigm
for archaeology go much farther than simply providing an adjunct,
relatively esoteric subject matter to a traditional slate of topics
judged worthy of study. The breadth of these goals in anthropology
may be seen in the recent ethnological work of Gerardo Reichel-
Dolmatoff (1971, 1976), who has developed a research strategy in
which he has tried to show precisely how ideology and cosmology under-
fi
lie and dictate strategies of environmental adaptation, through coding
of environmental percepts. Reichel-Dolmatoff intends to show that

160
aboriginal cosmologies and myth structures, together with the
ritual behavior derived from them, represent in all respects
¡I a set of ecological principles and that these formulate a
system of social and economic rules that have a highly
adaptive value in the continuous endeavor to maintain a
viable equilibrium between the resources of the environment
and the demands of society (1976:308).
Similar studies in archaeology can be accommodated by the general paradigm
of symbolic realism, without sacrificing empiricist, scientific methods.
(A suitable introduction to the paradigm I am calling symbolic realism
may be found in the works of Michael Polanyi: 1958, 1959, and .
1966).
It might also be emphasized, in order to avoid any misunderstanding
about the procedural nature of this study and other potential symbolic
studies, that the inferential process and the modeling and testing
procedures associated with verification are no different here than in
any other legitimate scientific research strategy. In this case, there
are quite obviously numerous test implications of the various conclusions
reached, for example in the matter of chiefly/priestly ritual independence.
The next item on the agenda is, of course, to make them explicit and
examine them against new information, the normal way in which good ideas
gain credence, and poor ones drop from sight.
The only major procedural difference between this study and more
traditional Mississippian studies lies in its multidisciplinary approach,
employing a variety of sources of information including archaeological,
ethnohistorical, ethnological, linguistic, and folkloric data. The
legitimization of using indigenous historical sources postdating the
Mississippian period is based upon a growing body of folkloric, linguistic,
and iconographic evidence regarding the long-term stability of core

161
symbolism and myth structures. It should eventually be possible to
build a comprehensive theoretical base relating the longevity of
symbolic features to their adaptive significance.
It might be argued that because of the multivocal ity and deep
cognitive embeddedness of core symbols and metaphors, virtually anything
that can be discovered about them will contribute substantially to a
better understanding of historical processes and the various determinisms
we seek to uncover. That is justification enough for pursuing this kind
of research wherever circumstances allow it. While recognizing that
there is no discontinuity between the study of natural systems and the
study of humankind, we must not fail to affirm that the most distinctive
and profound form of existence v/e know of is the rational consciousness
of humans, a subject eminently worthy of our understanding and participation.
Having walked, in some prehistoric aboriginal
village3 have you nearedwhere the inhabitants
defined themselves and their world in ritual,
with the intention of learning how? 1981

BIBLIOGRAPHY
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1972 Galley Pond Mound. In: An Archaeological Perspective.
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Bloch, Maurice
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1966 Spiro Studies, Volume 1: Description of the Mound Group.
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1971 The Dimensions of Status in the Burials at Spiro. In:
Approaches to the Social Dimensions of Mortuary Practices.
Edited by J. A. Brown. Memoirs of the Society for American
Archaeology 25:92-112.
1976 A Reconsideration of the Southern Cult. Midcontinental
Journal of Archaeology 1:115-135.
162

163
Bushnell, David I., Jr.
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1975
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of Michigan Press.

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH
Vernon James Knight, Jr. was born in Sylacauga, Alabama in 1953.
After attending high school in Appleton, Wisconsin, he pursued under
graduate studies in anthropology at the University of Wisconsin at
Oshkosh and at the University of Alabama. Prior to receiving the
B.A. degree at Alabama in 1975, he worked as an undergraduate at
Mound State Monument, Moundville, Alabama under the direction of
David L. DeJarnette. In 1977 he received the M.A. degree in
archaeology from the University of Toronto, under the supervision of
William H. Hurley and James B. Griffin. After a brief stint of fieldwork
in Georgia, he returned to graduate studies at the University of
Florida, receiving the Ph.D. degree in 1981 under the direction of
Jerald T. Milanich.
He is married to Judith G. Knight and has two daughters.
172

I certify that I have read this study and that in my opinion it
conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly presentation and is fully
adequate, in scope and quality
Doctor of Philosophy.
dissertation for the dec
ee of
Jerald T. Milanich, Chairman
/ Associate Professor of Anthropology
I certify that I have read this study and that in my opinion it
conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly presentation and is fully
adequate, in scope and quality, as a dissertation for the degree of
Doctor of Philosophy.
/Charles H. Fairbanks
Professor of Anthropology
I certify that I have read this study and that in my opinion it
conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly presentation and is fully
adequate, in scope and quality, as a dissertation for the degree of
Doctor of Philosophy.
*yiuJLeM.aL
>./&
v
CJL
Prudence M. Rice
Assistant Professor of Anthropology
I certify that I have read this study and that in my opinion it
conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly presentation and is fully
adequate, in scope and quality, as a dissertation for the degree of
Doctor of Philosophy.
Theron A. Nunez""
Associate Professor of Anthropology
I certify that I have read this study and that in my opinion it
conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly presentation and is fully
adequate, in scope and quality, as a dissertation for the degree of
Doctor of Philosophy.
xJolin K. Mahon
Professor of History

This dissertation was submitted to the Dean of the College of Arts and
Sciences and to the Graduate Council, and was accepted as partial
fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
June, 1981
Dean, College of Arts and Sciences
Dean, Graduate School



101
societies which tend to see social life as a series of qualitatively
different, bounded states, which are sequentially occupied by the
individual. Rites of passage mark the nodes separating one state from
the next; that is, they draw attention to the complete and fairly sudden
redefinition of the social person as he/she passes into a new status
with new roles. These gross distinctions between sequent states mean
not only that the individual must completely readjust, but that the
society as a whole must readjust its various relationships as well, as
its continuity of social actors is recurrently broken. That is why, to
the degree that the initiate is influential in community affairs, rites
of passage are public, sometimes costly, emotional events of great
importance, often evocative of core symbolism.
Van Gennep noticed that the nature of these status transitions
dictated that their structure be triprtate, consisting of:
1) Rites of separation, by means of which the initiate throws off old
statuses and roles in preparation for the new. Frequently the initiate
is physically separated and isolated from normally structured society.
2) Rites of transition (1iminality), an intermediate period of
adjustment. Victor Turner (1969) has greatly expanded this concept,
pointing out that it is symbolically a time of "anti-structure" during
which role reversal is not uncommon. It is an optimum time for the
"reeducation" of the initiate concerning core values (sometimes
employing material sacra, or sacred symbols). The kind of transcendant
feeling of social unity or oneness which emerges in liminality once
normal social structure is ritually stripped away is called "communitas".
Van Gennep observed that, among other rites of passage, funerals with
their amplified attention to readjustment most strongly emphasize 1 iminal rites.


161
symbolism and myth structures. It should eventually be possible to
build a comprehensive theoretical base relating the longevity of
symbolic features to their adaptive significance.
It might be argued that because of the multivocal ity and deep
cognitive embeddedness of core symbols and metaphors, virtually anything
that can be discovered about them will contribute substantially to a
better understanding of historical processes and the various determinisms
we seek to uncover. That is justification enough for pursuing this kind
of research wherever circumstances allow it. While recognizing that
there is no discontinuity between the study of natural systems and the
study of humankind, we must not fail to affirm that the most distinctive
and profound form of existence v/e know of is the rational consciousness
of humans, a subject eminently worthy of our understanding and participation.
Having walked, in some prehistoric aboriginal
village3 have you nearedwhere the inhabitants
defined themselves and their world in ritual,
with the intention of learning how? 1981


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 corrob
orated in the structural analyses of further Southeastern myths.


BIBLIOGRAPHY
Adair, James
1930 Adair's History of the American Indians. Edited by
S. C. Williams. Johnson City, Tennessee: Watauga Press.
Bartram, William
1909 Observations on the Creek and Cherokee Indians. With
prefatory and supplementary notes by E. G. Squier.
Transactions of the American Ethnological Society 3(1):
1-81. (Facsimile reprint of 1853 ed.).
Binford, Lewis R.
1971 Mortuary Practices: Their Study and Potential. In:
Approaches to the Social Dimensions of Mortuary Practices.
Edited by J. A. Brown. Memoirs of the Society for
American Archaeology 25:6-29.
1972 Galley Pond Mound. In: An Archaeological Perspective.
New York: Seminar Press, pp. 390-420.
Black, Glenn A.
1967 Angel Site: An Archaeological, Historical, and Ethnological
Study. Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Society.
Bloch, Maurice
1971 Placing the Dead: Tombs, Ancestral Villages, and Kinship
Organization in Madagascar. London and New York: Seminar
Press.
Bourdieu, Pierre
1971 The Berber House or the World Reversed. In: Exchanges
et Communications: Melange Offert a Claude Lvi-Strauss
a 1'Occasion de son 6Qe Anniversaire. The Hague: Mouton.
Brown, James A.
1966 Spiro Studies, Volume 1: Description of the Mound Group.
Norman, Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma Research Institute.
1971 The Dimensions of Status in the Burials at Spiro. In:
Approaches to the Social Dimensions of Mortuary Practices.
Edited by J. A. Brown. Memoirs of the Society for American
Archaeology 25:92-112.
1976 A Reconsideration of the Southern Cult. Midcontinental
Journal of Archaeology 1:115-135.
162


94
particular regard to the symbolic use of space, Mary Douglas (1972:521)
has spoken of this as "an insoluble, problem".
Nevertheless, a number of scholars have been interested in the
possibility of quasi-uni versa! principles in the symbolic ordering of
space which transcend specific ethnographic contexts. If such principles
can be shown to have general validity, they could be of some utility for
inferring meanings at a basic level regardless of the archaeological
obscurity of the interpreted phenomena.
As a simple example, one might observe that walls, a class of arti
ficial boundaries commonly encountered in archaeological remains, are
normally infused with important symbolic significance. They are in effect
objective taboos, channeling by their design human energies and marking
socially significant spaces. In contrast to the numerous "invisible"
social boundaries which are learned and maintained by individuals in
interaction, walls are exaggerated, intentionally insurmountable and
opaque social boundaries, conveying the message of differential symbolic
values associated with either side.
As another rather obvious illustration, it is usually possible m
to segregate facilities which are communal from those which are idio
matic. Often these are set in definite polar opposition. In cases of
ritual stages, the idiomatic facilities may be associated with sacred
paraphernalia (as in the courtroom example), allowing the interpretation
of the polarity as some version of the sacred/profane dichotomy. Edmund
Leach (1976:85) has formalized this proposition into what might loosely
be called a general theory of the public ritual wnwelt.


168
Polanyi, Michael
1958 Personal Knowledge: Towards a Post-Critical Philosophy.
Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
1959 The Study of Man. Chicago: The University of Chicago
Press.
1966 The Tacit Dimension. New York: Doubleday and Co., Inc.
Porter, James Warren
1969 The Mitchell Site and Prehistoric Exchange Systems at
Cahokia: A.D. 1000300. In: Explorations into Cahokia
Archaeology. Illinois Archaeological Survey Bulletin 7.
Rappoport, Roy
1971 Ritual, Sanctity, and Cybernetics. American Anthropologist
73:59-76.
Reed, Nelson A.
1969 Monks and Other Mississippian Mounds. In: Explorations
into Cahokia Archaeology. Illinois Archaeological Survey
Bulletin 7.
Reichel-Dolmatoff, Gerardo
1971 Amazonian Cosmos:
The Sexual and Religious Symbolism of the
Tukano Indians. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
1976 Cosmology as Ecological Analysis: A View From the Rain
Forest. Man: Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute
11:307-318.
Richardson, Miles
1980 The Spanish-American Iglesia and the Southern Baptist Church
as Texts About Christianity. Paper presented at the 1980
meeting of the American Anthropological Association,
Washington, D.C.
Saxe, Arthur A.
1970 Social Dimensions of Mortuary Practices.
University of Michigan.
Ph. D. dissertation,
Schneider, David K.
1976 Notes Toward a Theory of Culture. In: Meaning in Anthropo-
1ogy. Edited by Keith H. Basso and Henry A. Selby.
Albuquerque: University of Mew Mexico Press.
Schnell, Frank T., Vernon J. Knight, Jr., and Gail S. Schnell
1979 Cemochechobee: Archeological Investigations at the Walter
F. George Dam Mound Site, 9Cla62, Clay County, Georgia.
Columbus Museum of Arts and Sciences. Unpublished report
submitted to the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers-Mobile and
Heritage Conservation and Recreation Services.


163
Bushnell, David I., Jr.
1920 Native Cemeteries and Forms of Burial East of the Missis
sippi. Bureau of American Ethnology Bulletin 71.
Washington: Smithsonian Institution.
Caldwel1, Joseph R.
1955 Investigations at Rood's Landing, Stewart County, Georgia.
Early Georgia 2(1):22-51.,
Chappie, Eliot D., and Carleton S. Coon
1942 Principles of Anthropology. New York: Holt.
Col 1ins, John J.
1969 Transformations of the Self and the Duplication of
Ceremonial Structure. International Journal of Comparative
Sociology 10:302-307.
Deetz, James
1977 In Small Things Forgotten: The Archaeology of Early
American Life. New York: Anchor Books.
Deuel, Thorne
1935 Basic Cultures of the Mississippi Valley. American
Anthropologist 37:429-445.
Douglas, Mary
1966 Purity and Danger. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.
1972 Symbolic Orders in the Use of Domestic Space. In:
Man, Settlement, and Urbanism. Edited by P. J. Ucko,
R. Tringham, and G. W. Dimbleby. Cambridge, Mass.:
Schenkman Publishing Co. pp. 513-521.
1975 Implicit Meanings: Essays in Anthropology. London:
Routledge and Kegan Paul.
Durkheim, Emile
1915 The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life. 1965 edition.
New York: The Free Press.
Fairbanks, Charles H.
1946 The Macon Earth Lodge. American Antiquity 12:94-108.
1956 Archaeology of the Funeral Mound, Ocmulgee National
Monument. Archaeological Research Series 3. Washington:
National Park Service, U.S.D.I.
Ferguson, Leland G.
1971 South Appalachian Mississippian. Ph.D. dissertation,
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.


10
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, models accounting for the earlier
practices.
Swanton points out that William Bartram, whose Travels durinq 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 "chunkey 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 "chunkey yard" (Harper 1958:246). Swanton here


(Schnell, Knight, and Schnell 1979:206, 209) to this perplexing historical
disjunction was to point out that the Tuckabatchee, prior to the Removal
in the early nineteenth century, employed quite large platform mounds
(without summit structures) in ritual (Swanton 1932), and that they again
used large dance platforms of earth during the early twentieth century
in Oklahoma (Swanton 1928a:PI. 5; Fig. 47). But this observation still
contributes little to any appreciation of the significance of the pro
posed link.
A much better insight is prefigured by the conclusion earlier in thi
study that the Mississippian mound itself is a symbolic representation
independent of its post-construction institutional use. The most basic
symbolic meaning of the mound has nothing to do with its size or specific
"configuration, which varies with intended uses in various sociocultural
contexts divorced from the ritual circumstances of its construction.
Thus the fact that modern Creek, Yuchi, or Seminole ceremonial mounds
are small, and that they lack summit structures, presents no symbolic
difficulty, since summit structures and consequent size of platform
mounds were never connected directly with the core ideas of the platform
mound in the first place.
The search for and systematization of patterns of Mississippian
symbols results in a picture which is essentially static and descriptive,
which belies the dynamic nature of paradigmatic imagery. Allusions have
been made from time to time concerning the role of metaphor in linking
the symbols and in determining their objectified permutations in realms
of social life. These allusions betray some theoretical assumptions
which need to be laid out more explicitly.


84
largely from spatial informationforms 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 urmelt, 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 con
venience or of pragmatic concerns, but rather in order to constitute in
themselves symbolic representations meaningful to the ritual actors and
n
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 urrwelt
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 (1980) 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,


59
of concurrent basket loads from the same source (ibid:103-104). Stage
AIII as a whole had an estimated fill volume of 279.7m (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 full
time, 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


7
by separating the metaphorical and metonymical dimensions of the 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 mounds, in 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 "werthey" 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.


MISSISSIPPI RITUAL
BY
VERNON J. KNIGHT, JR.
A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE COUNCIL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN
PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS
FOR THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA


139
reference to these distributions seems to have been the use of such
serviceable but essentially noncommittal terms as "trade", "exchange",
"contact", "interaction", "syncretization", etc.
It is obvious that the nature of this dimly perceived long-distance
exchange is bound up with the social significance of the exchanged
ideas and objects. The thrust of recent research suggests that that
significance consists of their role in the sanctification of power in
developing rank societies where coercive authority was otherwise lacking.
As Durkheim taught, and as Rappoport (1971) has reiterated, the
concept of the sacred or of sanctity can be thought of as a sociological
mechanism of conserving conventional behaviors and orders, by investing
them with unquestionable truth. Those who are in a position to control
the flow of ultimate truth are also in a position to sanctify their
offices, and consequently to undergird their real power. As Mary Helms
(1979:176) has recently pointed out,
Those assigned to leadership positions must evidence control
of a particular kind of knowledge: knowledge of the nonordinary
and of the nonconcrete; knowledge that explains and reaffirms
the validity, the truthfulness (the sanctity) of the cognized
model in terms of which the rulership claims its powers and
position and the members of society are enjoined to act. This
esoteric knowledge of that which is most abstract and non-
mundaneof the "origins" and "nature" of things (the cosmos),
of the fundamental or universal "processes" by which all things...
operate, of the place of human society in such a universal
systemthen becomes a resource itself, a controllable form of
"elite goods", a resource that is as important for the operation
of society as are the material products of the economy.
As a model for the long-distance transfer of exotic goods and ideas among
chiefly elites, Helms' study (ibid) of the behavior of Panamanian chiefs
is worthy of close attention. Helms argues that foreign exotica, includ
ing "sacred" gold ornaments, were sought by Panamanian chiefs in the
context of gathering foreign esoteric knowledge as a "scarce resource",


134
Phelps (1970:89-90) has compared the complex to a "state religion
partially similar to that commonly shared by the cultures encompassed
in the Mesoamerican area." More recently, Phillips and Brown (1978:169)
virtually equate the Southern Cult with the whole of Mississippian
ideology.
"Cult" is, however, a misnomer, a word of insufficient
coverage. It would probably be more accurate to
describe the phenomenon as an interconnected medley of
cults, partly syncretized, on the way perhaps to be
coming a pan-Southeastern ideology.
Elsewhere Brown (1976:116) approves of the view that "The Cult is essen
tially the ceremonial 'culture' of the Mississippian period." Perhaps
the labels themselves are sufficient to make the point that the icono-
graphic complex in question has continually been in some way equated
with the whole sphere of Mississippian ritual as it has been vaguely
perceived. One speaks of The Southeastern Ceremonial Complex, not
A_ Southeastern Ceremonial Complex.
Perhaps this needs to be clarified. I have no quarrel with the
usefulness of the Southern Cult taxon. Like Phillips and Brown (1978:169)
I believe that it is "as much in need of investigation as ever,"
especially in regard to the question of conventional meanings. Nor do I
wish to downplay the obviously critical role played by Cult paraphernalia
within Mississippian cultures. And finally, it would be futile to deny
that Southern Cult iconography is intimately connected with, and arises
from, a broad ideological base. The point is simply that the complex of
symbols and meanings known as the Southern Cult, even if it were
possible to decode it in some detail, would not be equivalent to
Mississippian religion, belief, or ideology, and especially could not


61
(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).


151
can be shown to have been present within a pre-Mississippian folkloric
stratum.
In a sense, then, both types of provisional cult institutions can
be viewed as revitalizations of older elements in new iconographic and
institutional dress (cf. Wallace 1966:209-215). Both types rose to
prominence concurrently, although the respective histories are asymmetri
cal. Judging strictly by measurable public energies expended in ritual,
the platform mound mode of ceremonialism is vastly more impressive than
any other for the period. This is perhaps to be expected; the paradig
matic imagery behind platform mound ceremonialism we judge to be funda
mental public modes of Mississippian world view. But the socially
specialized and limited use of esoteric cosmogonic imagery as legitimiz
ing political authority is much more superficial in character, though
it validated greater political power. The difference is, perhaps, in
some ways analogous to the contrast between the Christian Old and New
Testaments, and their respective cults in the early Christian era.
Thus the story of the evolutionary rise of chiefdom-type societies
in the Southeastern United States is perhaps closely linked to the story
of the concurrent rise to prominence of two complementary types of cult
institutions, each of which was differently administered and each of
which sponsored different ritual complexes. These institutions were
importantly asymmetrical in power, influence, and ideological foundations.


37
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
necessary 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.
CHEKILLi LEGEND: DIALECTIC PROGRESSION
Society
Sacrifice
Disguised Earth
Mediation
Earth
FIGURE 3
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


97


30
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 corres
pondences, 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
fcr
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 common format and comparable
elements.
The first episode defines a basic polar opposition of the
"naturercul ture" 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


15
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 inter
pretation 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 Hiwassee 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-thlako, 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.


3
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 hierarchy of symbols and metaphors in that
process. Core symbols, then, constitute a general, analogical, organi
zational model of 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".


Ill
Potentially, more than one mode can exist within the same community
synchronically, marking social distinctions (see Hertz 1960:30). Public
facilities designed for collective initial disposal of corpses contain
an element of incongruity, since these must find other than spatial
means of symbolizing separation. These consequently should be rare among
Mississippian groups practicing secondary burial, as they are worldwide.
As a counter-example, just such a facility occurs at the pre-Mississippian
(Weeden Island Period) McKeithen site in north-central Florida (Milanich
and Fairbanks 1980:135-136). But within that facility, as within other
conceivable ones, separation could have been maintained by processing only
one corpse at a time. If we are allowed to rationalize it that way, then
one can say that such structures are not communal after all, and differ
from other facilities for initial burial only in their size and permanence,
being used again and again as required.
Facilities designed for secondary disposal of cleaned bones are
commonly called charnel-houses or ossuaries. It should be made clear
however, that the term ossuary implies secondary burial specifically,
while the term charnel-house does not; modifiers may be used
accordingly to clarify the usage. The form of Mississippian structures
which have been interpreted as charnel-houses is quite variable, and it
is important to note that usually they can be identified only by
association with subsurface burials, which may not be secondary but
rather primary or tertiary interments. This of course is a complicating
circumstance, since charnel-houses may, and probably most often do, store
skeletal remains above-ground. The use of the vertical axis as an
additional spatial marker, for example in segregating subsurface burials


26
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 Atilamas (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;
Hthe 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


141
From the earliest discussions of the Southern Cult as a coherent
entity, it was recognized that the artifacts in question pertained not to
the whole of Mississippian expressive culture, but to a specialized
segment of it with ritual connotations, hence the term "cult" (Phillips
1940:366). Holder went further in 1947, citing the occurrence of the
materials in burials receiving highly differential treatment, as indi
cating a link between the Cult and "class stratification, clans, and
class prerogatives" (in Williams 1968:77). Thus a connection between
ritual paraphernalia and chiefly power in the prehistoric Southeast was
suspected as probable over 30 years ago, although the lack of contextual
data and the theoretical apparatus of the time did not allow further
refinement.
More recently, a great deal of better controlled data and analyses,
especially at the "Big Three" Cult sites (Etowah, Moundville and Spiro),
have made possible a quantum advance in understanding the hierarchical
structures of Mississippian chiefdoms and the contexts (if not the roles
and meanings) of ritual paraphernalia within these social structures.
The literature that has accumulated relevant to this issue is too
unwieldy for a critical review in short space, and with that as an
excuse I will include only brief commentary here. The conclusion of all
of this work that is most relevant to the present issue is stated summar
ily by James Brown: "As symbols the artifacts and art motifs [of the
Southern Cult] relate to prestige structures based on the sanctity of power
in chiefdom-type societies" (1976:126). Holder's suspicion of 1947, in
other words, has become explicitly justifiable through modern research.
s
Lewis Larson's excavations during the late 1950^ for the Georgia
Historical Commission at the Etowah site (Larson 1971) have served to


18
must discount it, while recognizing on the other hand that the isolation
of a distinctive type of Mississippi an 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
common class of large, semi-public chief's houses recognized archaeolog-
ically 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 Mississippian public ritual.
Howard, like Waring, considers Southeastern green corn ceremonialism a
"relatively pure survival" of Mississippian mound ceremonialism. He
discusses four structural elements of Creek, Seminole, Natchez, Yuchi,
and Chickasaw ceremonial grounds. These are;l) 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 the 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. He thus discusses the square ground ball ground


144
series of exogamous kin segments (clans), including a superordinate
segment from which were drawn the candidates for ramified systems of
warrior-chief offices. Thus the nature of the social group deriving the
benefits and prestige from the sanctified symbol set we call the
Southern Cult, is clearly on the order of a chiefly clan (although the
usage is guarded), within which more particular Southern Cult icon sets
and presumably the accompanying esoteric knowledge were the property of
the holders of office.
Brown (1976:128), however, has explicitly denied that the
Southern Cult can be a reflection of any single cult "in the socio
logical and ideological sense", since most of the Cult objects can be
demonstrated to be status-displaying symbols within different
"organizational networks". For Brown, "the use of...Cult features
for symbolizing privileged status is most obviously a hierarchical
feature of Mississippian Period cultural systems and only secondarily an
ideological one" (ibid). The first thing of concern here is the
apparently unnecessary and unjustified distinction between symbols as
markers of status versus symbols as markers of specialized religious know
ledge (ideology). As stated earlier, ritual paraphernalia and knowledge
can be manipulated as a "scarce resource," increasing the prestige of
and sanctifying otherwise secular social domains. In such cases the
hierarchical meanings of a given symbol set necessarily imply the
ideological meanings of the same set. It is far more efficacious, it
seems to me, to view the two levels of meaning as interdependent.
The other part of Brown's argument, that the iconographic complex
cannot reflect a single cult because it relates to three distinct


11
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 "chunkey 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


40
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 undoubt
edly 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. Besides 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).


w ICO3
1000
997
994
991
988
985
MORTUARY
flu.
\l9
1003
1006
I
1012
1015
XUA i XUB
1018 1021
1024
1027 1030 1033
1036
CTi
00


105
Southeastern groups, have not been identified archaeologically at
Mississippian sites (because they generally leave no diagnostic evidence);
but based solely upon the frequency of secondary and tertiary burial
vis-a-vis identifiable firfet-burial facilities, such practices as
temporary scaffold burial must have been very common. Actual bounded
facilities, e.g. houses or compounds, for the initial collective placement
of the dead should not be a common feature, for reasons which will
become clear later.
Secondary burial was equally common among the historic descendants
of Mississippian societies. A minimum list of Southeastern Indian groups
practicing secondary burial of corpses reduced to skeletal remains in
the postcontact period would include the Powhatan, the Algonkian groups
of Virginia and Carolina, the Tuscarora and Santee, the Potomac, the
Tocobaga and Tequesta, the Choctaw, the Natchez, and the Chitimacha.
An anthropological approach to the subject of secondary burial
must begin with Robert Hertz's brilliant essay on the subject,
"Contribution a une Etude sur la Reprsentation Collective de la Mort"
(A Contribution to the Study of the Collective Representation of Death)
(Hertz 1907) published in Annee Sociologique. It is a cross-cul
tural study of the symbolism connected with secondary burial practices,
but it deals most extensively with the Dayak of Borneo, particularly
the 01o Ngaju. Hertz was a student of Durkheim, and like Durkheim he
used a method which explored the subject as it applied to a particular
people and region in exhaustive detail, calling in data from societies
farther afield only to ascertain whether the principles derived could be
further generalized. In Hertz's case the results have been applied by


29
"They always nave, 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


114
rank, and the possession of property or wealth (ibid:106-107)these
distinctions are restored in the collective charnel-house. This factor
may conceivably influence what is commonly held as axiomatic: that
status in death as reflected in grave accompaniments is a direct
indicator of terminal status in life.
To this point the discussion of the phenomenon of tertiary burial
has been left somewhat neglected, principally because our initial cues
were taken from Hertz. Hertz ended his analysis of mortuary ritual with
secondary burial and a "final ceremony" designed to restore order among
the mourners, the corpse, and the soul. To deal with the idea of
tertiary or multiple interments beyond the funeral rites of passage
per se, we need the additional concept of "embedding".
Given the three-phase diachronic formula for rites of passage and
rites of intensification outlined by Van Gennep, there is a sentence in
his text which at first glance seems a puzzling and unnecessary confusion
of this simple scheme. It speaks of "rites of separation from the usual
environment; rites:.of incorporation into the sacred environment; a
transitional period; rites of separation from the local sacred environ
ment; rites of incorporation into the usual environment" (Van Gennep
1960:82). Here we seem to have a five-phase formula rather than the
usual three. Fortes has commented upon this apparent contradiction, and
it exemplifies for him the way that the three terms can constitute a
"Procrustean Formula" (1962:55). That is, Fortes fears that the terms
can be applied to field data almost any way one wishes, which is tanta
mount to saying that all the formula accomplishes is a demonstration
that every ritual sequence has a beginning, a middle, and an end. But


98
But in this example there is yet another polar axis superimposed
on the concentric one. This axis is defined by the entranceway on one
side of the earth lodge, and opposite this entranceway, another sacred
symbol: a modeled clay bird-platform. Three of the clay seats in the
outer ring surmount this bird platform, and are thus distinguished by
association with the sacred.
This superimposition of axes, each carrying a different message
about the seated participants (homogeneity in the one case; status
differentiation in the other), nicely illustrates a further point:
ritual stages can only project a very limited number of symbolic dis-
ll
criminations and still remain orderly, uncluttered, and coherent. But
the social bodies which normally make use of such ritual facilities
are, in direct contrast, usually organized by a highly complex and
multifaceted web of statuses and roles, which are symbolically repre
sented in various ways. Thus, as Lvi-Strauss (1963) has observed for
diametric structures, the structure of a ritual setting, in its
simplistic cogency, can be more an obfuscation than a reliable portrait
or reflection of social distinctions.
Such quasi-universal patterns of representation as diametry,
linear polarity, concentric polarity and triprtate division, while they
are interesting commentaries on the innately human search for order in
the construction of social reality, nevertheless cannot promise great
discoveries an analytical tools. For Mississippian studies, these
principles must be conjoined with the search for conventional meanings
in concrete symbols, which alone can further progress in penetrating the
richness of Mississippian world view.


86
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
¡i 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 facilitiestake 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 proceed
ings 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


155
The first assumption is that public ritual is structured to convey
information. In Wallace's (1966:236) terms, it is "stereotyped
communication," which "coordinates the preparation for action among sev
eral organisms, and which does...this more quickly and reliably than
can be accomplished...by non-stereotyped, informational communication."
The meanings and intentions which are conveyed in ritual are multiple
and complex, and may be apprehended by the participants at different con
scious and unconscious levels. But its highly structured nature dictates
a simplifying effect: "...the content of ritual refers to a simpler
homogeneity and explains the mystic unity which lies behind the
phenomenological diversity. Thus ritual, and its supporting belief
system, constitute a world of symbols that is simple and orderly"
(ibid:239). Part of the message is usually related to the social order:
the nature of statuses and their relations, and the position of the social
order within a cosmological system of classification. As stated in the
introduction, myth is treated here as a category or mode of ritual, not
simply a charter for ritual and a rationalization for it, as Wallace
has it (ibid:249), nor completely a discursive mode with a life of its
own, divorced from behavior (Lvi-Strauss 1973:473). That is, the
distinction between myth and ritual is not to be equated with the
1
distinction between thought and behavior.
The second assumption is that symbols are not free-floating images,
but are connected in definite ways. Their connections are the "grammar"
of ritual as an idiom. They are structured in thought by 1) the creation
of a dialectic of oppositions, and 2) their arrangement in formal
analogies. The idea of an analogy rests on the recognition of two types
Vl of relationship, contiguity (metonymy) and likeness (metaphor)


I certify that I have read this study and that in my opinion it
conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly presentation and is fully
adequate, in scope and quality
Doctor of Philosophy.
dissertation for the dec
ee of
Jerald T. Milanich, Chairman
/ Associate Professor of Anthropology
I certify that I have read this study and that in my opinion it
conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly presentation and is fully
adequate, in scope and quality, as a dissertation for the degree of
Doctor of Philosophy.
/Charles H. Fairbanks
Professor of Anthropology
I certify that I have read this study and that in my opinion it
conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly presentation and is fully
adequate, in scope and quality, as a dissertation for the degree of
Doctor of Philosophy.
*yiuJLeM.aL
>./&
v
CJL
Prudence M. Rice
Assistant Professor of Anthropology
I certify that I have read this study and that in my opinion it
conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly presentation and is fully
adequate, in scope and quality, as a dissertation for the degree of
Doctor of Philosophy.
Theron A. Nunez""
Associate Professor of Anthropology
I certify that I have read this study and that in my opinion it
conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly presentation and is fully
adequate, in scope and quality, as a dissertation for the degree of
Doctor of Philosophy.
xJolin K. Mahon
Professor of History


91
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 house-
complex 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 compart
ments in the two wings of Bosten's house.
animal
products
of hunting
masculine j feminine
Winter Activities
processing/
storing
hunted
products
cooking
stored food
trade
in skins
processing/
storing
vegetable food
Summer Activities
vegetable
products of
horticulture
FIGURE 8. CONCEPTUAL PLAN OF THE BOSTEN HOUSE.


24
originating among various towns (Sv/anton 1928a:33-75). There are
also a number of non-Creek myths, for example 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 rivercame 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 this 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,


110
precipitately; furthermore, their bones are not laid with those of the
other deceased members of the group who have died a normal death. Their
unquiet and spiteful souls roam the earth forever (ibid:85). Recalling
the Premound Precinct Complex features at the Cemochechobee site
discussed earlier (Figure 6), this account accords well with the
circumstances surrounding central Burial 1 (XUA). This isolated
corpse, in contrast to those who gained burial within the adjacent
mortuary, was fully articulated and had thus been buried before decom
position vas complete. Furthermore the feet had been severed; they
were missing from the tomb. Appropriately for the fate of the soul, if
we may credit this interpretation, this corpse vas interred in the zone
we have identified as liminal space, between the objective ritual
representations of the community of the dead (the mortuary) and the
community of the living (the Northern Ceremonial Compound) (Schnell,
Knight, and Schnell 1979).
Now, in adopting a Hertzian analytical frame, it is clear that we
must distinguish archaeologically among facilities and features designed
1) for initial burial, 2) for secondary burial, and 3) for tertiary
burial. It has already been said that the first kind of facilities
will not generally be easy to recognize, because they may consist of
simple scaffolds, which leave mainly post molds; because they are usually
isolated; and because they are features associated only with a small
group of mourners, the close kin, and will be correspondingly simple
and transitory in comparison with the communal secondary repositories
which involve larger social units such as conical clans. Evidence of
exhumed burials, where encountered, can be considered conceptually
parallel to scaffold burial and other possible modes of initial burial.


81
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, orienta
tion, 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


66
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 Cemochecho-
bee, 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


further markers within the zone: ritual sacra (flags) and the use of ..
the vertical axis to further bolster a social distinctioni.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 representa
tives of the community (one polar zone), but are temporarily invested
with sacred power to acquit or indict, emanating from the opposite zone
of authority.
Many American Christian churches possess the same polar, triprtate
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 passage
as in a wedding, where initiates are escorted by ritual elders progress
ively across the three zones and back again. These are inferences of


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
H were 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 Mississippian mounds which initially led to their being incorrect!
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, then, correspond to the four-
world-quarters concept in Southeastern Indian cosmology, a concept
which finds prehistoric expression as the cross symbol in the Missis
sippian Southeastern Ceremonial Complex. And as the surface of the
earth is flat, so is the surface of the platform mound. As a symbol,


63
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, A1abama, 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 never
theless 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 termed 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


27
there. Afterv/ard they turned back to see what sort of path that was,
and who the people were who 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 Nowphaupe, now Callasi-hutche. There they tarried


80
symbolic Earth platform, was the norm 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" changeperiodic
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 archaeological ly 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 detectably gradual, and always in response to


76
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 BIT. 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 preceeding 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 Bill. 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 preceeding 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 semi-
subterranean structure was built. Structure 8 was 7.34m in diameter,


the termtwo "Southern Cults," if you will-which in each society
existed in opposition and controlled different segments of ritual. A
good case can be made for identifying the Southeastern Ceremonial
Complex as a reflection of a chiefly cult institution. The other cult
institution marked by platform mound ceremonialism is arguably an
independent priestly ritual association normally subordinate to the
former, yet wielding considerable power far beyond that of potential
rival cult associations. To the degree that this dichotomy between
chiefly and priestly ritual can be supported, it becomes possible to
align Mississippian societies of the Southeastern United States with
a worldwide class of pre-state societies in which chiefly and
priestly ritual are held in tension and opposition, e.g. the Tallensi,
the Choctaw, the Ndembu, etc. (see Turner 1969:99). In such societies,
the power deriving from ritual sanctity does not all flow from a single
source, but is dichotomized in a structure which, though politically
asymmetrical, is ideologically diametric. Such a ritual structure
acts, arguably, as a power buffer for chiefly authority, which is
absent in "sacred kinship" types of state society in which the
authority of cult institutions are effectively combined under the
auspices of the state.
In the discussion that follows, the use of priestly and chiefly
ritual as general dichotomous terms in reference to Mississippian ritual
will be understood to mean that such dualisms existed within
particular Mississippian societies. While the implication is that
these institutional types viere roughly comparable in their major
features across political boundaries, I am not asserting that either


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
MISSISSIPPI AN RITUAL
By
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" and "white/Society"
vi i i


124
bone-picker the mourners, now released, went their separate ways.
We come now to consider Choctaw tertiary burial, in the context
of a calendrical rite of intensification in which the participation of
the opposite moiety was enlisted. It can now be seen how each of the
successive burials involves a larger segment of society: primary
burial obligates the near kin exclusively; secondary burial obligates
the clan exclusively; and tertiary burial obligates both moieties.
Among the Choctaw the rite of intensification was called the
"Feast of Souls". It is parallel to the Kut-nahin ceremony among the
Chitimacha (Gatschet 1883:8), and Swanton describes similar observances
during the Tunica "corn fast" (Swanton 1946:729). The motives
necessitating such rites have already been discussed. There is a
difference of opinion concerning the frequency of the Feast of Souls:
Bossu indicates an annual ceremony in early November, but Byington's
informants remembered two ceremonies, one in the spring and the other in
the fall. Bartram says that it depended upon filling the charnel-house,
and was held on an appointed day.
Three distinct types of ceremonies are documented. In the first,
each family (clan?) would assemble at the charnel-house to mourn. At
this time the bones were taken out and repainted red, and then restored
to their respective hampers. The kin then took up the hampers and in
rank procession, took them to a distant place, the general populace
following behind. The hampers were stacked in a pyramid and buried in
an accretional mound of conical shape, under about four feet of earth.
The procession is described by the early writers as a solemn event with
much weeping. Upon their return, a feast was held at the end of the day,
closing the ceremony. The second mode is described only by Byington,


50
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 BII, upon which an irregular, perhaps temporary,
building stood. Next came two blanket mantles, Stages Bill 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, BIX, AND BX. Thus while Mound B at the Cemoche
chobee 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 Hiwassee Island Focus method of rebuilding the foundation
of 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 platforms were covered by only a few inches of newly
added clay (1941:22-23).


14
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 Muskogean linguistic family, Waring's notion that such towns as
Tuckabatehee, 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.


25
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 child. They then took the pole, and carry it with
them when they go to war. It was like a v/ooden 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, Micoweanochau (miko hoyanidja), red root; third, Sowatchko
(sowatcko), which grows like wild fennel, and fourth, Eschalapootehke
(hitei laputeki), 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 should rule; and they agreed, as they were four Nations, that


166
Knight, Vernon J., Jr.
1979 Ceramic Stratigraphy at the Singer-Moye Site, 9Sw2.
Journal of Alabama Archaeology 25:138-151.
1980 Weeden Island Symbolism: The McKeithen Mound C Cache
and Related Ceramics. Unpublished manuscript in
possession of the author.
Lankford,
1975
George E. Ill
The Tree and the Frog: An Exploration in Stratigraphic
Folklore. Ph.D. dissertation, Indiana University.
n.d. "Conventionalized Dancers:" A Unique Southeastern Art
Style. Unpublished manuscript in the possession of the
author.
Larson. Lewis H.
1971 Archaeological Implications of Social Stratification at the
Etowah Site, Georgia. In: Approaches to the Social
Dimensions of Mortuary Practices, edited by James A.
Brown. Memoirs of the Society for Anerican Archaeology
25:58-67.
Leach, Edmund R.
1961 Rethinking Anthropology. London: The Althone Press.
1976 Culture and Communication: The Logic by which Symbols
are Connected. Cambridge University Press.
Lvi-Strauss, Claude
1963 Do Dual Organizations Exist? In: Structural Anthropology,
by C. Lvi-Strauss. Mew York: Basic Books pp. 132-163.
1973 From Honey to Ashes, Introduction to a Science of Mythology: 2,
Translated by John and Doreen Weightman. New York: Harper
and Row.
Lewis, Thomas M. N., and Madeline Kneberg
1941 The Prehistory of the Chickamaugua Basin in Tennessee: A
Preview. Tennessee Anthropology Papers 1. Knoxville:
University of Tennessee.
1946 Hiwassee Island: An Archaeological Account of Four Tennessee
Indian Peoples. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press.
Lincecum, Gideon
1904 Choctaw Traditions about Their Settlement in Mississippi and
the Origin of Their Mounds. Publications of the Mississippi
Historical Society 8:521:542.


65
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"
chunkey yard which illustrates two "slave posts" in addition to a central
pol e, whi ch i nterestingly is situated upon a low platform mound (Bartram 1909).


109
its objective analog in the charnel-house, which is commonly furnished
with material symbols and valuables of a quality befitting some revered
ancestors.
Hertz emphasizes that the final rites of incorporation surrounding
the placement of bones in the charnel-house effectively neutralizes the
obligations of the living, especially of the mourners, to the dead. But
he adds that "the bones are still endowed with a character such that a
too close contact with them seems dreadful and it is often preferred to
put a fair distance between the house of the dead and the living (ibid:56).
The bones are still a source of potentially malicious power, and further
ritual acts may be necessary to deal with this condition, especially as
the ancestors accumulate in number. Actually, cross-cultural comparison
shows that attitudes are variable toward "incorporated" skeletal remains.
Bones may be considered generally beneficial to the living, hence they
might be returned to the houses of relatives; this may be institutionalized
as an "ancestor cult". Or the bones may be considered so residually
polluting and dangerous that they require tertiary burial, or calendrical
rites designed to periodically remove the pollution accumulated in the
maintenance of charnel facilities. Tertiary burial seems to have been
an option chosen in some Mississippian societies, as it was for example
among the historic Choctaw and Natchez. We will explore Choctaw
tertiary burial in more detail, as a potential model for Mississippian
practice.
Parenthetically, Hertz points out in his essay that the cause of
death in particular cases, if it is exceptional e.g. by suicide, murder,
or accidentcan result in exceptions to the normal ritual procedures.
"Their bodies inspire the most intense horror and are got rid of


116
If they remove never so far, to live in a foreign country,
they never fail to take all these dead bones along with
them, though the tediousness of 1.their short daily
marches keeps them never so long on their journey. They
reverence and adore this quiogozon [charnel-house] with all
the veneration and respect that it is possible for such a
people to discharge (Swanton 1946:721).
To the degree that this relationship can be anxious or burdensome to
the living, further rites of passage are called for to mitigate this
effect. Thus the Lincecum myth describes the veneration of ancestral
bones during the allegorical march of the Choctaw to Nanih Waiya,
but it also speaks of the "extraordinary and overwhelming" accumulation
of such remains as "a great evil" and "oppressive" (Lincecum 1904:
521-524). That narrative pits the wishes of the Choctaw priesthood
against those of a paramount chief. The priests advise that,
This people must not cast away the precious remains of
the fathers and mothers of this nation. They are charged
by the spirits, who are hovering thick around us now, to
take care of them; and carry them whithersoever the nation
moves. And this we must not, we dare not fail to do. Were
we to cast away the bones of our fathers, mothers, brothers,
sisters, for the wild dogs to gnaw in the wilderness, our
hunters would kill no more meat; hunger and disease would
follow; the confusion and death would come; and the wild
dogs would become fat on the unscaffolded carcasses of this
unfeeling nation of forgetful people. The vengeance of the
offended spirits would be poured out upon this foolish
nation (1904:526).
To this portrait of terrible moral backlash is contrasted the opinion of
the chief.
I propose that we shall by general consent and mutual good
feelings..., in the most respectful manner, bring together
and pile up in a beautiful and tasteful style the vast amount
of bones.... After this,...let all persons, old and young,
great and small, manifest their respect for the dead, by
their energy and industry in carrying dirt to cover them up,
and let the work of carrying and piling earth upon them be
continued until every heart is satisfied...for us to pile
their bones all in the same heap and securely cover them up
will be more pleasing to the spirits, than it will be to
let them remain amongst the people (1904:528).


82
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 ceremonial ismthat is, if it is part of the
Mississippian ritual corpusthen 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 expect
ed 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 talwas 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.


60
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. Mow 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


128
Chekilli legend of the Muskogee Kasihta town. By applying the structural
method of isolating replicating correspondence structures, a set of core
symbols and relations were identified which could then be traced through
metaphorical and concrete objectifications in Mississippian ritual
features. It was observed that core symbols refer to the operation of a
layered hierarchy of symbol sets in cognition; that is, that some symbol
sets and metaphorical links are more deeply entrenched, and more
broadly applicable and evocative than others. The concept of core
symbols, then, designates a relative condition rather than an absolute
within culturally shaped cognitive repertoires. What we seek to identify
in Mississippian ritual is, in Firth's (1975:14) and Turner's (1974:64)
terms a "root paradigm", which is in turn similar to Whitten's (1978:841)
notion of a "master image paradigm". Turner (1974:64) develops the idea
of a root paradigm as referring,
not only to the current state of social relationships existing
or developing between actors, but also to the cultural goals,
means, ideas, outlooks, currents of thought, patterns of belief,
and so on, which enter into those relationships, interpret them,
and incline them to alliance or divisiveness. These root para
digms are not systems of univocal concepts, logically arrayed;
they are not, so to speak, precision tools of thought.... Para
digms of this fundamental sort reach down to irreducible life
stances of individuals, passing beneath conscious prehension
to a fiduciary hold on what they sense to be axiomatic values,
matters literally of life or death. Root paradigms emerge in
life crises, whether of groups or individuals, whether institu
tionalized or compelled by unforeseen events.
Whitten (1978:841) emphasizes their role in everyday, as well as ritual, affairs.
u
We find Canelos Quiera paradigmatic imagery to be as clearly
discernable in contexts involving indigenous response to alien
cultural logic and praxis as in contexts of shamanistic per
formance and pottery manufacture. Although the semantic trans
formations and symbolic processing of the master image para
digm is context-specific, the paradigm itself transcends con
textual ity. Paradigmatic structures are presumably part of a
semiotic system by which imagery is transmitted through a
contrastive set of signs. Symbolic processing is based on
positional arrangement.


142
clarify the archaeological contexts of the rich Southern Cult materials
recovered earlier by Cyrus Thomas and Warren K. Moorehead at Mound C of
that site. Mound C was a five-staged platform mound supporting a
series of successive nondomestic structures of unknown use. A palisade
like wall surrounded .the mound, rebuilt several times. Associated with
the final mantle, around the mound periphery, was a series of elaborate
tomb burials many of which contained exotic Southern Cult furnishings
and adornments. By comparing these burials with those in the common
cemetery areas at the site, Larson concluded that the Mound C burials
indicated an internally ranked, hereditary descent group controlling
trade in exotic materials, and that the Cult icons and paraphernalia
were "used by them to express and validate their social position" (ibid:67).
Mortuary remains from the largest of the "Big Three" Cult centers,
Moundville, have been analysed in depth by Christopher S. Peebles (1974).
The data were derived from the early excavations at the site by Clarence
B. Moore and from the massive work accomplished during the period
1929-1941 by the Alabama Museum of Natural History. Based on a data set
consisting of a matrix of 719 provenienced burials against documented
classes of grave associations, Peebles clustered the burials using both
agglomerative and subdivisive numerical strategies. These analyses
produced clusters of related burials tending to confirm his hypothesis
that two major "dimensions" (strata) should be discernable: one ascriptive
and associated with sociotechnic items of dress and office, the other
reflecting achieved statuses without the associated sociotechnic
paraphernalia. Peebles' conclusions relative to the "same social
group" criterion for the Southern Cult as a reflection of a single,
discrete type of cult institution are as follows.


122
In the latter case the flesh would be bundled and set to one side within
the scaffold house by the bone-picker, and the whole would be summarily
put to the torch. With this event, the final transformation of the
corpse was complete.
This portion of the rites of incorporation was concluded by a
feast given by the bereaved kin for friends and visitors paying their
condolences. While the bone-picker was busy dissecting, the meal was
being prepared, partially consisting if possible of the meat from the
slaughter of the horses belonging to the deceased. The meal could only
be served by the bone-picker, who did so after defleshing the corpse but
without first washing his/her hands. This was a clear sign of the
continued state of pollution among the mourners, which had not yet been
relieved. The food was distributed according to rank, and Adair notes
that a cheerful attitude prevailed, in contrast to the earlier grief and
solemnity.
The final rites restoring the mourners to a profane state and
assuring the soul passage to the spirit world took the form of a solemn
procession to the charnel-house, at which the bones were deposited with
their hamper. The procession was led by the bone-picker, and while it
might be only a short walk to the edge of the village, it might other
wise be a matter of many days journey to a distant village in the case
of a male, because of uxorilocal residence.
The charnel-house was usually situated in a remote place on the
fringes of a village. According to some writers, including Bartram and
Romans, these charnel-houses were village-level facilities, but they
seem to have been mistaken, or rather misled on this point. Adair saw


159
the formulation of a preliminary set of core symbols whose imagery, when
projected against the platform mound data, was found to match adequately
enough to infer that such imagery underlies the ritual behavior respon
sible for platform mounds. At this level, such models are admittedly
iigross representations of a highly complex reality, but they can also
be improved upon and refined. Once it is accepted that it is both
desirable and possible in archaeological research to discern some of
the basic features of the collective cognitive repertoires operative
among the subject population, then the implications may be seen for
the study of diverse matters. To name a few: ceramic style patterning
in time and space, scheduling of subsistence pursuits, division of
labor, dietary habits and prohibitions, the use of domestic space,
and (as in this study) public ritual. This exploratory study is intended
to do nothing more than to make a rude beginning toward building a
suitable and useful model of basic Mississippian world view and its
ritual expressions, and to examine some potential avenues and methods
of research.
As indicated earlier, the goals of a symbolic research paradigm
for archaeology go much farther than simply providing an adjunct,
relatively esoteric subject matter to a traditional slate of topics
judged worthy of study. The breadth of these goals in anthropology
may be seen in the recent ethnological work of Gerardo Reichel-
Dolmatoff (1971, 1976), who has developed a research strategy in
which he has tried to show precisely how ideology and cosmology under-
fi
lie and dictate strategies of environmental adaptation, through coding
of environmental percepts. Reichel-Dolmatoff intends to show that


93
and "potato house" (and also probably a skin warehouse) added to the
summer house. That is, the elements which in the Bosten house defined
the masculine-feminine axis are here transferred appropriately along
the summer-winter axis and conjoined with other elements. In addition,
a third dimension is added for the Cuscowilla house. This is a vertical
axis probably representing a culture/nature type opposition, by which
horticultural products were segregated from wild gathered plant products.
Here, then, are some possibilities for the archaeologist to consider
in analyzing Mississippian architecture, both domestic and public. But
an obvious feature of all of these examples is that the assignment of
meanings to objective features can be checked in their full ethnographic
context. The archaeological case is different. In it the conventional
meanings may be irretrievable, leaving only recourse to quasi-universal
principles for inferring general sets of meanings and oppositions.
Fortunately for the student of Mississippian ritual phenomena, such
conventional meanings and symbols are not totally obscured.! by time and
can be to some degree salvaged from ethnohistorical and historical data.
A primary aim of this study has been to make a convincing case for the
interpretability of many Mississippian ritual features in light of
particular conventions. For these "texts" it is possible to decipher a
grammar, and the rudiments of a lexicon.
The problem of conventional meaning remains, however, the most
ponderous and significant issue in the interpretation of archaeological
ritual. It appears that, without introductory clues found in the
historical record and in myth, the archaeologist lacks the initial
anchorage necessary to make sense out of a sea of arbitrary images. In


44
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 pyra
mids, 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
appelation 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:


119
t The initial burial was effected by erecting an isolated scaffold
either near the house opposite the door or in a grove at the margin
of the town. The scaffold was built like a miniature house, with
watt!e-and-daub sides and a cedar bark roof, intended to serve as the
"residence" of the corpse during the transition period. It was raised
six or more feet from the ground on poles. The elaborateness of this
scaffold varied with the importance of the individual interred.' Those
of high status individuals were decorated with red paint, whereas that
of a child might be a simple pole framework. The sacred space defined
by the scaffold might be stockaded or fenced against intruders, and
mourning benches were placed around it or on one side. A chain made
of grapevine links, the symbolism of which has been lost, hung from one
of the poles.
The body was interred through one of the two open ends, covered with
a blanket of deer or bear skin, or fabric. A quantity of goods was
placed with the corpse, in the belief that they would be put to use
by the soul on its journey These goods might include a gun with
powder and balls, a change of shoes, and some food.
The rites to this point served to objectify the separation of the
corpse, the soul, and the mourners from their normally structured
roles. Now began the liminal period marked by prolonged mourning by
the immediate kin, the decomposition of the scaffolded corpse, and
the temporary probation of the disassociated soul on earth. This period
could last anywhere from two to eight months, the exact duration depend
ing on the importance of the individual § the end being rather arbitrarily
set by a class of itinerant priests known as "bone-pickers" The only


107
an isolated scaffold, and the observances surrounding it, were rites of
separation. The subsequent period of mourning during which the body
decomposed in its temporary grave was characteristically liminal. During
this time the soul was destined to be a homeless wanderer on earth,
and the mourning kin were ritually segregated from the remainder of the
community by taboo. At the final ceremony and feast the cleaned bones
were rearticulated and transferred in new wrappings to the charnel
house, the soul was ceremonially and finally directed to the community
of the dead, and the prohibitions concerning the mourners were lifted.
Thisr event was clearly a rite of incorporation to a normal, structural
state.
The mortuary rites of passage were not simply directed toward the
corpse, but toward three distinct categories of actors: 1) the corpse,
transformed from a corruptible body to an incorruptible and irreducible
skeleton; 2) the soul, generally separate from the body after death,
transformed from the community of the living to the community of the
dead; and 3) the mourners, who undergo a transformation in mental state.
These three kinds of transformations were among the Dayak structured and
concurrently achieved through ritual. Furthermore, and central to
Hertz's analysis, is the recognition that specific portions of the
funeral observances are not directed toward expediting the passage of
one category to actor versus the other two, but rather toward emphasizing
analogies between the respective passages of the different sets taken in
pairs (Huntington and Metcalf 1979:62).
Thus, the decomposition of the body and the separation of corruptible
flesh from incorruptible bones is taken as a natural metaphor both for
the processes of gradually changing the soul to its new condition among


69
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 wal 1 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.


This dissertation was submitted to the Dean of the College of Arts and
Sciences and to the Graduate Council, and was accepted as partial
fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
June, 1981
Dean, College of Arts and Sciences
Dean, Graduate School


Copyright 1981
by
Vernon James Knight, Jr.


77
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, east
facing 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.


48
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 and 78 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.


AMBIGUOUS OR
DISGUISED EARTH
MONSTER, returnee
ts or apnroached
IS RECOGNIZED;
REVEALS ITSELF
BY A NOISE OR
BY ASSOCIATION
IS DANCEROUS:
IT DEVOURS
PEOPLE
IT IS TAUNTED SY
PRESENTING IT
UITH A CONTRA
DICTION
IT IS TEMPO
RARILY DELAYED
(opposed to
"oversteoning")
IT IS PRACTICALLY
OVERCOME
(opoosite column
three)
ITS VIRTUES ARC
RECOVERED
FOR iT'.LFlFI '!
USES
The mouth of the
Earth, in the
west
Twice it eats
their children
when the people
are nearby
The people escape
to the west,
then to the east
A mountain with
fire {discovered
at the end of a
red river)
It thunders, and
has red smoke,
which is a fire
They are afraid
of it (named
"King of Moun
tains")
They obtain
some of its fire
Compatible only
with fire from
the north (war)
A oole {dis
covered on the
mountain of red
smoke)
It moves, and
makes noise
Motherless child
(struck against
pole; the child
dies)
They took the
oole
It is a war
club (atasi)
Some herbs (dis
covered on the
mountain of red
smoke)
They sing, and
disclose their
virtues
Two of the four
herbs are "white'
used 31 Busk,
others are "red"
A large, blue
biro with a long
tail (blue=south)
It eats the
people daily
(called "King of
birds")
Presented with
the image of a
woman (a false
wi fe)
It goes off, co
habiting with the
image, bearing a
helpful rat son
Red rat and
people conspire:
rat chews bow
string of bird
(compared with
an eagle)
White feathers
used for neace,
red for war
A wild beast, at
Coosa, a white
town, after fol
lowing white path
It lives in a
rock, near a creel
which is rocky
and smokes
The beast is
called "Man-
eater"
Motherless child
sacrificed,
enticed with
"false noise"
They lay branches
across its path;
it rushes through
then;
It falls into a
trap (a man-made
cit); it is set
afire
Its bones are
kept; they are
half blue, half
red
useful in war
Some oeople
(thought to be
"white")
They live at a
high mountain,
which makes noise
during war
white ("peace
ful") arrows shot
at them; returned
red
Houses are deser
ted; people are
submerged in a
river
People with flat
heads (thought
to be "white")
Near a waterfall,
with rocks on
which bows are
lying
White arrows shot
at them,
returned red
All but two
persons are
killed, "white
dog" spared
Escapees lead
them to Apala
chicola (white
town)
Apalachicola
persuades them
to make peace
FIGURE 1: STRUCTURAL ANALYSIS OF THE CHEKILLI LEGEND OF KASIHTA


104
Bessemer, Wilbanks, Rood, Macon Plateau, and Fort Walton.
Evidence of secondary and tertiary burial of defleshed bones after
temporary deposition of the corpse in a separate facility is also very
common among Mississippian cultures, and these practices will be explored
in some detail below. The percentage of secondary burials varies widely
among sites; from special corporate burial situations such as occur at
the Cemochechobee site (Schnell, Knight, and Schnell 1979) where
approximately 90% of the recovered burials are secondary or tertiary in
terments, to sites like Moundville, where only 40% are secondary or
tertiary (proportionately more within the mounds) (Peebles 1974:293).
Mississippian corpses were interred in various states of decomposition.
They might be partially articulated, with only an extremity or two out
of place. They might otherwise consist of an isolated skull or mandible,
or a bundle of disarticulated bones. Sometimes formerly disarticulated
bones had been rearticulated in the grave. In many cases large portions
of the skeleton are missing. Cremations, considered here as a subset
of secondary burial, are uniformly rare. Secondary and tertiary inter
ments may contain grave goods of the same order as primary interments,
although the presence/absence of such furnishings may be significantly
correlated with mode of burial.
The bulk of the evidence for secondary and tertiary burial among
Mississippian cultures comes from observations of the lack of body parts
and of skeletal articulation within burials. Evidence of facilities
for the initial burial are difficult to identify. At some sites
^reexcavated burial pits testify to the exhumation and reburial of the
corpse. This, however, is rather uncommon. Other possible modes for
initial burial, for example scaffolding as practised by many historic


4
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 latter
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.


148
of passage may have been within the priestly sphere (e.g. the Choctaw),
nevertheless chiefs and their retinues die and must be processed
appropriately.r
Other than platform mound ceremonialism, we can unfortunately point
to virtually no other direct evidence of the organization of the
priestly sphere in Mississippian societies. This may be the combined
result of the actual lesser visibility of priestly paraphernalia in the
archaeological remains, and simply not knowing what to look for. Such
evidence might, for example, lie in the procedure of placing ritual
offerings on a mound summit just prior to the construction of a mantle
(Schnell, Knight,and Schnell 1979:195-196).
Thus the archaeological case for a separate priestly cult institution
is not particularly strong in itself. Nevertheless, accepting Waring's
argument that the historic Muskogee busk ceremonies are the recent trans
formations of prehistoric rites of intensification involving platform
mounds, it seems highly significant that the Muskogee busk was essentially
a priestly function with the enlisted assistance of chiefs, warriors,
and heniha.
In summary then, I have argued for the existence in Mississippian
cultural systems of cult institutions that were diametrically opposed
ideologically, a politically paramount one centering around a warrior-
chief, his retinue, and kin, and the other centering around a priesthood.
The ritual complex constituting the priestly cult institution included
and focused upon community rites of intensification emphasizing purifi
cation-most conspicuously platform mound ceremonialism, an intensive
enterprise suggesting considerable power. The symbols invoked by this
institution consists of modifications of the paradigmatic Earth¡Society


117
Thus the tale provides an agenda for restoring harmony amid ambivalent
feelings toward the dead: tertiary burial of the curated bones in the
context of a community rite of intensification. It can now be seen
how the sacrilization initiated by secondary burial in the charnel-
house, and the desacralization achieved by tertiary burial, can be ana
lyzed as a second rite of passage, the termination of which may be
thought of as embedded within a rite of intensification, with the logical
point of articulation being the common rites of incorporation.
As an illustration, let us follow this sequence of primary,
secondary, and tertiary burial through, as it was objectified among
the Choctaw as described by various sources (Swanton 1931:170-177).
This can be assisted with the aid of a diagram, Figure 11.
anonymous French officer, Adair, Milfort, Bartram, and Romans, allow us
to piece together a satisfactory account of mid-eighteenth century
practices. The traditions conveyed to Cushman, Folsom, Byington, and
Halbert date to a later time but can be used as supplementary sources.
From the perspective of these accounts, practices seem to have varied
CHOCTAW MORTUARY RITUAL
level of inclusiveness
family clan town
Van Gennep: separation- liminality incorporation
fate of
the corpse
initial burial
(scaffold)
decom
position
ossuary
(secondary)
. tertiarv
8 burial
i
j
fate of
the soul
separation
from corpse
wandering
on earth
world of
the dead
i

i
fate of the
mourners
separation
from society
period of
mourning
ceremonial
release
i
rite of intensification: separation |liminal j incorporation
I FIGURE 11 ~l
The accounts of Choctaw mortuary rites left by Bossu, by an


38
I 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.
Sumnarily, the Chekilli legend is, ostensibly, about the intellectual
In
problem of autoc^hony, and the ritual means of overcoming it in estab
lishing human identity. Further, the myth prescribes the kind 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 we 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).


45
1. Semi-public chief's house platforms (e.g. Mound B at the Cemochecho-
bee site) (Schnell, Knight, and Schnell 1979).
2. Public temple platforms (e.g. Mound C, the Fatherland site) (Neitzel
1965).
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,


57
of construction stages, the resulting figure is an average of 21 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 intensifi
cation, 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 group, which
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


133
"ceremonial centers," was to regard it as a single "ceremonial complex"
central to Mississippian ritual. The idea of a single, ancestral
"ceremonial" underlying historic Natchez, Creek, and Chickasaw ritual is
explicit both in Waring and Holder's initial definition of the "Southern
Cult" (Southeastern Ceremonial Complex) (1945:27) and in Waring's later
amplification (1968:31). The initial hypothesis of the spread of the
iconographic complex as the result of a messianic revitalization
movement similar to the Ghost Dance Religion was not long lived. But
both the recognition of the "Southern Cult" as an acceptable taxon
for investigation and the assumption of its premier role in a religious
complex associated with chiefly power have remained intact. Waring's
(1968:66) early summary may be quoted in full.
The following hypothesis seems to us the best explanation
of the present data: The archaeological spread of Middle
Mississippi represents the original migration from a small
area of groups possessing a closely-related ceremonial
which was strongly oriented to agriculture. It probably
contained the basic fire-sun-deity beliefs, fire ceremonial,
and the chieftain in a strong central position. The
temple mound was also in use in its dual function as temple
and dwelling of the Chief. The Southern Cult seems to
represent the appearance of a new ceremonial integration
on a somewhat later and more mature level, yet based largely
on the earlier ceremonial.
Here already, and despite the restrictive connotations of the term
"cult" (Phillips and Krieger had immediately objected to the usage),
the conventional gestalt of the complex was clearly that of a major
pervasive series of religious ideas. Waring's term "ceremonial"
appears in context to mean an integrated central corpus of public ritual.
There is little room here for any other possible modes of Mississippian
ritual which might have had little to do with the Southern Cult..


17
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 mounds 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
tokofa, 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
Muskhogeans in early historic times. This complex v/as defined archae
ological ly at such charnel house-mortuary platform mound sites as
Mound C at Etowah (Moorehead 1932:66-87) and the Hollywood Mound
(Thomas 1894:317-326), both in Georgia. Ethnohistorical examples
included the "temples"at Talimeco, visited 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 attribution 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


33
realizing that the Earth has become a hostile entity (it eats their
children). A second group, however, elects to remain behind, symboli
cally in the direction of compromise. But Earth does not discriminate,
and 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


CHAPTER VI
SPACE AND MEANING
No symbolic structure can operate independently of its physical
or phenomenal objectifications. It is by means of these objectifi
cations, 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 in
voked 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 umwelt 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 message
bearing 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 trans-
posable to other dimensions of ritual, then this circumstance should
be of special value to the archaeologist, whose ritual data are gleaned
83


TABLE OF CONTENTS
Page
PREFACE AND ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS ii.i
LIST OF FIGURES vii
ABSTRACT vi i i
CHAPTER I SCOPE AND DEFINITION 1
CHAPTER II EARLIER PERSPECTIVES ON MISSISSIPPI EXPRESSIVE CULTURE .8
CHAPTER III ALLEGORY AND CORE SYMBOLS 22
CHAPTER IV PLATFORM MOUND CEREMONIALISM 43
CHAPTER V THEME AND VARIATION 62
CHAPTER VI SPACE AND MEANING 83
CHAPTER VII IN AND OUT OF THE CHARNEL-HOUSE 99
CHAPTER VIII THE CHARACTER OF MISSISSIPPI RITUAL 127.
CHAPTER IX OF MOUNDS AND METAPHORS 152,
BIBLIOGRAPHY 159
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 169
vi


CHAPTER I
SCOPE AND DEFINITION
Having walked in some village of infidels3 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, horti
cultural peoples that lived in the 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, unrnasks 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
1


36
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. The fiery mountain sings, the pole moves and makes constant
noise; the herbs sing; the final two episodes have Earth mimiking
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 the 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.


85
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 circumstan
ces. 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
always 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 partici
pants 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 new
comers. The lanwelt is transformed again into a welt. 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


34
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.
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


BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH
Vernon James Knight, Jr. was born in Sylacauga, Alabama in 1953.
After attending high school in Appleton, Wisconsin, he pursued under
graduate studies in anthropology at the University of Wisconsin at
Oshkosh and at the University of Alabama. Prior to receiving the
B.A. degree at Alabama in 1975, he worked as an undergraduate at
Mound State Monument, Moundville, Alabama under the direction of
David L. DeJarnette. In 1977 he received the M.A. degree in
archaeology from the University of Toronto, under the supervision of
William H. Hurley and James B. Griffin. After a brief stint of fieldwork
in Georgia, he returned to graduate studies at the University of
Florida, receiving the Ph.D. degree in 1981 under the direction of
Jerald T. Milanich.
He is married to Judith G. Knight and has two daughters.
172


125
whose informants remembered some details of the opposite moiety
participation. He says that on the first day of the ceremony, the
bereaved moiety would be occupied in wailing, while the opposite
moiety simultaneously danced. On the second day these roles were
reversed, symbolizing the release of obligations for the bereaved.
The bones would then be returned to the charnel-house, rather than
being interred. The third mode is discussed only by Halbert, who
says that on this occasion the charnel-house was simply buried
in place, that is, covered by a low mound.
The diagram (Figure 11 ) outlining primary, secondary, and tertiary
disposal of eighteenth century Choctaw dead may also, with some trans
position of specific modes, be used as a model of Mississippian forms
of secondary and tertiary burial procedures. It has been observed that
the addition of platform mantles at Mississippian mound sites is an
expression of rites of incorporation within the context of community
rites of intensification, and now the presence of tertiary burials
within such mantles should pose no mysteries. They are likewise
community expressions of rites of incorporation.
Examples of Mississippian mortuary practices can be cited that have
specific analogs in the Choctaw data. Binford's Galley Pond Mound, a
charnel-house covered in place by a low earth mantle (1972), is a
simple expression of the kind of ritual practice described by Halbert
for the Feast of Souls. More complex forms consist of repeatedly
buried charnel houses, e.g. the Craig Mound at Spiro (Brown 1966), the
Hollywood charnel-house mound (Thomas 1894:317-326), and the
Lenoir Mound illustrated earlier in profile as Figure 4.


130
It was argued that platform mound ceremonialism, a rite of intensi
fication and a principal defining mode of Mississippianism, can be seen
fruitfully as an objectification of the EarthrSociety paradigm. The
mound is an Earth symbol within the community, which Society must effec
tively extinguish through periodic ritual burial, employing "compromised
earth," or culturally modified dirt.
In examining diachronic variability at a specific Mississippian
mound site, Cemochechobee, it could be seen that the periodicity inherent
in platform mound burial was in fact part of a larger periodicity, in
which all ritual structures were regularly transformed stylistically,
materially, and spatially. This was not normative uniformitarian or
evolutionary change; it was deliberate masking and contrasting of success
ive configurations within the same community. This pattern was found to
be consistent with the notion of past configurations as mana-laden,
polluted, and taboo. Change was an aspect of ritual renewal through
rites of intensification.
A brief look at synchronic spatial aspects of Mississippian and
historic Southeastern "stages" or structures was intended to illustrate
that such structures partition space to materially reflect concepts and
symbols related to the ritual and domestic activities for which they are
designed. They can frequently be recognized as microcosms symbolizing
a limited range of basic cosmological ideas.
Finally a major category of rites of passage, funerals, were
examined against Hertz's precocious formulation of the symbolic aspects
of primary and secondary burial. Historic charnel-house ritual among
the Choctaw was reviewed with this frame of reference, from which it
was concluded that the phenomenon of tertiary burial in the context of


129
The Chekilli legend is appropriate to the task of seeking core
symbolism because it, like other Southeastern migration myths, is an
elaborate allegory referring not as much to an actual historical move
ment of people as to an agenda for community ritual and an expression
of social relationships. Analysis of the myth revealed two polar terms,
which were designated as Earth and Society. These are held in dynamic
tension, and their mediation is the object of the prescribed ritual.
The color symbol associated with Earth is red, and Earth is assigned a
negative value (malevolence); the color symbol for Society is white and
Society is assigned a positive value (benevolence). The myth turns
out to be about the cosmological issue of autoc.htho.ny the overcoming of
a primordial Earth-origin, in search of a separate identity for the
cultural sphere. One may test this set of proposed core symbols against
the paradigmatic imagery they evoked in historic Muskogee (and other
Southeastern Indian) institutions: the issues are manifested, with the
color symbols retained, in the sphere of social organization, by
definition of town moieties and clan moieties, and in burial programs
(see Adair, in Swanton 1928a:389-391). The core symbols are appropriately
assimilated to the institutional complex, and are consequently modified
from the more fundamental sense in which they appear in myth. It might
be proposed that these symbolic images constitute an important component
of the "high tradition" of Southeastern world view, a relatively coherent
symbolic order which can be prehistorically as well as historically
identified. Moreover, these images are not inconsistent with the
cosmological triad of Linder WorldrThis World:Upper World proposed by
Hudson (1976:122-128).


modern fieldworkers (Huntington and Metcalf 1979) with good success,
and these fieldworkers have testified to their exploratory power.
Hertz begins with the idea that secondary burial, and the necessary
lengthening of the funeral rites that it implies, are linked to the
belief that death is not an instantaneous termination of biological
functions, as we tend to see it, but something more profound. He
observes that death "does not confine itself to ending the visible
bodily life of an individual; it also destroys the social being grafted
upon the physical individual and to whom the collective consciousness
attributed great dignity and importance" (Hertz 1960:77). Death is
therefore not just a natural phenomenon among societies bearing such
practices, but a sinister force which threatens the existence of society
itself; it is not sudden, but is gradual and structured like all other
1ife-passages.
Every change of status in the individual, as he passes
from one group to another, implies a deep change in
society's mental attitude toward him, a change that is
made gradually and requires time. The brute fact of
physical death is not enough to consummate death
in people's minds: the image of the recently
deceased is still part of the system of things of this
world, and looses itself from them only gradually by
a series of internal partings. We cannot bring
ourselves to consider the deceased as dead right away:
he is too much a part of our substance, we have put too
much of ourselves into him, and participation in the
same social life creates ties which are not to be
severed in one day (1960:81-82).
For the Dayak as for other societies, Hertz makes it clear that
mortuary customs including secondary burial are structured like any
other major rite of passage. Among the Dayak the first, temporary burial on


123
three of them in one village, and further notes a taboo, which Lincecum
seconds, against depositing the bones of one clan with those of another.
The evidence weighs in favor of the proposition that Choctaw charnel-
houses were actually clan-level facilities, as Adair and Milfort both say
(in Swanton 1931:172, 174), and as Bushnell concluded (1920:98). The
illusion of village-level charnel-houses could have arisen in connection
with the documented association of clans with particular mother towns
(see Swanton 1931:80).
The form of the charnel-house seems to have been variable. Both
Adair and an anonymous French officer describe^ covered cabin, essentially
a larger version of the scaffold-house, in which the bone hampers were
placed in rows on poles? Like the scaffold-house, the charnel-house was
open on both ends and was strongly palisadedf Adair's description pro
vides other details: a ladder on one side, a grapevine' chain hung from
the ladder, and a carved "dove" (but more probably a bird of prey) sur
mounting the structure. Romans' drawing of a charnel-house, on the other
hand, depicts an open enclosure, together with seven poles bearing flags
and (grapevine?) chains which are obviously prototypes for the similar
poles placed around nineteenth century Choctaw burials.
The solemn procession to the place of secondary interment was led by
the bone-picker. The mourners, as a symbol of their release from obliga
tion, dressed in their finery. Women carried pitch-pine torches. The
anonymous writer mentions wailing along the way, but both Adair and Bossu
(in Swanton 1931:171-2) describe only subdued weeping. Arriving at the
charnel-house, the procession encircled it, placed the hamper on the ground,
and crouched with shrouded heads to begin the final wail. The bones were
then deposited in the loft, completing the rite, and after paying the


138
priestly or chiefly cult institutions were in any way organizationally
linked together across the Southeast. There is no good evidence for any
institutional structures transcending the provincial chiefdom. A case
can be made, nevertheless, that the priestly cult/chiefly cult opposition
as a diametric type of ritual organization arose concurrently throughout
much of the Southeast and contributes much to our present-day gestalt
of what Mississippianism is.
I am thus in full agreement with the statement of Phillips and Brown
cited earlier that the Southeastern Ceremonial Complex reflects a
syncretized set of contemporaneous cults. This is what I am claiming
to be the "chiefly cult institution", one half of a ritual pair among
Mississippian chiefdoms. There are two qualifications: Firstly, I
insist on the separation of the iconographic complex from the institutional
complex, an important distinction not always observed. Secondly, I am
not quite sure what their term "interconnected" means in reference to
this set of cults. They are certainly connected as regards iconography
and style of paraphernalia, and there are obvious, though poorly
understood, exchange relationships; however I would eschew any implication
of cooperative enterprise or formal mechanisms of protracted interaction
among complementary cults.
While a number of southeasternists, most recently Phillips and Brown
(1978:157-209), have devoted considerable energies to the description of
these "connections", there have not been to my knowledge any recent
in-depth attempts to anthropologically model in an explicit way the
nature of the exchange of ideas and objects that the distribution of
the Southern Cult represents. Since the popular demise of the revitali
zation movement hypothesis of the 1940's, the predominant trend in


2
common institutional mechanisms for projecting this cosmology into
concrete, behavioral objectifications. 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 super
natural 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


169
Schoolcraft, Henry Rowe
1853 Information Respecting the History, Condition, and Prospects
of the Indian Tribes of the United States. Bureau of
Indian Affairs. Philadelphia: Lippincott.
Sears, William H.
1953 Excavations at Kolomoki: Season III and IV, Mound D.
University of Georgia Series in Anthropology 4. Athens:
University of Georgia Press.
Springer, James W. and Stanley R. Witkowski
1980 A Reassessment of Southeastern Linguistics and Archaeology.
Southeastern Archaeological Conference, Bulletin 22:56-57.
Swanton, John R.
1911 Indian Tribes of the Lower Mississippi Valley and Adjacent
Coast of the Gulf of Mexico. Bureau of American Ethnology
Builetin 43. Washington: Smithsonian Institution.
1928a Social Organization and Social Usages of the Indians of the
Creek Confederacy. 42nd Annual Report, Bureau of American
Ethnology 23-472. Washington: Smithsonian Institution.
1928b Religious Beliefs and Medical Practices of the Creek Indians.
42nd Annual Report, Bureau of American Ethnology 473-672.
Washington: Smithsonian Institution.
1928c The Interpretation of Aboriginal Mounds by Means of Creek
Indian Customs. Annual Report for 1927, Smithsonian
Institution 495-507. Washington.
1931 Source Material for the Social and Ceremonial Life of the
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1932 The Green Corn Dance. Chronicles of Oklahoma 10:170-195.
1946 The Indians of the Southeastern United States. Bureau of
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Tambiah, Stanley J.
1969 Animals are Good to Think and Good to Prohibit. Ethnology
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88
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 distinctionsa simpli
fied cosmology. As Rom Harre puts it, "the Umuelt structure may be an
icon of a particular people's theory of their own society; that is, the
physical structure of the Umuelt may function as a meaning-bearing entity,
an icon of the content of certain propositions within the cosmology
of a people" (1978:166). Harre observes that such an objective microcosm
can express the macrocosm in two ways, either by exhibiting an isomor
phism 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 microcosmological
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 concern
ing relationships between society and nature. Deetz (1977:92-117), for
example, has shown how the development of Anglo-American house archi
tecture during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries precisely mirrors
pervasive and deep-seated changes in world view, from a corporate and or
ganic "medieval" pose to an ordered, mechanical, Renaissance-influenced


90
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. eabane=cot 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
mats.
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 struc
ture, 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


143
Both cluster analyses produced the expected two dimen
sions of burials and social personae. The first
dimension is defined by inclusion of supra-local,
Southern Cult items of dress and office as grave goods.
These definitive items are copper axes, small copper
celts, copper ear spools, round and oblong copper
gorgets, copper hair ornaments, copper symbols badges,
stone ceremonial celts, stone discs and palettes,
various minerals, shell beads, shell gorgets and perhaps
effigy vessels. The second dimension is defined by the
use of various vessel forms, discoidals, projectile
points, bone awls and a number of other technomic
items as grave goods, (ibid:181-182).
James A. Brown (1971) has similarly reanalysed the mortuary data
from the Spiro site in search of patterns suggesting ranking in a chiefdom-
type social organization. Brown's data come primarily from a series of
elite burial contexts within the spectacular Craig Mound, a rebuilt
mortuary facility. The abundant Southern Cult materials from the Craig
Mound are associated with an ascribed status dimension which is itself
internally ranked. As Peebles found for the Moundville data, Brown
sees evidence for definite offices linked to particular Southern Cult
artifact classes. According to Brown (ibid:101),
... it can be advanced that the copper plate and extended
burial define a special segment of the Spiro population
with all ages and both sexes represented. Within this
pool there are ascribed rights to copper plate burial
available to some, possibly only males, and that adults
(presumably males) are eligible for attaining the third
status which is at the pinnacle of power [litter burials
accompanied by engraved Southern Cult Busycon shell cups].
The latter status carries with it an office and the power
to accumulate and distribute objects of high ascribed value.
All told, then, the present data are not inconsistent with the prop
osition that Southern Cult iconography and paraphernalia represent a
discrete symbolic assemblage intimately associated with "the same social
group", that is, that we are dealing with a cult institution in Wallace's
sense. The general type of social organization encountered in Mlssissip-
pian systems has been productively modeled as consisting of a ranked


132
The next few pages, then, will attempt to make good the promise
made at the beginning of this study that some consideration would be
made of the institutional organization of Mississippian ritual. There
is nothing so separate or distinctive about this topic that it can be
treated independently of its ritual content, although some investigators
have proceeded as if this were so. On the contrary, I would suggest
that the greatest barrier to the recognition of particular institutional
complexes in Mississippian societies has been a lack of attention to
the patterning of their associated symbols. My argument, which follows
from the discussion of core symbolism in platform mound ceremonialism,
is that it is useful to distinguish two discrete sets of institutional
complexes within Mississippian ritual.
It could be argued that a traditional point of view among Southeast
ern archaeologists in regard to the institutional basis for Mississippian
ritual has been that, for each regional Mississippian culture, the ritual
belief corpus was a single system associated particularly with paramount
social statuses. Mississippian cultures were sometimes considered to be
primitive "theocracies" ruled by "priest-chiefs", who served not only as
secular administrators but also as principal religious functionaries.
Many of these ideas seem to be fabrications, but others were based, at
least loosely, on the historic accounts of Natchez social organization.
Natchez society was highly stratified, dominated by the "Great Sun", a
despotic paramount chief whose office was surrounded by elaborate ritual
prescriptions and taboos.
Within such a model for Mississippian society, the most facile and
least troublesome way of accounting for the elaborate ritual parapher
nalia and iconography that was known from the larger Mississippian


164
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1966 Archaeological Analysis of Art Styles. Tennessee
Archaeologist 22:25-39.
Neitzel, Robert S.
1965 Archaeology of the Fatherland Site: The Grand Village of
the Natchez. Anthropological Papers of the American
Museum of Natural History 51. New York.
Peebles, Christopher S.
1974 Moundville: The Organization of a Prehistoric Community
and Culture. Ph.D. dissertation, University of California-
Santa Barbara.
1978 Moundville: The Form and Content of a Mississippian Society.
Unpublished manuscript.
Phelps, David S.
1970 Mesoamerican Glyph Motifs on Southeastern Pottery. Inter
national Congress of Americanists, 38th Session, Munich.
Transactions 2:89-99.
Phillips, Philip
1940 Middle American Influences on the Archaeology of the
Southeastern United States. In: The Maya and Their
Neighbors: Essays on Middle American Anthropology and
Archaeology, edited by Clarence L. Hay, Ralph L. Linton,
Samuel K. Lothrop, Harry L. Shapiro and George C. Vaillant.
New York: D. Appl eton-Century Co., Inc. pp. 349-367.
Phi 11ips, Phil ip,and James A. Brown
1978 Pre-Columbian Shell Engravings From the Craig Mound at Spiro,
Oklahoma. Part 1. Paperback edition. Cambridge: Peabody
Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, Harvard University.


149
formulae. These symbols, like those invoked by the chiefly cult
institution in the display of sanctity and power, are deeply embedded
within streams of folklore and belief which can be shown to predate the
systems at hand.
This is about as far as the argument can be carried at this point
without further directed research. One might well, indeed, accuse the
proposition of being already far too conjectural. In defense of it,
I will readily admit that such a dichotomy may be ultimately too simple
and too naive to account for the formidable and complex array of
Mississippian period ritual. Its main value, and the reason it is
formulated in this way, is to draw attention to the classificatory
distinction between the types of ritual examined in this study, and the
ritual relevance on the other hand of the well-known Southern Cult,
seen here as a coherent corpus of ritual symbols.
Since the claim has been made that the opposition of chiefly and
priestly cult institutions may have arisen as a diametric type of ritual
organization, it is imperative to document the concurrence of the rise
of each of the two proposed institutions. If this surmise is correct,
it has implications that must be taken into account in explaining the
evolutionary development of incipient chiefdoms in the Southeast out of
essentially egalitarian tribal "Big Man" societies. It is of interest,
then, to quickly recount the circumstances of historical development
of the two key ceremonial complexes, the platform mound complex and
the Southern Cult, as they are presently known.
The imagery of the EarthrSociety distinction underlying platform
mound ceremonialism, especially as reflected in redrwhite color


136
ritual sequences, dovetailing and overlapping in scheduling, personnel,
material apparatus, and beliefs, but each maintaining a distinct and
autonomous role" (ibid:76). Thus within what might loosely be called
"Mississippian religion" (a rather unsatisfactory usage), one might
expect to identify specific institutions that are more tightly organized
internally than is the religious sphere in general. It is important
to the present argument to keep in mind that each cult institution
may conjure a distinct set of symbolic imagery, and that each is
typically directed by a discrete class of "officers", depending on
the relative formality of the institution.
Now, as applied to the Mississippian case, it can be demonstrated
with some confidence that at least two relatively independent symbolic
complexes occur, and furthermore that these turn up in consistently
different ritual contexts. One set is associated primarily with platform
mound ceremonialism and mortuary ritual. Its symbolic foundations can
be identified with the problems of autochthony and purification, and
with a fundamental EarthrSociety dichotomy whose elements in turn
evoke a nexus of associated images that pervade such realms as social
organization. Another set is associated primarily (exclusively?) with
ritual surrounding superordinate social segments including warrior-chief
offices. Its symbolic foundations are drawn from several sources;
largely from cosmogonic mythology, also from the technological apparatus
of warfare.
This is the basis for inferring a preliminary model of ritual
organization among Mississippian societies. I propose that there were
at least two distinct sets of cult institutions, in Wallace's sense of


165
Helms, Mary W.
1979 Ancient Panama: Chiefs In Search of Power. Austin: The
University of Texas Press.
Hertz, Robert
1907 Contribution a une Etude sur la Representation Collective
de la Mort. Annee Socioloqique 10:48-137.
1960 Death and the Right Hand. Translated by R. and C. Needham
with an Introduction by E. E. Evans-Pritchard. New York:
The Free Press.
Howard, James H.
1968 The Southeastern Ceremonial Complex and Its Interpretation.
Memoir of the Missouri Archaeological Society 6. Columbia.
Hudson, Charles
1976 The Southeastern Indians. Knoxville: University of Tennessee
Press.
Huntington, Richard, and Peter Metcalf
1979 Celebrations of Death: The Anthropology of Mortuary Ritual.
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Jakobson, Roman, and Morris Halle
1956 Fundamentals of Language. The Hague: Mouton.
Keel, Bennie C.
1972 Woodland Phases of the Appalachian Summit Area. Ph.D.-
dissertation, Washington State University.
Kellar, James II., A. R. Kelly, and Edward V. McMichael
1962 The Mandeville Site in Southwest Georgia. American Antiquity
27:336-355.
Kelly, Arthur R.
1938 Preliminary Report on Archaeological Explorations at Macon,
Georgia. Bureau of American Ethnology, Bulletin 119:1-68.
Kelly, A. R., and Clemens de Baillou
1960 Excavation of the Presumptive Site of Estatoe. Southern
Indian Studies 12
Kelly, A. R., F. T. Schnell, D. F. Smith, and A. L. Schlosser
n.d. Explorations in Sixtoe Field, Carter's Dam, Murray County,
Georgia, Seasons of 1962, 1963, 1964. Unpublished report
submitted to the National Park Service.
Kneberg, Madeline
1959 Engraved Shell Gorgets and Their Associations. Tennessee
Archaeologist 15:1-39.


118
slightly among different segments of the Choctaw, but the essential
features prior to the abandonment of secondary burial in the early
years of the nineteenth century seem to have been fairly constant.
The rites of separation were well-marked, and they accord well
with the conceptual outline of such rites provided by Hertz. They
might be initiated by the actual death of an individual, or in the
case of grave illness, a priest might initiate the rites by diagnosing
impending death. In the latter case, physical separation of the body
was immediate. After being washed and having the face painted, the ill
patient was dressed in finery and placed on the ground outside the
door of the house. Patients were then treated as if they were
already dead, until actual death ensued from exposure; or alternatively
the neck might be broken by the priest. Mourning began immediately
upon accomplishing the physical separation of the body. The wife and
relatives would begin to wail and cry in a standardized fashion, and a
stereotyped rite of questioning the dead as to the cause of its
unhappiness with earthly life followed closely. The near kin were
required to make further preparations for mourning: the house of the
deceased and all its provisions might be burned, or these might be sold
at a nominal price. Dogs and horses belonging to the deceased would
be killed so that their souls might accompany their owner to the
spirit world. The meat of the slaughtered horses would be preserved
for the feast marking the close of the transition rites. *A fire would
be kindled near the corpse outside the house, and would be maintained
four days, in the belief that this would comfort the suddenly dispossed
soul. While these preparations were being made, hired criers might come
to the house to mourn. *


the community proper. While there is a size range among them, in general
they are a homogeneous and apparently randomly mixed group. To the east
of this communal zone is a featureless band, and to the east of the fea
96
tureless band are the sacred features of the site two platform mounds.
The mounds are of a different form, one rectangular and the other circular,
arranged along a north-south axis with the usual featureless zone in-between.
The arrangement of the mounds thus suggests a further, sacred dichotomy
linked to the socioreligious contexts within which each mound functioned.
iH'iMilliiiii'MiiiMiii'.fiiiimi'iidiiipiiiniiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiMiiir.li.iiiiiliiiiiiiiiii'iiii'ii'i.tiiiiiiiMiffm'iMim!:1!)
||lllill|lllliiHillHll|lllilillllliH|llllilllllilllllliHI|||IH!llll|HIHIIIIIII||lllllllHMIItllHllllllll|lllllili| a- i
N
A
G
O o
ono G Oo
O O o o O
o
o
o o
o
O
O
o
o O
Suitin'^
O
O
o o
FIGURE 9. THOMAS1 PLAN OF THE "LAKEVILLE SETTLEMENT," MISSOURI.
Polar structures of this type need not be arrayed along a single axis,
but can otherwise be concentric, with the sacred fcil ity or symbol in the center,
surrounded by a liminal zone, followed by a communal ring equidistant from
the center. The Mississippian earth lodge at Ocmulgee National Monument, de
scribed by Fairbanks (1946), displays such a concentric polar structure.
It is a circular structure, the center of which is dominated by a sacred symbol,
the fire pit. Surrounding the fire is a featureless zone (except for
support posts). Along the inner wall of the structure, equidistant from
the fire are 50 modeled clay seats, emphasizing homogeneity and lack of differ
entiation. Thus Leach's formula is reproduced concentrically or axially.


CHAPTER IV
PLATFORM MOUND CEREMONIALISM
The most distinctive and archaeologically visible manifestation
of Mississippian 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,
pits,and hearths being identified on each surface. The post molds
indicate possibly circular buildings on the successive summits. Keel
(1972:110) considers Garden Creek Mound #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,
43


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I
3
>

PREFACE AND ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
It is a common sentiment among anthropologists of nearly all
paradigmatic persuasions that one cannot confidently discuss the whole
arena of 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
of prehistoric mental life is a vain hope ensnarled in the subjectivity
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 representationsobjectifications 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
i i i


23
tales, and other classes, each of which is performed in a specific organi
zational 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 approximate 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
migration myths. And migration myths are far more than the distorted
oral histories of actual migrations, as some investigators have specu
lated. 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
oppositions 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
n
River is southwest Georgia. Kasihta v/as one of the major towns in
ithe 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


52
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 character
izes 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:past'; surface:subsurface clean:unclean (dirty)
(unburied:buried) (pure:impure)
close:distant life:death
free:bound
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.
Haying 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 intensifi
cation worldwide which employ a scapegoat as an embodiments 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


56
period of transition which is characterized by role reversal and humility.
Turner calls this generalized condition "communitas" (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


CHAPTER IX
OF MOUNDS AND METAPHORS
As we approach the topic of the validation of the heuristics
introduced in this study, let us return momentarily to the diachronic
problem of reconciling Mississippian ritual features with historic South
eastern Indian ritual. This was the starting point for the important
early attempts by Swanton, Waring, and others towards understanding
the symbolic dimensions of Mississippian ritual, and it was also the
starting point of this study. And while it might to some degree be
an artifact of method, our findings have done nothing to discredit the
idea that the two different periods are fundamentally comparable as
regards world view and the symbolic foundations of ritual. Sets of
possible analogies based upon ethnohistorical literature are abundant
and suggestive; these leads have not been followed here because of the
much narrower goals of this study. Nevertheless it is more than just a
possibility that many historical manifestations of Southeastern ritual
are logical, metaphorical transformations in an unbroken stream of
Mississippian, let us say Southeastern, ritual thought. Part of the
test of adequacy of our present notions will depend upon thorough
symbolic analyses of Southeastern ethnohistorical sources and linguistic
data. This is a task which offers great promise, yet it has been
barely begun.
The understandings which are forthcoming from such studies are not
solely one-way. The illumination of Mississippian symbolism has perhaps
as much to contribute to understanding historical manifestations of
152


160
aboriginal cosmologies and myth structures, together with the
ritual behavior derived from them, represent in all respects
¡I a set of ecological principles and that these formulate a
system of social and economic rules that have a highly
adaptive value in the continuous endeavor to maintain a
viable equilibrium between the resources of the environment
and the demands of society (1976:308).
Similar studies in archaeology can be accommodated by the general paradigm
of symbolic realism, without sacrificing empiricist, scientific methods.
(A suitable introduction to the paradigm I am calling symbolic realism
may be found in the works of Michael Polanyi: 1958, 1959, and .
1966).
It might also be emphasized, in order to avoid any misunderstanding
about the procedural nature of this study and other potential symbolic
studies, that the inferential process and the modeling and testing
procedures associated with verification are no different here than in
any other legitimate scientific research strategy. In this case, there
are quite obviously numerous test implications of the various conclusions
reached, for example in the matter of chiefly/priestly ritual independence.
The next item on the agenda is, of course, to make them explicit and
examine them against new information, the normal way in which good ideas
gain credence, and poor ones drop from sight.
The only major procedural difference between this study and more
traditional Mississippian studies lies in its multidisciplinary approach,
employing a variety of sources of information including archaeological,
ethnohistorical, ethnological, linguistic, and folkloric data. The
legitimization of using indigenous historical sources postdating the
Mississippian period is based upon a growing body of folkloric, linguistic,
and iconographic evidence regarding the long-term stability of core


158
Until fairly recently nearly all archaeological studies of Missis-
sippian cultures in the Southeastern United States have taken as their
research focus one or another, or some combination, of only four limited
'cultural concerns: stylistic relationships, settlement, subsistence,
*]
and (on a primitive level) social organization. These traditional
concerns have become so firmly entrenched as theoretically and methodo
logically appropriate issues, that others have, in a sense, been
automatically treated as out-of-bounds. Archaeological studies which
have specifically dealt with aspects of mental life have especially
borne a certain stigma, since the unfamiliar and non-materialistic
methodologies used in its illumination tend to sound, to the uninitiated,
like so much hocus-pocus.
This study, by taking as its subject matter the symbolism of public
ritual, obviously and deliberately breaks out of the traditional mold,
and thereby invites the burden of much closer than usual scrutiny and more
suspicious than usual criticism. But there is much more to it than that.
There is reason to be concerned with the "image" of symbolic analysis i
within an increasingly materialist-dominated archaeology, which has to do
ultimately with the relevance and adequacy of the paradigm itself.
The importance of symbolic analysis in Mississippian studies is
that it forces the recognition of a great proportion of prehistoric human
; behavior as fundamentally symbolic in content, reflecting the operation
of an integrated, coherent system of symbols and meanings a world view
that can be reconstructed from its phenomenal manifestations. Such a
reconstruction is derived and presented as a generalized model, which
like any other archaeological model, seeks to account for patterning in
the archaeological record. The primary example from the present work is


CHAPTER III
ALLEGORY AND CORE SYMBOLS
The analysis will begin with the investigation of a myth. But at
once this may seem inappropriate, since more than 300 years separate
the myth 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 cotnparabil ity, 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 Mississippian core symbols.
It is important, then, to consider more carefully the articulation
of myth with the 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 institu
tions", several of which exist simultaneously for a given society. This
is also the social armature for the performance of myth, and types of
myth correspond to this organization. There are, for example, cosmo
gonic myths, culture hero myths, migration myths, healing myths, fairy
22


19
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 he 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 ta£o fl-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. He 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,


Williams, Stephen, editor
1968 The Waring Papers: The Collected Works of Antonio J. Wari
Jr. Papers of the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and
Ethnology 58. Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Witthoft, John
1949 Green Corn Ceremonialism in the Eastern Woodlands.
Occasional Contributions from the Museum of Anthropology
of the University of Michigan 13. Ann Arbor: University
of Michigan Press.


LIST OF FIGURES
Page
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
vi i


CHAPTER VIII
THE CHARACTER OF MISSISSIPPI RITUAL
The primary aim of this study has been to make an advance in under
standing some of the symbols which provided the imagery for public ritual
in Mississippian societies. This subject matter is broad and complex,
and the published data relating to it form a large corpus from which
to identify problems and select examples for investigation. My approach,
therefore, has necessarily focused on a narrow set of sites and topics,
out of which it was hoped would emerge some general heuristics which
could explain and be tested against larger bodies of data. It is
appropriate here to briefly review the line of argument.
Within an historical perspective, the theme of previous investiga
tions of these issues by Swanton, Waring, and Howard was a demonstration
of the importance of the diachronic link from Mississippian archaeology
to the ethnohistorical record of the Southeastern Indians. These investi
gators found positive links between historically recorded ritual, icons,
and myths on the one hand, and Mississippian ritual features and icons
on the other. They concluded, from different perspectives and attending
to different data, that historical Southeastern aboriginal religion was
in essence a debased form of a uniform religious complex which reached
its peak in Mississippian times, and that historical manifestations
could therefore be used to make inferences about the ancestral forms
known to archaeology.
This general argument was part of the justification for selecting
as a point of entry for this study, an historic migration myth, the
127


140
in order to enhance their personal prestige and power. Citing ethno-
historical evidence, she suggests that chiefs and younger "leaders
in training" themselves travelled great distances to other chiefly
centers in their quest for knowledge and esotrica.
Many southeasternists feel that the continued use of the term
"cult" in reference to the Etowah/Moundvi11 e/Spiro iconographic complex
is a bit of ant.iquarianism that pays unnecessary homage to the long-
abandoned idea that the complex represented a kind of messianic
revitalization movement. For these, "Southern Cult" joins the ranks
of the earlier jargon associated with the phenomenon, e.g. "Buzzard
Cult", in favor of the more noncommittal "Southeastern Ceremonial
Complex". Thus my insistence upon reintroducing the term "cult" in
a sociologically specific sense in discussing these issues will
undoubtedly appear inexcusably anachronistic and reactionary to some.
My defense is in the definition of "cult institution" as a unit of
analysis by means of which ritual practices within a given society
may be segregated according to their socio-structural configurations.
The term has none of the connotations of ephemeral status, reactionary
basis, or subcultural emphasis associated with familiar kinds of cult
behavior, nor does it necessarily imply active participation in a
revitalization movement.
The next case to be made is that the contexts and uses of the icons
and paraphernalia of the bulk of the Southern Cult are consistent with
Wallace's criteria for a cult institution, that is, that the ritual uses
are "rationalized by a set of similar or related beliefs, and all
supported by the same social group." The second criterion, that of
support by a definite social segment, will be taken up first.


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 socio
cultural 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 ritual 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," but instead is dichotomized in a
politically asymmetrical but ideologically diametric structure.
i x


78
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 apparent
ly 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.


28
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-hawka-
hutehe 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-rivev.
The next day they reached another river, which they called the
Aphoosa-pheeskaw.
"The following 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 Motevell, 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.


51
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 Mississippian 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.
Now 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
¡I "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
(I
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 BIla


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, how
ever, it should be understood that in the belief systems at hand, the
earth's surface and surface water are potential manifestations and symbol
not of the immediate world, but of the maleficent world below.
The remainder of the comparison is, on a superficial level, more
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 society
humankindis 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,


53
:i "rites of separation" in Van Gennep's (1960) framework, on a community
scale. They are characterized by a periodic transfer of accumulated
"evil" 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, v/here 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 face
washing 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


112
beneath the floor of a charnel-house from those stored directly above
them, is a special case denoting some particular opposition, e.g. between
the states symbolized by primary and secondary burial, between secondary
and tertiary burial, or some other distinction. It follows as a matter
of method that one must always be careful to identify to the extent
possible the exact sequential procedure followed in ritually processing
the remains, although this tends to be frustrated in practice by the
awful truism that burials prior to the terminal one generally do not
contain any bones. To help in clarifying this notion of vertical
oppositions, we may use the well known example of the charnel-house/
temple of the historic Natchez which was described by the French in the
early part of the eighteenth century. The archaeological remains of this
and somewhat earlier versions of the described structure were excavated
first by Chambers and later by Neitzel in Mound C at the Fatherland
site in Mississippi, the former Grand Village of the Natchez. Beneath
the floor of the charnel-house/tempie, Chambers and Neitzel found 1) ex
tended primary burials, 2) disarticulated skeletal elements in decayed
wooden boxes, 3) isolated skull burials, and 4) numerous large empty
pits (Neitzel 1965:41, 82-83). Correlation of these features with
documented burials of Natchez nobility, primarily from the accounts of
Du Pratz and Dumont describing the funeral in 1725 of Tattooed Serpent,
a war chief (Swanton 1911:144-157; Neitzel 1965:78-85), allow us to
state that the vertical axis was used to mark two oppositions. It was
first used to distinguish initial interment from secondary disposal:
Tattooed Serpent and his retainers were buried in the flesh below the
temple floor, later to be exhumed, the bones being placed in above-ground
hampers. The presence, then, of boxed bones and disarticulated remains


115
this judgment is too hasty; field research by Collins (1969) on
the Peyote Ceremony at Taos Pueblo has shown that there are examples
of public ritual practices which really do have compound structures
like the one that Van Gennep described, and in no ambiguous or
equivocal way. Collins essentially showed that the three-phase struc
ture of separation-transition-incorporation can be embedded within
one or more of the terms in a larger structure of the same type.
The term "embedding" may be formalized to describe the process
by which the symbolic structures of ritual may be compounded. This
redundancy can be inserted at any one of the three stages or in all of
them, in order to impress their special significance to the initiates
or to emphasize particular passages where numerous classes of actors
are involved. For separation rites, this may take the form of a
rehearsal. For rites of incorporation, it may ease the transition
directly from a highly sacred to a profane state, where this is seen
as especially difficult. Finally, remembering that rites of passage
and rites of intensification have a common underlying structure, one
can show that one form may logically be embedded within the other.
As applied to the problem of Mississippian tertiary burial, one
must first observe that funeral rites culminating in a "final ceremony",
while these assure the successful passage of the corpse, soul, and
mourners, do not terminate the relationship between the living and the
dead. On the contrary they initiate a new sacralized state of relation
ship, since a new and powerful ancestral entity, closely associated with
the remaining bones, has been created and must now be dealt with. The
new responsibilities are exemplified by what Lawson reports of the
historic Algonkians of the Carolinas.


153
Southeastern ritual as the other way around. Not to eschew the vital
study of change, there is little excuse for arbitrarily building analyti
cal walls between archaeological, ethnohistoric, ethnographic, folkloric,
and linguistic data, if the goal is to understand symbols and meanings.
Certainly locked up within the grammars and lexicons of extant Southeast
ern languages, whose divergences are glottochronologically placed at times
predating the Mississippian Period (Springer and Witkowski 1980), is
information not only on Mississippian ritual symbolism, but also on
social organization, economics, technology, warfare, migration, etc.
My discussion elsewhere of the Muskogee term taco and how it clarifies
the symbolism of mound ceremonialism (Schnell, Knight, and Schnell
1979:206-210) is only a minor example of what can be accomplished.
One further example will be presented to bolster the case for a
symbolic perspective on diachronic problems. The issue at hand is that,
while in Mississippian cultures huge earthen mounds supporting public
buildings were made, their historic descendants seem to have dropped the
practice suddenly and entirely. Instead, the recent Creek, Yuchi, and
Seminole have constructed miniscule earth mounds, only a few feet in
diameter and height, in association with the square ground complex.
These small, bare piles of dirt were used mainly as speaker's platforms
or as elements in busk-related dances. The question is whether or not
this is really a "remnant" or somehow a vague remembrance of the vast
mound building rituals of earlier centuries.
James Howard (1968:149) suspected that there must be some relation
ship between the two types of mound building, based simply on the
observation that both types had ritual associations. He found no way,
nevertheless, of demonstrating the link. A later contribution on my part


150
symbolism, is definitely present in the pre-Mississippian Southeast.
Indeed the idea of a mound-as-Earth symbol probably underlies much
of the Hopewellian stratum of mortuary ritual (though not as employed
in rites of intensification). Mississippian platform mound ritual can
in this sense be seen as a reformulation of older elements on a new
(Mesoamerican?) model and in the context of a new cult institution. The
Mississippian class of platform mounds as defined earlier, on the basis
of current dating evidence, appeared no earlier than A.D. 800, and by
A.D. 900 the idea had spread throughout most of the nuclear Southeast.
Whether or not we are justified in linking its spread to the appearance
of a particular class of cult institution among various societies, the
rapidity of this spread must be considered quite remarkable.
The rise of the distinctive social use of cosmogonic imagery which
is the Southeastern Ceremonial Complex, has, in contrast, a more spotty
history, but one fully concurrent with the former. Certain icono-
graphic elements and artifacts that have been included in the complex,
such as the pole spud, the forked eye, and the long-nosed god mask appear
at about A.D. 900. These are geographically widespread, from Aztalan in
Wisconsin, to Harlan in Oklahoma, to Grant Mound in Florida. Most of the
other elements in the complex were introduced later (Brown 1976:123-125;
Williams 1975; Kneberg 1959; Muller 1966; Phillips and Brown 1978),
including the well-known "falcon-impersonator" paraphernalia. Within
the complex various late phases can also be identified, with survivals
into historic times. Few of the particular motifs themselves have
histories pre-dating Mississippian times in the Southeast (Phelps 1970),
but as stated earlier, many of them seem to be based upon ideas which


54
mountain. 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 inani
mate scapegoats are repeatedly used in the purification, and twice
the village is cleansed of "contaminated" earth along with other used
or v/orn 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 cl oaths, new pots, pans, and other household


47
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 manipu
late 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
(I):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 English 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-hulwuce ("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, nnih) 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
(Kel l.y et al. n.d.). In general, these changes in orientation from
one stage to the next are slight, and they correspond with changes in


147
the rationalization of Southern Cult iconography was to the ritual
participants. But the very interchangeableity-of many Southern Cult
motifs and the predictability of their themes do point toward the
coherence of the ideological subset they represent. We actually know
very little about the meanings of these elements, and little research
has been directed to this issue. The few, piecemeal studies that have
appeared, however, (e.g. Waring 1968:33-47; Hudson 1976:122-169;
Lankford n.d.), uniformly suggest direct relationships between the
iconographic motifs and the cosmogonic segment of the Southeastern
mythological corpus, i.e. those myths which address "origins". Lankford's
(1975) research strongly indicates that this cosmogonic corpus arises
from a series of archaic pan-American mythological strata, many of the
elements of which predate Mississippian cultures in the Southeastern
United States (cf. Phelps 1970).
Turning back to the provisionally proposed priestly cult institution,
it may now be reiterated more strongly that both the symbolic foundations
and the apparent social contexts of platform mound ceremonialism differ
markedly with the respective symbolic foundations and apparent social
contexts of the Southern Cult. This is not to say that chiefly ritual
in the Southeast was solely bound up with cosmogonic imagery, or that
it had nothing to do with the Earth:Society core symbolism. Certainly
among the historical examples this was not the case. We might pro
visionally state the relationship in terms of color symbolism as follows:
if priestly ritual is a cult of the red-and-white, then chiefly ritual
is an esoteric cult of the white alone. The major objective point of
overlap is predictably mortuary ritual, since while the mortuary rites


20
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 Mississippi an
ritual are undeniably important, although these approaches uniformly
fail to 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


108
the ancestors, and of gradually adjusting the status of the mourners.
When the decomposition is finished (and this of course can be manipulated
to hurry it up or slow it down), the other two processes are completed
as well. While the body is decomposing and is consequently between
states, the soul undergoes a kind of earthly probation "during which it
stays on earth in the proximity of the body, wandering in the forest or
frequenting the places it inhabited while it was alive" (Hertz 1960:34).
It is isolated from communion with either world, it is dangerous, and
it must be placated. At the same time the mourning kin are similarly iso
lated from society. They are subject to numerous prohibitions, and must
flag themselves by special dress and bodily decoration announcing their
state of pollution. They are also subject to spiritual attack by the
hostile soul, since they alone are in contact with the body and are
responsible for guarding it. These isolations, prohibitions, and taboos,
all of which segregate the actors from their respective normal communities,
clarify why the place of temporary burial is almost invariably isolated,
segregated from other burials. In direct contrast, the bones during the
final ceremonies of incorporation are brought to a charnel-house, which
is a communal facility, symbolizing the aggregation of the community of
the dead.
In a similar way, an analogy is made between the fate of the soul
and the fate of the mourners, emphasizing the idea that the community
of the dead is socially structured as a mirror of the community of the
living. Accordingly during the funeral ceremonies, the progress of the
soul in overcoming the obstacles in its path toward the world of spirits
is acted out in the human world. And the world of ancestral spirits finds


95
Every religious ritual, no matter whether it takes place
at a wayside shrine temporarily erected for the purpose
or in a permanent setting such as the sanctuary of a
cathedral, is performed within the confines of a stage,
the boundaries and segments of which are artificial. At
a structural level the components of such stages are
highly standardized. There are three essential elements:
Zone 1. The shrine proper, which, in the context of
the ritual, becomes extremely sacred. It usually
contains some iconic symbol which makes it
immediately apparent that this is where the
deity is, e. g. an image, an empty seat, a
crucifix.... In the context of the ritual this
"shrine proper" is treated as if it were actually
a part of the Other World.
Zone 2. The place of assembly of the congregation. The
essential point here is that this area must be close
to but separated from the shrine proper. In the
context of the ritual, ordinary members of the
congregation must not enter the shrine proper which
is reserved for priests and other religious
functionaries.
Zone 3. An area of middle ground on which most of the
action of the ritual takes place which is likewise
reserved for the priests.
Not all societies, of course, that have public ritual facilities
also have priesthoods, but as a general model for polar structures of
this type Leach's description has wide applicability. A similar polar
structure has already been examined in this study: the premound
features at the Cemochechobee site. In that instance the dichotomy
was between a bounded, communal space and a relatively sacred bounded
space reserved for mortuary ritual. These were separated by a
liminal zone containing a sacred symbol, the perpetual fire. Polar
structures of this sort can also be recognized at the level of
community plan. As an illustration, Figure 9 reproduces Cyrus Thomas'
plan of a Mississippian village in Stoddard County, Missouri. Here, as
in many other cases, the cultural world is structured and set off from
the natural world by conspicuous artificial boundariestwin embankments.
On the western side of the diagram are the house depressions which define


16
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 thatthe sealing off of the old
structure was more important than the purely archi
tectural consideration of creating an imposing temple
foundation (1968:58).
The implication of this argument is clear. Mississippian mound building


CHAPTER V
THEME AND VARIATION
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, normative shifts to which
archaeologists are more accustomed will be discussed.
Selected for particular attention will be the Cemochechobee site,
previously referred to briefly. Cemochechobee 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 approxi
mately A.D. 900 to A.D. 1400. The Cemochechobee site bears 18 radio
carbon 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 District, and 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
62


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 foundati
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 open-
air, 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.


(Jakobson and Halle 1956). It is by means of analogies that relatively
deep and static symbolic paradigms or image clusters are cognitively
related to phenomenal events. This is what is meant by the metaphorical
transformation of core symbolism in ritual objectifications.
A third assumption is that metaphor is the "engine" of symbolic
action, and consequently of adaptation as mediated by symbol systems.
Metaphor provides ritual with its dynamic aspect, by allowing ritual
actors to reformulate their present statuses and situations in light
of symbolically defined ideals. As James Fernandez puts it, "the
semantic movement accomplished by metaphor is from the abstract and
inchoate in the subject to the more concrete, ostensive, and easily grasp
able in the metaphoric predicate" (1974:123).
Fernandez's useful description of metaphors in relation to ritual
action (ibid:125) emphasizes how metaphors provide a dynamic for ritual
in contrast to symbols, which considered alone are static. He introduces
the notion of "quality space": a series of axes or dimensions along
which metaphor valuates its subjects, e.g. as good or bad, this-world
or other-world, static or dynamic. Thus ritual in operation defines for
each participant, through its stereotyped imagery related to core symbols
their respective position in relation to quality space. Metaphor
provides a plan for correcting inappropriate positions. Participants en
ter into ritual in the belief that their place in quality space is
incorrect, to be transformed toward a more suitable, usually a more
sacred, state.
A ritual is to be analysed, then, as a series of organizing
images or metaphors put into operation by a series of...
ceremonial scenes. Each of these scenes plays its part in
realizing the implications of the image-plan....Through such
ceremonial scenes, men become the metaphor predicated upon
them (ibid:125).


6
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 manifesta
tions. 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 two 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 mound ceremonialism, which will
be partially defined later on. While these characteristics are not
always explicitly demonstrable in specific cases, they best approximate,
in my 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 post-
Mississippian text, a Muskogee migration myth. This will be accomplished


120
requirement seems to have been toallow enough time for the body to de
compose sufficiently so that the defleshing "tools" of the bone-pickers,
their fingernails, could be used effectively.
Both men and women in mourning distinguished themselves from the
remainder of society in various ways. For both sexes, normally elaborate
clothing and body painting was relinquished, and women in addition left
their hair undressed and uncut. According to Folsom, men acted subdued,
did not speak, ate little, and avoided the usual modes of male amusement.
Women in mourning stayed at home entirely. Visits to the mourning
benches at the scaffold were made twice daily. Such visits might last
for half and hour or more, during which the shrouded mourners, which
might include friends and visitors as well as the bereaved kin, would
cry loudly or wail. Both sexes would participate, but women were more
often seen at the scaffold than men.
The complex rites of incorporation, or final ceremonies in which
the soul was incorporated into the spirit world, the corpse into the
collective charnel-house, and the mourners into normal society, were
initiated and presided over by the bone-picker. There seem to have been
only a few bone-pickers among the Choctaw (Romans says there were five),
both men and women, and these circulated among the villages performing
the rites, having been previously informed about the deaths which had
occurred in each village. Claiborne asserts that this was a clan office,
that is, that there was one bone-picker for each of the clans, and this
seems probable. Halbert's informants remembered that the several bone-
pickers conferred with each other on the proper times to carry out
their tasks, and that bundles of counting sticks were sent out to the
bereaved kin to mark the days prior to the rites. This was a normal


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 Cetnochechobee 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 identifiabl
construction following the dismantling of the mortuary and its adjacent
building was the addition of a low blanket mantle designated Stage AI.
This was the first mound building effort at Cemochechobee. It was a
low, rectangular platform of yellow sand, designed apparently to complete
ly 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,


157
It has been shown that the Earth:Society (or Under World:This World:
Upper World) axis in Mississippian thought is a valuated dimension, with
negative and positive values respectively. It is a dimension along
which ritual actors (as in the Chekilli legend) defined themselves as
being either in a satisfactory or an unsatisfactory state. Thus
Mississippian ritual, through various procedures, served to provide
explicit plans for the redefinition of social persons on this dimension.
This is reflected in the common perception of Southeastern Indian
religious values as emphasizing "purification".
An important task, then, is neglected in the search for Mississippian
symbols and meanings as static forms. These need to be probed in
search of their "grammar", the metaphoric and metonymic connections
through which ritual acts achieved relevance in day to day experience.
And this, again, points to the importance of reexamining historical
materials in search of deeper understandings of Southeastern ritual.
A fourth assumption concerns the domain of culturological studies.
Culture is exclusively defined as a shared body of symbols and meanings
within a community (Schneider 1976). This study has been informed, if
that is not already obvious, by the tradition of symbolic_anthropology.
The type of symbolic archaeological research that is advocated
(not to say well exemplified) in this study, emphasizing the discovery
^and elaboration of heuristics to be used deductively in relation to
empirical data, is obviously of limited scope so far as the total range
of Mississippian studies are concerned. But the method and its goals are
not necessarily incompatible with many of the aims of modern, materialist
processural research, especially of ecologically oriented archaeology.


74
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 All. Unlike the earlier platform,
the Stage All 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 con
sisted of 15 plain and incised ceramic beakers, in a compact cluster to
gether with fragments of four large jars. The other consisted of an
isolated, unique red filmed jar.
Overlying Stage All 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


32
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),
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 relation
ship to their natural environment, from which they obtain their
means for subsistence. Therefore their power, that is, their
success in survival and in the pro!iteration 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
"Earth 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


21
significance for survival as well as that directed toward understanding
the nature of things, and these often overlap.


79
The next construction stage identifiable within the Nuclear Zone,
B V11, 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, BIX, 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 Mound A. It is possible that this
sequence of blanket mantle addition, representing a final burial for the


89
pose. As another example, Tambiah (1969) has described how house archi
tecture 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 "the Bosten
or Boatswain" (Figure 7).
FIGURE 7. PLAN OF AN EIGHTEENTH CENTURY SEMINOLE HOUSE


75
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 A111.
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


102
3) Rites of incorporation, by means of which the initiate is introduced
to the new status/role structure, and normal activity is resumed.
For Fortes (1962:86), rites of passage are symbolic ways of
binding together the individual with a socially defined status, which
are regarded as separate. "Ritual presents office to the individual as
the creation and possession of society or a part of society into which
he is to be incorporated through the office." In a fundamental sense,
then, rites of passage are public methods of conferring upon an
individual the proscriptions, rights, and privileges associated with a
given ascribed or achieved status, and of removing those of the prior
condition. These formulations apply as well to funerals as to initiatory
rites.
Mississippian mortuary practices, considered as a unit, are a
highly variable conglomeration in contrast to earlier Woodland practices,
which are relatively more uniform. Thorne Deuel's early definition of
"Mississippi Basic Culture", however, referred to specific burial traits
as characterizing the cultural complex. "Interment", Deuel alleged,
|i "was made in cemeteries, although important individuals were buried in
the top of temple (and domiciliary) mounds even in historic times"
(1935:433). Deuel's concept of Mississippian in 1935 largely took
the Dickson Mound site near Lewiston, Illinois as its prototype.
(Dickson had a Spoon River phase component which had yielded a large
Mississippian cemetery). Some later investigators have likewise con
sidered cemetery burial and extended primary deposition of corpses as
marker traits for Mississippian cultures, but within the Mississippian
construct as it has been expanded over the years and as it is being used
here, it is inaccurate to speak of this as a defining mode.


9
ceremonialism in the Eastern United States, as manifested at abandoned
centers dominated by large earthworks, was somehow qualitatively differ
ent in its elaboration and extensiveness, and reflected a higher level
of cultural development, than anything seen among the historically en
countered 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 corn" ceremonies (Witthoft 1949),
and that the Tuckabatchee have also engaged in a type of earth platform


135
be linked at all to whole, and I would suggest crucial, blocks of
Mississippi an public ritual.
The need for a subdivision of the institutional basesfor public
ritual in Mississippian societies can, i!think, be demonstrated at
least in a preliminary way. The dichotomy in symbolic discriminations
between those discussed earlier for platform mound ceremonialism and
those which underlie the Southern Cult should already be obvious.
n
Whereas this study has discussed autochthotfiy, and has dealt mainly with
the paradigmatic imagery of such formulae as Earth:Society, the
Southern Cult invokes a completely different set of symbolic images: again
following Waring, "The Southern Cult was based on maize agriculture and.. .
cyclic new-fire rites and the fire-sun-deity concept were at its core"
(1968:69). The two different symbolic sets may well be related at
some deep ideological level, but it would certainly be a mistake to
ignore that their objectifications at Mississippain sites are context
ually distinct as well. The situation seems to call for an integrative
concept allowing the recognition of more than one institutional framework
in the organization of ritual and belief for a given society.
Just such an integrative concept is provided by Anthony F. C.
Wallace. This is his "cult institution", which is defined as "a
set of rituals all having the same general goal, all explicitly
rationalized by a set of similar or related beliefs, and all supported
by the same social group" (1966:75). There are typically several
discrete cult institutions within the same "religious" community, having
different sets of directors ("clergy") and participants, and different
sets of supporting myths. "Each of these cult institutions is related
to others, in one way or another, and many of them join forces in major


64
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).


CHAPTER VII
IN AND OUT OF THE CHARNEL-HOUSE
Up to this point the subject matter has been primarily rites of
intensification. Now it is time to focus our attention on the other
major class of ritual, the rites of passage. By definition, rites of
passage occur on the average at a smaller scale than do rites of inten
sification, but this does not necessarily mean that public facilities
for rites of passage must always be less conspicuous, or archaeologically
less visible, than those designed primarily to accommodate community
calendrical rites. Indeed, as Bloch (1971) has shown for the Merina of
Madagascar, sometimes a single set of customs concerning a rite of
passage, in that case funeral ritual, can come to dominate the religious
life to the point of becoming a central reference point for organizing
social relations within a society. Mortuary facilities are correspond
ingly the most elaborate and expensive possession of the average
Merina.
On the other hand, it is quite true that stages accommodating
lesser rites of passage can be very simple or even ad hoc affairs, and
that these should normally escape archaeological detection. Even
relatively important transition rites may take place in no more than a
cleared area, which although spatially structured in accord with
definite principles, have no permanent or imperishable features, the
material paraphernalia or sacra being imported to the site and removed
again following the ceremony to a place of storage. In such cases
the passage of a few years may effectively obliterate all evidence
of the structuring of the stage, or at least obscure what evidence remains.
99


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.
v


100
Furthermore, common rites of passage such as marriage, puberty
1)
initiations, and births, leave little or no conspicuous material residue.
It is consequently impossible in most cases to address these customary
behaviors archaeologically. But funerals leave bones and grave features,
and so we must focus our labors on mortuary ritual.
The analysis of Mississippian mortuary patterning by a growing
number of investigators has proven exceptionally fruitful, especially as
applied to the problem of social organization and its evolution. Instead
of reviewing this literature, however, or attempting to build upon these
traditions of inquiry which have served other investigators well (e.g.
Saxe 1970, Binford 1971, Brown 1971, Peebles 1974, Goldstein 1976),
attention will be diverted here to a rather different perspective on the
same body of data. Specifically, two topics will be addressed: 1) What
is the meaning surrounding Mississippian secondary and tertiary burial?
We will want to examine the symbolism connected with charnel facilities
and with corporate group burial, with an eye open to archaeological
correlates. 2) What is the logical process by means of which funeral
I
rites can become intermeshed with broad-scale rites of intensification?
Or more precisely, what is the role of human burial within the context
of platform mound ceremonialism as discussed earlier? We will call
this process "embedding".
In an earlier chapter rites of passage were defined as they are
contrasted to rites of intensification, but it is appropriate at this
point to review briefly the concept as Van Gennep (1960) perceived it.
In the Western society with which we are most familiar, social life
tends to be conceived as a continuous or relatively uninterrupted
process from birth to death. But this is in marked contrast to simpler