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Turtles played an important role in the lives of the ancient peoples who lived in what is now the southeastern United States. Turtles were symbolically significant within the ancient Southeastern Ceremonial Complex due to their associations with both water (i.e. the Underworld) and land (i.e. the Middle-world, or Earth); they were commonly eaten, serving as a major source of protein within the indigenous peoples’ diet, and; their shells were frequently made into objects to be used for a variety of purposes, from rattles to be used / worn during ceremonial dances, for instance, to bowls like the one pictured here. Because this particular example is actually rather small (it can easily be held in one hand), it seems likely that this shell bowl would have been used as a drinking vessel rather than as a food container, and may even have been used in a ceremonial context.


Bowl; Turtle Shell Bowl; Mississippian