Electronic Theses and Dissertations



Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Earth Sciences

Committee Chair

David Dye

Committee Member

Ryan M Parish

Committee Member

Dorian J Burette

Committee Member

Arleen A Hill

Committee Member

Gary E Stinchcomb


Mississippian cosmoscapes provide a perceived, yet concealed, existence of spiritual realms inhabited by other-than and more-than human-beings who interact, influence, and interfere with the tangible landscape through natural and material contexts. To conceptualize the world around them, Mississippian ritual practitioners focused on a tripartite cosmological organization: an Above World, Middle World, and Beneath World realms. Within each of these “worlds”, multiple other-than and more-than-human-beings possessed powers, which allowed them to influence the Middle World of humans and their lived experiences. A duality exists between Earth Mother (Above World), who commands vortexes or tornadoes, and the Great Serpent (Beneath World), who may have wielded power over vortexes or whirlpools. This dissertation investigates how Mississippian people expressed their knowledge of the cosmoscapes through an iconographic interpretation based on a stylistic examination of Mississippian ceramic effigies from the central and southeastern United States. Iconographic methods, which focus on locative, positional, and command symbols are used to identify motifs, elements, and themes associated with the Great Serpent and Earth Mother in controlling the sacred wind. This research also examines the transitional mythologies of Earth Mother, and the Great Serpent, in comparison to Palmer Drought Severity Index data from the research areas.


Data is provided by the student.

Library Comment

Dissertation or thesis originally submitted to ProQuest.


Open Access