Anthropomorphic pottery effigies as guardian spirits in the Lower Mississippi Valley


A close fit exists between eastern North American ethnographic accounts and Mississippian ceramic imagery produced in the Lower Mississippi Valley. Archaeologists working in the region of Tunican-speakers have traditionally neglected aspects of the archaeological record that reflect belief systems and ritual organization, arguing that the materialized expressions of cosmology are beyond our interpretive reach. Identifying anthropomorphic ceramic effigies as other-than-human-persons opens the door for perspectives that embrace ethnographic analogy as crucial for understanding the role of religious imagery in terms of ritual supplication and veneration. Religious sodalities may have occupied a central role in the production and use of representational ceramics by the process of hypostatization in which ritual practitioners crafted imagery as personal guardian spirits and as objects for sorcery and witchcraft.

Publication Title

Cognitive Archaeology: Mind, Ethnography, and the Past in South Africa and Beyond