Animal pelt caps and Mississippian ritual sodalities


Archaeologists have become increasingly interested in ancient belief systems and it is recognized that the material remains of past societies may effectively aid in constructing informed interpretations of religious institutions and ritual practice. Recent research seeks linkages between ethnographic accounts and eastern Woodlands representational imagery. In this article, I examine depictions of animal pelt headdresses and marshal prairie-plains ethnographic accounts to argue that Mississippian figural imagery denotes more than status ascription. Animal pelt headgear was a distinctive and prominent feature of Mississippian belief systems, which materialized transcendent beings in figural art. The implication is that Mississippian ritual sodalities may be comparable to historic prairie-plains exemplars. Closer analytic attention and focus is warranted to assess the cultural contexts in which ceremonial regalia is visualized in Mississippian art. In this regard, ritual headgear may help identify specific culture heroes venerated within the context of ritual sodalities.

Publication Title

North American Archaeologist