Mississippian ceramic art in the lower Mississippi valley: A thematic overview


Polities in circumscribed river valleys, such as the Etowah and Black Warrior River Valleys, enabled consolidation of neighboring groups and the appropriation of social labor and surplus food as tribute. For example, Moundville had consolidated its neighbors by ad 1250 for a distance of 40 km along the Black Warrior Valley. In the lower portion of the Northern Mississippi Valley, on the other hand, incorporation of adjoining local groups would have been more difficult, as neighbors had a greater number of allies with which to ally themselves in order to fend off aggressive polities. With the resulting lack of political complexity, highly skilled crafting in workshops would have been limited. Likewise, access to marine shell, symbolic weapons, and copper would have been difficult to obtain through long-distance exchange routes. George Sabo (1993:208) notes that sixteenth-century political organization in the northern portion of the Lower Mississippi Valley was characterized by "independent hereditary lineage societies" in which "competition . . . seems to have been endemic." This type of lineage organization would have lacked the ability for neighboring groups to consolidate effectively. The resulting implication is that utilitarian ritual ware would become the foundation for endless ritual feasting among political groups engaged in endless internecine rivalries and factional competition. © 2011 by The University of Texas Press. All rights reserved.

Publication Title

Visualizing the Sacred: Cosmic visions, regionalism, and the art of the mississippian world

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