June 19, 2021

New Research on the Mississippian Civilization

Recent archaeological research on the emergence of the Mississippian civilization posits that it was a combination of local styles and ideas mixed with the enormous influence of the capital of the Mississippian world, Cahokia. The diaspora of Cahokian people over time brought with it ceramics of their region, and their religious ideology based on the ordering of the cosmos.

Early on, around 1050 CE, they traveled north to present day Wisconsin spurring the creation of Cahokia style platform mounds at the sites of Trempeleau and Aztalan, as well as site layout and pottery

At the Carson site, downriver from Cahokia, Cahokian migrants built long, rectangular and semi-subterrenean houses that looked like home.

Cahokian emissaries carried distinctive tools, like the Burlington chert drill, far to the south, for making their tri-lobed projectile points.

Long-nosed god maskettes made of copper are found at 20 or so sites across the Southeast and Midwest, all of which have a Cahokian presence. These masks may have been part of a hero narrative that was also depicted in rock art and narrated by Siouxan speaking groups whose traditional lands encompassed much of the Upper Midwest.

Farther north, Cahokians created other new, hybridized styles with local populations.

At the Halliday site, in southern Illinois, 30 kilometers southeast of Cahokia; excavations have found nonlocal pottery types from Indiana and northern Mississippi, Tennessee and Arkansas, alongside pottery typical of Cahokia. People at Halliday were also eating slightly different foods than at other nearby sites, suggesting they maintained culinary traditions of their remote homelands.

Upland villages adopted a Cahokian building method that placed a prefabricated wall directly into a trench, but maintained their own building styles as well.

Cahokian and Mississippian culture are not one monolithic entity with just one perspective, but instead, a multitude of voices that together signified something greater.

The Conversation has the report here: