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900 – 1500 AD Cahokia – 1200 AD 30,000 inhabitants Miss. River Valley, IL No written record left behind – artifacts and mounds Mississippian Mound Builders Advanced agricultural techniques Linear government (rulers belonging to the same family) Religion

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mississippian mound builders
900 – 1500 AD

Cahokia – 1200 AD

30,000 inhabitants

Miss. River Valley, IL

No written record left behind – artifacts and mounds

Mississippian Mound Builders
Advanced agricultural techniques

Linear government (rulers belonging to the same family)


Trade networks all over US (Chert, Flourite, marine shell, Mica, Galena, Copper)

Highly accomplished potters, flint makers (arrow pts), and stone workers

Jewelry and smoking

No metallurgy

No writing system

No stone architecture

  • Flat-top and Ridge-top earth mounds
  • Large cities (larger than any EUR city) – built around a central plaza
  • Buildings
  • Burials
  • Residential
  • Boundary markers
  • Monks Mound (largest) – residence of the chief, the Great Sun
the great sun
The Great Sun
  • Monks Mound (largest): 2 terraces, 110 ft. high, 16 acres – 300 yrs work, carrying baskets of soil
  • Considered a living god
  • Keep the forces of nature in balance and ensure continued prosperity for his people
  • Upon the chief’s death, his temple would be destroyed and another layer of earth would be added for his successor
  • Based on relationship between people and the land
  • 3-part Cosmology (worldview): Overworld, Present/Middle world, Underworld
  • Overworld: spirits and deities (sun, wind)
  • Underworld: deities of serpent-bodied monsters and other creatures
  • Overworld vs. Underworld = order vs. chaos
  • Middle world: people, animals, plants; order and chaos competed for dominance
  • Chief priest (the Great Sun)
  • Maize (corn)
  • Squash
  • Beans
agricultural tools
Agricultural Tools
  • Flint hoes


  • Spades


  • Bow and Arrow – hunting, war (flint)
  • Blades and Knives (flint)
stone tools
Stone Tools
  • Flint and stone materials used for cutting and shaping wood for building
  • Celt w/ wooden handle (most recognized) – ungrooved axe head
  • Diorite, Greenstone (Epidote, Chlorite, Quartz, Plagioclase Feldspar)
  • Varied shapes
stone tools11
Stone Tools
  • Ceremonial Celts: Spatulate, Rattail Spud, Monolithic Axe
  • Ceremonial use as symbols of power and authority
  • Don’t tend to show actual use
  • Choice materials: Greenstone (Feldspar, Epidote, Chlorite, Quartz), Slate
  • Found in burials
  • Very durable (fire the ceramics to a certain strength)
  • Highly artistic
  • Women potters (archeologist suggest)
  • Texture: Crushed mussel shells, dry clay, bone and sand
  • Paints from natural materials (red, tan, black, white)
  • Effigies (human and animal forms) – head pot
  • Surface engraving
more ceramics animals effigies
More Ceramics:Animals Effigies

Deer effigy teapot

Double-headed dog teapot

  • Tobacco & other natural substances
  • Private or tribal settings
  • Clay & Stone materials
  • Catlinite, Steatite, Limestone, Bauxite
  • Most common: clay elbow pipe
  • Some w/ simple carving designs
  • Sometimes in the form of effigies or other important objects of society
european s observations on how the mississippians made their stone pipes
European’s observations on how the Mississippians made their stone pipes:

The Indians shape out the bowls of these pipes from the solid stone, which is not quite as hard as marble, with nothing but a knife. The stone is of a cherry red, admits of a beautiful polish, and the Indian makes the hole in the bowl of the pipe, by drilling into it a hard stick, shaped to the desired size, with a quantity of sharp sand and water kept constantly in the hole, subjecting him therefore to a great labour and the necessity of much patience.

George Catlin, 1832-39

jewelry ear ornaments
Jewelry:Ear Ornaments
  • Most common types: ear spools and ear plugs
  • 2 inches to over 3.5’’ in diameter (spools)
  • 3/8’’ to 5/8’’ diameter, ½’’ to over 5’’ length (plugs)
  • Clay, stone, shell, copper covered wood
  • Engraved w/ geometric or effigy figures

Feldspar earplug

jewelry shell ornaments
Jewelry:Shell Ornaments
  • Outer body of the conch shell
  • Inner side engraved
  • Two holes for leather thong
  • Styles: basic, cutouts, four-pointed star or cross, engraved (geometric & effigies)
jewelry beads
  • Shell (most common), pearl (most valued), copper, stone
  • Fresh and saltwater shelled animals
  • Wore around necks, waists, legs, in hair
  • Evidence: burial site, male wearing cape covered in shell beads
the end
The End
  • Infectious diseases
  • Depletion of natural resources
  • Violent encounters
  • Vanished – 500 yrs ago
  • Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site – Collinsville, IL
  • http://www.mississippian-artifacts.com/
  • http://ngeorgia.com/parks/etowah.html
  • http://www.watertown.k12.ma.us/cunniff/americanhistorycentral/01firstamericans/The_Moundbuild.html
  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mound_Builders
  • http://www2.nature.nps.gov/geology/usgsnps/misc/glossaryDtoI.html
  • www.southernmostillinoishistory.net/ kincaid2.htm
  • http://members.tripod.com/~IS335/cahokia5.gif
  • riverweb.cet.uiuc.edu/.../ economy/health.html
  • http://www5.semo.edu/museum/education/Explorer%20Nat%20Am/Mississippian2.htm
  • www.meredith.edu/nativeam/ first_encounters.htm
  • http://web54.sd54.k12.il.us/schools/hoover/cdrew/illinois/images/Mnkmound.jpg