The Missing Persons in Mississippian Mortuaries

Timothy R. Paüketat

in Mississippian Mortuary Practices

Published by University Press of Florida

Published in print April 2010 | ISBN: 9780813034263
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780813039619 | DOI:
The Missing Persons in Mississippian Mortuaries

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Mortuary studies in archaeology frequently focus on inferring the function or meaning of some burial program in society. This essay poses a simple question concerning how we understand those mortuary practices: Who is missing? It argues that around Cahokia, the precocious granddaddy of Mississippian political capitals and religious centers, the lasting effects of key mortuary practices involved a transformation of personal and corporate identities. A series of unusual mortuaries are associated with this early Cahokian era (ca. A.D. 1050–1200). To explain the Cahokia and Cahokia-related mortuary phenomena relative to the dramatic founding events of the early eleventh century, this essay draws on notions of performance and theatricality as well as two other theoretical concepts: a contemporary sense of personhood and the notion of citation. It contends that the specificities of audience participation in any mortuary spectacle transformed local senses of personhood as well as the consciousness of audiences. Agency and self were redefined by and for everybody involved in the gatherings, not just once-influential and now-dead persons. Such an argument helps explain the Mississippianization of ancient eastern North America.

Keywords: Mississippian mortuaries; archaeology; mortuary practices; Cahokia; mortuaries; performance; theatricality; personhood; citation; agency

Chapter.  5786 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Prehistoric Archaeology

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