Social and Spatial Dimensions of Moundville Mortuary Practices

Gregory D. Wilson, Vincas P. Steponaitis and Keith P. Jacobi

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:
Social and Spatial Dimensions of Moundville Mortuary Practices

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Scholars have only recently begun to investigate Mississippian mortuaries as important sites for the living as well as the dead. The archaeological signatures of mortuary practices not only reflect the status of the deceased but were also shaped by the social aspirations of the living. Archaeological investigations have revealed that Mississippian mortuary practices were not uniform across the southeastern and midwestern United States. The Moundville site, located in the Black Warrior River valley of west-central Alabama, was the political and ceremonial capital of one of the largest and most complex Mississippian polities in the southeastern United States. This essay examines the social and spatial dimensions of Moundville mortuary practice by documenting and interpreting the size, arrangement, and composition of selected Mississippian cemeteries at the site. These cemeteries, uncovered during the 1939 and 1940 excavations of the Moundville Roadway, exhibit considerable internal variation in terms of age, sex, and mortuary treatment. Based on their composition, small size, strategic location, and duration, small corporate kin groups probably used these cemeteries to assert social and spatial claims within the Moundville polity.

Keywords: Mississippian mortuaries; mortuaries; mortuary practices; cemeteries; Moundville site; Alabama; social dimensions; spatial dimensions; corporate kin groups; polity

Chapter.  4144 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Prehistoric Archaeology

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