Rock and Roles: The Chunkey Experience in the Mississippian World

Author(s): Thomas Zych

Year: 2015


Games have the ability to change the course of relationships between people, whether through direct engagement as participants or spectators. This paper explores the peripatetic nature of the pre-contact Chunkey game and its role in the initial and sustained spread of Middle Mississippian lifeways from the greater Cahokia region near modern day St. Louis, beginning around A.D. 1050. While Middle Mississippian culture quickly spread throughout the midcontinent at this time, the Chunkey game itself became grounded in the movement of people and objects through meaningful physical and social landscapes, providing opportunities for individuals and communities to engage in the shared experiences of this sport.

Stone discs used in the game survive in the archaeological record as remnants of this sport; objects of a material practice that facilitated the creation of new social memories and identities every time the game was played. Through these stones and the spread of Chunkey, spectators and players incorporated new collective (or perhaps diverging) mythic histories into this game tied to the distant place of Cahokia. Citing past events, these histories reconfigured and united communities within a common historical identity, while simultaneously constructing differences between opponents.

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Cite this Record

Rock and Roles: The Chunkey Experience in the Mississippian World. Thomas Zych. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 394867)


Geographic Keywords
North America - Midwest

Spatial Coverage

min long: -104.634; min lat: 36.739 ; max long: -80.64; max lat: 49.153 ;