Esnesv Stories: Muskogee Oral Traditions, Trader-Diplomats, and Sacred Landscapes

Author(s): Lee Bloch

Year: 2015


It has long been obvious to archaeologists that Mississippian and Woodland mound centers in Southeastern and Midwestern United States were parts of large-scale regional exchange networks. However, modeling how goods moved from point A to point B remains more troublesome. Do these goods represent direct or down the line exchange? Do they represent a shared ceremonial complex or loose connections between very different complexes? Oral traditions maintained by a descendant Muskogee (Creek) tribal town provide an explanation. These stories describe the deeds of esnesv, persons of a special social status that combines the roles of trader, traveler, diplomat, and holy worker. Esnesv travelled great distances across the Southeast, often across "enemy" territories, and facilitated exchange relationships. They also carried information about peoples throughout the region and could mediate conflict between groups. Rituals surrounding esnesv suggest that this role was considered sacred. Framed within contemporary Muskogee theories of embodiment, esnesv can be understood to carry animate objects laden with cosmological Power and entangled with human lives, enfolding places and communities into each other as they physically moved fragments of landscapes across the region.

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Esnesv Stories: Muskogee Oral Traditions, Trader-Diplomats, and Sacred Landscapes. Lee Bloch. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 397538)

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Spatial Coverage

min long: -91.274; min lat: 24.847 ; max long: -72.642; max lat: 36.386 ;