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Unusual Elements, Special Contexts: Bear Ceremonialism in Context at Feltus, Jefferson County, Mississippi

Author(s): Megan Kassabaum ; Ashley Peles

Year: 2017

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During the Coles Creek period (AD 700–1200), people constructed three earthen mounds at the Feltus site in Jefferson County, Mississippi. Before, during, and after the construction of these earthworks, Feltus was a location for ritual gatherings characterized by communal feasts and ritual post activities. Archaeological investigations at Feltus produced not only a large amount of bear bone, but a range of skeletal elements that are unusual at prehistoric sites. The nature of these remains and their association with ritual gatherings makes clear that bears were particularly important to the people who gathered at Feltus. Throughout Eurasia and North America, preagriculturalists saw bears as people, albeit different-from-human people, who possessed the spiritual power to link the human and spirit worlds. Importantly for our interpretations of the Feltus data, bears are commonly seen as kin, as healers, and especially as food providers. The material remains of large feasting events including bear remains, pipe smoking, and the setting of large standing posts align remarkably well with traditional bear ceremonies. These findings not only help us to understand the origins and meaning of the activities taking place at Feltus, but also expand our understanding of the geographic and temporal extent of bear ceremonialism.

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Unusual Elements, Special Contexts: Bear Ceremonialism in Context at Feltus, Jefferson County, Mississippi. Megan Kassabaum, Ashley Peles. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 431213)


Spatial Coverage

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

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 17185

Arizona State University The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation National Science Foundation National Endowment for the Humanities Society for American Archaeology Archaeological Institute of America