Interactions with the Incorporeal in the Mississippian and Ancestral Puebloan Worlds
This research explores how people’s relationships with the spirits of the dead are embedded in political histories. It addresses the ways in which certain spirits were integral “inhabitants” of two social environments with disparate political traditions. Using the prehistoric mortuary record, this study investigate the spirits and their involvement in socio-political affairs in the Prehispanic American Southeast and Southwest.
Foremost, this research constructs a framework to characterize particular social identities for the spirits. Ancestors are select, potent beings who are capable of wielding considerable agency. Ancestral spirits are generic beings who are infrequently active among the living and who can exercise agency only in specific contexts. Anonymous groups of spirits are collectives who exercise little direct agency in socio-political matters.
The study then examines the performance of mortuary ritual to recognize these social identities in the archaeological record. Multivariate analyses evaluate how particular ritual actions memorialized the dead. These analyses concentrate on treatment of the body, construction of burial features, inclusion of material accompaniments, and the spaces of ritual action. Each analysis characterizes the social memories that ritual acts shaped for the spirits. When possible, statistical analyses of archaeological data are supplemented with ethnohistoric and ethnographic information. Finally, the study compiles the memories to describe the social identities for the spirits of the dead.
This dissertation examines the identities surrounding the spirits in both a Mississippian period settlement on the Georgia coast and in several Protohistoric era Zuni towns in the northern Southwest. Results indicate that ancestors were powerful members of political factions in coastal Mississippian communities. In contrast, ancestral spirits and collectives of long-dead were custodians of group histories in Zuni communities. The author contends that these different spirits were rooted in political traditions of competition. Mississippian ancestors were influential agents on cultural landscapes filled with contestation over social power. Puebloan ancestral spirits were keepers of histories on landscapes where power relations were masked, and where new kinds of communities were coalescing.
This study demonstrates that the spirits of the dead are important to anthropological understandings of socio-political trajectories. The spirits are at the heart of the ways in which history influences and determines politics.
The following digital resources are the dissertation manuscript and the dissertation study's primary data. The resource titled "Prehispanic American Southeast and Southwest Comparative Mortuary Database" contains the project's master relational database. The other resources contain individual data sets that pertain to the study's statistical analyses of mortuary data.
Cite this Record
Interactions with the Incorporeal in the Mississippian and Ancestral Puebloan Worlds. ( tDAR id: 380979) ; doi:10.6067/XCV8CC1221
Calendar Date: 1400 to 1600 (Protohistoric era in the American Southwest)
Calendar Date: 1100 to 1450 (approximate date ranges that encompass study assemblages in the American Southeast and Southwest)
Calendar Date: 1150 to 1300 (Mississippian period, Savannah Phase in Georgia and South Carolina)
Calendar Date: 1300 to 1450 (Mississippian period, Irene Phase in Georgia and South Carolina)
min long: -112.533; min lat: 31.635 ; max long: -80.629; max lat: 35.479 ;
Individual & Institutional Roles
Contact(s): M Scott Thompson
Resources Inside this Project (Viewing 1-7 of 7)
- Hawikku and Kechiba:wa Mortuary Data: Inhumation Body Treatment Raw Data and Multiple Correspondence Analysis Scores (2013)
- Hawikku and Kechiba:wa Mortuary Data: Material Accompaniments Raw Data and Multidimensional Scaling Scores (2013)
- Irene Mounds Mortuary Data: Body Treatment Raw Data and Multiple Correspondence Analysis Scores (2013)
- Irene Mounds Mortuary Data: Burial Facility Raw Data and Multiple Correspondence Analysis (2013)
- Irene Mounds Mortuary Material Accompaniment Data (2013)
- PreHispanic American Southeast and Southwest Comparative Mortuary Database (2013)