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The Ascent of Chiefs

Cahokia and Mississippian Politics in Native North America

Written by Timothy R. Pauketat

Publication Year: 1994

This ambitious book provides a theoretical explanation of how prehistoric Cahokia became a stratified society, and ultimately the pinnacle of Native American cultural achievement north of Mexico. Considering Cahokia in terms of class struggle, Pauketat claims that the political consolidation in this region of the Mississippi Valley happened quite suddenly, around A.D. 1000, after which the lords of Cahokia innovated strategies to preserve their power and ultimately emerged as divine chiefs. The new ideas and new data in this volume will invigorate the debate surrounding one of the most important developments in North American prehistory.

Published by: The University of Alabama Press


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pp. vii-viii


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pp. ix-xii


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pp. xiii-xiv

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pp. xv-xviii

Archaeological and ethnohistorical research in Southeastern North America is providing fresh insights into questions posed by social scientists about power, culture, inequality, ethnogenesis, and stratification. This study is intended to broach some of these same questions by focusing on the premier Mississippian polity in the Southeast. The theoretical direction ...

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1. Introduction: A Mississippian Leviathan

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pp. 1-7

How was a "Common Power" erected among the ungoverned public? Why did people who lived free of ascribed hierarchy submit themselves to "that great Leviathan"? This problem lies at the heart of the social sciences. Indeed, understanding world-historical development demands tracing the history of authority and power and the origins of social stratification ...

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2. Chiefdoms in Theory and Practice

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pp. 8-39

The so-called neoevolutionary and functional-ecological anthropology of the 1950s and 1960s searched for "functionally interrelated constellations" at the societal level (Oberg 1955:472). To Service (1971 [1962]:134), chiefdoms were redistributional societies "with a permanent central agency of coordination" that comprised an intermediary stage of social ...

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3. The Sociohistorical Context of the American Bottom Region

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pp. 40-65

Nonstratified and stratified native polities integrated local areas or entire regions in the North American Southeast and midcontinent during the late-prehistoric and early-historic periods (see Barker and Pauketat 1992). The "Mississippi period" is dated from about A.D. 1000 to the time of European contact, depending on the specific local historical setting (Smith ...

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4. Central and Rural Mississippian Patterns

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pp. 66-107

It is difficult now to comprehend, but at the time of the founding in A.D. 1699 of the first French mission amongst the Cahokia! and Tamaroa Indians, the floodplain and surrounding blufftops of the Northern Bottom Expanse--an area of less than 1,200 square kilometers--contained over 200 earthen mounds dating to the late prehistoric period. Perhaps as many ...

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5. Diachronic Community and Architectural Evidence

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pp. 108-140

Household and community form and size provide essential information about social forms and cultural structures (Kus 1983). This information lies at the heart of the present study of the region-wide transformation of local ranked groups into a regionally consolidated political entity and cultural hegemony. In order to measure the rate and scale of social and ...

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6. Diachronic Artifactual Evidence

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pp. 141-167

Domestic refuse can provide integral insights into the identities and activities of community members. As identities change through time, we may infer that the cultural hegemony has transformed the consciousness of the populace. As activities change through time, we may argue that the relationship of subgroups or households to horizontal or vertical social ...

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7. The Generation of the Cahokian Leviathan

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pp. 168-190

The ascent of chiefs from modest communal beginnings to the high offices of region-wide stratified domains can best be understood as a long-term historical process. Recourse to an abstract political approach to chiefdoms is necessary but not sufficient to explain the generation of the Cahokian Leviathan. In addition, we must view the late-prehistoric political ...


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pp. 191-230


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pp. 231-235

E-ISBN-13: 9780817384180
Print-ISBN-13: 9780817307288

Page Count: 254
Publication Year: 1994

OCLC Number: 44956835
MUSE Marc Record: Download for The Ascent of Chiefs

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Subject Headings

  • Mississippian culture.
  • Chiefdoms.
  • Cahokia Mounds State Historic Park (Ill.).
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