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Southeastern Ceremonial Complex

Chronology, Content, Contest

Edited by Adam King, with contributions from David H. Dye, Jon Muller, John F. S

Publication Year: 2007

A timely, comprehensive reevaluation of the Southeastern Ceremonial Complex.

One of the most venerable concepts in Southeastern archaeology is that of the Southern Cult. The idea has its roots in the intensely productive decade (archaeologically) of the 1930s and is fundamentally tied to yet another venerable concept—Mississippian culture. The last comprehensive study of the melding of these two concepts into the term Southeastern Ceremonial Complex (SECC) is more than two decades old, yet our understanding of the objects, themes, and artistic styles associated with the SECC have changed a great deal. New primary data have come to light that bear directly on the complex, requiring a thorough reanalysis of both concepts and dating. Recent publications have ignited many debates about the dating and the nature of the SECC.

This work presents new data and new ideas on the temporal and social contexts, artistic styles, and symbolic themes included in the complex. It also demonstrates that engraved shell gorgets, along with other SECC materials, were
produced before A.D. 1400.

Published by: The University of Alabama Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. iii-v


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pp. vii-viii


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pp. ix-xiv

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pp. xv

This volume has been many (too many) years in the making. I would like to extend my thanks to all the contributors who stuck with it even when it seemed dead in the water. I also would like to thank the University of Alabama Press for showing confidence in me and believing (or hoping) in the ultimate success of...

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1. The Southeastern Ceremonial Complex: From Cult to Complex

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pp. 1-14

It is now 23 years since the Cottonlandia Conference brought together a collection of notable scholars to review current perspectives on that most venerable of concepts in the southeastern United States, the Southern Cult (Galloway, ed. 1989). The concept, which has its roots in the intensely productive decade of the 1930s...

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2. Prolegomena for the Analysis of theSoutheastern Ceremonial Complex

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pp. 15-37

These prolegomena or introductory essays are just that; they are merely an introduction to the issues raised by the analysis of certain art materials in archaeology. Such issues include the employment of inappropriate terminology, the use of unreasonable and ill- warranted ethnographic parallels, and the intrusion of an...

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3. Chronological Implications of the Bellows- Shaped Apron

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pp. 38-57

Rarely has the Southeastern Ceremonial Complex (SECC) been treated as anything other than an undifferentiated entity with change through time having little place. Repeated attempts to create temporal distinctions have not gained widespread acceptance. As a consequence, the subject has failed to assume its rightful...

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4. Mound 34: The Context for the Early Evidence of theSoutheastern Ceremonial Complex at Cahokia

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pp. 58-87

Commonplace emphasis on the burial record of the three big sites in the Southeastern Ceremonial Complex (SECC)—Etowah, Moundville, and Spiro— has the unfortunate effect of deflecting attention from the nonmortuary contexts that relate to the complex and perhaps even frame its expression. What is lost by this...

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5. Shell Gorgets, Time, and the Southeastern Ceremonial Complex in Southeastern Tennessee

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pp. 88-106

Engraved marine shell gorgets are one of the most common types of Southeastern Ceremonial Complex (SECC) items found in eastern Tennessee. Their relatively prolific occurrence in this region prompted Madeline Kneberg to develop a typology and chronology that she published in 1959 (Figure 5.1). Much of...

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6. Mound C and the Southeastern Ceremonial Complex in the History of the Etowah Site

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pp. 107-133

As discussed in the introduction to this volume, the publication in 1996 of Shell Gorgets: Styles of the Late Prehistoric and Protohistoric Southeast by Brain and Phillips renewed an old debate as to the dating of the creation and use of Southeastern Ceremonial Complex (SECC) materials and iconography. The initial notion...

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7. Connections Between the Etowah and Lake Jackson Chiefdoms: Patterns in the Iconographic and Material Evidence

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pp. 134-150

The society whose political center was the Etowah site was one of the largest and arguably one of the most complex and influential of the Mississippian polities of the lower Southeast. The Etowah site itself is among the largest of Mississippian political centers on a number of important scales (viz. Payne 1994a). In size, it...

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8. An Assessment of Moundville Engraved "Cult"€ Designs from Potsherds

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pp. 151-164

When Clarence Moore published the first portfolios of Moundville art in 1905 and 1907, he drew attention to the numerous engraved pottery vessels from burials as sources of representational designs. Other major centers of Mississippian cultic art, Etowah, Lake Jackson, and Spiro, share much on a thematic level but...

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9. Hightower Anthropomorphic Marine Shell Gorgets and Duck River Sword- Form Flint Bifaces: Middle Mississippian Ritual Regalia in the Southern Appalachians

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pp. 165-184

Illustrative combat scenes emphasizing the ritual use of symbolic weaponry by humanlike figures depicted on the medium of marine shell gorgets have long been recognized by archaeologists in the southeastern United States (Waring and Holder 1945). Recently the case has been made that these representations do not...

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10. Mississippian Shell Gorgets in Regional Perspective

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pp. 185-231

Engraved shell gorgets are probably the most common element in the material inventory of the Southeastern Ceremonial Complex (SECC). They probably have the widest distribution in time and space as well. Not surprisingly, they have received considerable attention over the years from southeastern archaeologists...

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11. Sex and the Southern Cult

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pp. 232-250

Recent theories of gender and sexuality go beyond the mere location of men or women in the past and extend to investigating the sites of cultural construction where people lived and continuously produced gender identities and sexual practices, among other things ( Joyce 2000). These theories do not “give primacy to...

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12. Whither SECC?

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pp. 251-258

We return to the question of the dating of the Southeastern Ceremonial Complex (SECC). The authors in this volume have shown that many of the major sites, important styles, and key artifact forms associated with the SECC do not all date to the period between a.d. 1450 and 1650. While elaborate and finely crafted...

References Cited

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pp. 259-287


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pp. 289-292


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pp. 293-305

E-ISBN-13: 9780817381363
Print-ISBN-13: 9780817354091

Publication Year: 2007

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Indians of North America -- Southern States -- Antiquities.
  • Southern States -- Antiquities.
  • Indians of North America -- Southern States -- Rites and ceremonies.
  • Mississippian culture.
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