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Archaeological Survey in the Lower Mississippi Alluvial Valley 1940-1947

Written by Philip Phillips, James A. Ford, James B. Griffin, with contributions

Publication Year: 2003

A Dan Josselyn Memorial Publication

A classic work by three important scholars who document prehistoric human occupation along the lower reaches of the continent's largest river.

The Lower Mississippi Survey was initiated in 1939 as a joint undertaking of three institutions: the School of Geology at Louisiana State University, the Museum of Anthropology at the University of Michigan, and the Peabody Museum at Harvard. Fieldwork began in 1940 but was halted during the war years. When fieldwork resumed in 1946, James Ford had joined the American Museum of Natural History, which assumed cosponsorship from LSU. The purpose of the Lower Mississippi Survey (LMS)—a term used to identify both the fieldwork and the resultant volume—was to investigate the northern two-thirds of the alluvial valley of the lower Mississippi River, roughly from the mouth of the Ohio River to Vicksburg. This area covers about 350 miles and had been long regarded as one of the principal hot spots in eastern North American archaeology.

Phillips, Ford, and Griffin surveyed over 12,000 square miles, identified 382 archaeological sites, and analyzed over 350,000 potsherds in order to define ceramic typologies and establish a number of cultural periods. The commitment of these scholars to developing a coherent understanding of the archaeology of the area, as well as their mutual respect for one another, enabled the publication of what is now commonly considered the bible of southeastern archaeology. Originally published in 1951 as volume 25 of the Papers of the Peabody Museum of American Archaeology and Ethnology, this work has been long out of print.

Because Stephen Williams served for 35 years as director of the LMS at Harvard, succeeding Phillips, and was closely associated with the authors during their lifetimes, his new introduction offers a broad overview of the work's influence and value, placing it in a contemporary context.

"Meant for the expert and informed layman, it sets a standard for archaeological studies."—Journal of the West

"One of the important classics in the field. . . Incredibly influential over the decades. . . . Enhancing this timeless volume, the new edition contains four very useful indexes (general, site descriptors, pottery descriptors, and other artifacts). . . .This book should not be an old tome gathering dust on the shelf, but a resource in constant use for reference and inspiration. Students of archaeology should read it as an example of one of the first great syntheses. Nobody should conduct archaeological research in the Southeast without knowing it."—Journal of Alabama Archaeology

"For anyone who has tried long and hard to find a copy of the original, this reprinted volume is a godsend. . . . To say that this 1951 study is a classic is a major understatement. Not only did the volume set the foundation for much of the research conducted within the LMV since that time, it had a significant imapct upon how that research was (and still is) conducted. Names of many of the periods, cultures, and pottery types (even some pottery varieties) that today are commonly employed across the region owe their genesis to PF&G. . . . No archaeologist working in the LMV, and certainly none within the state of Mississippi, should be without a copy. . . . There is no excuse not to have this study now that it is available again at a reasonable price. If you do not yet have a copy, go get one now! You will be very glad that you did."—Mississippi Archaeology

Published by: The University of Alabama Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. v

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pp. vii

I did not undertake this project, the reprinting of this well-known volume, without trepidation. As series editor of the University of Alabama Press's Classics in Southeastern Archaeology, I was quite familiar with the "drill." But still, this was a volume written not by nineteenth-century notables such as Charles C. Jones or ...

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pp. ix-x

The Lower Mississippi Archaeological Survey was initiated in 1939 as a joint undertaking of three institutions: School of Geology, Louisiana State University; Museum of Anthropology, University of Michigan; and Peabody Museum, Harvard University.1 The purpose of the Survey was to investigate the northern ...

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pp. xi-xxxii

In writing the introduction for this reprinting of the Lower Mississippi valley classic by Phillips, Ford, and Griffin, I must make clear my own prejudices as well as my strengths and weaknesses in taking on this effort. I knew all three authors well over a period of many decades; I worked with and was taught by two of them ...



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pp. xxxv-xl


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pp. xli

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Section I: The Geographic Setting

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pp. 3-36

Lest this section be thought disproportionate to the size and importance of the report that follows, it may be well to explain that it is intended to serve as introductory to future reports as well. However, this only partly accounts for so much space being given here to geographical matters. ...

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Section II: The Archaeological Field Work

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pp. 37-58

There is general agreement among students of Southeastern archaeology that the climax of the late prehistoric cultures is the archaeological facies long recognized under the designation "Middle Mississippi." At a comparatively late date — A.D. 1400-1500 is probably not too late for its peak of development ...

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Section III: Classification of the Pottery

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pp. 59-154

Since practically everything in this report depends on the mass of potsherds collected at the expense of so much bending of backs, It becomes necessary to describe with candor the methods employed in their classification. Archaeology has not reached that stage of development in which there is only one correct ,,,

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Section IV: Distribution of Some Mississippi Period Vessel Shapes and Features

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pp. 155-180

During the late 1930's, Phillips prepared a Ph.D. thesis called "An Introduction to the Archaeology of the Mississippi Valley," 1 in which he analyzed some 2000 whole vessels from the Survey Area. Some of his findings are incorporated into the following paragraphs. The division between the St. Francis and ...


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pp. 181-216

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Section V: Seriation Analysis of Potter Collections

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pp. 217-236

Now the 346,099 sherds from 383 sites, collected by the Lower Mississippi Survey and duly classified as described in Section III, could be stored away in cabinets and forgotten for the time being. The data was safely on paper and time would heal our wounded consciences and dim our suspicions that at several points ...

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Section VI: Stratigraphy

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pp. 237-292

Before embarking on a detailed cut-by-cut analysis of the stratigraphic excavations conducted by the Lower Mississippi Archaeological Survey, it will be well to clarify further the relationship, from the standpoint of method, between seriation and stratigraphy as used in the present study. ...

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Section VII: Correlation of Archaeological Sequences with Recent Drainage History

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pp. 293-306

The idea of using geological data for dating archaeological remains in the Lower Mississippi Valley is not new. Kniffen utilized this technique in a report on Indian sites in Plaquemines and St. Bernard parishes, Louisiana, published in 1936,1 and Chawner discussed it at somewhat greater length in ...

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Section VIII: Analysis of Occupation Site Plans

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pp. 307-344

As already explained in Section II, the field work done in the Survey Area was intended to be in the nature of a random sampling. We were not trying to locate every spot which had been occupied in prehistoric times but were endeavoring to visit and describe enough sites in all parts of the area to make possible ...

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Section IX: Identification of Sites from Documentary Source

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pp. 345-422

In the original outline of this report the opening section on physiography was to be followed by an equally comprehensive presentation of the ethnography of the Survey Area so far as it is known. At that time we were unaware of the great uncertainty that surrounds much of what is "known in the ethno-historical field." ...

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Section X: Summary and Conclusions

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pp. 423-460

The results of the first phase of a continuing survey program in the northern part of the Lower Mississippi Valley have been presented in the foregoing pages under various headings written by various hands not always animated by identical points of view. The effect has been perhaps to create the impression ...


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pp. 461-472


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pp. 473-530

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pp. 531-532

Most "Peabody Papers" do not have an index; neither the Phillips's 1970 two-volume treatise nor the Lake George monograph (Williams and Brain, 1983.) However, my other Peabody volume, "The Waring Papers" (Williams, 1968), did, because it was a collection of very different topics. This volume is by nature the result of a rather ...


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pp. 533-554


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pp. 555-556


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pp. 557-562


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pp. 563-564

E-ISBN-13: 9780817384753
Print-ISBN-13: 9780817350222

Page Count: 620
Publication Year: 2003

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Indians of North America -- Lower Mississippi River Valley -- Antiquities.
  • Indian pottery -- Lower Mississippi River Valley.
  • Mississippi River Valley -- Antiquities.
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