11. Cave Rituals and Ritual Caves in the Eastern United States - Cheryl Claassen
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11 Cave Rituals and Ritual Caves in the Eastern United States Cheryl Claassen Cave use by Late Prehistoric peoples in the eastern United States for ritual or mortuary function is now well documented (e.g., Simek, Cressler et al. 2001; Simek,Frankenberg et al.2001).The relatively recent discoveries of Archaic art in caves (Simek et al.1998) and the Archaic mortuary caves of Ohio (Pedde and Prufer 2001) open a window into much earlier ritual use of caves and rockshelters. In a previous paper (Claassen 2005), I have made the case for interpreting the records from Archaic levels of Dust Cave (northwest Alabama) and Russell Cave (northeast Alabama) and the Early Woodland Salts/Mammoth Cave (central Kentucky) as evidence of ritual use and their status as ritual caves, not habitation loci. For this chapter I will review two more caves with Archaic records,Graham Cave and Rodgers Shelter,both in Missouri, while hinting at the type of evidence to be suspected and the possible meaning of the rituals that might have been carried out at and in these caves. Further thoughts on Archaic rituals and a ritualized landscape can be found in two other recent studies (Claassen 2007, 2010). Ritual Evidence To look for ritual behavior in caves and to identify a cave as a permanent ritual site, I have turned to the fast-­ growing body of evidence of cave rituals and ritual caves produced by archaeologists working in Mexico and Mesoamerica . I have derived a list of expectations for offerings found in Mayan caves (relying on Benson 1997 and Pohl 1983) when the purpose of the offering is to solicit the aid or favor of one or more earth and/or underworld deities .These deities control rain and thus thunder, lightning, fertility, and the actual animals and plants that humans depend on. 254 Cheryl Claassen 1. Caves with flowing water inside are the most sacred. 2. Items of personal adornment are left as cave offerings. 3. Offerings are frequently burned and/or broken. 4. Artifacts not of personal adornment used in rituals are weaving equipment (spindle whorls and awls),bone needles,old textiles,tools,wooden objects, miniature dishes and jars, tiny or full-­ sized manos and metates, and water vessels. 5. Breaking of stalactites and stalagmites is ubiquitous in Maya caves.Caches of them were made. 6. Children, juveniles, and adults were sacrificed in some cave rituals. 7. Fauna used in rituals are all types of birds,especially water birds and songbirds , freshwater and marine shell, reptiles (snakes, turtles), fish (particularly catfish), frogs, deer, turkey, dog, and opossum. 8. Characteristics of the fauna are burning, smallness (rats, bats, shrews, and songbirds), immature animals, incomplete carcasses, a disproportionate number of left-­ side elements or hind elements or skulls and wings. I have used this list of characteristics subsequently to peruse the site reports of several U.S. caves and believe that there is ample evidence of rituals at them, with some variations on the list of characteristics as expected. At this time I will review briefly several observations on nonhuman bone, mollusks , hematite, and stone in these ar­ chaeo­ logi­ cally important caves utilized during the Archaic (10,000 to 3,500 years ago). Bone Probably at least two important aspects of bone govern the ritual use and deposition of bones we find in caves; these are bone as a repository of the soul and a great time depth to the deities.The belief that the deities emanate from an earlier creation (as do the ancestors) is visualized in smallness (Pohl 1983). Songbirds, baby mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and human babies are appropriate for their small size. Human babies are appropriate for their purity and as reciprocal gifts as fruits of the human body (Arnold 1991:229). Thus, many offerings to earth and underworld deities include small animals,which many zooarchaeologists assume are noncultural introductions. The offering of­ten does not include the entire animal (or plant) but just an important part, such as the head or left side. The ritual itself, however, may require one or more living animals to be sacrificed for a blood offering with the entire carcass left at the ritual location. Another belief is that of bone soul, the concept that one of several manifestations of the soul of living beings is captured in hard substances, such as bone and stone (Furst 1995). From the bones or shells or other body parts, Cave Rituals and Ritual Caves in the Eastern United States 255 the animal...