Mississippi Civilization



The Mississippi civilization (or Mississippi culture) developed between, east of the Mississippi River, on the present territory of the United States. It can be attached to the culture of the Mound Builders, because it has produced large funeral mounds (tumulus). This civilization began to flourish in the Mississippi Valley, hence its name. It seems that it completely disappeared before the arrival of European settlers in North America.

In, Middle Mississippi towns are characterized by flat-topped rectangular mounds, surmounted by temples and mortuary houses for the upper classes, and log houses. A typical urban center comprises about twenty of these mounds grouped around a vast square and surrounded by a palisade of defensive wood. There are also traces of long houses, with walls covered with cob and thatched roofs. These cities are both religious and administrative centers for collecting and redistributing food and raw materials. Cahokia, the most important pre-Columbian city outside Latin America, had at least twenty thousand inhabitants. The fertile valleys, around the cities, are home to large rural populations in permanent villages (about a km). An agricultural revolution, with the introduction of more productive corn plants that can ripen out of frost instead of 200, allows for such densities, and sometimes two crops in sheltered areas. Farmers cultivate the fertile soils of the river valleys with hoes. In addition to growing corn, hazelnut, sunflower, beans and squash are grown. European travelers who reach the cities of Mississippi will describe a matriarchal society governed by a leader who controls four well-defined social classes. The elites are buried, lying on wooden litter, under funeral buildings placed at the top of the mounds in the center of the cities. The bodies appear to have been gutted, and the bones collected and reburied. Exotic goods are placed in the mausoleums: shell vases, pearls of mother-of-pearl and shells, copper foils worked with repoussé. Sometimes servants are killed to accompany their master to the afterlife.

The people of Mississippi grew their crops in small gardens which they cultivated with simple agrarian instruments. They ate corn, beans, squash, sunflower seeds. They supplemented their meals with nuts, berries and fruits as well as game (deer, turkey, small animals). They fished for fish, shells and turtles in the many rivers and lakes in the area.

The Mississippian civilization has left beautiful evidence of its craftsmanship: pottery and ceramics used seashells. The Amerindians did not know the techniques of metallurgy. They knew how to work with metals such as copper and gold.

The Mississippian civilization extended its trading network from the Rocky Mountains to the west, to the Atlantic Ocean to the east.

The Native Americans of the Mississippian civilization do not master the techniques of stone architecture. Their mounds and their habitat were built of wood and earth.

It seems that the Mississippian civilization was based on solar and agricultural cults (ceremonies around corn), influenced by the religions of Mesoamerica.

The chronology is difficult to establish because of the lack of written documents. It varies by site and region.

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