The Inalienable Rite: Smoking Ritual During the Mississippian Stage in the South Appalachian Mississippi Region

Blanton, Dennis Bruce, Department of Anthropology, University of Virginia
Hantman, Jeff, Department of Anthropology, University of Virginia
Damon, Frederick, Department of Anthropology, University of Virginia
Neiman, Fraser, Department of Architectural History, University of Virginia
Smith, Tyler Jo, Department of Art, University of Virginia

The role of religious ritual and circumstances of its change are explored through the case of late prehistoric Native American Indian smoking pipes in the South Appalachian Mississippian region of the United States. Attributes of specific pipe categories in use from AD 1000-1600 are formally defined and their temporal and spatial parameters are determined from archaeological contexts. Symbolic features applied to pipes are evaluated with reference to Southeastern Indian mythology and current understanding of the Southeastern Ceremonial Complex (SECC). Observed patterns are ultimately assessed and interpreted with respect to costly signaling theory. The research addresses a neglected dimension of Mississippian material culture studies by thoroughly documenting a representative sample of smoking pipes. Results establish that the South Appalachian Mississippian region experienced unique elaboration of smoking ritual during the period following about AD 1000. Furthermore the rites underwent a process of change that corresponded closely with reorientations to other aspects of the regional Mississippian cultural pattern. The historical progression of the ritual was generally from low-profile practice, to abrupt elaboration, and then to more modest but still prominent expression. That trend, in the context of broader Mississippian developments, is consistent with expectations of costly signaling theory as well as other models addressing the role of religious ritual and the nature of its change.

Note: Abstract extracted from PDF text

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
All rights reserved (no additional license for public reuse)
Issued Date: