The residents of Mississippian towns principally located in the southeastern and midwestern United States from 900 to 1500 A.D. made many beautiful objects, which included elaborate and well-crafted copper and shell ornaments, pottery vessels, and stonework. Some of these objects were socially valued goods and often were placed in ritual context, such as graves. The funerary context of these artifacts has sparked considerable study and debate among archaeologists, raising questions about the place in society of the individuals interred with such items, as well as the nature of the societies in which these people lived. By focusing on how mortuary practices serve as symbols of beliefs and values for the living, the contributors to "Mississippian Mortuary Practices" explore how burial of the dead reflects and reinforces the cosmology of specific cultures, the status of living participants in the burial ceremony, ongoing kin relationships, and other aspects of social organization.
Lynne P. Sullivan is research professor of anthropology and curator of archaeology at the Frank H. McClung Museum at the University of Tennessee. She is coeditor of Archaeology of the Appalachian Highlands, Grit Tempered, and Ancient Earthen Enclosures of the Eastern Woodlands. Robert C. Mainfort Jr., professor of anthropology at the University of Kansas, is coeditor of Ancient Earthen Enclosures of the Eastern Woodlands.