Art Theme Activities
As is the case with most art, that produced by Mississippian people of the American Bottom reflects many aspects of their lives. As such, Mississippian art offers a means for understanding their world view, the interrelatedness of the environment with their economic, sociopolitical, and spiritual lives. As such, the following activities will require some appreciation not only of Mississippian art, but also of other spheres of Mississippian society and culture. Material from other themes as well as that found in the archives will provide a fuller, deeper understanding of Mississippian art.
Upon completion of a some questions, students may wish to explore what the art with which they are familiar with says about their lives at the end of the 20th century.
- Describe harvest activities depicted in Mississippian art from the American Bottom.
- Fish, although a major source of meat for American Bottom Mississippians, are not depicted in art from this area, but are found as decorative motifs in Mississippian art elsewhere in the southeast. Discuss why this difference may exist. Is their an American Bottom Mississippian ceramic decorative motif that may symbolically take the place of fish?
- Does the phrase "art for art's sake" accurately reflect the archaeological interpretation of Mississippian? Why or Why not?
- Much Mississippian art may reflect certain socio-political and religious aspects of Mississippian culture and may indicate 2 cults, an an "ancestral shring cult" and a "mother earth" or "fertility cult". Compare and contrast the art believed to reflect these cults. Are there other possible interpretations?
- How are economic activities reflected in Mississippian art?
- How are socio-religious activities of the elite reflected in Mississippian art?
- Describe how Mississippian art may reflect the importance Mississippian people placed on their natural environment.
- Describe the physical characteristics of an important mythical being in Mississippian art. What is the meaning of the individual physical attributes depicted? What is the importance of this being?
- What aspects of the Mississippian world view are likely being conveyed by the falcon imagery? What characteristics of the falcon seem to be important for conveying this meaning?
- Interview an artist. How do they bring their personal lives or world view to their art? How are cultural values and world view reflected in their art?
- Attend a Native American dance exhibition. Describe the costumes. Are any particular animals being represented/imitated? Are mythical or supernatural beings depicted?
- Save the drumsticks from your Sunday chicken dinner, or those from a dinner at a restaurant. How would you go about making a bird bone necklace? What tools would you use? Once you have decided upon a "manufacturing technique", make a chicken bone necklace. Are chicken bones appropriate for this use? How would you change your "manufacturing technique?" Could anyone make this sort of necklace, or is a specialist necessary?