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Representations of Objects of Nature

A favorite wetland animal in Mississippian art, the bullfrog.

Renderings of complete wetland animals in Mississippian art recovered from the American Bottom include turtles, beavers, water-fowl, and frogs. Many of these decorative motifs appear to have a long history in eastern North America, occurring as far back as the Early Woodland.

Elements of nature depicted in Mississippian art may be sub-divided into those elements where a complete natural object is depicted, and those elements where part of an object, usually an animal, is presented as component of a mythical being or symbol. With two or three important exceptions, i.e., the falcon, panther, and rattlesnake, much Mississippian art from the American Bottom depicts animals common to the shallow swamps, wet floodplain forests, and ridge prairies of this floodplain.

Parts of the panther, notably the head, teeth, and claws, are often depicted as parts of mythical beings in the art of many New World indigenous cultures including that of the Mississippians.

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