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Mississippian Politics

The Birdman Tablet from Cahokia.
Falcon images such as depicted
on this tablet are associated
with Mississippian chiefs.
In ranked societies, the elite exercises some control over access to many resources. The greater the level of administrative integration (sociopolitical, economic, and religious), the greater the resources controlled by the elite. It was no less so for Mississippian society: Mississippians with the greatest control over resources - food, land, labor, objects of cultural desire, and probably the percieved ability to communicate with the supernatural - constituted the ruling elite in the American Bottom.

Archaeological evidence of some degree of economic, sociopolitical and religious control includes elaborate burials with associated sacrificial victims, exotic and prestige goods, temple mounds, burial mounds, large residences containing exotic materials, and large food storage pits. In fact, the settlement hierarchy alone speaks of an acquisition of choice resources by a small segment of Mississippian society.

Offerings of chunkey stones, marine shell beads, arrow points, mica, and a roll of sheet copper, Mound 72, Cahokia. Reverence, wealth, and power of the chief are indicated.

Priest-chief laying on a bed (cape?) of marine shell beads, Mound 72, Cahokia. Note the falcon-like beak shape of the shells at the head of the chief.

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