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Birger figurine from BBB Motor site.
Statuary, effigy pipes, and ceramics recovered from Mississippian elite and/or religious contexts are not only exquisitely made, they seem to be suggestive of religious cults (Emerson 1997). For example, several sculptures of females in flint clay (an exotic material similar to bauxite from what is now southeastern Missouri) are believed to represent the "Earth Goddess." The Birger figurine female kneeling on a circular base appears to be hoeing the earth. Closer inspection reveals the "earth" to be a feline-serpent, a symbol of the underworld. On her back and over her shoulder are squash or gourd vines. The Keller figurine, where the female appears to be positioned on a stack of maize cobs, may be another example of the earth goddess. Similar examples include the Sponemann, Willoughby, and West figurines.
Some have speculated that the earth goddess cult played a role in validating the power of the elite during the height of Mississippian developments in the American Bottom (Stirling Phase). That is, some archaeologists have suggested that the earth goddess cult, widespread in the Mississippian Period (Emergent Mississippian through Lohmann Phase), was co-opted by the elite in the Stirling Phase as a means to associate the power of the earth goddess with their elite social rule.

However, these earth goddess figurines lack elite symbolism like the cross or forked eye. Proving that a commoner "Earth Goddess" cult was coopted by the elite will be difficult, but these and similar processes typify elites' methods of maintaining social control.

Keller figurine from BBB Motor site.

Frog effigy pipe, American bottom.

Other objects appear to represent transformation and travel to different worlds. The frog effigy pipe from the American Bottom, for example, depicts a frog holding a rattle - an important tool of the shaman - suggesting the shaman has been transformed into the frog. The fact that this image appears on a smoking pipe further suggests that part of the shaman's transformation may have involved inhalation of some form of drug.

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