|Powell Plain vessel, Julien site.||
The temper, style, finish and decorative motifs of Mississippian ceramics in
the American Bottom change through time. In the Lohmann phase (A.D. 1050-1100),
for example, most slipped surface ceramics are the shell-tempered light red
Monks Mound Red type, but black and brown ceramics with grog and grit temper
also occur. In the early Stirling phase (A.D. 1100-1200) the Powell Plain and
Ramey-Incised appear for the first time, and temper is predominantly shell.
Limestone tempering had all but disappeared in the Moorehead Phase (A.D.
1200-1275). By the Sand Prairie phase (A.D. 1275-1350) almost temper is almost
exclusively shell, and Powell Plain and Ramey-Incised types are no longer in
The ceramics of the Stirling phase are particularly well known. Although many of its attributes (size, shape, and thickness) are almost identical to Powell Plain vessels, it may be a mistake to conclude that Ramey-Incised vessels are simply decorated and burnished versions of Powell Plain ceramics. There are several reasons why Ramey-Incised pottery carries more meaning than just "decorated Powell Plain." First, the context in which some Ramey-Incised vessels are found strongly argues for their socio-religious importance. They have been found associated with specialized structures (e.g., non-residential structure at the BBB Motor site) and are often found with other elite goods fashioned from exotic materials. Second, the symbolism evident in Ramey-Incised designs is most often interpreted as having underworld or water connections. Accordingly, Ramey-Incised pottery apparently functioned as more than vessels for the elite, which they certainly were. It seems likely that they also played an important role in religious ritual. The same is likely true of effigy vessels as well.
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