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Human figurine Human figurine, Kincaid site, Massac County.

Archaeologists study the characteristics of the images carved in stone. Mississippian people created both realistic and abstract images. These images give us a glimpse of how people saw themselves. Here we see a man sitting with his legs crossed and his hands resting on his knees. He appears to have a belt around his waist. The purpose of such figurines is not known.

Mississippian people lived a more settled life than their Woodland ancestors. They accomplished this with a more stable food supply, largely due to the cultivation of a variety of plants such as corn along with squash and, in central Illinois, some beans. But a diet rich in starchy plants also created some health problems. For example, Mississippian people developed more tooth cavities. Starch breaks down into sugar, and sugar causes tooth decay. On the whole, Mississippian children were less healthy and smaller than Woodland period children. They were also more likely to die during childhood because a corn-rich diet did not provide all of the nutrients necessary for good health.

Human figurine Human face on pipe bowl, Crable site, Fulton County.

Perhaps the human images represent an ancestor of the Mississippian person who made and used the pipe.

While life in large villages had its advantages, there were also disadvantages. People living close together are more susceptible to infectious diseases. Because of this, Mississippian people suffered more often from disease than their Woodland ancestors.

On the other hand, a more stable food supply improved life. Mississippian adults were larger than most of their Woodland counterparts, but they did not live particularly longer lives. Some Mississippian people lived well into their 50s, and a few even longer. Still, the average age of Mississippian men at death was only about 37 years; for women about 32.

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