Fall 12-2016

Document Type



Mobile, AL



First Advisor

Gregory Waselkov


Interpreting the significance of materials used by southeastern Native Americans to express their cosmological beliefs reveals certain trends that reflect changes in culture over time. We recognize that, for many hundreds of years within the Mississippian period, artifacts fashioned from specific materials reflected the relationship between these materials and their place in native cosmology. In the post-Mississippian period, nontraditional materials became available that were used to fashion these same traditional artifact forms. I present research on how Native Americans integrated these new materials into their cosmology by drawing analogies and distinctions between uses of traditional and nontraditional materials in relation to four categories of interest: material, color, form, and origin. This analysis is contextualized within the sociohistorical setting during the mid-16th century in order to support my claim that pre-existing social conditions within the weakening Mississippian chiefdoms, combined with first contact with Spaniards, resulted in notable changes in world view reflected in the use of nontraditional materials for cosmological artifacts. By studying this phenomenon, we not only increase knowledge about a turning point in Native American history, but we also learning more about traditional Mississippian cosmology and the fluidity of expression within it.