Authority, Autonomy, and the Archaeology of a Mississippian Community

Erin S. Nelson

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“This excellent book is an imaginative and innovative consideration of the history and materiality of monumental architecture and community at Parchman Place. Essential reading for scholars and students of the archaeology of the Mississippian Southeast.”—Christopher B. Rodning, coeditor of Fort San Juan and the Limits of Empire: Colonialism and Household Practice at the Berry Site
 
“This detailed archaeological study of the Parchman Place site shows the important role of community negotiation within chiefdom power, providing a more comprehensive view of life in Mississippian communities.”—Maureen S. Meyers, coeditor of Archaeological Perspectives on the Southern Appalachians: A Multiscalar Approach  
 
This book is the first detailed investigation of the important archaeological site of Parchman Place in the Yazoo Basin, a defining area for understanding the Mississippian culture that spanned much of what is now the United States Southeast and Midwest before the mid-sixteenth century. Refining the widely accepted theory that this society was strongly hierarchical, Erin Nelson provides data that suggest communities navigated tensions between authority and autonomy in their placemaking and in their daily lives.  
 
Drawing on archaeological evidence from foodways, monumental and domestic architecture, and the organization of communal space at the site, Nelson argues that Mississippian people negotiated contradictory ideas about what it meant to belong to a community. For example, although they clearly had powerful leaders, communities built mounds and other structures in ways that re-created their views of the cosmos, expressing values of wholeness and balance. Nelson’s findings shed light on the inner workings of Mississippian communities and other hierarchical societies of the period.
 
Erin S. Nelson is assistant professor of anthropology at the University of South Alabama.  
 
A volume in the Florida Museum of Natural History: Ripley P. Bullen Series   
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