Authority, Autonomy, and the Archaeology of a Mississippian Community

Erin S. Nelson

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A close look at a Mississippi archaeological site that sheds light on a major precolonial civilization
“Provides a compelling, multiscalar analysis that examines how the processes of community formation and maintenance operated at the neighborhood, site, and regional scales, as well within the broader Mississippian world.”—Journal of Anthropological Research  
“Presents the results of a well-defined and carefully constructed research project. One major contribution . . . is a methodologically rigorous analysis of ceramics and radiocarbon dates to refine the culture history into two sequential phases. . . A second major contribution is the use of ceramic vessel types and refined analyses of mound construction histories to build interpretations about persistence and variance in feasting and mound-building practices.”—American Antiquity  
“An important addition to the understanding of Mississippian communities.”—American Archaeology
“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 associate 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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