“This is a landmark synthesis providing a much-needed corrective of the history and significance of platform mounds in eastern North America that shows them to be enduring and vital features of native societies across more than six millennia.”—Neill J. Wallis, coeditor of New Histories of Pre-Columbian Florida
“A superb volume that turns on its head much of our conventional way of examining moundbuilding in eastern North America, convincingly demonstrating through a masterful summary of individual cases that platform mound construction has a long and widespread history.”—David G. Anderson, coauthor of Recent Developments in Southeastern Archaeology: From Colonization to Complexity
This book presents a temporally and geographically broad yet detailed history of an important form of Native American architecture, the platform mound. While the variation in these earthen monuments across the eastern United States has sparked much debate among archaeologists, this landmark study reveals unexpected continuities in moundbuilding over many thousands of years.
In A History of Platform Mound Ceremonialism, Megan Kassabaum synthesizes an exceptionally wide dataset of 149 platform mound sites from the earliest iterations of the structure 7,500 years ago to its latest manifestations. Kassabaum discusses Archaic period sites from Florida and the Lower Mississippi Valley, as well as Woodland period sites across the Midwest and Southeast, to revisit traditional perspectives on later, more well-known Mississippian-era mounds.
Kassabaum’s chronological approach corrects major flaws in the ways these constructions have been interpreted in the past. This comprehensive history exposes nonlinear shifts in mound function, use, and meaning across space and time and suggests a dynamic view of the vitality and creativity of their builders. Ending with a discussion of Native American beliefs about and uses of earthen mounds today, Kassabaum reminds us that this history will continue to be written for many generations to come.
Megan C. Kassabaum is assistant professor of anthropology and director of the Center for Ancient Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. She is the Weingarten Assistant Curator for North America at the Penn Museum.
A volume in the Florida Museum of Natural History: Ripley P. Bullen Series