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In Search of Cosmic Power: Contextualizing Spiritual Journeys between Cahokia and the St. Francois Mountains

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Part of the One World Archaeology book series (WORLDARCH)

Abstract

Religious observance historically incorporated journeys to sacred places for American Indian groups on the Plains and around the Great Lakes as an integral part of individual experience and communion with the spirit world. The history of such journeys is exemplified by the environmental contexts of several large ritual centers in the Mississippi river basin. They include the Archaic Period center of Poverty Point, the Middle Woodland centers such as the Pinson mounds, and finally the large Mississippian center of Cahokia. Material evidence reveals that the nearby mountains of the Ozarks, composed of caves, springs, and materials imbued with sacred power, were thus important as a destination for Cahokian spiritual journeys. An ancient volcanic remnant known as the St. Francois Mountains contains intrusive basalt dykes engulfed by the cedar glades of the Ozarks resulting in a ritual landscape of particular importance. Both basalt and red cedar were an important part of the material record at Cahokia and its surrounding communities. Given their power we argue that these materials were transported back to Cahokia as a token either of pilgrimages or journeys for vision quests. We explore such spiritual journeys so widespread among Native American Indians in both the recent and distant past.

Keywords

Twelfth Century Eleventh Century Sacred Place Sacred Tree Cedar Glade 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

Notes

Acknowledgments

The authors would like to thank the following institutions and individuals for their help and assistance in preparing this paper. First, let us thank the organizers of the 2008 WAC-6 symposium, “Mountains and pilgrimages—the dynamic ritual landscape,” Alan A.D. Peatfield and Mark Aldenderfer, for including our presentation. Second, we would like to thank the editors, Kathryn Rountree, Christine Morris, and Alan A.D. Peatfield for this volume on Archaeology of Spiritualities and for including our chapter, especially their patience. The various investigations at a number of areas at Cahokia and the small mound center at Washausen were conducted with Washington University, University of Missouri at St. Louis, and Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville undergraduates as part of survey and excavation classes and simply volunteering. Others helping with the investigations included numerous volunteers from the region especially the Cahokia Archaeological Society. James Mertz has helped immensely with the various surface collections and other work at this site while Ellen Chapman and Susanna Bailey worked on the analysis of the materials recovered. The Christy Love Fund in the Department of Anthropology at Washington University provided support for Ellen Chapman’s analysis and report. Kathleen Stahlman established the UTM coordinates for our grid system. Finally John Kelly would like to thank Mr. Ellery Hawkins who has kindly granted access to his property over the last 7 years. The authors assume sole responsibility for the data and its interpretation and any errors or omissions that were part of an ongoing effort to better understand the relationship between the people of this region and the St. Francois Mountains.

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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyWashington UniversitySt. LouisUSA
  2. 2.Department of AnthropologyNorthwestern UniversityEvanstonUSA

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