Not Just a Hunting Ground: Native Americans in Kentucky- Mississippian Culture

Late Prehistoric Period

900 A.D.-1750 A.D.

Mississippian Culture


Mississippian peoples were hunter-gatherer-farmers. They depended heavily on corn and also grew beans, squash and gourds. Theirs was a hierarchical society, one in which the privileged had access to resources unavailable to the average person. Leaders were born into office and at death, passed this role on to their children. Women carried out domestic and child-rearing duties, cultivated crops, processed animal skins, and made pottery. Men made tools, hunted, and set governmental and religious policy. They gained status and prestige from their skills in diplomacy 
and success in raids.  


As full time farmers, Mississippian peoples lived in settlements throughout the year, ranging from small single family homesteads to large fortified towns. Most of the population lived in the smaller villages and homesteads. Towns served as the social, political and religious focus of Mississippian life. At the fortified towns, platform and burial mounds surrounded an open plaza. Surrounding the mounds were homes, granaries, and work areas. A stockade enclosed the entire community.  Residents held events, life dances, games, and ceremonies in the plaza. Trading also took place there. Houses were substantial strictures, built upon trench-like footers excavated into the ground. Walls were constructed of solid pole frames and plastered with mud. The roof was covered with thick layers of grass or thatch.   


Mississippian tools, containers, ornaments, and other items differ from those of the older period; mainly in stylistic ways, but also due to the economic and social changes in the culture. Pottery underwent a significant change. Before A.D. 1300, pottery consists of globular jars, hemispherical bowls, flanged-rim bowls, hooded bottles, and pans.  They tended to be plain, fabric impressed, or red- filmed. After A.D. 1300, incised jars, bowls, and plates become common and red- filming diminishes in popularity.


Mississippian people traded perishable and durable goods with their nearest neighbors. They also participated in the long- distance exchange of items made from marine shell and stone. Due to 
the long- distance trade network Mississippian people had access to European goods before they came into contact with the European explorers. 

PDF icon Mississippian.pdf1.15 MB