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Landscapes of Ritual Performance in Eastern North America (Paperback)

World History > The Americas > USA

By Cheryl Claassen
Imprint: Oxbow Books
Series: American Landscapes
Pages: 256
Illustrations: 55 B/W images
ISBN: 9781789259292
Published: 15th January 2023
Casemate UK Academic



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In the long history of documenting the material culture of the archaeological record, meaning and actions of makers and users of these items is often overlooked. The authors in this book focus on rituals exploring the natural and made landscape stages, the ritual directors, including their progression from shaman to priesthood, and meaning of the rites. They also provide comments on the end or failure of rites and cults from Paleoindian into post-DeSoto years.


Chapters examine the archaeological records of Cahokia, the lower Ohio Valley, Aztalan Wisconsin, Vermont, Florida, and Georgia, and others scan the Eastern US, investigating tobacco/datura, colour symbolism, deer symbolism, mound stratigraphy, flintknapping, stone caching, cults and their organisation, and red ochre. These authors collectively query the beliefs that can be gleaned from mortuary practices and their variation, from mound construction, from imagery, from the choice of landscape setting. While some rituals were short-lived, others can be shown to span millennia as the ritual specialists modified their interpretations and introduced innovations.

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About Cheryl Claassen

Cheryl Claassen (PhD, Harvard 1982) has written about landscape and ritual over several decades. Recent works include Religion in Sixteenth Century Mexico (2022) with Laura Ammon, Native American Landscapes: An Engendered Perspective (2017), Beliefs and Rituals in Ancient Eastern North America (2015) and Feasting with Shellfish: Archaic Rituals and Landscape (2010). Other research addresses the history of shell buttons, analytical techniques for archaeological shell and gender in the American past. She is Research Professor of Anthropology at Appalachian State University, Boone, NC, USA.

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