Transforming the Landscape (Paperback)
Rock Art and the Mississippian Cosmos
This beautifully illustrated volume examines American Indian rock art across an expansive region of eastern North America during the Mississippian Period (post AD 900). Unlike portable cultural material, rock art provides in situ evidence of ritual activity that links ideology and place. The focus is on the widespread use of cosmograms depicted in Mississippian rock art imagery. This approach anchors broad distributional patterns of motifs and themes within a powerful framework for cultural interpretation, yielding new insights on ancient concepts of landscape, ceremonialism, and religion. It also provides a unified, comprehensive perspective on Mississippian symbolism. A selection of landscape cosmograms from various parts of North America and Europe taken from the ethnographic records are examined and an overview of American Indian cosmographic landscapes provided to illustrate their centrality to indigenous religious traditions across North America. Authors discuss what a cosmogram-based approach can teach us about people, places, and past environments and what it may reveal that more conventional approaches overlook. Geographical variations across the landscape, regional similarities, and derived meaning found in these data are described. The authors also consider the difficult subject of how to develop a more detailed chronology for eastern rock art.