In central Georgia, a group of newcomers made their way there around 900 CE. They drove out the local Woodland culture and established several settlements. Archaeologists refer to these people as Mississippians since it is believed that the Mississippi River Valley is where their way of life first developed.
On the Macon Plateau, close to the Ocmulgee River, the Mississippians built a major ceremonial complex and settlement in what is now the Georgian city of Macon. Although they left no written records, archaeologists have uncovered many items that shed light on this society’s life and culture. Only a fraction of the “Macon Plateau” civilization, including the ceremonial complex, is still visible today. The Early Mississippians constructed another sizable hamlet six miles away. Several smaller settlements once stood close to the Ocmulgee River’s Fall Line, where the fertile Coastal Plain and mountainous Piedmont met.
The most obvious—and intriguing—evidence of the Mississippian culture is represented by earth mounds. The mounds were used for various things, including as enormous platforms. The platform mounds typically featured flat-topped pyramidal buildings with ramps for more straightforward summit access—the wooden structures on top of the banks used as residences, temples, warehouses, etc. Most of the mounds in the Ocmulgee complex were built gradually, getting more prominent over the years of habitation.
Mounds weren’t always used as platforms. As its name suggests, the Funeral Mound is home to more than 100 graves. Most were plain pits without any accompanying artifacts, while others were elaborate log tombs, and a couple had exquisite copper and shell ornamentation signifying great status. The Mississippians didn’t just construct mounds, though. The most sophisticated earth lodge discovered during excavations has been rebuilt. Essential members of society would have conducted rites or discussed politics in the Earth lodge, or possibly they would have done both.
The widespread mound building indicates a sophisticated social organization among the Mississippians. The planning and carrying out of construction projects would require a strong leader. The presence of the temple mound suggests that religion played a significant role in the community. According to some archaeologists, Mississippian civilization was divided into “chiefdoms,” consisting of numerous towns. Each village had a leader, perhaps under the direction of a Priest-Chief who had more authority.
The sedentary farmers lived in the town on the Macon Plateau. They used tools made of stone, bone, and wood to do extensive farming. In addition to corn and beans, other vital crops included squash, pumpkins, sunflowers, and tobacco. They kept extra food in baskets and pots, and the surplus freed them up to focus on other facets of their lives.
The Mississippians hunted small game like raccoon, turkey, rabbit, beaver, squirrel, turtles, and deer to supplement their diet. Every part of the animal was utilized, including the bone used to produce jewelry, fishhooks, and projectile points, and the tanned skins used to create clothing. Even though hunters used various techniques to track down their prey, a bow and arrow were still vital for a successful hunt.
The products used in daily life showcase Mississippian art. Local clays were coiled and sculpted by women to create pots. Early Mississippian pottery was produced in various sizes and shapes that were suitable for everyday use and ceremonial purposes. Although they favored simple surfaces, the pottery’s graceful and occasionally intricate forms speak to its artistry and beauty. The pots sometimes have puppets on them. Women weaved clothes and baskets, decorating them with different patterns. Mississippians also found the time to create personal adornment items. According to historical reports of the Native Americans and evidence from other archaeological sites, individuals adorned their bodies with shell gorgets, beads, tattoos, paint, ornate hairstyles, feathers, and a variety of ear ornaments.
The game “Chunkey” was one Mississippians enjoyed playing. A participant rolled a disc.
A stone was thrown across the ground when other players threw their spears at it. The winner was determined by which player’s spear got closest to where the disc halted. The Mississippians also engaged in a ball game strikingly similar to lacrosse today. Using wooden racquets and a sizable playing area, two opposing teams attempted to score by launching a small leather ball between two upright posts at either end of the field. Typically played between two opposite villages, the baseball game occasionally served as a means of resolving disputes.
The village on the Macon Plateau had lost its significance as a Mississippian cultural hub by the year 1200. It’s possible that the people moved elsewhere or were assimilated by the local population. Mississippian culture persisted in communities like Etowah in Northern Georgia, Moundville in Alabama, and Spiro, Oklahoma.
Around 2 12 miles down the Ocmulgee River from the Macon Plateau, a late Mississippian settlement called Lamar was founded around 1350. The locals constructed two earthen mounds, one encircled by the only spiral ramp of its kind still known to exist in this nation. The location is protected as a separate section of Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park and gives its name to a widespread late Mississippian southeastern civilization.