Museum of Native American History in Mississippi

The population of the Mississippian Period surpassed that of other parts of the world, and some towns ranged from modest farmsteads to enormous villages and ceremonial centers. The large-scale cultivation of vegetables like corn, beans, squash, and sunflowers coincided with the apex of agriculture. For defense against raiding groups, village centers had constructed walls, and some even had watch towers, like Cahokia, a city close to St. Louis. Over 20,000 people lived in Cahokia, over 6 square miles in size. The Mississippian people’s diet relied heavily on hunting deer, turkey, squirrels, and raccoons, even though farming made up a substantial amount of the food supplies at the period. The weapon of choice for hunting was the bow and arrow today.

Large-scale pottery production during this period was one of the most intriguing aspects of the Mississippian culture. The Mississippian people mastered the art of creating pots, bottles, plates, and jars from clay by tempering, or strengthening, the clay they used. Nowhere had the skilled craftsmanship and artistic design found by the people who lived in the region now known as modern-day Arkansas surpass the beautiful creation that went into decorating these pottery containers, which differed by location. The Caddo in the southwest, the Quapaw around the lower Arkansas River, and a group known as the Mississippians in the northeast all lived in the Arkansas region at this time. Although the Mississippian Period began as the pinnacle of ancient civilization in the Americas, it ended abruptly when diseases brought by the European invasion nearly wiped out the majority of its inhabitants.


The rarest and most distinctive clay vessels are Mississippian Head Pots, regarded as the height of Mississippian culture. They stand out from other pots because they are shaped like human heads and were created between 1200 and 1500 AD.

Only about 140 of these boats with effigy heads have been found. The idea that head pots represent the deceased or a death mask is common. These pots were frequently depicted with tattoo-inspired painted surfaces and etched lines. There is proof that ear and nostril piercings have been done, and the head pots often show this with perforations. Before being buried as a gift, these jars would have been decorated with feathers or other materials. Southeast Missouri and Northeast Arkansas have yielded the most significant number of these unusual pots.


Typically, the four-corner region of Arkansas, Louisiana, Texas, and Oklahoma contains Caddo pottery. [Generally speaking, compared to most other Mississippian Era pottery, Caddo pottery displayed higher technical construction.] Generally speaking, Caddo pottery outperforms most other Mississippian Era pottery in terms of technical structure. Typically, it has a smoother finish, is more symmetrical, and is thinner. The bottle forms with elaborate engravings were the most artistic works produced. The artist employed a fine covering called slip, a combination of sifted fine clay and occasionally paint, to make the high black sheen frequently observed in Caddo pottery. The artist would use a stone to rub the piece after applying the slip or paint to give it the appropriate high gloss. Even though effigies in Caddo pottery are uncommon, the museum has numerous scarce examples of these distinctively rare vessels in animal and other effigy forms.


The Quapaw people lived in the Arkansas region for the shortest time of the three ceramic cultures. Around 1500 AD saw, the late appearance of the Quapaw, who remained in the area up to historical times. The Quapaw people are renowned for their exquisitely painted vessels that feature the hues of red, white, and black. Pottery was frequently created in the shape of a puppet, which accurately and vividly represented objects and animals. These bizarre statues occasionally feature images of dogs, deer, otters, frogs, shells, and even people. The pottery made in Quapaw is regarded as some of North America’s most artistic and distinctive pottery.