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Mississippian Cultures (900 AD to 1,700 AD)

The Mississippian Culture was the dominant culture during this period in what is now the eastern United States. It's origins are probably about 900 to 1,000 AD, and remnants of their culture survived to the time of the early French explorers in the late seventh century. The culture was probably centered around the lower Mississippi River. These people were the mound builders. Not domed burial mounds, but temple mounds shaped like flat-topped pyramids of extraordinary size. The Mound at Cahokia Exit Disclaimer, Illinois (just east of St. Louis) is 700 by 1,080 feet at its base, is 100 feet high, and was constructed with 22,000,000 cubic feet of dirt (over 160,000 dump truck loads).

None of these mounds have been completely excavated because of their sheer size, but most have been sampled and many burial sites and villages have been excavated. The culture is known mostly by its pottery , because the temperate humid climate in which they lived destroyed virtually everything except pottery, stone, shell, bone, and charred wood. Their economic base was corn, but beans and squash were also cultivated. They used heavy chipped flint and animal shoulder blade hoes in their fields. Their major game animal was deer, which provided meat, bone, and hides, although they ate many smaller mammals. Fresh water shellfish (mussels) and fin fish (primarily drum) also appear to have provided a steady source of food. The fish were taken with bone and copper hooks, often attached to long set lines. They had carved wooden masks, ornate clay and carved stone pipes, and effigy carvings of human sacrifice.

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