Ritual at the Mill Cove complex: realms beyond the river

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... Royal-stand out from all others along the river in terms of sheer size, frequency of human burials, and amount and diversity of exotic stone, mineral, and metal (Milanich 1994:269-270;Moore 1894aMoore , b, 1895. Portable objects of both geographic and temporal distances took on sacred value in St. Johns life, as they were rendered imperative to St. Johns ritual and social reproduction (Ashley and Rolland 2014). Participation in exchange networks enabled and fueled contacts with nearby neighbors and distant mound centers and settlements of the Early Mississippian world. ...
... Situated in the shadow of the Shields Mound is Kinzey's Knoll (Fig. 4). This ritual or special-event shell midden contains a staggering quantity and unique variety of faunal materials suggestive of feasting, and an extraordinary assortment of both seemingly domestic and ritual items that includes pottery, decorated bone pins, shell beads, and fragments of greenstone, mica, quartz, hematite, and copper (Ashley and Rolland 2014). Stone points consist of earlier curated or scavenged Archaic forms, contemporaneous arrowheads (Pinellas), and two Cahokia sidenotched points (Fig. 5). ...
... Residents of Mill Cove and Mt. Royal were consumers of foreign goods and raw materials that concluded their long travels and use lives in St. Johns mortuary or ritual contexts (Ashley 2002(Ashley , 2012Ashley and Rolland 2014). In the past, researchers typically assumed that these exotic items made their way to northeastern Florida through either down-the-line or direct trade between mound (nodal) centers, although these two mechanisms are not mutually exclusive (Brown et al. 1990;Milanich 1994:269;Payne and Scarry 1998:42-48). ...
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No area along the far edges of the Mississippian world is as remote from Cahokia as northeastern Florida. But objects of possible Cahokian derivation, though limited in number, made their way to this distant locale The most compelling material evidence in Florida for any kind of connection to Cahokia comes from the Mill Cove Complex and Mt. Royal along the St. Johns River of the northern peninsula. Situated about 100 km from one another, these two fisher-hunter-gatherer communities were recipients of copper and stone artifacts that likely originated in the American Bottom, some 1200 km away. The overall geographical distribution of Cahokian styles and artifacts enmeshed varied internal and external processes and flows that encompassed exploration, migration, diaspora, trade, and politics. While no evidence exists for a Cahokian outpost or diaspora as far south as Florida, the presence of American Bottom artifacts along the St. Johns River could have involved more than the stock answer of simple down-the-line-exchange. This essay explores issues of long-distance travel, direct contact, knowledge seeking, object biographies, and diplomacy among peoples from these geographically disparate locales.
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A large focus of Mississippian period archaeological research concerns itself with the role groups have played in the long-distance social exchange networks prevalent across the Mississippian World. The Mill Cove Complex, a Mississippian period (A.D. 900-1250) village and dual sand mound burial complex situated on the periphery of the Mississippian World in Jacksonville, Florida is one such case. The St. Johns II people living at the Mill Cove Complex had connections deep into the Mississippian southeast reaching all the way to Cahokia. Understanding the role of these unique people within the large social networks requires an examination of all archaeological material recovered from the site. The lithic assemblage from modern excavations (1999-present) is the final missing component in building this understanding. This lithic typology, based upon macroscopic and geochemical analysis, provides the final foundational set of data required for future research necessary to gain a more complete view of the St. Johns II people and their role in Mississippian long-distance social exchange. It lends insight into local community practices as well, highlighting the importance of lithic raw material in ritual use, illustrating direct connections with Cahokia based upon the presence of projectile points from the American Bottom, and demonstrating the resourcefulness of a people who overcame a lack of raw material within their geographic area through the maintenance of social networks and conservative use and maximization of procured stone resources.
Highlights •14C results for four east-central Florida carvings (Hontoon Island; Tomoka State Park) range ca. AD 1300-1600, spanning the proto-historic/historic periods •87Sr/86Sr results for two of the three Hontoon carvings are consistent with the immediate locale, while the third suggests a different provenance •Pinus sp. was used at Hontoon, while Peltophorum sp., currently not native to Florida, was used at Tomoka
Large accumulations of ancient shells on coastlines and riverbanks were long considered the result of garbage disposal during repeated food gatherings by early inhabitants of the southeastern United States. In this volume, Asa R. Randall presents the first new theoretical framework for examining such middens since Ripley Bullen's seminal work sixty years ago. He convincingly posits that these ancient “garbage dumps” were actually burial mounds, ceremonial gathering places, and often habitation spaces central to the histories and social geography of the hunter-gatherer societies who built them. Synthesizing more than 150 years of shell mound investigations and modern remote sensing data, Randall rejects the long-standing ecological interpretation and redefines these sites as socially significant monuments that reveal previously unknown complexities about the hunter-gatherer societies of the Mount Taylor period (ca. 7400-4600 cal. B.P.). Affected by climate change and increased scales of social interaction, the region's inhabitants modified the landscape in surprising and meaningful ways. This pioneering volume presents an alternate history from which emerge rich details about the daily activities, ceremonies, and burial rituals of the archaic St. Johns River cultures.
Feasts are important social events but their traces in the archaeological record are often ambiguous. The residues of feasts among mobile hunter–gatherers are particularly difficult to discern due to the rarity of association with structural remains and anthropological expectations for large feasts to be limited to complex societies. This article considers the potential of isolated single event pit features in documenting the scale and composition of feasts among small scale foragers. The results of faunal analysis from a large pit feature associated with a burial mound at the late pre-Columbian Parnell site in northern Florida demonstrate the importance of pits in representing discrete depositional events that followed feasts. While the taxa, element distribution, and associated artifacts would be impossible to differentiate from domestic refuse in a midden context, the discrete and isolated context at Parnell, far from residential sites and the influence of Mississippian chiefdoms, gives visibility to a large social event incommensurate with the density of population in the area. The orchestration of such a large feast, likely associated with a funeral event, denotes networks of obligation that extended beyond those typical of small scale foragers, indicating a degree of social complexity belied by other categories of archaeological remains.
The archaeology of Early Bronze Age mortuary practices in southern Britain can be described as a sequence running from inhumation through to cremation in which the more elaborate grave assemblages are those associated with some of the earlier inhumation deposits. This sequence was accompanied by the building of burial mounds where many of the later cremation deposits were buried in the margins, or dug into the surface, of those mounds. By considering the burial ritual from the point of view of the mourners who employed the symbolic resources available to them to facilitate the safe disposal of the dead and to confirm inherited rights and obligations, it is possible to interpret the sequence of archaeological remains as indicating the increasing use of funerals as periods of display which contributed toward the establishment of complex genealogical systems.
Burial, the ritual interment of the dead, is guided by cultural ideas and traditions concerning the “afterlife” and continued relationships of the living with ancestors. Mortuary rituals of several stages woven into lengthy ritual cycles are often practiced by societies in which kinship is the principal means of social organization and the sponsorship of feasts advances kin group status. We compare ethnographic examples from Indonesia with archaeological examples from the southeastern and Mid-Atlantic United States in order to reconsider some interpretations concerning the meaning of different burial formats and what they indicate about social stratification and religious ritual. Archaeologists should keep in mind that excavated burial formats are only a “snapshot” that may represent an intermediate moment in the mortuary process or “death cycle” rather than a final conclusion. These cycles are what keep the spaces and places of death in motion rather than fixed and final. Spaces of death also warrant more recognition for their often shifting claims about the status of the bereaved, rather than only the status of the deceased. By examining mortuary processes from several areas in Indonesia, where ethnographically documented death rituals are designed to move the recently deceased and their living descendants into a better afterlife location or status, we suggest further possibilities for interpreting Native American mortuary spaces used by people for whom death likely was more a process than a single event.