The 82nd Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2013)

Markers of corporate identity: variation in postmortem treatment and burial deposition in the Wisconsin Late Woodland Effigy Mound Tradition


1Department of Anthropology, Michigan State University, 2Department of Radiolgy, Division of Anatomy, Michigan State University

Saturday 11:45-12:00, Ballroom B Add to calendar

The purpose of this presentation is to report on how corporate identity may have been reinforced through juxtaposition of postmortem manipulation and deposition of the dead in the mortuary program of the Late Woodland Effigy Mound Tradition of southern Wisconsin.

The Late Woodland Effigy Mound Tradition has conventionally been characterized as a regional cultural tradition with shared material and ritual traits, including mound construction, with little variability between Effigy Mound groups. When Effigy Mound features are examined closely it becomes apparent that few Effigy Mound sites conform to the type site.

First, this study focuses on variability between eight Effigy Mound sites and across three regions of Wisconsin in the postmortem treatment of burials. Second, although there is homogeneity for the horizontal deposition of the dead in Effigy Mounds, each mound building community tended to have certain preferences for the vertical deposition of remains in: a subfloor pit, on the mound floor, or in the mound fill. Finally, there is marked differences between Effigy Mound groups for whether mounds were used for burial purposes and, for mounds containing burials, the number of burials occurring in each burial mound (N=1-4 burials).

Although there may have been an overarching precept for how and what rituals were practiced, there is variability in how the local group embodied the ritual materially. This variation was likely due to local differences in construction and management of the effigy mound groups which may have functioned as high visibility territory markers in a kinship based land tenure system.

This research was supported in part by Kenneth E. and Marie J. Corey Research Enhancement Award.

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