The 84th Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2015)

Post-mortem processing and mass burials at Wilson Mound, Cahokia


Department of Sociology, Anthropology and Social Work, Eastern Connecticut State University

March 26, 2015 , Gateway Ballroom 3 Add to calendar

Wilson Mound, located between the Cahokia and East St Louis precincts, presents a unique context to examine early Mississippian (ca. AD 1100) mortuary processing and burial practices specifically in relation to secondary burial and mass burial events. Post-mortem processing of human remains at Wilson Mound includes intentional disarticulation of the body using sharp implements, as well as secondary interment following natural decomposition and disarticulation. Originally excavated in the 1950s by Preston Holder, burials in Wilson Mound represent a single burial event of an estimated 190 individuals interred in five primary burials and 43 bundle burials. This poster presents results of a recent reanalysis of these remains. Evidence for disarticulation, extended mortuary processing and natural decomposition, is presented. Data regarding post-mortem processing of human remains were obtained through comparative analysis of original excavation maps and the sample of human remains collected for analysis. Of 190 individuals included in a single mass burial event, 185 reflect varying states of disarticulation and decomposition at the time of final interment. Of the human remains available for analysis, 58 adults (20 females, 15 males, and 23 unknown sex) and 2 children were identified. The findings from this reanalysis reveal new information about Mississippian mortuary practices highlighting similarities among contemporary mortuary mounds at Cahokia, East St. Louis, and St. Louis emphasizing a shared practice and manipulation of the dead.