Date of Award

Fall 12-2011

Degree Type

Masters Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Anthropology and Sociology

Committee Chair

Marie Danforth

Committee Chair Department

Anthropology and Sociology

Committee Member 2

Edwin Jackson

Committee Member 2 Department

Anthropology and Sociology

Committee Member 3

Jeffrey Kaufmann

Committee Member 3 Department

Anthropology and Sociology


The Mississippian Period (A.D. 1000-1500) is distinguished by reliance on stable agriculture, sedentary ranked populations, and production of prestige goods. Sociopolitical structure was based on kinship, wealth, and power, and can be revealed through the local mortuary programs. This thesis explores the mortuary practices observed at an ossuary at Shady Grove (22QU525), a small mounded center in Quitman County dating to the Early Mississippian Period, based on demographics, burial mode, cemetery location, and associated grave goods.

The Burial 43 ossuary, excavated in 2010 contained stacked bundle burials of at least 78 individuals. All age groups and both sexes were present. There were 22 artifacts recovered, including 12 shell tempered vessels and a copper ornament. There were both collective offerings to the entire group and several artifacts interred with two individuals, which may indicate they were persons of higher status. It is unclear if the ossuary contains a single kin group or a sample of the entire population, which would indicate that everyone was allotted equal access to both locally produced and trade items. The observed difference in the burial method of stacked burials and its location under Mound B shows the variability of mortuary practices during this time period in the region. The information gained from this study will help in the understanding of the sociopolitical organization of smaller chiefdoms in the Mississippi Delta and Lower Mississippi Valley.