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Brown discusses cosmology

February 11, 2011

Sometimes broken shells and stones are more than garbage. Such items found in Craig Mound are part of a complex cosmological tableau, according to James A. Brown, a professor of archeology at Northwestern University.

Brown gave a lecture this Monday titled “Craig Mound Cosmology: Reconstructing the Great Mortuary at Spiro” in the Morgan Room of Polling Hall.

Craig Mound is one of Oklahoma’s Spiro Mounds and was constructed as a ceremonial ground by Mississippian Period Native Americans. The Great Mortuary, the part of Craig Mound Brown talked about, was constructed circa 1400.

The Great Mortuary consisted of several vertical layers connected by cedar poles. It included artifacts, human remains and ceremonial figures. These figures included representations of deities that were paired by identity, color, gender, and source location along a north-south axis.

“This was a sacred, spiritual plan,” said Brown. “Laid out carefully with a lot of thought and patterning.”

The items in the mound were collected from across North America, specifically Kansas, Georgia, Mexico and other places in the world known to the Spiro Mounds society. Many items, due to their spiritual power, likely came with a caretaker.

“Each one would be like a nuclear reactor at a spiritual level,” said Brown.

Once the items were gathered, they were ritually broken before being arranged in the Great Mortuary.

Brown explained the mound was built during a drought to turn back time by encouraging the heavens to return to an earlier state.

Craig Mound was excavated in the 1930s, carried out by artifact collectors that Brown likened to grave robbers. The excavations were unsystematic and many artifacts were destroyed. After the Oklahoma legislature outlawed unauthorized excavations, the University of Oklahoma conducted a scientific survey of the site from 1936 to 1939.

“What is found in the Craig Mound is truly exceptional, unique maybe,” said Brown.

BY WELSEY TEAL
Copy/Layout Editor

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