Mississippian Construction, Labor, and Social Organization in Western Kentucky

Open Access
Hammerstedt, Scott William
Graduate Program:
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
June 24, 2005
Committee Members:
  • George Robert Milner, Committee Chair/Co-Chair
  • Dean R. Snow, Committee Member
  • Lee Ann Newsom, Committee Member
  • Barry Earl Scheetz, Committee Member
  • Mississippian
  • labor
  • mound
  • palisade
  • construction
  • Kentucky
This dissertation examines the evidence for status differentiation between residents of the Annis Village, a single mound Mississippian site along the banks of the Green River in Butler County, Kentucky. Excavations conducted by the Works Progress Administration (1939-1940) and Penn State (2002-2004) exposed over 7,000 m2 of the community, including the entire platform mound. A total of 34 structures, three palisades, and numerous other features were excavated, and over 20,000 artifacts were found. Status differences are normally measured using elaborate burials, fancy artifacts, and monumental architecture. However, most of these studies have focused on larger Mississippian sites that make up a proportionally low number of sites. Smaller mound sites, such as Annis, are much more numerous and have great potential to contribute to a more full understanding of Mississippian sociopolitical complexity. At Annis, comparison of mound (elite) and village (non-elite) materials do not reveal significant differences, leaving labor investment in monumental architecture as one of the few distinctions available. Using ethnographic and experimental data, I calculate the labor required to construct each stage of the platform mound, the structures on its summit, and the associated palisades, as well as the number of workers that would have been necessary to complete each task. The results indicate that labor investment, while crucially important to Mississippian societies, was not overly taxing on the local population and could have been accomplished easily by a relatively small number of people in a reasonably short period of time. Based on the lack of exotic items, I argue that the residents of Annis and other sites in the vicinity did not participate in a prestige-goods economy. Evidence of status is much more subtle and is reflected in the costs of monumental architecture.