Ancient Native American Pottery and Religion

Some of their specialization was in pottery. The Mississippian culture, which the Etowah
Indians were a part of, would’ve usually contained fragments of seashells as a binder and that
is one way that you can tell Mississippian pottery from other cultural types of pottery. That’s the inclusion of limestone and seashells. So by looking at the pottery that we find
in the Mississippian period, there are some things that we can tell. Looking at some pottery, you’ll notice that
it’s decorated with symbols. Such as some with crosses in the middle. This cross–anytime you see something with
cross within the Native American cultures–it has to do with what they call an axis mundi,
or the center of the universe. So it goes to their belief in a four-part
timed world, meaning east, west, north, south. Their north includes an upper spirit world
and the south would also include an underworld like the world for the dead. We do have some pottery that has bird effigies
on them. Birds live in the upper world. So they are a lot of times associated with
your spirit. Whereas the circular symbols sometimes–think
of a rock splashing in water where you have water rings. It sometimes is associated with water. Water can be associated with portals to the
underworld. So the world of the dead. So a lot of times these will point you in
the direction of spiritual uses. We have some here that have holes in them
for hanging with string, so we know that when they were used they were hung from an item. So this would most likely be a cooking jar
that you’d hang over a fire or some type of storage jar. Also, sometimes you will find a pot with a
hole in the bottom of the pot. This is like a ritual sacrifice of the bowl
itself because the bowl was considered to be a living entity. So sometimes in burial you may find this in
a bowl, a way of killing the pot. They would also do this with other structures,
but basically symbolic destruction of something so that it couldn’t be used anymore.

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