Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Richard L. Jantz

Committee Members

Lyle W. Konigsberd, Ian Rockett, Jan F. Simek


Cemeteries are archaeological phenomena that accumulate over time. When formed in socially unstable cultural environments, the messages communicated by mortuary-based material symbols may change over the course of grave accumulation. This dissertation explores whether Mississippian Period mortuary deposits in Mound C, of the Wickliffe Mound Group (15BA4) changed over time.

Cemeteries are places where the dead's social qualities are defined. They help reemphasize important community values and provide a biologically safe repository for the dead. Symbolized mortuary features convey seven general types of social information. This relationship is sensitive to temporal change.

Several analyses placed the cemetery into socio-biological contexts. Radiometric analysis identified that graves accumulation coincided with an unstable socio-political expansion. Health conditions were similar to those in Mississippian communities. Age and sex structures conformed to those in other like assemblages. Evidence of internal structure was also identified. The interments exhibited 34 distinct attributes. For each of 104 interments, these attributes were transformed into Jaccard pseudo-distance measures. Several clustering approaches were used to model the structural organization of these variables. Cophenetic analyses determined that the Average Linkage Approach provided the best fit with the original data's structure.

No less than 71 unique mortuary attribute combinations were deposited in the cemetery. These were arranged into nine distinct clusters. The internal structure of each cluster varied between groups. The cemetery was observed to follow the same low entropy structural arrangement found in other Mississippian Period cemeteries. As a means of controlling for time, each clustered interment was stratigraphically ordered. Graves representing the most ancient and most recent deposits were compared. No strong differences between initial and ending accumulation events were found. Social change during the Mound C Cemetery accumulation period was not strong enough to alter the existing mortuary ritual in an archaeologically definable manner. Given that village use was longer than Mound C Cemetery use, more than one facility must have been used by the community. Major shifts in community dynamics may discourage interest in established burial areas and promote construction of new facilities.

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