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Caddoan Mississippian culture

Map of the Caddoan Mississippian culture and some important sites

The Caddoan Mississippian culture was a prehistoric Native American culture considered by archaeologists as a variant of the Mississippian culture.[1] The Caddoan Mississippians covered a large territory, including what is now Eastern Oklahoma, Western Arkansas, Northeast Texas, and Northwest Louisiana. Archaeological evidence that the cultural continuity is unbroken from prehistory to the present; that the direct ancestors of the modern Caddo Nation of Oklahoma included the speakers of the Caddo and related Caddo language in prehistoric times and at first European contact, is unquestioned today.[2]


  • Description 1
    • Development 1.1
    • Trade 1.2
    • Language 1.3
    • Sites 1.4
  • European contact 2
    • Caddo today 2.1
  • See also 3
  • References 4
  • External links 5



The Caddoan Mississippians are thought to be an extension of Woodland period peoples, the Fourche Maline culture and Mossy Grove culture peoples who were living in the area around 200 BCE to 800 CE.[3] They were linked to other peoples across much of the Eastern Woodlands through trade networks. This time period saw the introduction of pottery making from peoples to their east, and by 500 CE the bow and arrow from the Southwest. By 800 CE early Caddoan society began to coalesce into one of the earlier Mississippian cultures. Some villages began to gain prominence as ritual centers, with elite residences and temple mound constructions. The mounds were arranged around open plazas, which were usually kept swept clean and were often used for ceremonial occasions. As complex religious and social ideas developed, some people and family lineages gained prominence over others. This hierarchical structure is marked in the archaeological record by the appearance of large tombs with exotic grave offerings of obvious symbols of authority and prestige.[3]

By 1000 CE a society that is defined as "Caddoan" had emerged. They had developed a distinct type of pottery making, later described by the de Soto expedition as some of the finest they had seen, even in their European homeland. By 1200 the numerous villages, hamlets, and farmsteads established throughout the Caddo world had begun extensive maize agriculture.[3] By 1400 Caddo populations had peaked, with many ritual centers beginning to decline in population. A more dispersed settlement system developed, with the bulk of the people living on dispersed homesteads and farms rather than in large villages. By this time the earlier broad cultural unity began to break down, with many distinct local variations developing.[3]

Recent excavations have revealed more cultural diversity within the region than was expected, especially sites along the Arkansas River. Caddoan Mississippian towns had a more irregular layout of earthen mounds and associated villages than did towns in the Middle Mississippian heartland to the east. They also lacked the wooden palisade fortifications often found in the major Middle Mississippian towns. Living on the western edge of the Mississippian world, the Caddoans may have faced fewer military threats from their neighbors. Their societies may also have had a somewhat lower level of social stratification. The location of the western edge of the Eastern Woodlands may account for these differences. The climate was drier, hindering maize production, and the lower population on the plains to the west may have meant fewer neighboring competing chiefdoms to contend with. Major sites such as Spiro and the Battle Mound Site are in the Arkansas River and Red River Valleys, the largest and most fertile of the waterways in the Caddoan region, where maize agriculture would have been the most productive.[4]


Engraved whelk shell from the Craig Mound showing a tattooed figure

Caddoan Mississippian peoples were connected to the larger Mississippian world to the east and other cultures to the southwest by trade networks which spanned the North American continent. Artifacts found in "The Great Mortuary" (Craig Mound) at the Spiro site included wood, Moundville in Alabama. Many featured the elaborate symbolism of the Southeastern Ceremonial Complex, a multiregional and pan-linguistic trade and religious network. Exotic material found at Caddoan Mississippian sites included colored flint from New Mexico, copper from the Great Lakes, conch (or lightning whelk) shells from the Gulf Coast, and mica from the Carolinas.[5] The Spiro site is the only Mississippian site to produce an artifact from Mesoamerica, a piece of black obsidian from Mexico, probably through trade with peoples to the southwest.[6] Using these valued materials, Mississippian artists created exquisite works of art reflecting their cultural identity and their complex spiritual beliefs.


The Caddoan Mississippians were speakers of the many Caddoan languages.[2] The Caddoan languages once had a broad geographic distribution, but many are now extinct. The modern languages in the Caddoan family include Caddo and Pawnee. Both are now spoken mainly by tribal elders.


Site Image Description
Battle Mound Site Located in Lafayette County, Arkansas in the Great Bend region of the Red River basin and has the largest mound of the Caddoan Mississippian culture
Belcher Mound Site Located in Caddo Parish, Louisiana[7] in the Red River Valley 20 miles north of Shreveport[8] and about one-half mile east of the town of Belcher, Louisiana[9]
Bluffton Mound Site Located in Yell County, Arkansas on the Fourche La Fave River.[10]
Caddoan Mounds State Historic Site Also known as the George C. Davis Site (41CE19), located in Cherokee County, Texas 26 miles west of Nacogdoches, Texas on Texas State Highway 21 near its intersection with U.S. Route 69 in the Piney Woods region of east Texas
Gahagan Mounds Site Located in Red River Parish, Louisiana[11] in the Red River Valley
Spiro Mounds Spiro Mounds One of the best-studied archaeological centers of Mississippian culture; located in Eastern Oklahoma in Le Flore County near the modern town of Spiro

European contact

de Soto route through the Caddo area, with known archaeological phases marked

When the Spanish Natchitoches, Hasinai, and the Kadohadacho which were all linked together by a common language.

Caddo today

The Caddo Nation of Oklahoma (previously known as the Caddo Tribe of Oklahoma) is a federally recognized tribe. A tribal constitution provides for a tribal council consisting of eight members with a chairperson, based in Binger, Oklahoma.[12] The tribal complex, dance grounds, and the Caddo Heritage Museum are located south of Binger. 5000 people are enrolled in the tribe, with 2500 living within the state of Oklahoma. The tribe operates its own housing authority and issues its own tribal vehicle tags.[13] They maintain administrative centers, dance grounds, several community centers, and an active NAGPRA office.

Several programs exist to invigorate Caddo traditions. The tribe sponsors a summer culture camp for children.[14] The Hasinai Society[15] and Caddo Culture Club[16] both keep Caddo songs and dances alive, while the Kiwat Hasinay Foundation is dedicated to preserving the Caddo language.[17]

See also


  1. ^  
  2. ^ a b "Tejas-Caddo Fundamentals-Caddoan Languages and Peoples". Retrieved 2010-02-04. 
  3. ^ a b c d "Tejas-Caddo Fundamentals-Caddo Timeline". Retrieved 2010-02-04. 
  4. ^ "Tejas-Caddo Fundamentals-Mississippian World". Retrieved 2010-02-04. 
  5. ^ "Spiro Mounds-A Ceremonial Center of the Southern Cult". Retrieved 09-08-13. 
  6. ^  
  7. ^ "Locality information for Faunmap locality Belcher Mound, LA". Retrieved 2010-02-22. 
  8. ^ "The Caddo Indians of Louisiana". Retrieved 2010-02-22. 
  9. ^ "Historical-Belcher". Retrieved 2010-02-22. 
  10. ^ "History of the Ouachita Mountains". Retrieved 2010-02-23. 
  11. ^ "Notice of Inventory Completion for Native American Human Remains and Associated Funerary Objects in the Possession of the Louisiana State University Museum". Retrieved 2010-02-22. 
  12. ^ Constitution and By-Laws of the Caddo Indian Tribe of Oklahoma. National Tribal Justice Resource Center. (retrieved 13 September 2009)
  13. ^ Oklahoma Indian Affairs Commission. 2008 Pocket Pictorial. Page 5 (retrieved 13 Sept 2009)
  14. ^ Hasinai Summer Youth Camp. Hasinai Society. 2008 (retrieved 13 Sept 2009)
  15. ^ General Information. Hasinai Society. 2008 (retrieved 13 Sept 2009)
  16. ^ Edge, Donald. Caddo Culture Club. Caddo Nation: Heritage and Culture. (retrieved 13 Sept 2009)
  17. ^ Background. Kiwat Hasinay Foundation.(retrieved 13 Sept 2009)

External links

  • Caddoan Mounds State Historic Site
  • The Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture (The Caddo Indians)
  • The Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture (Indian Mounds)
  • A History of the Caddo Indians
  • The Norman Mound Site
  • The Harlan Mound Site
  • Caddo Archaeology
  • Caddoan Archaeology Newsletter
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