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Ancient Objects and Sacred Realms

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Ancient Objects and Sacred Realms. Interpretations of Mississippian Iconography. Edited by F. Kent Reilly III and James F. Garber. Foreword by Vincas P. Steponaitis. (University of Texas Press, Austin: 2007. Pg. 320. 81 b&w Illustrations.) ISBN 10: 0-292-71347-9. ISBN 13: 978-0-292-71347-5.

Reviewed by Herbert White - March 14, 2007

Ancient Objects and Sacred Realms is a compilation of ten essays on various aspects of Mississippian iconography and how these images increase our knowledge and understanding of prehistoric societies located in the Eastern part of the United States. This work has been edited by F. Kent Reilly III and James F. Garber, who also contributed articles to this collection and penned the book's introduction. The other authors whose works appear in this collection include George E. Lankford, James Brown, Vernon James Knight, Judith A. Franke, David H. Dye, and Alice Beck Kehoe. All are respected scholars in their own fields, which include archaeology, anthropology, and art history. The text also includes a foreword by Vincas P. Steponaitis, Professor and Director, Research Laboratories of Archaeology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Most of the essays in this collection were developed from workshops devoted to the study of the Southeastern Ceremonial Complex (CECC) held at Texas State University. This study of Mississippian Period iconography has since been refined, and as this book explains, it is more apt to call the study of this period the Mississippian Ideological Interactions Sphere (MIIS). As such, this text concentrates upon the study of the art and symbolic systems of this period, and the distinct stylistic changes associated with this period. This book follows this model and takes an interdisciplinary approach to the study of Mississippian iconography, incorporating input form not only archaeologist, but also folklorists, art historians, anthropologists, and native American religious practitioners. From this basis they explore not only the actual material remains of the period, but also how these remains help us to understand the differences and similarities between various Mississippian societies. As important, these essays explore how the study of iconography of this period is being used to increase our understanding of the mythology, cosmology, ideology, and political organization of these societies.

Ancient Objects and Sacred Realms provides important insights into the ongoing study of this period, and it represents an up-to-date overview of the current methodologies and research being conducted in this area. Combining ethnographic, archaeological and art historical data that authors clearly delineate the stylistic differences associate with Mississippian art, both in terms of the various societies, and over time. This information will prove invaluable to other researchers, and students who are investigating this varied field in which there is still much to learn. Ancient Objects and Sacred Realms is an upper-level college text that is suited for students and scholars interested in pre-Columbian Studies, Native American Studies, Anthropology, Archaeology, Art History, and Folklore.

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