Title: Engraved Shell

Date: ca. 1200 – 1400
Culture: Mississippian (Oklahoma, United States)
Material: Busycon pervecsum shell
Size: 11” H x 6.25” Diam.
Credit: Gift of Dr. Kent Westbrook
On View: Yes

The Spiro Mounds complex is one of the most significant archaeological sites in North America. Located in eastern Oklahoma, it consists of a series of mounds spread over more than 100 acres and represents the westernmost expansion of Mississippian culture. Craig Mound, or Mound C, was used for burials and included large, engraved conch shells like these.

It is believed that these shells were used as cups, probably for the ingestion of a ceremonial “black” drink. The ritual is thought to be associated with warfare, as evidenced by warrior depicted on this shell. The man is shown wearing a traditional headdress made from feathers and ear spools similar to ones found at Craig Mound. Of particular note is the lightning bolt extending from his eye, which is often associated with warfare in Mississippian culture. The man is also holding a mace, which would have been used in hand-to-hand combat and various military ceremonies.

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