Social contexts of production and use of pottery engraved in the Hemphill style at Moundville
Recently there has been considerable debate about the social and political organization of Moundville (AD 1020-1650), a Mississippian ceremonial center with 32 earthen mounds, located in west central Alabama. This complex issue is addressed here using a stylistic analysis of pottery bottles and bowls engraved in the Hemphill style (AD 1325-1450), Moundville's local representational art style, that determines the formal characteristics of religious subjects such as winged serpents, crested birds, raptors, bird tails, hands, and centering symbols. Style will be used to examine Moundville's social and political organization during the 150-year Necropolis stage (AD 1300-1450) of its occupational history, when pottery engraved in the Hemphill style was produced. The concept that style similarity is an index of interaction among artisans and that these interactions are shaped by social forces operating within a society is used to evaluate three alternative models of Moundville's social and political organization, which have been suggested in the literature. The first, which is referred to in this text as a Political Economy model, suggests that Hemphill-style artisans were producing pottery under the control of Moundville's political elite. The second, which is referred to in this text as a Sacred Economy model, suggests that Moundville was dominated by a coherent mortuary ideology during the Necropolis stage and that the pottery was integral to mortuary ceremonies. The third, which is referred to in this text as an Associations model, suggests that sodalities were a key organizing principle of Moundville's society and that possession of a Hemphill-style vessel indicated membership in a particular sodality. Each of these models has different implications for Moundville's social and political organization and implications relating to the diversity of different aspects of the Hemphill style through time. The Hemphill style was seriated to examine changes to the style through time. In addition to style, geographic distributional data indicates where these vessels may have been used and if that use was restricted. Evidence of use-wear was also used, indicating the extent to which these vessels had an extended use-life before they were interred. Finally, iconographic considerations were taken into account when evaluating the models.