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Mississipian Archaeological Digital Repository

Jennifer Bengston (PhD Candidate, Anthropology)

The Mississippians were the most socially-complex peoples to ever inhabit prehistoric North America, and their sites generally date to between AD 1050 and AD 1500 (several groups in the Southeast United States continued to practice a Mississippian lifestyle at the time of European contact). Their lifeway was characterized by a ranked social structure with ascribed status differentiation, hierarchical inter-site political organization, ubiquitous cleared-field maize agriculture, and a set of common religious institutions and iconography. They dramatically modified their physical environments by clearing plazas and building earthen mounds of variable size and for various purposes, many of which are still evident on the landscape today. Mississippian groups inhabited an area spanning from northern Florida to Illinois and from the Atlantic plain to Eastern Oklahoma (though evidence of their influence is even more widespread). Among the most important and intriguing Mississippian archaeological sites are Aztalan in Wisconsin, Spiro in Oklahoma, Moundville in Alabama, Etowah in Georgia, Lake George in Mississippi, and Cahokia in Illinois Unfortunately, data and other materials pertaining to Mississippian sites are scattered throughout private offices, universities, museums, websites, and the minds of researchers. It can be difficult for researchers (particularly graduate students), to find the materials and information they need for their research projects. This is equally true for every step of the research process, whether you are developing a research problem (i.e. What has already been done? What questions need to be answered or reassessed?), trying to find or develop a data set (i.e. Where are collections curated and whom should you contact for access?), or writing up your results (i.e. What kind of supporting documents might you need to interpret and support your results?). This can be a time-consuming and frustrating process and sometimes it is hard to know where to begin. Furthermore, as a lot of work in Mississippian archaeology is based on inter-site comparison, it would be beneficial to compile information and materials in a way that facilitates such comparisons (i.e. similar scales and formats for maps and photographs when possible, a standardized set of basic site data, etc).

Created by Jennifer Bengston (2012 PhD, Anthropology), The Missisipian Archaeological Digital Repository (MADR) involves the collection, digitization, and organization of materials such as maps, photographs, field notes, publications, gray literature, bibliographies, websites, and raw data within a single digital repository, which will be generally organized by site. Created using KORA, an open source digital repository platform created by MATRIX (http://, MADR preserves materials in a digital format while improving scholarly accessibility and providing an integrated, searchable network of relationships between diverse types and sets of information. Due to the sensitive nature of some of these materials, the complete repository is not available for unhindered public use.

While the initial core content of MADR is from one particular site (Aztlan) generously contributed to the project by Dr. Lynne Goldstein (Anthropology), the ultimate goal is to allow widespread access for and contribution by private sector archaeologists, public sector archaeologists, and academic archaeologists, and students (both graduate and undergraduate).