The archaeological site of Spiro is famous for a range of aritfacts including effigy pipes, engraved shell artifacts, embossed copper sheets, bead necklaces, and ear spools that were discovered in the "Great Mortuary" context.

Engraved shell cup fragment that is very similar to a specimen published by Brown (1996: Figure 2-138m). The design can be interpreted as a masked figure who carries a forked staff of the variety that Phillips and Brown (1978:Plate 280.1) identify as a Serpent Staff. Described and published by Brown and Hamilton (1965: 55, Figure 5) as a "Busk" dancer; the fragment measurements in English units are given as 3 7/8 by 3 3/16 inches.


Engraved shell cup design that is similar to a specimen published by Brown (1996:Figure 2.142m). The design motif is probably the head of a serpent. Described and published by Brown and Hamilton (1965: 55, Figure 18) as a conventionalized Snake head; the fragment measurements in English units are given as 3 1/2 by 3 1/4 inches.


Engraved conch shell gorget with a "sun circle" design decoration. This specimen was first published by Brown and Hamilton (1965:Plate 4); Brown (1996:594, Figure 2-134j) illustrates this specimen as a type 3 gorget and reports that it measures 16.35 cm in length. The green discoloration on the lower right and upper left corner of the gorget is the traces of a copper stain. Phillips and Brown (1984: Plate 338A) and Brown (1996:594) assign this gorget to Craig C style. Described and published by Brown and Hamilton (1965: 55, Figure 4) as an oblong gorget with the "cross-in-circle" motif.


Engraved shell cup with the design of the eye within a hand motif. The artist specifically portrays the hand with long nails of the type that Phillips and Brown (1978) infer might be linked to the shamanistic practice of defleshing the bones of elite dead. The longnail trait appears on other specimens illustrated by Brown (1996:2-139a-c). The eye represented on the hand belongs to the "Nonconforming Eye" variety as described by Phillips and Brown; if the hand is thought to be held upright, then the eye can be perceived as looking upward.


Engraved shell cup decorated with the design of a snake that wears the antlers of the deer.


Fragment of an engraved shell cup that Phillips and Brown (1984:Plate 27) identify as intertwined snakes. Described and published by Brown and Hamilton (1965: 55, Figure 17) as a conventionalized snake; the fragment measurements in English units are given as 3 13/16 by 7 3/16 inches.


Another fragment of the engraved shell cup that Phillips and Brown (1984:Plate 27) identify as intertwined snakes. Described and published by Brown and Hamilton (1965: 55, Figure 16) as a conventionalized snake; the fragment measurements in English units are given as 5 3/8 by 9 3/4 inches.


Engraved shell cup with a cross pattern design.


Decorated shell fragment.


Undecorated shell.


Undecorated shell.


Undecorated shell.


Shell core pendant from the columella of a whelk (Busycon sinistrum). Hamilton (1952:56, 87) estimated that over 400 shell core pendants, like this one, were discovered at Spiro during the looting of the site.


Pearl bead necklace (restrung). Brown (1996:583) reports that pearl bead necklaces appear in all phases (Spiro I, II, III and IV) of the site.


Pearl necklace closeup.


Restrung necklace made of whole shell beads; probably Olivella nivea.


Whole shell bead necklace, closeup.

Bibliography

Brown, James A.
1996 The Spiro Ceremonial Center. Memoirs of the Museum of Anthropology - University of Michigan 29.

Brown, James A. and Henry W. Hamilton
1965 The cultural and artistic world of Spiro and Mississippian culture: Spiro and Mississippian Antiquities from the McDannald Collection. Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.

Hamilton, Henry W.
1952 The Spiro Mound. Missouri Archaeologist 14.

Phillips, Philip and James A. Brown
1978 Pre-Colmbian Shell Engravings from the Craig Mound at Spiro, Oklahoma. Peabody Museum of Harvard University, Cambridge.

Website created 7 February 2009
Website updated 19 February 2009