Early Art of the Southeastern Indians
Feathered Serpents and Winged Beings
By Susan C. Power
(University of Georgia Press, Hardcover, 9780820325019, 288pp.)
Publication Date: May 2004
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Presenting artifacts originating in the Archaic through the Mississippian periods--from thousands of years ago through A.D. 1600--Susan C. Power introduces us to an extraordinary assortment of ceremonial and functional objects, including pipes, vessels, figurines, and much more. Drawn from every corner of the Southeast--from Louisiana to the Ohio River valley, from Florida to Oklahoma--the pieces chronicle the emergence of new media and the mastery of new techniques as they offer clues to their creators' widening awareness of their physical and spiritual worlds.
The most complex works, writes Power, were linked to male (and sometimes female) leaders. Wearing bold ensembles consisting of symbolic colors, sacred media, and richly complex designs, the leaders controlled large ceremonial centers that were noteworthy in regional art history, such as Etowah, Georgia; Spiro, Oklahoma; Cahokia, Illinois; and Moundville, Alabama. Many objects were used locally; others circulated to distant locales.
Power comments on the widening of artists' subjects, starting with animals and insects, moving to humans, then culminating in supernatural combinations of both, and she discusses how a piece's artistic "language" could function as a visual shorthand in local style and expression, yet embody an iconography of regional proportions. The remarkable achievements of these southeastern artists delight the senses and engage the mind while giving a brief glimpse into the rich, symbolic world of feathered serpents and winged beings.