Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Birdman: Recovering an overlooked culture Mike Ruggeri, the CAS treasurer, will take us on a journey through the Mississippian culture

Faster than a speeding arrow and more powerful than a herd of bison…the Birdman is the most revered deity of the Mississippian civilization. The Iconography of his presence in Mississippian
civilization stretches as far north as Minnesota, as far west as Oklahoma and Texas, as far south as Louisiana, as far east as the Southern Atlantic sea-coast and on to Florida and like Superman Birdman joins the ranks of story and legend back to Gilgamesh.1

Mike Ruggeri, the CAS treasurer, is a Distinguished Professor Emeritus from the City Colleges of Chicago, Michael Ruggeri is a co-moderator of the largest and oldest Ancient Americas listserv on the World Wide Web;, and he moderate websites for the IAAA on Facebook and Tumblr and the South Suburban Chapter of the IAAA on Facebook and Tumblr. The link to 52 different web pages on all aspects of the Ancient Americas, the largest repository for the Ancient Americas on the World Wide Web. The link to his Ancient Americas Web Pages is

He will take us on a journey through the Mississippian culture to seek out answers to the major Mississippian deity known as the Birdman. He will introduce us to the exotic symbolism of the Birdman religion, that has elements from Mesoamerica, the Adena and Hopewell cultures further east further back in time, and elements that became a major religion across the vast expanse of this civilization with the cultural “Big Bang” at Cahokia at 1050 AD, which made Cahokia the most powerful city of the Mississippians, and whose trade and missionary activities spread the Cahokian concept of the Birdman in all directions culturally and artistically.

Mike will show us the stunning and major art pieces of the Birdman religion in finely crafted copper works, gorgets, shell work, and describe the complex meaning of the these art pieces in a fully detailed description of who the Birdman was across the Mississippian realm. The Cahokians produced a style in his iconography known as the Braden style, which in turn evolved in different regions into the Craig style, Hemphill style, High-tower style and variations. And he will end his exposition with the powerful site within Cahokia at Mound 722, which showed in real political ways, the power of the Birdman in this culture.

The iconography of the Birdman complex has a rich artistic presence by way of widespread copper works detailing the divinity across a large swath of America. He is also found on shell work across
the same area in the form of Birdman incised gorgets and on whelk shells imported from the Gulf of Mexico from 1000-1400 A.D. Birdman’s evolution as a major deity in North America goes back to the B.C. era in the Adena and Hopewell cultures.

Despite the fact that the Mississippi-an civilization lasted for 500 years in the heartland of America, this is the least studied culture in academia. Only now are scholars beginning to do serious research into this civiliza-tion as a whole. While there are many books and research articles on Cahokia, Moundville, Etowah, and Spiro among other major Mississippian sites, the study of the civilization as a whole has produced only a few notable books. As this field becomes more popular, there will be a new flood of research in this area.

The Birdman complex lived on in the post contact era with the Red Horn cycle of the Sioux, Oneota, Osage and other major tribes in the present USA.

1. Gilgamesh was likely an actual Sumerian king
who ruled over the city of Uruk, but the tale
tells the story of an epic hero along the lines of
Hercules from Greek Mythology. The story was
first recorded by a Babylonian scribe around
2000 BC, but the tale itself tells of Sumerian
people and myths.

2 Archaeologist Melvin Fowler, who died in
2008, discovered the enormous burial ground in
1967 during the excavation of an unusual
mound with a ridgetop. The site, now called
Mound 72, contained five mass graves, each
holding 20 to more than 50 bodies. There were
dozens of other bodies buried by themselves or
in groups at the site, bringing the total count to
270 found by Fowler.

Shamanism in Paleolithic Art

The earliest discoveries of magnificent panoramic murals featuring enigmatic animals in
deep caves of the Pyrenees sparked vigorous controversy and skepticism. Were these
caves really ancient? Then carbon dating became available and archaeologists placed these
paintings from as early as 32,000 BC causing more speculation. The identification of anthropomorphic figures interacting with the animals, in rare cases, as shamans was the most exasperating and bewildering conclusion of all for many scientists and most of the general public.

While an American archaeologist will show you “a shaman’s
pipe” or a shaman’s rattle, how willing might he or she be to discuss
the existence of shamans in Paleolithic art in Europe? This may not be a fair question for many obvious reasons. It is even difficult for scientific Europeans with closer, if not easier, access to these spectacular caves. How
believable is it, that humans, just like us, the Cro-Magnon, crawled into caves to paint the
animals that they hunted? However, many texts happily label figures dressed as animals, or
humans “shape-shifting” into bison, deer or lions, as shaman or sorcerers. Some suggest that
these are acting as figures in a myth.

Who are these experts and what are their theories leading them to their identification of the figures
as shamans? They are archaeologists, anthropologists, psychologists, neurologists, art historians, ethnologists, poets, philosophers, artists and movie producers.

They do not all share the same exact ideas, but the different interpretations
of the shaman, and how they are obtained, is fascinating in itself.

Deb will provide an overview of the views of Jean Clottes, the retired
French Ministry of Culture Director, Erich Newmann, a Jungian psychologist, Alexander
Marshack, a researcher with the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology (at
Harvard) and David Lewis-Williams, neurologist and rock art researcher.

AAA Annual Meeting

East Central Illinois Archaeological Society (ECIAS) will be hosting the IAAA Annual Meeting April 27 - 28, 2018. The meeting will be held in Champaign and Monticello, IL. Detailed information with a registration form will be released within the coming weeks, but it is important to share with your chapter members as soon as possible. This weekend coincides with the Cahokia Conference and the Illinois Marathon so advance planning for overnight stays will be necessary. Many of the local hotels already are filled so if you or your members want to have lodging, you will need to act quickly.

the palimpsest

In January

A CAS audience braved another January to fill the Community Room of the Evanston Public Library to hear Guest Speaker Dr. Jennifer Tobin’s report on the submerged Turkish archeological site of Zeugma.It may be that most CAS members are adequately conversant with the continuing significance of the Fertile Crescent but they may be less aware of Zeugma.

The construction of Zeugma flooded the region of the Euphrates River at only fordable area thus creating the crossroads.

Dr. Tobin’s presentation was concise and excellently illustrated with views
of Zeugma as it swallowed the past.

For more you can use this link:,_Commagene .

R.I.P. Edward J. Lace - 1925 -12/8/2017

News of the death, on December 18, 2017, of Edward J. Lace was announced at the January 2018 meeting CAS Meeting. Ed’s membership in the CAS extends back to the organization’s earliest
days. Many archaeologists working in Chicago came to CAS meetings to meet Ed!

Ed was a frequent CAS Speaker and a longtime member of the Board of Directors. In 2015 he was honored with the CAS Certificate of Distinguished Service.

The meeting observed a moment of silence in observance of his