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.

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