Effigy Pots and their Significance

Red frog effigy bowl, Rose Mound, Mississippian culture, Shell-tempered earthenware and red mineral pigment. The exterior of this vessel is highly polished. PM 80-20-10/22063
Two-headed rim effigy jar, Fortune Mounds, Mississippian culture, Shell-tempered earthenware. PM 80-20-10/21753.1
Red and white painted conch shell effigy, Stanley Mounds, Mississippian culture, Shell-tempered earthenware with red pigmented and white pigmented slips. This vessel was modeled after cups fashioned from the shells of large whelks. PM 79-4-10/20191
Opossum effigy hooded bottle, Fortune Mounds, Mississippian culture, Fine shell- and grog-tempered earthenware. Hooded effigy bottles are characterized by an orifice at the side of the upper portion of the vessel. PM 80-20-10/21436
Opossum effigy bowl, Neeley's Ferry Mounds, Mississippian culture, Shell-tempered earthenware. PM 80-20-10/21226
Frog effigy jar, Stanley Mounds, Mississippian culture, Shell-tempered earthenware. Apart from fish, frogs are the most common subjects for whole vessel effigies at sites in the St. Francis River region. PM 79-4-10/20176.1
Fish effigy bowl, Fortune Mounds, Mississippian culture, Shell- and grog-tempered earthenware. The small mouth and prominent gill slits of this effigy indicate that it represents the bigmouth buffalo fish . PM 80-20-10/21459
Bird rim effigy bowl, Neeley's Ferry Mounds, Mississippian culture, Shell-tempered earthenware. The species of this bird, with its prominent crest, large eyes, and broad, thick, bill is unknown. PM 80-20-10/21190
Fish effigy bottle, Halcomb Mounds, Mississippian culture, Shell-tempered earthenware. PM 80-20-10/21572
Red and buff head vase, Fortune Mounds, Mississippian culture, Shell- and grog-tempered earthenware. This head vase is one of the most naturalistic of Mississippian head vases. PM 80-20-10/21542
Red-on-buff bird effigy bottle, Halcomb Mounds, Mississippian culture, Fine shell- and grog-tempered earthenware with red mineral slip. The effigy vessel here takes the form of a bird body with a broad, short tail, but no head. PM 80-20-10/21639
Hooded effigy bottle, Halcomb Mounds, Mississippian culture, Shell-tempered earthenware. This effigy is likely a stylized human effigy in which all attributes have been conventionalized out of existence. PM 80-20-10/21614
Fish effigy bowl, Neeley's Ferry Mounds, Mississippian culture, Shell-tempered earthenware. PM 80-20-10/21118
Double-headed rim effigy bowl, Rose Mound, Mississippian culture, Shell-tempered earthenware. PM 80-20-10/21843
Cat-serpent rim effigy bowl, Halcomb Mounds, Mississippian culture, Shell-tempered earthenware. The cat-serpent was a mythological being with attributes of a carnivore and a serpent, and sometimes a falcon. PM 80-20-10/21621
Bird rim effigy bowl, Neeley's Ferry Mounds, Mississippian Culture, Shell-tempered earthenware. This vessel has elaborately fenestrated head and tail appendages and originally came from a child's grave. PM 80-20-10/21147

Mississippian culture ended in the late sixteenth century as the climate changed and European explorers brought disease and political turmoil. Effigy pots are emblematic of the cultures artistic floresence and ritual life, and the vessels in the Curtiss Collection provide archaeologists with a rich vocabulary for describing and interpreting the iconography of Mississippian peoples.

Rim effigies, defined by the stylized heads and tails that rise from a pot's rim, are found throughout the Southeast. They typically depict birds common to the area or toothy-mouthed cat-serpents, creatures with a feline face and serpent tail that may represent underworld monsters or spirits.

Animal effigies were made in the form of bowls, jars, and bottles. They portray frogs, oppossums, conch shells, and other creatures that may embody cultural meanings derived from community myths and narratives. Fish of all types were an important fod for Mississippians, and bigmouth buffalo fish are a favored form in effigy vessels.

Curtiss collected two styles of human-form effigies. The hooded effigy bottle, in which all human attributes are heavily stylized, is a wide-spread Mississippian motif. More rare and evocative are head vases. These naturalistic effigies depict Mississippian hairstyles, facial tattooing, and jewelry and may relate to mortuary rites or enemy sacrifice.