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Once we recognise the nature and purpose of decorative art in North American Indian civilisation, we can respond to the design and symbolism of a whole range of American Indian folk art, including, baskets, blankets, pots, murals, beadwork on pouches and bags, head masks and sculpture.
To put it another way, Native American Indian art was not intended to be appreciated purely for its aesthetics: it had a specific role to play in pictorializing the values and events of the Indian way of life, while serving basic needs like warmth and shelter.
A settled culture, based on maize agriculture, its people built a more complex form of platform mound and evolved more advanced pottery techniques.
Mississippian culture artifacts include shell chokers and cups, small-scale figurative stone sculpture, copper plates like the Wulfing cache, and ceremonial masks.
The Hopewell Turner mound serpent made from mica is thought to be a clothing ornament and its production was based on a technology that included whetstones, grindstones, hand hammers, chisels and flint knives.
Many of these objects have been found in burial mounds together with stone tobacco pipes decorated with bird imagery, and ornaments of stone, flint, mica and pearl.
The Mississippian culture of the south-east Woodland culture flourished (800-1500 CE) throughout an area east of the Mississippi river which includes today's Midwestern, Eastern, and Southeastern United States.
It encompasses tribes like the Caddo, Choctaw, Muscogee Creek, Natchez and Wichita.
The North American continent was first peopled by hunters who crossed from Siberia across the Bering Straits about 25,000 years ago. Introduction North American Indian Art Early Woodland Art Late Woodland Art South-East American Indian Cultures The Art of the Plains South-West and Far West North-West Native American Indian History Timeline National Museum of the American Indian Institute of American Indian Arts Collections The discovery of the American continent in the 15th century brought Europeans into contact with cultures whose peoples practised a way of life and an ancient art stabilized millennia before, sometimes living under Neolithic conditions well into modern times.The North American Indian was primarily a hunter and food gatherer.Among the various tribes of the south-east, the Seminoles are famous for their crafts, notably textile art, including doll-making and patchwork clothes.The plains area of North America extends from west of the Mississippi river to the Rocky mountains, and from the Saskatchewan river in Canada to central Texas.Early Woodland culture is noted for the ceramic art and pots of the Deptford culture (c.2000 BCE - 200 CE), as well as the carved stone tablets, animal hide costumes and engraved shells of the Adena culture.During the Middle Woodland culture, two areas in particular developed a strong culture of visual art, the Hopewell near Ohio (100-500 CE) and the Mississippian (800-1500 CE) (see below).Gradually with the cultivation of maize, nomadic hunting communities became settled agricultural ones, and the making of effigies, pipes and other cult objects became distinctive elements in a diverse culture that spread along the eastern seaboard area of North America known as the woodlands.Although there were several distinct cultures within the region, they all buried their dead in earthen mounds, which has led to the preservation of much of their art.It is difficult for men to appreciate the culture and art of a bitter enemy, and for most of the history of North America the settler was in a state of perpetual warfare against the Indian, until the latter was almost destroyed both physically and culturally.The settlement of North America is perhaps the most complete in history, and the crafts of the native Indian inhabitants have only really become appreciated as the culture that produced them is dying.