Along the Pathway of Souls: An Iconographic Analysis of the Hickory Ridge Cemetery Site (8ES1280) In Pensacola, Florida

Cindy Loretto Sommerkamp

          The Hickory Ridge site (8ES1280) is a Mississippian cemetery in Pensacola, Florida. The artifact assemblage of the Hickory Ridge Cemetery contains much ideological information in the form of iconographic symbols. This thesis is an analysis of the Hickory Ridge assemblage using the recently developed interpretive techniques from the multi-disciplinary Southwest school of iconography. By applying these methods to the Hickory Ridge assemblage, this research reveals a close ideological connection between the coastal Pensacola culture and the major Mississippian ceremonial site of Moundville in central Alabama.
          Native American concepts of animism, shamanic trance, and the dual soul provide a functional interpretation of this cemetery within a Mississippian cosmological framework. The symbols of Hickory Ridge suggest that the people using this site believed that their soul traveled along a Pathway of Souls (the Milky Way) after death. They also appear to have shared a multi-layered cosmological model with the people of Moundville. Through the interpretation of symbols from this site and from a complex Pensacola Incised variety Gasque vessel known as the Bird Pot, death, dying and the afterlife are explored as they pertained to the Pensacola peoples using this northern Gulf Coast cemetery site in approximately A.D. 1450.