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Ceremonial Figurines on Pottery Bottles

by Jim Cherry, Fayetteville, Arkansas

Originally Published in the Central States Archaeological Journal, Vol.55, No.4, pg.270

These two bottles are from the Notgrass site, 3MS15, in Mississippi County. Both were found to have incised figures on their surfaces.


The first image (pictured above left and right) is of a mythological creature, probably an “Uktena.” They are a creature of the under­world, having horns, claws, and a snake-like tongue. The image is incised upside down, but when drinking from the vessel, the creature would appear right side up. The right image above is an enhanced view of the engraving im­ages of two dancers. The first has a head con­sisting of a corn stalk, and he has no hands nor feet. The second has the head of a bird with a hooked beak and a three pronged forked eye symbol. Lines are draped down from the arms suggesting wings, and he has bird-like clawed feet. This is a classic image of “Bird-man” as described by Phillips and Brown in Pre-Columbian Shell Engravings from the Craig Mound at Spiro, Oklahoma. Figure 182 from shell cup 303 from Spiro has a very similar image of Bird-man.

This ceramic bottle was found many years ago at the Wildy site, 3MS 10, in Mississippi County, Arkansas. It stands 73/4 inches in height, and features two incised ceremonial figures. They ap­pear very similar and both have been decapitated. Additionally, the hands and feet are missing. Currently in the collection of Dub Lyerly, Ash Flat, Arkansas.

 “Used by Permission of the Author”
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