My clan is the clan of the Deer. Today we bury my cousin. Today we send her spirit on a journey…

Infant Burial Urn

Burial Urn, Infant Burial 68A, Town Creek

About 600 years ago, Town Creek Indian Mound served as a ceremonial center. It was the site of social occasions and feasts, and within the confines of the stockade, it was used for mortuary rituals and burials . . .

She was my daughter. My sister helped raise her to be a part of our clan. She was three years old, and now we must be sure she has everything she needs to take with her into the next world.

I am her uncle. I now place her body in the burial vessel that will carry her on her journey. Because we are of the same clan, it was my job to help—her father was from another clan, and we raise our own. When we lost her, it was a terrible loss to the whole clan, and we will grieve that loss . . .

Inside the Town Creek stockade, scientific archaeology uncovered other mortuary structures, possibly from separate clans.

I will grieve her loss, because now I cannot teach her what I have learned: making pots and clothing, cooking, tending the fields—I could have taught her many things.

Tonight I will help cook the food that we will eat during the burial feast, and we will share this food with all the village and the other clans . . .

Outside the burial hut, feasts were prepared for the living and a wake went on, sometimes for several days. Members of the village purified themselves by drinking the "black drink," made from the yaupon shrub.

The time has come to send her on her journey. We will help move her spirit from this world into the next . . .

Mortuary Exhibit

Ceremonial urns were used at Town Creek for infant burials. The child's body was wrapped in deer skins and cloth. A burial place was selected and the clay urn was set into the ground with its rim slightly visible. Then the urn was "freed" by breaking the bottom with a rock to help the infant's spirit pass through the vessel into another world.

In a clan society, the aunt and uncle helped the Mother to raise the child. Often the biological father was not a part of this child-rearing, and not present at the burial.

Mortuary Exhibit

At the end of the ceremony, the Mother would place an offering or gift with the body. Finally, a lid was placed on the urn and covered with soil.

It is believed that mortal remains were tended for a certain period of time, after which the breath and soul of the deceased continued its journey and passed into the next world.

I am the priest of the clan. This morning I drank the black drink to purify and clean my spirit. I am called the Shaman of the Deer clan, and I am here for every ceremony in life and death. Now we prepare this infant child to meet her grandparents, to meet the ancestors that have gone before. Because she did not live long, she does not carry the clan identity of an adult, and so we must help her to be seen and known by her ancestors. She takes this gorget with the sign of the Deer clan.

I take these beads—made of shell by my mother—from around my neck, and place them with my child in the urn. When she meets our ancestors, they will know her by these beads. She will take them with her . . .

Return to top of page

Return to the Town Creek Indian Mound home page