News for Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Spiro Archaeological Site: Travels on the Path of Souls

Kent ReillyKent Reilly

School for Advanced Research Lecture Series Concludes

Ancient treasure recovered from a hollow chamber called the Spirit Lodge in eastern Oklahoma is the topic of a colorful talk by anthropologist F. Kent Reilly. The School for Advanced Research welcomes Dr. Reilly on June 15, 2017, for Spiro Archaeological Site: Travels on the Path of Souls. This is the final event of SAR’s Public Lecture Series, Crossing Global Frontiers. It will be held at 6:30 p.m. at the James A. Little Theatre in Santa Fe.

Reilly’s talk will present a survey of ritual themes of the ancient Caddo and Wichita peoples of western border lands of the Mississippi Valley. Reilly says, “I will familiarize my audience with the superb objects recovered from the Spirit Lodge, as well as draw them into a thematic understanding of both the magnificent objects and the cosmic event they are witnessing. The cosmology and the ritual world that these objects represent certainly will be strange, wonderful, and different to most of the viewing public, but my presentation should imbue respect as well as awe at their beauty and mystery.

Reilly will reveal many of the ancient treasures recovered from the Spirit Lodge, which was found within the Craig Mound at the Spiro archaeological site located in eastern Oklahoma. An ancient Native American ritual event occurred ca. AD 1400 that included an interment and the establishment of a priestly office, a celebration of millennial significance, and the act of creating a ritual stage that, for the people who created it, was an ongoing ritual performance of cosmic significance. These themes will be explored at the Spiro exhibition planned to open in the fall of 2019. The centerpiece of the exhibition will be a reproduction of the Hollow Chamber that will house reproductions of the original objects placed as near as possible to their original locations. Native American artists will create the reproduction of these objects whenever possible.

F. Kent Reilly III is a professor in the Department of Anthropology and director of the Center for the Study of Arts and Symbolism in Ancient America at Texas State University. His interests converge around the religion, art, and visual validation of elite authority in New World chiefdoms and early states, with a primary focus on Mesoamerican civilization. He was a guest curator and a catalog contributor to the 1995 Princeton University exhibition, The Olmec World: Art, Ritual, and Rulership. He has published articles on the ecological origin of Olmec symbols, the influence of Olmec symbols on the iconography of Maya rulership and the origin and function of the Olmec symbol system. In 2004, he was a member of the advisory board and a catalog contributor to the Art Institute of Chicago exhibition, Hero, Hawk, and Open Hand; Ancient Native American Art of the Midwest and South. In 2011 Reilly was chosen as the field anthropologist consultant for the Muscogee Nation of Florida.

Associated links:

SAR Presidential Seminar: Spiro Mounds Iconography, May 2016
Medieval Life in America’s Heartland (PDF, 624 KB), Timothy R. Pauketat and Susan M. Alt
Kent Reilly - The Art and Iconography of the Ancient American South (2012)

This is the final lecture in the 2016-2017 SAR Public Lecture Series. The lecture is free to SAR members. Nonmembers are $10. Please register at

The lecture series is made possible through the generous support of Adobo Catering, the Betty and Luke Vortman Endowment Fund, Pajarito Scientific Corporation, the Flora Crichton Lecture Fund, Thornburg Investment Management, Shiprock Santa Fe, and SAR members, with additional support provided by Santa Fe Dining, Inc. For more information about the 2016-2017 Public Lecture Series, visit or contact Laura Sullivan (505) 954-7238 or sullivan[at]

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