Graveside at Mitchell Ridge

Early eighteenth century graveside scene at Mitchell Ridge as envisioned by artist Frank Weir.
Enlarged cultural sequence.

The above scene is inspired and informed by archaeological evidence from Feature 64, Burial 4 and from several other Early Historic graves at the site, as well as ethnohistorical accounts of Atakapan peoples. For instance, like Feature 64, the grave pit is ringed by large posts, some of which were square-hewn and these very likely represent salvaged shipwreck timbers. As described in the Mortuary Patterns section of the exhibit, Burial 4 was that of a young man 18-20 years of age who was laid on his back and accompanied by grave goods including hundreds of glass trade beads, whooping crane whistles, and a cluster of drum teeth and pebbles thought to represent a rattle. On one side of the floor of the grave pit was a small burned patch interpreted as a likely ritual fire that would have been part of the mortuary rites accompanying the interment of the young man.

Keep in mind, however, that the intent of this interpretive painting is not to reconstruct the exact details of this one burial. Instead the goal is to present a plausible visual reconstruction of 18th-century funerary events and show how some of the artifacts and other archeological evidence from the site might have been used in real life. Austhos Black and Ricklis sketched ideas for the scene and provided Weir with background information, including artifact and site imagery, archeological details, ethnohistorical leads. The resulting scene is Weir’s artistic synthesis, borrowing elements from multiple sources to evoke the setting and portray a graveside scene at Mitchell Ridge.

Frank Weir brings more to the painting that artistic ability. He holds a Ph.D. in Anthropology from Washington State University and headed up the archeology program at the Texas Department of Transportation for over 25 years. Since retirement Weir found time to combine his art with his long fascination with the aboriginal peoples who lived in Texas.

The Mitchell Ridge painting was commissioned by Meredith Dreiss who has several ties to the site. She is an expert in shell technology and it was she who analyzed the shell artifacts from Mitchell Ridge, just has she has done for several other sites along the Texas coast and inland including the Guadalupe Bay and Loma Sandia sites. For the Coastal Prairies and Marshland exhibit set Dreiss contributed content on what she has learned about shell technology in three different sections elsewhere on this website. See Shell Ornaments and Shell Tool. Finally, Dreiss also has a family connection to Mitchell Ridge as the eldest daughter of George and Cynthia Mitchell, for whom the site is named.

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