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11SA557 is a pictographic rock art site in the Hill Section of southern Illinois. To date, 33 icons, both simple and complex, have been identified. The distinctive biophysical qualities of the site have compelled an interpretation that it was in some fundamental sense “female.” Ethnohistorical and ethnographic explorations inform a treatment of 11SA557 as a religious theater where female puberty ceremonies of the Dhegiha Sioux were performed. Exploitation likely dates to the Protohistoric period. Twenty-one elements of religious theater are explored archaeologically and ethnographically. The application of the heuristic model of religious theater afforded a measureable enhancement of the understanding of the site.


This article was originally published in Illinois Archaeology 2012. Vol. 24. pp. 1–70.


Copyright is retained by Illinois Archaeological Survey and is published here with their permission.