Mississippian copper plates, or plaques, are plain and repousséd plates of beaten copper crafted by peoples of the various regional expressions of the Mississippian culture between 800 to 1600 CE. They have been found as artifacts in archaeological sites in the American Midwest and Southeast. The plates, found as far afield as Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Wisconsin, were instrumental in the development of the archaeological concept known as the Southeastern Ceremonial Complex. Some of the more notable examples are representations of raptorial birds and avian-themed dancing warriors.
Copper trade routes throughout the Eastern Woodlands were established during the Archaic period (3000 - 1000 BCE) and continued into historic times. Copper was usually imported from the Great Lakes region; however other sources of copper have been found elsewhere including in the Appalachian Mountains near the Etowah Site in Alabama.
For generations the Indigenous peoples of North America pursued copper sources and transmitted the skill of copper’s manipulation and preparation as a special material for use in elite goods on to their descendants. Elites at major political and religious centers during the Mississippian period used copper ornamentation as a sign of their status by crafting the sacred material into representations connected with the Chiefly Warrior cult of the Southeastern Ceremonial Complex. These elites used a trade network that spanned most of North America to acquire exotic trade items from far away, trading their own locally manufactured elite goods and materials.