From the Middle Archaic through Mississippian periods of the prehistoric American Midwest (ca. 7000–700 B.P.), the specific location, form, and intensity of funerary activity varied through time, but always within a limited, yet evolving, range of alternatives. This material record can be understood as resulting from the interaction of traditional (i.e., meaningful) symbolic systems, the agency of the participants, and specific (i.e., historical) social, economic, and political contexts. In particular, we examine the shifting emphasis on mortuary ritual versus ancestor cult and how this is manifested in terms of the location and form of burial mounds and cemeteries.