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Mississippi is a state in the southeastern United States of America. The southernmost of the “Deep South” states, it ranks 29th among U.S. states in size and covers 48,434 square miles (125,482 square kilometers). It is bordered by Tennessee to the north, Alabama to the east, Louisiana to the south, and the Gulf of Mexico to the south and west. Jackson is the state capital and largest city.
Mississippi is naturally well suited to agriculture; its soil is rich and deep, and its landscape is laced with many rivers. Until the mid-20th century, the dominance of a rural, unhurried lifestyle generally impeded industrialization. However, in 1940 there were just about as many workers employed in manufacturing in Mississippi as there were on the farms, and by 1990 roughly one-third of Mississippians were engaged in manufacturing while only one-tenth toiled on the land.
Mississippi is the site of the earliest known settlements in what is now the United States.
The first inhabitants of what is now Mississippi were people who came from Asia via the Bering Strait and who probably entered North America sometime between 20,000 and 10,000 BC. Fossil bones found at an archaeological excavation at Holly Bluff on the Mississippi River in Warren County, Miss., are evidence that some of these early hunters pursued woolly mammoths to extinction. Around 4000 BC new arrivals entered North America from Asia via the Bering Strait. They were the ancestors of the American Indians, who spread eastward over the continent while it was still joined to Asia by a wide land bridge known as Beringia. This area, now the Bering Strait and the Chukchi Sea, was at its lowest level during the Pleistocene Epoch (about 2,600,000 to 11,700 years ago). At that time a narrow strait—the Bering Strait land bridge—separated Asia from North America.
The Mississippian culture was a Native American civilization characterized by mound-building. Archaeological evidence, primarily in the form of ruins of cities built by the Mississippians, has shown that this culture thrived from about AD 800 to 1500. It was located in the Mississippi River Valley—principally in what are now the states of Mississippi, Alabama, and Tennessee. The name Mississippi comes from the Ojibwa word misi-ziibi (“Great River”).