Mounds of Mississippi Text-Only Version
Please note that this text-only version, provided
for ease of printing and reading, includes approximately 30 pages
and may take up to 10 minutes to print. By clicking on one of
these links below, you may go directly to a particular text-only
The Mounds Builders Essay
Building the Mounds Essay
Preserving the Mounds Essay
List of Sites
Map (you will need to print this separately)
Begin the Tour
The National Park Service's National Register of Historic Places,
Southeast Archeological Center, and Natchez Trace Parkway, in
conjunction with the Historic Preservation Division of the Mississippi
Department of Archives and History, and the National Conference
of State Historic Preservation Officers (NCSHPO) proudly invite
you to discover Indian Mounds of Mississippi. This guide
to the publicly owned, visitor-accessible American Indian Mound
sites of Mississippi provides a compact source of information
on these impressive landmarks of the ancient past. Viewing the
mounds, the traveler will come face to face with a rich legacy
of American Indian cultural achievement. Many diverse Indian groups,
drawn by the bountiful wildlife, warm climate, and fertile soil,
made their homes in what is now Mississippi for thousands of years
before the first Europeans and Africans arrived. Mounds built
of earth are the most prominent remains left on the landscape
by these native peoples. This latest National Register of Historic
Places Travel itinerary highlights 11 mound sites, which include
some of the best-preserved examples in Mississippi. Further information
on mound sites in Mississippi and throughout the Lower Mississippi
Delta can be found in the NPS's Archeology and Ethnography program's
Architects of the Mississippi website.
Although the first people entered what is now Mississippi about
12,000 years ago, the earliest major phase of earthen mound construction
in this area did not begin until some 2100 years ago. Mounds continued
to be built sporadically for another 1800 years. Of the mounds
that remain today, some of the earliest were built to bury important
members of local tribal groups, such as the Boyd,
Bynum, and Pharr mound sites.
These mounds were usually rounded, dome-shapes. Later mounds were
rectangular, flat-topped earthen platforms upon which temples
or residences of chiefs were erected. Examples of this type of
mound can be seen at the Winterville, Jaketown,
Pocahontas, Emerald, Grand
Village, Owl Creek and Bear
Eight hundred years ago, the lower Mississippi Delta was home
to highly organized societies. There were roads, commerce, and
cultural centers anchored by awe-inspiring earthen monuments.
Wonders of geometric precision, these earthworks were the centers
of life. However, mound construction was in a period of decline
in the 1500s, when the first Europeans arrived in the region and
brought with them epidemic diseases which decimated native populations
across the Southeast. As a result, by the time sustained contact
with European colonists began about 1700, the long tradition of
mound building was reaching its end.
These mounds are protected because they are owned by state or
federal agencies committed by law to their preservation. Most
of the mounds in Mississippi, however, are on privately owned
land. As a result, many mounds have been irreparably damaged or
completely destroyed by modern development and looting. Indian
mounds, therefore, are critically endangered cultural sites. We
hope that visiting the mounds described in this travel itinerary
will help you appreciate these irreplaceable monuments of antiquity
and better understand the importance of preserving those that
Indian Mounds of Mississippi offers several ways to discover
these historic places reflecting the cultural achievements of
Mississippi's native peoples. Each highlighted site features a
brief description of the place's significance, color and, where
available, historic photographs, and public accessibility information.
At the bottom of each page the visitor will find a navigation
bar containing links to three essays that explain more about The
Mound Builders, Building the Mounds,
and Preserving the Mounds. These essays
provide historic background, or "contexts," for many of the places
included in the itinerary. The itinerary can be viewed online,
or printed out if you plan to visit Mississippi in person.
Created through a partnership between the National Park Service's
National Register of Historic Places, Southeast Archeological
Center, and Natchez Trace Parkway, in conjunction with the Historic
Preservation Division of the Mississippi Department of Archives
and History, and NCSHPO, Indian Mounds of Mississippi is
the latest example of a new and exciting cooperative project.
As part of the Department of the Interior's strategy to promote
public awareness of history and encourage tourists to visit historic
places throughout the nation, the National Register of Historic
Places is cooperating with communities, regions, and Heritage
Areas throughout the United States to create online travel itineraries.
Using places listed in the National Register of Historic Places,
the itineraries help potential visitors plan their next trip by
highlighting the amazing diversity of this country's historic
places and supplying accessibility information for each featured
site. In the Learn More section, the
itineraries link to regional and local web sites that provide
visitors with further information regarding cultural events, special
activities, and lodging and dining possibilities.
The Southeast Archeological Center and Historic Preservation
Division of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History
are the 11th set of more than 30 organizations working directly
with the National Register of Historic Places to create travel
itineraries. Additional itineraries will debut online in the future.
The National Register of Historic Places, the Southeast Archeological
Center, the Historic Preservation Division of the Mississippi
Department of Archives and History, and Natchez Trace Parkway
hope you enjoy this virtual travel itinerary of Mississippi's
mounds. If you have any comments or questions, please just click
on the provided e-mail address, "comments or questions" located
at the bottom of each page.
On behalf of the Historic Preservation Division, Mississippi
Department of Archives and History, and the Southeast Archeological
Center, NPS, we invite you to explore 11 publicly accessible American
Indian mound sites in Mississippi and experience these impressive
At some point over two thousand years ago the first artificial
mound was built in Mississippi. Eventually there were thousands
constructed for various purposes by the State's precontact inhabitants.
Today, only a small percentage of these remain. The 11 included
in this travel itinerary date from approximately 100 B.C. to 1700
A.D. and are representative samples of sites that were originally
This virtual tour allows you to learn about how the Middle Woodland
(100 B.C. to 200 A.D.) and Mississippian Period (1000 to 1700
A.D.) mounds were built and examine the artifacts and other clues
archeologists use to understand the cultures that made them. These
mound sites offer much more than a tour through thousands of years
of Mississippi history. They stand as testaments to the American
Indian presence on the landscape and as monuments to the first
inhabitants of the southeastern United States. We hope that after
you have traveled to these mound sites online, you will visit
them in person and see these awe-inspiring memorials that were
once the center of life for some of the most highly organized
civilizations in the world.
John Ehrenhard, Director
Southeast Archeological Center
National Park Service
Sam McGahey, Chief Archaeologist
Historic Preservation Division
Mississippi Department of Archives and History
Although the first people entered what is now the Mississippi
about 12,000 years ago, the earliest major phase of earthen mound
construction in this area did not begin until some 2100 years
ago. Mounds continued to be built sporadically for another 1800
years, or until around 1700 A.D. Archeologists, the scientist
who study the evidence of past human lifeways, classify moundbuilding
Indians of the Southeast into three major chronological/cultural
divisions: the Archaic, the Woodland, and the Mississippian traditions.
To date, no mounds of the Archaic period (7000 to 1000 B.C.) have
been positively identified in Mississippi; the mounds described
herein all date to the last two cultural periods.
The Middle Woodland period (100 B.C. to 200 A.D.) was the first
era of widespread mound construction in Mississippi. Middle Woodland
peoples were primarily hunters and gatherers who occupied semipermanent
or permanent settlements. Some mounds of this period were built
to bury important members of local tribal groups. These burial
mounds were rounded, dome-shaped structures that generally range
from about three to 18 feet high, with diameters from 50 to 100
feet. Distinctive artifacts obtained through long-distance trade
were sometimes placed with those buried in the mounds. The construction
of burial mounds declined after the Middle Woodland, and only
a few were built during the Late Woodland period (circa 400 to
1000 A.D.). Woodland burial mounds can be visited at the Boyd,
Bynum, and Pharr sites and
at Chewalla Lake in Holy Springs National Forest. (The Chewalla
Mound is not included in this itinerary because it is not listed
in the National Register of Historic Places).
The Mississippian period (1000 to 1700 A.D.) saw a resurgence
of mound building across much of the southeastern United States.
Most Mississippian mounds are rectangular, flat-topped earthen
platforms upon which temples or residences of chiefs were erected.
These buildings were constructed of wooden posts covered with
mud plaster and had thatched roofs. Mississippian platform mounds
range in height from eight to almost 60 feet and are from 60 to
as much as 770 feet in width at the base. Mississippian period
mounds can be seen at the Winterville, Jaketown,
Pocahontas, Emerald, Grand
Village, Owl Creek and Bear
Mississippian period mound sites mark centers of social and
political authority. They are indicators of a way of life more
complex than that of the Woodland and earlier periods. In contrast
to the relatively simple, egalitarian tribal organization of most
societies of the Woodland period, regional Mississippian populations
were typically organized into chiefdoms--territorial groups with
hereditary, elite leadership classes. Across the Southeast, the
chiefdom system of political organization arose as a means of
managing increased social complexity caused by steady population
growth. This population growth was sustained by agriculture (corn,
beans, and squash)--a revolutionary new means of subsistence that
became an economic mainstay during the Mississippian period.
Mound construction was once again in decline by the time the
first Europeans came to this region in the 1500s. Shortly thereafter,
epidemic diseases introduced by early European explorers decimated
native populations across the Southeast, causing catastrophic
societal disruption. As a result, by the time sustained contact
with European colonists began about 1700 A.D., the long tradition
of mound building had nearly ended.
How Were Mounds Made?
Imagine groups of workers toiling from dawn to dusk, gathering
baskets of dirt. They carry their burdens to a clearing, dump
the soil, and tamp it down with their feet. As the days pass they
retrace their footsteps time after time until a shape emerges
and begins to grow. An earthen mound is born. Over years of ceremonial
use, multiple layers of earth are added during repeated episodes
of construction, gradually building a mound of impressive height.
Variations of this scene were repeated throughout Mississippi
over a span of at least 1,800 years.
More About Mounds
- The shapes of mounds vary. They can be flat-topped pyramids,
rounded domes, or barely perceptible rises on the landscape.
- Mounds can stand alone or be in groups of as many as 20 or
more, as at Winterville. Some mounds are
arranged around broad plazas, while others are connected by
- How American Indians used the mounds also varied. The purposes
of some of the most ancient mounds are still shrouded in mystery.
Some societies buried their dead in mounds with great ceremony.
Other cultures built temples atop the mounds, and worshipers
approached by climbing steep stairs or ramps. Still other earthworks
were symbolic pinnacles of power for leaders who dwelled atop
- Regardless of the particular age, form, or function of individual
mounds, all had deep meaning for the people who built them.
Many earthen mounds were regarded by various American Indian
groups as symbols of Mother Earth, the giver of life. Such mounds
thus represent the womb from which humanity had emerged. With
such sacred associations, mounds were powerful territorial markers
and monuments of social unity, reinforcing and perpetuating
community identity and pride.
Why Save the Mounds?
Every mound has its own chapter to tell in the unfolding story
of the human past. With construction spanning many centuries,
the earthworks, when carefully investigated by archeologists,
reveal how people lived throughout the millennia. But opportunities
to discover more about these mounds and their builders disappear
daily as erosion, farming, urban development, and looting continue
to degrade these sites. Untold numbers of the old monuments have
already been lost, and secrets of our nation's past have vanished
with them. Those mounds that remain stand as a testament to the
vitality, diversity, and creativity of their makers, who developed
the complex societies of long ago. It is up to us to protect the
mounds that are left, so that we and future generations may continue
to experience the wonder of these dramatic memorials of ancient
The Delta Initiative
Public Law 103-433, passed by Congress and signed into law by
President Clinton in October 1994, directs the Secretary of the
Interior to undertake a comprehensive program of studies on heritage
in the "Lower Mississippi Delta." The diverse region
is defined in the legislation as the Mississippi River lowlands
and adjacent hill country in seven states - Illinois, Missouri,
Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi. The
primary goals of this legislation are to recommend methods for
preserving and interpreting the heritage of the region and to
enhance economic development through cultural tourism. In response
to this mandate and in cooperation with federal and state agencies,
the Indian Mounds of Mississippi brochure was created and
published in 1999 to help promote some of the area's rich, yet
often overlooked and little-appreciated heritage sites. This travel
itinerary is a reproduction of that brochure.
Natchez Trace Parkway
The Natchez Trace Parkway, a unit of the National Park Service,
commemorates a historic route used by American Indians, pioneer
settlers, traders, and soldiers during the late 18th and early
19th centuries. Extending 450 miles from Natchez, Mississippi,
to Nashville, Tennessee, the Parkway incorporates numerous visitor
stops of historic, natural, and archeological interest, including
five of the mound sites highlighted herein-- Bear
Creek, Pharr, Bynum,
Boyd, and Emerald. The Tupelo
Visitor Center interprets the archeology and history of the Trace.
To Get Involved
- Join the Mississippi Archaeological Association, open to
all who are interested in understanding and preserving the state's
ancient heritage. Members receive two issues yearly of the journal
Mississippi Archaeology in addition to newsletters highlighting
current discoveries and activities open to the public. For membership
Mississippi Archaeological Association
P.O. Box 571
Jackson, MS 39205-0571
- Support the Archeological Conservancy, the organization that
identifies, acquires, and preserves important endangered archeological
sites in states across the nation, including Mississippi. Site
acquisition funds for the Conservancy are raised through membership
dues and additional contributions. Members receive the lavishly
illustrated quarterly magazine American Archeology and
newsletters describing current aquisition projects. For membership
The Archeological Conservancy
5301 Central Avenue N.E., Suite 1218
Albuquerque, NM 87108-1517
Please Remember. . .
All sites listed in this travel itinerary are protected by law.
Please be aware that unauthorized digging, removal of artifacts
or human remains, or other disturbance of the mounds and surrounding
grounds are strictly prohibited on state and federal lands by
the following statues, as applicable: the Antiquities Law of Mississippi,
the federal Archaeological Resources Protection Act (ARPA), and
the federal Native American Graves and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA).
NAGPRA addresses American Indian concerns about the desecration
of their human remains and the ownership of cultural items. The
Act emphasizes the importance of treating human remains and cultural
items with dignity and respect. Violators of NAGPRA and these
other statues are subject to prosecution. For more information
about federal laws, regulations and standards related to cultural
resources see: http://www.nps.gov/history/linklaws.htm.
Bear Creek Mound and Village Site, 45 miles northeast of Tupelo
Pharr Mounds, 23 miles northeast of Tupelo
Owl Creek Site, 18 miles southwest of Tupelo
Bynum Mound and Village Site, 28 miles southwest of Tupelo
Winterville Site, 6 miles north of Greenville
Jaketown Site, 4 miles north of Belzoni
Nanih Waiya Mound and Village, northeast of Philadelphia
Pocahontas Mound A, 9 miles north of Jackson
Boyd Mounds Site, northeast of Jackson
Emerald Mound Site, 10 miles northeast of Natchez
Grand Village of the Natchez Indians, Natchez
Creek Mound and Village Site
This square, flat-topped mound was built in several stages for
ceremonial or elite residential use sometime between 1100 and
1300 A.D., during the Mississippian period. Burned daub (mud plaster
used in building construction) found on the mound during archeological
excavation indicates the former presence of a temple or chief's
house. A small, contemporaneous habitation area is located to
the south and east of the mound. When acquired by the National
Park Service the mound had been greatly reduced in height by plowing.
Following excavation in 1965, the mound was restored to its estimated
original dimensions of about eight feet high by 85 feet across
Bear Creek Mound and Village Site is located along the Natchez
Trace Parkway (milepost 308.8), about 45 miles northeast of Tupelo,
Mississippi, at the Alabama state line. Open to the public daily,
free of charge.
This site complex consists of eight burial mounds built during
the Middle Woodland period, between 1 and 200 A.D. (A roadside
sign at the site incorrectly reads 1-1200 A.D.). Ranging in height
from two to 18 feet, the mounds are distributed over an area of
about 85 acres. They comprise one of the largest Middle Woodland
ceremonial sites in the southeastern United States. Four of the
mounds were excavated in 1966 by the National Park Service. The
mounds covered various internal features, including fire pits
and low, clay platforms. Cremated and unburned human remains were
found in and near these features, as were various ceremonial artifacts,
including copper spools and other copper objects, decorated ceramic
vessels, lumps of galena (shiny lead ore), a sheet of mica, and
a greenstone platform pipe. The copper, galena, mica and greenstone
did not originate in Mississippi; they were imported long distances
through extensive trade networks. Such ritually significant nonlocal
items typify the Middle Woodland period.
Pharr Mounds are located on the Natchez Trace Parkway (milepost
286.7), about 23 miles northeast of Tupelo, Mississippi.
Open to the public daily dawn to dusk, free of charge. Call 662-680-4025
for further information.
The five Mississippian period platform mounds at this site were
built between 1100 and 1200 A.D. The U.S. Forest Service owns
two of the mounds including the largest 17-foot-high Mound I.
Both are open to public visitation. Archeological excavations
conducted at the site in 1991-1992 by Mississippi State University
revealed the foundation remains of a ceremonial temple or elite
residence that once stood atop Mound I. Structural remains were
found on two other mounds as well. The scant presence of habitation
debris in the areas between and adjacent to the mounds suggests
that the site may have been occupied on a long-term basis by only
a few people, probably those of high social rank. It is also possible
that the site was completely vacant much of the time, visited
by inhabitants of the surrounding region only on ceremonial or
other important social occasions.
Owl Creek Site is located in Tombigbee National Forest, two
and a half miles west of Natchez Trace Parkway on Davis Lake Rd.
From the Parkway, take the Davis Lake exit (milepost 243.1), about
18 miles southwest of Tupelo, Mississippi. Open to the public
daily, free of charge.
Mound and Village Site
The six burial mounds and associated habitation area at the Bynum
site were built during the Middle Woodland period, between 100
B.C. and 100 A.D. The mounds range in height from five to 14 feet.
Five of them were excavated by the National Park Service in the
late 1940s. The two largest mounds have been restored for public
viewing. Mound A, the southernmost of the two restored mounds,
contained the remains of a woman placed between two parallel burned
oak logs at the mound's base. This individual was buried with
an ornamental copper spool at each wrist. Three additional sets
of human remains were also found, consisting of the cremated traces
of two adults and a child. Mound B, the largest at the site, covered
a log-lined crematory pit. An L-shaped row of 29 polished greenstone
celts (axe heads) and the cremated and unburned remains of several
individuals were located on the ash-covered floor. Other artifacts
found in ceremonial context include copper spools, 19 chert projectile
points imported from Illinois, and a piece of galena (shiny lead
ore). Greenstone, copper, and galena, like the distinctive projectile
points, do not originate in Mississippi. These high-prestige goods,
like those found at the Pharr Mounds, were
imported through long-distance trade networks.
Bynum Mound and Village Site is located on the Natchez Trace
Parkway (milepost 232.4), about 28 miles southwest of Tupelo,
Mississippi. Open to the public daily, free of charge.
The Winterville site complex consists of flat-topped, rectangular
ceremonial mounds of various sizes. The mounds are arranged around
a 43-acre plaza, at the center of which is the 55-foot-high Mound
A, the largest at the site. There are no extensive village remains,
indicating that the site was occupied mainly during ceremonies.
It is likely that only members of the social elite, such as chiefs,
priests, and their retainers, were permanent residents of the
site. Of the 23 mounds originally present, four were destroyed
and several others reduced to remnants by agriculture and excessive
grazing prior to the site's acquisition as a state park. Nevertheless,
this mound group remains one of the largest and best-preserved
in the southeastern United States. In recognition of its outstanding
significance, the Winterville site has been designated a National
Most of the mounds at the Winterville site were constructed during
the Mississippian period, between 1200 and 1250 A.D. This intensive
time of mound building reflects contact between local Indians
of the Coles Creek culture and influences emanating from the great
Cahokia site in Illinois, the largest mound center in the United
States. Archeological excavations were conducted at Winterville
in 1967-1968. The finds included structural remains, burials,
and many ceramic and stone artifacts. From this evidence, the
history of the site was reconstructed. The Winterville museum
exhibits a large collection of archeological artifacts, including
decorated pottery vessels, stone tools, and ornaments from Winterville
and other regional sites.
Winterville Site is located on State Hwy 1, about six miles
north of Greenville, Mississippi. The museum is open Monday-Saturday
9:00am to 5:00pm; Sunday 1:00pm to 5:00pm. There is a fee. The
mounds are open every day, dawn to dusk. Call 662-334-4684 for
Two prominent flat-topped rectangular mounds are present at the
Jaketown site. Mound B, the largest, measures about 150 by 200
feet at its base and is 23 feet high. On its eastern side, a projecting
bulge marks a ramp once used as a stairway. Mound C, northwest
of B, is about 15 feet high. While neither mound has been excavated,
distinctively styled pottery fragments found in the surrounding
area indicate that the mounds are probably Mississippian period
earthworks, dating to between1100 and 1500 A.D. Both mounds presumably
had ceremonial temples or elite residences on their summits.
Numerous smaller mounds at the Jaketown site, some of which may
have dated to the Late Archaic/Poverty Point period (1500 to 1000
B.C.), have been destroyed by plowing and highway construction.
The two remaining large mounds described above are owned and protected
by the state of Mississippi.
The Jaketown Site is located on the west side of State Hwy.
7, about four miles north of Belzoni, Mississippi. There are no
on-site visitor accommodations, and the mounds are covered with
dense underbrush. For safety, the mounds should be viewed from
the highway only.
Waiya Mound and Village
This large rectangular platform mound, measuring 25 feet high,
218 feet long, and 140 feet wide, is maintained in a state park.
Nanih Waiya is a Choctaw Indian name meaning "leaning hill."
A small burial mound, now nearly leveled by plowing, is located
outside the park boundaries several hundred yards away. A long,
raised embankment once enclosed the site. Most of this earthen
enclosure has been destroyed by cultivation, but a short
segment remains along the edge of a swamp to the northwest of
the large mound.
The period of construction of Nanih Waiya Mound is uncertain.
Although its rectangular, flat-topped form is typical of Mississippian
period mounds (1000 to1600 A.D.), pottery sherds found on the
surface of the adjacent habitation area suggest a possible Middle
Woodland time range (100 B.C. to 400 A.D.). Until archeological
investigations are undertaken, however, the mound's actual age
will remain unknown.
Although built by American Indians, by the 18th century Nanih
Waiya had come to be venerated by the Choctaw tribe. The site
plays a central role in the tribe's origin legends. In one version,
the mound gave birth to the tribe--the people emerged from the
underworld here and rested on the mound's slopes to dry before
populating the surrounding region.
Nanih Waiya Mound and Village is located northeast of Philadelphia,
Mississippi. Drive about 15 miles on State Hwy 21, turn left
the Nanih Waiya sign on State Highway 393 and continue north
three miles to the mound.
The mound and cave are no longer open to the public.
Call 662-724-2770 or 1-800-GO-PARKS for further information.
This rectangular platform mound, 175 feet across at the base
and about 22 feet high, was built and used during the Mississippian
period, between 1000 and 1300 A.D. Remains of a mud-plastered
log-post building have been found atop the mound. This structure
was used as a ceremonial temple or as a residence of a chief.
An extensive former village area surrounds the mound. The site
has been incorporated into a roadside park.
On U.S. Highway 49 at the town of Pocahontas, about nine
miles north of the Jackson, Mississippi, interchange of U.S. 49
and I-220. Open to the public daily dawn to dusk, free
Most known burial mounds in Mississippi date to the Middle Woodland
times (circa 100 B.C. to 400 A.D.). However, the six small burial
mounds at the Boyd site were built much later, during the Late
Woodland and Early Mississippian periods (circa 800 to 1100 A.D.
). One of these mounds, Mound 2, is situated in a clearing adjacent
to the parking area and is accessible to visitors. Several of
the mounds, including Mound 2, were excavated by the National
Park Service in 1964. The elongated Mound 2 issome 110 feet long
by 60 feet wide and four feet high. Excavation revealed that it
is actually three mounds in one: initially, two mounds were built
side by side, then both were covered with more earth to create
a single oblong, finished mound. The remains of 41 individuals
were found in Mound 2, but there were relatively few accompanying
artifacts. Different pottery types found in separate areas of
this compound mound indicate that it was constructed in two phases:
the first episode during the Late Woodland period and the second,
after a considerable length of time, during the Mississippian
Boyd Mounds Site is located northeast of Jackson, Mississippi,
on the Natchez Trace Parkway (milepost 106.9), approximately six
miles east of the I-55 interchange. Open to the public
daily, free of charge.
Designated a National Historic Landmark, Emerald is one of the
largest mounds in North America. Covering eight acres, Emerald
Mound measures 770 by 435 feet at the base and is 35 feet high.
The mound was built by depositing earth along the sides of a natural
hill, thus reshaping it and creating an enormous artificial plateau.
Two smaller mounds sit atop the expansive summit platform of the
primary mound. The larger of the two, at the west end, measures
190 by 160 feet and is 30 feet high. Several additional smaller
mounds were once located along the edges of the primary mound
summit, but were destroyed in the 19th century by plowing and
erosion. Emerald Mound, built and used during the Mississippian
period between 1250 and 1600 A.D.,was a ceremonial center for
the local population, which resided in outlying villages and hamlets.
Its builders were ancestors of the Natchez Indians. By the late
1600s, the Natchez had abandoned Emerald and established their
capital at the Grand Village some 12 miles
to the southwest.
Emerald Mound Site, near Natchez Trace Parkway, is about
10 miles northeast of Natchez, Mississippi (milepost 10.3). Exit
parkway at Rte. 553 intersection; follow signs to mound, about
1 mile. Open to the public daily, free of charge.
Village of the Natchez Indians
These three platform mounds, an adjacent ceremonial plaza and
associated habitation areas mark the political and religious capital
of the Natchez Indian chiefdom of the late 17th century and early
18th century. A number of French colonists who witnessed the use
of the mounds at Grand Village recorded their observations. These
18th-century accounts offer a rare firsthand glimpse of mound
ceremonialism, by then a nearly extinct holdover tradition from
the precontact period.
The paramount chief of the Natchez, called the Great Sun, lived
at the Grand Village. The French accounts describe both the Great
Sun's house, which stood on Mound B at the center of the site,
and a ceremonial temple, which stood on Mound C, the southernmost
mound of the group. Within the temple, a sacred perpetual fire
was kept burning day and night. Foundation remains of both the
Great Sun's house and the temple were discovered during 1962 archeological
excavations of the mound. Mound A, at the north end of the site,
apparently was no longer in use by the time European chroniclers
arrived. The mounds, which stand about eight feet high, rose in
several stages as the structures that stood on top of them were
demolished and rebuilt in accordance with ceremony.
Elaborate funeral ceremonies for the Natchez elite were conducted
on the mound plaza. These rituals included the sacrifice of relatives
and servants of the deceased. Natchez pottery vessels, as well
as European trade goods obtained from the French, accompanied
the dead. Two of the burials may have been those of the Great
Sun, whose death in 1728 is mentioned in the historical sources,
and his brother and war chief Tattooed Serpent, whose 1725 funeral
was recorded in detail by the French.
Increasing French confiscation of Indian lands led to rapid deterioration
of Natchez-French relations following the death of the Great Sun.
The Natchez attacked nearby Fort Rosalie in 1729, killing most
of the French garrison there. In response, the French organized
a retaliatory expedition in 1730. They and their Choctaw Indian
allies occupied the Grand Village, using the location to lay siege
to the Natchez, who had withdrawn into stockaded fortifications
to the south. During the siege, French troops used the central
mound, formerly the site of the Great Sun's house, as an emplacement
for their artillery. This confrontation marked the beginning of
the destruction of the Natchez as a nation. Although the siege
failed to force their surrender, the Natchez permanently abandoned
their traditional territory as a result of it. Fewer than 300
of the Natchez eventually were captured by the French and sold
into slavery in the West Indies. The remainder escaped to join
other tribes as refugees. Today, people of Natchez descent live
among the Creek and Cherokee Indians.
The Grand Village of the Natchez Indians, designated a National
Historic Landmark, is maintained as a park by the Mississippi
Department of Archives and History. The museum exhibits artifacts
excavated from the site and sponsors public education events and
The Grand Village of Natchez Indians, is located in Natchez.
Turn east off US Hwy. 61/Seargent S. Prentiss Dr. onto Jefferson
Davis Blvd., just south of the Natchez Regional Medical Center.
Proceed on Jefferson Davis Blvd. a half mile to the entrance gate
on the right. It is open Monday-Saturday 9:00am to 5:00pm, and
Sunday 1:30pm to 5:00pm, free admission. Call 601-446-6502
for further information.
By clicking on one of these links, you can go directly to a particular
Indian Mounds Children's Literature
Indian Mounds Video
Links to Mississippi Archeology, Preservation,
Brain, Jeffrey P., and Bill. Day On the Tunica Trail.
Baton Rouge: Louisiana Archaeological Survey and Antiquities Commission,
Anthropological Study Series No. 1, Department of Culture, Recreation
and Tourism, 1994
Ciment, James, Ronald Lafrance, C. Jackson (Editor). Scholastic
Encyclopedia of the North American Indian. New York: Scholastic
Fagan, Brian M. Ancient North America: The Archeology of
a Continent. New York: Thames and Hudson, 1995.
Hutt, Sherry, Elwood W. Jones, and Martin E. McAllister. Archeological
Resource Protection. Washington, D.C.: The Preservation Press,
Kennedy, Roger G. Hidden Cities: The Discovery and Loss of
Ancient North American Civilization. New York: The Free Press,
O'Connor, Mallory M. Lost Cities of the Ancient Southeast.
Gainesville: University of Florida Press, 1995.
Smith, George S., and John E. Ehrenhard (Editors). Protecting
the Past. Boca Raton, Florida: CRC Press, 1991.
Indian Mounds Children's
Carlson, Laurie. More Than Moccasins: A Kid's Activity Guide
to Traditional North American Indian Life. Chicago: Chicago
Review Press, 1994
Holling, Clancy Holling. Minn of the Mississippi. Boston:
Houghton Mifflin, 1951.
Legay, Gilbert (illustrator). Atlas of Indians of North America.
Barron's Educational Series, Incorporated, 1995.
Wingate, Phillipa with Struan Reid and David Cuzik (illustrator).
Who Were the First Americans? (Starting Point History Series).
EDC Publications, 1996.
Indian Mounds Video
Myths of the Moundbuilders from the Odyssey series. Available
through PBS Video, 1-800-424-7963.
Links to Mississippi
Archeology, Preservation, and Tourism
Department of Archives and History
The second oldest department of archives and history in the United
States, the Department administers the following major public
programs: state archives and library, museums and historic sites,
historic preservation programs, public records management, and
The Southeast Archeological
For over 30 years, the Southeast Archeological Center (SEAC) has
carried out a tradition of archeological research, collections
and information management, and technical support for national
park units located in the southeastern U.S. and beyond.
National Park Service Archeology
and Ethnography Program
This program provides national coordination for the protection,
preservation, and interpretation of America's archeological and
ethnographic resources inside the National Park system and beyond.
Check out their popular feature on the Ancient
Architects of the Mississippi.
Delta Region Initiative
This comprehensive program of studies is striving to preserve,
protect, and present to visitors the heritage resources of the
Lower Mississippi Delta Region.
Natchez Trace Parkway
The Parkway, established in 1938, originally followed an historic
Indian trace, or trail, between Nashville, Tennessee and Natchez,
Mississippi. Today it preserves significant Indian mounds such
as Emerald, Bear Creek,
Pharr, Bynum, and
Boyd Mounds, plantation sites, pioneer stands/inns,
archeological sites/villages, pioneer and slave cemeteries and
an historic housing site, part of the resettlement program of
Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal.
Located along the Natchez Trace Parkway, Tombigbee Forest has
a total of approximately 66,600 acres and includes the Owl
Mounds State Historic Site
Largest mound center in the United States today, the Cahokia Site
near St. Louis, Illinois, was once the most sophisticated native
civilization north of Mexico and is a World Heritage Site.
Organization of professionals and non-professionals interested
in archeology and archeological preservation, dedicated to the
understanding and preservation of the cultural heritage of Mississippi
and the surrounding region.
Division of Tourism
Official state website with information on Mississippi's activities,
accomodations, and tourism. This site also features themed travel
itineraries for Native American History and the Natchez Trace
Capitol Museum of Mississippi History
The Old Capitol Museum of Mississippi History, located at Capitol
and North State Sts. in Jackson, MS, features an exhibit on Native
Americans of Mississippi, including the moundbuilders. Free admission.
Open Monday-Saturday and Sunday afternoon. Call 601-359-6920 for
Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution
The newest addition to Smithsonian Inistiution is expexted to
open in 2003, and is dedicated to the collection, preservation,
study, and exhibition of the cultures and history of the native
peoples of the Americas.
Trust for Historic Preservation
Learn about the programs of and membership in the oldest national
non-profit preservation organization.
Hotels of America
A feature of the National Trust for Historic Preservation's Heritage
Traveler program that provides information on historic hotels
and package tours in the vicinity of this itinerary.
National Park Service
Office of Tourism
National parks have been interwoven with tourism from their earliest
days. This website highlights the ways in which the NPS promotes
and supports sustainable, responsible, informed, and managed visitor
use through cooperation and coordination with the tourism industry.
National Scenic Byways Program
This website, maintained by the U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration, includes information on state and nationally designated byway routes throughout America based on their archeological, cultural, historic, natural, recreational, and scenic qualities. Visit the America’s Byways Natchez Trace Parkway website for more ideas.
Indian Mounds of Mississippi was produced by the National
Park Service (NPS), U.S. Department of the Interior, National
Register of Historic Places, Southeast Archeological Center, and
Natchez Trace Parkway, in conjunction with the Historic Preservation
Division of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History,
and the National Conference of State Historic Preservation Officers
(NCSHPO). It was created under the direction of Carol D. Shull,
Keeper of the National Register of Historic Places, National Park
Service, Patrick Andrus, Heritage Tourism Director, and Beth L.
Savage, Publications Director. Indian Mounds of Mississippi
is based on the previously published Indian Mounds of Mississippi
brochure, and information in the files of the National Register
of Historic Places and National Historic Landmarks collections.
These materials are kept at 800 North Capitol St., Washington,
D.C., and are open to the public from 8:00am to 12:00pm and 1:00pm
to 4:00pm, Monday through Friday.
The text of this travel itinerary was originally published in
the 1999 brochure, Indian Mounds of Mississippi. The brochure
was created in response to Public Law 103-433 and in cooperation
with federal and state agencies. Keith A. Baca from the Mississippi
Department of Archives and History wrote the text and Virginia
Horak from the Southeast Archeological Center designed and edited
the pamphlet. Erika Martin Seibert, National Register Archeologist,
assembled the map, photographic and written materials from the
original brochure for the electronic travel itinerary. National
Register web production team members included Jeff Joeckel, who
designed the itinerary, Rustin Quaide, and Shannon Bell (all of
NCSHPO). Yen M. Tang (National Council for Preservation Education)
assisted with preparation of the photographs for the web.