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Indian 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 section:

Introduction
Welcome
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
Learn More
Credits

Introduction

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 Ancient 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 Creek sites.

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 remain.

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.

Welcome

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 ancient structures.

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 so numerous.

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.

Sincerely,

John Ehrenhard, Director
Southeast Archeological Center
National Park Service
2001

Sam McGahey, Chief Archaeologist
Historic Preservation Division
Mississippi Department of Archives and History
2001

The Mound Builders

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 Creek sites.

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.

Building the Mounds

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 earthen ridges.

  • 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 them.

  • 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.

Preserving the Mounds

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 times.

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 information, contact:

Mississippi Archaeological Association
P.O. Box 571
Jackson, MS 39205-0571
601-359-6863

  • 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 information, contact:

The Archeological Conservancy
5301 Central Avenue N.E., Suite 1218
Albuquerque, NM 87108-1517
505-266-1540
e-mail:archcons@nm.net
www.americanarcheology.com

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.

List of Sites

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

 

 


Bear 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 the base.

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.

Pharr Mounds

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.

Owl Creek Site

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.

Bynum 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.

Winterville Site

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 Historic Landmark.

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 further information.

Jaketown Site

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.

Nanih 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 at 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.

Pocahontas Mound A

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 of charge.

Boyd Mounds Site

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 period.

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.

Emerald Mound Site

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.

Grand 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 activities.

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.

Learn More

By clicking on one of these links, you can go directly to a particular section:
Bibliography
Indian Mounds Children's Literature
Indian Mounds Video
Links to Mississippi Archeology, Preservation, and Tourism


Bibliography

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 Reference, 1996.

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, 1992.

Kennedy, Roger G. Hidden Cities: The Discovery and Loss of Ancient North American Civilization. New York: The Free Press, 1994.

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 Literature

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

Mississippi 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 publication programs.

The Southeast Archeological Center
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.

Lower 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.

Tombigbee National Forest
Located along the Natchez Trace Parkway, Tombigbee Forest has a total of approximately 66,600 acres and includes the Owl Creek Site.

Cahokia 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.

Mississippi Archaeological Association
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.

Mississippi 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 Parkway.

Old 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 more information.

National 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.

National Trust for Historic Preservation
Learn about the programs of and membership in the oldest national non-profit preservation organization.

Historic 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.

Credits

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.

 
[graphic] Link to Mound Builders Essay [graphic] Footer with links to essays [graphic] Link to Building the Mounds Essay  [graphic] Link to Preserving the Mounds Essay

 

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