Largest City in North America 800 Years Ago : Moundville

Av and I visited Moundville, AL for the first time this weekend. 800 years ago, Moundville was the largest city in North America, with about 1000 people living in this direct area and another 10,000 or so in the valley. It was populated mostly from 1000 CE to 1450 CE.

There are about two dozen mounds total.

We had a great time walking around. At first I was afraid that it was sacreligious to go climb up the chief’s mound, because I thought that people were buried in the mounds – but apparently it was regular practice to build huts and other buildings on top of the taller mounds, and it was the smaller, shorter mounds that held burials. The shorter mounds are off-limits anyway, so I didn’t have anything to worry about.

Of the burial mounds, the higher-status individuals were buried with copper axes and ‘Southern Cult’ pieces, like a hamsa symbol (a (hand) palm with an eye in the center). For people whose burials were more simple, there might only be a few pots found with them. Over 3000 burials have been excavated.

There were residential sections, the north-east corner being probably the nicest. There were also craft workshops (shells, ceramics, etc), and a sweat house, among other structures. I don’t believe any of those have survived.

I am soooo glad we finally got to visit….it’s so pretty – and I am in LOVE with the totally-retro museum (in an upcoming post). Here are pics of Moundville:


Close-up of steps to smaller mound, Moundville

Representation of Chief's Home, Moundville
Representation of the Chief’s home

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