While we were in Atlanta, we drove over to Putnam County, Georgia to see Rock Eagle Mound, which is a stone effigy that was probably built by the Woodland Indians sometime between 1000 BCE and 1000 CE.
Isn’t it great?
This is the inside of the observation tower where we climbed four or five stories to be able to see the eagle really well:
This weekend, when Av and I were on our way to Hamilton, AL for the Jerry Brown Festival (I’ll post about the festival tomorrow), we passed a sign for Old Indian Mound Road, which is just south of town. We turned and before too long, we saw them from the road, across this cotton field:
There’s a place to park – you walk down a trail to get to the mounds – it’s probably only 1/2 – 3/4 of a mile each way.
There are sidewalks and picnic tables around the mounds. The mounds aren’t very tall – probably all of them were 12′ or shorter:
My WPA book doesn’t single-out these mounds, but just says that, “Mound Builder remains are numerous in the valley of the Tombigbee River, where the mounds vary in height from one to thirty feet.”
My ‘Pickett’s History of Alabama’ book discusses the smaller mounds, “to be found in almost every field upon the rivers Tennessee, Coosa, Tallapoosa, Alabama, Cahaba, Warrior and Tombigbee…they are usually from five to ten feet high, from fifteen to sixty feet in circumference at the base, and of conical forms, resembling haystacks. Where they have been excavated they have, invariably, been found to contain human bones, various stone ornaments, weapons, pieces of pottery, and sometimes ornaments of copper and silver…”
A search I did on the web says that Chickasaw Indian Chief Levi Colbert is buried here.
The mounds are on the banks of the Buttahatchee River, which meets up with the Tombigbee River further down. We saw this big nest:
This one is Barbee Cemetery, in Coahoma County, on Highway 61:
This is the Leatherman Home in Commerce (when you take the road to the Hollywood Casino and Sam’s Town off Hwy 61, this is on the righthand side of the road. I bet people pass this all the time and have no idea!) which is situated on the side of a mound:
My WPA book says that this was a plantation with the big house built on the slope of an Indian mound. The land was bought from the Chickasaw, and the builder of the house was unwilling to desecrate a mound ‘full of the dead.’ The legend is that Hernando De Soto had his first look at the Mississippi River from atop this mound in 1541. You can’t see the river from here now because of the trees and the levee.
Just a few miles north of Greenville, Mississippi are the Winterville Mounds. Mostly, the civilization that built and utilized the original twenty-three mounds used them as ceremonial mounds from about 1000 CE to 1450 CE. A little bit more about them can be found here.
The first time I’d ever seen mounds like these was earlier this summer when Av and I visited Moundville (that visit here). Since we were going through Natchez on our way to Baton Rouge, we stopped at the Grand Village of the Natchez Indians park for just a few minutes.
One site noted that although people have been in Mississippi for 12,000 years, mounds have only been developed since about 2100 years ago, and their construction continued until about 300 years ago. The mounds here in Natchez aren’t built as high as the ones in Moundville. The ones in Natchez are about 8′ high.
From one of the markers:
Reconstructed Natchez House and Granary
The Natchez Indians lived in permanent houses of mud and pole construction with thatched grass roofs. The granary held surplus corn. The structure to the left of the granary provided shade and served as a drying platform.
above, inside of the house.
There are many other American Indian mounds in Mississippi – several in the Delta, some around Tupelo, and others close to Jackson. I’d love to see all of them! Some of them are flat on top, some of them are domed, and some of them have a pyramid shape. The Emerald mound, which we haven’t visited yet, is the second-largest mound in the US – it’s eight acres, and on top of it are two other mounds!
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: