Mound Builders of Mississippi

Boyd Mound – 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 is some 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. The 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.

Pocahontas Mound

Pocahontas Mound

Pocahontas Site – 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. The site is located on U.S. Highway 49 at the town of Pocahontas, about nine miles north of the Jackson, , interchange of U.S. 49 and I-220. Open to the public daily dawn to dusk, free of charge.

Emerald Mound – Designated a National Historic Landmark, Emerald Mound 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 1600’s, the Natchez had abandoned Emerald Mound and established their capital at the Grand Village some 12 miles to the southwest. The site is located near Natchez Trace Parkway, about 10 miles northeast of Natchez, Mississippi (milepost 10.3). Exit parkway at the Route 553 intersection; follow signs to mound, about one mile. Open to the public daily, free of charge.

Grand Village of the Natchez Indians

Grand Village of the Natchez Indians

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 and early 18th centuries. 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 pre-contact 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 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. It is located in Natchez, Mississippi. 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. ½  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.

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