Mississippi Mound Trail

Bill Seratt

January 8

The Mississippi Mound Builders – Massive Earth Works Built One Basket of Dirt at a Time!

Mississippi lays claim to some of the densest concentrations of prehistoric archaeological sites of any state, and none of these sites are more striking than the massive earthen mounds that dot the landscape. Constructed from about two thousand to a few hundred years ago, these burial mounds, platform mounds, and others hold mysteries that archaeologists are still unraveling today. The Mississippi Mounds Trail links many of the best-studied and most accessible mounds in the state. Each of the mounds on the trail can be viewed from public roadways and feature accompanying interpretive markers.

Mississippi mound sites mark centers of social and political authority. Every mound has its own chapter to tell in the unfolding story of the human past. 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. The 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 future generations can continue to experience the wonder of these dramatic memorials of ancient times.

The Mississippi Mound Trail winds down the western edge of the state with U.S. Highway 61 at its spine.  Some of the sacred sites can been seen from the main highways while others are in rather remote areas.  Except for a very few the mounds are privately owned and should not be entered without permission.

However, four sites of mound building activity are open to the public.  Winterville Mounds, just north of Greenville, is a ceremonial center that was in use from AD 1000 to 1450.  Only the highest ranking tribal officials lived at the mound center while others lived on family farms scattered throughout the region.  

The Pocahontas site consists of two mounds and an associated village area.  Mound A is a rectangular platform mound that currently stands about 20 feet tall.  Archaeological findings suggest that it served as the residence of a chief or other important person.  Mound B is located about a half mile northeast of the Mound A.  Located on U.S. Highway 49 nine miles north of Jackson.  Open daily.

Emerald Mound, one of the largest in North America, is located at milepost 10.3 on Natchez Trace Parkway just north of Natchez.  It is 35 feet tall and 770 by 435 feet at the base.  Built between AD 1250 and 1650, the mound was a ceremonial center for the local people who lived in outlying villages.  Emerald was abandoned by the late 1600s as the Natchez Indians established their capital at the Grand Village some 12 miles to the southwest.

The Grand Village was the main ceremonial center for the Natchez Indians between AD 1682 and 1729.  Two of the mounds, the Great Sun’s Mound and the Temple Mound, have been excavated and rebuilt to their original sizes and shapes.  A sacred perpetual fire was kept in the inner sanctum, symbolic of the sun, from which the royal family had descended. 

Glass Mounds here in Warren County are unusual among the Plaquemine Period (ca. AD 1200-1600) mound sites in this region in that the site is located in the floodplain adjacent to the Mississippi River rather than atop the bluffs.  The site originally had four pyramidal mounds surrounding an open plaza, with a possible fifth mound located to the north.  Portions of three of the mounds remain.  Recent professional archaeological excavations uncovered the remains of two wattle and daub structures associated with the mounds.  Several notable artifacts also came from the site including pottery, stone palettes, and a limestone human effigy pipe.  The pipe and a number of pottery vessels from the site are on display at the Old Court House Museum in Vicksburg.

Glass-Mounds

Native-American-Jugs(2)

Now, for those of you are really into the Native American history of region, one of the most extensive pre-historic earthworks sites in the United States is located about 50 miles northwest of Vicksburg near Delhi, Louisiana.  The Poverty Point National Monument has received the prestigious designation as a World Heritage Site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.  It is the 22nd U.S. site to be awarded this distinction and now stands alongside such landmarks as Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon.

Complete information can be found at www.trails.mdah.ms.gov