"It is altogether unknown to us what could have induced the Indians to raise such a heap of earth in this place . . . It is reasonable to suppose, however, that they were to serve some important purpose in those days, as they were public works, and would have required the united labour and attention of a whole nation."
THE MOUND BUILDERS
SIXTEEN HUNDRED YEARS AGO, the lower Mississippi Delta was home to some of the most highly organized civilizations in the world. There were roads, commerce, and metropolises anchored by awe-inspiring earthen monuments. Wonders of geometric precision, these earthworks were the centers of life.
As was the river itself. The alluvial soil of its banks yielded an unprecedented bounty of beans, squash, and corn to foster the burgeoning communities of the lower Mississippi valley. Over its waters, from near and far, came prized pearls, copper, and mica.
The first Europeans in the Delta, arriving in the 1500s, paid little attention to the mysterious earthworks, by now mostly abandoned remnants of another time. But curiosity began in earnest around 1848. Literary fantasies abounded, with a "moundbuilders theory" hypothesizing that a "people of great intelligence and skill" had simply disappeared, perhaps to South America. Thomas Jefferson, himself an amateur archeologist, had been closer to the truth decades earlier, observing that Native Americans at an earthwork "staid about it some time, with expressions which were construed to be those of sorrow."
Today, little is left of the moundbuilders' legacy. Their earthworks have been plowed, pilfered, eroded, and built over. This page is part of the effort to stop the destruction. It is hoped that in understanding the contributions of these ancient Americans, it will become clear why we must preserve the rich heritage that remains along the banks of the lower Mississippi.
Through the efforts of the Lower Mississippi Delta Region Initiative, the National Park Service is working to identify resources and recommend methods to protect, preserve, and interpret the significant natural, cultural, and recreational resources of this region.
SOURCE: National Park Service and
Etowah Mounds Archaeological Area Web Sites.
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