The Mound Builders and the Caddoan Mounds
Above is a replica of a Caddo dwelling at the Caddoan Mounds State Historic Site in east Texas. The "typical" house on the historic site was reconstructed using historical references from early Spanish journals.
This passage comes from Cabeza de Vaca's account of his adventures in America:
"The village consisted of forty low, small, thatched houses set up in sheltered places for protection from the frequent storms. It was surrounded by dense woods and many little lakes, into which numerous big trees had fallen to become effective obstructions."
The "sheltered places" Cabeza de Vaca refers to in his description of the Gulf Coast, where he explored after landing in 1528, may be the earliest account of Indian mounds. It is not known whether the first Europeans to see the mounded villages understood them to be man-made or natural.
The translator and editor of the journal, Cyclone Covey, speculates that this village may have thrived on the Apalachicola River, but it very well could have been the present site of Tallahassee, Florida. To follow Cabaza de Vaca's adventures in America, see the Virtual Classroom.
Not long after Cabeza de Vaca arrived in Mexico City to tell of his eight year adventure, Hernando de Soto set out to explore the Indian villages and lands of the interior. He found an extensive network of villages thriving in trade and agriculture. Many of the mounded earth structures were abandoned around this time, perhaps due to the arrival of the Europeans, or due to resource depletion in the vicinity of the large- and medium-sized villages.
To understand the existence of the first Americans, it is necessary to understand the mounds.
The mounds served many purposes. Ritual practices were held on temple mounds and burials are found in others. There were probably a number of practical uses for the mounds, such as observation across the village and forest, escape from flood waters, and refuge from fierce storms.
The mounds were difficult to build, many containing tens of thousands of cubic yards of earth. Most mounds were built spherical, in cones or pyramids, while others were sculpted in shapes of animals or reptiles.
/Stay tuned, more to come.
Also, see The Mississippi Delta and The King's Road.
Archaeology Parks in the U.S.
Mississippi Valley Archaeology Center
NPS Links to the Past
Middle Atlantic Archaeological Conference
Society for American Archaeology
Tennessee Archaeology Net
Ohio Historical Society
Wickliffe Mounds Research Center
University of South Alabama Center for Archaeological Studies
Louisiana Division of Archaeology
Hopewell Culture National Historical Park
On the Great Hopewell Road
Hopewell Lunar Astronomy
Hutchison Research Center
Ocmulgee National Monument
Etowah Mounds Archaeological Area