Archaeology

These Mounds were Built by various Civilizations over a Period of Years



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(Large mounds of earth have existed for hundreds, perhaps even thousands of years that are found in parts of the Midwestern and Eastern United States. These mounds were built by various civilizations over a period of years, dating from the prehistoric era.) 

Driving at leisure when one is touring is quite comfortable and one can enjoy the scenic views, historical sites, busy towns and crossroads, the wide expanse of farms, etc..  Both my wife and I were driving (taking turns at the wheel) through Okaloosa County, Northwestern Florida when we decided to take a bit of a rest and refreshment in one of the towns. The City of Walton Beach was chosen as an ideal spot to find a cozy café. As we drove to the town my wife spotted this sign along the way – 'The Indian Temple Mound Museum'. Curiosity piqued our interest and we decided to visit this museum after our rest and refreshment.*

After we paid our admission fee (reduction to elders) we entered the premises where a kindly lady sitting at a desk near the entrance, bid us a pleasant 'good day' and handed us an informative brochure of the museum. From the interesting brochure we learned that the Indian Temple Mound Museum is an educational and cultural institution and its mission is to preserve, interpret and present the prehistory and history of the Fort Walton Beach community and Northwest Florida from 12,000 B.C. through the 1950's. 

For addition information contact:

Laura Bessinger-Morse, director
Indian Temple Mound
Heritage Park and Cultural Center
139 Miracle Strip Pkwy SE, Florida
850- 833-9595 – e-mail  - [email protected] 

The museum exhibits depicted 12,000 years of varied civilizations and cultures of the area.  Over 6,000 artifacts of different materials were on display - stone, bone, clay and shell. Exhibits included artifacts from the Indian Nations and tribes, European Explorers, local pirates, Civil War soldiers and early settlers. 

We visited the prehistoric temple mound, located on the museum grounds that was built as a ceremonial and political center between 800-1400AD. The Temple Mound stands 17 feet tall and measures 223 feet across its base. The temple, on top of the mound, was used as the residence of the leader, a temple for religious ceremonies, and a place to direct the activities of the village. It was and still is a sacred burial ground. This mound is considered the largest on salt water and possibly the largest prehistoric earthwork on the Gulf Coast. In 1964 the Temple Mound was designated a National Historic Landmark and is listed on the National Historic Register. 

Who were the Mound Builders? 

Mound Builders in North America, the name given to the prehistoric inhabitants who chiefly centered in the valleys of the Ohio and Mississippi, and who seem to have possessed a measure of civilization far in excess of that of the North American Indians when first met by the European settlers.. 

The Adena people were the first Native Americans to build ceremonial mounds. In other parts of the world, ceremonial burials had occurred much earlier. The Egyptian pyramids date to 2700 BCE; in England, stone chambers called barrows were used as early as 2000 BCE; between 1700 and 1400 BCE, keirgans were used in central Siberia; and the burial mounds of the Choo Dynasty in northern China date to 1000 BCE. 

The first civilizations that entered what is now the Mid-West was roughly about 12,000 years ago, yet the earliest phase of earthen mound building in this area did not begin until some 2100 years ago. Mounds continued to be built sporadically for another 1800 years or until around 1700 A.D.. The peoples who erected the mounds included the Pre-Columbian cultures of the Archaic period; Woodland period (Adena and Hopwell cultures; and the Mississippian period, dating from roughly; dating from roughly 3000 BCE to the 16th century CE, and living in regions of the Great Lakes , the Ohio River valley, and the Mississippi River Valley.  . http://www.lostworlds.org/ 

The mound builders are also the Southeastern and Midwestern American prehistoric man who built them. From the ancient earthen pyramids in http://www.nps.gov/history/nr/travel/mounds/builders.htm 

The early cultures that first created and built the mounds were actually the ancestors of the North American Indians. They built hundreds, perhaps thousands of mounds throughout the mid west and the Mississippi Delta, which stands as monuments to their civilization. The mounds were found in a large area from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico and from the Mississippi River to the Appalachian Mts. The greatest concentrations of mounds are found in the Mississippi and Ohio valleys..

The earliest mounds were built as burial places; some were large enough for hundreds of people to congregate within for ceremonial rites. Other structures are often found in connection with the burial mounds that are obviously enclosures, and probably used for defense against attacks by other tribes. The flat topped structures were probable employed as sites for buildings such as temples, council houses, and chief's dwellings.

The earliest mounds in the United States have been found at Watson Brake near Monroe, La.; they were built in the late 4th millennium B.C. The purpose of these 11 mounds is unclear. Other mounds date to the 3d millennium B.C. The Archaic mound-building tradition culminated at the Poverty Point Site, in West Carroll Parish, La., between 1800 B.C. and 500 B.C. Six concentric ridges surround two large mounds, one of which reaches 65 ft (20 m) high. http://www.watertown.k12.ma.us/cunniff/americanhistorycentral/01firstamericans/The_Moundbuild.html

Another early culture called Mississippian built mounds from Arkansas northward to Minnesota. These squared off platforms of earth were mostly used mostly as bases for temples and other important houses for the tribe. In the Mississippi Basin and the Gulf States, chiefly from La Cross, Wisconsin, to Natchez, Mississippi is found great earthen mounds, the typical form of which is pyramidal. Some, however, are circular, and a few pentagonal. Others are terraced, extending outward from one or two sides while some mounds have pathways leading up to the level surface on the summit.

     Others were built in the shape of animals, perhaps for ritual ceremonies. The chief center for these singular erections seems to be mainly in Wisconsin, where they were in the past quite numerous. The eagle, wolf, bear, turtle and the fox were quite numerous, and even the human form has been represented. Birds with outstretched wings more than thirty yards long, mammalian form sixty-five yards long are quite numerous..

  The mounds are not mere accumulations of debris and earth, but they are definite complex works constructed on a definite plan and purpose, and obviously requiring a considerable amount skill and labor for their accomplishments. The form and shape is usually that of a low, broad, round topped cone, varying in size from a scarcely perceptible in the ground to elevations of eighty of even a hundred feet, and from six to three hundred feet in diameter.

NOTE: Many of these structures were destroyed by opportunists looking for treasures.. This was the reason for why many of these mounds have disappeared or archaeological data and artifacts had been destroyed, because early treasure hunters would dig through these mounds trying to find gold, silver, or other precious stones and jewelry. 

Archaeologists investigating and studying the evidence of the ancient civilizations that built these mounds have found fine examples of Indian arts and crafts – beautiful wood and stone carvings, clay pipes, copper ornaments with a thin plating of silver, obsidian implements, copper and stone tools, clay fired pottery, and ornaments made of shells and various metals in the mounds.

     In varied mounds archeologists observed that cremation was practiced, but in others in other skeletal remains were found and extended horizontally of else doubled up. In some instances the ashes of the dead were inserted into a skull, perhaps those of the individuals whose bodies had been cremated.  Human sacrifice was not discounted.

Mound construction was in decline by the time the first Europeans came to this region in the 1500s; through the following years epidemic diseases brought by the Europeans had decimated the tribes causing catastrophic destruction to the Indian Nations, bringing an end to the mound building.. Yet, there is also documentary evidence that the 'Texas' tribe sill used mounds as the end of the seventeenth century, when a chief's house was built on a mound.

As we left the Indian Temple Mound Museum we extended our compliments on a fine exhibition to the kindly lady at the desk and bid her a pleasant 'Good day'… 

NOTE: In the early settlement years of America, with the discovery of these ancient mounds, the resolute 'antiquarians' maintained that they were built by strangers from across the seas, sun and serpent worshippers who had forsaken the cities of Egypt and of the Near East, and had settled in the West (America) in order to pursue their strange religions undisturbed. During the 1800s, a common folklore was that Jews - particularly the Lost Ten Tribes - were the ancestors of Native Americans and the mound builders.

      But such views were quickly dismissed by early archeologists, who saw the architects of these mounds and pyramids were the ancestors of the present aborigines in North America. More over, the statements of early explorers on these regions, such as the De Soto expedition (1540-41) that passed through the territory where mounds were discovered, proved, without a doubt that the earthen structures were constructed by the Indians in the post Columbian ears. No archaeological evidence has been found in the mounds to indicate ancient antiquity and the present view among scholars is to assign to them a comparatively recent origin. 

* The most intact Mississippian Cultural site in the East is the Etowah Indian Mounds Historic Site. The site was recognized as a De Soto Trail Site by the U.S. Department of the Interior in 1989 and is an anchor site on northwest Georgia's Chieftains Trail located in Bartow County, Georgia. http://chieftainstrail.com/





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