One of the most distinct aspects of native North American culture is the presence of mounds. Most of these earthworks were constructed by Native Americans of the Mississippian culture and have been around for over 5000 years. The Burial mounds are listed on the Bible Timeline with World History around 500 BC. These mounds are scattered around Illinois, Mississippi, Ohio, and Tennessee River Valleys; the oldest of which is the Watson Brake near the Ouachita River in Louisiana.
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These mounds were constructed to be used as simple platforms, landmarks, and bases of temples or houses. Others were used as bases for mortuary temples while others were constructed exclusively for burial. Some were shaped to resemble rings, domes, cones, ovals, and larger complex geometric forms.
The mounds in the Cahokia, Kincaid, and Dickson archeological sites in Illinois are some of the well-known burial mounds in North America. The Cahokia and Kincaid Mounds are located in the southern part of the state while the Dickson Mounds are found in central Illinois near Lewistown.
The Cahokia site was named after the Native American tribe that settled in the area much later than the original settlers and builders of the mounds. One of the most important finds in the area is Mound 72, a burial mound located in Collinsville, Illinois. It is south of the Monks Mound and rises to 2,789 feet. Up to 250 skeletons were found in the burial pits after excavations made between 1967 and 1971 by the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee crew.
This carefully planned mound revealed the “beaded burial” of an important member of the Cahokian community. It contained an adult male buried on top of a platform of marine shell beads and other individuals buried with grave goods. The male may have been the city’s ruler and buried with him were slaves who were to serve him in the afterlife.
Later burials within the area of Mound 72 included a quartet of skeletons with missing heads and hands. A rectangular pit that served as the burial ground for 53 females whose age ranged between 15 to 30 years old was also excavated.
Another burial pit was discovered along the southern part of the mound, and this contained the skeletons of 39 individuals who met a violent end. They were a mix of males and females, and their gruesome deaths were evident with their decapitated or fractured skulls and broken jawbones.
The Kincaid Mounds located near the Ohio River straddles the Illinois-Kentucky border and feature a burial mound excavated by the University of Chicago in 1936. The Pope County Mound 2 is located at the east end of the Kincaid Mound where two separate-leveled burials were found in a single mound. The upper-level burials have stone-lined crypts while the lower level burials were lined with logs.
The Dickson Mounds were named after the chiropractor Don Dickson, who owned the family farm where the mounds were discovered. The excavation began in 1927, and they unearthed up to 3000 burials, including four decapitated individuals who were sacrificed at the site. The excavated skeletons were on display in the museum during the 1930s but are now sealed from public view at the request of the Native American people.
Snow, Dean R. Archaeology of Native North America. Boston: Prentice Hall, 2010
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