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Mounds Built as Temple Bases, Flat-Topped

During the ancient times, enormous mounds of earth once dotted the landscape of the United States’ Eastern coast and Midwest. Many of the mysterious mounds were eventually destroyed to give way to farms and other developments, but they continue to fascinate even when the mounds were reduced in number and in size. These mounds are recorded on the Bible Timeline Chart with World History around 725 AD.

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These massive earthworks were constructed by the ancient North Americans of different cultures (Poverty Point, Troyville, Coles Creek, Plaquemine, and Mississippian cultures), and construction likely started as far early as the Archaic Period and reached its peak during the Woodland Period. They piled soil, shells, rocks, and other debris on top of each layer to build these mounds. Some of which were constructed in Kolomoki and Ocmulgee in Southwest Georgia, Pinson in Tennessee, Cahokia in Illinois, and Toltec in Arkansas.

“A diagram showing the various components of Mississippian culture ceremonial substructure platform mounds”

Additional mounds were erected over the years in different areas and soon, the Eastern and Midwest landscapes were dominated by these enormous earthworks. They were primarily used and reserved as bases for temples or houses of priests/rulers (especially flat-topped ones). The common people who built them did not live on these imposing structures; instead, they lived in nearby settlements and visited the mounds only during religious ceremonies and other rituals.

From time to time, the structures on the flat-topped mounds were burned or destroyed to make way for bigger ones with the old buildings buried inside. The construction and maintenance of the mounds continued up to the 18th century when the last of the mound builders were driven off their lands by violence, famine or decimated by diseases (influenza and smallpox) brought on by the massive influx of European immigrants.

Picture By Herb Roe, CC BY-SA 3.0,
“Indian Mounds – Encyclopedia of Arkansas.” Indian Mounds – Encyclopedia of Arkansas. Accessed June 25, 2016.
McManamon, Francis P., Linda S. Cordell, Kent G. Lightfoot, and George R. Milner. Archaeology in America: An Encyclopedia. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2009.
United States. National Park Service. “Text Only Version — National Register of Historic Places Indian Mounds of Mississippi Travel Itinerary.” National Parks Service. Accessed June 25, 2016.
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