The Waterman and Hill-Traveller's Companion, a Natural Events Almanac
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The "Mound Builders"

Before the advent of modern archaeology and our current understanding of the North American cultural time line the archaic term "mound builder" was used as a name for any one of several cultural groups who built mounds in pre-contact North America. Early in the 19th century large numbers of earthen mounds were discovered in the Ohio and Mississippi drainages. Owing to a number of factors a loosely constructed romantic mythology arose concerning the mounds, their builders and their ultimate fate.

Many authors (and there were a lot of people writing on this subject back then) attributed the mounds to the Lost Tribes of Israel, the Vikings, the Phoenicians, the Celts, the Hindus - in fact almost any old world culture that had a record of constructing mounds - in fact anyone except the aborigines who were discovered in original possession of the country.

In this fantasy world great cities were postulated, kingdoms and empires rose and fell, the arts and sciences flourished and according to the myth these civilizations were then tragically overwhelmed and destroyed when marauding hordes of savages (American Indians) attacked and overwhelmed them. In large part these myths were designed (subconsciously) to justify the genocide and the forcible appropriation of land from the "marauding savages" who inhabited it.

Of course none of these myths turned out to have any factual basis. When archaeologists began to actually study these monuments (rather than merely loot them as "antiquarians" usually did) it became apparent that the numerous mounds had been constructed for various purposes and at different times.

The information on this page is tailored to Southern Illinois, Southwest Indiana, Western Kentucky, and Southeast Missouri

Copyright © 2004 Jim Jung