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Emerald Mound Site
U.S. National Register of Historic Places
U.S. National Historic Landmark
The western end of Emerald Mound, showing the larger of the two secondary mounds.
Emerald Mound Site is located in Mississippi
Nearest city: Stanton, Mississippi
Coordinates: 31°38′9.98″N 91°14′50.02″W / 31.6361056°N 91.2472278°W / 31.6361056; -91.2472278Coordinates: 31°38′9.98″N 91°14′50.02″W / 31.6361056°N 91.2472278°W / 31.6361056; -91.2472278
Governing body: National Park Service
Added to NRHP: November 18, 1988[1]
Designated NHL: December 29, 1989[2]
NRHP Reference#: 88002618

The Emerald Mound Site is a Plaquemine Mississippian period archaeological site located on the Natchez Trace Parkway near Stanton, Mississippi, United States. The site dates from the period between 1200 and 1730 CE. The platform mound is the second-largest Pre-Columbian earthwork in the country, after Monk's Mound at Cahokia, Illinois.[1] The mound covers eight acres, measuring 770 by 435 feet at the base and 35 feet in height.[3] Emerald Mound has a flat top with two smaller secondary mounds at each end. Travelers in the early 19th century noted a number of adjoining mounds and an encircling ditch that are no longer present. Emerald Mound was stabilized by the National Park Service in 1955.[1] It was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1989.[2]


Site Prehistory

Emerald Mound was constructed during the Mississippian period between 1250 and 1600 CE as a ceremonial center for a population who resided in outlying villages and hamlets. The large mound began as a natural hill which was built up by workers' depositing earth along the sides, reshaping it and creating an elongated pentagonal-shaped artificial plateau. Two smaller mounds sit on either end of the summit of the primary mound. The larger of the two sits at the western end, and measures 190 by 160 feet by 30 feet in height.[3] The summit of this mound is roughly 65 feet above the surrounding landscape. Early drawings suggest that six smaller mounds, three on either side, flanked the edges of the primary mound[4] between the two secondary mounds, but were flattened by erosion and plowing in the 1800s. A ditch once encircled the entire complex.[5]

Emerald Mound as seen from the air

The builders are believed to have been the ancestors of the Natchez Indians. At its height, Emerald would have been the center of religious and civic rituals for the area, with the ceremonial center located on top of Emerald Mound, an unusual feature rarely seen in other mound centers. The secondary mounds were the bases of a temple and residence of a priest or ruler and other elites.

Archaeologists believe that Emerald was the main ceremonial mound center for the Natchez tribe, while other mound sites such as the Grand Village/Fatherland site were secondary ceremonial centers serving the dispersed villages.[2] By the late 1600s, the Natchez had abandoned Emerald, possibly because of social upheaval that followed extensive fatalities from European diseases introduced to the American Southeast by the de Soto expedition in the 1540s.[6] By the time of the La Salle Expedition of 1682, the tribe's main ceremonial center was located at the Grand Village/Fatherland site, 12 miles to the southwest. The people of the tribe lived in a widely dispersed settlement pattern, mainly in small hamlets and on family farms. They periodically assembled at the ceremonial centers for religious and social events. [2] This settlement appears to have been one of the last active expressions of the large platform mound-building culture along the Mississippi River.[7]

Archaeological Excavations

The site, originally known as the Selzertown site, derives its present name from the nearby antebellum-era Emerald Plantation. The first excavations took place in 1838, and were recorded by John C. Van Tramp in his book Prairie and Rocky Mountain Adventures, or, Life In The West. Measurements were taken, pottery and skeletons exhumed, and the investigators noted the eight secondary mounds and a large encircling trench. Over the intervening years, periodic excavations have taken place, most recently in 1972. Animal remains, ceramic fragments, tools, and the stratigraphy—all studied by National Park Service archeologists—offer a glimpse into the life of Emerald's ancient inhabitants.[4] The site was donated to the National Park Service during the 1950s. Due to damage caused by erosion of the secondary mounds, restoration of the mounds and sodding of the surface was performed in the mid-50s. A trail and stairways were constructed from the parking lot adjacent to the mound, leading to the surface of the primary platform and to the tops of the larger of the secondary mounds.[8]

See also


External links



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