Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Winterville Mounds

Winterville Mounds is a National Historic Landmark. It is a 42 acre archaeological site just north of Greenville, MS, consisting of 12 prehistoric Native American mounds and plazas, and a small museum. The National Park Service says, "this mound group remains one of the largest and best-preserved in the southeastern United States." Wikipedia says,
Winterville Mounds, named for the nearby town of Winterville, Mississippi, is the site of a prehistoric ceremonial center built by Native Americans of the Plaquemine culture, the regional variation of the Mississippian culture. This civilization thrived from about 1000 to 1450 CE. The mounds, an expression of the Winterville society's religious and political system, were the site of sacred structures and ceremonies. They were built between 1200 and 1250. Archaeological evidence indicates that the Winterville people lived away from the mound center on family farms in scattered settlement districts throughout the Yazoo-Mississippi River Delta basin. Only a few of the higher-ranking tribal officials lived at this mound complex.
The Mississippi Department of archives and history has diagrams and information about the history of the site and says,
At 55 feet, Mound A is among the ten tallest in the United States, roughly the same height as a five story building. Until modern construction techniques were developed, it was the highest point between Emerald Mound in Natchez and the great mounds at Cahokia, Illinois. From its top you can see the Mississippi River to the west. The river’s course has shifted over the centuries but it was only a mile away when the mounds were constructed
There was a video overview in the building which houses the museum, and I viewed that before entering the museum proper. When I was there, a group of children were having a class in the exhibit area, and I was uncomfortable spending much time in there. The displays looked interesting, but I didn't want to take photos with the class in progress.

This is Mound A, the tallest mound on the site:

Originally this mound had a ramp up the side to the top. When reconstruction began in 1968, this was replaced with steps that are no longer accessible to the public:

I was told they burn the mound off twice a year but don't have the resources to clear it of all the trees which have overgrown it.

There are interpretive signs for the mounds:

They have received a $300,000 grant from Mississippi:
“Work will begin on the grounds around the museum in the next weeks,” said Winterville Mounds director Mark Howell. “A new entrance sign along the highway will help raise the visibility of the site, and the fresh plantings will boost our curb appeal.” Once that landscaping phase is finished, vegetation removal will begin on the plazas and eventually move to the mounds.

Once the property has been cleared to resemble how it would have looked when it was in active use by Native Americans, a planned trail along its perimeter will be constructed to give visitors a new perspective on the scale of earthworks at the site. “It’s estimated that more dirt was moved to create the two plazas than to create the two dozen mounds,” Howell said. “We will also add a number of new signs to the seven that were installed five years ago.”

Long-term plans for Winterville Mounds include a new museum that will explore the lives of Mississippi’s American Indians.
I'll definitely keep track of this project and go back after Mound A has been cleared and the trail added.

Trip Advisor gives it 4 1/2 out of 5 stars with 13 reviews.


  1. Quite a few years ago, I did research on the Illinois mounds when I was writing a term paper about cemeteries. I had never heard of these mounds before. Of course, that was before the internet and my research was limited to books that were available to me at the time. I'm so glad you visited this site and took all these wonderful photos. I've never seen anything like it before, and this was a really, really enjoyable visit. I am so, so glad to know about these mounds, and look forward to your continued visit there, even if it IS a five hour drive from your home.

    1. I'd love to find other mounds within a decent driving distance.

    2. Very interesting. This is all so very far removed from the generic image of "indians" that have been spread by Hollywood and the mythology of How The Wild West Was Won. One tends to forget the vast area that North America is, and how many very different cultures must have thrived there over millennia. The museum architecture is really striking!

    3. There were so many different tribes. I like the way the museum building mirrors the mound shape :)

  2. I'm sure you've seen it, but here is a listing of many of the Mississippian mound sites:

    There are two in Arkansas.

    1. I've been to Chucalissa Indian Village (that's here in Memphis), Pinson Mounds (Jackson, TN), Parkin Archeological Site (in eastern Ark), Shiloh Indian Mounds (in Shiloh National Park), Wickliffe Mounds (in western Kentucky)... I think that's it. I think I've been to the one in Fort Walton in Florida, but I was a child and don't really remember it. I'd love to see Cahokia in Illinois.