A Topic of Interest: The Mississippians

Throughout this course, we have learned about various different sites of archaeological importance and their corresponding cultures. While each is interesting and unique for different reasons, the one that stood out to me above all other sites was our discussion on the “Myth of the Mound Builders” and the Mississippians. I grew up in southern Indiana, where mounds are about as common on the landscape as rivers and lakes, so it did not surprise me that these lectures sparked my interest.

What surprised me the most about learning about the Mississippians was how little I really knew prior to ANP 264; I believed I was well-versed in the Native American culture and history, as much of my elementary school education included multiple units focusing on the Native American people who occupied the Midwest. While I knew that the mounds located around my hometown were remnants of a culture of the Native Americans who lived in the area, I did not realize that not everyone had always believed that Native Americans were capable of building such structures. I also did not know that the mounds the Native Americans built were such rich sources of information, telling us so much about the cultures of people of the past.

For both my Archaeological Discoveries Project and extra site for my Honors Project, I chose to focus on Mississippian sites – Angel Mounds in southern Indiana and Etowah Mounds in northern Georgia, respectively. By researching about the history of the sites, I learned so much about the excavation history and how important such excavations are to giving us more insight into the culture of the people who occupied the areas surrounding the mounds. I also learned how important Cyrus Thomas’ exploration of mounds led to solving the mystery of who built the mounds. I was unaware prior to the lectures that the government got involved in and was interested in figuring out just who constructed the mounds.

I believe that the lectures we participated in about the Mississippians were important because it highlighted how some cultures have been marginalized and thought of as less-than-capable of the works they created. I also believe that learning about the Mississippians (in conjunction with our discussion about the Maya) was most helpful of all the lectures we had because it brings to light that not everything studied by archaeologists is of cultures long forgotten; sometimes these great discoveries lead to us learning more about present peoples and cultures – descendants of the people who occupied the sites long ago.