Mississippi River Info
Mound Builders of the Mississippi River
The mound builders of the Mississippi River were some of the first intensive farmers of North America's eastern woodlands. Here they grew crops such as corn, beans and squash, which caused their sophisticated culture to thrive, feeding a population explosion. Between 800 and 1400 A.D., towns and cities crowded the banks of the Mississippi River and its tributaries. The burden of survival was lighter, and people could focus their energies on other things such as blossoming art and crafts.
These early natives began to construct large ceremonial mounds along the Mississippi River. These mounds could span up to 35 feet high or may have been included in a series of pattern-arranged structures. Most often, several mounds were arranged around a rectangular plaza, with the village at its edges. Structures atop the plaza: temples or official residences, sat on large, four-sided, flat-topped mounds. These mound creations often had a palisade of saplings surrounding the entire complex. Crews of workers labored over generations, sometimes even a century or more, before a ceremonial mound reached its final dimensions. After one was complete, another usually went up with the help of many builders, each hauling baskets of soil to add to the magnificent creation. The mounds served as religious and political centers, as well as a point of distribution for common trading goods along the river. The symbols shown on these massive mounds were a representation of each respective culture. Many archaeologists claim that the emphasis on women and other living things suggests the central role of fertility in these cultures. Other evidence suggests a society of bustling population centers, with houses of thatch and mud-plaster stretching out far and wide among cultivated fields.
As the cultures flourished along the Mississippi River, the mounds evolved into urban centers with problems of overcrowding and waste disposal often found in cities. This overcrowding brought with it complicated political systems, alliances, the evolution of elaborate social customs and religious rights. Prehistoric people were competing for land with the ever-increasing numbers, which led to violence in the mound building areas of the upper Mississippi River. War, epidemic, migration and political control also help aid in the destruction of the religious, mound building societies. By about 1450 A.D., the Mississippi River mound building cultures had declined dramatically, which may have been in the end caused by being too successful. By 1500 A.D., the once blooming river valley had deteriorated significantly, which is essentially what the Europeans found when they came to the valley for the first time later that century.