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Moundville

Written by John H. Blitz

Publication Year: 2008

Inaugural pocket guide from our new series of illustrated guidebooks

 

In the 13th century, Moundville was one of the largest Native American settlements north of Mexico. Spread over 325 acres were 29 earthen mounds arranged around a great plaza, a mile-long stockade, and dozens of dwellings for thousands of people. Moundville, in size and complexity second only to the Cahokia site in Illinois, was a heavily populated town, as well as a political and religious center.

 

Moundville was sustained by tribute of food and labor provided by the people who lived in the nearby floodplain as well as other smaller mound centers. The immediate area appears to have been thickly populated, but by about A.D. 1350, Moundville retained only ceremonial and political functions. A decline ensued, and by the 1500s the area was abandoned. By the time the first Europeans reached the Southeast in the 1540s, the precise links between Moundville's inhabitants and what became the historic Native American tribes had become a mystery.

 

Illustrated with 50 color photos, maps, and figures, Moundville tells the story of the ancient people who lived there, the modern struggle to save the site from destruction, and the scientific saga of the archaeologists who brought the story to life. Moundville is the book to read before, during, or after a visit to Alabama’s prehistoric metropolis.

Published by: The University of Alabama Press

List of Illustrations

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pp. vii-ix

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Acknowledgments

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pp. xi-

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the people and institutions that assisted me in the preparation of this book. ...

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1 Introducing Moundville

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pp. 1-6

Late in the nineteenth century, a farmer was plowing a field near the little town of Carthage, Alabama. Mysterious mounds of earth loomed over the field, monuments of a settlement abandoned so long ago that no one knew who had lived here. The man had often found pottery and stone tools left by ...

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2 Revealing Moundville’s Mysteries

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pp. 7-33

Like the lives of people, the history of a dead town is a series of changes: foundation, growth, maturity, decline, and, sometimes, abandonment and forgetting. People erect monuments to extend memory beyond a human lifetime. Moundville’s monumental mounds stand as reminders that this was once a place of importance. ...

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3 Moundville and the Mississippians

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pp. 34-44

Many people think of traditional American Indian culture as timeless and changeless. This idea is false because culture change, either slow or rapid, is a basic human condition. The people of Moundville benefited from a long series of culture changes experienced by the populations throughout what is now the eastern United States or Eastern Woodlands. ...

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4 “This Great Group of Mounds”

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pp. 45-60

So wrote Clarence B. Moore when he first encountered Moundville. Even the matter-of-fact Moore could not maintain his usual understatement when describing the site. There are other large Mississippian archaeological sites, but few are so well preserved or beautifully composed. With fire, stone axes, and shell hoes, the people of Moundville ...

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5 History Written with a Shovel

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pp. 61-75

In the year 1250 Moundville was a fortified settlement filled with people. A century later, Moundville had changed from a bustling town to a ceremonial center of solemn rituals and funerals. By the time the Europeans arrived in the 1500s, people had mostly abandoned Moundville. The customs, values, and beliefs of Moundville’s people varied ...

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6 Life and Death at Moundville

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pp. 76-97

What was it like to live at ancient Moundville? How can we understand a way of life so different from ours today? Maybe the gap of time and experience between them and us is just too great. Unlike recent histories populated with named and ...

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7 Visiting Moundville Archaeological Park

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pp. 98-104

Moundville Archaeological Park preserves the 320-acre archaeological site of Moundville. Owned and administered by The University of Alabama, the park offers visitors a unique opportunity to learn more about the lives of the people who once called this place home. Protecting one of the ...

Notes

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pp. 105-116


E-ISBN-13: 9780817380670
Print-ISBN-13: 9780817354787

Page Count: 132
Publication Year: 2008

Research Areas

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Subject Headings

  • Mississippian culture -- Alabama -- Black Warrior River Valley.
  • Mississippian pottery -- Alabama -- Black Warrior River Valley.
  • Moundville Archaeological Park (Moundville, Ala.).
  • Excavations (Archaeology) -- Alabama -- Black Warrior River Valley.
  • Black Warrior River Valley (Ala.) -- Antiquities.
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