Indian mounds were built by deliberately pouring earth, rock, or other materials (such as ash, shell, and remains of burned buildings) onto natural earthen surfaces. In Arkansas and other parts of eastern North Americanative americansThey built mounds for ritual or burial purposes, or as sites for important structures, but mound building ceased shortly after contact with Europeans due to changes in religious and cultural practices.the people of Mississippiin eastern Arkansas they used foothills whenSpanish explorersit arrived in 1541, and the Caddo in the Vermelho River Valley still used hills in the winter of 1691-92 when explorers from Mexico visited. Most of the thousands of built mounds in Arkansas have been destroyed by modern development and vandalism, but a few hundred remain. Today they are considered important religious and cultural monuments.
The oldest mound in Arkansas, believed to be 3,500 years old, is located in the southern part of the state. This recently recognized mountain is one of thearchaic tradition, a hunting and gathering lifestyle that has existed in North America for thousands of years. Archean mounds are uncommon and are known in small numbers from the lower Mississippi Valley. The Archean Arkansas mound, known as Lake Enterprise Mound, is similar to others in northeast Louisiana, but its function is still largely unknown. Sometimes only a single Archaic mound was built at one location. However, groups of mounds forming a rough enclosure have also been found. Roughly dome-shaped, the mounds appear to contain little more than a fill of earth. Their primary purpose may have been to be symbolic representations of archaic religious beliefs and places where rituals and other events of importance to the surrounding population took place. Hills also serve as physical symbols for the claim of a group of people to control a particular area or landscape.
Because Archaic peoples did not live in large or permanent communities, workers from scattered family camps and small settlements regularly came together to build and maintain mounds. These projects were likely overseen by local people with religious expertise or personal prestige, and would have required little time or effort on the part of the workers.
The next distinct expression of hill formation in Arkansas occurred during theWaldzeit, from about 600 B.C. until about the year 1000 AD. C., time in which the natives began to experiment with small-scale horticulture to complement hunting and gathering. The early and middle forest hills were typically used as burial sites. Small dome-shaped mounds in the Red River Valley of southwestern Arkansas and near Louisiana and Texas contained human remains, usually cremated, and small keepsakes or offerings. Some mounds were built over a crematorium deposit; Later, the cremated remains were regularly buried or placed on top of the mound, with new soil added to resurface and bury the deposits. In southwestern Arkansas, these mounds were built by the Fourche Maline people, who were local forest dwellers. Hill at the Helena crossing site inPhillips CountyIt contained the remains of several people buried in elaborate log-lined tombs around 2,000 years ago, as well as a variety of personal and ritual objects. This practice is related to the Hopewell culture of the Midwest and the Marksville culture of the lower Mississippi and Red River valleys.
Not all forest dwellers built or were buried in mounds. The religious beliefs behind burial mounds, and the social rules that dictated who was buried in a mound and who was not, are still largely unknown. Since many mounds were destroyed without investigation, some information about these cultures has already been lost. However, the mounds served as symbols of a group's shared heritage and as monuments to a community's claim to territory or landscape.
Not all of the mounds in Woodland were built for burials. Some people built flat-topped earthen platforms that were used for public activities of various kinds. Religious and political centers serving dispersed regional populations had both types of mounds.toltec mountains(Lonoke County), the center ofPlum Swamp Culturein central Arkansas, it is the largest venue of its kind. At least nineteen mounds have been built in its 400-year history. The low platforms were places for public festivals and other rituals; At least one mound served as a burial ground, while others served as yet unknown purposes. The mounds were regularly renovated or expanded and eventually fell into disuse.
The Hill Clusters of the Forest Age were not villages; People regularly gathered at centers for ritual and social activities, and then dispersed to family camps and other small settlements, perhaps leaving some caretakers as permanent residents. The Arkansas Indians did not begin living in compact villages until they developed an agricultural lifestyle based on corn (maize), squash, and other domesticated crops, and with these changes in lifestyle came changes in construction and purpose. of the mounds.
These changes took place between the years 900 and 1100 AD. C. and began with the so-called Mississippi tradition, characterized by elaborate societies with established farming communities, large populations, social hierarchies, and a rich material culture. The mounds were typically flat-topped earthen pyramids that served as platforms for religious buildings, residences for leaders and priests, and sites for public rituals. In some societies, honorable people were also buried in mounds. Some Arkansas hills were surrounded by compact cities, such asparking sitetheyintercounty. Other groups of hills, such asprehistoric caddoThe foothills of southwestern Arkansas were centers of scattered populations living in nearby small towns and cities.
The platform hills have been regularly renovated. Buildings have been replaced, new soil has been used to enlarge and reshape the mound, and the mound's function may have changed as well. Some centers had multiple mounds and were used for centuries. However, these centers were not just groups of mounds. The location and arrangement of the mounds, as well as the processes used to build and renovate them, were all connected to the larger realm of religious belief and ritual. The foothills and foothill centers embody the core beliefs and values of Mississippi cultures and serve as centers for Mississippian life.
Variations of Mississippi culture were followed by people in other parts of Arkansas during this time. In southwestern Arkansas, the caddo tradition was a variant. Flat mounds of earth were used as platforms for religious buildings. From time to time buildings were burned or demolished and mounds of earth were built, burying the ruins of older buildings. The Caddo hill centers usually had one flat hill and at least one vaulted hill built on the ruins of a particular building that may have been the residence of the head of the community or the site of special rituals. Conical mounds were also sometimes used as burial places for important families, although only a small number of Caddo were buried in mounds. Few people lived in the centers of Caddo Hills. The majority lived in family farms and small towns scattered throughout the interior of the country, congregating in the centers only for important events. Mounds were also built in the Arkansas Ozarks and the Arkansas River valley. Enclosing the ruins of ritual buildings, these flat-topped pyramids also served as local political and religious centers for the scattered agricultural population.
Hundreds of mounds have been lost to erosion, development, and vandalism over the past century, but many hundreds remain. Every hill in Arkansas today is an important symbol of Arkansas Native American history.
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Schambach, Frank F. "Hills, Cliffs, and Ceremonialism in the Southern Trans-Mississippi." umMounds, dumps and ceremonialism in the center-south, edited by Robert C. Mainfort and Richard Walling. Research Series No. 46. Fayetteville: Arkansas Archaeological Survey, 1996.
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