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The Moundbuilders


Emerald Mound, one of the largest ceremonial mounds in the United States, is a flat-topped earthen structure that rises 35 feet high on eight acres along the Natchez Trace Parkway. Given to the National Park Service in 19s50, in 1989 it became a National Historic Landmark.

At its zenith, Emerald likely hosted large religious and civic rituals. On either end of the platform are secondary flat-topped mounds, probably the bases of a temple and residence of a priest or ruler. Early drawings suggest that three smaller mounds flanked the sides. Emerald was built and occupied between 1250 and 1600 AD by the ancestors of the Natchez people.

The mound was originally known as the Selzertown site; the current name derives from the pre-Civil War era Emerald Plantation. The first excavations took place in 1838. Measurements were taken, and investigators noted eight secondary mounds and a large encircling trench. Periodic excavations have taken place since, most recently in 1972.

Emerald probably served as a political center and point of distribution for goods. Animal remains, ceramic fragments, tools, and the stratigraphy—all studied by National Park Service archeologists—offer a glimpse of life during Emerald's heyday.

By the mid 20th century, erosion and plowing had destroyed six of Emerald's secondary mounds, and part of the main flat top. Its present-day appearance is due to stabilization by the National Park Service, which restored and sodded the upper slopes of the main platform in 1955.

Admission is free. For more information contact Natchez Trace Parkway, Rural Route 1, NT-143, Tupelo, MS 38801.

(photo) Aerial photograph of Emerald Mound.

Occupied between AD 1250 and 1600, Mississippi's Emerald Mound is the second-largest ceremonial earthwork in the United States.