Emerald Mound, Milepost 10.3

A large grass covered flat top American Indian Mound
Emerald Mound

NPS Photo / Marc Muench

Quick Facts
Natchez Trace Parkway near Milepost 10.3
Historic American Indian Site
National Register of Historic Places

Historical/Interpretive Information/Exhibits, Information, Parking - Auto, Scenic View/Photo Spot

The Ceremonial Center
Located about 10 miles northeast of Natchez, Mississippi, Emerald Mound is the second-largest Mississippian Period ceremonial mound in the United States, surpassed only by Monk’s Mound near Cahokia, Illinois. Built and used between the years 1200 C.E. (current era) and 1600 C.E., this 35-foot-high mound covers eight acres and measures 770 feet by 435 feet at its base. Two secondary mounds sit atop the primary mound, bringing the total height to approximately 60 feet. The larger one at the west end measures 190 feet by 160 feet by 30 feet high. Early records suggest there were six, smaller mounds located along the sides of the primary mound, but visual evidence of these smaller mounds has long since disappeared.

Building the Mound
The builders of these flat-topped mounds are called Mississippians, named for the concentration of their villages and mounds in the Mississippi River Valley.

Imagine groups of people walking with empty baskets, looking for the perfect location to collect soil for building the mounds. Once found, they may have used digging sticks or their own two hands to collect soil, load up their baskets, and walk back to their village. Baskets would have been emptied, soil stomped down, and the process repeated over and over again to create a mound that was 35 feet high. How many people, how many hours, days, or even years of labor were put into creating this mound?

There are many mysteries that remain regarding mound construction.

Social Significance of the Mounds
The villages of the Mississippians are marked by flat-topped earthen mounds that are scattered throughout the Mississippi Valley and the Southeast. Sometimes a single large mound dominated the village or ceremonial center. More often, the mounds were arranged around a rectangular plaza. At Emerald Mound, however, the village ceremonial center was on top of the mound. There is evidence of a village site near the mound that was destroyed by cultivation. 

The mounds of the Mississippians were used for burials, temples and ceremonial structures. Archeologists believe the mounds were the setting for elaborate civic processions, ceremonial dances, and intricate and solemn religious rituals.


Natchez Trace Parkway

Last updated: April 15, 2021