Chucalissa Indian Town & Mounds
By Dr. Greg Little
Chucalissa Mounds & Museum is located in T.O. Fuller State Park, 1987 Indian Village Drive, in Memphis, TN. Take Highway 61 south to Mitchell Road, turn west for 4.5 miles to Chucalissa entrance.
Portions of this article and the illustration above are from The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Native American Mounds & Earthworks.
Chucalissa, Choctaw for “abandoned town,” was the first mound site I ever visited. The site has a fine museum and store operated by the University of Memphis and is operated by several Choctaw tribal members. They are friendly and informative. The 15-acre village sits high atop a bluff that was once a bend on the Mississippi River, before the River meandered about a mile to the west. It is a stunning location in the midst of a large, heavily wooded state park with a classy golf course, rv camping park, and other amenities. The site was initially cleared and excavated by volunteer inmates from the Shelby County Correctional Center. Artifacts recovered from the site showed that it was inhabited as early as 1000 B.C. but the actual village and mounds were constructed around A.D. 1000. The village was abandoned several times and then rebuilt for unknown reasons, and by A.D. 1500, the largest and most complex village was at its height. The first burial mound was made around A.D. 1200 and after its complete excavation it was covered with a roof and open to the public with several hundred skeletal remains and burial artifacts left in place for visitors to view. The burial mound was recovered and closed after the NAGPRA law was passed. The illustration above showing skeletal remains was made by archaeological reconstruction artist Dee Turman from photographs I had taken from the mound prior to its reburial. The largest mound at the site is a 9-foot tall platform mound that housed either a chief or priest. An additional platform mound is at the site. In the center of the site a sunken plaza area is located and a portion of a reconstructed palisade wall is at the site. The entire village was encircled by a high palisade, making it an imposing fortress. The reconstruction illustration of Chucalissa is an accurate depiction of the village area. The Memphis area has numerous other mound complexes.