Alternate Perceptions Magazine, November 2022
Were the Temples Built on Mounds Primitive Huts?
by: Dr. Greg Little
I have a Twitter page where I issue many photos and illustrations of ancient Native American mounds and earthworks (https://twitter.com/DrGregLittle2). After issuing a photo of a large truncated mound an individual commented that they would not have built them to only put a small grass hut on the top. Most archaeological illustrations typically show a small structure with a thatched roof, which gives the impression that the temples and residences erected on the summits of these mounds were small and primitive, but that’s not the case.
In April of 1540, Hernando de Soto and his 620 soldiers with 100 slaves reached what is thought to be the Savannah River in South Carolina at a mound complex today known as Mulberry. There were over 100 houses there, all abandoned because disease had already decimated the population, and the remaining people fled because of the Spanish approach. In the center of the town there was a grouping of large mounds, and the Spanish met a beautiful woman who was the leader. She was called “Our Lady of Cofitachequi.”
The tallest mound was 65 feet in height with a diameter over several hundred feet. On the top was a large temple. The walls of the temple were made of vertical logs with a high roof formed by split, matted cane. De Soto’s chroniclers wrote that the building was 100-long and 40-feet wide with the height proportional to the width. The exterior walls were decorated with pearls, conch shells, and colorful artifacts. The entrance to the temple had two massive wooden doors that pivoted open. This led to a hallway with six pairs of incredible life-size wooden statues on each side. The interior of the temple also had many life-size statues covered with strings of pearls. There were ornate wooden chests everywhere filled with pearls, animal skins, weapons, shields, and copper artifacts. They also found six side rooms filled with highly decorated weapons and shields.
This is only the briefest description of what was found there, but from all the Spanish writings, it is clear that the temples were finely built structures with ornate workmanship. The Spanish chronicles are widely available, and I summarized this event in the 2014 book, Path of Souls.