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    An alternative way to explore and explain the mysteries of our world. "Published since 1985, online since 2001."

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Archaeotrek—Alternate Perceptions Magazine, November 2014

Stone Chambers in Native American Mounds

by: Dr. Greg Little

For some years we have made efforts to support American archaeology sites and museums by conducting tours to Native American mound sites. Our tour guests paid museum entry fees, bought many items at museum shops, made donations, and supported local tourist economies. Our first tour, nearly 10 years ago, took 104 people to a host of Ohio mounds. We were treated to a lecture by Ohio’s Bradley Lepper at the Columbus Museum as well as having talks by archaeologists at the Newark Earthworks, West Virginia’s Grave Creek site, and also at several sites in Alabama and Georgia. We took tour groups to Alabama and Georgia as well as back to Ohio. The latest tour was to Ohio, West Virginia, and Kentucky. We have also engaged some local governments and interested parties in better preserving some sites. Our efforts have also included issuing national publicity campaigns for archaeological sites and museums. [See here and here]

One of the most fascinating aspects of Native American mounds to tour guests—and a largely hidden one at that—are the stone chambers that have excavated from them. These chambers typically served as tombs. They were often large and well-made. But relatively few photos of them exist. Smithsonian excavations did find many stone chambers and schematic drawings were made of many. But the drawings don’t do justice to them.

Perhaps the best-documented photographic evidence of the stone chambers comes from 1906 excavations in Missouri by Gerard Fowke of the Smithsonian. Fowke excavated dozens of mounds in southeast Missouri, which became even more interesting to me because some of the farm land where the mounds were located belonged to my wife’s family. At one time there were over a thousand burial mounds in a small area in southeast Missouri along with dozens of truncated pyramid mounds. Farming and the “leveling of land” have virtually destroyed all of these burial mounds. In the 1980’s we visited several mounds that were in the process of being flattened and watched in dismay as artifacts were gathered and sold on the adjacent roadside.

Fowke found many stone chambers inside burial mounds, but most had already been looted when he opened them. His photos (a few examples are below) depict how well formed they were. But possibly the most famous stone chamber inside a mound has never been opened. And it probably will never be. It is at Cahokia’s famous Monk’s Mound, the largest Native American mound ever made.


Thursday, June 20, 2024