Monumental Grandeur of the Mississippi Valley : Great Wonders Lecture Series

December 8, 2014

Stretching over 2,500 miles from Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico, the Mississippi River Valley is among the richest archaeological regions on the North American continent. Home to thousands of earthen mounds, it contains both the oldest and the most elaborate monumental architecture in North America. The earliest of these monuments was constructed at least 1,000 years before the Great Pyramids at Giza and the largest is 10 stories tall and covers an area significantly larger than that covered by the Temple of the Sun at Teotihuacan. Centuries of archaeological research have shown us that mounds were constructed by both hunter-gatherers and agriculturalists and by both egalitarian and highly hierarchical groups. Accordingly, their functions and meanings differ dramatically across space and time. Archaeologists have come to understand the various uses of earthen mounds by studying the artifacts left behind by the people who built, used, and lived near them. In this presentation, I give an overview of six mound-building cultures, the sites they built, and the incredible variety of tools and art they created.