ExploreSouthernHistory.com - Emerald Mound, Mississippi
ExploreSouthernHistory.com - Emerald Mound, Mississippi
Emerald Mound
The massive Native American or Indian mound
stands just off the Natchez Trace Parkway about ten
miles north of Natchez, Mississippi.
Emerald Mound, Mississippi
The mound is preserved as
part of the Natchez Trace
Parkway and stands about 10
miles north of Natchez.
Secondary Mound
This mound, which is several
stories high, actually stands
atop the main mound and
was part of its design.
Steps up Secondary Mound
Steps and a handrail lead
from the flat surface of the
main mound up to the top of
the large surviving secondary
Emerald Mound - Natchez Trace Parkway, Mississippi
Landmark of Ancient Mississippi
Emerald Mond
Photographs do not do justice
to the size and scope of the
massive earthwork, which is
30 feet high and covers nearly
eight acres.
Emerald Mound is the second largest
prehistoric ceremonial mound in the United
States. It has been preserved by the National
Park Service and stands near the Mississippi
section of the famed Natchez Trace Parkway.

Covering nearly eight acres, the mound was
used for a roughly 350 years by prehistoric
Native Americans who were the ancestors of
Natchez Indians. Its builders were people of
the Mississippian culture, a religious and
political movement that spread across the
Southeast and lower Midwest beginning in
around 900 A.D.

The Mississippians are remembered today
for their massive public works projects. They
built huge platform mounds like Emerald,
which takes its name from the historic
Emerald Plantation that surrounded the
mound during the 19th century. The also built
smaller mounds that served for burial and
other purposes and often surrounded their
towns with ditches and fortified walls.

Archaeologists believe that construction on
Emerald Mound began in around 1250 A.D.
Covering nearly 8 acres, the massive mound
rises in nearly pyramidal form to a flat topped
surface. There, atop the main mound, they
built a series of smaller mounds to create a
unique ceremonial complex.

It is thought that the larger of these smaller or
secondary mounds likely was the base for
the complex temple. The smaller ones were
likely platforms upon which were built the
homes of various chiefs and key leaders.

The huge mound was surrounded by a deep
ditch or moat, likely as a defense. When the
site was first seriously investigated, back in
the 1830s, researchers were able to map
this and other features.

Since that first investigation in 1838, Emerald
Mound has been the scene of periodic
research. This is fortunate as plowing of the
surface of the mound and erosion destroyed
six of the secondary mounds. Three once
lined each side of the top. The ditch or
entrenchment that surrounded the complex
is also largely gone, along with most traces
of the secondary mounds that were erected
at ground level around the big one.

The huge mound remained in private hands
until 1950. The National Park Service was
then working to develop the Natchez Trace
Parkway, which passes just to the east of
Emerald Mound. To assure the preservation
of the massive earthwork and add a major
archaeological site to the park, the previous
owners donated the mound to the park
service. It was restored to its present
appearance in 1950.
A trail now leads from the parking lot at the
base of the mound to a stairway that takes
visitors up to the flat surface of the top.

Displays there provide more information on
the construction of Emerald Mound and the
ancient people who lived and worked at this
religious, cultural, trade and political center.
Another stairway leads to the surface of the
larger of the secondary mounds, the top of
which provides a spectacular view of the
entire site and the surrounding area.

The mound site is open during daylight
hours. More information can be obtained at
the nearby Mount Locust visitor center on the
Natchez Trace Parkway.

To reach Emerald Mound from Natchez, drive
north for ten miles on the Natchez Trace
Parkway and watch for the signs. The exit to
the mound, which is located a short distance
off the parkway itself, is at milepost 10.3 As
you exit, watch carefully for the signs that will
lead you to the mound itself.

Please click here to learn more about other
archaeological and historical sites along the
Natchez Trace Parkway.
Copyright 2011 by Dale Cox
All rights reserved.
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