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Funeral Mound of the Mississippians

Funeral Mound of the Mississippians

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Published by Stephanie Lincecum
A bit of history regarding the funeral mound at the Ocmulgee National Monument in Macon, GA. Originally written for the Graveyard Rabbit Online Journal.
A bit of history regarding the funeral mound at the Ocmulgee National Monument in Macon, GA. Originally written for the Graveyard Rabbit Online Journal.

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Categories:Types, Research, History
Published by: Stephanie Lincecum on Jul 27, 2010
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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10/25/2012

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[Originally written for the
Graveyard Rabbit Online Journal 
.]
Funeral Mound of the Mississippians
at the Ocmulgee National Monument in Macon, GATake a look at this photo: Archeologists estimate this mound that appears to be just dirt and grass contains about 100 humanremains. It is a funeral mound of the Muscogee (Creek) Native Americans that settled along the OcmulgeeRiver more than one thousand years ago in what is today Macon, Georgia. This mound and several othersare located within the boundaries of protected lands known as the Ocmulgee National Monument.It is estimated that people have lived in the Macon area for thousands of years, dating back to the Ice Age.For the purposes of this article, we are focusing on a much later era. The “Mississippian Period”approximately dates from the year 900 to 1650. At the earliest it was a new way of life on the MaconPlateau, believed to have originated in the Mississippi River area. The Native people of this time and placeare sometimes referred to as “mound builders,” as they constructed large ceremonial centers with hugeearthen temple, burial, and residential mounds and earth lodges. Their economy was supported by
 
 
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agriculture, with crops such as corn and squash planted in the rich river floodplain.I was very interested in learning more about the funeral mound during my recent trip to visit the OcmulgeeNational Monument. The park rangers were very nice and attentive. The information was plentiful, andthey were great “gurus.”The funeral mound pictured at the beginning of this article was the burial place for village leaders andimportant people. Archeologists discovered over 100 burials within the mound, as well as log tombs(including a massive one on the lower level) and other structures at different levels. Log tombs are sonamed because of the rows of massive log posts running down the walls of the tombs, presumablysupporting a low roof.Evidence suggests that this mound was built in seven stages. A structure was built on top of each stage,probably to prepare the dead for burial and the accompanying ceremonies.The present height is at the third stage. At the seventh and final stage of construction, it is estimated thatthe mound may have measured as much as 280 feet long, 100 feet wide, and 25 feet high.Significant artifacts found during the archeological investigations of the 1930s uncovered a part of ahuman figure effigy and the remnant of a necklace. These further imply that high-ranking officials of thecommunity were buried here. Copper and shell ornaments were found as well.
 
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The Mississippian culture also used burial houses in their funeral practices to bury their elite members.The bodies would decompose in the house, then the bones would be cleaned and placed into burial urnsor wooden tombs. Occasionally, grave goods would have been buried along with the body. These mightinclude ornaments, tools, pottery, and food. Common people were buried underneath the house of their family.
 
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