Mound Builders

Mississippian culture - Reconstruction of Mound Builders homes and houses

Mississippian culture
Reconstruction of Mound Builders homes and houses

The Mound Builders
This article contains information about the Mound Builders culture, their temples, homes and houses. The ancient people of the Mississippian culture of the Mound Builders of North America built large earthen mounds as part of their village complex. Each village had a mound on which a temple and the chief's house was built. The top of mound was approached by a flight of steps and the temple and chief's house were located at each end of the mound, separated by a plaza. The Mound Builders inhabited many areas across the eastern part of the United States and Canada. The greatest concentrations of mounds are found in the Mississippi and Ohio valleys.

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Mound Builders Definition
Who were the Mound Builders? Definition: The 'Mound Builders' was the name given by early archaeologists to the ancient people who constructed elaborate earthworks from the Great Lakes to the Gulf Coast across the North American continent. The purpose of the earthen constructions varied from ceremonial centers and burial mounds to the focal points of villages where Sun Temples and Chief's Houses were constructed. The Mound Builders developed a complex agricultural society called the Mississippian culture (700 A.D. to 1,300 A.D.)

Mound Builders Culture and Beliefs: Mythical Creatures
The ancient Mississippian culture of the Mound Builders of North America were major elements in the Southeastern Ceremonial Complex of American prehistory (S.E.C.C.) The customs, rituals, traditions many famous mythical creatures derive from the beliefs of the Mound Builders. The Mound Builders associated great mystical value to the serpent. The Great Serpent represented a malevolent creature whereas the Horned Serpent and Feathered Serpent, were generally viewed as a benevolent, although fearful, creature. The Avanyu, a horned snake-like symbol both feature in Hopi and other Pueblo art. The origins of the mythology surrounding the Thunderbird, the Piasa Bird ("The bird that devours men") were also believed to have derived from the Mound Builders.

Mound Builders Culture and Beliefs: Mythical Creatures

The ancient Mississippian culture of the Mound Builders of North America were major elements in the Southeastern Ceremonial Complex of American prehistory (S.E.C.C.) The customs, rituals, traditions many famous mythical creatures derive from the beliefs of the Mound Builders. The Mound Builders associated great mystical value to the serpent. The Great Serpent represented a malevolent creature whereas the Horned Serpent and Feathered Serpent, were generally viewed as a benevolent, although fearful, creature. The Avanyu, a horned snake-like symbol both feature in Hopi and other Pueblo art. The origins of the mythology surrounding the Thunderbird, the Piasa Bird ("The bird that devours men") were also believed to have derived from the Mound Builders. The picture is of the Great Serpent Mound in Ohio, a gigantic serpent form made in earth. Across the widely opened jaws it measures 75 feet, the body measures 30 feet across and 5 feet high, the length of the Great Serpent is 1,348 foot (411 meters). The tail is thrown into a triple coil.

Great Serpent Mound in Ohio

 
 

 

Mound Builders Religion
The Mound Builders worshipped the sun and their religion centered around a temple served by shaven head priests, a shaman and the village chiefs. The Mound Builders had four different social classes called the Suns, the Nobles, the Honored Men and Honored Women and the lower class. The chiefs were called the 'Suns'. The 'Great Sun' ruled the people in all civil matters and the 'Tattooed Serpent' ruled the people in matters of war. The Great Sun and the Tattooed Serpent lived in the Grand Village or city. Lesser Suns from the royal family ruled smaller villages. Human sacrifice and ritual suicide formed a part of their culture. The wives and members of the entourage of the Great Sun and the Tattooed Serpent (up to 100 people) were expected to perform ritual suicide upon the death of a chief so that they might accompany him into the afterlife.

Great Serpent Mound in Ohio

The Grand Village
The Grand Village of the Mound Builders was organized around an open plaza with two, flat-topped mounds at either end. The smaller mound was the residence of the Great Sun, and the larger mound was the Sun Temple. The Sun Temple contained the perpetual fire and was approached by one flight of steps. The structures had no windows and only one door. The Sun Temple faced east towards the rising sun. Other houses in the Mound Builders village were built in a similar style, but were not constructed on the top of mounds.

Artists representation of the
Mound Builders Grand Village

 

Mound Builders

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The Mound Builders: Influence on Native Indian Tribes
The culture of the Mississippian Mound Builders influenced many of the early descendents of the Native Indian tribes including the Caddo, the Natchez and the Creeks who built highly organised villages consisting of grass huts built in the style of the Mound Builders homes. As time passed their housed developed into wattle and daub constructions.

Mound Builders Temples, Homes and Houses

   

The Grand Village of the Natchez
The picture shows the Sun Temple and the Chief's house in the Grand Village of the Natchez Native Indian tribe. They were constructed by using a framework of poles and beams covered with wattle and daub. The walls were then covered by cane mats and a thatched grass roof which were carefully clipped and neat. The interior walls were also lined with woven cane mats.

Temple and Chiefs House at the Grand Village of the Natchez

   

The Serpent
The icons displayed on the top of the Sun temple are very curious. They look similar to Piasa and the Great Flying Serpent mythical creatures that featured so strongly in the Mississippian Mound Builders culture. The Mound Builders believed that the Upper world was inhabited by spirit birds and the people of the earth who were ruled by powerful spirits like the Piasa and the Serpent and that the Underworld was inhabited by spirit snakes or serpents. It seems logical that the Sun temple icons would represented the mythical creatures of the other worlds.

Piasa mythical creature

Serpent symbols on top of the temple in the Grand Village of the Natchez

Great Serpent

 

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