Thursday, February 23, 2012

Architecture of the Woodlands


Collins, James M. and Chalfant, Michael L.
1993 A second-Terrace Perspective on Monk’s Mound. American Antiquity 58: 319-332.

      The archaeologists studied Monks Mound, a piece of monumental architecture that is larger than any other earthenwork in North America. Monks Mound is located at Cahokia and has an area of 6 ha and is 30.1 m tall. It contains four terraces but terrace two has been a source of contention because it is uneven and dips. Previous archaeologists have hypothesized that either the mound was created that way on purpose, occurred due to erosion or slumping, or the terrace was not finished. Slumping has been recorded when there is increased precipitation. Collins and Chalfant give evidence that the construction of terrace two was purposefully done during the early Mississippian occupation. They also state that the mound served as symbol of power for Cahokia and expresses the authority of the leaders who were able to put effort and organize labor in order to build it.
      The slump area of the mound consists of three units that contain subunits. Unit III deposits function as a buttress which is apparent by the fissures within the unit. The buttress supports the dome and the soils that create the buttress alternate between bands of sand and clay, adding to its fortification. This engineering suggests that a specialized group, such as mound engineers, created the architecture. There are also two features: one is a large pit and the other is a large post pit. The function of the second feature is unknown; however, its prominent place on the terrace indicates that it was important. Thus, the terrace was purposefully built but contains features that that were not related to construction, for example the fissures and slumping.
      Monks Mound is one of the most recognizable features of North American archaeology due to its enormity. It depicts a culture that was able to have a large enough labor force, means, and knowledge to construct such a monumental piece of architecture. By studying the second terrace, the research puts a time frame on when it was built: A.D. 1000-1100. This research provides support for a culture that used monumental architecture to reinforce its authority when Cahokia was beginning as a regional center.


Kimball, Larry R., Whyte, Thomas R., and Crites, Gary D. 
2010 The Biltmore Mound and Hopewellian Mound Use in the Southern Appalacians. Southeastern Archaeology 29: 44-56.


Biltmore Mound is located in Asheville, North Carolina on the Swannanoa River. The mound was built during the Middle Woodland period and supported public architecture, evidenced by post holes. It has a habitation area of 10 ha. Rather than building up, the mound was built out in several different stages. The mound is surrounded by a ditch which contains artifacts, faunal remains, and botanical remains. The mound has a ritual post with a 50 cm diameter at its summit and is similar to posts at other Mississippian mounds. They are known to be cosmic axes and used for astronomical observation.
Artifacts in the mound include ceramics, stone tools, mica, copper, quartz, worked bone and antler, and pipes. Faunal remains include fish, shells, birds, and large mammals such as deer, wolf, dog, and bear. Plant remains include pine and oak as well as nuts such as acorns and chestnuts. There is evidence for thirteen different plants including a domesticated sumpweed. Shamanic paraphernalia was found at the mound and include mica and copper objects, crystals, gorgets, bone awls, and worked antlers. There are three pieces of mandibles from canids: one from a dog, red wolf, and gray wolf. They were possibly used as masks or worn in the mouth. Apart from the canid parts, there were also black bear parts that were modified. All of these possible masks have been interpreted as power parts and are deemed ritually significant to Hopewell. Because of such a high density of faunal remains found in the ditch, it is suggested that there was periodic feasting instead of a steady accumulation of refuse.
Evidence provided shows that the Biltmore participated in the Hopewell Interaction Sphere. It is hypothesized that mica from the Appalachian area was traded for Hopewellian goods. This study of Biltmore Mound is important because it helps clarify the Middle Woodland in the Appalachian Summit region. By providing cultural context such as religious practices and feasting, the article helps to paint the anthropological picture of this Middle Woodland culture.



1 comment:

  1. I dont think this relates to any of the articles that we read or that I found on my own, but what exactly is meant by "slumping"? Is that like where a chuck of material breaks off and slides down the mound? Its sad to think that over time these mounds and earthworks like monks mound, which are so prevalent in this period, will be continually diminished from erosion. A few years ago I visited my aunt who lived in St. Louis at the time and I was lucky enough to be able to visit the site of Cohokia. Monks Mound may look impressive in pictures, but you cant fully appreciate it without climbing up all of those stairs and gazing out over the vast expanse of land before you. No doubt the government has, or will have take measures to slow erosion and slumping; perhaps even to go so far as rebuild it, but even between the time it was built and now, the height and shape difference must have been appreciable at least if not significant.

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