Academic journal article Southeastern Archaeology

The Submound and Mound Architecture and Features of Mound C, Etowah, Bartow County, Georgia

Academic journal article Southeastern Archaeology

The Submound and Mound Architecture and Features of Mound C, Etowah, Bartow County, Georgia

Article excerpt

The paper describes the remnants of nonresidential structures that preceded the construction of Mound C, the future locus of the mortuary mound and temple at the Etowah site. Features and construction of the mound are also described. The nature of the submound structures and the remaining elements of the badly damaged mound are commented upon and interpretations advanced.1

The nature and the history of the investigation of the Etowah site are almost certainly known to those who have an interest in the Mississippi period of Southeastern archaeology. The prehistoric site, its features, and its artifacts have been the subject of scholarly comment for at least 180 years. Scientific exploration of Etowah can be said to have begun with the 1884 excavations of John P. Rogan, working as part of the eastern United States mound survey directed by Cyrus Thomas (Thomas 1887:96-104, 1894:292-311). Excavations concentrating on Mound C were carried out by Warren Moorehead (1932) in 1925 and lasted for three winter seasons. Following the purchase of the site by the state of Georgia in 1953, at various times and in various parts of the site, excavations were undertaken by William Sears, Arthur Kelly (King 1991), Adam King (King 1995), and myself (Larson 1971). My intent here is to briefly describe and characterize the nature of Mound C, based on the excavation of the earthwork under my direction for the Georgia Historical Commission from 1954 to 1961.

Following the state purchase of the Etowah site, the Georgia Historical Commission was assigned the managerial responsibility for the site. The commission decided to develop the site for public interpretation; as a result of this decision, the restoration of Mound C, a major feature, was given high priority. The work by Rogan and the excavation by Moorehead had reduced the height of the mound by 3 to 4 m. As the initial step in the effort to effect its restoration, I was given the task of defining, if possible, the original basal dimensions and slope angle of the mound.. Little else in the way of new information was anticipated; after all, Moorehead was convinced that the mound had been thoroughly explored when he ended his three seasons of excavation, and he stated as much in the summary of his work at the site (Moorehead 1932:87).

Literally, within a few hours after the renewed investigation of Mound C began in June 1954, it was possible to demonstrate that Moorehead could not have been more in error in his assertion that there was little reason to continue examination of the mound. Almost at once we found that the greater portion of the mound base was almost completely intact and that it offered the prospect of considerable important information.

The Nature of Mound C

Mound C lay on the north bank of the Etowah River immediately adjacent to the southwestern corner of Mound A. Some 49 m to the east, Mound C faced Mound B across the plaza area bounded by the three mounds, A, B, and C, and the Etowah River (Figure 1). There is deep and rich midden concentration within the bounds of the moat east of the plaza fronting Mound A and also on the west side of the mound (Figure 1).

At the time of the state purchase of the site, Mound C appeared as a low rise in an agricultural field rather than a clearly defined platform mound. More than a century of cultivation, as well as several excavation programs, had so softened the mound contours that it was almost unrecognizable as an earthwork. Oriented closely with the cardinal directions, the basal dimensions of the mound were originally approximately 52 m, north and south and almost 44 m east and west. Its summit dimensions can be tentatively reconstructed as approximately 28 m north and south and 20 m east and west. The surface of the summit was probably elevated 7.5 m above the plaza surface. The side-slope angle of the sides of the mound was approximately 60 degrees from the horizontal.

Early published descriptions of the mound indicate the existence of a ramp on the east side (Thomas 1894:297). …

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