9. August 2013 11:34
The Mississippi Delta is known for the blues, great food and cotton. But what about the area’s Native American heritage? Located just north of the heart of Greenville, the Winterville Mounds Park and Museum offer us a glimpse into Mississippi’s history from about 1000 to 1450 A.D. A National Historic Landmark, this group of mounds is one of the largest and best preserved in the southeastern United States.
The mounds were named for a nearby community and are the site of a prehistoric ceremonial center for an early Native American civilization. Sacred structures once stood here and many religious ceremonies took place on the site. The site originally consisted of roughly twenty-three mounds. Some were located out of what is now the park’s boundaries and have since been leveled by highway construction and farming. Twelve of the largest mounds, including a 55-foot Temple Mound, are the focus of long-term preservation efforts by the Mississippi Department of Archives and History and the University of Mississippi’s Center for Archaeological Research.
Excavations in the 1960s unearthed structural remains, burials and ceramic and stone artifacts, many of which are currently exhibited at the museum. From those findings, researchers have learned that the Indians who used the Winterville Mounds may have had a civilization similar to that of the Natchez Indians, a tribe documented by French explorers in the early 1700s. A mysterious fire consumed the original structure on the Temple Mound site in the late 1300s. And though the site was still used, no additional mounds were built there. The tribal population soon declined as new settlements increased in the lower Yazoo River basin. By 1450, the Winterville Mounds had been completely abandoned.
The park and museum are located six miles north of the intersection of Highway 82 and Highway 1 in Greenville. The grounds are open daily from dawn to dusk. The museum is open from 9 a.m. -5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 1:30-5 p.m. on Sunday. Admission is free.