Emerald Mound: Natchez Trace Parkway MP 10.3

Date Visited: 4/3/2019

Heading north from the Elizabeth Female Academy along the Natchez Trace Parkway, we hung a left at mile post 10.3 and took the short drive to our next stop where we would spend some reflective time at the second largest ceremonial mound in North America.

Second only to Monks Mound in Cahokia, Emerald Mound is an impressive 8-acre site built and used over the span of 300 years during the Mississippian Era, between roughly 1300 to 1600 AD.

Originally known as the Selzertown site, Emerald Mound gets its current name from the pre-civil war Emerald Plantation that once surrounded the site.

Archeological testing in 1949 indicates that this flat-topped pyramid mound was constructed in phases using primitive tools made of wood, stone and bone.  First the natural hilltop was leveled. Then, basket-by-basked, skin-by-skin, loads of dirt were moved upon the backs and heads of the ancient peoples from the base of the mound to the top to create eight secondary mounds that sat atop the enormous base which alone measures 770’ x 435’ and reaches a height of 35’. 

The largest of the secondary mounds that sit atop the main base structure measures 190’ x 160’ and rises an additional 30’ giving the mound an overall height of approximately 65’. It is believed that it is from this, the largest of the upper secondary mounds, that the semi-divine chief, The Great Sun, led this complex society horticulturalist and hunter-gatherers.

The mound served as a ceremonial center and was used for trade and ritual sporting contests, as well as social, political and spiritual events. Although privately owned until 1950, the mound is still used today by the Natchez, Choctaw, and Chickasaw peoples. 

In 1950 the site was donated to the National Park Service. In 1955, after years of erosion and plowing that destroyed six of the eight smaller upper mound structures and erased any sign of the once massive moat that surrounded the base, the National Park Service restored and stabilized the site to the condition that you see today.

1n 1989, Emerald Mound received its status as a National Historic Landmark along the Natchez Trace Parkway citing its historical significance as a representation of the “dynamic adaptability of people who lived along the lower Mississippi River and who were influenced by the complex temple-building societies from the north.” ~ National Register Number: 88002618

The pictures alone don’t do justice in showing the massive size of this significant feat of human achievement, nor do they convey the shared feelings of ancestry that are a part of our natural human condition. Which brings me to another point about the significance of this site;  At Emerald Mound visitors are allowed to respectfully engage with the site by walking to the top of these man-made platforms. This practice gave us a more personal cultural exchange with these people from the past. In retrospect these moments would later become more significant as our journey continues.

Our next stop on the NTP is the Mount Locust Historic House.

Until next week…..

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