Friday, December 16, 2016
Mounds State Park: Anderson Indiana
MOUNTS STATE PARK: ANDERSON INDIANA
Early one morning we enjoyed walking the trails through the mounds area at the beautiful Mounds State Park, just outside of Anderson, Ind.
The Adena tribe, the earliest Native Americans to construct mounds here, were primarily hunter-gatherers, but they also planted crops such as squash, gourds, sunflowers and maize.
At the large Great Mound, the centerpiece created about 160 BC, plaques explain its astronomical alignment related to learning the timing of the solstices and equinoxes.
The Giant Mound has astronomical alignments to time solstices and equinoxes
The mounds were community gathering centers where religious rituals were performed and burials took place. A mound was usually built as part of a burial ritual, in which the earth of the mound was piled immediately atop the ashes of a burned mortuary building. In honor of the dead, tools, weapons, pottery and other clay items were involved with the burning and were buried with the dead.
Some sources suggest that the Hopewell culture replaced the Adena around 100 BC. Kelly, a state park ranger who is an archeologist, told us that others are still working to understand the relationship between the Adena and Hopewell. At this point they were not sure whether they were continuous or separate
The Hopewell tribe continued the tradition of creating mounds, but were more sophisticated than the Adena in making objects. The Hopewell disappeared around 500 AD, with no clear explanation of what happened to them
They were both agriculturists and hunter-gatherers, but what was so remarkable was their trading range around the continent.
They had goods such as bear teeth and obsidian from the Rocky Mountains, mica from the Carolinas, seashells from the Gulf of Mexico, and copper from the upper Great Lakes. Since they had no form of transportation but their feet, it meant some of them had to do a tremendous amount of walking.
This also suggests that there was a great exchange of knowledge between the different Native American tribes and this allowed for some real advances in living styles as the knowledge from different cultures were exchanged.
The Adena were skilled potters and sculptors, making pottery and small effigy sculptures out of clay and stone, and bowls and other household utensils from wood and stone. The Hopewell stone and clay items had a refinement that indicated their sculptors and potters were more skilled than the Adena.
We had previously been impressed by how many other Indian tribes in what is now the United States had constructed mounds copying those of the Adena-Hopewell tribes. The largest we have visited are the Cahokia Mounds outside of St. Louis, but we have visited mounds in Georgia, Ohio, Iowa, Missouri and now Indiana.
At one point when Europeans first arrived in America there may have been thousands of mounds, but many mounds have been leveled for farm land or raided for artifacts. This area was saved from destruction by the Bronnenberg family, who preserved the area for future generations. Their two-story brick farmhouse is open for visitors.
We were impressed with the scenery along the wooden boardwalk that took us around the park and back to the visitor’s center that has a small but well-chosen set of displays on the wild animal and plant life of the area.
Kelly told us the park had been started in 1930, but the visitor’s center and display were not added until the 1990s. She took us into the glassed viewing room, overlooking a rich range of plants and scenery seated us on comfortable couches and opened herself to questions.
A variety of bird houses were visible, some of which she said were for bats, who use the local trees for their resting place. Kelly said the bats are endangered and steps are being taken to preserve them. Humming birds were just returning to the area when we visited in the spring--an especially good time to enjoy the setting and learn some history.
A walking trail goes through the mounds area
A viewing room in the visitor's center lets you watch different birds and bats in the area