Moundville Burial Sites and Evidence of Social Stratification

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About 800 years ago, a great civilization inhabited the land in west Alabama, located along the Black Warrior River, south of Tuscaloosa. It encompassed a known area of 320 acres and contained at least 29 earthen mounds. Other significant features include a plaza, or centralized open area, and a massive fortification of log construction. The flat topped, pyramidal mounds ranging from three to 60 feet, are believed to have been constructed by moving the soil, leaving large pits that are today small lakes. As major ceremonial center, up to 3000 people inhabited the central area from 1200-1400 AD. An estimated 10,000 lived around the stockade, which surrounded three sides of the civilization (Blitz 2008:2-3; Little et al 2001:132). A …show more content…
These discoveries soon found their way into publications, attracting considerable attention (Blitz 2008:19; Steponaitis 1983:127).
As a member of the Moundville Historical Society, Clara Powers launched a campaign to ascertain Moundville as a state park in 1923. Dr. Walter Jones, director of the Alabama Museum of Natural History, pled with the Board of Regents to purchase the land, stating, “We robbed the Indians of everything they had, and the least we can do is preserve this wonderful monument which they left behind.” The ANMH began buying portions little at a time (Blitz 2008:20). Excavations persisted on an impressive scale by the Alabama Museum of Natural History between 1930 and 1941. “Since the 1950’s, a number of smaller excavations have been undertaken, some of which continue to this day” (Knight and Steponaitis 1998:1-2). The Moundville earthen features are particularly remarkable because of the division based on size. The largest mound, located along the northern river edge, strongly suggests that the chief, or highest official within the civilization, resided atop this mound. As one looks southward, the mounds’ size begins to diminish. By this arrangement of mounds, it has been suggested, that the distinct size differences is a clear indication of social stratification (Milner 2004:144-5). The sizes of the mounds were in harmony with the rank of the ruling chief’s occupation of a

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