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Wickliffe Mounds is a Mississippian culture archaeological site located in Ballard County, Kentuckymarker, just outside the town of Wickliffe, Kentuckymarker, about three miles from the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. Archaeology investigations have linked the site with others along the Ohio River in the Angel Phase of Mississippian culture.

Historic community at Wickliffe Mounds

The town at Wickliffe Mounds was both a ceremonial and administrative center of an important chiefdom in the Mississippian culture. At its peak it had a population probably reaching into the hundreds.

It was apparently inhabited between 1000 CE and 1300 CE. The site is dominated by two large platform mounds, with at least eight smaller mounds scattered around a central plaza area. Agriculture was based on corn as a staple, and the Mississippians had trade with societies as far away as North Carolinamarker, Wisconsinmarker, and the Gulf of Mexicomarker. As in most other Mississippian chiefdoms, the community of Wickliffe had a social hierarchy ruled by a hereditary chief.

Exploitation and Excavation

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and semi-professional excavations first began in the site around 1913 and continued sporadically for several decades. In 1930, Fain W. King, a businessman from Paducah, Kentuckymarker, began private excavations of the site, with the intention of turning it into a tourist attraction. In cooperation with his wife, Blanche Busey King, he opened the site for tourists under the name "Ancient Buried City". The Kings' venture was highly controversial because they used sensational and misleading advertising, altered the site to make it more visually appealing, and made dubious and exaggerated interpretations of the site. These actions put them directly in opposition to professional archaeologists who studied the site and did not want it disturbed.

The Kings deeded the site to go to the Western Baptist Hospital in Paducah upon their death in 1946. The hospital continued to operate the site as a tourism business until 1983.

That year the hospital donated the site to Murray State Universitymarker, to be used for research and training students. In 1984 the site's historic importance was recognized and it was added to the National Register of Historic Places. In 2004, the site became the 11th State Historical Site of Kentuckymarker and entered the control of the State Parks Service.

The museum encloses three excavated mounds with archaeological features, and displays artifacts from the site and a mural of a Mississippian village.

Mound A

Ceremonial Mound is the largest of the mounds and was the location of the ceremonial structures. This would have been political and religious center of the community. Originally excavated in 1932 and later in 1984-5, it has been determined that there are six phases of development.

Mound B

Architecture Building covers a mound that was residential. You can see several layers of habitation revealed in this cut-away mound. This mound was built up over 200 years. Inside, you look into the layers of this mound. Here, you can see the evidence that was used to identify this as a residential area. The layers of charred materials from cooking fires and the postholes for the poles that held the wattle and daub siding.

Mound C

The Cemetery Building covers the area used as the communities burial grounds. Native American practices prohibit the display of the dead, so the original remains have been removed and artificial skeletons place to show the original burials. The exterior of the excavation has been curtained with traditional designs to cover those remains that could not be removed. The burials are from the 1200’s and reflect many infants as well as numerous medical problems, including arthritis, tuberculosis and various injuries.

Mound D

The Lifeways Building is the excavation of an early village/residential portion of the community. The early homes were replaced by an elongated mound. The visible excavation shows the earlier arrangement of earlier structures and numerous infant burials.

See also



Footnotes

  1. Wickliffe Mounds State Historic Site; Kentucky State Parks, 2007


Books

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