Most of the Indian Mounds in Mississippi are on privately-owned land. As a result, many mounds in the state have been irreparably damaged or destroyed by modern development and looting. Indian mounds, therefore, are critically endangered cultural sites. Untold numbers of the old monuments have been lost, and secrets of our nation’s past have vanished with them. The mounds that remain stand as a testament to the vitality, diversity, and creativity of their makers, who developed the complex societies of long ago. There has been progress made with the development of a tour of Indian Mounds in Mississippi, and the opening of a Visitor Center at the Pocahontas Mound. There are on-going excavations by the University of Mississippi, Mississippi State University and University of Southern Mississippi across the state. Unfortunately, several mounds on private property have been bulldozed to avoid state landmark protection.
2017 Update – In Progress
Since 2016, mound enthusiasts have been able t to travel The Mississippi Mound Trail (MMT), a self-guided driving tour located along Highway 61 and other highways. Designed by the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, the trail stretches more than 350 miles along the Mississippi River and its tributaries. The Mississippi Mound Trail showcases the state’s rich archaeological resources at more than thirty sites. Visitors will see some of the largest and oldest Native American mounds and mound groups in the nation. Informative interpretive signs installed along the Mound Trail by MDAH contribute to the travelers’ learning experience. This project raises awareness and enhances protection of the vast array of prehistoric Indian mounds and earthworks in Mississippi.
MDAH archeologist David Abbott says he hopes the Mound Trail will help educate people about the importance of preserving these sites, many mounds are still being damaged by insensitive agricultural practices, while others are being looted and vandalized.
The Army Corps of Engineers pressed charges against three people for violating an archaeological resource on Federal land in 2014. Those individuals were prosecuted and sent to prison in 2017. Although Abbott is pleased that the law was inforced he points out that this incident is reflective of a common trend. “Social media has led to the popularization of Native American site looting. We don’t mind people that surface collect-I give out site numbers to them so that they can keep track of their collections and that data helps archaeologists. We don’t encourage digging as it’s hard enough for a trained archaeologist to excavate a site and record the data. People that dig to find artifacts that they do not record any provenience for just loses the data forever-like tearing pages from a book. We need to do more to reach people on social media to educate, and hopefully, they’ll listen. There’s always a group that will not listen, but I have faith in people and their desire to preserve and record Mississippi history. It’s their history, too.”