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Mounds State Park offers glimpse at prehistoric life

Prehistoric people created the ancient mounds at Mounds State Park.

ANDERSON, Ind. — Mounds State Park in Anderson features 10 unique ancient mounds, or "earthworks." While there are still many questions about the prehistoric people who created the mounds, archaeologists have made many discoveries.

"It wasn't until the 1980s that we began to figure out what the mounds were used for," said Kelley Morgan, an interpretive naturalist at Mounds State Park.

Mounds State Park features 10 unique earthworks. They were built by prehistoric Native Americans and are more than 2,000 years old.

According to Morgan, the mounds were created by the Adena people, then later the Hopewell people. They were used roughly from about 160 BC, through about 3 to 400 AD. After that, their use declined.

Credit: WTHR

"They used sticks to loosen the dirt. They put them in woven baskets and they transferred the dirt from this area here that we now call the ditch to the upper enclosure, which is the actual mound," Morgan said. "From that point, they took a rope — roughly 180 feet. They stood in the middle and the person came up here and they tracked it all the way around. And that's basically how you would have outlined a mound."

For these ancient peoples, the great mound also functioned as a calendar, marking the summer and winter solstice.

The mound was also likely used for ceremonies.

"You would definitely want to be celebrating births, deaths and marriages. You would be celebrating different accomplishments for the year. You'd probably be trading and talking about things that you had seen throughout the year," Morgan said. "So we do really feel that this was a ceremonial location. But it also gives us a really interesting insight to the people of the past because we actually know what they were eating. They were eating elk and bison. They were eating goose and a lot of river mussels."

Credit: WTHR
Credit: WTHR

It's hard for pictures to really give the mounds justice. A visit to Mounds State Park is necessary to really enjoy the topography in person. 

"If you come here on winter solstice or summer solstice, we actually do lead hikes and sunrise and sunset observances," Morgan said. "So you can actually see it for yourself."

For more information on Mounds State Park, click here.

MORE: Going Green at McCormick's Creek State Park

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