Angel Mounds
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Basic Information

Located in southern Indiana on the banks of the Ohio River, Angel Mounds is recoginzed as one of the best-preserved prehistoric Native American sites in the United States. It was a large community built by the Mississippian people; a cultural group which flourished in the Mississippi and Ohio valleys around 1000 AD, and which was noted for building large, pyramid-shaped earthen mounds with flat tops.

The village now known as Angel Mounds was established around AD 900. It became a major trading center along the river. It grew to about 103 acres and at it's peak, around AD 1300, had an estimated population of at least 1,000 (between 2,000 and 3,000 by one source). The town was defended on three sides by a stockade made of wattle and daub and on the fourth side by the river itself. The stockade walls were composed of sticks woven around wooden posts and then covered with mud and stood 12 ft. (3.7 m) tall.

Like other towns of the Mississippian mound-builders, the community had platform mounds upon which were built the dwellings of chiefs and some of which were used for the burial of important people. The central mound (designated as Mound A) is 644 feet (196 meters) long, 415 feet (126 meters) wide, and 44 feet high.

The people of Angel Mounds lived by hunting and agriculture. The Mississippian culture made use of the bow and arrow, and cultivated maize. The river valley was fertile enough that they could trade their surplus grain with other communities, and develop other crafts such as pottery.

Then around 1400, people began leaving Angel Mounds. Archaeologists are unsure why this happened. It's possible that they had depleated the resources of the area, like firewood and building materials. Possibly the land became over-farmed and so could no longer produce crops as large as previously. There is no archaeological evidence of attack by other groups, or a natural disaster such as a flood or an earthquake; although an extended drought might have also precipitated a move. Whatever the cause, within fifty years, the town was vacant.

Eventually other tribes, such as the Shawnee and the Miami moved into the area. in 1850, an American named Mathias Angel settled on the site. His family owned the property, giving the mounds their name, until the site was purchased by the Indiana Historical Society in 1938.


2. Ancient America: Angel Mounds at Native American Netroots

Game and Story Use

  • Pre-Colombian America is an under-used setting for role-playing games. A time travel campaign might include a visit to a mound-building community like that of Angel Mounds.
  • The Mississippian culture demonstrates how primitive does not have to equal Cave Man
  • The people of the Angel Mounds might provide a model for a culture which is primitive in some aspects, but sophisticated in others.
  • Yes, the mounds were also used for burial purposes. There might be treasures and/or secrets buried beneath them.
    • Do they really want to desecrate a burial site? What am I saying; they're PCs, of course they do.
  • Why did the people leave the Angel Mounds community? If your PCs are time travelers or action archaeologists, they may be trying to find out.
    • It's Cthulhu! He's under one of those mounds! It's Cthulhu, I say!!!
    • Funny you should mention that … Lovecraft and Bishop knocked out a story called "The Mound" which involves a distinctly similar site.
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