The Year of Moving Forward

The Year of Moving Forward
At our 4 person wedding reception in DC

Friday, July 8, 2011


I absolutely love visiting places where early civilizations lived and transferring myself into their realm, dissolving any knowledge of science or modernity and imagining what I would think of stars, the moon, poison ivy, storms, my attraction to men, and other things. How would we deal with those things without our knowledge, amassed over thousands of years?

Moundville is not far from Bessemer, and I visited there this week. If you don't know, Moundville represents a Native American culture that inhabited the area hundreds of years ago. Much of what we understand about this "prehistoric" city is by representation of what has been learned with our modern idea of what was.

Photo Credit University of Alabama Museums

This is a reenactor in costume. This is what we suppose a man of ancient "Moundville" looked like. Nice. But I digress.

Moundville was occupied from around 1000AD to 1450 AD. It was a hubbub of activity, spreading over 325 acres with 29 earthen mounds and dwellings for thousands of people. It was a center of political and religious activity. The decline and eventual abandonment of the center remains a mystery.

What did these people believe about nature and cosmic forces? This three dimensional eagle emerging from the clouds in the museum makes me wonder.

In some areas we are more precise in our knowledge.

Known as the "Moundville Duck Bowl," in 1906 this carved piece was touted as the most remarkable piece of sculpture ever discovered north of Mexico on the American continent.

This painted ceramic bottle is typical of the type of vessels found at Moundville. Sorry my picture is not of good quality, but I will come back to this picture in a minute.

There are life size representations of daily life, also in the museum.

The museum at Moundville is world class. Take a day and go visit.

But, did you know, that even closer, even older Indian mounds have been found. The Bessemer Mounds were once located in what is now Bessemer city limits and were occupied as early as 800 AD.

There were three mounds; a ceremonial mound, a burial mound and a domiciliary mound. You can read about the discovery and excavation of these mounds here. You can also learn there that the mounds no longer exist.

The actual mounds were destroyed during the excavations. Recent development, including a theme park, an outlet mall, and the Jefferson County Sewer and Garbage Disposal Plant, have destroyed a large part of the Indian village site.

Future development threatens to totally destroy what is left.

It is sad that so much of the site has been destroyed, but what remains could still become an archaeological park that would be an asset to the city and state. This would require some common sense and foresight.

Here is a picture of a bowl and a bottle found at the Bessemer site.

Picture credit University of Alabama Museums

Compare these bottles with the one from Moundville, which was probably made hundreds of years later. The structure and the decoration both seem to be more primitive in these Bessemer bottles. That is a layman's observation based on nothing more than photographs, but it makes one think about progress.

It is a shame that forward thinking (or backward appreciating) people were not successful in preserving the sites around Bessemer. We might have had a nice historical attraction of our own.


Carol said...

Thats good Joe. I didn't know there were mounds here. Is it where the Target is?

Joe said...

No these are near where Alabama Adventure and Watermark Place are.