Going Prehistoric!

Big Piles of Dirt

Mound A is the tallest mound in Arkansas at approximately 49 ½ ft tall. That’s almost the size of a 5 story building. Mound B is 39 ½ ft tall and mound c is 10-12 ft. tall. It has been estimated that it would take approximately 753,280 baskets full of dirt to make mound A.

Mound A is the tallest mound in Arkansas at approximately 49 ½ ft tall. That’s almost the size of a 5 story building. Mound B is 39 ½ ft tall and mound c is 10-12 ft. tall. It has been estimated that it would take approximately 753,280 baskets full of dirt to make mound A.

An almost five story tall prehistoric mound sits before me. As I watch the sunset over the ceremonial grounds I stare in awe over the ingenuity of the people that once lived here.  Contemplating this huge mound, I start thinking about how visitors describe the mounds at first sight. “Those are some big piles of dirt.” Calling them big piles of dirt is an oversimplification.

Along with chard sticks baskets were used as a prehistoric mound building tool.

Along with chard sticks baskets were used as a prehistoric mound building tool.

First impressions we have about prehistoric American Indians is that they are primitive, simple really. Even in commercials you hear “So easy a caveman can do it.” This implies that a person who lived long ago could only do the simplest of things. I thought back on what “simple” things the people of prehistoric times would have done. Building a mound requires dirt to be built up in a pile. That is an easy concept. Making it flat or round on top, well that’s simple too. Sure the people long ago could do the simplest things. Instead of seeing these people as simple here at Toltec Mounds Archeological State Park you have to take a big step back and arrange the whole picture. The Plum Bayou People, over 900 years ago, were able to construct monumental and lasting earthworks that still stand today.

Solstices and Equinoxes

The Great Pyramids in Egypt, Stonehenge in England, Mayan Pyramids in Mexico…these are the outstanding places you think of when you hear solstice or equinox. The ancient peoples around the world built these amazing and mysterious wonders. Hundreds of visitors flock to these destinations every year to admire a piece of prehistory.

America is too young to have such great wonders of the world. Or is it? These mounds at Toltec Mounds Archeological State Park tell us the same thing.  They aren’t in shapes of little heads or tables but they tell the same stories. The prehistoric American Indians that lived here not only built these huge mounds, but they also put them in certain spots to create a way to tell about the solstices and Equinoxes. Our own trailblazers have been in your back yard this whole time.

Visitors enjoying the sunset behind Mound A to mark the Fall Equinox.

Visitors enjoying the sunset behind Mound A to mark the Fall Equinox.

Come out and see this for yourself. The park lets people come experience these actual events and see our own piece of prehistory.

After studying the mounds I concluded that a truer statement should be “So easy a modern man can do it.” Prehistoric American Indians simply did do it. Easy is a huge understatement. It would truly be easy for the modern man but let’s see modern man build these mounds the way they are without books, internet, and engineering tools…and have them last over 900 years!

Amy Griffin, Park Interpreter

Amy Griffin, Park Interpreter

Amy holds a bachelors degree in Parks and Recreation from Arkansas Tech University. Her career in Arkansas state parks started as a seasonal interpreterin 2006 at DeGray Lake State Park. She is currently a park interpreter at Toltec Mounds Archeological Park and has worked there since 2007. She is also a member of the National Association of Interpreters and a Certified Interpretive Guide.

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One Response to Going Prehistoric!

  1. Rhonda Clay says:

    Very good article Amy! I am sharing it with friends and family.

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