Spiro Mounds
The mounds mark one of the
most important prehistoric
Indian sites east of the Rocky
Mountains.
ExploreSouthernHistory.com - Spiro Mounds Archaeological Center, Oklahoma
ExploreSouthernHistory.com - Spiro Mounds Archaeological Center, Oklahoma
Spiro Mounds
The Craig Mound, seen here, is one of a series of
prehistoric mounds preserved at the Spiro Mounds
Archaeological Center in Spiro, Oklahoma.
Ancient Observatory
Researchers have discovered
that the mounds functioned
as an ancient observatory to
help residents track the
seasons.
Center of Ancient Trade
Artifacts from the Spiro
Mounds show that the people
who lived there maintained
trade connections as far away
as South Florida and Illinois.
Aligned to the Sun and Stars
An interpretive panel explains
the alignment of the mounds
to the sun and stars.
Spiro Mounds Archaeological Center - Spiro, Oklahoma
Oklahoma's Ancient City...
Seven miles outside the eastern Oklahoma
town of Spiro can be found the remarkable
Spiro Mounds Archaeological Center. The
park preserves the remains of an advanced
prehistoric Native American civilization.

Although it is far removed from most of the
large mound groups of the Southeastern
United States, the Spiro Mounds site had an
enormous impact on the culture that created
many of these ceremonial complexes.

Regarded by many archaeologists as one of
the four most important prehistoric Indian
sites east of the Rocky Mountains, Spiro was
a center of culture during the Mississippian
era (A.D. 900 - A.D. 1540). This era marked
the spread of a common, organized religion
across much of the Southeast and Midwest.

The Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto
encountered the Mississippians during his
long march through the South and the culture
came to be exemplified by sites such as

Ocmulgee
in Georgia, Lake Jackson and Fort
Walton in Florida, and Spiro in Oklahoma.

No one knows exactly where this culture
began, but there is general agreement that it
spread eastward from the Mississippi during
the century or two before 1000 A.D. Sites like
Spiro clearly played a significant role in the
development and spread of the religious
culture, called by some the "Southern Cult."

Archaeologists believe the Spiro Mounds site
was occupied from around 850 A.D. to
around 1450 A.D. What led to its demise is
unknown, although there is circumstantial
evidence that its leaders may have lost their
influence due to a severe drought. What is
known for sure, however, is that for much of
its existence, the site was a center for
ceremony and trade with influences and
contacts extending out for thousands of
miles.

Conch shells found at Spiro undoubtedly
came from as far away as South Florida,
while other materials arrived from locations
as far flung as Illinois, Tennessee and
Texas. In turn, sites across the Southeast
have produced artifacts with designs
extremely similar to those found at Spiro.

Also fascinating is the fact that several of the
12 known mounds at Spiro form a sort of
giant calender for tracking the seasons. The
mounds were constructed to create unique
alignments when the sun rose and set on
solstice and equinox days marking the key
seasons.
During the 20th century artifact hunters  
formed a "mining" company that began to
systematically loot the site. The artifacts were
sold to the highest bidders.

These "miners" destroyed portions of the two
key mounds, recklessly pulling artifacts from
the ground and scattering the bones of
hundreds of Native American religious and
political leaders who were buried at the site.
The wanton destruction so alarmed and
infuriated the general public in Oklahoma
that the state legislature passed measures
outlawing such looting.  The mounds are
now owned and preserved by the Oklahoma
Historical Society.

Spiro Mounds Archaeological Center is
located on Lock & Dam Road, 4 1/2 miles
north of Oklahoma Highway 9 in Spiro
(Highway 9 is the Oklahoma extension of
Interstate 540 in Fort Smith). The site is open
Wednesday through Saturday from 9 to 5 and
on Sundays from noon to 5. Admission is $4
for adults, $3 for seniors and $1 for children
ages 6 to 18.
Please click here to visit the
park's official website for more information.
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Copyright 2011 by Dale Cox
All rights reserved.