Old Man River:  History Along the MississippiApril 19-November 2, 2003

Early Exploration and Development

Effigy Moundbuilders

Bald eagle and alligator crossing sign
The Upper vs. The Lower Mississippi
Effigy Moundbuilders exhibit section
Sandstone grinding stones, abraders, projectile points, artwork, and photographs
~ Effigy Mounds National Monument, National Park Service, Harper's Ferry IA
Found only in the upper Mississippi River Valley, unique effigy mounds were created by Woodland Indians that flourished from 600 to 1300 A.D. Huge earthen mounds in the shape of birds, bears, deer, and other animals are scattered along the river in northeast Iowa.

Conical and linear mounds were used for burial mounds, but effigies were probably used for ceremonial purposes. Effigies were formed by defining an animal shape up to 137 feet in length with shells or pebbles, then digging a shallow pit and filling it with piles of dirt. Fire pits discovered in the hearts of bear effigies led archaeologists to theorize that the people were trying to harness the animals' power to communicate with the spirit world.

At one time an estimated 10,000 mounds existed in Iowa alone, but due to erosion, development or looting, less than 1,000 remain today. Here in Iowa at Effigy Mounds National Monument there are 195 known mounds - 31 of them effigies - amid 2,526 acres of forest, prairies, bluffs, wetlands, and 14 miles of hiking trails. The beautiful riverfront view has remained essentially the same for hundreds of years.

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Did you know … ?
No present-day Native Americans claim direct ancestry to the effigy moundbuilders.


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This section "Early Exploration and Development" has the following related pages:
Effigy Mound Builders

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2 men in a canoe
Early Exploration and Development
steamboat
River Days
view of Bellview, Iowa
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Man vs. Man
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Man vs. Nature
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The Arts Along the River
New Orleans graveyard
Legends and Spirits
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