Located in Madison County, Tennessee, this park’s many geographical features were shaped by ancient Native Americans during the Middle Woodland period (1-500 CE).
2,000 years ago, the land that is now the 1,200-acre Pinson Mounds State Archaeological Park was a bustling place. During this time, 17 mounds- serving a number of different purposes- were built in this wooded area, which seems to have been considered sacred by the local people. Some of the mounds were used as burial grounds, some for ceremonial altars, and others as temporary habitation areas. The most famous — “Saul’s Mound” — was probably a ceremonial platform. Researchers believe that the layout of the mounds may have been influenced by astronomical alignment. For example, Saul’s Mound is designed to face the four cardinal directions. There is also an earthen geometric enclosure known as the “Eastern Citadel,” although it was probably also used for ceremonies rather than for protection.
Numerous excavations over the decades have uncovered the remains of prehistoric homes, refuse pits, a human cremation pit, and artifacts that lead researchers to believe the area may have been a regional trade center. During the 1980s, six tombs were discovered. One held the bones of eight richly adorned young women, while another contained four older men.
Today, the Pinson Mounds State Archaeological Park is state run and open to the public. The museum is located in a unique building, designed to look like one of the park’s mounds. According to a director of the park, “We want to share the Native American culture — past and present — with the public, tying in archaeology that helps people to understand more about the Native American culture.” To further this aim, every year the park sponsors Archeofest, a three-day celebration of Native American culture that draws thousands of visitors from all over the state.
Know Before You Go
From Jackson, TN, follow Hwy. 45 South to the small town ofPinson, TN. Turn left at the park sign, onto State Hwy 197 and follow the signs 2.5 miles to the park entrance.