first Indian group to build mounds in what is now the United States
are often called the Adenans. They began constructing earthen burial
sites and fortifications around 600 B.C. Some mounds from that era
are in the shape of birds or serpents, andprobably served religious
purposes not yet fully understood.
Adenans appear to have been absorbed or displaced by various groups
collectively known as Hopewellians. One of the most important centers
of their culture was found in southern Ohio, where the remains of
several thousand of these mounds still remain. Believed to be great
traders, the Hopewellians used and exchanged tools and materials
across a wide region of hundreds of kilometers.
around 500 A.D., the Hopewellians, too, disappeared, gradually giving
way to a broad group of tribes generally known as the Mississippians
or Temple Mound culture. One city, Cahokia, just east of St. Louis,
Missouri, is thought to have had a population of about 20,000 at
its peak in the early 12th century. At the center of the city stood
a huge earthen mound, flatted at the top, which was 30 meters high
and 37 hectares at the base. Eighty other mounds have been found
such as Cahokia depended on a combination of hunting, foraging,
trading and agriculture for their food and supplies. Influenced
by the thriving societies to the south, they evolved into complex
hierarchical societies which took slaves and practiced human sacrifice.
what is now the southwest United States, the Anasazi, ancestors
of the modern Hopi Indians, began building stone and adobe pueblos
around the year 900. These unique and amazing apartment-like structures
were often built along cliff faces; the most famous, the "cliff
palace" of Mesa Verde, Colorado, had over 200 rooms. Another site,
the Pueblo Bonito ruins along New Mexico's Chaco River, once contained
more than 800 rooms.
the most affluent of the pre-Columbian American Indians lived in
the Pacific northwest, where the natural abundance of fish and raw
materials made food supplies plentiful and permanent villages possible
as early as 1,000 B.C. The opulence of their "potlatch" gatherings
remains a standard for extravagance and festivity probably unmatched
in early American history.