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4500 years ago in Poverty Point, Louisiana, arose a culture whose impact on America has never been understood in spite of their lasting legacy, huge mounds that stretch from the northern Appalachian Mountains to New Mexico and from the Gulf of Mexico to the Canadian Shield. For 4000 years the culture's fortunes rose and fell, perhaps related to weather conditions that made rudimentary agriculture possible.

Archaic Moundbuilders left little to understand their culture. Adena, and later the Hopewell Culture left more, but today it is the Mississippians, the final, fantastic culture that evokes the most mystery. Moving from the West, they brought with them their intricate socio-political system, far-reaching trading network, marvelous palisaded cities and splendid gardens romanticized in the writings of the earliest Spanish explorers. Mississippians are distinct from both the earlier Moundbuilder cultures and the Woodland Indians that surrounded them. Discovered by deSoto as he explored the Southeast, these Native Americans were in steep decline by the time he arrived in 1540.

Twenty years later, when Spanish explorers returned to northwest Georgia, no trace of the civilization was found. The cities were gone, the Mississippians absorbed by the remnants of the earlier Woodland Indian cultures that had peacefully co-existed with the Moundbuilders for the 500 years that the civilization flourished.

Today, the Etowah Indian Mounds are part of the lasting legacy of this culture.


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