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.