Friday, August 16, 2019

Pharr Mounds Burial Grounds in North Mississippi

Continuing my posts concerning all things Mississippi, today I’m going to share about the Native American burial mounds in my state. At first glance, the burial grounds don’t look like much, just a pile of dirt heaped up that any bulldozer worth its salt could do in a couple of hours or less.

But Pharr Mounds was not built by bulldozers, but by nomadic Indian hunters and gatherers who returned to Northern Mississippi to bury their dead.

By Unknown - Copied from this picture, shown on this National Park Service website,

Eight mounds sit on 90 acres of land near Tupelo, Mississippi along the Natchez Trace. And, yes, the Natchez Trace played a huge part in the reason these burial grounds are in this location. In addition to the rivers and streams in abundance in Mississippi, the old trace was the primary trail bison used to follow the ridges between the salt licks in Tennessee and the Mississippi River. It was only natural that the natives would also use the same paths cut from the forest for ease of travel as well as the game to be had.

Along this path, Native American settlements began to crop up. Pharr Mounds, estimated to have been settled during the “Woodland Period”, was one of these settlements. This is a generic term for prehistoric sites that fell between the Archaic hunter-gatherers and the more settled agriculturalist Mississippian cultures.

By Fredlyfish4 - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

Modern day farming techniques almost wiped out some of the mounds, but reports of artifacts and stories passed down through generations resulted in archaeologists swooping in to save the mounds. In 1966, the National Park Service excavated four of the mounds.

The archaeologists found fire pits and clay platforms at the base of the mounds. They also found human remains, as well as various ceremonial artifacts, many of which were made from materials not native to the area. They recovered copper that hailed from the Great Lakes area as well as greenstone, galena, and mica which proved the connection of the local people with the larger Middle Woodland people of the time.

Due to the work of the archaeologists in 1966, and with the confirmation that the mounds were of great historical significance, they were added to the National Registry of Historic Places on February 23, 1978, and can be seen on The Natchez Trace Parkway at Mile Marker 286.7.