Old Dirt – New Thoughts

January 23, 2007

Mound Building Experiement – Minnesota Style

Filed under: Experimental archaeology,Teaching @ 11:53 am and

Last week I had my World Prehistory class engage in a little experimental archaeology. I told them that we would explore the labor and leadership requirements for the building of monumental architecture. We decided to replicate a Woodland tradition earthen mound – only we used whatever equipment we could find in my lab and snow to build with. It took less than an hour to build our 6 foot high mound.

According to our calculations we would need to repeat our mound-building efforts 4545 times in order to build a respectible 30 ft tall Hopewellian mound, or 14,285 times to accomplish the average of the 14 construction efforts for Monks Mound. As in all classic experimental archaeology exercises, this one certainly gave us a unique perspective on monumental architecture of the ancient world. 

Mound-building experiment 18 January 2007 Mound-building experiment

World Prehistory class (January 2007)World Prehistory class (mound is in the background)


  1.   afarensis — January 23, 2007 @ 12:48 pm    

    That is sooo cool! Perhaps you could do effigy mounds next?

  2.   Brian — January 23, 2007 @ 5:24 pm    

    Hey Afarensis, I would have thought that after the winter you’ve had you wouldn’t want to see pictures of snow!

  3.   afarensis — January 23, 2007 @ 10:25 pm    

    But snow in the form of a Woodland period mound is a completely different story. I actually went outside with the intention of making one of my own, alas, most of the snow has melted. Next time it snows, though, I’m going to try and recreate Cahokia (complete with Woodhenge) in my front yard. Besides, it was the ice that was the problem.


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