Today, the legacy of the moundbuilders is at risk, according to the National Park Service’ Archeology Program. Most earthworks, lacking high visibility, are worn down to unassuming shapes in the overgrowth along remote fields and tributaries. "Many have been looted or damaged by farming and construction; of almost 1,100 known sites in Arkansas, only 2 remain relatively untouched.
Along Mississippi’s scenic Natchez Trace Parkway sits an immense flat-topped platform 35 feet high, spanning 8 acres. Emerald Mound, the second largest ceremonial earthwork in the United States, was built over two centuries before Columbus waded ashore in the Caribbean. The Mississippians erected hundreds--maybe thousands--of earthworks across the Southeast while Europe was living through the Middle Ages and the Renaissance.
As the Mississippians flourished, the mounds evolved into urban centers with the common city problems of overcrowding and waste disposal. Sometimes one large flat-topped mound dominated a village or ceremonial center. More often, as at Emerald, several mounds surrounded a plaza, with a village at its edges. Structures atop the plaza--temples or official residences--sat on four-sided flat-topped mounds. A palisade of saplings surrounded the entire complex.
Periodically, the Mississippians would raze one of the wood-and-mud structures, bury the remains of a deceased leader in a fresh layer of earth, and erect a new building on top. Commonly, the well-to-do were laid to rest in specially built burial mounds, conical or round.
Crews labored periodically over generations, sometimes a century or more, before an earthwork reached its final dimensions. A mound might begin as a slight rise with an important building on it. After a time, perhaps it might burn accidentally or people would burn it down as part of a cleansing ceremony. The crews brought basket after basket of dirt to cover the old and lay a new foundation, and another building went up.
Many workers, hauling 60 pounds of soil apiece, labored to complete each stage . Some archeologists say that a culture’s survival depended on a steady flow of immigrants to compensate for the high death rates. When the flow ceased, they argue, the cities collapsed."
The Mississippi and its tributaries, major highways of commerce and travel for centuries gave rise to the bustling native communities of the lower Mississippi. Enriched by goods and materials from as far away as the Great Lakes, the Mississippians --the last in a line of moundbuilders--erected monuments whose majesty and complexity of construction still astonish.
The wealthy drove the trading system Because they took their prize possessions to the grave [their status symbols ] their children had to accumulate their own marks of rank. The demand for luxury items fostered trade across the region, and beyond.
Raw copper, likely from the Great Lakes area, was cut and delicately hammered into bracelets, beads, rings, ear spools, and embossed effigies of falcons and other birds of prey. From the Gulf of Mexico came marine shells called whelks or conchs, which were worked into perforated necklaces and large disks carefully decorated with intricate designs.
There was also a demand for tools and utensils, which villagers took to the grave to denote their own roles or status: for men, axes and fish hooks; for women pestles and nut-cracking stones.
The Mississippian culture is gone now, but the artistry of the moundbuilders continues to lure looters to the mounds.
With few exceptions --such as the record of Hernando DeSoto ‘s Spanish army— there are no documents of what travelers saw in the age of the moundbuilders .DeSoto’s entourage, which traversed the valley in the 1540s, came when the cultures were in decline . DeSoto landed near Tampa Bay, Florida, and for two years trekked across what are now the states of Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, Texas, and Louisiana. He visited a number of large communities in the Mississippi valley."
We do know that in 1500AD, "rulers began to lose their grip on the tightly organized societies of the lower Mississippi. Moundbuilding and ceremony started to disappear. Chiefdoms fractionalized; war, rather than political control, became the key to power. With instability and drought, Native Americans vacated the delta, leaving the mound cities empty for the Europeans to ponder in years to come."
Today we’re witnessing another migration from Mexico. It is estimated that there are now 15 to 18 million illegal immigrants from Mexico in the United States. American politicians are up in arms and are proposing many ways of dealing with what they see as the "problem". There are some of us who don’t consider this migration to be a "problem". While its certainly true that some costs have soared almost out of sight: Health care and education are two examples of the increased burden on us caused by this illegal migration, its also true that great benefits have come with this migration. Examples are the employment of illegal immigrants in jobs no one else is willing to take at wages low enough to ensure that employers can’t find anyone else to do the work: stoop farm labor, some construction jobs, and many hospitality industry jobs. In other words, the increased costs are offset by the ability to get work done. I am one of those few who say "Leave the system alone, its working so why try to "fix" it.
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