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The various cultures collectively termed Mound Builders were inhabitants of North America who, during a 5,000-year period, constructed various styles of earthen mounds for religious and ceremonial, burial, and elite residential purposes.These included the Pre-Columbian cultures of the Archaic period; Woodland period (Adena and Hopewell cultures); and Mississippian period; dating from roughly 3500 BCE (the construction of Watson Brake) to the 16th century CE, and living in regions of the Great Lakes, the Ohio River Valley, and the Mississippi River valley and its tributary waters.The most complete reference for these earthworks is Ancient Monuments of the Mississippi Valley, written by Ephraim G. Since many of the features which the authors documented have since been destroyed or diminished by farming and development, their surveys, sketches, and descriptions are still used by modern archaeologists. A smaller regional study during 1931 by author and archaeologist Fred Dustin charted and examined the mounds and Ogemaw Earthworks near Saginaw, Michigan.
He produced a series of watercolor paintings depicting scenes of native life.
These burial and ceremonial structures were typically flat-topped pyramids or platform mounds, flat-topped or rounded cones, elongated ridges, and sometimes a variety of other forms.
They were generally built as part of complex villages. 3500 BCE are the only ones known to have been built by a hunter-gatherer culture.
Watson Brake in Louisiana, constructed about 3500 BCE during the Middle Archaic period, is the oldest dated mound complex in North America.
It is one of eleven mound complexes from this period found in the Lower Mississippi Valley.