The Moundville Expeditions of Clarence Bloomfield Moore

The Moundville Expeditions of Clarence Bloomfield Moore

by Clarence Bloomfield Moore

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The two works reprinted in this volume represent the pinnacle of the career of one of the most remarkable American archaeologists of the early 20th century, Clarence Bloomfield Moore.

Moore's Certain Aboriginal Remains of the Black Warrior River (1905) and Moundville Revisited (1907) brought the Moundville site in Alabama to the attention of the


The two works reprinted in this volume represent the pinnacle of the career of one of the most remarkable American archaeologists of the early 20th century, Clarence Bloomfield Moore.

Moore's Certain Aboriginal Remains of the Black Warrior River (1905) and Moundville Revisited (1907) brought the Moundville site in Alabama to the attention of the scholarly world in dramatic fashion by offering a splendid photographic display and expert commentary on its artifactual richness. Moore was the leading southeastern specialist of his day and the most prolific excavator of southern sites during the early part of the 20th century. Today Moore gives the impression of having been everywhere, having excavated everything, and having published on all of it. Moundville Expeditions contains facsimile reprints of these two classic works, along with a new scholarly introduction by one of the leading authorities on the Moundville archaeological site. Once again these rare materials on Moundville are available both for scholars and for a general audience.


Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"These are two very important works about one of the most spectacular archaeological sites in North America, and they define the foundation on which many recent studies have been based. The large scale of Moore's excavations, the clarity of his descriptions, and the profusion of illustrations are what make these works so valuable and interesting today. Scholars mine them endlessly for data; lay readers see them brimming with photos of beautiful artifacts. Making Moore's works available and adding a new introduction that explicitly situates Moore's findings in relation to recent research are significant contributions to modern scholarship of the southeastern United States."
—Vincas P. Steponaitis, The University of North Carolina

"An incredible corpus of data. The quality and abundance of illustrations provide lay readers and art historians with a feast for the eyes."
American Antiquity

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University of Alabama Press
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Classics in Southeast Archaeology Series
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10.00(w) x 14.00(h) x 0.60(d)

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The West and Central Florida Expeditions of Clarence Bloomfield Moore

By Vernon James Knight Jr.

The University of Alabama Press

Copyright © 1996 The University of Alabama Press
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-8173-0840-7



By Clarence B. Moore.

The Black Warrior river, having its sources in northern Alabama, pursues a southerly course, and passing the city of Tuscaloosa and the town of Moundville, enters the Tombigbee river just above Demopolis.

The Black Warrior river, with the aid of dams and locks, is navigable at the present time, the spring of 1905, from its union with the Tombigbee to a point a short distance above Tuscaloosa, 139 miles, by water. It is with this portion of the river, our course being northward, that the present report of our work during part of the season of 1905 has to do.

Mr. J. S. Raybon, captain of the flat-bottomed steamer from which our archæological work is done, previously had spent considerable time on the river, from Tuscaloosa down, with a companion, in a small boat, stopping at each landing to make careful inquiries as to the location of cemeteries and mounds. The names and addresses of owners of these were furnished us, and, permission to dig having been obtained, there was little to do upon our arrival on the river but to proceed with the digging.

The warm thanks of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia are tendered all owners of mounds or cemeteries, who so kindly placed their property at its disposal.

Mounds and Cemeteries.

Mound near Arcola, Hale County.

Mounds near Candy's Landing, Hale County.

Mounds near McAlpin's Woodyard, Greene County.

Mound near Stephen's Bluff, Greene County.

Mound below Lock Number 7, Hale County.

Mound at Calvin's Landing, Greene County.

Mound near Bohannon's Landing, Hale County.

Mound near Gray's Landing, Tuscaloosa County.

Mounds and cemeteries in Tuscaloosa and Hale Counties, near Moundville, Hale County.

Mound in Moundville, Hale County.

Mound near McCowin's Bluff, Tuscaloosa County.

Mound and cemetery near R. H. Foster Landing, Tuscaloosa County.

Mound near Jones' Ferry Landing, Tuscaloosa County.

Mound near Hill's Gin Landing, Tuscaloosa County.

Mound and cemetery below Foster's Ferry Landbridge, Tuscaloosa County.

Cemetery above Foster's Ferry Landbridge, Tuscaloosa County.


In a cultivated field bordering the water, on property of Mr. B. G. Gibbs, of Demopolis, Alabama, is a mound about one-quarter mile in a southerly direction from the landing. The mound, which apparently had long been under cultivation, was a trifle more than 7 feet in height. Its basal diameter, N. and S., was 200 feet; E. and W., 160 feet. In corresponding directions the diameters of the summit plateau were 130 feet and 90 feet. An excavation previously made in the central part of the mound showed it to be of clay at that point.

We shall say here, reverting to the subject more fully later in the report, that southern mounds of the class of which this one is, have been found to be domiciliary and not to contain burials as a rule. Sometimes, however, the flat plateaus of such mounds were used as cemeteries, which may be detected by comparatively superficial digging. This mound, dug into in many places by us, yielded no indication of burials.


These two small mounds are 1.5 miles SSE. from the landing, near the northern side of Big Prairie creek. They were located by our agent, but as we were unable to obtain permission to investigate them, they were not visited by us.


These mounds, all in the swamp, required the services of a guide to locate them. All evidently were domiciliary and all were dug into superficially by us, without material result. They are composed of sand and clay, in varying proportions.

One of these mounds, about one-half mile in an easterly direction from the landing, is approximately 6 feet in height. The basal diameters are 55 feet E. and W., and 44 feet N. and S. The diameters of the summit plateau in the corresponding directions are 33 feet and 23 feet.

About one-quarter mile in a SSW. direction from the other is a mound 4 feet 9 inches high. The basal diameters are 62 feet and 50 feet; those of the summit plateau, 25 feet and 17 feet. This mound is of irregular outline through wash of floods.

About one-quarter mile NE. from the landing is the third mound, very symmetrical and almost exactly square. Its height is 6 feet; its basal diameter, 80 feet; the diameter of its summit plateau, 45 feet. Its sides almost correspond with the cardinal points of the compass. To the east is a great excavation with steep sides, whence came the material for its making.


This mound, at the landing, oblong and very symmetrical, with steep sides, and summit plateau as level as a floor, is on property belonging to Dr. J. W. Clements of Bartow, Polk County, Florida. Its height is 9 feet 9 inches. Its diameters are: at base, NNE. and SSW., 150 feet; ESE. and WNW., 195 feet; summit plateau in corresponding directions, 100 feet and 135 feet. The mound was dug into superficially by us in many places, in a vain search for human remains or artifacts.


Within sight from the water, on the eastern bank of the river, about three-quarters of a mile below lock and dam Number 7, on property belonging to the Black Warrior Lumber Co., of Demopolis, Alabama, is a mound of somewhat irregular outline, 5 feet 6 inches high, 48 feet and 40 feet in basal diameters. The mound was dug into by us without success.


Within sight from the landing, almost at the edge of the bank, on property of Mr. W. B. Inge, of Greensboro, Alabama, is a square mound of clay, 4.5 feet in height, having a basal diameter of 40 feet. No measurement was taken of the summit plateau, which seemed to have been enlarged for the foundation of a house that had been upon it. No burial or artifact was met with, though considerable digging was done by us.


Following a road from the landing, through the swamp about three-fourths of a mile in an ESE. direction, one reaches a clearing on property of Mr. C. D. Cummings, Stewart Station, Alabama, in high swamp, where is a deserted house, and, nearby, the mound with a small building upon it. This mound, the sides of which almost correspond with the cardinal points of the compass, is 13.5 feet in height. Neighboring trees show a deposit of mud left by freshets, almost 8 feet from the ground; hence this mound must have afforded a welcome refuge to the aborigines in flood-time. The western end of the mound is raised about 2.5 feet higher than the rest of the mound. The maximum diameter of the mound, E. and W., is as follows: 25 feet under each slope; the lower part of the summit plateau, 34 feet; beneath slope leading to higher part of summit plateau, 18 feet; higher part of summit plateau, 27 feet; total 129 feet. The maximum diameter N. and S. is 115 feet, 65 feet of which belong to the summit plateau. Considerable digging to a depth of from 4 to 5 feet yielded in one place fragments of a human skull.


In a cultivated field, on property of Mr. James W. Strudwick, of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, near the landing, was a mound which had been so much ploughed over that a mere rise in the ground remained. Considerable digging failed to show that it had been used for burial purposes.


This famous group of mounds, near Moundville, lies between the town and the Black Warrior river which is about one mile distant from the town. The larger, better preserved, and more important mounds belonging to this group are in Tuscaloosa county, on property of Mr. Hardy Clements, of Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Other interesting mounds completing the group, belonging to Mr. C. S. Prince, of Moundville, are in Hale county, the county line dividing the Clements and Prince estates. The cordial thanks of the Academy are tendered Messrs. Clements and Prince for full permission to dig, both in the mounds and in the level country surrounding them, a permission which, coming as it did in the planting season when our presence was an inconvenience, is especially appreciated.

So far as we can learn, no report of investigation at Moundville has been published, though an occasional reference, not always entirely correct, has appeared in archæological publications.

We here give a survey of these mounds, prepared at the time of our visit to Moundville by Dr. M. G. Miller, who, in addition, as in all our former archæological field studies, had charge of the anatomical work of the expedition.

The heights of the various mounds, which depend on the side whence the altitude was taken, are as follows:

Mound A.—21 feet 10 inches.

Mound B.—57 feet.

Mound C.—From 18 feet 9 inches to 20 feet 6 inches.

Mound D.—16 feet 6 inches.

Mound E.—From 15 feet 7 inches to 19 feet 6 inches.

Mound F.—From 15 feet 9 inches to 21 feet 2 inches.

Mound G.—From 20 feet 9 inches to 22 feet 6 inches.

Mound H.—From 9 feet 6 inches to 10 feet 4 inches.

Mound I.—13 feet.

Mound J.—From 13 feet 10 inches to 16 feet.

Mound K.—From 13 feet 9 inches to 14 feet 2 inches.

Mound L.—From 12 feet 9 inches to 14 feet 10 inches.

Mound M.—From 11 feet 7 inches to 12 feet 9 inches.

Mound N.—From 18 feet 11 inches to 21 feet 2 inches.

Mound O.—From 16 feet 9 inches to 21 feet 7 inches.

Mound P.—From 23 feet 6 inches to 26 feet 10 inches.

Mound Q.—From 11 feet 5 inches to 17 feet.

Mound R.—20 feet 10.5 inches.

Mound S.—3 feet.

Mound T.—6 feet 5 inches.

This great group of mounds, all above the highest level attained by the river, so that no need for refuge from flood impelled their building, lies on a level plain extending back from the river bluff. This plain could have afforded ample space at all stages of the river for the games and ceremonies of an aboriginal center, which at one time Moundville must have been. Evidence of aboriginal occupancy extends in all directions beyond the limits of the circle.

The mounds, which have been approximately oblong or square in outline, with summit plateaus usually level, are so arranged that two principal ones are surrounded by the rest. One of these, Mound A in the survey, fairly central, exceeds in area any of the others, the basal diameters being 195 feet and 351 feet; while Mound B surpasses the others in altitude, its height being 57 feet.

Near many of the mounds are depressions, formed by excavating the material for their building, some containing water, others drained by means of ditches. These depressions are not present within what, for convenience, we call the circle formed by the mounds (although it is not exactly circular), but are sometimes to one side of the mounds, sometimes outside the circle; and the mounds within the enclosed space do not have such depressions. It is evident, then, that the mounds were built according to some fixed plan, and that these shallow ponds were intentionally placed outside the area of the circle, perhaps that those living on the plain within could have more convenient access to the mounds.

Certain of the mounds have graded ways, more or less distinct, leading to their summits. These ways are shown on the survey. Others of the mounds may have had similar ways; but if so they have become effaced through cultivation or wash of rain, or both.

At the northern side of Mound B is an artificial plateau, marked V on the survey, one and two-thirds acres in extent, roughly speaking. This plateau ranges in height from 2 feet 6 inches to 16 feet 5 inches, the greatest altitude being at the northeastern part.

On the survey are shown deep gullies formed by wash of rain which seems gradually to be eating away the territory on which the mounds are situated.

The ridge north of Mound R, particularly described in the report, is marked U on the survey; and W is the field north of Mound D, where much digging was done.

Excavations made previous to our visit to Moundville are shown on the plans of the various mounds.

Although we were provided with efficient apparatus in abundance to take photographs, and there were those on our steamer amply able to do so, no photographic illustrations of the Moundville mounds will be given in this report. Long experience has shown us that a photograph of a mound, through undue exaggeration of the foreground, is worse than valueless; it is misleading. A mound, stupendous to the human eye, appears quite ordinary in size in a photograph.

Although there had been considerable digging into the smaller mounds of Moundville previous to our visit, no record has been kept of the result, and the artifacts, if any were found, are not available.

On the other hand, one continually hears of interesting "finds" made in the level ground in the vicinity of the mounds, and the history of the objects discovered can be traced.

We are indebted to Mr. C. S. Prince, of whom we have spoken as one of the present owners of the Moundville mounds, for exact details of the discovery there of effigy-pipes of stone, many years ago.

Mr. O. T. Prince, father of Mr. C. S. Prince, acquired the property on which the mounds are in 1857, and died in 1862. The pipes were found at the time of Mr. O. T. Prince's tenure of the property, by two colored men who were digging a ditch near one of the smaller mounds of the group—the one marked M on our survey.

These pipes were held for a long time in the Prince family, and were shown, with certain other relics, before a scientific society in 1875, when a photograph of them was made (Fig. 1). Later, one of the pipes was disposed of and, fortunately, fell into the hands of Gen. Gates P. Thruston, who describes and figures it.

Two of the pipes shown, and one that was excluded from the photograph on account of its inferior condition, with equal good fortune to science, were procured by Professor F. W. Putnam, for Peabody Museum, Cambridge, Mass. They are shown in Figs. 2, 3, from photographs kindly furnished by Professor Putnam.

At the time the pipes went to Cambridge, a stone disc, 8.75 inches in diameter, found in the level ground at Moundville, was disposed of to Professor Putnam and is shown here in Fig. 4, from a photograph also courteously furnished by him. A reproduction of a drawing of the design on the disc, made by Mr. C. C. Willoughby, is given in Fig. 5. Mr. Willoughby informs us that a part of the design at the lower left hand side has scaled off. The dotted lines show where the stone has come off in thin flakes. The design is apparent on the stone in these places, but it lacks distinctness.

Some years ago, a colored man, ploughing near one of the larger mounds at Moundville, found a superb hatchet and handle carved from a solid mass, probably amphibolite, and highly polished. This hatchet (Fig. 6) was procured by Mr. C. S. Prince, from whom it was obtained by the Academy of Natural Sciences.

The hatchet, 11.6 inches in length, with a neatly made ring at the end of the handle (not clearly shown in the reproduction), resembles, to a certain extent, the one found by Dr. Joseph Jones, near Nashville, Tenn., and described and figured by him. C. C. Jones describes and figures this same hatchet, and speaks of the finding of another exactly similar in South Carolina.

Thruston also describes and illustrates the Jones hatchet, and refers to the South Carolina specimen, and to still another, somewhat ruder in form, as coming from Arkansas.

It is interesting in this connection to note the presence of "celts" with stone handles in Santo Domingo, though these hatchets are much inferior to the specimen from Moundville.

The monolithic hatchet from Moundville seems to be much more beautiful than the one discovered by Doctor Jones, for it leaves nothing to be desired as to finish, and the graceful backward curve of the part of the handle above the blade seems more artistic than the form of the corresponding portion of the Jones hatchet, which is straight.

Some years ago Prof. E. A. Smith, State Geologist of Alabama, visited Moundville and received as a gift a disc about 12.5 inches in diameter, said to be of sandstone, of the same well-known type as the one referred to as being in Peabody Museum. This type is characterized by marginal notches or scallops usually with incised, circular lines on one side below them. The disc obtained by Professor Smith, however, like the one in the Peabody Museum, has an interesting incised decoration on the side opposite that bearing the incised circles, in which it differs from the ordinary discs of this type. The disc in question has on the reverse side an incised design of two horned rattlesnakes knotted, forming a circle, within which is a representation of an open human hand bearing an eye upon it. This disc was lent to the National Museum, where it remained a long time, but is at present in the Museum of the University of Alabama, near Tuscaloosa, where we had the pleasure of examining it in company of Professor Smith, through whose kindness and that of Mr. James A. Anderson of the Geological Survey of Alabama we are able to give a photographic reproduction of it (Fig. 7). This interesting disc is described and figured by Professor Holmes, who, as any cautious archæologist would have done at that time, rather discredited its genuineness. In view of discoveries made since, however, the disc may be accepted without suspicion, and such is Professor Holmes' opinion at the present time.


Excerpted from The West and Central Florida Expeditions of Clarence Bloomfield Moore by Vernon James Knight Jr.. Copyright © 1996 The University of Alabama Press. Excerpted by permission of The University of Alabama Press.
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Meet the Author

Vernon James Knight Jr., is Professor of Anthropology at The University of Alabama and Curator of Archaeology at the Alabama Museum of Natural History.

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