Toltec Mounds Archeological State Park

Last updated
Toltec Mounds Site
3 LN 42

Toltec Mounds Archeological Site Overview HRoe 2013.jpg

Illustrated overview of the site
USA Arkansas location map.svg
Archaeological site icon (red).svg
Shown within Arkansas
Location Scott, Arkansas,  Lonoke County, Arkansas, Flag of the United States.svg  USA
Region Lonoke County, Arkansas
Coordinates 34°38′49″N92°3′55″W / 34.64694°N 92.06528°W / 34.64694; -92.06528
Founded 600 CE
Abandoned 1050 CE
Cultures Plum Bayou culture
Site notes
Architectural styles platform mounds, burial mounds, plazas
Architectural details Number of monuments:
Toltec Mounds Site
NRHP reference # 73000382
Significant dates
Added to NRHP January 12, 1973 [1]
Designated NHL June 2, 1978 [2]
Responsible body: State

Toltec Mounds Archeological State Park (3 LN 42), also known as Knapp Mounds, Toltec Mounds Site or Toltec Mounds, is an archaeological site from the Late Woodland period in Arkansas that protects an 18-mound complex with the tallest surviving prehistoric mounds in Arkansas. The site is on the banks of Mound Lake, an oxbow lake of the Arkansas River. It was occupied by its original inhabitants from 600 to 1050 CE. [3] The site is designated as a National Historic Landmark.

Smithsonian trinomials are unique identifiers assigned to archaeological sites in many states in the United States. They are composed of one or two digits coding for the state, typically two letters coding for the county or county-equivalent within the state, and one or more sequential digits representing the order in which the site was listed in that county. The Smithsonian Institution developed the site number system in the 1930s and 1940s. The 48 states then in the union were assigned numbers in alphabetical order. Alaska was assigned number 49 and Hawaii was assigned number 50 after those states were admitted to the union. There are no Smithsonian trinomial numbers assigned for the District of Columbia or any United States territories.

Woodland period period of North American pre-Columbian cultures

In the classification of Archaeological cultures of North America, the Woodland period of North American pre-Columbian cultures spanned a period from roughly 1000 BCE to European contact in the eastern part of North America, with some archaeologists distinguishing the Mississippian period, from 1000 CE to European contact as a separate period. The term "Woodland Period" was introduced in the 1930s as a generic term for prehistoric sites falling between the Archaic hunter-gatherers and the agriculturalist Mississippian cultures. The Eastern Woodlands cultural region covers what is now eastern Canada south of the Subarctic region, the Eastern United States, along to the Gulf of Mexico.

Arkansas State of the United States of America

Arkansas is a state in the southern region of the United States, home to over 3 million people as of 2018. Its name is of Siouan derivation from the language of the Osage denoting their related kin, the Quapaw Indians. The state's diverse geography ranges from the mountainous regions of the Ozark and the Ouachita Mountains, which make up the U.S. Interior Highlands, to the densely forested land in the south known as the Arkansas Timberlands, to the eastern lowlands along the Mississippi River and the Arkansas Delta.



The identification of the site with the Toltec of Mexico was a 19th-century mistake. Mrs. Gilbert Knapp, owner of the land from 1857 to 1900, thought the Toltecs had built the mounds.

Toltec Pre-columbian civilization

The Toltec culture is an archaeological Mesoamerican culture that dominated a state centered in Tula, Hidalgo, Mexico in the early post-classic period of Mesoamerican chronology. The later Aztec culture saw the Toltecs as their intellectual and cultural predecessors and described Toltec culture emanating from Tōllān[ˈtoːlːaːn] as the epitome of civilization; in the Nahuatl language the word Tōltēcatl[toːlˈteːkat͡ɬ] (singular) or Tōltēcah[toːlˈteːkaʔ] (plural) came to take on the meaning "artisan". The Aztec oral and pictographic tradition also described the history of the Toltec Empire, giving lists of rulers and their exploits.

Mexico country in the southern portion of North America

Mexico, officially the United Mexican States, is a country in the southern portion of North America. It is bordered to the north by the United States; to the south and west by the Pacific Ocean; to the southeast by Guatemala, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea; and to the east by the Gulf of Mexico. Covering almost 2,000,000 square kilometres (770,000 sq mi), the nation is the fifth largest country in the Americas by total area and the 13th largest independent state in the world. With an estimated population of over 120 million people, the country is the eleventh most populous state and the most populous Spanish-speaking state in the world, while being the second most populous nation in Latin America after Brazil. Mexico is a federation comprising 31 states and Mexico City, a special federal entity that is also the capital city and its most populous city. Other metropolises in the state include Guadalajara, Monterrey, Puebla, Toluca, Tijuana and León.

Investigations at the site by archaeologist Edward Palmer from the Smithsonian Institutions Bureau of American Ethnology in 1883 and by others since have proved that the indigenous ancestors of regional Native Americans had built these mounds and all other mounds within the present-day United States. They were part of mound building cultures that flourished from the Late Archaic period into the Protohistoric period. [3] They built earthwork mounds for religious, political and ceremonial purposes, connecting them to their cosmology.

Edward Palmer (botanist) British botanist and archaeologist

Edward Palmer (1829–1911) was a self-taught British botanist and early American archaeologist.

Smithsonian Institution group of museums and research centers administered by the United States government

The Smithsonian Institution, founded on August 10, 1846 "for the increase and diffusion of knowledge," is a group of museums and research centers administered by the Government of the United States. The institution is named after its founding donor, British scientist James Smithson. Originally organized as the "United States National Museum," that name ceased to exist as an administrative entity in 1967.

Bureau of American Ethnology

The Bureau of American Ethnology was established in 1879 by an act of Congress for the purpose of transferring archives, records and materials relating to the Indians of North America from the Interior Department to the Smithsonian Institution. But from the start, the bureau's visionary founding director, John Wesley Powell, promoted a broader mission: "to organize anthropologic research in America." Under Powell, the bureau organized research-intensive multi-year projects; sponsored ethnographic, archaeological and linguistic field research; initiated publications series ; and promoted the fledgling discipline of anthropology. It prepared exhibits for expositions and collected anthropological artifacts for the Smithsonian United States National Museum. In addition, the BAE was the official repository of documents concerning American Indians collected by the various US geological surveys, especially the Geographical and Geological Survey of the Rocky Mountain Region and the Geological Survey of the Territories. It developed a manuscript repository, library and illustrations section that included photographic work and the collection of photographs.

Plum Bayou Culture

The people who built the mounds at the Toltec site had a culture distinct from other contemporary Native American groups in the Mississippi Valley. Archaeologists named theirs the Plum Bayou culture, after a local waterway. Plum Bayou sites are found throughout the White River and Arkansas River floodplains of central and eastern Arkansas, but are also found as far west as the eastern Ozark Mountains. Toltec is the largest site of the Plum Bayou culture. Their relationships with neighboring cultures such as the Coles Creek culture to the south and Fourche Maline culture to the southwest are still under investigation. [3] The people lived in permanent villages and hamlets throughout the countryside. They built sturdy houses, farmed, gathered wild plants, fished, and hunted.

Plum Bayou culture Archaeological culture in North America

Plum Bayou culture is a Pre-Columbian Native American culture that lived in what is now east-central Arkansas from 650—1050 CE, a time known as the Late Woodland Period. Archaeologists defined the culture based on the Toltec Mounds site and named it for a local waterway.

Arkansas River major tributary of the Mississippi River, United States

The Arkansas River is a major tributary of the Mississippi River. It generally flows to the east and southeast as it traverses the U.S. states of Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas. The river's source basin lies in the western United States in Colorado, specifically the Arkansas River Valley, where the headwaters derive from the snowpack in the Sawatch and Mosquito mountain ranges. It then flows east into the Midwest via Kansas, and finally into the South through Oklahoma and Arkansas.

Coles Creek culture Late Woodland archaeological culture in Lower Mississippi valley, United States

Coles Creek culture is a Late Woodland archaeological culture in the Lower Mississippi valley in the southern United States. It followed the Troyville culture. The period marks a significant change in the cultural history of the area. Population increased dramatically and there is strong evidence of a growing cultural and political complexity, especially by the end of the Coles Creek sequence. Although many of the classic traits of chiefdom societies are not yet manifested, by 1000 CE the formation of simple elite polities had begun. Coles Creek sites are found in Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi. It is considered ancestral to the Plaquemine culture.

Toltec Site

Two mounds at the site Chromesun toltec mounds photo01.jpg
Two mounds at the site

Mound groups, such as this one, were religious and social centers for people living in the surrounding countryside. The Toltec Mounds site had a small population, made up primarily of political and religious leaders of the community and their families. This center was occupied from about 600 to 1050 CE.

Located on the banks of an oxbow lake, the archaeological site once had an 8–10-foot-high (2.4–3.0 m) and 5,298-foot-long (1,615 m) earthen embankment and ditch on three sides. The other side was the lake, now called Mound Pond. Eighteen mounds were built inside the high curving 1 mile embankment, and two were originally 38 and 49 feet (12 and 15 m) high. Mounds were placed along the edges of two open areas (plazas) which were used for political, religious, and social activities attended by people from the vicinity. At least two mounds were used for feasting, as indicated by discarded food remains. Deer were a favorite food. Mound locations seem to have been planned using principles based on the alignment with important solar positions and standardized units of measurement. Most of the mounds were flat-topped platform mounds with buildings on them. Other Native Americans lived on the site in the 15th century, but they did not build the mounds.

Platform mound Earthwork or mound intended to support a structure or activity

A platform mound is any earthwork or mound intended to support a structure or activity.

Plaza public square in the center of a town or city

A plaza, pedestrian plaza, or place is an open urban public space, such as a city square.

The site was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1978., [2] [4]

National Historic Landmark formal designation assigned by the United States federal government to historic buildings and sites in the United States

A National Historic Landmark (NHL) is a building, district, object, site, or structure that is officially recognized by the United States government for its outstanding historical significance. Of over 90,000 places listed on the country's National Register of Historic Places, only some 2,500 are recognized as National Historic Landmarks.

Culture, phase and chronological table for the Toltec Mound Site

Period Lower Yazoo Phase Dates Tensas/Natchez Phase Toltec Phase Dates
Historic Russell 1650 - 1750 CE Tensas/Natchez Quapaw ? 1673
Plaquemine/Mississippian culture
Late Plaquemine/Mississippian
Middle Plaquemine/Mississippian
Early Plaquemine/Mississippian
Wasp Lake 1400 - 1650 CE Transylvania/Emerald Quapaw ? 1650
Lake George 1300 - 1400 CE Fitzhugh/Foster - -
Winterville 1200 - 1300 CE Routh/Anna - -
Transitional Coles Creek Crippen Point 1050 - 1200 CE Preston/Gordon - -
Coles Creek culture
Late Coles Creek
Middle Coles Creek
Early Coles Creek
Kings Crossing 950 - 1050 CE Balmoral - -
Aden 800 - 950 CE Ballina Steele Bend 750 - 900 CE
Bayland 600 - 800 CE Sundown Dortch Bend 600 - 750 CE
Baytown culture
Baytown 2
Baytown 1
Deasonville 500 - 600 CE Marsden Dooley Bend 400 - 600 CE
Little Sunflower 400 - 500 CE Indian Bayou - -
Marksville culture
Late Marksville
Early Marksville
Issaquena 200 - 400 CE Issaquena - -
Anderson Landing 0 - 200 CE Point Lake/Grand Gulf - -
Tchefuncte culture Tuscola 400 BCE - 0 CE Panther Lake - -

Table taken from "Emerging Patterns of Plum Bayou Culture:Preliminary Investigations of the Toltec Mounds Research Project", by Martha Ann Rolingson, 1982. [3]

See also

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  1. National Park Service (2007-01-23). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places . National Park Service.
  2. 1 2 "Toltec Mounds Site". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. 2007-09-26.
  3. 1 2 3 4 Rolingson, Martha Ann (1982). Emerging Patterns of Plum Bayou Culture:Preliminary Investigations of the Toltec Mounds Research Project. Arkansas Archaeological Survey. ISBN   1-56349-042-0.
  4. "National Historic Landmark Nomination" (PDF). National Park Service. 1978-02-08.