Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Mount Royal in Putnam County is one of many mounds that CB Moore excavated in the late 1800s. Moore reportedly excavated two-thirds of this structure then put it back roughly the way he found it. As with his other work, Moore collected a lot of artifacts and information about the site. But since his excavation methods were not very precise (especially compared to modern excavations), he also lost some evidence about the people who built the mound.

What we know about Mount Royal today is that it was likely the burial place of chiefs and high-status people. It was probably built between AD1100-1600. It was made up of layers of yellow and white sand, and the very last (or top) deposit included a mixture of red ochre and sand. One side of the mound had a long, wide, ramp-like structure that extended to a small lake. Some archaeologists think that the moundbuilders created the lake by drawing dirt for the structure from that area.

When he investigated the mound, Moore discovered a variety of ceremonial artifacts. Many of the objects are considered part of the Southeastern Ceremonial Complex. Those objects used imagery related to Mississippian culture, which stretched from the Midwest into the south. The culture spanned a few hundred years, lasting from about 1200 to 1650AD. Mississippian culture for the most part is characterized by chiefdoms, use of mound structures, and presence of agriculture, particularly growing corn. Artifacts related to the Complex rely on some very specific imagery, such as a forked-eye design. They reflect the importance of warfare, ancestors, and fertility. In fact, some of the artifacts that Moore recovered from Mount Royal look very similar to those found in mounds in Spiro, Oklahoma.

Though Mount Royal certainly indicates a political structure involving chiefdom, it was not truly part of a Mississippian culture. The people who lived there certainly built mounds and had high-status chiefs, but they did not engage in much agriculture and did not appear to grow any corn at all. The people who lived at Mount Royal were able to rely heavily on the nearby waters and rich local environment for food.

Mount Royal stands today in Welaka, Florida and is nestled in a residential neighborhood with a nearby airstrip. The site is owned by the state of Florida, so it can be visited by the public.

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