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An Opening

Mounds cover what is currently called the United States and are also found throughout the world, but nobody really knows who built them. Who were the “mound builders”?

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Mound Builders in England
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Mound Builders In Japan
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Mound Builders in Bahrain
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Mound Builders in South Korea
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Mound Builders in the United States.

This is the great Adena Mound: 26 feet tall, Woodland period Ohio, first officially excavated in 1901. It contains 36 human remains and hundreds of art objects, including the famous human effigy pipe (textbook p. 89). At the very bottom of the mound is a gravel-lined pit where the first dignitary was laid to rest.

Do you think these art objects were buried in the mounds to be preserved or to be destroyed?

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Giants and aliens

Richard J. Dewhurst’s book, The Ancient Giants Who Ruled America, meticulously chronicles the missing giant skeletons of one of the Smithsonian’s greatest cover-ups. See details here.

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Princess of Aztalan draped in thousands of seashells and other art-objects.

Dig up a European grave, go to prison, but dig up a Native American grave and get a P.H.D.!

EFFIGY MOUNDS

Burial mounds are everywhere, but only in North America do we find effigy mounds.

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Effigy means an image or representation, and effigy mounds can be considered GEOGLYPHS
-low-relief sculptures
-monumental dry-paintings, “earthworks” “precontact land art” -do not always contain art or human remains.

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Robert Smithson’s site-specific earthwork Spiral Jetty (1970) is located at Rozel Point peninsula on the northeastern shore of Great Salt Lake. “powerful whirlpools of a mythic past”

They are anachronistically referred to as “earthworks,” a term coined by Robert Smithson, father of an art movement that emerged in the United States in the late 1960s and early 1970s, in which landscape and the work of art are inextricably linked.

-Radical, ‘new’, large scale art

-Art “liberated from the gallery walls!”

Smithson’s 1970 Spiral Jetty resembles the thousand-year-old Serpent Mound and other effigy mounds created by Indigenous people.

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Lucy Lippard describes how the past overlays the present, giving new meaning to Vizenor’s idea of “transmotion.” Precontact images have been “overlayed” onto contemporary art.

Serpent Mound

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The Serpent Mound, around 1000 C.E., Ohio, Adena culture.

Is it a snake, a map, a ritual, a clock, a comet? It is suggested in our textbook that Serpent Mound may reference a large comet that was seen around the year it was made. Now it’s a site for prayer and protest.

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Many effigy mounds cannot be completely seen from the ground and encourage an imagined bird’s eye view. There are actually two serpent mounds, and they both point to the summer solstice sunset point, making them into large clocks.

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If the mound reflects a constellation, it may be a place of sympathetic magic.

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LiDAR image of Effigy Mounds National Monument, Iowa

As a sight for gathering, the large effigy drawings hosted events, increased the efficacy of rituals, and held memory. But, if we cannot see the images clearly from the ground, who else are they for?

Painter and Art Instructor at Haskell Indian Nations University

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