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A mound is a general term for an artificial heaped pile of earth, gravel, sand, rocks, or debris. The most common use is in reference to natural earthen formation such as hills and mountains, particularly if they appear artificial. The term may also be applied to any rounded area of topographically higher elevation on any surface. Artificial mounds have been created for a variety of reasons throughout history, including ceremonial (platform mound), burial (tumulus), and commemorative purposes (e.g. Kościuszko Mound).
North American archaeology
In the archaeology of the United States and Canada, the term "mound" has specific and technical connotations. In this sense, a mound is a deliberately constructed elevated earthen structure or earthwork, intended for a range of potential uses. In European and Asian archaeology, the word "tumulus" may be used as a synonym for an artificial hill, particularly if the hill is related to particular burial customs.
While the term "mound" may be applied to historic constructions, most mounds in the United States are pre-Columbian earthworks, built by Native American peoples. Native Americans built a variety of mounds, including flat-topped pyramids or cones known as platform mounds, rounded cones, and ridge or loaf-shaped mounds. Some mounds took on unusual shapes, such as the outline of cosmologically significant animals. These are known as effigy mounds. Some mounds, such as a few in Wisconsin, have rock formations, or petroforms within them, on them, or near them.
While these mounds are perhaps not as famous as burial mounds, like their European analogs, Native American mounds also have a variety of other uses. While some prehistoric cultures, like the Adena culture, used mounds preferentially for burial, others used mounds for other ritual and sacred acts, as well as for secular functions. The platform mounds of the Mississippian culture, for example, may have supported temples, the houses of chiefs, council houses, and may have also acted as a platform for public speaking. Other mounds would have been part of defensive walls to protect a certain area. The Hopewell culture used mounds as markers of complex astronomical alignments related to ceremonies.
Mounds and related earthworks are the only significant monumental construction in pre-Columbian Eastern and Central North America.
Mounds are given different names depending on which culture they strive from. They can be located all across the world in spots such as Asia, Europe and the Americas. "Mound builders" have more commonly been associated with the mounds in the Americas. They all have different meanings and sometimes are constructed as animals and can be clearly seen from aerial views.
Mound, as a technical term in archaeology, is not generally in favor in the rest of the world. More specific local terminology is preferred, and each of these terms has its own article (see below).
- Effigy mound
- Kofun (Japanese mounds)
- Platform mound
- Tell (also includes multi-lingual synonyms for mounds in the Near East)
- Tumulus (Barrow)
|Wikisource has the text of the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica article Mound.|