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The western side of Nikwasi Mound (31Ma2). (32347857503).jpg
Western side of Nikwasi Mound. The ramp is to the right of the photo.
Location Franklin, North Carolina
Coordinates 35°11′06″N 83°22′25″W / 35.18499°N 83.37360°W / 35.18499; -83.37360
Cultures South Appalachian Mississippian; Cherokee
Site notes
Architectural styles

platform mound

Area 18 acres (7.3 ha)
NRHP Reference # 80004598[1]
Added to NRHP November 26, 1980
Responsible body: Private

Nikwasi is an archaeological site located on the floodplain of the Little Tennessee River located in contemporary Franklin, North Carolina. An associated platform mound is conspicuous to the many drivers who pass by daily on US 441 Business. The mound architecture has been well-preserved down to the present day, and the ramp and flat summit continue to be easily differentiated.

The site takes its name from the Cherokee town located there which enters the historical record in the early 18th century. Based upon the southeast orientation of the ramp and the results of a 2009 ground-penetrating radar survey, the summit of the mound is thought to have been the seat of the townhouse in which Cherokee leaders hosted British delegations in 1727 and 1731.[2][3]

Archaeological and Geophysical Investigations[edit]

A single 5′ x 5′ test unit dug by University of North Carolina archaeologists in 1963 constitutes the entirety of formal digging known to have been undertaken at Nikwasi. The mound’s excellent state of preservation owes much to the fact that it was opened by neither the Valentines nor the Smithsonian during the later part of the 19th century.[4]

Nikwasi Mound photographed in June, 1963. The ramp is to the left of the photo.

The 2009 GPR survey revealed that the base of the mound is covered by from 1 to 2 meters of combined alluvial deposits and manmade fill.[5] As a result of these findings, it is clear that prior to the flooding and fill events the mound enjoyed greater topographic prominence than currently. In other words, the mound was once an even more impressive part of the cultural landscape than it is today.

Nikwasi in the Documentary Record[edit]

The Varnod census enumerated the 1721 population of the town as 142, constituting 53 men, 50 women, and 59 children.[6]

Nikwasi hosted delegations up from Charleston in the years 1727 and 1731. Colonel John Herbert took part in a council there on December 3, 1727.[7] Self-appointed royal ambassador Alexander Cuming was hosted at the town three years later on April 3–4, 1731.[8]

During the summer of 1761 the Nikwasi townhouse was used as a field hospital by the members of the punitive expedition led by James Grant.[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "National Register of Historic Places". Retrieved 2012-04-09. 
  2. ^ A southeast-oriented doorway is the norm for excavated Cherokee townhouses. See, for example, Rodning, Christopher B. (2015). Center places and Cherokee towns: archaeological perspectives on Native American architecture and landscape in the Southern Appalachians. Tuscaloosa, Ala.: University of Alabama Press. p. 18. .
  3. ^ On the 2009 GPR survey, see Steere, Benjamin A. (2015). "Revisiting platform mounds and townhouses in the Cherokee heartland: a collaborative approach". Southeastern Archaeology. 34 (3): 206. doi:10.1179/2168472315Y.0000000001. 
  4. ^ Ibid., pp. 205–6.
  5. ^ Ibid., p. 206.
  6. ^ Varnod, Francis (1723–4). "A true and exact account of the number and names of all the towns belonging to the Cherrikee Nation, and the number of men, women and children inhabiting the same taken Anno 1721". London: United Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts. 
  7. ^ Herbert, John (1936). Journal of Colonel John Herbert, Commissioner Indian Affairs for the Province of South Carolina, October 17, 1727, to March 19, 1727/8. Alexander Samuel Salley, Jr. (ed.). Columbia: Printed for the Historical Commission of South Carolina by the State Co. pp. 12–14. 
  8. ^ "Account of the Cherrokee Indians, and of Sir Alexander Cuming's journey amongst them". The Historical Register. 16: 11–12. 1731. 
  9. ^ French, Christopher (1977). Duane H. King, E. Raymond Evans (eds.). "Journal of an expedition to South Carolina". Journal of Cherokee Studies. 2 (3): 284. 

External links[edit]