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Nikwasi is located in North Carolina
Location in North Carolina today
Coordinates 35°11′0″N 83°22′0″W / 35.18333°N 83.36667°W / 35.18333; -83.36667
Country  USA
Region Macon County, North Carolina
Municipality Franklin, North Carolina
Culture South Appalachian Mississippian culture, historic period Cherokee
First occupied 1000
Excavation and maintenance
Responsible body Private
Architectural styles platform mound
Number of temples
Area 18 acres (7.3 ha)
Governing body Local
NRHP Reference # 80004598[1]
Added to NRHP November 26, 1980

Nikwasi (also spelled Nequasee, Nequassee, Nucassee, Noucassih, etc.)[2] is a prehistoric archaeological site with a platform mound, constructed by the Mississippi culture c. 1000. When the Cherokee migrated into the area about the 16th century, they settled here and built a townhouse on top of the mound. The site is along the Little Tennessee River and within the boundaries of the later European-American city of Franklin, North Carolina, developed in the 19th century and later.

A large platform mound is still visible. In the Cherokee period, a townhouse stood here. The mound has remained intact, but its age is uncertain as it has never been excavated. It is similar to other nearby mounds built by the peoples of the South Appalachian Mississippian culture (a regional variation of the Mississippian culture)[3] at about 1000.[4] The Cherokee are an Iroquoian-speaking people who migrated into the area at a later time.


Scholars believe the platform mound at Nikwasi was constructed about 1000 by Mississippian culture peoples. During the Late South Appalachian Mississippian period, a succeeding people known as Lamar culture became widespread in western North Carolina and associated areas, from about 1350 until the historic Cherokee peoples migrated into the area.[5] It was considered one of their Middle Towns.

In 1730, the English colonist Alexander Cuming called for a council at the town of Nikwasi, which thousands of Cherokee attended. He arranged for seven Cherokee, including Moytoy of Tellico, to accompany him to England. In 1761 during the Seven Years' War with France and its Native allies, English colonial forces destroyed the houses and fields of Nikwasi, worried that the Cherokee were allied with the French. They used the townhouse on top of Nikwasi Mound as a field hospital.

After the troops left, the Cherokee returned and rebuilt the town. In 1776 colonial American troops led by Griffith Rutherford destroyed Nikwasi during the American Revolutionary War, when the Cherokee were allied with the British.[2] Afterward the Cherokee rebuilt and reoccupied the town. By treaties in 1817 and 1819 with the United States government, they were forced to cede the land around Nikwasi to North Carolina. European-American settlers were granted 4,000 acres (16 km²) at the site of Nikwasi, where they developed the town of Franklin, North Carolina, which was based on cotton as a commodity crop and the extensive use of African-American slaves as workers.[4]

On November 26, 1980 the site was listed on the National Register of Historic Places as an archaeological site.[1] The mound stands at near its original height, but it is only half its original size in area. The area around the mound has been filled level for construction, so the mound has to be seen closely to be appreciated; it no longer stands out against the landscape.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "National Register of Historic Places". Retrieved 2012-04-09. 
  2. ^ a b "National Park Service Revolutionary War/War of 1812 Study". National Park Service. Retrieved 2012-04-12. 
  3. ^ "Southeastern Prehistory:Mississippian and Late Prehistoric Period". National Park Service. Retrieved 2012-04-10. 
  4. ^ a b Duncan, Barbara R.; Riggs, Brett H (2003). Cherokee Heritage Trails Guidebook. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. pp. 152–153. ISBN 0-8078-5457-3. 
  5. ^ "The South Appalachian Mississippian Tradition", The Woodland and Mississippian Periods in North Carolina, Research Laboratories of Archeology, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, accessed 15 December 2011

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