Mound Builder: Etowah Mounds

Etowah Aerial

Etowah Mounds are a 54 acre archaeological site in Bartow County, Georgia south of Cartersville, in the United States.  The prehistoric site is located on the north shore of the Etowah River. Etowah Indian Mounds Historic Site is a designated National Historic Landmark, managed by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.

The artifacts discovered in burials within the Etowah site indicate that its residents developed an artistically and technically advanced culture. Numerous copper tools, weapons and ornamental copper plates accompanied burials.

Figures 1 to 5 are examples of artifacts found at the site.

Fig. 1 - Copper plate from Etowah mound, Georgia.


Illustration of a Rogan Plate (Catalogue No. A91117, Department of Anthropology, NMNH, Smithsonian), a repoussé copper plate falcon dancer found at Etowah, but believed to have been fabricated at Cahokia in the 13th century

Fig. 2 - Copper plate from Etowah mound, Georgia.

The features in the designs themselves are suggestive of Mexican or Central American work. Yet a close inspection suggests otherwise:  both figures 1 and 2 have the wings rising from the back of the shoulders, suggestive of an angel figure.

Fig. 3 Copper badge, from Etowah mound, Georgia.

Fig. 4 - Copper badge, from Etowah mound, Georgia.


Fig. 5 - Engraved shell from Etowah mound, Georgia.


The Etowah mound culture is considered part of the Hopewellian trade system .  From the discovered artifacts of this mound culture, the movement of copper artifacts away from the Great Lakes region to distant areas of the country was a central feature.  Example of copper use is the  manufacture of copper plates and other religious items connected both with the Southeastern Ceremonial Complex and with other religious associations as well as copper axes, knives, gorgets, beads, and fishhooks, and wooden beads and ear spools covered in copper some of which are featured here. 

Figure 6 are copper axes or celts from Etowah that still have remains of the wooden hafting material adhering to them.

Figure 7 is a collection of fish hooks and knives all in copper, while Figure 8 and Figure 9 are  copper plate objects that appear ornamental in nature.

Carbon-dating technique indicate that copper use by the Mound Builders may be more than 6,000 years old, making its disappearance in the post contact world that more enigmatic.

Fig. 6 - Etowah Copper Axe

Fig. 6 - Etowah Copper Axe

Fig. 8 - Etowah Copper Plate

Fig. 8 - Etowah Copper Plate

Fig. 7 - Etowah copper hooks and knives

Fig. 7 - Etowah copper hooks and knives

Fig. 9 - Etowah Copper Plate

Fig. 9 - Etowah Copper Plate


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