Criel Mound, South Charleston, West Virginia

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

criel_mound

In October 2008 I visited a circular Indian mound on the south bank of the Kanawha River, in South Charleston, West Virginia. The mound is right downtown and is the focus of the central municipal park. It is commonly called the Criel Mound.

According to signs near the mound, the Smithsonian Institution excavated the mound in 1883-84, and found thirteen human skeletons. This site was surrounded by a village on a terrace above the river’s floodplain. Houses were scattered for miles up and down the river. Nearby in the Kanawha Valley were other settlement clusters that also had mounds.

Based on artifacts the Smithsonian excavators found, the bodies in the mound were people dating to the Early Woodland period. Archaeologists call peoples who made and used these artifacts Adena culture. Sites with Adena complex artifacts are found across central and southern Ohio, as well as West Virginia, and east into Pennsylvania and New York, and west into Indiana.

The city is doing a pretty good job of preserving the mound by keeping trees from growing on the slopes or moundtop and keeping it from eroding, although two stairways have been carved into the mound’s flanks and trash cans are kept on top of the mound. However, the prehistoric context of the mound as part of a complex of civic-ceremonial buildings and open (plaza) areas is now mostly destroyed. The mound is encroached upon by a highway along the north side, a car dealership to the west, and the modern city to the south.

Where to find it