Step back in time, way back in time, to 200 BC. Buried beneath the surface of this gigantic mound in Moundsville, West Virginia are ancient treasures from two thousand years ago.
Driving past this 62′ high mound, many people possibly see it merely as a big pile of dirt. But when you explore inside the Grave Creek Mound Archeological Complex located beside it, you discover surprises regarding this unusual structure in Moundsville near the Ohio River. For many it will get their mental wheels turning as they want to search for more information.
To get a better picture of the area in your mind, Grave Creek Mound, the largest conical mound in the United States, is 62′ high with a base of 240′ and was surrounded with a moat, which has since been filled in. There was only one way across the moat – an earthen path. This was part of a much larger ceremonial area, which seemed to begin at the Ohio River.
This Adena burial mound required a lot of work to move 60,000 Tons of earth to form this mound over a period of years. Included are multiple burials at different levels from 250 – 150 BC. It appears to have been build in stages with most of the burials being by cremation.
Since it seems that people arrived on the Ohio River, there was what many called a Sacred Way leading from the river to The Mound. But the Way didn’t stop there, as it turned at right angles to an octagon shape, which is no longer in existence. This Sacred Way was actually paved back 2000 years ago…with mussel shells. How do we know this? When ground was moved for building the homes and stores in Moundsville, layers of mussel shells several inches thick were found along The Sacred Way. Hopefully, you are beginning to form a picture of what could have been.
Back in 1838, some curious amateurs decided to do a little exploring of their own and began digging into The Mound with gusto through two shafts, one horizontal and one vertical. Their discoveries were surprising, but they had little idea of how much historic information they had really pulled from the ground. A burial vault made of logs and smooth stones from the river was found in the center near ground level. It contained two skeletons with tools, beads, pipes and ornaments indicating these were important people in their culture.
A most amazing skeleton, which they named Tasach for reasons to be given later, appeared at the bottom layer of the earthen mound. The items found either on his body or with his body were quite astonishing. Around its 7’2″ frame were pieces of sea shells- some scattered and others formed into beads. On the wrist were seven copper bracelets and around the waist was a band of small mica squares. What do all of these pieces mean?
To add to the mystery, near the second, smaller skeleton was a small, flat sandstone tablet with three lines of symbols indicating a form of communication during that long ago time. This has become known as the Grave Creek Tablet and one of many interpretations, but the one that seems likely in my mind reads:
“The mound raised on high for Tasach. This tile his queen caused to be made.”
My first thought was that perhaps Tasach was a leader of an ancient tribe. Since copper and mica both resonate with healing qualities, perhaps he was considered a shaman. He may have appeared at the octagon shaped structure and greeted visitors, who came by boat on the Ohio River then walked the Sacred Way through the Mound and to the octagon. It would seem this was perhaps a spiritual ceremony of some nature by people over 2000 years ago. Remarkable! But that was just my interpretation. Wonder what ideas you might have?
Shortly after that early excavation, in 1843 local enthusiasts decided to use the two excavation shafts into The Mound as a museum. In the horizontal bricked shaft was an underground exhibit of the skeleton discovered with his buried treasures as well as an early gift shop. Inside the vertical shaft, a spiral staircase was built to allow visitors a way to the top of the mound where a three-story observatory was constructed. The museum was short-lived as the walls came tumbling inward, but a second stone museum was built on the south side of the mound in 1941 with many of the items available for sale having been made by the prisoners at the penitentiary across the street.
Today’s modern museum is housed in the Grave Creek Mound Archeological Complex, which shares many of the mysteries of The Mound with visitors through exhibits and video presentations. It opens the mind to exploring the wonders of time before the Native American Indians. These early visitors on our lands had far reaching commerce as items were from all over the country and the world. Their architectural skills were amazing and nearly all of their structures were perfectly aligned mathematically with the sun , the moon, and the stars.
Where did these people come from? Where did they go? The mysteries continue.
The Mound is located in Moundsville, West Virginia. Just ten miles south of Wheeling along the east bank of the beautiful Ohio River. From Wheeling, follow Route 2 into Moundsville. Turn left on 8th Street and after two blocks turn right onto Jefferson Ave. The mound is too large to miss!