I’m not sure when the Natchez people first came to call themselves the Natchez, but they are undoubtedly descendents of what archaeologists call the Mississippian culture. The ancestors of the Natchez probably lived continuously in the Southeastern part of North America from around 9500 B.C. Archaeologists call this period “Paleo”, followed by the “Archaic” (8000 B.C.–600 B.C.), followed by the “Woodland” (600 B.C.–750 A.D.). The “Mississippian” era is from 1050 A.D.–1400 A.D. The Natchez were definitely established by 1542 when they roundly defeated part of De Soto’s expedition army near a site known today as the Emerald Mound, named after the Emerald Plantation nearby.
Twice a year, a day comes along where the length of daylight equals the length of darkness. Today we call that day the “equinox”. We recognize the vernal equinox as the first day of spring and the autumnal equinox as the first day of fall. These two days have always been important indicators for man since even ancient times.
Before Europeans came to America, Native Americans did not have bankers, insurance agents, or real estate agents so where did they get their calendars? How did they know when spring or fall arrived? They had someone more important to them than our bankers or agents are to us, they had astronomers.
|Copper Ornaments made at Cahokia
found at Wulfing, Etowah, and Sprio sites
Around 1050 A. D., there existed a grand city nestled in the Mississippi valley where St. Louis is today. We call this site “Cahokia” because the Cahokia tribe once lived nearby. But the Cahokia referred to the ancient city as belonging to a forgotten tribe that lived before them.
By any measure, this city was magnificent. It covered over 4,000 acres, and had a population estimated between 10-20,000 within the city proper and 70,000 if you count the suburbs. Grand temples and houses were built atop enormous platform mounds. There were approximately 120 of these platform mounds of
Stonehenge, in England, has long been a source of fascination for most of us. It is credited as being an archaeoastronomical site – an ancient site for astronomical observations. I recently posted articles on “Medicine Wheels” that have a similar purpose. This week, I want to write about circles built by the Hopewell culture that also suggest astronomical purposes. Nicknamed “Woodhenge” because of their similarity to Stonehenge and Woodhenge in England, these sites are east of the Mississippi River and were built by the Hopewell Indians living from around 200 A.D. to around 1,500 A. D.