Indiana history dates back before the white settlers came from the east, and proof of early Native American groups can be found throughout the Hoosier state at various sites. Some of the most popular native grounds are found in Evansville, Indiana, where Woodland peoples settled around 1100 B.C. Later, Mississippian tribes took over the mounds around 1100 A.D., and began to mysteriously disappear sometime before 1450 A.D. The mystery of their disappearance baffles many scientists. Some believe they relocated, others think they slowly died off and another theory is that they ran out of resources. There are several ideas about how and why the Mississippians deserted the mounds, and archaeologists at Indiana University have been researching the are for decades.
It’s widely believed that the high class members of society lived on the highest mounds, and the living spaces got smaller as the class system descended. Eleven such mounds were discovered inside of a blockade wall when the white settlers moved into the territory. Mound A is the highest at Angel Mounds State Historic site, stretching forth-four feet high. It’s 400 feet wide and 600 feet long, and Mound A holds the record as the tenth largest known mound in the entire United States.
Scientists believe it’s likely that the mounds were occupied by bands of Miami, Shawnee and other native groups after the Mississippians vacated. It’s also known that the land was farmed from 1852 to 1899 by a family of white settlers. In fact, the name “Angel Mounds” came about because that farm family’s last name was Angel. The land remained in the Angel family until 1938. Although the mounds functioned as a working farm for nearly a century, the high amount of river silt in the area preserved the mounds from complete damage. In 1971, Eli Lilly built the Interpretive Center to house exhibits and today it serves as the Angel Mounds Museum. Also on the grounds of Mound A are the winter houses, a roundhouse, a portion of the stockade wall and summer houses.
In the 1930s, research and excavation of the mounds began. With sponsorship funds from the Indiana business Eli Lilly and Co., the land was bought by the Indiana Historical Society in 1938. A few years later in 1946, the historical society gave ownership of the 603-acre site to the state of Indiana. Research rights were granted to Indiana University in 1965 and each summer there are archaeology camps and other educational opportunities for students to learn from.
Today, the Angel Mounds State Historic Site falls under the direction of the Department of Natural Resources. It’s also open for visitors to come learn about Indiana’s pre-historic times. A small admission fee is charged to enter the mounds, and the site is open Tuesdays through Sundays with varied hours. A visit to Angel Mounds in Evansville, Indiana can be an action-packed and adventurous day trip from Indianapolis.
Angel Mounds State Historic Site
8215 Pollack Avenue
Evansville, Indiana 47715