Moundville, Alabama - Largest City in North America
By present day standards Moundville was a small town in 1917 and still is today, but according to information presented by the Moundville Archaeological Park, 800 years ago it was the location of possibly the largest city in North America. The present-day town is named after the 26 prehistoric burial mounds that are all that visibly remains of the Mississippian culture that lived on the site from about A.D. 1000 to 1450.
At its most populous, the conurbation spanned about 300 acres (about half a square mile) and had a population of about one thousand with an estimated further ten thousand living in the surrounding valley. Excavated burial sites have yielded grave goods from a socially complex society. Maize sustained the community and the nobility traded copper, mica, galena, and marine shell. For unknown reasons, it seems that by A.D. 1350, Moundville was used only as a ceremonial and religious center and had been effectively abandoned by the 1500's.
This map shows the Mississippian cultural regions between about 800 to 1500 AD. Look for Moundville on the border between the Middle and South Appalachian Mississippian areas.
This article was originally published in March 2009, and has been updated for the
September 2010 paperback release.
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