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Illinois: Mile After Magnificient Mile
 
Illinois Historic Preservation Agency
 
 
 
 

 
Artist's conception of Kincaid Mounds Native American settlement.  Original artwork by Herb Roe.

KINCAID MOUNDS STATE HISTORIC SITE
Massac County, Illinois

The Kincaid Mounds Illinois Historic Site consists of 105 acres at the heart of the Kincaid Mounds Archaeological Site. Portions of the Archaeological Site extend to private property north and east of the Historic Site. The State property has been designated a National Historic Landmark and is on the National Register of Historic Places of the United States. The Kincaid Mounds Support Organization is a local non-profit corporation that manages the site under contract with the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency. At present, public access is limited to an observation/interpretation platform adjacent to Kincaid Mounds Road (see Location icon on this page). The goals for the Historic Site include preservation of the archaeological resource, facilitation of research, and interpretation of the site to the public.

Between 1000 and 700 years ago, the first people to practice large scale agriculture in the southern Illinois area established Kincaid Mounds as the seat of their Chiefdom. These Native Americans were of the Mississippian culture and occupied Kincaid from approximately 1050 AD to 1400 AD. They were ruled by a chief who inherited his position and probably claimed power from the sun. Corn or maize farmers in the lowlands along the Ohio River from Hamletsburg upstream to Brookport downstream supported the leaders with grain and constructed the mounds we see today. They also constructed the buildings and the protective wall or palisade that encircled the principal mounds, but which we now know only from the archaeological record.

The mounds are raised platforms on which the Chief and other elite leaders of this society lived or ruled from, and on which thatch-roofed homes, ceremonial buildings, and temples were constructed. The mounds were built in stages over a 350 year period by stacking basket loads of selected soil and clay material one on top of another. They stand today much as they appeared 700 years ago.

Visitors to the site will see flat-topped 30 foot tall mounds arcing around the leveled plaza area. This plaza was probably the most important public place in the Chiefdom. It was used for both social and political activities. Here the chunky game was played and major ceremonies were held, including purification rituals and celebration of the new corn crop The Plaza may have had a ceremonial pole in or near it where trophies of war were displayed for public observation.

Kincaid has played a major role in the development of modern American archaeology. From 1934 until 1944 the University of Chicago excavated here and developed many of the methods that became the basis for much of today’s archaeological practice. Southern Illinois University is actively continuing archaeological studies at Kincaid and continues to add to our knowledge of this outstanding prehistoric site.