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
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
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.