Pinson Mounds State Archaeological Park
During the Middle Woodland Period (200 BCE - 400 CE), a series of at least 17 mounds and other earthworks were built on 400 acres near the banks of the Deer Fork River, south of modern-day Jackson, Tn. The site known as the Pinson Mounds is at the core of the 1,200 acre Tennessee State Archaeological Park, officially designated in 1974 for the purpose of protecting and preserving the site.
The original builders' intent & use of the Pinson Mounds Site remains a mystery, because the builders did not leave behind written records. The Mayan Culture was the only Native American civilization to have developed a written language by the time Europeans reached the Americas. The Quechua during the reign of the Incas were maybe in the beginning stages of developing a written language, using Khipu (a system of knots on strings) as a mnemonic device for recording keeping.
Despite the lack of a written record, anthropologists have unearthed a lot of information from the site and have some strong arguments for the Pinson Mounds being used for religious purposes, likely celestial in nature, and maybe even a significant destination point for pilgrimages among the various groups associated with the Hopewell Culture.
Some of the mounds were used for burial, but the majority served another purpose. Saul's Mound, the tallest mound in the complex may have been an observation point, with some of the other mounds used to orient toward specific astronomical events like the equinox and Summer Solstice.
Like Old Stone Fort shares similarities with Fort Ancient, Pinson Mounds shares similarities with the Newark Earthworks of the Hopewell Culture located in Ohio, in particular with the Eagle Mound. Most of the artifacts found at Pinson Mounds were likely made close by, but the contrasting style of the pottery and other artifacts suggests the site was a meeting place of a widely distributed groups of people.
The levelness of the trails around the mound complexes may be disorienting for those used to hiking up and down the Upper Unakas, but certainly the staircase up to the top of Saul's Mound will be a steep reminder. Informative signs mark the key points along the different trails. Pinson Mounds State Archaeological Park also has a Group Camp Area, playground, picnic areas, and a museum. Further information on the park is linked below.
Further Online Resources:
Pinson Mounds State Archaeological Park Website
Pinson Mounds State Archaeological Park Map
America's State Parks: Pinson Mounds
Tennessee Encyclopedia: Pinson Mounds
A Visit to Pinson Mounds in Tennessee by Brad Lepper
Pinson Mounds State Archaeological Park is located 420 miles from East Tennessee State University and Johnson City, Tn. Driving directions to Pinson Mounds using Google Maps is linked here.