Ancient Monuments of the Mississippi Valley


Early in the 19th century, as wagon trains streamed into the Ohio and Mississippi valleys, settlers came upon vast numbers of abandoned earthworks that they attributed to a sophisticated race of long-gone mound builders. Giving rise to often-loaded questions about human origins, the mounds and the artifacts found within them became the focus of early American efforts toward a science of archaeology. Ancient Monuments of the Mississippi Valley (1848) was the first major work in the nascent discipline as well as the first publication of the newly established Smithsonian Institution. It remains today both a key document in the history of American archaeology and the primary source of information about hundreds of mounds and earthworks in the eastern United States, most now vanished. While adhering to the popular assumption that the builders could not have been the ancestors of the supposedly savage Native American groups still living in the region, the authors set high scientific standards for their time. Their work provides insight into some of the conceptual, methodological, and substantive issues that archaeologists still confront. The book includes numerous maps, plates, and engravings.

Date Created

Subject Date

Publication Information

Bartlett & Welford, New York


Type of Item

Physical Description

xxxix, 306 pages : including 4 plate illustrations, 48 plates (including frontispiece, maps, plans) ; 32 x 25 centimeters


  • "The Smithsonian Institution having printed an edition of the following memoir for distribution, permit the authors to strike off from the same type and plates, a small edition for their own benefit."

Last updated: May 24, 2017