You can find ancient indigenous sites all over the United States. However, Oklahoma’s Spiro Mounds is one of the most unique and significant locations.
If you enjoy learning about indigenous culture in America, Spiro Mounds might be worth adding to your travel plans. So why do people visit Spiro Mounds? Let’s find out!
What Are the Spiro Mounds in Oklahoma?
Spiro Mounds is an 80-acre archaeological site. The site was home to many different groups for more than 8,000 years before it became a permanent settlement in AD 800. It remained a permanent settlement until AD 1450. Spiro Mounds is a network of twelve mounds people used for ceremonial areas and various trade and support infrastructures.
The mounds include one burial mound, two temple mounds, and nine house mounds.
If you visit the 150 acres of government-protected land today, you can see the twelve mounds, the village area, and various sections of the ancient support city. The Kansas City Star described the site as the “King Tut of the Arkansas Valley” in 1935. Archeologists have found some incredible artifacts from former residents of the area.
Where in Oklahoma Are the Spiro Mounds Located?
The Spiro Mounds are in Le Flore County, on the Arkansas River’s southern bank in far Eastern Oklahoma. The site sits only a handful of miles from the Oklahoma-Arkansas border. It’s a two-hour drive from Tulsa, Oklahoma, and approximately an hour from Fayetteville, Arkansas.
Why Were the Spiro Mounds Built?
People built the mounds for burial and ceremonial purposes. The local people were deeply religious and closely connected to nature. Despite being an ancient site, the people who lived in this area maintained order and structure. The areas surrounding the mounds were crucial for religious rituals, games, and other essential community activities. There’s evidence that they reserved some of the mounds for the homes of influential leaders in the tribes.
Pro Tip: Keep an eye out for the Most Dangerous Creatures in Oklahoma.
What Happened to the Spiro Mounds?
It appears as if the residents abandoned the Spiro Mounds during the 1500s. The area experienced severe drought during this time, which caused people to seek other options. Many historians cite the abandonment due to political infighting among the native leadership.
However, the sites remained peaceful until the 1930s, when treasure hunters found the place. These treasure hunters had no clue they had stumbled upon one of the country’s most significant Native American archeological finds in history.
Why Do People Visit Spiro Mounds in Oklahoma?
Visiting Spiro Mound is an excellent way to learn about Native American history in Oklahoma. The archeological site is also home to Spiro Mounds Archaeological Center, which provides exhibits, a gift shop, and an on-site archaeologist to answer questions and lead tours. There are special tours that the site offers during the solstices and equinoxes. You’ll also find periodic temporary exhibits that the Spiro Mounds Development Association sponsors throughout the year.
Visiting the Spiro Mounds is a fantastic way to learn about the Native American activities that took place hundreds of years before the establishment of the United States. The Oklahoma Historical Society provides excellent exhibits of some artifacts people discovered in and around the mounds. Sadly, looters stole many items early in the Spiro Mounds discovery.
These actions led to Oklahoma passing legislation to preserve archaeological sites.
What Was Buried Underneath the Spiro Mounds?
The mounds contain the remains of some of the most important residents of the area. However, archeologists have found more than human remains. They also found religious artifacts, jewelry, tools, and blankets. It was one of the greatest and most revealing archeological Native American discoveries in American history.
Many artifacts were underground for more than 600 years until treasure hunters discovered them during the 1930s.
What Else Is There to Do Near the Spiro Mounds?
Spiro Mounds is in Spiro, Oklahoma. With a population of approximately 2,300 people, there’s not much going on. However, a short 20-minute drive across the border into Arkansas is the city of Fort Smith, which has a much larger population of 87,000. You’ll find plenty of opportunities to learn more about the history there.
There’s the Fort Smith Trolley Museum, Fort Smith National Historic Site, and the Miss Laura’s Visitor Center. The area is a treasure trove of educational opportunities you won’t want to miss!
Pro Tip: If you’re driving through Oklahoma, make sure to do these 9 Best Things To Do on Route 66 in Oklahoma.
Are the Spiro Mounds in Oklahoma Worth Visiting?
We must remember to honor those that came before us. Visiting Spiro Mounds is an opportunity to learn about the people that inhabited the land long ago. Locations like the Spiro Mounds help us see the organization and structure that native people established.
We can learn and experience how many of our systems today are not modern concepts. People have been following some of the same structures for hundreds of years. If you’re passing through Oklahoma, it’s worth adding to your travel itinerary.
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