Mounds, Museum Visitors, and You (the Archaeologist)

Author(s): Angela Cooper

Year: 2018


During the 18th century, European-Americans created a myth regarding the earthen mounds found throughout the eastern United States. This myth indicated that a western people, possibly the Lost Tribe of Israel, had inhabited North America and established cities throughout this region. They then succumbed to Native American savagery and brutality and were eradicated. Over time, archaeologists disproved the myth by conducting excavations and demonstrated the cultural similarities between the mound building Native Americans and the Native Americans of the region. Although archaeologists since then have condemned, dismissed, and constantly disproved the myth, this misconception is still prevalent in today’s society. Many people still believe that non-Native Americans built the mounds, and other people recognize that pre-contact Native Americans constructed the mounds and cities, but that they disappeared or went extinct. For both groups, they do not recognize the cultural continuity from the mound building people to contemporary Native Americans. My dissertation examines whether museums combat or perpetuate the myth of the mound builders, what preconceptions visitors have of Native Americans and their mound-building ancestors, whether their preconceptions change after visiting a tribal or mound site museums, and what museums can do to begin changing preconceptions of Native Americans.

Cite this Record

Mounds, Museum Visitors, and You (the Archaeologist). Angela Cooper. Presented at The 82nd Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Washington, DC. 2018 ( tDAR id: 442888)

This Resource is Part of the Following Collections

Spatial Coverage

min long: -103.975; min lat: 36.598 ; max long: -80.42; max lat: 48.922 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 21646