A Tour of Mounds State Park, Madison County, Indiana


History of Madison County, Indiana, 1880
     What has been written in the preceding chapter concerning the evidences of the habitation of this country by a race of people the date of whose existence extends back of the historic period affecting the American continent, cannot fail to develop in us more than a passing interest in the discussion of the important questions, when, by whom, and for what purpose were those works constructed, the remains of which are found within the borders of Madison County? A personal examination of these remains, in the light of science, and the investigations of archaeologists to that end, will open up trains of thought suggestive of the mean whereby the people of this age and of this locality may become better acquainted with the details of purpose indicated in the plans exhibited in the works themselves. These works, as we shall see embrace both enclosures and mounds, and are of a character entitling them to be ranked among the most important in the State. Hence, in consideration of the consequence attached to them by scientists abroad and at home, it is deemed not only proper, but necessary to appropriate, in this connection, the space requisite for a scientific description of them in detail. The following from the report of 1878, on the Geology and Archaeology of Indiana, will enable the reader to get a more accurate idea than can perhaps be otherwise obtained:

Southern henge group at Mounds State Park in Anderson Indiana.  The group was set up as an outdoor calendar, with the earthworks aligning to the central mound within the largest henge. The central burial mound marked the winter and summer solstices for 2,000 years before Indiana University destroyed the central mound; completely ignorant as to its importance as a solar marker.
     “By far the most unique and well-reserved earthworks in this State are on the banks of White River in Madison County, about three miles from Anderson, the county seat. See Plates E and F. The principal work in a group of eight show on Plate E, is a circular embankment with a deep ditch on the inside. The central area is 138 feet in diameter, and contains a mound in the center 4 feet high and 30 feet in diameter. There is a slight depression between the mound and the ditch. The gateway is 30 feet wide. Carriages may enter at the gateway and drive around the mound, as the ditch terminates on each side of the gateway. The ditch is 60 feet wide and 10-1/2 feet deep; the embankment is 63 feet wide at the base and 9 feet high, and the entire diameter of the circle is 384 feet.

Largest henge at Mounds State Park in Anderson.  A henge is described as a circular work with an exterior earthwork with an interior ditch that surrounds a central platform.  Henges generally have one gateway that is aligned to solar event.  This henge is the exception with the gateway aligned to the setting of the bright star Fomalhaut and the rising of the bright star Auriga.

“Fig. B is 238 feet south, 30 degrees east of the center of A; is 33 feet across has two gateways; the bank is 2-1/2 feet high, and has no ditch.
The small henge is visible in front of the trees in the background.  A big hole is in the center of the work that is presumed to have been left by university archaeologists. The large henge can also be seen in the background. There is no sign to designate this work.  Indiana only has money to destroy earthworks, not preserve them.

“Fig. C is 710 feet south, 20 degrees west from the center of A; is 100 feet in diameter; has a bank which shows, in the woods, 2 feet high, and a gate 10 feet wide. The public road runs through this circle, and has obliterated the greater part.

Fig. D is 475 feet south, 39 degrees west from center of A; is 126 feet in diameter and has a bank 2-1/2 feet high, with a slight ditch on the inside; the central center mound was 50 feet in diameter, and the entrance way 15 feet across.

Fig. E is 245 feet south, 84 degrees west from center of A; extreme length in feet; 36 feet across the widest part, 33 feet across the narrow end, and 27 feet across the constricted part of the figure; has a slight ditch on the inside of the embankment, which is from 0 to 2 feet high; no visible gateway or entrance.

Fig. H is 325 feet north, 70 degrees west of center of A; has an extreme length of 181 feet; is 122 feet across the wider end, 115 feet across the narrow end and 57 feet across the constricted part; the central area is 95 feet long, and has a varying width of from 10 to 30 feet; the wall is from 1 to 6 feet high with a ditch on the inside-now partially filled, but sill plainly visible, evidences of a small mound on the western end of the central area are still traceable.
This the vesica pisca henge at Mounds Sate Park, that represents to circles overlapping at the center points. This shape is associated with Earth Mother worship, which is what these earthworks and site was dedicated to.
Drawing of the vesica pisca or fish vessel, this symbol was widely used in the ancient world.  You make recognize it as the Jesus fish, so frequently seen on cars. Half of the vesica is what church windows represent, which symbolizes the soul ascending to heaven to be reborn. It is this regeneration that was practiced by the mound builders at Mounds State Park as the sun aligned with this earthwotk on December 22-25th each year.

Fig. I is 552 feet north, 70 degrees west from the center of the large circle A; is a plain circular embankment 36 feet in diameter, with a wall 2-1/2 feet high with no visible ditch or entrance gate; near the center is a slight mound 10 feet in diameter.

Fig K is 662 feet north, 71 degree west, of the center of A; it is a plain circle with a wall 2 feet high; no ditch or central mound.

This small earthwork is still visible at Mounds State Park, down the trail from the largest henge, where it sits in a wooded area.

     “These interesting works are located on the south side of White River, on a bluff seventy-five feet above the water. At the base of this bluff-which is composed of gravel, sand and clay-there are several bold running springs of chalybeate water. As this water possesses valuable hygienic properties, the analysis is here give.
Caves , springs and a serpent mound were at the bottom of the bluff, more on this below

      “On the same section of land, but a half-mile farther up the river, and on the same side of the stream, there is another cluster of earthworks that are of nearly equal interest; in fact, the principal work A, on plate K, is, in some respects, more remarkable than the large circle on plate E. The outline is of irregular shape-constricted on one end and at the sides; at the other end there is a gateway (D) 9 feet wide, protected by two small mounds (B) and (C), now about 4 feet high. The wall is 30 to 35 feet wide at the base, and about 4 feet high; ditch 8 feet wide. A central line through the longer way is north 67 degrees east and 296 feet long; it is 160 feet across at the widest and 150 feet across at the narrowest part--near the middle. With the exception of the two mounds at the gateway, which lie on the cultivated side of a section fence, and have been cut down by the plow, the remainder antiquity is in as good state of preservation as when deserted by its original occupants. Large trees are growing over it, and the underbrush is so thick that it was difficult to obtain accurate measurements; in fact, there is hardly a stick of timber amiss over the ruins.”

More evidence that Mounds State Park was dedicated to the Earth Mother is the northern henge that has a gateway that is aligned to the May (May =Ma_ Mother) 1st sunrise.

Photo shows the deep ditch that surrounds the centralm platform of this henge dedicated to the Earth Mother at Mounds State Park.

     “The works presented on Plate F are near that last described. A is a plain circle, 150 feet in diameter; it lies in a cultivated field, and is being fat obliterated. B, on the same plate, is in a tolerable state of preservation; its longer diameter is 106 feet, and 48 feet across either end and is slightly constricted at the middle; wall about 2 feet high; ditch on the inside 15 feet wide; gateway (C) is 15 feet wide. The part on the east side of the section line lies in a woods, and is very well preserved. On the west side of the fence the land is cultivated, and the embankment is fast being destroyed. These works, with that on Plate K, are close to the bluff of the river, which is here also composed of glacial drift, and is 75 feet above the water.”

Mounds State Park's Lost Henges.  Henge on the bottom was aligned to the winter solstice sunrise.  The other henge has a central platform that was 150 feet in diameter which is the most common for the larger henges. This work may have not been completed.  
The henge alinged to the winter solstice can still be seen at Mounds Park, but the DNR does not want you to know.  I have directions in my Travel Guide.

Above the spring represented in Plate E, and below the upper edge of the bluff, there are visible evidences of what appears to have been a subterranean passage communicating with the circular works A. It is said to have been, at one time, explored for a distance of sixty feet, where a round chamber, twelve feet in diameter, was reached. Beyond this the passage was closed, or nearly so, rendering a more extended exploration impracticable.
Map showing the cave at the bottom of the bluff at Mounds State park.  The entrance is still visible if you know where to look.

The entryway to the cave is still visible at the bottom of the bluff .  The cave represents the womb of the Earth Mother,  and compliments the winter solstice alignements of the earthworks that was symbolic of the "Birth of the Sun."

This is an old photograph of Mounds State Park at the bottom of the bluff, where there is stone serpentine mound.  While most representation of the serpent are for the veneration of the sun, it was also used to symbolize the Earth Mother and the underworld spirits. The serpents location, which is adjacent to the cave entrance would be consistent with the underworld.

At the waters edge are several natural springs that ate high in iron oxides that have dyed the adjoing rock a deep red color.  This red oxide also known as red ochre was commonly used by the moundbuilders in their burials and represented "rebirth" in the afterlife and was symbolic of the female menses.

        Between Ohio Avenue and the “Bee Line” Railroad, and west of the junction, in the city of Anderson, another mound of considerable consequence was situated in size and form, it corresponds with that marked D, in Plate E, to which reference has already been made, having also an enclosure not dissimilar to that one. A few years since, an excavation was made while digging a cellar, upon which a building was subsequently erected. In making this excavation, a quantity of clay, pink colored, having the appearance of being burned, was discovered, together with some ashes, indicating unquestionably, the presence of fire for sacrificial or other purposes. Beside these evidences, no other peculiarities were discovered.


Taking into consideration the opinions expressed by scientists, whose experience in the investigation of this interesting field entitles them to be recognized as authority upon this subject, the classification of the works found in this county would not seem to be a difficult task, notwithstanding the variety of them. Those which enter into the discussion, so far as Madison County is concerned, belong to the two great structural divisions of enclosures and mounds only. Of the first division, there are here no more than four varieties of form, excepting, perhaps, the single model indicated by the form marked B, in Plate E, and may be designated as the perfect circle, the oval with side constrictions, another with side and end constrictions, the fourth being an ellipsis with side constrictions. These several varieties of outline, however, being only incidental, do not enter into the purposes of this article. As to the second division, the mounds, without reference to form, must be considered in their relation to the enclosures within which they are found.


       The location, planning and construction of the works so numerously found in this county carry with them indubitable evidences of consummate engineering skill, scarcely equaled and rarely excelled in similar departments by the projective wisdom of the nineteenth century. Everywhere an accuracy of detail and proportion is discernible that reflects credit upon the designer, which verbal explanation cannot efface. Now, the purposes of the projectors can only be considered in the light of the works themselves and the situations occupied by them, individually and relatively--knowing nothing of their habits and inclinations, beyond what is discoverable in the remains not yet destroyed by the ravages of time.

      The principal of these works, designated by Fig. A, Plate E, occupies a position on the bluff seventy-five feet above the water, at medium stage, in White River, and no doubt was the most formidable and important, relatively considered, to the occupants of the apparently subordinate works adjacent. This structure, as appears by the description given, circumscribes an area of about two acres and sixty-five hundredths, inside the outer boundary of the works.

      In determining the use to which this principal work [Fig. A, Plate E] was applied, certain rules of deduction are necessary, such as have been established by the common acceptation of practical archaeologists. Enclosures, generally, are classified as defensive or sacred. A careful examination of the works of defense develops the fact “that they are adapted in every case to the natural features of well-chosen hills, and their avenues guarded with consummate skill.”  “On the other hand, the sacred enclosures are situated on the level river-bottoms, and seldom occur upon the table-lands, or where the surface is broken. Some of the reasons for ascribing a portion of the enclosures to a religious or superstitious origin are thus given: The small dimensions of most of the circles; the occurrence of the ditch interior to the embankment; the occurrence of altars within the enclosures, and the fact that many of the enclosures are commanded by adjacent heights. The works are generally regular in their structure, and principally found in groups. The circular works are generally small, having nearly a uniform diameter of from two hundred and fifth to three hundred feet, and the larger ones reaching more than a mile in circumference. They are accompanied by a gateway usually effacing toward the east.” In the vicinity of this class of works, numerous small ones, circular in form and varying in diameter from thirty to fifty feet, with light embankments and frequently without gateways.

     Applying this rule, then, to the enclosure referred to, especially, the following resemblances are comparatively well established. The dimensions are not large and are circular; the ditch is interior to the principal embankment; the probable altar on the mound in the center; it is regular in construction, and is in the midst of a group. Again, the diameter is less than four hundred feet, and has a gateway which faces to the southward, in the rear. The works in the vicinity are quite numerous, have light embankments, are generally small circles, and many of them without gateways. With these coincidences, then, it is fair to presume that this particular structure was a sacred, enclosure, certainly not a defensive one, but may have been a signal station, connecting with the works standing about a half-mile to the northward. Another fact, noticeable in this connection, tending to establish the sacred character of the enclosure and its probable use as the site of a temple of worship, is the near location of two smaller works to the westward, one of them connected with it, both, no doubt, the abode of the priests in charge.

     Some of the mounds found in these sacred enclosures have been recognized as the site of sacrificial altars, and again, as the foundation of temples of worship. In this instance, however, it might, with equal plausibility, be supposed to have been used for both purposes together.

     To determine the classification and use of the enclosures represented by Figs. A and B on Plate F, and Fig. A on Plate K, by any of the rules of designation at hand, would be a much more difficult task; but it may be safely assumed that they were never appropriated to the uses for which those before described were constructed. There can be little doubt, however, that the larger enclosure, represented on Plate K, was constructed as a military stronghold for the double purpose of protection and of defense against the assaults of a besieging army.

“Mounds Park Legend Says Tunnel Once Led Back into River Bluff”, Source Unknown
     Legend says that once there was an underground passage at Mounds state park leading from the bluff along White River back toward and possibly under the mounds themselves. Whether there was such a passage, whether it had anything to do with the mounds if it existed, are questions that no one can answer. No one actually knows much about the prehistoric mounds themselves and, most naturally, no one knows much about the supposed passageway.

The mounds themselves are made up of a series of earthworks, but one of them, a perfect circle with ah ill, rise, platform, or alter in the center, is much larger than the others. If you should go straight north from this mound fifty yards, you would come to a bluff that is some sixty feet above White River. At the base of this bluff is the place where the legendary passage opened out on the river.

     Some stories say that in days long gone there was a passage still open into the bluff, and that is ran back about twenty yards and ended in a small, round room. As late as the beginning of the present century it is said, there was an apparent passageway that led back ten yards, and the boys actually explored this part of the tunnel. It is also said that the flood of 1913 caused the passage to collapse near the bluff, and men assert that if a few years and one big flood could have destroyed the mouth of the tunnel, centuries of time could have filled up the upper parts f it with leaves, rocks and soil so that it would no longer be apparent to even a careful observer at the surface. At any rate, there is more than a faint suspicion that the passage way did exist, and that it led from somewhere at or near the mounds to the river. But no one knows definitely that there was such a tunnel and no one knows its use if it existed.

     Whether the tunnel was used merely as an avenue for reaching the water, or had some other use connected with mysterious ceremonies and not with commonplace utility, no one knows and one guess seems about as good as another. One fact remains: The state is saving the mounds and their environs in all their mystery until more can be learned about them, if anyone can find the means of learning the facts.

Indiana Geology and Natural History, Fourteenth Report, 1884
    A mound of an elliptical shape, eighty feet long and fifth feet wide, was examined in section 5, township 8, range 7. It is in a cultivated field, and is, at present, about six feet high, but is being rapidly reduced by cultivation. Stone axes and flint arrow points are frequently found in this vicinity. No excavation of the mound has been made.

Fall Creek Township, Early History of Madison County, Indiana, 1949
     Section 6, Township 17, North, Range 7 East. There is little we can say about the Indians living in this section. The numerous types of stones found in this and nearby locations means that this was more than just a hunting ground. Some thirty years ago a mound down in the southwest corner of No. 14 was opened for gravel. Human skeletons were uncovered while the description of their burial does not correspond to other known Indian burials in the township, it is generally considered that they were Indian remains. Just recently I was at this location and I found fragments of skull bones. When we get into the next row of sections to the north, we will find several burial grounds running almost in a line from east to west.
     Section1, Township 17, Range 7 East. As for other Indian history of this section, it is much the same as we have found before. Numerous arrowheads, a few axes and hammers and charm stones have been found but no burial grounds that I know of. Someone has told of some small mounds in No. 5 but an evidence of such has been leveled off by cultivation.
     Section 1, Township 17 Range 7 East. No. 9 is a sort of sugar loaf mound. In early settler days this was surrounded by swamps and low marshy ground and it is improbable that any trail or road passed near this location. Several years ago Cash Keller excavated part of this mound for gravel and in near the center he uncovered three human skeletons. Two were of matured persons and the other was of a child.  The manner of their burial indicated that they may have been white people as they were laid out in fan shape with their feet close together. All known Indian burials in this community are in a sitting position, but whether white or Indian time has erased all trace except that found in their graves.

Is Mounds State Park Haunted?
   There are may stories of fairies or little people that have been seen around the park.  Also, according to the Delaware Indian legend. They're a peaceful tribe of little people who are still living in the forest. People still report seeing them. They live in mounds in the area Alexandria (Anderson Area) Mounds State Park and they dress in blue gowns.

Indiana's best prehisitoric tourist attraction  is
Mounds State Park is located 2 miles east of Anderson on Indiana 23

Mounds State Park
4306 Mounds Road
Anderson, Indiana 46017