The West Virginia. Cyclopedia

Criel Mound

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Circa 1920s photo of the South Charleston Mound
Mound photographed in 2011

In South Charleston, WV, the Criel Mound, also known as the South Charleston Mound, is the second largest Adena mound in West Virginia. It is believed to have been developed between 250 and 150 B.C., and some evidence suggests the site was used by Native Americans as late as 1650.

Destruction of Ancient Sites

The Criel Mound was originally one of 50 mounds of the Adena culture that once extended from present-day Charleston to Institute, WV. All but three of these were destroyed during the industrialization of the Kanawha Valley, which occurried after the completion of the C&O Railway in 1872. One of the three remaining mounds was plowed-under in the 1960s to build a new high school. Like the Criel Mound, the nearby Sunset Mound and the Dunbar Mound at Shawnee Park in Dunbar, WV, also survive.

The South Charleston Mound was greatly altered during the late 1800s when a horse-racing track was built around its circumference and its top was flattened to serve as a podium where racing judges sat. The mound originally measured about 175 feet in diameter and 35 feet high. Today, it is approximately 140 feet in diameter and 25 feet high.

Excavations of the South Charleston Mound

The Criel Mound was first excavated by Professor P. W. Norris of the Smithsonian Institute in 1883 and 1884 who reported in Ancient Works Near Charleston, U. S. Bureau of Ethnology, Twelfth Annual Report, 1890-91 the following:

"At the depth of 3 feet, in the center of the shaft, some human bones were discovered, doubtless parts of a skeleton said to have been dug up before or at the time of the construction of the judges' stand. At the depth of 4 feet, in a bed of hard earth composed of mixed clay and ashes, were two skeletons, both lying extended on their backs, heads south, and feet near the center of the shaft. Near the heads lay two celts, two stone hoes, one lance head, and two disks."

At a depth of 31 feet, numerous other skeletons were found, including a burial vault with the remains of eleven persons believed to an Adena leader and ten of his servants. Numerous artifacts, including various jewelry and weapons, were found during the excavation.

See Also

The Kanawha Valley and its Prehistoric People