Mound 33

As Noted above, this large, conical mound stood on the northeast corner of Mound 32. Using a 130-meter (426.5-foot) elevation as an es- timate of the base of the mound, it is located between coordinates N173-192. This gives a north-south dimension of 19 meters (62.3 feet) and an east-west dimension of 24 meters (78.7 feet). However, the base of the mound is probably buried and covers a greater area since the mounds in this portion of the site have been extensively plowed and their heights greatly decreased. Moorehead reported the mound was reduced even before his study; witnesses said that Mound 33 was at one time 15 feet (4.6 meters) higher than when he visited the site. Moorehead points out that there was originally:

a deep depression between Mounds 33 and so the Rameys informed me, which had been filled in by dragging the earth from the summit of the mound down the steep slopes this depression. The mound was conical originally, and according to all witnesses probably fifteen feet higher than at the time of our exploration. This would give it a height of thirty-five feet. [Moorehead 1929: 44]

McAdams’ estimate of the height in 1882 combined Mounds 32 and 33, giving a height of 25 feet (7.6 meters); Thomas (1894) estimates 20 feet (6.1 meters), and Peterson-McAdams (1906), 25 feet (7.6 meters).

Modern contours indicate a height only 0.3 meters (1 foot) above the 130-meter contour line. Since the base is probably below the 130-meter con-tour line, much more of the mound is undoubtedly present but is obscured by the slope wash around the base.

In the spring of 1922, Moorehead began excavations on the north side of Mound 33, where the height was 4 or 5 feet (1 or 1.5 meters) above the general surface (Moorehead 1929). Even so, he found it necessary to excavate to a depth of 23 feet (7 meters) to reach the base line. By the end of his dig in the fall of 1922, the trench was about 120 feet (136.6 meters) north-south by 55 feet (16.8 meters) east-west. Moorehead’s observations on the mound and its contents can be summarized as follows:

  1. All bones recovered below the 18-foot (5.5 meters)level were coated and discolored (brownish green).
  2. In the first 10 feet (3.05 meters) below the summit, the majority of the pottery fragments indicated ordinary cooking vessels. Fifteen to 20 feet(4.6 to 6.1 meters) below the surface, red ware and other sherds indicated thin, well-made vessels. Near the bottom of the trench there was a greater abundance of village material.
  3. At the bottom of Mound 33, 23 feet (7.0 meters) below the summit, were found shells, pottery fragments, and one or two ocean shells.

In the center of the cut on the base line 23 feet (7.0 meters) beneath the summit, Moorehead found the following:

  1. A circular trench, nearly a true circle,3 inches (7.6 centimeters) wide and 20 feet (6.1 meters) in diameter. There were no ashes or charcoal in the trench.
  2. Crossing the center of this circular trench and extending slightly south of it was a circle of postmolds 2 to 3 inches (5.1 to 7.6 centimeters) in diameter. Many of these were preserved as charred stubs and charcoal.
  3. In the center of the post-hole circle was a burnt basin or altar, and northwest of the circle’s center was another basin. Ashes from these two basins were analyzed and apparent-apparently included bone and tobacco. Another basin south of the circle contained nothing; north-east of the trench circle were two additional basins shaped like “crude pans with handles.” West of the trench circle was another basin filled with charcoal. The basins were 17 to 26 inches (0.4 to 0.7 meters) in diameter and 4 to 7 inches (10.2 to 17.8 centimeters) in depth.
  4. The basins were centered on a floor area 25 square feet in area and not very burnt.
  5. By auger testing, the area east and south of the circle was tested to a depth of 15 to 20 feet (4.6 to 6.1 meters); no burials were detected.

In the spring of 1922, on the western end of the trench about 14 feet (4.3 meters) below the summit, Moorehead found a number of post holes 3 to 5 inches (7.6 to 12.7 centimeters) in diameter. The posts were decayed but traces of wood remained. There was no indication of fire. He assumed they might be part of a large, circular structure. In the fall of 1922, the trench was widened and extended westward another 20 feet (6.1 meters). In his 1929 report, Moorehead is apparently elaborating on this series of posts when he make the following comments:

In the west face of the trench was found a Linear series of holes, about thirty in number in a distance of twenty-three feet, most of them less than six inches in diameter and about two feet in depth. Although they had been completely covered over by at least nine feet of earth the holes were only partly filled with dirt. In the bottom of many of them occurred brown decayed bone….The series ended nearly due north-south and while most of the holes were vertical, a few slanted 10 degrees from vertical. [1929: 129]

The circular structures underneath the James Ramey Mound, as Mound 33 is referred to by Moorehead, are similar to other circular structures at the Cahokia site. For example, Harriet Smith found such structures underneath Mound 55 (Smith 1942,1969). Moorehead sometimes referred to them as sun circles, but there is no reason to accept this terminology.

Much of the pottery Moorehead illustrated came, he said, from the James Ramey Mound and appeared to be the Ramey Incised type, which belongs to the Moorehead phase of Cahokia development. Based on his observations, Reed et al.(1968: 146) suggest that this pottery came from under Mound 33 and that this mound was started while Monks Mound was in its final stages or had already been completed. However, it is not clear from reading Moorehead’s reports that this pottery indeed came from underneath Mound 33; therefore, suggestions as to the time period when the mound was constructed may not be correct. On the other hand, from the illustrations, one pot sherd allegedly from the base of the mound is an excised and engraved type that is not Ramey Incised. It should be recalled that Moorehead thought that the characteristic pottery of the lower portions of the James Ramey Mound was red, thin pottery. Although he provides no details, this sounds similar to the types characteristic of the Early Mississippian period. Without proper illustrations, however, it would be difficult to draw conclusions. Other interesting artifacts found by Moorehead include a Ramey Knife and a large flint hoe. A detailed discussion of the artifacts from Mound 33 can be found in Roger Wagner’s study entitled An Analysis of the Material Culture of the James Ramey Mound (Wagner 1959).