About Indian Mounds Regional Park
Indian Mounds Regional Park is home to six Native American burial mounds high atop 450 million-year-old limestone and sandstone bluffs overlooking downtown Saint Paul. The mounds serve as a reminder of Minnesota's history for future generations. At least sixteen burial mounds originally existed on the bluff top. Nineteen more were located further down the bluff above Wakan Tipi, also known as Carver's Cave.
It is thought that the mounds were created approximately 1500-2,000 years ago by the Hopewellians and later added to by the Dakota. In the mid-1800s, several scientists with an interest in Minnesota's prehistory -- Edward Duffield Neill in 1856, and later the Minnesota Historical Society under the leadership of Colonel DA Robertson excavated the remaining mounds. T.H. Lewis, however, contributed most of the information on his later series of excavations.
Several types of burials were found in both Mounds Park and Dayton's Bluff. Most common were simple interments frequently accompanied by mussel shells and occasionally a projectile point. Small bundle burials were found in the upper parts of several mounds -- these were placed there by later peoples. Log tombs were found at the base of at least 3 mounds. A pit burial was found in one mound. In two of the Indian mounds were eight stone cists about 7 inches high made of thin limestone slabs set upright. Human bones were found in each cist and were accompanied by grave offerings, including shells, perforated bear teeth, copper ornaments, and a piece of hammered sheet copper, as well as the usual number of projectile points.
Among the more startling discoveries was a skull covered with red clay producing the image of the original face. Nothing similar to this "death mask" had ever been found by archaeologists in mounds or ancient graves. The mask was removed intact during that excavation. The log tombs, hammered sheet copper and the clay death mask belong to the Hopewellian period.
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