In fourth grade, we have been learning about our ancestry in Alabama, beginning with early Native American tribes. So in mid-October, we boarded a bus and headed down I-59 to visit the historic Mississippian land of Moundville Archaeological Park, located in Hale County, in central Alabama. The Mississippian stage began around AD 700 and lasted until around AD 1300. The cultural period continued until around AD 1700. This particular site was inhabited with mound builders as a residential site from AD 1000 to AD 1450.
The 300-acre park located on the Black Warrior River is just what we and the students all needed. It was a beautiful Fall day. The children were itching to get off the bus and explore the ancient mounds for themselves. We began with an informational introductory video, which served only as a review to what we had been discussing in class. Outside the museum, we climbed 60 feet above the plaza to Mound B (The Chieftain’s Mound), Alabama’s tallest mound. Our students were mesmerized by the view. Our morning continued with a relaxing walk through the woods along the Black Warrior River, giving our students a better perspective of the scenery that they had read about in books.
One of the aspects that most struck our students was the “culturally lifelike museum.” It was filled from top to bottom with artifacts. There were murals of the people in colonial dress, various artifacts discovered over the years in this area, and figures emulating a traditional wedding of a Chief’s daughter approaching her groom. One room was dedicated to a story narrated by a hologram, expressing the life of a native in Moundville. A favorite part of our day was the tool and weapon demonstration. Of course, our students wanted to participate! They got to throw a spear using a traditional “atlatl.” An atlatl is the stick that propels the spear or even a dart. Several students loved watching their teachers attempt to conquer this feat! We ended the day with a picnic on the bank of the Black Warrior River. This was a day that will not soon be forgotten.
Elizabeth Moody and Cathy Vance