LSU Burial Mounds: Truth or Fiction?
Almost every LSU fan is familiar with the two giant earthen mounds on LSU’s campus that have been host to countless tailgaters, sunbathers, and adventure seekers for generations. Campus lore often attributes these mounds as byproducts of LSU’s expansion during the 20th century. For those who did attribute them to prehistoric Native Americans, it was thought that the mounds contained ancient human burials and the ghosts of long dead Native Americans haunted the campus. There has even been a book that suggest the mounds were created by aliens.
These stories pale in comparison to the true history of the LSU Mounds. Following research conducted in the 1980s and 1990s, archaeologists found evidence that the mounds were deliberately constructed sometime during the Middle Archaic period (4,000-2,000 BC) by native peoples. Evidence supporting this includes radiometric dating of soil cores combined with identified prehistoric pottery fragments (known as sherds), a stone pebble tool, and red ochre. Historic artifacts dating to the 19th and 20th centuries including shell, animal bone, ceramics, and glass were also found. These mounds were most likely used as gathering places for ceremonies, feasts, and seasonal rituals and have been identified as part of a larger series of mounds that dot the Louisiana landscape. Based on their prehistoric significance, the mounds were added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1999.
Just as they did then, the mounds still serve as a gathering place for those looking to find their way across the maze of LSU’s campus. However, time has taken its toll on the structures. The mounds original shape was taller and smaller in diameter, indicating the damage done by erosion. Everyday activities such as climbing, hiking, biking and even driving over the mounds during the years has only exacerbated their deterioration. Despite some protests within the LSU community, protection of the mounds was deemed necessary and the mounds have been closed to tailgaters and students following a successful “Save the Mounds” campaign in 2010.
Whether or not you believe the mounds are haunted or that aliens have used them, the LSU Mounds have been part of Louisiana’s history for the past 5,000 years. Through these preservation efforts and increasing awareness of their cultural significance the mounds will hopefully be part of the LSU backdrop for generations to come.
Written by: Rivers Berryhill, QRI Environmental Scientist