Preservation strategies for prehistoric mounds in Missouri

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MA in Historic Preservation

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To view a complete copy of this thesis please contact Goucher College Special Collections & Archives at or (410) 337-6075.


This thesis considers preservation strategies for prehistoric mounds in Missouri. Natural and cultural processes continually threaten numerous prehistoric mounds throughout the State of Missouri. In consideration of these threats, the proposed hypothesis is: How can Missouri’s prehistoric mounds be preserved? What are the best and most successful preservation strategies to protect and preserve prehistoric mounds? Seven prehistoric mounds in Missouri are analyzed for integrity, significance, physical deterioration, and preservation intervention (or lack thereof). A qualitative measurement is utilized, based on physical characteristics, historical documentation, and archaeological evidence. The research examines the various threats to mounds and how they can be protected given these threats. How have they been protected and/or preserved in the past? What has been successful and what has not? What laws afford protection for them? How can they be protected, preserved, and/or restored in the future? What can be considered preservation successes and what are not? Considering the vulnerable position of the mounds, should they be “hidden” from the general public or should they be presented as openly as possible? As earthworks, these structures fall prey to many actions that can be seen as threats, including erosion, residential development, looting, vandalism, and lack of human concern. These issues of deterioration are separated into three categories; 1) environmental; 2) direct impacts; and 3) destruction/commercial greed. This thesis will address both the legal and physical strategies to alleviate threats of deterioration for the effective preservation of Missouri’s remaining mounds. Mounds offer valuable information about Missouri’s prehistoric inhabitants, especially their lifestyle and behavior. These mounds have dotted the landscape for centuries but now only a handful remain. Missouri’s prehistoric mounds are fragile and non-renewable historic resources. They can indeed be preserved through appropriate actions such as preservation, stabilization, community awareness, stewardship, landowner responsibility, and effective management plans. They can equally be lost forever by inappropriate actions.