Platform mound

Platform mound

A platform mound is any earthwork or mound intended to support a structure or activity.

The Mississippian Native American Platform Mound

Specifically, the Mississippian culture is well known for using platform mounds as a central aspect of their overarching religious beliefs. Mississippian platform mounds are usually four-sided truncated pyramids, steeply sided, with steps built of wooden logs ascending one side.

A long-standing interpretation of Mississippian mounds comes from Vernon James Knight, who stated that the Mississippian platform mounds were one of the three "sacra," or objects of sacred display, of the Mississippian religion (also see Southeastern Ceremonial Complex). His logic is based on analogy to ethnographic and historic data on related Native American tribal groups in the Southeastern United States.

Knight suggests a microcosmic ritual organization based around a “native earth” autochthony, agriculture, fertility, and purification scheme, in which mounds and the site layout replicate cosmology. Mounds rebuilding episodes are construed as rituals of burial and renewal, while the four-sided construction acts to replicate the flat earth and the four quarters of the earth.

Documented uses for Mississippian platform mounds include semi-public chief’s house platforms, public temple platforms, mortuary platforms, charnal house platforms, earth lodge/town house platforms, residence platforms, square ground and rotunda platforms, and dance platforms.

Platform Mounds Around the World

The use of platform mounds is documented elsewhere in the world, including among the Olmec and other groups in Mesoamerica, the Hohokam, and in periods of Ancient China.


*Knight, Vernon J., Jr. 1981. Mississippian Ritual. Ph.D. dissertation, University of Florida.
*Knight, Vernon J., Jr. 1986. The Institutional Organization of Mississippian Religion. "American Antiquity" 51:675-687.

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