Like the Great Pyramids of Giza, the “Grave Creek Mound Archaeological Complex” provides testament to the ingenuity of early man.
This 2,000 plus year old conical earthen mound is 69 feet tall, 295 feet wide at its base and was once surrounded by a 40 foot wide, 5 foot deep moat with a corresponding concourse.
Brief History of the Mound
It was built by the Adena people using primitive tools of the period. Which translates to over 60,000 tons of dirt moved with only hand woven baskets and the sheer determination of the baskets transporters.
Archeologists who have examined the site estimate that the entire earthen structure took 150 years to complete. Which is no wonder given the tools on hand.
The Adena people rose to prominence during North America’s Woodland Period which occurred from 1000 B.C until 700 A.D. They were part of a larger mound building movement that has been well-documented all across North America.
The mounds, depending on the tribe, were used for fortification, burial and religious ceremonies. The mound at “Grave Creek” is believed to have primarily been a burial site.
Several early Adena skeleton remains have been excavated at the site along with Ivory beads, copper jewelry, flint tools, mica, pipes and other artifacts.
Adjacent Delf Norona Museum
The “Grave Creek Mound” artifacts are on display at the “Delf Norona Museum” located adjacent to the archeological site itself.
Also part of the museum complex is an Archeological Research Laboratory, 136 seat theater with a small staging area and a charming gift shop filled with distinctive keepsakes.
The Controversial Grave Creek Mound Tablet
Perhaps the most interesting and contentious artifact to have been allegedly excavated at the site is the “Grave Creek Mound Tablet.”
The tablet is actually an oval, small piece of sandstone that was inscribed on one side. It was said to have been created by the Adena people.
Over the years the authenticity of the discovery has been questioned repeatedly and even discredited in some scientific circles.
Only four plaster casts of the stone remain today and they are housed with the Smithsonian Institute’s archives.
The original 1 7/8 inch wide x 1 ½ inch tall stone was said to have been lost during the late 1800’s to early 1900’s. To date no one has ever been able to effectively translate the stone’s inscription, thus adding to the hoax allegations.
Nonetheless, an exhibit devoted to the tablet on display at the “Delf Norona Museum” along with other exhibits on the Adena people, early West Virginia architecture, fashion dolls of Pete Ballard and the Homer Laughlin China Company.
Hours of Operation and Admission
As of 2010 admission to the mound and museum is free, although donations are warmly accepted. Donations go towards the maintenance and further exploration of the site.
The site is open year round Monday through Saturday from 9:00 am until 5:00 pm and on Sundays from noon until 5:00 pm. Though the facility and mound remain open until 5:00 pm, no visitors are admitted after 4:30 pm.
The research lab is open by appointment only and is not included in the site’s admission.
Grave Creek Mound Archaeological Complex
801 Jefferson Avenue
Moundsville, WV 26041
The ultra-haunted “West Virginia Penitentiary” is located directly across the street from the “Grave Creek Mound Archeological Site and Delf Norona Museum.” It is well worth a visit as are the area’s other attractions such as the “Fostina Glass Museum” and the “Grand Vue Park.”
Additional information about Moundsville and it’s distinct attractions can be found on the State’s tourism website.