After weeks of a busy schedule and rainy weather, I was finally able to get back to the ancient mounds last week. I again had the honor of spending the day with Dr. Joe Saunders who recently retired as our regional archaeologist. Joe knows more about the mounds of this area than anyone.
One of our stops was the Routon Mounds which are between Harrisonburg and Jonesville, La. We’d been there last fall but on this trip the trees were bare and the mounds were more visible.
The Routon Mound site is one of the largest Coles Creek mound groups in this area. Charcoal samples date to between AD 1050 and 1150. There are 7 mounds on the site, some small with a gentle slope and others, like the largest, Mound B, are much taller and more majestic. Mound B is 23 feet high and about 230 feet square at its base. There is a small cemetery at its summit which is about 65 by 50 ft.
The mounds sit adjacent to the Ouachita River and are beautifully laid out. The land is now used as a pasture and cattle graze the area. When the landowners asked the archaeologists what they could do to help preserve the mounds, the quick reply was to build a fence around the large mound to protect it from the cattle’s hooves. They did so immediately. If only all the landowners were so caring and so responsible.
There is a large plaza that stretches between Mound A and Mound B. Our visit took place during perfect snake weather, a warmish spring day, so I was careful to watch the grass for reptiles along with the ever-present bull nettle and cow patties. When the site was active, the plaza would have been swept clean and would have been the place for ceremonies and, possibly, games.
Looking north from Mound B to Mound A.
According to the Driving Trail Guide, two smaller mounds form an equilateral triangle with Mound B on its southern plaza. Coincidence? Careful planning? I don’t know.
We wandered around the area, soaking up the surroundings. A hawk flew overhead. The river flowed past us, just as it had centuries ago. The ancient people who once lived there, built there, were gone. But that didn’t stop us from listening and looking for them anyway.
Dr. Joe Saunders, Mound B.
Thanks to brothers Clarence and Harold Routon for their permission to visit and photograph the mounds and for taking such good care of them.