Toltec Mounds State Park
Walk the same paths where the ancients have trod and see the archaeological relics found on site. View the sun slipping behind the tall mounds. Toltec Mounds Archaeological State Park is located between Scott and Keo off US-165 S coming from I-440 in central Arkansas. Over a 300-year period, the forty and fifty-foot-tall earthen mounds were built and the area occupied by the Plum Bayou culture (650-1050 C.E.) on a beautiful oxbow lake that once was part of the Arkansas River. The area was the ceremonial center and dwelling place for priests in the region. The state park offers accommodations and tour information, as well as detailed historic information in its museum displays.
Backstory and Context
Listed as a National Heritage Site, the Toltec Mounds Archeological State Park is located between Scott and Keo off US-165 in Arkansas. Over a 300 year-period, the mounds were built and occupied by the Mississippian Plum Bayou culture (650-1050 CE) on an oxbow lake that was once a part of the Arkansas River. The area was the ceremonial center and dwelling place for the priests for the local region. An embankment wall, which once was ten-feet high, and a shallow ditch encircle the center on three sides, perhaps as a boundary on the mainland side of the encampment with the lake forming the fourth side.
Once, eighteen mounds were built around two rectangular, ceremonial open areas. The Mounds were home of Mississippain mound-builder settlements found in Arkansas dating back to 650 CE. The first contemporary written accounts of the mounds come from Edward Palmer of Suffolk, England, an ethnologist and archaeologist.
The Plum Bayou people were the contemporaries of those in the Mississippi Valley. They were given their name from the local waterway and are related to natives in the White River and Arkansas River floodplains. They lived in permanent villages in the area, farming and gathering wild plants, fishing, and hunting, and they came to the mound site several times a year for the ceremonies to renew social and family ties. Celebrations probably occurred around a time relating to the solar solstices or equinox cycles, as some of the mounds align with the rising and sun setting during those times.
The tallest mounds were the only ones most visible when they were first found. Their original heights are unknown. One, Mound A, stands at forty-nine feet, and Mound B at thirty-nine are near the central area, along with Mound C which is nearly 14 feet high. Some of the mounds were festival mounds and show remains of feasting, while one was identified as a burial mound. Structures are believed to have been atop some of the mounds, perhaps for priests and ceremonial rites. Local farming and natural environmental deterioration have likely lowered the levels over time.
The Arkansas Archaeological Survey maintains a research station at Toltec Mounds, with some demonstrations and events open to the public each year.
Alspaugh, Kara Rister. "The Terminal Woodland: Examining Late Occupation on Mound D at Toltec Mounds (3LN42), Central Arkansas." Tuscaloosa, ALA, 2014.
Barnhart, Terry A. "Antiquaries, Ideas, and Institutions,” in American Antiquities:Revisiting the Origins of American Archaeology. University of Nebraska Press, 2015.
Nassaney, Michael S. "Toltec Mounds and Plum Bayou Culture: Mound D Excavations by Martha Ann Rolingson." Journal of Field Archaeology 26:4 (Winter, 1999). 472-475.
Rolingson, Martha Ann. Encyclopedia of Arkansas. “Toltec Mounds Site,” June 8, 20215. https://encyclopediaofarkansas.net/entries/toltec-mounds-site-413/. Accessed May 2, 2020.
Rolingson, Martha Ann. "Plum Bayou Culture of the Arkansas-White River Basin." In The Woodland Southeast, edited by David G. Anderson and Robert C. Mainfort, Jr., Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2002.
Toltec Mounds Archeological State Park.Plum Bayou Trail Guide. https://www.arkansasstateparks.com/parks/toltec-mounds-archeological-state-park Accessed 5/2/2020.
Arkansas State Parks
Arkansas and and Fish
Toltec Indian Mounds and Arkansas Game and Fish