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Moundville (1Tu500): plaza and two signature artifacts

Landscape, Duck Effigy, Rattlesnake Disc

Moundville Archaeological Park and the Jones Archaeological Museum are a wonderful half-day to full day visit if you have any interest whatsoever in archaeology, American Indian history, landscape, or art. The scope of the grounds and collections are expansive enough to impress but not so massive or flashy as to overwhelm. Entrance and admission to the museum was $8 when I visited on March 31, 2017 which I consider more than reasonable.

This post is a place for my photos of the site’s plaza and two signature artifacts, the so-called Duck Effigy Bowl and Rattlesnake Disc. I hope they pique your interest enough to convince you to pay a visit yourself someday.

The plaza

The site evolved to become a necropolis; associated funerary mounds are hidden within the treeline of the wooded terrain adjacent to the Black Warrior River at the northern portion of the site.

The mounds surrounding the plaza and the plaza itself are kept mowed, however. The site hasn’t been subdivided up or had big chunks lopped off. It’s all right there! Maybe you have to visit enough mauled, semi-developed sites to appreciate it like I did, but trust me, it is a privilege.

A one way road loops around the plaza and appears to be a popular walking path for local residents. Visitors are permitted to climb two of the mounds—Mound B (aka the Chieftain’s Mound) near the park entrance and Mound P back of the museum. Mound B is steepish climb up a set of railroad tie steps, and Mound P is a short and gentle climb up a metal staircase.

Mounds near Moundville, Ala.

Site map adapted from Clarence B. Moore’s 1905 “Certain aboriginal remains of the Black Warrior River.”

View from the southern edge of Mound B’s summit.

View from the southern edge of Mound B’s summit. I made out 10 of the site’s at least 29 mounds from this perspective. Mound A is in the foreground, calling attention to itself via a distinctive orientation and its low, broad profile.

Southern side of Mound B.

The southern side of Mound B, with the NE corner of Mound A visible at bottom left and the larger part of Mound S at bottom right.

View E across the plaza.

View E across the plaza. Looking between Mound N at right and Mound O at left.

Duck effigy bowl


Effigy bowl carved from a single block of diorite. Dimensions = 42.5 x 29.5 x 29.8 cm. NMAI 16/5232. I can not overstate how beautiful I found the bowl to be.


Was a steady hand who engraved these lines.


While commonly referred to as a duck effigy bowl, the engraved motifs along with the sinuosity of the neck are identifiable characteristics of water serpents.


Profile view of a serpent emerging from the water.


The back of the duck’s neck/serpent’s body.

Rattlesnake palette


The so-called Rattlesnake Disc, a sandstone palette 30+cm in diameter engraved with two entwined Horned Serpents.


Detail of the Horned Serpent’s head at upper right of the palette. Note how the serpent’s tongue comes close to forming a closed circle by almost touching the tail of the other serpent. Note also the crosshatching as on the effigy bowl above.


Detail of the Horned Serpent’s head at lower left of the palette.


Bromar, Bill. “The Moundville duck bowl.” Alabama Heritage, Spring 2011.

Moore, Clarence B. “Certain aboriginal remains of the Black Warrior River.” Journal of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, 2nd Series, 13, pt. 2 (1905): [123]–244.

Moore, Clarence B. The Moundville expeditions of Clarence Bloomfield Moore. Edited by Vernon J. Knight. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1996.


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