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Artist reconstruction of the Wickliffe village

Wickliffe Mounds State Historic Site

Site ID: 15Ba4

Kentucky Archaeological Survey
Unless specified, we cannot provide site location information.


​​​​​​​​​​​​​Wickliffe Mounds is located on a bluff overlooking the Mississippi-Ohio River confluence in Wickliffe, Kentucky. The site consists of two platform mounds, several burial mounds, a plaza, and associated living areas.   

In the 1930s, local archaeologists undertook a large-scale investigation at the site. They developed it as a tourist attraction known as "Ancient Buried City." Murray State University took over the site in the early 1980s and they renamed it Wickliffe Mounds Research Center.  They made major improvements to the museum, upgraded the quality of the educational activities offered, and began a long-term research project.  ​

The site was incorporated into the Kentucky state parks system in 2004.​  As the Wickliffe Mounds State Historic site, park employees continue to maintain and intepret the site to the public.

Visitors to Wickliffe Mounds State Historic Site.


​Around 1100 AD, Mississippian farmers established a settlement at Wickliffe, and ​from then until 1175 AD, it consisted of a compact settlement with structures clustered around a plaza.  Soon afterwards, residents built platform mounds A and B.  

Most of the moundbuilding at the site, however, occurred from 1175 to 1250 AD.  New households moved in and the community expanded to the south and north.   Additional stages were added to mounds A and B, and Mound C was constructed.  While the initial purpose of Mound C is not known, shortly after it was built, it became the location of a cemetery. This cemetery may have held as many as 900 individuals by the time interments stopped. 

From 1250 to 1350 AD, moundbuilding continued, and four new burial mounds were added. The residential area expanded to the edge of the bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River, and the mound center came to encompass about 7 acres.  Residents capped the mounds and abandoned their community by 1350 AD.  

Reconstruction of the Wickliffe site, showing the relationship of burial mounds (circular) to platform mounds (square).

What's Cool?

​​Sun Circle

On a hard-packed clay floor within one of the Wickliffe houses, archaeologists documented a red and white painted symbol within charcoal black outlines: a cross ("+") on a white background enclosed within a red ochre circle - known as the cross-and-circle or Sun Circle.

The Sun Circle is a widespread symbol in Mississippian and Southeastern US Native American art. Its meaning combines the four cardinal directions, the circle of the earth, the sacred fire, the sun, and perhaps other symbolism. The cross-and-circle also appears on pottery, and shell and stone objects. 

​As noted by the late Kit Wesler, this symbol "...has many meanings, undoubtedly more varied and more profound to the Native Americans who painted it than archaeologists can guess. In one meaning, its shape symbolizes the roundness of the world: not the planet, literally, but the world's spirit; an ideal that all things are related in a great circle of life, that each person and each community is part of a greater harmony, that humans are part of the roundness and must take responsibility for their effects on the whole."

A sun circle (lower right quadrant eroded) painted on a house floor at Wickliffe Mounds.

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