The Criel Burial Mound

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Last weekend I took my family to the Criel Mound in South Charleston. It’s such a fixture in our area that it’s usually just called “the mound” and is used as a traffic landmark. We don’t talk about the mound so much as its relation to the shops and businesses that have grown up around it.

But I knew a little of the story and was curious. I asked my daughters what they knew about it. Little One had studied it just last week, but hadn’t mentioned it until I asked. Tall One learned about it last year, but remembered a little, too. My husband, who didn’t grow up around here, didn’t even know it was anything more than a hill.

It is much more than a hill.

It was built somewhere between 250 and 150 B.C.E. by people of the Adena culture. These mounds were built as memorial gravesites, much like the pyramids. Originally, this one was 33 feet high and 173 feet in diameter at the bottom. It once lay between two 566 foot wide “sacred circles”. This is the second largest burial mound in the state. The largest mound in the whole country is at (where else) Moundsville, West Virginia.

The mound was excavated in 1883-84 by the Smithsonian Institution. They found 13 skeletons inside. Two were near the top and the rest were at the base. Of the eleven at the bottom, one was a “giant” of nearly seven feet tall, laid in the center, with the others around him. There is evidence that not all of the others were dead when they were entombed with him. (Ew.) The skeletons and artifacts discovered with them, including jewelry and weapons, are now at the Smithsonian. Maybe we’ll have to go visit. I bet they don’t get many visitors from back home.

There were about 50 such mounds in about an eight mile span, most of which were destroyed as people claimed the land. The Criel Mound itself has been changed to suit modern times, the top was leveled off to create a judges’ stand for a horse racing track around the base.

What a shame. My girls felt bad that we were going to walk on the mound, but I told them it was OK, the people have been moved and it’s not a grave anymore. Somehow that didn’t really make it OK either. Still, we climbed and “enjoyed” the view, such as it is.

Surrounded by a car lot, factory and various shops, it was clear that the view around here is the mound itself.

Comments (11)

Jason Sardi
Auto & Home & Life Insurance throughout North Carolina - Charlotte, NC
Your Agent for Life
Sarah - Interesting & kind of a Sacred touch to it.  I love mounds:-)
Oct 01, 2007 09:25 AM
Celeste "SALLY" Cheeseman
Liberty Homes - Mililani, HI
Hey...I love reading and writing about stuff like this (I did a burial law thing for Hawaii) It just seems to be interesting...some may think it's morbid but you know what...a lot of ancient history with this stuff. Cool.
Oct 01, 2007 09:45 AM
Tom Burris
NMLS# 335055 - Baton Rouge, LA
Texas/Louisiana Mortgage Pro - 13 YRS Experience

Cool story. I bet there are more stuff like that... that we just don't "see"


Oct 01, 2007 09:54 AM
Sarah Cooper
Real Estate Shows - Hurricane, WV

Jason - Maybe kind of sacred until you went there about the mounds.  Tsk!

Sally - It's a little morbid, but it's also a part of our history that we just drive around and don't think about around here.  I wanted to think about it a little.  (Glad you do that kind of thing, too!)

Tom - I'm trying to get better at seeing ... everything!

Oct 01, 2007 10:25 AM
Jason Crouch
Austin Texas Homes, LLC - Austin, TX
Broker - Austin Texas Real Estate (512-796-7653)
This is an interesting post.  By the way, not to seem dense, but how do you make a video like that?  Is it the "Real Estate Shows" thing that I heard about?
Oct 01, 2007 10:42 AM
Celeste "SALLY" Cheeseman
Liberty Homes - Mililani, HI

Of course I do! I just posted my meme and behind my picture is the ancient hawaiian temple (also a place that they say may have been used for sacrifices.) Guaranty history comes with death/burial sites etc... that really isn't a morbid thing.

We live, we die...and what I do in between is what matters me. And that includes experiencing everything and everything I believe to be of interest...and believe it or not..others do too!

Oct 01, 2007 11:26 AM
Sarah Cooper
Real Estate Shows - Hurricane, WV

Jason - Ooooooh, YES, that is Real Estate Shows!!!  Click here, read, read, read.  And in case you can't wait to click, they are $125 a year (maybe we can find you a discount even!) and you make as many as you like.  I make them CONSTANTLY for every reason.  I send them to grandmas with pictures of the kids.  They are NOT just for showing off houses, but they do that so well, too!  You MUST look into it.  Call me, write me, whatever, but you need to know about them.  I'll get you using them!

Sally - You have such a point, it only serves to remind us that what we do in the meanwhile is so very important.  Thanks, Sis!

Oct 01, 2007 12:13 PM
Frances Fogerson

I haven't seen "The Mound" in many years.  In my early years, it was just an ordinary landmark.  When I worked at my first job, I drove by it every day.  At Christmas it was a "destination" because is was encircled with colored lights.  (I'll bet the original Indians would cringe.)  I never gave it much thought -- I guess I assumed everybody had an Indian mound nearby.  And, by the way, did you know that there are several smaller mounds on the golf course in Institute (just across the river)?  Again, I guess I thought everybody had Indian burial mounds beside the swimming pool they used when they were kids.  Maybe they didn't...

Love,  Mom

Oct 01, 2007 03:17 PM
Thesa Chambers
Fred Real Estate Group - Bend, OR
Principal Broker - Licensed in Oregon
wow Sarah - what a great lesson - the natives here "buried" their people by creating "beds" in the trees - I would love to see this
Oct 01, 2007 05:58 PM
Sarah Cooper
Real Estate Shows - Hurricane, WV

Mom - We can go walk around on it next time you're in, if you want.  :o)  There's a mound at Camden Park, too.  I'm glad for the ones that were saved.  It seems such a shame that so many were lost, and that this one was changed.  I liked that the kids weren't sure about walking on it at first either.  They wanted to be respectful and not bother a grave site.  I wish the other people had felt that way.

Thesa - The "beds in the trees" is pretty cool, too -- but not as long lasting.  This just looks like a strangely perfect hill, which is what my husband thought it was.  Unless you grew up here or stop to investigate, you just wouldn't know.

Oct 01, 2007 09:25 PM

Loved your comments.  I have been to the mounds in Moundsville and St. Mary's, but not the one in Charleston.  I'll have to check it out.

Your daughters not wanting to walk on it is very sweet, you must be doing well as a parent!

Apr 01, 2009 04:27 AM