Tend The Garden - Historical Background

Historical Background

Tend The Garden is set in what we now call the state of Tennessee, in the general area where the city of Nashville is located. Today the city is famous for its singing cowboys, but its Native American heritage stretches continuously back at least 10,000 years, to the last Ice Age when hunters pursued mammoth and mastodon along the Cumberland River.

Around 600 years ago, during a time archaeologists call the Late Mississippian period (named for the Mississippi River valley, where the culture originated about 900 AD) Nashville was a major metropolitan area populated by Native people living in small farms and villages as well as larger towns and ceremonial centers.

The Mississippian People were mainly farmers and their crops of corn, beans and squash supported large populations. They lived in wooden frame houses with walls made of woven cane covered with plaster and topped with thatched roofs. They built earthen pyramids that served as platforms for their civic buildings and large conical burial mounds as monuments to their ancestors. Many of their larger towns and cities were surrounded by walls called palisades, made of poles placed upright in a trench.

Platform Mound At The Mound Bottom Site In Cheatham County near Nashville, Tennessee

For reasons not well understood, the Native population of Middle Tennessee underwent a sharp decline or the people radically changed their settlement patterns around 1450 AD. When European explorers and traders arrived in the 1600's they encountered much smaller Native settlements, and by the time the Euro-American occupation began in 1779 the area was mainly used as a hunting preserve by many historically known tribes.

But the remains of the previous Native civilization remained. The platform and bural mounds, extensive cemeteries filled with stone-slab coffins, and the ruins of houses buried under the soil covered the landscape and were well known to early Nashvillians.

Not many of these places exist today. Over the years most have been destroyed by agricultural, residential, and commercial development, road construction, and looters looking for artifacts to sell. Some of the destruction was done inadvertently but much was down knowingly and even intentionally, and it continues today. In recent years road projects, housing developments, shopping centers, and even libraries and museums, along with illegal looting, have impacted or destroyed major Native American archaeological sites in the Nashville area.

More Information:

Middle Tennessee's Native American History - Native History Association

Mississippian Culture - Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture Version 2.0

Archaeology & the Native Peoples of Tennessee - Frank H. McClung Museum

Mound Bottom - Wikipedia