Town Creek Indian Mound – Mount Gilead, North Carolina - Atlas Obscura

Town Creek Indian Mound

Mount Gilead, North Carolina

This ceremonial mound is one of the first officially recognized Native American historical sites in North Carolina.  


While North Carolina has its fair share of protected historical sites, only a few are devoted to remembering the legacy of the area’s Indigenous people. Those sites include the Nikwasi mound in the western part of the state and the Town Creek Indian Mound, located on the southern end of the Uwharrie National Forest.

Created just prior to 1000, the ritual mound served the Pee Dee traditions; a cultural movement throughout parts of North Carolina, Tennessee, South Carolina, and Georgia. The flat-topped hill was built as a ceremonial site at which locals and visiting tribespeople would ritually purify themselves after trading or settling any grievances. The Town Creek tribe was the only Pee Dee settlement in what is now North Carolina making it a unique and important piece of historical architecture. 

The mound has also served as a wellspring of archeological finds. The first amateur excavations began in 1927 and locals had long known the area as a great place to find arrowheads and other loose artifacts. It was not until a decade later that a team of professional archaeologists, led by Joffre Coe of the University of North Carolina, began exploring the site as part of a Works Progress Administration (WPA) initiative. Exploration of the site continued in earnest as archaeologists discovered evidence of other fortifications that once stood in the area, and learned a great deal about the Pee Dee culture, a South Appalachian Mississippian culture people that developed in the region as early as 980, but left no written record of their culture or customs.

Exploration efforts continue to this day, although on a much smaller scale. The Town Creek Indian Mound has been open as a State Historic Site since the 1960s, so the public who can come and explore the mound for themselves. The village also contains a mortuary hut. There is also a replica temple atop the mound which is surrounded by a recreated fence fortification.

Know Before You Go

Take I-73/74 - US 220 south around 55 miles from Greensboro or High Point. Exit 24 on to US220 Alt west toward Candor, then right in a half mile on to Chappell Road. Another half mile then left on to NC-731 West along the edge of Uwharrie National Forest for 13 miles, then left on to Town Creek Rd. As a State Historic Site, a number of official DOT "green signs" point to Town Creek Indian Mound. A Town Creek Under the Stars night visit occurs in mid-January.

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