"Before the coming of white settlers, the region surrounding Jefferson City was home to an ancient group known as the Mound People. In fact, America's largest prehistoric city was located only 160 miles away at what is now Cahokia, Illinois. Why this civilization disappeared remains a mystery."
Information on the mounds near Jefferson City we can find in the paper
published by The Project Gutenberg EBook of Scientific American Supplement, No. 841,
February 13, 1892, by Various
INVESTIGATION OF A MOUND NEAR JEFFERSON CITY, MO, By A.S. LOGAN.
"Recently, a party consisting of engineers and employes of the Missouri River Improvement Commission began an exploration of one of the mounds, a work of a prehistoric race, situated on the bluff, which overlooks the Missouri River from an elevation of one hundred and fifty feet, located about six miles below Jefferson City.
This mound is one of about twenty embraced in a circle one quarter of a mile in diameter.
The above party selected the mound in question apparently at haphazard; all the mounds presenting nearly a uniform outline, differing only in size and mostly circular in form, and from twenty to twenty-four feet at the base, rising to a height of eight feet and under. A trench was cut on a level with the natural soil, penetrating the mound about eight feet. A stone wall was encountered which was built very substantially, making access in that direction difficult, in consequence of which the earth was removed from the top for the purpose of entering from that direction. The earth was removed for a depth of four feet, when the top of the wall was exposed. Further excavation brought to light human bones, some of them fairly well preserved, especially the bones of the legs. On the removal of these and a layer of clay, another layer of bones was exposed, but presenting a different appearance than the first, having evidently been burned or charred, a considerable quantity of charcoal being mixed with the bones. In this tier were found portions of several skulls, lying close together, as if they had been interred without regard to order. They were, in all probability, detached from the body when buried....
A few pieces of flint weapons were found in the upper layers, and nothing else of any significance....
At this juncture the diggers abandoned the search, and some days later the writer, desirous of seeing all that was to be seen, resumed the work and removed the earth and remains until the bottom of the vault was reached; several layers being thus removed. All of these had evidently been burned, as charcoal and ashes were mixed with the bones of each succeeding layer. The layers were about an inch in thickness, with from two to four inches of earth between, and small flat stones, about the size of a man's hand, spread on each different layer, as if to mark its division from the next above.
Between the bottom layers, mixed with charcoal, ashes and small portions of burned bones were found what gives value to the search, numbering about fifty tools and a smoking pipe.
The material of the tools is the same as the rock forming the vault, locally known as "cotton rock." I would consider it a species of sandstone.
Overlying the edge of "cotton rock" in the bluff is flint in great quantities, and in every conceivable shape, that these people could have resorted to had they been so disposed, and why they used the softer material I will leave to some archæologist to determine. The tools themselves are made after no pattern, but selected for their cutting qualities, as they all have a more or less keen edge which could be used for cutting purposes, and were no doubt highly prized, as they were found all in a pile in one corner of the vault and on top of which was found a stone pipe. The pipe is made bowl and stem together, and it is curious that people of such crude ideas of tools and weapons should manufacture such a perfect specimen of a pipe. It is composed of a very heavy stone, the nature of which would be difficult to determine, as it is considerably burned.
A description of the vault will be found interesting to many. The wall of the vault rests upon the natural surface of the ground, about three feet high and eight and a half feet square, the inside corners being slightly rounded; it is built in layers about four inches in thickness and varying in length upward to three feet, neither cement nor mortar being used in the joints; the corners formed a sort of recess as they were drawn inward to the top, in which many of the stones were found. The stone for constructing the vault was brought from a distance of about a quarter of a mile, as there is none in sight nearer.
I assume from all these circumstances that these people lived in this neighborhood anterior to the age of flint tools, as the more recent interments indicate that they were then entering upon the flint industry, and it may be that the "cotton rock" had become obsolete.
These people buried their dead on the highest ground, covering and protecting them with these great mounds, when it would seem much easier to bury as at the present day; but instead, they, with great labor, carried the rock from a great distance, and it is reasonable to suppose, also, that the earth was brought from a distance with which they are surrounded, and piled high above, as there is no trace of an immediate or local excavation....
My object is the hope of a more thorough investigation at some future time...."