The Angel Mounds State Historic Site is a series of impressive earthworks located near the confluence of the Green and Ohio rivers, a few miles southeast of Evansville.
The site, which has been used for thousands of years, derives its name from the Angel family who purchased the land in the 19th century and has long been recognized for its archaeological significance.
Beginning in the Great Depression, a team of WPA workers funded by FDR and led by Glenn A. Black began excavating the property.
In 1938, the Indiana Historical Society used charitable donations to purchase 480 acres of land from the Angel family, and by 1946, the land had been transferred to the state of Indiana. Around this time, Indiana University began research on the site.
Angel Mounds was named a National Historic Landmark in 1964, and by 1965, Indiana University was given full excavation rights. Glenn A. Black, now working for the university, conducted what is still considered the definitive research into the site in 1967, publishing a two-volume study giving Angel Mounds national attention (archaeological dig sites were “#trending” in the 1960s).
The Glenn A. Black Laboratory of Archaeology at Indiana University continues research to this day, uncovering a pottery workshop on the site as recently as 2006.
*Today, the site is officially owned and maintained by the Indiana State Museum and the State of Indiana.
Prior to all of this, Angel Mounds was the most northeastern townsite of the Mississippian people.
Between 1100 AD and 1450 AD, the Mississippian people built a farming community in the area that may have housed up to 1000 people at its peak. Governed as a chiefdom, the early settlers of Angel Mounds were responsible for the distinctive earthworks and even created a 12-foot defensive stockade from water and daub.
The community extended for several miles and were proficient farmers and pottery makers. They traded with other groups of people along the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers.
These early farmers vacated the land long before the arrival of European settlers, for reasons that remain a mystery, as the site was still agriculturally viable. Several other tribes, including the Miami and Shawnee, occupied Angel Mounds for stretches of time after the Middle Mississippian departure.
In the 18th and 19th century, Europeans settled the land, no doubt attracted by the same rich soil as the Mississippians were years earlier. Among these early settlers were Mathias Angel and his brothers, who purchased adjacent farmsteads on the site in the 1850s.