Skip Navigation


The Criel Mound in South Charleston is the largest of approximately fifty conical type mounds of the Adena culture in an area west of Charleston extending to Institute. The precise age of the Criel Mound is unknown, but archaeologists believe it dates to the time of the Grave Creek Mound in Moundsville, probably built between 250 and 150 B.C.E. It was the burial ground for an Indian village located on the site of the city of South Charleston some 2000 years ago. It is unknown when the village disappeared, although some have suggested it remained until as late as 1650 A.C.E. In West Virginia, the 35-foot high and 175-foot diameter Criel Mound is exceeded in size only by the Grave Creek Mound. (See footnote 1)

The Criel Mound was first excavated by Professor P. W. Norris of the Smithsonian Institute in 1883 and 1884. Tunneling from the top down, the archaeologists discovered the following:

At the depth of 3 feet, in the center of the shaft, some human bones were discovered, doubtless parts of a skeleton said to have been dug up before or at the time of the construction of the judges' stand. At the depth of 4 feet, in a bed of hard earth composed of mixed clay and ashes, were two skeletons, both lying extended on their backs, heads south, and feet near the center of the shaft. Near the heads lay two celts, two stone hoes, one lance head, and two disks. (See footnote 2)

As they dug to a depth of 31 feet, numerous other skeletons were found, including a burial vault containing the remains of eleven Native Americans thought to have been killed in battle. There was also evidence that some may have been buried alive. As was the custom, various jewelry and weapons were placed in the buried vaults. Today, all the artifacts and skeleton remains are maintained at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D. C. (See footnote 3)

1. Stephen B. Preston, "An Introduction to the Mound Builders and the Criel Mound, `D' Street, South Charleston," in J. Alfred Poe and Albert Giles, "The History of South Charleston, West Virginia, Volume I," (hereafter Preston, "Mound Builders"), 16, 18.

2. "Ancient Works Near Charleston," U. S. Bureau of Ethnology, Twelfth Annual Report, 1890-91 (Washington, D. C.), as quoted in Preston, "Mound Builders," 14.

3. Phil Conley and William Thomas Doherty, West Virginia History (Charleston: Education Foundation, Inc., 1974), 52-53; Otis K. Rice, West Virginia: A History (Lexington: The University Press of Kentucky, 1985), 5-6.

West Virginia Archives and History