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Grave Creek Mound Archaeological Complex

801 Jefferson Avenue
Moundsville WV 26041
(304)843-4128 or 1-800-CALLWVA
Tuesday - Saturday
10am - 4:30pm
12 -5pm
Closed Mondays and major holidays
Grave Creek Mound

The West Virginia Archaeology Center opened May 12, 2008

Calendar of upcoming events


The heart of the site is probably the most famous and certainly the largest of the Adena Burial mounds. A massive undertaking, the total effort required the movement of more than 60,000 tons of earth. Artifacts and exhibits interpreting the lifestyle of the Adena people are displayed in the Delf Norona Museum, adjacent to the 2,000 year old mound. The museum also features a gift shop and a gallery where fine art is exhibited throughout the year. Grave Creek Archaeological Complex also maintains a 150-seat theater with a small stage. Call 304-843-4128 or 1-800-CALLWVA to rent the auditorium for concerts, lectures, or meetings.

Download the National Register of Historic Places nomination form for Grave Creek Mound (1.34MB Acrobat PDF)

The West Virginia Archaeological Collection at in the Delf Norona Museum has been designated as an Official Project of Save America's Treasures

The Adena People

About 1000 B.C. marks the beginning of a new period in North America. Called the Woodland Period, this period lasted until about 700 A.D. During this time, a new culture emerged and made signigicant settlements in what is now known as West Virginia. These people are known to us today by the general term the Mound Builders, so called for their practice of creating earthen burial mounds and other earthworks. The Mound Builders lived over a wide range from the Atlantic, the Midwest and the Ohio Valley to the Mississippi Valley. The term "mound builders" refers to several cultures that span a period of about 20 centuries.

The first group of people to develop this unique way of life were the Adena, from about 1000 B.C. to about 1 A.D. They had well-organized societies and lived in a wide area including much of present day Ohio, Indiana, West Virginia, Kentucky and parts of Pennsylvania and New York. A later group of Mound Builders, the Hopewell, lived from about 1 A.D. to 700 A.D. and represented a greater refinement over the earlier Adena culture. Other cultures extended Mound Builders to about 1300 A.D.

The labor of many people must have been required to build these mounds since they did not use the wheel and had no horses. The large amounts of earth had to be moved by the basket-load. Perhaps for this reason, the mounds were often used more than once. We find in many mounds there are multiple burials at different levels. Over time the mounds gradually increased in size.

Most of the people were cremated after death, placed in small log tombs and covered with earth. They often were buried in the flesh and more important people were laid to rest with a variety of artifacts such as flint tools, beads, pipes and mica and copper ornaments.

Grave Creek Mound is of the late Adena Period and was built in successive stages over a period of 100 years or more. We do not know why the Adena chose to build the particular mound on such a huge scale compared with other burial mounds in the area that generally range in size from 20 to 300 feet in diameter.

A typical Adena house was built in a circular form from 15 to 45 feet in diameter. The walls consisted of paired posts tilted outward, joined to other wood to form a conical-shaped roof. The roof was covered with bark and the walls may have been bark, wickerwork or some combination. They were extensive traders as evidenced by the types of ,material found in the mounds they constructed. Copper from the western Great Lakes region and shells from the Gulf of Mexico, all attest to the range of their economic activity. In addition, the culture also practiced agriculture, hunting and fishing.

About 500 B.C., the Adena culture began slowly to give way to a more sophisticated culture, the Hopewell. Although little remains of their villages, the Adena left great monuments to mark their passing, and one of the greatest of these in the Grave Creek Mound.

The Mound

The most impressive and largest Adena mound, Grave Creek Mound is the largest conical type of any of the mound builder structures. Construction of the mound took place in successive stages from about 250-150 B.C., as indicated by the multiple burials at different levels within the structures. In 1838, road engineers measured its height at 69 feet and its at the base as 295 feet. Originally a moat of about 40 feet in width and five feet in depth with one causeway encircled it.

The first recorded excavation of the mound took place in 1838, conducted by local amateurs. To gain entrance to the mound, two shafts, one vertical and one horizontal were created. This led to the most significant discovery of two burial vaults.

In addition to the Adena ornaments and remains found in the interior, the upper vault contained a small flat sandstone tablet. Later, authenticity of the tablet and the meaning of its inscription became quite controversial. Though the stone has never been authenticated and has been disputed by most professionals, a replica of the original is on display in the museum.

Delf Norona Museum

The Museum

The Delf Norona Museum opened in December 1978. The thoroughly modern facility, with its natural brick facade and pyramid-shaped skylights is an architectural tribute to a prehistoric era. Exhibits and displays on the upper level portray and clarify what is known about the cultural life of this prehistoric people and the construction of the Grave Creek Mound.

Open year-round to visitors. An interpretive lecture is available to groups with advance reservation.

Admission to the museum is free

Conveniently located 15 minutes south of Wheeling, WV.
Just east of Route 2 on Jefferson Avenue.


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