Wickliffe Mounds State Historic Site is the archaeological site of a prehistoric Native
American village of the Mississippian mound builders. Located on a bluff
overlooking the Mississippi river, the village was occupied from about
1100 AD to 1350 AD. The Mississippians built a complex settlement with
permanent houses and earthen mounds situated around a central plaza.
They farmed the river bottoms and participated in a vast trade network.
They also buried their dead here with dignity and respect. After the
1300s the Mississippians at Wickliffe Mounds abandoned the village.
Early settlers to the region probably knew about the mounds at this
site, but made little mention of it. The first formal notice occurred in
1888 when surveyor Robert Loughridge mapped the mounds for the
Commonwealth of Kentucky. Colonel Fain W. King, a Paducah lumber magnate
and relic collector, purchased the site and began excavating the mounds
and developing a tourist attraction. King, later joined by his wife,
Blanche Busey King, opened the site to public visitation from the
beginning of his work, calling the site at first the “King Mounds” and
eventually naming it the “Ancient Buried City.” King directed
excavations from 1932 until 1939. Some of their excavations followed
proper archaeological techniques, but their field notes and other
records have disappeared. In 1946, the Kings retired and donated the
site to Western Baptist Hospital in Paducah. The Western Baptist
Hospital owned the Ancient Buried City from 1946 to 1983.
recognition of the scientific importance and the educational potential
of the mounds, Western Baptist Hospital donated the site to Murray State
University in 1983. Murray State University reorganized the site,
calling it the Wickliffe Mounds Research Center and set out to
accurately understand, interpret and preserve the site with
archaeologists and museum personnel in charge. Beginning in 1984, Murray
State University conducted small scale excavations and archaeological
laboratory research at Wickliffe Mounds. In 2004, Murray State
University transferred the Wickliffe Mounds archaeological site and its
collections to the Commonwealth of Kentucky, Commerce Cabinet.
Designated as the Wickliffe Mounds State Historic Site, the mounds are
operated by the Kentucky Department of Parks. The site is listed on the
National Register of Historic Places, is a designated Kentucky
Archaeological Landmark, and is a common ground for Native American
Indian cultures, past and present.
site features a museum consisting of 3 excavated mounds with
archaeological features, Mississippian burial practices, displays of
artifacts from the site and a mural of a Mississippian village. The
Ceremonial Mound is intact and can be accessed for a beautiful bird’s
eye view of the park. A Hands-On Activity Touch Table rounds out the
museum tour where visitors can use prehistoric tools and learn about
Mississippian artifacts, technology and their environment. Wickliffe
Mounds is also one of the certified interpretive centers along the Great
River Road in all 10 of the Mississippi River states that have been
selected to showcase and connect the historic stories of the Mississippi