Backusburg Mounds

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Archeological Site 15CW65
Backusburg Mounds is located in Kentucky
Backusburg Mounds
Location Ridgeline 0.25 miles (0.40 km) southeast of Backusburg, along the Clarks River[2]
Nearest city Backusburg, Kentucky
Coordinates Lua error in Module:Coordinates at line 668: callParserFunction: function "#coordinates" was not found.
Area 6.5 acres (2.6 ha)
NRHP Reference # 85001506[1]
Added to NRHP July 11, 1985

The Backusburg Mounds (15-CW-65)[1] are an archaeological site in the Jackson Purchase region of the U.S. state of Kentucky.

Located near the tiny community of Backusburg in northwestern Calloway County, the mounds are one of the region's premier archaeological sites. They have been well known locally since at least the early 20th century, due partially to their large size.

The largest mound measures 150 by 75 feet (46 m × 23 m) at the base. Located on a ridgeline above a fork of the Clarks River, the mound bears a peculiar shape; its size and shape have caused observers to suggest that it might actually be the remnants of a series of smaller mounds placed next to each other. As late as the 1930s, this largest mound had never been plowed. It lay in dense woodland with trees of considerable size. The mound have been dug into at various times and artifacts removed. Human remains have been disinterred in nearby fields. The finds of projectile points and pottery during plowing lead to the site's identification as a former village.[2]


Archaeologists first learned of the Backusburg Mounds in the 1920s, but only one scholarly investigation was conducted there during the 20th century. A team of students from the nearby Murray State University excavated the site under the leadership of archaeologist Kenneth Carstens in 1981. Although Murray State only had one day's access to the site, the team was able to produce maps of the site that traced its boundaries. The materials they collected from the surface enabled Carstens to study the site's cultural affiliation.[3] The village has since been determined to be part of the Mississippian culture.[1]

Four years after the excavation, the mound complex was listed on the National Register of Historic Places under its Smithsonian trinomial designation of 15-CW-65. It is Calloway County's only National Register-listed archaeological site and one of 13 in the Jackson Purchase.[1]

Additional work was finally conducted at Backusburg in mid-2013, as another team of Murray State archaeology students was assigned to document the site more carefully for their field school. At the same, the property was being purchased by The Archaeological Conservancy,[4] an organization whose raison d'être is purchasing archaeological sites in order to preserve them.[5]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Staff (2010-07-09). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. 2.0 2.1 Funkhouser, W.D., and W.S. Webb. "Archaeological Survey of Kentucky". University of Kentucky Reports in Anthropology 7.5 (1950): 62-65.
  3. New Acquisitions, The Archaeological Conservancy, n.d. Accessed 2013-10-24.
  4. "MSU Research Featured in American Archaeology Magazine", Murray State University, 2013-06-13. Accessed 2013-10-24.
  5. Michel, Mark. "Private Property-National Legacy", The SAA Archaeological Record 3.3 (May 2003): 4-5: 4.