by Richard L. Thornton, Architect and City Planner
From his earliest days . . . working on his dissertation at Kolomoki Mounds . . . I have admired the quality and intellectuality of the work done by Archaeologist Thomas Pluckhahn. He is a scion for his profession and now a professor at the prestigious University of South Florida Department of Anthropology. Rather than saying anything else, I will share with you an exchange of emails that we had yesterday. Dr. Pluckhahn’s enlightened approach to anthropology, speaks for itself.
From Richard Thornton to Thomas Pluckhahn
I read your paper on line, about the stepped pyramid on Roberts Island. You mentioned that you were now using the term pyramid for the larger, geometric platform mounds. This was what I was taught in Mexico on my fellowship (back in the Stone Age). My fellowship coordinator, Román Piña Chan, used piramid for both rectangular and circular earthen structures, if they were platforms for buildings. He used monticulo (little mountain) for dome-shaped mounds and tumulo for low burial mounds.
When back in the states and giving slide shows on Mesoamerican architecture, I called large geometric, platform mounds – earthen pyramids – and got ridiculed by the Georgia archaeologists, so I stopped using the term. However, if you are using pyramid, then I shall again do so.
Keep up the good work . . . Richard Thornton, Architect & City Planner
From Thomas Pluckhahn to Richard Thornton
Thanks for your email. Our main point was that with the shift in wording from “pyramid” to “mound,” archaeologists had diminished the accomplishments of Native Americans with regard to the engineering of monuments of earth or (in this case) shell. We don’t go into it in the paper, but this was likely the result of evolutionary approaches that relegated Native American “tribes” and “chiefdoms” (and their mounds) to a lower rung on the evolutionary ladder than “states” (and their stone pyramids) in Mesopotamia, the Maya area, etc.
But main point is I think it’s fine—even good–to refer to “mounds” here as “pyramids” to put them on same level as those elsewhere in terms of labor and planning.