Fatherland Site (Grand Village of the Natchez Indians)

The Fatherland Site, also known as the Grand Village of the Natchez Indians, is a National Historic Landmark archaeological site owned by the State of Mississippi and administered by the Mississippi Department of Archives and History. A close correlation has been established between archaeological findings there and the ethnohistory of the Natchez Indians. Eighteenth-century European visitors who described the site include Iberville, Pénicaut, Gravier, Charlevoix, and du Pratz. At that time, the mound center was the home of the Great Sun, the hereditary chief of the Natchez tribe.

The first archaeological work at the Fatherland Site (named for a nineteenth-century plantation) was Warren K. Moorehead’s limited testing in 1924. In 1930 archaeologist Moreau B. C. Chambers led the first extensive excavations at the site for the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, and over the following decade, he and James A. Ford identified it as the place mentioned frequently in French colonial records as the Grand Village of the Natchez. In 1962 and 1972 Robert S. Neitzel carried out further archaeological investigations for the department, eventually leading to state acquisition of approximately 126 acres for preservation and public interpretation.

The site’s three mounds have been designated A, B, and C. French colonial descriptions focus on the Great Sun’s mound (Mound B) and the temple mound (Mound C). Mound A was evidently not in use by the Natchez during the French colonial period. Excavations at Mounds B and C revealed that these two earthworks were built up incrementally, and radiocarbon dates from all three mounds indicate construction between AD 1200 and historic contact. Very little remained of the archaeological footprint of the last structure atop Mound B, which would have been the chief’s house seen by European visitors to the site.

Mound C was identified as the temple mound based on its location and on the presence of twenty-six human burials, recalling French colonial accounts of burial activity in and around the temple building. A significant portion of the historic Natchez temple’s archaeological footprint was documented atop Mound C. The temple’s floor plan reveals a two-room structure—a smaller northern room, or portico, adjoining a larger southern (or rear) enclosure, with the whole building measuring about sixty feet in length and forty-two feet in width.

In addition to the structures on the mounds, colonial visitors to the Grand Village mentioned a few dwellings near the mounds and ceremonial plaza. Neitzel’s 1972 excavations uncovered evidence of four off-mound building locations. In 1983 a fifth building location came to light during excavations connected with an erosion-control project. No further archaeological excavations are planned.

The Grand Village of the Natchez Indians is located within the Natchez city limits. A museum features exhibits about the Natchez Indians and the French colonial period as well as a reconstructed Natchez Indian house and outdoor interpretive signs.

Further Reading

  • James F. Barnett Jr., The Natchez Indians: A History to 1735 (2007)
  • Robert S. Neitzel, Archaeology of the Fatherland Site: The Grand Village of the Natchez (1965)
  • Robert S. Neitzel, The Grand Village of the Natchez Revisited: Excavations at the Fatherland Site, Adams County, Mississippi, 1972
  • John R. Swanton, Indian Tribes of the Lower Mississippi Valley and Adjacent Coast of the Gulf of Mexico (1911)

Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Article Title Fatherland Site (Grand Village of the Natchez Indians)
  • Author
  • Keywords Fatherland Site, Grand Village of the Natchez Indians
  • Website Name Mississippi Encyclopedia
  • URL
  • Access Date June 7, 2020
  • Publisher Center for Study of Southern Culture
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update April 14, 2018