Company has no plans to build near mound

Published 12:09 am Sunday, March 16, 2008

NATCHEZ — A piece of historical treasure lies on the grounds of the property Rentech plans to buy.

An Indian mound that has yet to be archaeologically investigated is along the perimeter of the property.

Tom Sayles, vice president of corporate communications and government affairs for Rentech, said the company is not planning on building in the area of the mound.

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“We believe we can segregate this from our main operation,” Sayles said.

The mound is called a Linwood mound, said Jim Barnett, director of historical properties division for the Mississippi Department of Archives and History at the Grand Village on the Natchez Indians.

It was recognized as a mound by a team of Harvard archaeologists in 1962, said David Abbott, archaeologist for MDAH. Other than that, not much is known about the mound.

There are several types of Indian mounds, two of which are burial and ceremonial.

“About 2,000 years ago, the main type of mound being built in this area were burial mounds,” Barnett said. “There were round topped piles of earth built to cover human graves.”

But when the Natchez Indian culture came about around 700 A.D., mounds had changed to flat-topped triangles used for ceremonial purposes.

Due to erosion and possible damage from when a railroad spur was built too close, it would take more than just looking at the mound to determine what type it is.

Indian mounds are common area and can date back to 6,000 years ago.

Although this particular mound is not in harm’s way, Sayles said Rentech plans to donate it to the appropriate historical or archaeological society.

Barnett said Grand Village would be happy to talk to Rentech about the donation of the land. They just want to see it preserved.

“The best way to preserve an Indian mound is not to allow it to be bulldozed down or otherwise removed,” Barnett said. “Most of the danger to an Indian mound would come from the removal of the mounds to allow some sort of development to take place.”

Barnett is sure that this is not the case with Rentech.

If it were donated to MDAH, Rentech could receive tax breaks, Abbott said.

The state would not necessarily mark the property as historical, as in this case, Abbott said there is really no way to view the mound as an attraction.

Archaeological Conservancy, a nonprofit organization with a mission to preserve historical sites, has shown interest in possibly acquiring the mound.

“We’ll make some inquires, said George Lowry, delta field representative for the conservancy.

Even if Rentech decides they don’t want to donate the mound, the conservancy would look into purchasing it.

Archaeological Conservancy would first view the mound. If everything looked fine, they would get a survey of the mound, then an appraisal.

Then they basically become owners of the property.

Any studies of the mound by either museums or universities would have to be approved by the conservancy.

The conservancy would choose not to mark the property as historical, to keep from attracting vandals.

“We would be stewards of the property,” Lowry said.