A winding highway, that was once part of the El Camino Real de los Tejas, southwest out of Alto, Texas leads to the Caddo Mounds state historic site. This is one place where a community of Caddo Indians thrived centuries before Christopher Columbus “discovered” the New World.
The site, formerly owned and operated by the state park system, now is under the operation of the Texas Historical Commission.
Caddo Mounds was first opened to the public in 1982, but the site had been explored and mapped by archaeologists since 1919, who have uncovered many artifacts and details of this particular group of Caddos known as the Hasinai.
Archaeologists have determined the Hasinai moved into the area about 900 A.D. and quickly established their presence by building the first ceremonial mound and a burial mound, where the remains of many Caddos still lie beneath tons of earth.
An excavation of the burial mound in 1970 provided a window into the culture of the group. After the study, the mound was recovered and none of the remains were displaced.
The ceremonial grounds played a large part in the Caddo culture and due to the parent group of Caddos in East Texas maintaining their political and economic relationship with other Caddos, the site in Cherokee County became a major regional trade center.
During the Late Caddoan Era, many of the Caddos’ ceremonial rites were discontinued, which scientists believe shows a weakening of the old social structure and values. With the loss of ceremonial rites, the site near Alto was abandoned as Caddos moved to other locations sometime around 1700.
The Cherokee County site consists of two temple mounds, a burial mound and a large portion of the adjacent village area.
“Part of the El Camino Real has actually been found on the site and soon we will open an area to the public where they will be able to see actual wagon wheel ruts from early travelers passing through the area,” Price said.