Hubert Howe Bancroft.

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ground a stratum a foot thick of charcoal, baked earth,
ashes, broken pottery, shells, and bones of animals and
birds, with a few human bones. The mound, which
is of the surrounding alluvial soil, would seem to have
been erected over a spot long occupied as an encamp-
ment. This mound, and another near it, were origin-
ally enclosed by a moat which communicated with
the river, and widened on one side into a broad lagoon.

On Plunkett Creek, Georgia, is a mound of stones
which has the appearance of a temple-mound, hav-
ing a summit area forty feet in diameter. Stone is
rarely used in structures of this class; perhaps this
was originally a conical mound. There seem to be few
large mounds in the south unaccompanied by ditches,
which seem here to have been introduced where em-
bankments would have been preferred in the north.

In a late number of the Cincinnati Quarterhj



Journal of Science I find described, unfortunately
only on newspaper authority, a remarkable temple-
mound, near Springfield, Missouri, on a hill three
hundred feet high. It is of earth and stones, sixty
two feet high, five hundred feet in diameter at the
base and one hundred and thirty at the summit. A
ditch, two hundred feet wide and five feet deep, sur-
rounds the base, and is crossed by a causeway, oppo-
site which a stairway of roughly hewn stones leads
up the northern slope. The top is covered by a
platform of stone, in the centre of which lies a stone
ten by twelve feet, and eleven inches thick, hollowed
in the middle. This report without further confirma-
tion must be considered a hoax — at least so far as the
stone steps, pavement, and altar are concerned.

The group of temple-mounds shown in the cut is

Vol. IV. 49

Mississippi Temple-Mounds.


in Washington County, Mississippi. Others similar
in many respects to these are found at Madison,

Temple-mounds are homogeneous and never strati-
fied in their construction, and contain no relics; that
is, the object in their erection was simply to afford a
raised platform, with convenient means of ascent.

Animal -mounds, the second class, are those that
assume in their ground plan various irregular forms,
sometimes those of living creatures, including quadru-
peds, birds, reptiles, fishes, and in a few cases men.
Mounds of this class are very numerous in the north-
west, particularly in Wisconsin, and rarely occur
further south, although there are a few excellent
specimens in Ohio. They are most abundant in fer-
tile valleys and rarely occur on the lake shore. Nine
tenths of them are simple straight, curved, or crooked
embankments of irregular form, slightly raised above
the surface, bearing no likeness to any natural object.
In many, fancied to be like certain animals, the re-
semblance is imaginary. Those shaped like a taper-
ing club, with two knobs on one side near the larger
end— a very common figure — are called 'lizard-
mounds;' add two other protuberances on the oppo-
site side and we have the 'turtle-mounds.' Yet a
few bear a clear resemblance to quadrupeds, birds,
and serpents, and all evidently belong to the same
class and were connected with the relio-ious ideas of
the builders. They are not burial mounds, contain no
relics, are but a few feet at the most above the ground,
and are always composed of whitish clay, or the sub-
soil of the country. Their dimensions on the ground
are considerable ; rude effigies of human form are in
some cases over one hundred feet long; quadrupeds
have bodies and tails each from fifty to two hundred
feet long; birds have wings of a hundred feet; 'liz-
ard-mounds' are two and even four hundred feet in
length; straight and curved lines of embankment


reach over a thousand feet; and serpents are equally
extensive. They are grouped without any apparent
order together with conical mounds, occasional em-
bankments, and few enclosures. They often form a
line extendinof over a larp-e tract. In some cases the
animal form is an excavation instead of a mound, the
earth being thrown up on the banks. An embank-
ment in Adams County, Ohio, on the summit of a
hill much like those often occupied by fortifications, is
thought to resemble a monster serpent with curved
body and coiled tail, five feet high, thirty feet wide in
the middle, and over one thousand feet long if un-
coiled. The jaws are wide open and apparently in
the act of swallowing an oval mound measuring one
hundred and sixty by eighty feet. On a hill over-
looking Granville, Ohio, is a mound six feet high and
a hundred and fifty feet long, thought to resemble the
form of an alligator. Stones are rarely used with
the earth in the construction of animal-mounds, and
only in a few cases has the presence of ashes or other
traces of fire been reported.

The third class of tumuli includes the conical
mounds, mere heaps of earth and stones, so far as out-
ward appearance is concerned, generally round, often
oval, sometimes square with rounded corners, or even
hexagonal and triangular, in their base-forms, and
varying in height from a few inches to seventy feet,
in diameter from three or four to three hundred feet.
A height of from six to thirty feet and a diameter of
forty to one hundred feet would probably include a
larger part of them. Of course the height has been
reduced and the base increased by the action of rains
more or less in different localities accordino- to the
material employed. Mounds of this class never have
summit platforms or any means of ascent. They are
here as elsewhere in America much more numerous
than other mounds. Although so like one to another
in form, they differ widely in location and contents.


They are found on hill-tops and in the level plain. In
the former case they are either isolated, grouped
round fortifications, or extend in long lines at irreg-
ular intervals for many miles, suggesting boundary
lines or fire signals. In the valleys they stand alone,
in groups, or in connection with sacred enclosures.
The groups are sometimes symmetrical, as when a
number of mounds are regularly arranged about a
larger central one, or are so placed as to form squares,
circles, and other regular figures; but often no sys-
tematic plan is observable. Also in connection Avith
the enclosures part of them are symmetrically located
with respect to entrances, angles, or temple-mounds ;
while others are scattered apparently without fixed
order. There are few enclosures that do not have a
mound opposite each entrance on the inside. A com-
plete survey and restoration would probably show
many mounds to belong to some regular system, that
now appear isolated.

The material of the mounds requires no remark
in addition to what has been said of other works. A
large majority are simply heaps of the earth nearest
at hand. Stone mounds, or those of mixed materials,
are rare, and are chiefly confined to the hill-top struc-
tures. Most of the earth mounds are homoo-eneous
in structure, but some are regularly and doubtless
intentionally stratified. Some of them in the gulf
states are composed of shells, in addition to the shell-
mounds proper formed by the gradual deposit of
refuse shells, the contents of which served as food.

The contents of the mounds should be divided into
two great classes; those deposited by the Mound-
builders, and those of modern Indian or European
origin. The distinction is important, but diflRcult;
and in this difficulty is to be found the origin of
many of the extraordinary reports and theories. The
Indians have always felt a kind of veneration for the
mounds as for something of mysterious origin and


purpose, and have used them as burial places. The
Indian habit of burying with their dead such articles
as were prized by them when living, is well known ; as
is also the value attached by them to trinkets ob-
tained by purchase or theft from Euroj)eans. Con-
sequently articles of European manufacture, such as
must have been obtained long before the country was
to any great extent occupied by the whites, are often
dug from the mounds and found elsewhere. The dis-
covery of silver crosses, gun-barrels, and French dials,
does not, however, as Mr Squier remarks, justify the
conclusion that the Mound-builders **were Catholics,
used fire-arms, or spoke French." The mounds are
usually opened by injudicious explorers or by treas-
ure-seekers, who have paid little attention to the
location of the relics found or the condition of the
surrounding soil. Museums and private collections
are full of spurious relics thus obtained. It is cer-
tain in some cases, and probable in many more, that
the mounds have been 'salted' with specimens with a
view to their early investigation. Yet many mounds
have been opened by scientific men, who have brought
to light curious relics, surely the work of the Mound-
builders. Such relics are found in the centre of the
mounds, on or near the original surface of the ground,
with the surroundinof material undisturbed. In the
stratified mounds any disturbance in the soil is easily
detected, but with difficulty in the others. Reports
of unusual relics should be resfarded as not authentic
unless accompanied by most positive proof

Neither the embankments of sacred enclosures, the
temple-mounds, nor the animal-mounds, have been
proved to contain any relics that may be attributed
to the original builders. Many of the conical mounds
do contain such relics, and by their contents or the
lack of them, are divided into altar-mounds, burial
mounds, and anomalous mounds.

Altar-mounds are always found within or near


enclosures, and each one is found to contain some-
thino- like an altar, made of burned clay or stone.
The altars are generally of fine clay brought from
some distance, burned hard sometimes to a depth of
twenty inches. They were not burned before being
put in place, but by the action of fires built upon or
round them. Such as were very slightly burned
had no relics. The stone altars are very rare, and
are formed of rough slabs, and not hewn from a
single block. They are square, rectangular, round,
and oval ; vary in size from two feet in diameter to
fifteen by fifty feet, but are generally from five to
eight feet; are rarely over twenty inches high; rest
on or near the surface of the ground, in the centre of
the mound; and have a basin-shaped concavity on
the top. The basin is almost always filled Avith
ashes, in which are the relics deposited by the Mound-
builders. Relics are much more numerous in the
altar than in the burial mounds, but as they are of
the same class, both may best be spoken of together.
These altars are probably the structures spoken of by
early explorers and writers as hearths; there are
reports that some of them were made of burnt bricks.
A peculiarity of the altar-mounds is that they are
formed of regular strata of earth, gravel, sand, clay,
etc., which are not horizontal, but follow the curve of
the surface. The outer layer is commonly of gravel.
This stratification renders it easy to detect any mod-
ern disturbance of the mounds, and makes the altar
relics especially interesting and valuable for scientific
purposes. Over the ashes in one altar-mound, were
found plates of mica and some human bones. Skele-
tons are often found near the surface of these mounds,
the strata above them being disturbed; in one case
the Indians had penetrated to the centre and de-
posited a body on the altar itself Sir John Lubbock
inclines to the opinion that these were really sepul-
chral rather than sacrificial mounds, although he had
not personally examined them. Whatever their use,


they certainly constitute a clearly defined class dis-
tinct from all others, and the name altar-mounds is
as appropriate as any other.

Unstratified mounds, never within enclosures and
generally at some little distance from them, contain-
ing human remains in their centres and undoubtedly
erected as places of sepulture, constitute the second
class, and are called burial mounds. The custom of
heaping up a mound over the dead was probably imi-
tated for a long time by the tribes that followed the
Mound-builders, so that the relics from these mounds
are less satisfactory than those found on the altars.
In the burial mounds that may be most confidently
ascribed to the Mound-builders, the human remains
are found in a situation corresponding to that of the
altars. They are usually enclosed in a frame-work of
logs, a covering of bark or coarse matting, or a com-
bination of these, which have left only faint traces.
Of the skeleton only small fragments remain, which
crumble on exposure to the air. In some cases there
are indications that the body was burned before burial.
Each mound contains, as a rule, a single skeleton,
generally but not always placed east and west. Where
several skeletons are found together, they are some-
times placed in a circle with the heads towards the
centre. The mounds never contain large numbers of
skeletons, and cannot be regarded as cemeteries, but
only as monuments reared over the remains of person-
ages high in rank. Very few skulls or bones are
recovered sufficiently entire to give any idea of the
Mound-builders' physique, and these few show no
clearly defined differences from the modern Indian
tribes. Four or five burial mounds are often found in
a group, the smaller ones in such cases being grouped
round a larger central one, generally in contact with
its base. Mr Lapham sketched mounds in Wiscon-
sin where the body is deposited in a central basin-


shaped excavation in the ground very much like those
in Vancouver Island already described.

Of the eastern burial deposits not connected with
the mounds I shall say very little. It has already
been stated that the mounds were in no sense ceme-
teries. Only a favored few of what must have been
a dense population were honored by these sepulchral
monuments. Obliged to seek elsewhere the general
depositories of the dead, we find them of various
classes in large numbers; but as yet very little has
been done towards identifying any of them as the
resting-places of the Mound-builders. There are
many bone-pits, or trenches filled with human bones,
in the mound region; but some of the modern In-
dians are well known to have periodically collected
and deposited in pits the bones of their dead. Large
numbers of bodies have been found in the caves of
Kentucky and Tennessee, well preserved by the nat-
ural deposits of saltpetre, and wrapped in skins, bark,
or feather-cloth ; but the fact that such cloths were
made and used by the southern tribes, renders the
orio-in of these bodies uncertain. Besides the caves
and trenches there are regular cemeteries, some of
them very extensive. Seven of these are reported
about Nashville, Tennessee, within a radius of ten
miles, each being about a mile in extent. The graves
are of flat stones, lie in ranges, and contain skeletons
much decayed, with some relics. The coffins, or
graves, vary from two to six feet in length, and the
smallest have sometimes been mentioned as indicatinof
a race of pigmies; it is evident, however, that in such
graves bones were not deposited until the flesh had
been removed. Sometimes there are traces of wooden
coffins, in other cases there are only stones at the head
and feet, and often there is no trace of any coffin. A
few graves contain relics similar to those in the altar-
mounds, and were covered with large forest trees
when first seen by Europeans. Yet the comparatively
well-preserved skeletons, and the presence in many



cases of iron and relics clearly modern, render it well-
nigh impossible to decide which, if any, of these cem-
eteries contain the remains of the Mound-builders.

Mounds of the third class are called anomalous,
and include all that are not evidently either altar or
burial mounds, or which have some of the pecul-
iarities of both classes; for instance, in an elliptical
mound an altar was found in one centre, and a skele-
ton in the other. Most prominent among them are
the hill -top heaps of earth, or — -oftener than in the
plains below — of stone. These have as a rule few
original burial deposits, and no relics; are often near
fortifications; and in many cases bear the marks of
fire. Their use cannot be accurately determined, but
they are generally regarded as watch-towers and fire
signal stations. Of course, comparatively few of the
whole number of conical mounds have been explored,
but so far as examined they seem to be about equally
divided between the three classes. The mound
shown in the cut is at Miamisburg, Ohio, and its class



Mound at Miainisbiirsr.


k not Ktat«d. It is sixtr-eigbt feet high and t.:_rL:
htmdrfid and ^ftr feet in areumfiereiice. ^ Siicll-
mcmndis abonadiiig in relics of abafigiul woik are
^enr nnmeRiiis in the gnlf statefi.

I shall jtasB brieiflT orer the minor relics of abo-
riginal art tnnce it is impossible in this Tolanie to
}>re»eDt illaf^;tratiTe cuts of the thoussods of ob^eds
that hare been found, or even of tjpical specbnens.
Such relics as are incontestablr the vorit of ibe
"** 'builders include articles of metal, stone,
ware, bone, and shell They inrhide inqrfe-
meuts and ornaments, besides -trliH^ maiij mre of
unknown nse. Most of the smaller fipeameDS, whose
us^ is m[iknown, are called by Mr Dkkesoo and
others abori2inal coins; perhaps some a( them did
sen'e f ' ■ >se.

The ... .^..»,» found in the momids aie eopper
and sHver, the latter onlr in reay small qaantities.
A few ^-old trinkets have been r^oited, but the evi-
dence is not <">^-^ -'ve that such were d^Nisited by
the Mound-bi Iron oie and galeoa oocor, biit

no iron or lead.

Cop^ter is found in native mannrA, and also ham-
mered into implements and omaments. Tliae is no
evidence that this metal \\ as ever obtained from ore
l»T smelting; it wai^ all dc^ubtless worked oold from
native masses by hammering. Concerning the lo-
cality where it was proc^ured, there is little or no
uncertaiiity. The ab ' — ^ - 'ts of natiTe ec^
j>er aU.ut Lake S.^ .iy suggest that

region as the souroe of the copper supply; the dis-
of anciently wor* ' . ' 'be

^ lion; and the fin^ _ _ of

coj»per mixed with silver in a : only fc

Lake Su j»erior, make- ■ '

iDodem tribes also c • . _, . - j^-

same localities. The Mc»und-buDderB were ig:

of the arts of casting, w- . and alloying, iiiej


had no means of hardening their copper tools, being
in this respect less advanced than the Xahuas and
Mayas. In fact copper implements are much more
rare than ornaments of the same metal. The imple-
ments include axes, hatchets, adzes, knives, spear-
heads, chisels, drills, etc. Ornaments are in the form
of rings, gorgets, medals, bracelets, and beads, with a
large variety of small articles of unknown use, some
of them probably used as money. Very small
models of larger implements like axes are often
found, and were doubtless worn as ornaments.

Silver is of much rarer occurrence than copper, was
obtained probably from the same region, and is almost
invariably found in the form of sheets hammered out
very thin and closely wrapped about small ornaments
of copper or shell. So nicely is the Avrapping done
that it often resembles plating. The gold whose dis-
covery has been reported has been in the form of
beads and so-called coins. Mr Dickeson speaks con-
fidently of gold, silver, copper, and galena money left
by the ^Mound-builders. There is no evidence that
the use of iron was known, except the extreme diffi-
culty of clearing forests and carving stone with im-
j)lements of stone and soft copper.

Specimens of aboriginal pottery are very abundant,
althouo'h much less so within the mounds than else-
where near the surface. Mr Squier says, "various
though not abundant specimens of their skill have
been recorded, which in elegance of model, delicacy,
and finish, as also in fineness of material, come fully
up to the best Peruvian specimens, to which tliey
Ijear, in many respects, a close resemblance. They
far exceed anything of w^hich the existing tribes of
Indians are known to have been capable." The speci-
mens in the mound-deposits are, with very few ex-
ceptions, broken. The material is usually a pure
clay, sometimes with a slight admixture of pulverized
quartz or colored flakes of mica, but such admixtures


are much rarer than in modern specimens. Notwith-
standing their great regularity of form and beauty of
finish, none bear signs that the potter's wheel was
used in their construction, and no vessels are glazed
by vitrification. They are decorated with various
graceful figures, including those of living animals, cut
in with sharp instruments. A few crucibles, capa-
ble of withstanding intense heat, have been found,
also terra-cotta images of animals and men, and or-
naments or coins in small quantities. Pottery-kilns
are found in the south, but that they were the work
of the Mound-builders has not been satisfactorily
proven. Specimens of the finer class of vases are
shown in the cut. The first is of pure clay with a

Earthen Vases from the IMounds.

slight silicious mixture. It is five and a half inches
high and six and a half in diameter, not over one
sixth of an inch in uniform thickness, pierced with
four holes in the line round the rim, dark brown or
umber in color, and highly polished. The decorative
lines are cut in with a sharp instrument which left no
ragged edges. The second vase is of somewhat
smaller size and coarser material; but more elaborately
ornamented and only one eighth of an inch in thick-


Stone implements are more abundant than those
of any other material in the altar-mounds and else-
where. They include arrow and spear heads, knives,
axes, hatchets, chisels, and other variously formed cut-
ting instruments, with hammers and pestles. These
are made of quartz and other hard varieties of stone,
all belonging to the mound region except the obsid-
ian. There is no doubt that obsidian implements
were used by the Mound-builders, and as this mate-
rial is said not to be found nearer than Mexico and
California, it is perhaps as likely that the imple-
ments were obtained by trade as that they were
manufactured in the country. Neither the obsidian
knives, nor other • stone Aveapons, show any marked
differences from those found in Mexico, Central
America, and most other parts of the world. Lance
and arrow heads, finished and in the rough, entire or
more frequently broken by the action of fire, are
taken by hundreds and thousands from the altar-
mounds; several bushels of lance-heads of milky
quartz were found in one mound. It is a remarkable
fact, however, that no weapons whatever are found
in burial mounds. Beads, rings, and ether orna-
ments of stone are often found, with a variety of
anomalous articles whose use is more or less im-
perfectly understood. Besides weapons and knives,
pipes are the articles most abundant, and on which
the Mound-builders expended most lavishly their
skill, carving the bowls into a great variety of beau-
tiful forms, at what must have been an immense
outlay of labor. A remarkable peculiarity of their
pipe-carvings is that accurate representations are
given of different natural objects instead of the rude
caricatures and monstrosities in which savage art
usually delights. Nearly every beast, bird, and rep-
tile indigenous to the country is truthfully repre-
sented, together with some creatures now only found
in tropical climates, such as the lamantin and toucan.
The pipes generally consist of a bowl rising from the


centre of the convex side of a curved base, one end
of which serves as a handle and the other is pierced
for a stem. They are always cut from a single piece,
the material being generally a hard porphyry, often •
est red, and strongly resembling in some cases the
red pipe-stone of the Coteau des Prairies. The lo-
cality where this pipe material was obtained is un-
known. Many of the sculptured figures show skillful
workmanship and a high polish; I think that many
of them are not inferior to the jDroducts of Nahua
and Maya skill. Some rude stone images of un-

Online LibraryHubert Howe BancroftThe native races of the Pacific states of North America (Volume 4) → online text (page 59 of 61)