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known use have been found at various points, but I
am not aware that any relics have been authentically
reported from the altar-mounds which indicate that
the ancient people were worshipers of idols. Mica is
the mineral most common in both altar and burial
mounds, where it occurs in plates cut into a great
variety of forms. Some of them have been con-
jectured to have served as mirrors. Bushels are
sometimes deposited in a single mound. Pieces of
coal artificially formed are included by Dickeson
among" his aboriofinal coins.

Bones of indigenous animals are found worked
into daggers, awls, and similar implements; or as
ornaments in the form of beads. Similar use was
made of the teeth and talons of beasts and birds.
Teeth of the bear, wolf, panther, alligator, and shark,
have been found, some of the latter being fossils,
together with large quantities of teeth resembling
those of the whale, but not fully identified.

Five varieties of marine shells, all from the gulf
shores, have been examined, with pearls whose size
and numbers prove that they are not of fresh-water
origin. Both are used for ornaments, chiefly in the
form of beads. Pearls are also found in a few in-
stances serving as eyes for animal and bird sculptures.
Some articles of bone and shell have been mistaken
for ivory and accredited with an Asiatic origin,


throusfh iofnorance that their material is found on the
shores of the gulf Many articles found in the
mounds, and not perhaps included in the preceding
general description, are interesting, but could only
be described in a detailed account, for which I have
no space; but most relics not thus included are of
doubtful authenticity, and a doubtful monument of
antiquity should always be attributed to modern

The ancient miners have left numerous traces of
their work in the region of Lake Superior. At one
place a piece of pure copper weighing over five tons
was found fifteen feet below the surface, under trees
at least four hundred years old. It had been raised
on skids, bore marks of fire, and some stone imple-
ments were scattered about. There is no evidence
that the tribes found in possession of the country by
the first French missionaries ever worked these mines,
or had any tradition of a people that had worked
them, although both they and their ancestors had
copper knives hammered from lumps of the metal,
which are very commonly found on the surface. All
the traditions and Indian stories of 'mines' may most
consistently be referred to these natural superficial de-
posits. The ancient mines were for the most part in
the same localities where the best modern mines are
worked. Most of them have left as traces only slight
depressions in the surface, the finding of which is
regarded by prospectors as a tolerably sure indication
of a rich vein of copper. The cut represents a sec-
tion of one of the veins of copper-bearing rock
worked by the ancient miners. The mass of copper
at a weighed about six tons. At the top a portion of
the stone had been left across the vein as a support.
Copper implements, including wedges used in mining
as 'gads,' are found in and about the old mines; with
hammers of stone, mostly grooved for withe handles.
Some weigh from thirty to forty pounds and have two



Section of an old Copper Mine.

grooves; others again are not grooved at all. In ont-;
case remains of a handle of twisted cedar-roots were
found, and much-worn wooden shovels often occur.
There are no enclosures, mounds, or other traces of a
permanent settlement of the Mound-builders in the
mining region. It is probable that the miners came
each summer from the south; in fact, it would have
been impossible to' work the mines in winter by their

Nearly all the coins, medals, stone tablets, etc., that
have been discovered within the region occupied by
the Mound-builders, bearing inscriptions in regular
apparently alphabetic characters, may be proved to be
of European origin; and the few specimens that do
not admit of such proof should of course be attributed
to such an orio-in in the absence of conclusive evidence
to the contrary. Rude delineations of men, animals,
and other recognizable objects, together with many
arbitrary, perhaps conventional, characters, are of fre-


quent occurrence on the walls of caves, on perpen-
dicular river-cliffs, and on detached stones. They are
sometimes incised, but usually painted. Most bear a
strong resemblance to the artistic efforts of modern
tribes; and those which seem to bear marks of a
greater antiquity, have by no means been identified
as the work of the Mound-builders. These eastern
rock-inscriptions do not call for additional remarks,
after what has been said of similar carvings in other
regions. Many of the figures have a meaning to
those who make them, but that meaning, as in all
writings of this class, perishes with the artist and his
immediate times. Attempts by zealous antiquaries
to penetrate the signification of particular inscriptions
— as that on Dighton Kock, Massachusetts, and other
well-known examples — have failed to convince any
but the determined advocate of such theories as seem
to derive support from the so-called translation. My
father saw a stone tablet taken from a stone mound
near Newark, covered with carved characters, which
the clergyman of the town pronounced to be the ten
commandments in ancient Hebrew. I have no doubt
that the figures did closely resemble the ancient He-
brew in one respect at least — that is, in being equally
unfamiliar to the clergyman.

Without taking up here the various theories re-
specting the origin, history, and disappearance of the
Mound-builders, it may be well to express in a few
brief conclusions what may be learned of this people
by an examination of the monuments which they
have left.

They were a numerous people, as is sufficiently
proved by the magnitude and geographical extent of
their works. They were probably one people, that is,
composed of tribes living under similar laws, religion,
and other institutions. Such variations as are ob-
served in the monuments are only those that would
naturally occur between central and frontier regions,

Vol. IV. 50


although the animals -mounds of the north-west
present some difficulties. The Mound-builders were
an agricultural people. Tribes that live by hunting
never build extensive public works, neither would
the chase support a sufficiently large population for
the erection of such works. Moreover, the location
of the monuments in the most fertile sections goes
far to confirm this conclusion. Some of the larger
enclosures have been supposed, — only by reason of
their size, however, — to have been cultivated fields;
and evident traces of an ancient cultivation are found,
although not clearly referable to the Mound-builders.

There is nothing to show an advanced civilization
in the modern sense of the word, but they were civ-
ilized in comparison with the roving hunter-tribes of
later times. They knew nothing of the use of metals
beyond the mere hammering of native masses of
copper and silver; they built no stone structures;
they had seemingly made no apj^roach to the higher
grades of hieroglyphic writing. Their civilization as
recorded by its material relics consisted of a knowl-
edofe of asrriculture ; considerable skill in the art of
fortification; much greater skill than that of the
Indians in the manufacture of pottery and the carv-
ing of stone pipes; the mathematical knowledge dis-
played in the laying-out of perfect circles and ac-
curate angles, and in the correspondence in size
between different works. Their earth- works show
more perseverance than skill ; no one of them neces-
sarily implies the use of mechanical aids to labor;
there is none that a large number of men might not
construct by carrying earth in simple baskets.

All traces of their architecture have disappeared.
It has been suggested that were the temples yet
standing on their pyramidal foundations, they might
compare favorably with those of Central America
and Mexico. But the construction of wooden edifices
with any pretensions to grandeur and symmetry, by
means of stone and soft copper tools, seems abso-


lately impossible; at least such structures would
require infinitely greater skill than that displayed by
the Nahuas and Mayas, and it is more reasonable to
suppose that the temples of the Mound-builders were
rude wooden buildings.

The monuments imply a wide-spread religious sys-
tem under a powerful priesthood; private devotion
manifests itself on a scale less magnificent, and one
involving less hard work. Of their rites we know
nothing. The altar-mounds suggest sacrifice; burned
human bones, human sacrifice. Gateways on the
east, and the east and west direction of embankments
and skeletons may connect worship with the sun; but
all is conjecture. No idols, known to be such, have
been found; the cemeteries, if any of them belong to
the Mound-builders, show no uniform usage in burial.
The ancient people lived under a system of govern-
ment considerably advanced, more than likely in the
hands of the priesthood, but of its details we know
nothing. A social condition involving some form of
slavery would be most favorable for the construction
of such works.

The monuments described are not the work of the
Indian tribes found in the country, nor of any tribes
resembling^ them in institutions. Those tribes had no
definite tradition even of past contact with a superior
people, and it is only in the south among the little-
known Natchez, that slight traces of a descent from,
or imitation of, the Mound-builders appear. Most
and the best authorities deem it impossible that the
Mound-builders were even the remote ancestors of the
Indian tribes; and while inclined to be less positive
than most who have written on the subject respecting
the possible changes that may have been effected by
a long course of centuries, I thing that the evidence
of a race locally extinct is much stronger here than
in any other part of the continent.

The monuments are not sufficient in themselves to
absolutely prove or disprove the truth of any one of


the following theories: 1st. An indigenous culture
springing up among the Misssissippi tribes, founded
on agriculture, fostered by climate and other unknown
circumstances, constantly growing through long ages,
driving back the surrounding walls of savagism, but
afterwards weakened by unknown causes, yielding
gradually to savage hordes, and finally annihilated or
driven in remnants from their homes southward. 2d.
A colony from the southern peoples already started in
the path of civilization, growing as before in power,
but at last forced to yield their homes into the pos-
session of savages. 3d. A migrating colony from the
north, dwelling long in the land, gradually increasing
in power and culture, constantly extending their do-
minion southward, and finally abandoning voluntarily
or against their will, the north for the more favored
south, where they modified or originated the southern

The last theory, long a very popular one, is in it-
self less consistent and receives less support from the
relics than the others. The second, Avhich has some
points in common with the first, is most reasonable
and best supported by monumental and traditional
evidence. The temple-mounds strongly resemble in
their principal features the southern pyramids; at
least they imply a likeness of religious ideas in the
builders. The use of obsidian implements shows a
connection, either through origin, war, or commerce,
with the Mexican nations, or at least with nations
who came in contact with the Nahuas. There are,
moreover, several Nahua traditions respecting the
arrival on their coasts from the north-east, of civilized
strangers. There is very little evidence that the
Mound-builders introduced in the south the Nahua
civilization, and none whatever that the Aztec mio-ra-
tion started from the Mississippi Valley, but I am
inclined to believe that there was actually a connec-
tion between the two peoples; that the Mound-build-
ers, or those that introduced their culture, were


originally a Nahua colony, and that these people may
be referred to in some of the traditions mentioned.
Without claiming to be able to determine exactly the
relation between the Mound-builders and Nahuas,
I shall have something further to say on this subject
in another volume.

The works were not built by a migrating people,
but by a race that lived long in the land. It seems
unlikely that the results attained could have been
accomplished in less than four or five centuries. Noth-
ing indicates that the time did not extend to thou-
sands of years, but it is only respecting the minimum
time that there can be any grounds for reasonable
conjecture. If we suppose the civilization indigenous,
of course a much longer period must be assigned to
its development than if it was introduced by a migra-
tion — or rather a colonization, for civilized and semi-
civilized peoples do not migrate en masse. Moreover a
northern origin would imply a longer duration of time
than one from the south, where a degree of civiliza-
tion is known to have existed.

How long a time has elapsed since the Mound-
builders abandoned their works? Here again a mini-
mum estimate only can be sought. No work is more
enduring than an embankment of earth. There is no
positive internal proof that they were not standing
one, five, or ten thousand years ago. The evidences
of an ancient abandonment of the works, or serious
decline of the builders' powder, are as follows :^ — 1st,
the fact that none of them stand on the last-formed
terrace of the rivers, most on the oldest terrace, and
that those on the second bear in some cases marks of
having been invaded by water. The rate of terrace-
forming varies on different streams, and there are no
sufficient data for estimating in years the time re-
quired for the formation of any one of the terraces,
at least scientific men are careful not to give a defin-
ite opinion in the matter; but it is evident that each
required a very long period, and the last one a much


longer time than any of the others, on account of the
gradual longitudinal leveling of the river-beds. 2d.
The complete disappearance of all wooden structures,
which must have been of great solidity. 3d. The
advanced state of decomposition of human bones in a
soil well calculated for their preserva-tion. Skeletons
are found in Europe well preserved at a known age
of eighteen hundred years. 4th. The absence of the
Mound- builders from the traditions of modern tribes.
Nothing would seem more likely to be preserved in
mythic or historic traditions than contact with a
superior people, and the mounds would serve to keep
the traditions alive. 5th. The fact that the monu-
ments were covered in the seventeenth century with
primitive forests, uniform with those which covered
the other parts of the country. In this latitude the
age of a forest tree may be much more accurately
determined than in tropical climates; and trees from
four to five hundred years old have been examined in
many well-authenticated cases over mounds and em-
bankments. Equally large trees in all stages of
decomposition were found at their feet on and under
the ground, so that the abandonment of the works
must be dated back at least twice the actual ao"e of
the standing trees. It is a fact well known to
woodsmen that when cultivated land is abandoned
the first growth is very unlike the original forest,
both in the species and size of the trees, and that
several generations would be required to restore the
primitive timber. Consequently a thousand years
must have passed since some of the works were
abandoned. The monuments of the Mississippi pre-
sent stronger internal evidence of great antiquity
than any others in America, although it by no means
follows that they are older than Palenque and Copan.
The height of the Mound-builders' power should not,
without very positive external evidence, be placed at
a later date than the fifth or sixth century of our era.



Two Epochs of Peruvian Civilization— Aboriginal Government,
Religion, and Arts — Contrasts — The Huacas — Human Re-
mains — Articles of Metal — Copper Implements— Gold and
Silver Vases and Ornaments — Use of Iron unknown — Aborig-
inal Engineering— Paved Roads— Peruvian Pottery— Ruins
OF Pachacamac— Mausoleum of Cuelap — Gran-Chimu— Huaca
of Misa — Temple of the Sun — Remains on the Island of Titi-
CACA— Chavin de Huanta— Huanuco el Viejo — Cuzco — Monu-
ments OF Tiahuanaco— Island of Coati.

I conclude with a short chapter on Peruvian antiq-
uities, made up for the most part from the work of
Rivero and Tschudi, and ilhistrated with the cuts
copied from that work for Mr Baldwin's account.*
Ancient Peru included also modern Ecuador, Bolivia,
and a large part of Chili; and the most remarkable
monuments of antiquity are considered the works of a
people preceding that found by Pizarro in possession
of the country, and bearing very much the same rela-
tion to the subjects of the Incas as the ancient Mayas
bore to the Quiches of Guatemala, or perhaps the
Toltecs to the Aztecs. The Peruvians that came into
contact with the Spaniards were superior in some re-

1 Rivero and Tschudi, Antigiiedades Pertiav as, Yiena, 1851, with atlas;
Rivero, Antirjuedades Peruanas, Lima, 1841; Rivero and TschudCs Peru-
vian Antiquities, N. Y., 1855; this transhition is in many instances veiy
faiilty; Bald wi'i's Ancient America, pp. 226-56.



spects to the Aztecs. At least equally advanced in
the various mechanical and fine arts, except sculpture
and architectural decoration, they lived under as per-
fect a system of government, and rendered homage to
less bloodthirsty gods. They kept their records by
means of quipus, or knotted strings, a method prob-
ably as useful practically as the Aztec picture-writing,
but not so near an approach to an alphabet; while the
more ancient nations have left nothing to compare
with the hieroglyphic tablets of Central America, and
the evidence is far from satisfactory that they pos-
sessed any advanced art in writing. It will be seen
from the specimens to be presented that their archi-
tecture, though perhaps more massive than that of
Mayas or Nahuas, is not on the whole of a superior
character. The most marked contrasts are found in
the' occurrence in Peru of cyclopean structures, the
use of larger blocks of stone, the comparative absence
of the pyramidal foundations, of architectural and
hieroglyphic sculpture, and the more extensive use of
adobes as a building-material.

Huaca is the Peruvian name for any venerated or
holy structure, but is usually applied to the conical
mounds of the country, mostly mounds of sepulture.
Thousands of these have been opened and from them
have been taken a great variety of relics, together
with preserved mummies wrapped in native cloth.
The relics include implements and ornaments of
metal, stone, bone, shell, and wood. The Peruvians
seem to have had a more abundant supply of metals
than the civilized nations of North America, and to
have been at least equally skillful in working them.
The cuts show specimens of copper cutting imple-
ments, of which a great variety are found. Besides
copper, they had gold and silver in much greater
abundance than the northern artisans, and the arts
of melting, casting, soldering, beating, inlaying, and
carving- these metals, were carried to a hio-h dcOTee of
perfection. Every one has read the marvelous ac-



Peruvian Copper Implements.

counts, naturally exaggerated, but still with much,
foundation in truth, of the immense quantities of
gold obtained by the Spaniards in Peru ; of the room
filled with golden utensils by the natives as a ransom
for the Inca Atahuallpa. A golden vase is shown in
the cut. Large quantities of gold have been taken

Golden Vase from Peru.

in more modern times from the huacas, where it was
doubtless placed in many cases to keep it from the
hands of the conquerors. Most of the articles have
of course gone to the melting-pot, but sufficient speci-
mens have been preserved or sketched to show the
degree of excellence to which the Peruvian smiths


had attained. The following cut shows a silver vase.

Silver Vase from Peru.

The search for treasure in the huacas still goes on,
and is not always unrewarded. Tin, lead, and quick-
silver are said to have been worked by the natives.
Iron ore is very abundant in Peru, but the only evi-
dence that iron was used is the difficulty of executing
the native works of excavation and cutting stone
without it, and the fact that the metal had a name in
the native language. No traces of it have ever been
found. The cut shows two copper tweezers.

Copper Implements from Peru,

Among the most remarkable Peruvian remains are
the paved roads which crossed the country in every
direction, especially from north to south. Two of
the grandest highways extended from the region
north of Quito southward to Cuzco, and according to



some authors still farther to Chili. One runs over
the mountains, the other chiefly through the plains.
Their length is at least twelve hundred miles, and
the grading of the mountain road presented, as Mr
Baldwin believes, far greater difficulties than the
Pacific Railroad. These roads are from eighteen to
twenty-six feet wide, protected at the sides by a
thick wall, and paved generally with stone blocks,
but sometimes with a mixture of cement and fine
stone — an aboriginal infringement on the 'Macadam'
process. The highways followed a straight course,
and turned aside for no obstacle. Ravines and
marshes were filled up with masonry, and the solid
rock of the mountains was cut away for many miles.
But when rivers were encountered, light suspension
bridges seem to have been resorted to instead of
massive stone bridgfes. It is true that the most
glowing accounts of these roads are found in the
writings of the Conquistadores, and that only ruined
portions now remain; but the reports of Humboldt
and others, respecting the remains, leave little doubt
of their former imposing character.

Articles of pottery, of which three specimens are
shown in the cuts, are at least equal in material and

Peruvian Pottery.


Peruvian Potteiy,

finish to those produced by Nahua and Maya potters.
The finest specimens are vases found in sepulchral
deposits, and many utensils designed for more com-
mon use are preserved by the present inhabitants,
and are preferred for their solidity to the work of
miodern potters. Small images of human and animal
forms in terra cotta, as in gold and silver, are of even
more frequent occurrence than utensils. There is no
evidence that the images were fashioned with a different
purpose here and in the north; some were simply
ornaments, a few probably portraits, others miniature
deities, deposited from superstitious motives with the

About twenty miles south of Lima, in the valley
of Lurin, and overlooking the sea, are the ruins of
Pachacamac, shown in the cut. This was a city of
the Incas, that is, it belonged to the later period of
Peruvian civilization. All the structures were built
of adobes, and are much dilapidated. The Tem-
ple of the Sun stands on a hill six hundred feet high,
the upper portion of which shows traces of having
been divided into terraces over thirty feet high and
five to eight feet wide. The adobe wall which sur-
rounds the temple is from eight to eleven feet thick,
and is only standing to the height of four to five feet.



Ruins of Pachacamac.

The ruined structures are very numerous, and on
one of the inner walls some traces of red and yellow
paint are visible.

In the district of Santo Tomas in the north, at
Cuelap, a grand and peculiar ruin is described by Sr
Nieto in an official government report, A mass — of
earth, probably, although not fully examined in the in-
terior — is faced with a solid wall of hewn stone, and is
thirty-six hundred feet long, five hundred and seventy

Online LibraryHubert Howe BancroftThe native races of the Pacific states of North America (Volume 4) → online text (page 60 of 61)