Monday, August 1, 2011

Mound Builders: Ohio Mounds Illustrated



                                                W. C. BRYANT.



The Prehistoric World




It is estimated that in Ohio alone there are fifteen hundred inclosures, but a large number of them have nothing especially worthy of mention. Some, however, are on such a large scale that they call from all more than a passing glance. In contemplating them, we feel ourselves confronted by a mystery that we can not explain. The ruins of the old world excite in us the liveliest feeling of interest, but we know their object, their builders, and their probable antiquity. The mazy ruins at Newark, and other places in Ohio, also fill the mind with astonishment, but in this case we are not certain of their antiquity, their builders are unknown, and we can not conjecture with any degree of certainty as to their use. Before so many uncertainties imagination runs riot, and we are inclined to picture to ourselves a scene of barbaric power and magnificence.



High Bank Works.

One beautiful specimen of this work is found in this cut. It occurs on the right bank of the Scioto river, five miles below Chillicothe. Here we notice a combination of the octagon and the circle. The areas of each are marked. The octagon is nine hundred and fifty feet in diameter, and nearly regular in shape. In 1846 its walls were eleven or twelve feet high, by about fifty feet base. It will be noticed that there is a gate at or near each angle of the octagon except one, and in front of that angle was a pit, from which some of the earth to form the walls was taken. Facing each gateway a mound was placed, as if to guard the entrance.
The circle connected with the octagon is perfect in shape, and is ten hundred and fifty feet in diameter. Its walls were only about half the height of the octagon. We notice some other small circular works in connection with the main work. In this case the parallels are not very regular, and seem to be connected with one or more circular works. In a work situated but a few miles from the one here portrayed, the parallels extend in one direction nearly half a mile, only one hundred and fifty feet apart. They terminate on the edge of a terrace. The object of such parallels is as yet unknown. In some cases, after extending some distance, they simply inclosed a mound.
It is easy enough to describe this work and give its dimensions, but who will tell us the object its builders had in mind? The walls themselves would afford but slight protection and if they were for defense, must have been surmounted with palisades. Works that were undoubtedly in the nature of fortified camps, are found in this same section, and one of the strongest was located not more than twelve miles away; but such defensive works differ very greatly in design from regular structures such as we are now describing. A very eminent scholar, Mr. Morgan, has advanced the theory that the walls were the foundations on which communal houses, like the Pueblos of the West, were erected.61 But this is mere theory. All traces of such habitations (if they ever existed) are gone, the usual debris which would be sure to accumulate around house-sites, is wanting, and the walls themselves seem unfit for such purpose.62
They may have been embankments surrounding towns and cultivated fields, but little has yet been found which can be cited as proofs of residence within the area so inclosed. We should not be surprised, however, if such would ultimately prove to be the case, since we now know that the Mound Builders of Tennessee did fortify their villages by means of embankments and ditches.63 A number of writers think that these regular inclosures were in some way connected with the superstitions of the people. In other words, that they were religious in character. Mr. Squier remarks, "We have reason to believe that the religious system of the Mound Builders, like that of the Aztecs, exercised among them a great, if not a controlling, influence. Their government may have been, for aught we know, a government of the priesthood—one in which the priestly and civil functions were jointly exercised, and one sufficiently powerful to have secured in the Mississippi Valley, as it did in Mexico, the erection of many of those vast monuments, which for ages will continue to challenge the wonder of men. There may have been certain superstitious ceremonies, having no connection with the purpose of the mound, carried on in inclosures especially dedicated to them."64 Another late writer to whom we have several times referred, tells us there is no doubt but what a "religious view" was the controlling influence in the erection of these works, and that they express a "complicated system of symbolism," that we see in them evidence, of a most powerful and wonderful religious system.65 Still such assertions are easier made than proven, and until we know somewhat the purpose for which they were used, how are we to know whether they were sacred or not?
Casting conjectures, for the moment, aside, let us learn what we can from the works themselves. From their large extent they could only be reared by the expenditure of great labor. This implies some form of government sufficiently centralized and powerful to control the labors of large bodies of men. Moreover, they were sufficiently advanced to have some standard of measurement and some way of measuring angles. The circle, it will be remembered, is a true circle, and of a dimension requiring considerable skill to lay out. The sides of the octagon are equal, and the alternate angles coincident.
Every year the plow sinks deeper into these crumbling embankments, and the leveling forces of cultivation are continually at work, and the time is not far distant when the curious traveler will with difficulty trace the ruins of what was once, to the Mound Builders, a place of great importance.
Square and Circle Embankment.The more usual combination was that of a square and a circle. An example is given in this cut, which is a plan on a very small scale, of works which formerly existed in Circleville. One peculiar feature about this work was that a double wall formed the circle, with a ditch between the two walls. In the next cut we notice a peculiar combination of these two figures. The square is inclosed within the circle. Whatever we may ultimately decide as to the larger works, it would seem as if this could only be explained as in the nature of a religious work. We can see no reason for constructing a defensive work, or inclosing a village, or erecting foundations for houses of such a shape as this. They must have been in some way connected with the superstitions of the people.
Square inscribed in a Circle.Circle and Ditch.A peculiar feature is also noticed in reference to some of the smaller circles in this section. The cut at left illustrates it. The circle has a ditch interior to the embankment, and also a broad embankment of about the same height with the outer wall, interior to the ditch, running about half-way around the circle. A short distance from the circle was one of those elevated squares, one hundred and twenty feet square at the base, and nine feet high.66 It may be that this square was the foundation on which stood a temple, in which case the circle might have been dedicated to religious purposes also.
The great geometrical inclosures are especially numerous in the Scioto Valley. All the works we have described were in the near neighborhood of Chillicothe, and works as important as these are scattered all up and down the valley. We must also recall how well provided this valley was with signal mounds. All indications point to the fact that here was the location of a numerous people, ready to defend their homes whenever the warning fires were lit. Although Mound Builders' works are numerous in the valley of the two Miami Rivers, Cincinnati being the site of an extensive settlement, yet they were not such massive structures as those in the Scioto. This would seem to indicate that these valleys were the seats of separate tribes.67 But this Eastern tribe must have occupied an extensive territory, since works of the most complicated kind are found at Newark.
All indications point to the fact that near this latter place was a very important settlement of the Mound Builders. Several fortified works exist a few miles up the valley; signal-mounds are to be seen on all heights, commanding a wide view, and the famous alligator mound is placed, as if with the design of guarding the entrance to the valley. No verbal description will give an idea of the works, so we refer at once to the plan. This will give us a good idea of the works as they were when the first white settlers gazed upon them. They have nearly all been swept away by modern improvements, excepting the two circular works and the octagon. Here and there fragments of the other works can still be traced.



Mound Builders' Works, Newark, Ohio.

Two forks of the Licking River unite near Newark; the bottom between these rivers comprising several square miles, was occupied by these ancient earth-works. By reference to the plan, we see the works consisted of mounds of various sizes, parallel walls, generally of a low elevation, small and low embankments, in the form of small circles and half-circles. There are also several large works consisting of a circle and octagon combined, one large circle, and a parallelogram. The circular structure at 'E,' is undoubtedly one of the best preserved and most imposing in the State. There are many inclosing larger areas, but none more clearly defined. As this is now included in the fair-grounds of Licking County, it is preserved from destruction, and will remain a monument of aboriginal work long after all traces of the others have disappeared. "At the entrance, which is towards the east, the ends of the walls curve outwards for a distance of a hundred feet, leaving a passage way eighty feet wide between the deep ditches on either hand." From this point the work, even now presents an impressive appearance. The walls are twelve feet in perpendicular height, and about fifty feet base. There is a ditch close around it on the inside, seven feet deep by thirty-five feet wide. The area inclosed is about thirty acres.
Eagle Mound.In the center is an effigy-mound, represented by this cut. It represents a bird on the wing, and is called the Eagle Mound. The long mound in the body of the bird has been opened, and it was found to contain an altar, such as has been already described. Was this a place of sacrifice, and did this wall inclose a sacred area? Our question remains unanswered. We can dig in the mounds, and wander over the embankments, but the secret of the builders eludes us.
A mile to the north-west of the part of the work just described are the Octagon and works in connection with it. The Octagon is not quite regular, but the sides are very nearly equal. At each angle is a gateway, interior and opposite to which is a mound, as if to guard the opening. The cut gives a view of the Octagon, looking in through one of these gateways. At present, however, but a small portion is in the forest. Most of it is under cultivation, but the work can still be easily traced, and is one of the best preserved in the State. A portion of it, still in the forest, presents the same appearance to-day as it did to the first explorer. When a stranger for the first time wanders along the embankment and ascends the mounds, he can not fail to experience sensations akin to those of the traveler when he comes upon the ruins of some Old World city. We wish that for a brief space of time the curtain of the past would up-roll, and let us view these works while yet their builders flourished here.



Gateway of Octagon.

Connected with the Octagon by parallel walls three hundred feet long and placed sixty feet apart, is the smaller circle, "F." This is a true circle, and is upwards of half a mile in circumference. A portion of it lying in the woods, still retains its primitive form, but the larger part is now under cultivation. There is no difficulty, however, in tracing its entire length. The most interesting feature in connection with this part of the work is immediately opposite the point of entrance from the octagon, and is represented in our next cut. At this point it seems as if the builders had started to make parallel walls, but afterwards changed their design and threw across the opening a large mound. From this mound a view of the entire embankment could be obtained. It is called the Observatory Mound. It has been so often dug into that it is now really in ruins, but is still too steep to be plowed over.



Observatory Mound, Newark Works.

It is scarcely necessary to describe the works further, except to state that three lines of parallel embankments lead away from the octagon. Those extending south have been traced for upwards of two miles, and are gradually lost in the plain. It was the opinion of Mr. Atwater, one of the earliest investigators, that these lines connected with other works thirty miles away, in the vicinity of Lancaster.68 Small circles are numerous in connection with these works. It has been suggested by several that they mark the sites of circular dwellings. The larger ones, indicated by the letter "G," are more pretentious. They have the ditch and embankment, which we have already described. Many interesting coincidents in dimensions will be perceived between portions of this work and those described in the Scioto valley.69
Although we have devoted considerable space to this branch of the Mound Builders' work, we must still find space to describe the works at Marietta, which possessed some singular features. This cut gives us a correct plan of the works as they were when in 1788 the first settlers arrived at the mouth of the Muskingum to lay out their town. The growth of the beautiful town of Marietta has completely destroyed these works, except the elevated squares, A and B, the large mound and inclosing circle at X, with a portion of the adjoining embankments, and a small fragment of the parallel walls forming what has been called the "Graded Way." The elevated squares are the finest examples of "temple" mounds remaining in the Ohio Valley. The circle and ditch with the conical mound inclosed is also a fine example of that class of works. From the summit of the mound an extensive view is to be had both up and down the Ohio.



Works at Marietta, Ohio.

The gateways of the smaller square were guarded by mounds, which were wanting in the larger one. We would call especial attention to the two embankments which led from the larger square towards the river. They were six hundred and eighty feet long, and one hundred and fifty feet apart.70 Some have supposed these walls were designed to furnish a covered way to the river. But as Mr. Squier remarks, we would hardly expect the people to go to the trouble of making such a wide avenue for this purpose, nor one with such a regular grade. Besides, the walls did not reach the river. The work seems to be simply a passage way, leading from one terrace to the other, but why the builders should have made such a massive work, we can not explain. It has been called the "Sacred Way," and this name may possibly be applicable, but it is only conjectural. Some twenty years ago these two massive and beautiful embankments were still preserved, thanks to the care of the early settlers, who planned a street to pass between them, which was named the Via Sacra. These words still remain on a corner signboard; but alas for sentiment! the banks, so long revered, have been utilized for brick-working.



Graded Way, Piketon, Ohio.

Several instances of these graded streets or ways have been found in connection with the Mound Builders' works. Sometimes they lead from one terrace to another, sometimes directly to the water. One of the latter kind formerly existed near Piqua, Ohio.71 This cut is a view of a graded way near Piketon, Ohio. In this case, though the difference in level between the second and third terrace is but seventeen feet, these ancient people laid out a graded ascent some ten hundred and eighty feet long, by two hundred and ten feet average width. The earth was thrown out on either side, forming embankments. From the left hand embankments, passing up to the third terrace, there could formerly be traced a low embankment running for fifteen hundred feet, and connected with mounds and other walls at its extremity.
Some have supposed that formerly the river flowed at the extremity of this graded way, and a passage way to the water was thus furnished. Squier says, in this connection: "It is sufficient to observe that the river now flows half a mile to the left, and that two terraces, each twenty feet in height, intervene between the present and the supposed ancient level of the stream. To assent to this suggestion, would be to admit an almost immeasurable antiquity to the structure under consideration." The casual observer would say that it was intended to afford an ascent from one terrace to the other. But as the height was only seventeen feet, we can not see why it was so necessary to have a long passage way of easy grade from one terrace to the other. It was evidently built in connection with the obliterated works on the third terrace. This interesting remain is now utilized as a turnpike, and the passing traveler but little recks he is going over one of the most ancient causeways in the land. It may be that ceremonious processions, with stately tread, utilized this causeway in years long since elapsed. Speculation, always an unsafe guide to follow, is especially so in this case, and so we leave this memento of a vanished people as much an enigma to us as to its first explorers.
We have described but a few of the sacred inclosures of Ohio, but enough have been given to give us a fair idea of all. We wish now to call attention to another class of remains. We have seen how the works we have been describing are lacking in defensive qualities. This becomes more marked, when we learn there are works, beyond a doubt, defensive in character, in which advantage is taken of all circumstances which would render the chosen retreat more secure. In the first place, strong natural positions were selected. They chose for their purpose bluffy headlands leading out into the river plain. A people surrounded by enemies, or pressed by invaders, would naturally turn their attention to such heights as places susceptible of defense. Accordingly, it does not surprise us to find many heights occupied by strong and complicated works. Generally the approaches to them were rugged and steep on all but one or two sides, and there they are guarded by walls of earth or stone.
A fine example of a fortified hill was discovered in Butler County, Ohio, a few miles below the town of Hamilton. This hill is the highest one in the immediate vicinity. By reference to the figure, we see that on all sides, except towards the north, the approach was steep and precipitous, almost inaccessible.



Fortified Hill, Hamilton, Ohio.

The wall is not of regular shape. It runs around on the very brow of the hill, except in one or two places, where it cuts across a ridge. In 1843 this wall was still about five feet high and thirty-five feet base. The earth and stone of which the wall is made were evidently gathered up from the surface of the hill. In some places holes had been excavated, probably for the double purpose of securing materials for the wall, and providing reservoirs for water against a time of need. There are but four openings in the wall, and each is very carefully guarded. The complicated walls guarding the main entrance to the north are especially noticeable. There are no less than four inner walls besides the crescent shaped embankment on the outside. The signal mound was about five hundred feet to the north of the main opening. The stones on the surface of the mound all show the action of fire.
If we were uncertain of the uses of the other class of inclosures, which have been named Sacred Inclosures, we have no need to hesitate as to the character of this work. Every thing in reference to it betokens that it was a defensive work. The valley of the Big Miami, in which it occurs, was a favorite resort of the Mound Builders. On the opposite side of the river, to the south, was a square and an ellipse combined, and several other large works were ranged along the river in the course of a few miles. We need scarcely doubt that this was a citadel in times of need, and that when warning columns of smoke or flaming fires showed the approach of an enemy, the old and the sick, the women and the children, fled hither for protection, while the warriors went forth to battle for their homes.
We will call attention to but one more of these fortified hills, but this is on a magnificent scale. It is known as Fort Ancient, and is situated on the Little Miami River, about forty miles east of Cincinnati. It was not only a fort, but was also a fortified village site, and has some features about it which are regarded as of a religious nature. The hill on which it stands is in most places very steep towards the river. A ravine starts from near the upper end on the eastern side, gradually deepening towards the south, and finally turns abruptly towards the west to the river. By this means nearly the whole work occupies the summit of a detached hill, having in most places very steep sides. To this naturally strong position fortifications were added, consisting of an embankment of earth of unusual height, which follows close around the very brow of the hill. This embankment is still in a fine state of preservation, but is now annually exposed to cultivation and the inroads of cattle, so that it will not be long before it will be greatly changed if no effort be made to preserve it.



Fort Ancient.

This wall is, of course, the highest in just those places where the sides of the hill are less steep than usual. In some places it still has a height of twenty feet. We notice the wall has numerous breaks in it. Some of these are where it crosses the ravines, leading down the sides of the hill. In a few cases the embankment may still be traced to within a few feet of a rivulet. Considerable discussion has ensued as to the origin and use of these numerous gateways. Mr. Squier thinks that these openings were occupied by timber work in the nature of blockhouses which have long since decayed. Others, however, think that the wall was originally entire except in a few instances, and that the breaks now apparent were formed by natural causes, such as water gathering in pools, and musk-rats burrowing through the walls, and we are told that such an opening was seen forming in the year 1847.72 No regular ditch exists inside the wall, the material apparently being obtained from numerous dug holes.
It will be seen that the works could be naturally divided into two parts, connected by the isthmus. More than one observer has pointed out the resemblance in general outline of this work to a map of North and South America, but of course the resemblance, if any, is entirely accidental. Mr. Peet has called attention to the resemblance which the walls of the lower inclosure bear to two serpents, their heads being the mounds, which are separated from the body by the opening which resembles a ring around the neck. Their bodies are the walls, which, as they bend in and out, and rise and fall, much resembles, he thinks, two massive green serpents rolling along the summit of this high hill. If any such resemblance occurs, we think it purely accidental. In relation to the wall across the isthmus, it has been thought to have been the means of defending one part of the work should an enemy gain entrance to the other. It has also been supposed that at first the fort was only built to the cross wall on the isthmus, and afterwards the rest of the inclosure was added to the work.
The total length of the embankment is about five miles, the area enclosed about one hundred acres. For most of this distance the grading of the walls resembles the heavy grading of a railroad track. Only one who has personally examined the walls can realize the amount of labor they represent for a people destitute of metallic tools, beasts of burden, and other facilities to construct it.
Now, what was the object of this work? We think it was not simply a fort, but rather a fortified village. That it must have required the work of a numerous body of people, is undoubted, and if they lived elsewhere, where are the works denoting such a fact? We would further suggest that, if this was the seat of a tribe, each of the two divisions might have been the location of a phratry of the tribe, by a phratry, meaning the subdivision of a tribe. We would call especial attention to the two mounds seen just outside of the walls at the upper end. From these mounds two low parallel walls extended in a north-easterly direction some thirteen hundred and fifty feet, their distant ends joining around a small mound. As this mound was not well situated for signal purposes, inasmuch as it did not command a very extensive view, and as the embankments would afford very little protection, unless provided with palisades, it seems as if the most satisfactory explanation we have is that it was in the nature of a religious work.
Mr. Hosea thinks he has found satisfactory evidence that between these walls there was a paved street, as he discovered in one place, about two feet below the present surface, a pavement of flat stones.73 From this, as a hint, he eloquently says: "Imagination was not slow to conjure up the scene which was once doubtless familiar to the dwellers at Fort Ancient. A train of worshipers, led by priests clad in their sacred robes, and bearing aloft the holy utensils, pass in the early morning, ere yet the mists have risen in the valley below, along the gently swelling ridge on which the ancient roadway lies. They near the mound, and a solemn stillness succeeds their chanting songs; the priests ascend the hill of sacrifice and prepare the sacred fire. Now the first beams of the rising sun shoot up athwart the ruddy sky, gilding the topmost boughs of the trees. The holy flame is kindled, a curling wreath of smoke arises to greet the coming god; the tremulous bush which was upon all nature breaks into vocal joy, and songs of gladness bursts from the throats of the waiting multitude as the glorious luminary arises in majesty and beams upon his adoring people. A promise of renewed life and happiness. Vain promise, since even his rays can not penetrate the utter darkness which for ages has settled over this people." Thus imagination suggests, and enthusiasm paints a scene, but, from positive knowledge, we can neither affirm nor deny its truth.
Most of the works of the Mound Builders are noticeable for their solidity and massiveness. We see this illustrated in the great walls of Fort Ancient. Some of our scholars think this is a distinguishing feature of the Mound Builders' work.74 It seems to us that it is difficult to make this a distinguishing feature, as we have no means of knowing how much "massiveness" is required in a work to entitle it to be considered a work of the Mound Builders. Should this distinction be established, however, we have to notice that while in the western part of the State of Ohio the Mound Builders' inclosures are more often of the defensive sort, the type changes to the eastward, where, as in the Scioto Valley, we find the so-called sacred inclosures in larger numbers. In the State of Ohio, then, there were at least two well defined types of works by the Mound Builders. But if we split the Mound Builders up into tribes, where shall we draw the line between them and our later Indians?
Fortified Headland, Northern Ohio.Inclosures, Northern Ohio.
Scattered through Ohio, but especially abundant in the northern part of the State, is a class of works which has excited considerable comment. This cut illustrates a work of this kind. It was located near where Cleveland now stands. The defense consists mainly in the location. The wall seems to have been rather of a secondary affair. The hill was too steep to admit approach to it except from the rear, where the double wall was placed. With both of these works a ditch was dug outside the wall. These works did not always consist simply of fortified headlands. This cut is of a portion of the works formerly existing near Norwalk, Ohio. The circular work, D, is shaped much like the sacred inclosures, though not on so large a scale. In the larger work, at B, we notice a truncated mound. The ditch is on the outside of the circles. This cut is of a work formerly on the banks of the Black River. Here we have a square inclosure, defended by two embankments and a ditch.
Square Inclosure, Northern Ohio.
This class of works was formerly common not only in Ohio and Western New York, but they were also to be observed in other sections of the country. They existed alike in the valley of the two Miami Rivers, and in that of the Scioto. They were also found throughout the South. Even Wisconsin, the home of the effigy Mound Builders, is not destitute of this class of remains. The peculiar interest attaching to them arises from the fact that in some places, at least, we have good reason to assign their construction to Indian tribes. Those of Western New York were very thoroughly studied by Mr. Squier. When he commenced his investigations, he was under the impression that he was dealing with the remains of a people very similar, at least, to those who built the massive works in the Ohio Valley and elsewhere, but he was led to the conviction that they were the works of the Iroquois Indians, and as further proof that such was the case, we are told that since the palisades that once inclosed places known to be villages of the Iroquois have disappeared, there is no difference to be observed between the appearance of the ruins of such a village site and any of the earthworks in Western New York. But we have just stated that the remains last mentioned are identical with those found in Northern Ohio, and indeed over a wide extent of country. The conclusion seems to be, then, that one large class of works in many points resembling Mound Builders' works, found widely distributed throughout the Mississippi Valley, were really the works of Indians.75 But we are approaching a subject we do not wish to discuss just yet. We simply point out that not all the remains of prehistoric people in the Mississippi Valley are referable to the Mound Builders.
We have tried to point out the more important works that are ascribed to them. It must of necessity occur in a work of this nature that the review should be very brief, yet we have touched on the different classes of their works. But before leaving this part of our field we must mention some anomalous works, and refer to others which, if they can be relied on as works of the same people, certainly imply a great advance on their part.
Our next cut is named by Mr. Pidgeon the "Sacrificial Pentagon." Writing in 1850, he states, "This remarkable group . . . has probably elicited more numerous conjectures as to its original use than any other earth-work yet discovered in the valley of the Mississippi. . . . It is situated on the west highlands of the Kickapoo River, in Wisconsin."76 Mr. Pidgeon claims to have discovered two of these pentagons. We are not aware that any one else has verified these discoveries, and it is difficult to decide what value to give to his writings. He claims to have made extensive researches around the head-waters of the Mississippi as early as 1840, and there to have met an aged Indian—the last of his tribe—who gave him many traditions as to the mounds in that locality. Most of our scholars think his writings of no account, whatever, and yet Mr. Conant says, "He seems to have been a thoroughly conscientious and careful observer, faithfully noting what he saw and beard."77
Sacrificial Pentagon.
We will briefly describe a few of the earth-works he mentions, notice their singular form, and give an outline of the traditions in regard to them, leaving the reader to draw his own conclusions. Of this work the outer circle is said to have been twelve hundred feet in circumference, the walls being from three to five feet in height; width on the ground from twelve to sixteen feet. The walls of the pentagon were from four to six feet high. The inner circle was of very slight elevation. The central mound was thirty-six feet in diameter. This singular arrangement of circle, pentagon, and mounds, is traditionally represented to have been a sacred national altar—the most holy one known to tradition—and no foot, save that of a priest, might pass within the sacred walls of the pentagon after its completion. The sacrifice offered on this altar was that of human life. Twice each year the offering was made.78
Festival Circle.
The work represented in the figure at left is stated to have been in the near neighborhood of the former, and to have been intimately connected with it. Mr. Pidgeon claims to have found five of these circles and two pentagons. So far as we know, he is the only authority for their occurrence, no one else having been so fortunate as to have found them. This is surely a singular work, and we can not fail to recognize in it a representation of the sun and the moon. In excavating in the central mound, we are assured that small pieces Of mica were found abundantly mixed with the soil. "Had the surface-soil been removed with care, and the stratum beneath been washed by a few heavy showers of rain, so thoroughly studded was it with small particles of mica, that under the sun's rays it certainly would have presented no unapt symbolic representation of that luminary."79
Crescent Works.
Our next figure is another singular arrangement of crescent-shaped works and mounds. Lapham says that crescent-shaped works are found in Wisconsin. Pidgeon says that crescent works are found in Illinois, but works arranged as shown in this wood-cut he found in but four places in Wisconsin. Could we verify this author's statements, this illustration and the preceding one would be very good evidence of the prevalence of sun-worship among the effigy Mound Builders of Wisconsin. This would be nothing singular, since the Indian race almost universally reverenced the sun.80
The figure below represents a group of works which, we are told, were of a class formerly abundant in Missouri and Iowa. The embankments are stated to be of varying heights, but all of the same length. They do not quite meet, but a mound defends the opening. Sometimes a square is so represented, and sometimes but two walls.
Triangular Works.
A singular statement is made in reference to a nice proportion said to be observed between the heights of the embankments and walls. In this case, for instance, the heights of the embankments are, three, four, and five feet; the sum of these, twelve feet, was the exact height of the central mound. Furthermore, the square of the sum of the heights of three embankments gives us one hundred and forty-four feet, which is the length of the embankments. We are gravely assured that this same nice proportion is always observed in works of this kind. The embankments being always of equal length, but of varying heights, still the sum of these heights, whether three or four sides, being always equal to the height of the central mound.81 We do not know of any specimen of this class of works now existing. If this early explorer's account be reliable, then we have in works of this class very good evidence that some of their inclosures were in the nature of sacred inclosures. The trouble is to verify Mr. Pidgeon's account. There is a good deal that is strange and marvelous in reference to the Mound Builders, and we must use judgment as to what is told us, unless we are sure there is no mistake, or unless the reports are vouched for by many observers.
We wish to call attention to some singular works in Missouri, which would imply that the Mound Builders were possessed of no little engineering skill. We have every indication that near New Madrid was a very extensive settlement. The works consist of inclosures, large and small mounds in great numbers, and countless residence sites. One of fifty acres was noticed, which had evidently been inclosed by earthen walls. In some places in the forest, where this wall had been preserved, its height was found to be from three to five feet, and its base width fifteen feet.82 But the suggestive features about these works are noticed along the edge of the swamp near which they stood. This swamp in 1811 was a lake, with a clear, sandy bottom. It is not at all doubted but that it was at one time the bed of the Mississippi River, and probably this town stood on its banks. The river is now some eighteen miles away. It must suddenly have changed its course, leaving behind it a lake, which, in course of time, became a swamp.
But along the shores of this ancient lake, in front of the inclosure, small tongues of land have been carried out into the water, from fifteen to thirty feet in length, by ten, or fifteen in width, with open spaces between, which, small as they are, forcibly remind one of the wharfs of a seaport town. The cypress trees grew very thickly in all the little bays thus formed, and the irregular, yet methodical, outlines of the forest, winding in and out close to the shore of these tongues of land, is so marked as to remove all doubt as to their artificial origin.83 The suggestion is made in view of these wharfs, that the Mound Builders must have had some sort of boats to navigate the waters of the lake.
And the singular part is, that right in this neighborhood are many evidences of a system of canals. A glance at the map will show that the portion of Missouri around New Madrid, and to the south of it, is dotted with swampy lakes and sluggish bayous. The evidence is to the effect that the ancient inhabitants connected these bayous and lakes with artificial canals, so as to form quite an extended system of inland water-ways. Right east of the town of Gayoso, we are told that a canal had been dug that now connects the Mississippi with a lake called Big Lake. A bayou running into this lake was joined by a canal with Cushion Lake.
From this last lake, by means of bayous and lakes, a clear course could be pursued for some miles north, where finally another canal was cut to join with the Mississippi a few miles below New Madrid. The entire length of this water way was some seventy miles, but we are not told how much of it was artificial, neither are the dimensions given. Prof. Swallow speaks of a canal "fifty feet wide, and twelve feet, deep." Whether this was one of this series or not, we do not know.84 This is indeed a singular piece of work. It would be more satisfactory if we had more definite information in regard to the same.
With our present knowledge of the state of society among the Mound Builders, as made evident by the remains of their implements and ornaments, we are not justified in believing this part of a system of internal navigation. We have already seen that further south they sometimes surrounded their village sites with a wide and deep moat or ditch, as was observed around the inclosure containing the great mound on the Etowah. We are inclined to believe that a more careful survey would greatly modify the accounts we have of these canals, if it did not, in fact, show that they were the works of nature. According to a writer in the American Antiquarian,85 the whole lower part of the Mississippi Valley was abundantly supplied with canals, irrigating ditches, and evidences of a high intelligence. He speaks of observing the presence of an extensive canal a little north of the section we have described. He asserts they were dug to convey the surplus waters of the Mississippi in times of flood to the White and St. Francis Rivers, thus preventing disastrous overflows. It is needless to caution the reader against such conclusions. Our information in regard to those canals is far too limited to support the views advanced.
This finishes our examination of the works of the Mound Builders. Except in the case of the more massive works, they have become obliterated, but here and there are left traces of the former presence of these now vanished people. The antiquary muses over the remains of their inclosures, their fortified places, their effigies and mounds. By the combined efforts of scholars in many departments, we may yet hope that the darkness now enshrouding this race may be dissipated, but at present our positive knowledge is very limited indeed. It is as if we were asked to reconstruct a picture which had faded in the lapse of time so that only traces here and there are visible. Here, perhaps, a hand is seen; there a piece of foliage; in one place something we think representing water, in another a patch of sky, or a mountain peak. Until a key is found which shall show us how to connect these scattered parts, our efforts are useless, since many pictures could be formed, but we have no surety we are right. So we may form mental conceptions of the Mound Builders, but they are almost as varied as the individual explorers. Science may yet discover the key which will enable us to form a clear mental conception of the race which flourished here many years ago, and left their crumbling memorials to excite the curiosity of a later people.



Tour Ohio's Largest Mounds


Mound Builders Stone Enclosures and Sacred Stones
Ohio Burial Mounds, Mercer County, Ohio
Lucas County, Ohio, Burial Mounds
Wood County, Ohio Burial Mounds
Defiance County, Ohio Burial Mounds
Paulding County, Ohio Burial Mounds
Ohio Burial Mounds: Illustrated Haitory
Ohio Mounds: Giant Human Skeletons




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The Complete History of Mounds State Park in Anderson Indiana
Sacred Enclosure and Burial Mounds in Henry County, Indiana
Mound Builders Remains in Wayne County Indiana
Mound Builders Remains in Randolph County, Indiana