Monday, September 1, 2014

Smithsonian Reports Two Skeletons as "Very Large" from a South Charleston, West Virginia Burial Mound

Twelfth annual report of the Bureau of Ethnology to the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, 1890-91
Smithsonian Reports Two Skeletons as "Very Large" from a South Charleston, West Virginia Burial Mound

Mound 31, where two skeletons described by Smithsonian scientists  as "very large" were interred facing each other.

Mound 31 of this group seems to furnish a connecting link between the West Virginia and the Ohio mounds. It is sharp in outline, has a steep slope, and is flattened on the top; is 318 feet in circumference at the base and about 25 feet high. It was opened by digging a shaft 10 feet in diameter from the center of the' top to the base. After passing through the top layer of surface soil, some 2 feet thick, a layer of clay and ashes 1 foot thick was encountered. Here, near the center of the shaft, were two skeletons, lying horizontally, one immediately over the other, the upper and larger one with the face down and the lower with the face up. There were no indications of fire about them.

Immediately over the heads were one celt and three lance-heads. At the depth of 13 feet and a little north of the center of the mound were two very large skeletons, in a sitting posture, with their extended legs interlocked to the knees. Their arms were extended and their hands slightly elevated, as if together holding up a sandstone mortar which was between their faces. This stone is somewhat hemispherical, about 2 feet in diameter across the top, which is hollowed in the shape of a shallow basin or mortar. It had been subjected to the action of fire until burned to a bright red. The cavity was filled with white ashes, containing small fragments of bones burned to cinders. Immediately over this, and of sufficient size to cover it, was a slab of bluish-gray limestone about 3 inches thick, which had small cup-shaped excavations on the under side. This bore no marks of fire. Near the hands of the eastern skeleton were a small hematite celt and a lance-head, and upon the left wrist of the other two copper bracelets. At the depth of 25 feet, and ou the natural surface, was found what in an Ohio mound would have been designated an " altar." This was not thoroughly traced throughout, but was about 12 feet long and over 8 feet wide, of the form shown in Fig. 24.