Fifth Annual Report of the Bureau of Ethnology to the Secretary of the Smithsonian, 1883-'84
Twelfth Annual Report of the Bureau of Ethnology to the Secretary of the Smithsonian is a tome exclusively dedicated to the study of the Mounds of North America. Extra money was devoted to the project, indicative of their intense interest in the subject. This report reconfirms repeatedly, that the Cherokees were indeed Mound-Builders. And it stresses the fact that the Mound-Builders, and practically all the tribes East of the Mississippi River, were sedentary agriculturalists -- not simple, crude, nomadic hunter-gatherers. They were extremely accomplished farmers of vegetables that delighted the senses of the earliest European explorers. They built fine homes and villages. And although many of them (other than Cherokees) did engage in barbaric, abominable practices (such as cannibalism), and all were Pagans, they apparently did not practice Human sacrifice (like the Aztecs, Incans, and Mayans further South). They were no more savages, than were the earliest Britons and Celtic tribes prior to the invasions of Rome.
This book provides even more intensive details about Mound Culture than does the Fifth Annual Report, and is quite large (nearly 750 pages) and well illustrated. But, so far I have noticed that although they spend much energy focusing on the material artifacts and structures of the Mounds -- they say very little about the nature of the skeletons of the people who were found therein, other than to mention their presence and positions in the mounds. So far, I've seen no record of measurements which one might expect in any scientific study. (I'm not done reading it, however (just got started), so if I find anything to the contrary, I will update it here.)
That is significant, in light of the fact that the author, Cyrus Thomas, describes the intense controversy then raging among professionals concerning the identities and origins of the Mound Builders. Some people believed them to be a distinctly separate race or group from the Indians discovered in and after 1492. Others (like Thomas himself) believed them to be the ancestors of those same Indians. I tend to think the whole truth is probably somewhere between those to polarities. In some ways, both hypotheses may be correct. Genetic and physical anthropological measurements should go a long way into solving the mystery. But then, as now, our Government-paid scientists seem to be dancing all around the heart of the matter.
Reading the report, I notice again that the author took great care to describe with precision the measurements, structures and forms of the Mounds, the different categories of types of Mounds, the presence and exact positions of the Human remains, and the various kinds of material artifacts found in the graves -- but absolutely no word about the sizes or shapes (or even the genders, for that matter) of the Human bones lying therein. I just got started though, and this is a fascinating read, so will keep you posted if I find anything to refute this preliminary observation.
Page 65, with diagram showing placement of skeletons in Mound No. 16, Courtois group, Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin.
Page 66 Discusses the Skeletons in Mound No. 16 Without Mentioning their Measurements. Yet, these scientists reported measurements of everything else in their field studies. Isn't that unusual, even strange?
Numerous finely detailed drawings of skeletons and skulls are provided in the book, but no measurements of the bones reported. Some are described as being "the size of a child, a woman, an adult man," etc., but no specifics. And, measurements were made of the "graves", but not of the skeletons themselves.
Group of Earthworks in Allavakee County, Iowa
Section of Earthwork
Mound Grave Containing Stonework Vault, with Skeleton
Indian Burial Mounds in Wapello County, Iowa, alongside the Des Moines River
Section of a Burial Mound in East Dubuque, Illinois
Group of Burial Mounds and Section of Bluff in East Dubuque, Illinois
Burial Mound with Stonework Vault and Several Skeletons, in Illinois
Turtle Effigy Pipe and Bird Effigy Pipe, from an Illinois Burial Mound
Map of Burial Mounds and Hut Rings in Brown County, Illinois
A Mound, from an Antique De Bry Illustration
Forms of Larger Mounds
Group of Mounds in Clarke County, Missouri ~ Situated on the Ridge between two Rivers
Mound with Wooden Vault & Skeleton, Containing Copper Artifacts
A Copper Gorget Found in West Virginia
Pipes Found in West Virginia and Ohio... "precisely of the form... as made by the Cherokees"
Map of Ancient Works, Kanawha County, West Virginia
So-called "Altar Mound" in West Virginia (section)
Plan of Part of the Works
Diagram of an Excavated Burial Mound, Showing Skeleton Locations, Positions
Triangular Burial Ground, Caldwell County, North Carolina
Engraved Shell Gorget from Caldwell County, North Carolina
Copper & Shell Beads, Dagger, Caldwell County, North Carolina
Implements Found in Caldwell County, North Carolina Burial Mound
Layout of Jones Mound, North Carolina
Layout of Lenoir Burial Pit, North Carolina
Section of a Fire Bed, or Bed of Burnt Clay, Wilkes County, North Carolina
Section of a Circular Mound with Burnt Bones, Coal, & Ashes; in Henderson Co., N.C.
Section of a Burial Mound in Henderson County, North Carolina
Stoneworks Containing Graves and a Pipe, in Sullivan County, Tennessee
The Cherokees [Were] Probably Mound Builders
"The Cherokee tribe has long been a puzzling factor to students of ethnology and North American languages. Whether to be considered an abnormal offshoot from one of the well-known Indian stocks or families of North America, or the remnant of some undetermined or almost extinct family which has merged into another, appear to be questions as yet unsettled: but they are questions which do not trouble us in the present inquiry; on the contrary, their ethnic isolation and tribal characteristics are aids in the investigation... If, therefore, it be admitted, as stated, that the Cherokees are a somewhat peculiar people, an abnormal tribe, we have in this a coincidence worthy of note, if strengthened by corroborating testimony."
Early Cherokee History
"I am satisfied that the Cherokees had at some time in the past moved southward from a more northern location from that which they were found occupying when first encountered by the whites. This corresponds with one of their traditions given by Haywood, that they formerly dwelt on the Ohio [River] and built the mounds there. That they did at one time actually occupy the section in which the mounds we allude to were situated cannot be doubted... We have their own tradition, as given by Lederer, that they migrated to this region about the close of the thirteenth century from a more northerly section; and, finally, their uniform and persistent statement, from the time first encountered by Europeans, that when they came to this region they found it uninhabited, with the exception of a Creek settlement on the Lower Hiawassee [River]. This clearly indicates a movement southward, a fact of much importance in the study of this somewhat abnormal tribe."
Copper Beads and Other Copper Artifacts Were Found in Association with Cherokee Burial Mounds
Widely reported that in 1776, all Cherokee towns held in their centers "... a circular tower rudely built and covered with dirt, 30 feet in diameter and about 20 feet high. This tower was used as a council house and as a place for celebrating the [G]reen [C]orn [D]ance and other national ceremonials."
Beatifully carved soapstone artifacts, such as pipes, were often found in Burial Mounds. Adair: "They... make beautiful stone pipes, and the Cherokees the best of any of the Indians, for their mountainous country contains many different sorts and colors of soils proper for such uses." Adair also explained how the pipes were easily carved of the soft soapstone, which only becomes hardened with the application of heat from smoking. He also indicated that the Cherokees bartered their soapstone ornaments and pipes for copper and other materials foreign to their region.
Cherokees were Accomplished Metalworkers
Bronze, Brass, Copper, Lead, and Stone Artifacts
Large Etowah mound in Bartow County, Georgia
Section of an Etowah mound near Cartersville, Georgia
Plan of a Burial Mound Containing at least one Decorative Copper Plate.
Copper Plate from an Etowah mound, Georgia
Another Copper Plate from an Etowah mound in Georgia
Copper Ornament or Badge of some sort
A Copper Artifact and an Engraved Shell, from an Etowah mound, Georgia
Engraved Shell from an Etowah mound in Georgia
Copper Plate Thunderbird from an Illinois mound
Copper Plate from a Stonework grave in Illinois
The Moundbuilders of the Northern Sections (ie Ohio, Illinois, etc.) were accustomed to removing the flesh from the bodies before final burial. I presume that such customs, along with others, like cannibalism for one -- were the major factors leading to the separation of the early Cherokees from their Northern relatives, the Iroquois.
"Other races or peoples may have preceded the mound-builders in this region, but better proof of this is required than that based on the differences between the supposed paleolithic and neolithic implements of New Jersey and other sections, as every type discovered can be duplicated a hundred times in the surface finds from different parts of the country... [A]ll the mounds which have been examined and carefully studied are to be attributed to the indigenous tribes found inhabiting this region and their ancestors.
Southeastern Woodland Sites
Cahokia ca. 1100
Southeastern Mississippian Sites
Contact-era Algonkian Pomeiooc Village, NC Coast, ca. 1590
Pre-contact distribution of North American language families north of Mexico ~ 296 languages grouped in 29 families.
De Soto burning Mabila (AL) after massacre of around 5,000 people in one battle (1540). De Soto, a Conquistador, was born into a Spanish Jewish family of converts to Catholicism. He killed Native Americans for sport, and for profit.
French, English and Spanish possessions of North America in 1742
An excellent website, and the source for the last eight illustrations on this page.
Another interesting website.
The Village of Secotan, drawn by John Wyth (Sir Richard Grenville's Expedition)
Interior of House of Virginia Indians ([Captain John] Smith's History
Pipes from Hollywood Mound, Georgia
Engraved Shell, Pipe, North Carolina
Finely Crafted Pipes, Caldwell County, North Carolina
Map of the Overhill Cherokee Towns, Drawn by Henry Timberlake, c1762
Bone Needle and Map of the Little Tennessee River
The Controversial Bat Creek Stone, Mound No. 3, London County, Tennessee
Thruston Tablet, Tennessee
Ancient Japanese Pictographs
German Knights and Apache Warriors, on Horseback
Dighton Rock, Various Interpretations
Dighton Rock, More Representations