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قراءة كتاب The Problem of the Ohio Mounds

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‏اللغة: English
The Problem of the Ohio Mounds

The Problem of the Ohio Mounds

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دار النشر: Project Gutenberg
الصفحة رقم: 6

of three rooms, two in front and one in rear. For example, Dr. Palmer found in a broad platform like elevation not more than 3 feet high the remains of a house of this form which he traced by the burnt clay. The lines of the upright walls were very apparent, as also the clay which must have fallen from them, and which raised the outer marginal lines considerably higher than the inner area. Dr. Palmer remarks:

The fire must have been very fierce, and the clay around the edges was evidently at some height above the door, as I judge from the irregular way in which it is scattered around the margins.

Excavations in the areas showed that they were covered with a layer of burnt clay, uneven and broken; immediately below this a layer of ashes 6 inches thick, and below this black loam. On these areas large trees were growing, one a poplar 3 feet in diameter. Below one of these floors were found a skeleton, some pottery, and a pipe. A large oak formerly stood at this point, but it has been blown down.

Subsequently the remains of another dwelling of precisely the same form, that is, two square rooms joined and a third of the same size immediately behind these two, were discovered in the same region by Colonel Norris. In this case remnants of the upright posts and reed lathing forming the walls were found, also the clay plastering.

Prof. G. C. Swallow [Footnote: 8th Rept. Peabody Museum, 1875, pp. 17, 18.] describes a room formed of poles, lathed with split cane, plastered with clay both inside and out, which he found in a mound in southeastern Missouri. Colonel Norris found parts of the decayed poles, plastering, and other remains of a similar house in a large mound in the same section.

From the statements of the early writers, a few of which are given here, it is evident that the houses of the Indians occupying this region when first visited by the whites were very similar to those of the mound-builders.

La Harpe, speaking of the tribes in some parts of Arkansas, says: "The Indians build their huts dome-fashion out of clay and reeds." Schoolcraft says the Pawnees formerly built similar houses. In Iberville's Journal [Footnote: Relation in Margry, Deconvertes, 4th part (March, 1699), p. 170] it is stated that the cabins of the Bayogoulas were round, about 30 feet in diameter, and plastered with clay to the height of a man. Adair says: "They are lathed with cane and plastered with mud from bottom to top within and without with a good covering of straw."

Henri de Tonty, the real hero of the French discoveries on the Mississippi, says the cabins of the Tensas were square, with the roof dome-shaped, and that the walls were plastered with clay to the height of 12 feet and were 2 feet thick. [Footnote: Relation of Henry de Tonty in Margry, Decouvertes, vol. 1, 1876, p. 600]

A description of the Indian square houses of this southern section by Du Pratz [Footnote: Hist. La., vol. 2, French ed., 1758, pp. 173-175; English ed., 1764, p. 359.] is so exactly in point that I insert a translation of the whole, passage:

The cabins of the natives are all perfectly square; none of them are less than 15 feet in extent in every direction, but there are some which are more than 30. The following is their manner of building them: The natives go into the new forest to seek the trunks of young walnut trees of 4 inches in diameter and from 18 to 20 feet long; they plant the largest ones at the four corners to form the breadth and the dome; but before fixing the others they prepare the scaffolding; it consists of four poles fastened together at the top, the lower ends corresponding to the four corners; on these four poles others are fastened crosswise at a distance of a foot apart; this makes a ladder with four sides, or four ladders joined together.

This done, they fix the other poles in the ground in a straight line between those of the corners; when they are thus planted they are strongly bound to a pole which crosses them within each side [of the house]. For this purpose large splints of stalks are used to tie them at the height of 5 or 6 feet, according to the size of the cabin, which forms the walls; these standing poles are not more than 15 inches apart from each other; a young man then mounts to the end of one of the corner poles with a cord in his teeth; he fastens the cord to the pole, and as he mounts within, the pole bends, because those who are below draw the cord to bend the pole as much as is necessary; at the same time another young man fixes the pole of the opposite corner in the same way; the two poles being thus bent at a suitable height, they are fastened strongly and evenly. The same is done with the poles of the two other corners as they are crossed over the first ones. Finally all the other poles are joined at the point, which makes altogether the figure of a bower in a summer-house such as we have in France. After this work they fasten sticks on the lower sides or walls at a distance of about 8 inches across, as high as the pole of which I have spoken, which forms the length of the wall.

These sticks being thus fastened, they make mud walls of clay, in which they put a sufficient amount of Spanish moss; these walls are not more than 4 inches thick; they leave no opening but the door, which is only 2 feet in width by 4 in height; there are some much smaller. They then cover the frame-work which I have just described with mats of reeds, putting the smoothest on the inside of the cabin, taking care to fasten them together so that they are well joined.

After this they make large bundles of grass, of the tallest that can be found in the low lands, and which is 4 or 5 feet long; this is put on in the same way as straw which is used to cover thatched houses; the grass is fastened with large canes, and splints, also of canes. When the cabin is covered with grass they cover all with a matting of canes well bound together, and at the bottom they make a ring of "bind-weeds" all around the cabin, then they trim the grass evenly, and with this defense, however strong the wind may be, it can do nothing against the cabin. These coverings last twenty years without being repaired.

Numerous other references to the same effect might be given, but these are sufficient to show that the remains found in the mounds of the South are precisely what would result from the destruction by fire of the houses in use by the Indians when first encountered by Europeans.

It is admitted now by all archaeologists that the ancient works of New York are attributable to Indians, chiefly to the Iroquois tribes. This necessarily carries with it the inference that works of the same type, for instance those of northern Ohio and eastern Michigan, are due to Indians. It is also admitted that the mounds and burial pits of Canada are due, at least in part, to the Hurons. [Footnote: David Boyle, Ann. Rept. Canadian Institute, 1886-1887, pp. 9-17; Ibid., 1888, p. 57.]

Tribal divisions.—As the proofs that the mound-builders pertained to various tribes often at war with each other are now too numerous and strong to be longer denied, we may see in them evidences of a social condition similar to that of the Indians.

Similarity in burial customs.—There are perhaps no other remains of a barbarous or unenlightened people which give us so clear a conception of their superstitions and religious beliefs as do those which relate to the disposal of their dead. By the modes adopted for such disposal, and the relics found in the receptacles of the dead, we are enabled not only to understand something of these superstitions and beliefs, but also to judge of their culture status and to gain some knowledge of their arts, customs, and modes of life.

The mortuary customs of the mound-builders, as gleaned from an examination of their burial mounds, ancient