The Prehistoric World: or, Vanished Races
E. A. Allen
Part 7 out of 13
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
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
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.
We must now turn our attention to another branch of inquiry and
learn what we can of the culture of the Mound Builders. This is
to be determined by an investigation of the remains of their
implements, weapons, and ornaments. When we know the skill with
which they manufactured these articles, and gain an insight into
some of their probable customs, we shall know where to place
them in the scale of civilization. What we have learned of their
works has already convinced us that we are dealing with a people
considerably above the scale of Savagery. The nice proportion
between the parts, the exact circles and coincident angles show
considerable advance in mechanical skill. The character of the
works indicates that the people had permanent places of abode,
and were not subject to the vicissitudes of a hunter's state of
life for subsistence. This implies that we are dealing with a
people living in village communities, practising agriculture and
many other arts, and therefore entitled to rank in the middle
status of Barbarism corresponding to the Neolithic inhabitants
of Europe.<86> We will now see how far this conclusion is
sustained by an examination of the remains of the handiwork of
Illustration of Arrow Points.-----------------
Implements of stone are of course abundant. But men, when in the
culture of the Stone Age, having a common material to work upon,
and under the pressure of common needs, have everywhere provided
similar forms. For this reason it is hard to find distinctive
points of difference between implements of stone of Mound
Builders' work and a series of similar implements the work of
Indians. We are assured, however, that when examining a series
of each, those of the Mound Builders display a superior
finish.<87> The preceding wood-cut represents a collection of
arrow-points found in the mounds, but they are not particularly
so distinguishable from specimens found on the surface.
Great numbers of arrow-points are occasionally found on altars.
Here we have a view of one of the stone axes fashioned by the
hands that heaped the mounds. It is certainly a very
Illustration of Ax found in a Mound.------------
The Mound Builders must have had all the varieties of stone
implements common to people in their stage of culture, such as
axes, fleshers, and chisels. They also must have possessed
mortars and pestles for grinding corn, and some implements
did duty as hoes and spades. We represent in a group a
collection of weapons and implements from the mounds and stone
graves of Tennessee. All these articles are finely finished.
One of the axes has a hole bored through it. One of them is
further provided with a stone handle, and is characterized as
being the "most beautiful and perfect stone implement ever
exhumed from the aboriginal remains within the limits of the
Illustration of Weapons of Stone from Tennessee. (Smith Inst.)--
People in the culture of the Stone Age make but very rare use
of metal, as metals are to them simply varieties of stone, much
less useful for their purpose than the different kinds of
flints, except for ornaments. From the altar mounds, near
Cincinnati, were taken ornaments of silver, copper, iron and
traces of gold, all of which had been worked into their present
shape by simply hammering. The iron, it should be remarked, was
meteoric iron, which can be hammered as easily as native copper.
We have already remarked that about the only native iron is
obtained from such sources. Copper was utilized for a great
variety of purposes.
Illustration of Copper Ax.-------------------
We give a cut of a copper ax found in one of the Ohio mounds.
Copper axes have lately been found quite frequently in mounds
near Davenport, Iowa, and in most cases before being deposited
in the mounds, they had been wrapped in cloth. Copper ornaments
are a more common find. Bracelets, beads, and ear ornaments are
numerous. Our next cut represents some very fine bracelets found
in a mound near Chillicothe, Ohio, Copper tools and weapons have
been found quite frequently on the surface, but we are not sure
in this case whether they are not the work of recent Indians.
The early explorers noticed the presence of copper ornaments
among the Indians. "When Henry Hudson discovered, in 1609, the
magnificent river that bears his name, he noticed among the
Indians of that region pipes and ornaments of copper."
The account says: "They had red copper tobacco pipes, and other
things of copper they did wear about their necks."<88>
De Soto also noticed among the Southern Indians axes of copper.
Other accounts could be quoted showing that the Indians were
well acquainted with copper.<89> The fact is, in this matter
also, it is impossible to draw a dividing line between relics of
the Mound Building tribes and the Indians. However, the Mound
Builders were certainly acquainted with copper, but to their
minds it was only a singular stone, one that they could hammer,
into a desired shape.
Illustration of Copper Bracelets.-------------------
Where did they obtain their copper? We are all aware that in
this country great supplies of pure copper exist near the
southern shore of Lake Superior, and there is a peculiarity
about the copper found there, that is, the presence of small
pieces of silver with the copper. This is a very singular
mixture, and we are not aware of its occurrence elsewhere.
It would trouble the best chemists to explain it. From this fact
we are enabled to identify articles of copper derived from that
source, and to that region we can trace the copper from which
are formed most of the copper implements and ornaments found in
this country. It is also noticeable that the nearer we get to
this region the more numerous are the finds of articles of
copper. More are reported from Wisconsin than the rest of the
United States put together.
This leads us to a very interesting subject. In 1848 Mr. S. 0.
Knapp, agent of the Minnesota Mining Company on the northern
peninsula of Michigan, discovered that the modern miners were
but following in the footsteps of some ancient people who had
mined for copper there some time now far past. The general
conclusion is that these old miners were Mound Builders, but
here the evidence of their presence is not found in the
existence of mounds and earthworks, but of pits and excavations,
which, by the slow accumulation of years, had become filled to
near the surface with debris of various kinds. Many had
noticed these little pits and depressions without suspecting
they had aught to do with the presence of man. The hollows made
by large trees, overturned by the wind, frequently left as well
marked depressions as these excavations.
We have abundant proof that these old miners were practical
workmen. They evidently did not neglect the most trifling
indication of metals. They made thorough research and discovered
the principal lodes. Our present day miners have long since
learned to regard the presence of these ancient pits as
excellent guides in this matter. With modern appliances they
penetrate far beyond the power of the old workmen. At the
Waterbury mine there is in the face of the vertical bluff an
artificial opening, which is twenty-five feet wide, fifteen feet
high, and twelve feet deep. The materials thrown out in digging
had accumulated in front, and on this forest trees common to
that region were growing of full size. Some of the blocks of
stone which were removed from this recess would probably weigh
two or three tons, and must have required the use of levers to
move them. Beneath the surface rubbish was discovered the
remains of a cedar trough, by which the water from the mines was
conducted away. Wooden bowls were found, which were probably
used to dip the water from the mine into this trough.
Near the bottom of the pit, shovels, made of cedar, were found,
shaped much like a canoe paddle, but showing by their wear that
they were used as shovels. Although they appeared solid while in
water, yet, on drying, they shrunk up, and were with difficulty
preserved. A birch tree, two feet in diameter, was observed
growing directly over one of these shovels. No marks of metallic
tools were observed anywhere about this large pit.
Illustration of Ancient Mine, Michigan.-----------
In this case they constructed a sort of a cave, but in many
cases they mined open to the air, that is, they simply dug
trenches or pits. A row of these ancient pits, now slight
depressions, indicate a vein. What they seem to have especially
sought after was lumps of copper that they could easily manage
and fashion by hammering. They had not discovered the art of
melting. When they found an unusually large piece, they broke
off what they could by vigorous hammering. In one case they
found a mass weighing about six tons of pure copper. They made
an attempt to master this piece. By means of wedges they had got
it upon a cob-work of round logs or skids, six or eight inches
in diameter, but the mass was finally abandoned for some unknown
reason after breaking off such pieces as they could until the
upper surface was smooth. This mass rested on the framework of
logs while the years came and went, until, after the lapse of
unknown time, the white men once more opened the old mine.
On the rubbish in front of this mine was standing the stump of a
pine tree ten feet in circumference. These ancient mines are
found not only on the main-land, but on the islands off the
coast as well. The only helps they seem to have employed was
fire, traces of which are found everywhere, and stone mauls and
axes. The mauls consist of oblong water-worn bowlders of hard
tough rock, nature having done every thing in fashioning them
except to form the groove, which was chiseled out around the
middle. Some copper implements were also found.
Col. Whittlesey, from whose writings we have drawn the
foregoing, concludes that these mines were worked by the Mound
Builders. As he finds no traces of graves or houses, or other
evidence of a protracted stay, he thinks they were worked only
through the Summer season of the year by bands of workmen from
As to what caused the abandonment of the works we do not know.
It might have been an impulse of their race hurrying them on to
some distant migration; or, more probably, pressed by foes from
without, they were compelled to abandon their ancient homes.
Whatever the cause was, nature resumed her sway. Forest trees
crept up to and grew around the mouths of the deserted mines.
Col. Whittlesey concludes from the group of trees growing on the
top of the rubbish heap that at least five hundred years passed
away before the white man came from the south to resume the work
of his ancient predecessor.<90>
It is not, however, proven that the Mound Builders were the sole
workers of these ancient mines. It is known that the Indians
mined for flint. Some of the excavations for this purpose, in
what is known as Flint Ridge, in Muskingum County, Ohio, are as
marked as the traces of ancient mining in Michigan.
Similar appearances are recorded in Missouri. As copper was in
demand among the Indians, and as it is probable that they
obtained much of it from the North, they may have continued to
work the ancient copper mines until comparatively recent times.
Mr. Lapham believes that the progenitors of the Indian tribes
found dwelling in the regions near these mines, carried on
mining operations there. Dr. Rau thinks it probable that small
bands of various Northern tribes made periodical excursions to
the locality, returning to their homes when they had supplied
themselves with sufficient quantities of the much-desired metal.
The fact that many of the modern Indian tribes knew nothing
about these mines is not of much weight, when we reflect how
easily a barbarian people forget events, even those of a
We are apt to judge the culture of a people by the skill they
display in works of arts. The article on which the Mound Builder
lavished most of his skill was the pipe. This would show that
with them, as with the modern Indians, the use of the pipe was
largely interwoven with their civil and religious observances.
In making war and in concluding peace, it probably played a very
important part. "To know the whole history of tobacco, of the
custom of smoking, and of the origin of the pipe, would be to
solve many of the most interesting problems of
The general decoration consisted in carving the bowl of the pipe
into the shape of some animal or bird. In some instances we have
carved representations of the human head. Such as these are of
particular interest and value, as they are probably faithful
representations of the features of the Mound Builders. This is a
fine specimen found in one of the altar mounds in Ohio. The
method of wearing the hair is worthy of notice. The holes placed
in a row encircling the forehead and coming down as low as the
ears, were once filled with pearls. In some they still remained
when found, though they had been burned in the fire. The lines
upon the face obviously imitate the custom of tattooing
Illustrations of Sculptured Face and Face of a Female.-----
Scholars have called attention to the fact that Humboldt
discovered in Mexico a small statue which he supposed
represented an Aztec priestess. This statue had sculptured upon
its forehead a row of pearls, worn in the same manner as is
represented in this pipe. This is another pipe of great
interest, and is supposed to represent the head of a woman. The
countenance is expressive, the eyes prominent, and the lips full
and rounded. We must notice again the headdress. While the faces
are of Indian type, the method of wearing the hair is different
from that of the typical Indian of the North.
Illustration of Beaver.----------------
The animal forms into which the pipe-bowls are carved, are also
full of interest. This is not so much on account of animal forms
themselves as the insight we gain as to the artistic skill of
the people who fashioned the pipes, and in various ways learn of
bits of customs and manners peculiar to them. Here we have
figured a pipe, the bowl of which is carved to represent a
beaver. No one need hesitate as to the animal which the carver
had in mind. It is represented in a characteristic attitude, and
has the broad, flat tail of its species. It must have required
no little skill and patient labor to work a rough stone into
this finished pipe, especially when we remember that the maker
had no edged tools with which to work.
Illustration of Otter.----------------
We can not always determine the animal which the artist had in
mind. In this illustration we have figured such a pipe.
Considerable discussion has arisen as to the animal represented.
Some cases of this nature have been thought to show either
migration from a distant country on the part of the maker or
else an extended system of trade.
Squier and Davis, who first figured it, supposed it to represent
a manatee, or sea-cow. This animal is essentially a tropical
species, the only known place where it was found in the United
States being Florida. From the presence of this carved specimen,
found a thousand miles to the north, some interesting queries,
as the origin of the mound-building tribes, and the state of
life among them, were raised. It is almost certain, however,
that the animal intended to be represented was the otter.<92>
Illustration of Birds on Pipes.---------------
The most general form of sculpture was that of birds, and we
find specimens of almost all the common varieties. In this group
we recognize the tufted heron striking a fish; the eagle, or
hawk, tearing a smaller bird; the swallow, apparently just ready
to fly; and in the last figure, one that has given rise to a
good deal of discussion. Some think from the circumstance of its
having a very large bill, toes pointing behind as well as
before, that it represents a toucan, which, if true, would make
it a most interesting specimen. But cautious scholars conclude
that the "figure is not of sufficient distinctness to identify
the original that was before the artist's mind." And therefore
it is not wise to make this specimen the subject of a
It may be of interest to inquire whether the Indians made pipes
as tastefully ornamented as those we have described. We should
notice that all the pipes here described are from one very
limited locality in Ohio, and that is the valley of the Scioto,
the same section of country where were found the great
inclosures of a mathematical shape. We have no reason for
supposing that the Mound Builders generally throughout the
Mississippi Valley had this artistic skill. We have seen nowhere
any thing to show a superiority for them in this respect.
Whatever conclusion can be drawn from those pipes, applies only
to the tribe in the Scioto Valley. It is believed they do
constitute a peculiar class by themselves. As works of art,
there are but few aboriginal relics of North American origin
We would also refer to the fact that most of these specimens
were obtained from one altar-mound.<95> We do not know what
ceremonies were performed around this altar, but if it were a
place of burial or cremation, they might have been the obsequies
of some distinguished maker of pipes. That such a person would
be the recipient of honor, is not singular, for "the manufacture
of stone pipes, necessarily a painful and tedious labor, may
have formed a branch of aboriginal industry, and the skillful
pipe carver probably occupied among the former Indians a rank
equal to that of the experienced sculptor in our times."
Among the Ojibway Indians, we are told, are persons who possess
peculiar skill in the carving of pipes, and make it their
profession, or at least the means of gaining, in part, their
livelihood. One "inlaid his pipes very tastefully with figures
of stars, and flowers of black and white stones. But his work
proceeded very slowly, and he sold his pipes at high
prices."<96> So we see how cautious we must be about drawing
inferences from this peculiar class of pipes found in one
The knowledge of how to manufacture pottery is justly regarded
as a turning point in the advance of primitive man along the
weary road that brings him at last to civilization. At this
point he ceases to be a savage, and enters the confines of
Barbarism.<97> The skill shown in using this knowledge is one of
the many things we have to take into consideration in
determining the rank of a people in the scale of enlightenment.
The Mound Builders were evidently quite well along in the
potter's art; and as they have left behind them many examples of
their work, we must try and acquaint ourselves with some of the
more important varieties.
Illustration of a Group of Clay Vessels.----------------
This illustration is of a group of clay vessels of the bowl
pattern, found in mounds in different parts of the Mississippi
Valley. In one of these we see a good example of the style of
ornamentation by means of incised lines. In the duck-headed
vessel we have a representation of a class of vessels common in
Missouri and Tennessee. Not unfrequently one or both of the
handles of vessels of this class is in the form of a human head
instead of that of an animal. Our next illustrations represent a
group of such specimens. Judging from the skill with which they
imitated animals, it is not unreasonable to believe that in
these faces we have rude likenesses of the people who made them.
Illustration of Bowls with Human Faces.------------
The two bottle-shaped vessels here figured, are from mounds in
Louisiana. As will be noticed, the ornamentation is quite
artistic. The ware is of a good quality, and they are good
examples of the Mound Builders' art. The form with the long neck
is perhaps a water-cooler. When filled with water, and allowed
to stand, some of the water passes through the pores, and
evaporating, keeps the surface of the vessel cool.
Illustration of Bottle-shaped Vessels. (Smith. Inst.)----
They also made some vessels of large size to serve for cooking
purposes. On some of the larger vessels the imprint of woven
weeds and willows of a basket on the outer surface leads to the
belief that such vessels were formed or moulded within baskets.
Many large pots and urns, however, were made without this aid.
Some large urns were used for burial purposes. In a Michigan
mound an urn about three feet in height had been so used. It was
standing upright, and into it the whole skeleton of a man had
been compressed, and a closely-fitting lid covered the top.<98>
Very large, shallow vessels were used to manufacture salt--that
is, they were filled from some salt-spring, and then the water
was evaporated, leaving the salt. In localities near
salt-springs, thick fragments of rude earthenware have been
found that must have come from vessels as large as barrels.
Illustration of Water Cooler.---------------
In the next group we have representations of a singular class of
vessels. In some cases the mouth and neck of the vessel is
shaped in imitation of animals. In the smallest one we recognize
the head of a man, with an opening in the back of the head.
Many vessels of this form are known, and a great many different
animal heads are represented. The fish-shaped vessel is a
curious one. The one figured evidently represents a sun-fish.
The long vase or jug is in the shape of a child's leg, with an
opening in the heel.
Illustration of Pottery Vessels. (Smith. Inst.)--------
Some very beautiful vessels of the character of those we have
figured, have been found in Missouri. One enthusiastic explorer
says, "Perhaps we have very few modern artists who could equal
those ancient pottery makers in taste, skill, curious design,
and wonderful imitation of nature. Birds, beasts, fishes, even
the shells on the river shore, have an exact counterpart in
their domestic utensils." "While digging in one of these pottery
mounds in Missouri, we unearthed a large tortoise. We thought it
was alive, and seizing it, to cast it into the woods for its
liberty, we were suddenly surprised to find our tortoise was an
earthen vessel in that shape. In the same mound we uncovered a
huge shell--the single valve of a unio. Closer inspection
revealed that it was a perfect earthen vessel. Following these
came a perfect fish, exhibiting, to our astonishment, the
scales, fins, and peculiarities of that species of fish
We must leave this interesting part of our subject. An entire
volume would scarcely do justice to it, but for the sake of
comparison, we must inquire as to the state of this art among
the Indian tribes. It seems that before the arrival of the
whites, the Indian tribes throughout North America, with few
exceptions, were apt potters. The whites, however, soon supplied
them with superior utensils of metal, so, that the majority of
the Eastern tribes soon lost the knowledge of the art.
It lingered longer among the tribes of the South, and of the
interior, and even to this day the Pueblo tribes of New Mexico
and Arizona make an excellent article of pottery.
Early travelers wrote in high terms of the skill of the Southern
Indians in this matter. Du-Pratz thought so highly of the work
of the Natchez Indians that he had them make him an entire
Catlin, speaking of the Mandan Indians, says the women of that
tribe made great quantities of dishes and bowls, modeled after
many forms. He says they are so strong and serviceable that they
cook food in them by hanging them over the fire, as we would an
iron pot. "I have seen specimens," he continues, "which have
been dug up in Indian mounds and tombs in the Southern and
Middle States, placed in our Eastern museums, and looked upon as
a great wonder, when here this novelty is at once done away
with, and the whole mystery: where women can be seen handling
and using them by hundreds, and they can be seen every day in
the summer, also, moulding into many fanciful forms, and passing
them through the kilns, where they are hardened."
Dr. Rau, speaking of the artistic skill of the Indian potters,
as shown by numerous remains gathered in Illinois, does not
hesitate to assert, after personal examination of Mound
Builders' pottery, that the Indian relics were in every respect
equal to those specimens exhumed from the mounds of the
Mississippi Valley.<100> Lapham, speaking of fragments of Mound
Builders' pottery in Wisconsin, says, "They agree in every
respect with fragments found about the old Indian villages."
The culture of a people is also determined by their knowledge of
agriculture. The savage depends entirely upon hunting and
fishing for subsistence. A knowledge of horticulture, of
domestic animals, and of agriculture, even though rude, are each
and all potent factors in advancing man in culture. So we must
inquire as to the traces of agricultural knowledge observable
among the remains of the Mound Builders. Some writers speak in
quite glowing terms of the enormous crops they must have raised
for their populous cities. The fact is, that while it is
doubtless true that they practiced agriculture, yet we have no
reason to suppose it was any thing more than a rude tillage,
such as was practiced among the village Indian tribes. This is
evident from the tools with which they worked.
Illustration of Agricultural Implements. (Smith. Inst.)----
In a few cases copper tools have been recovered which may have
served for digging in the ground, but in most cases their art
furnished them nothing higher than spades, shovels, picks, and
hoes made of stone, horn, bone, and probably wood. In this cut
are specimens of such agricultural tools. These were doubtless
furnished with handles of wood. The notched one was perhaps
provided with a handle at right angles to it, so as to
constitute a hoe. That we are right in regarding these
implements as agricultural tools, is shown not only by their
large size, but also by the traces of wear discovered on them.
We must admit, however, that agriculture carried on with such
tools as these, must have been in a comparatively rude state.
In this connection we must refer to the garden beds noticed in
some places. We read that in Western Michigan the so-called
garden beds are a distinguishing feature of the ancient
occupation, often covering many acres in a place, in a great
variety of forms, both regular and grotesque.<101> These seem
from the above account to be very similar to the garden beds of
Wisconsin. Dr. Lapham tells us that in the latter State they
consist of low, broad, parallel ridges, as if corn had been
planted in drills.
The average four feet in width, and the depth of the walk
between them is six inches. Traces of this kind of cultivation
are found in various parts of the State. We are also referred to
the presence of garden mounds in Missouri, but in this case the
low mounds are of the same mysterious class that Prof. Forshey
says occur by millions in the South-west, and may not be the
work of man. Just what the connection is between the garden beds
and the Mound Builders is hard to determine. Mr. Lapham thinks
that those in Wisconsin were certainly later in date than the
mounds. He observed that they were frequently constructed right
across the works of the Mound Builders. This would seem to imply
that the makers were not one and the same people.
As to the government and religion of the Mound Builders, all is
conjecture. On both of these points a great deal has been
assumed, but when we try to find out the grounds on which these
theories rest we quickly see how little real foundation there is
for any knowledge on this subject. If we are right in our views
as to the effigy mounds of Wisconsin, then a sort of animal
worship prevailed. Whether the great inclosures in the Scioto
Valley were of a religious nature or not is very doubtful.
The great serpent mound was probably an object of worship.
The assertion is quite frequently made that the Mound Builders
were sun worshipers, which may be correct, but we must observe
that we have no proofs of it in the works they have left.
We judge it to be true only because sun-worship was probably a
part of the religion of a large proportion of the Indian race,
and because we find special proofs of its existence among some
of the Southern Indians who are supposed to be closely related
to the Mound Builders.
Illustration of Idols. (Smith. Inst.)--------------
As we approach the South, we meet with what are supposed to be
rude and uncouth idols, but they have not been found under such
circumstances as to make it positive that they belonged to the
Mound Builders. In this illustration we have two idols,
considered to be genuine relics of the stone-grave people of
Tennessee. The first one is an Aztec idol found at Cholula, and
introduced here simply for comparison. What position these idols
held in connection with the religion of the race, we are not
prepared to say.
Similar remarks might be made as to the system of government.
A number of writers, taking into account the immense labor
involved in constructing some of the works, have insisted that
the people must have lived under a despotic form of government,
one in which the state had unlimited power over the lives and
fortunes of its subjects.<102>
There is no real foundation for such views, and we think they
are misleading. No one doubts but that the Mound Builders were
living in a tribal state of society. If so, they doubtless had
the usual subdivisions of a tribe. This point we remember
afforded us some insight into the meaning of the effigy mounds
This would imply the government by the council, and while the
rulers may have been hereditary, the officers of the tribe were
probably elective, and could be deposed for cause. We do not
mean to assert that this is an exact picture of the state of
government of the Mound Builders, because our knowledge on this
point is not sufficient to make such a positive statement, but
it is far more likely to be true than the picture of a despotic
government, ruling from some capital seat a large extent of
country, holding a court with barbaric pomp and circumstances
such as some writers would have us believe.
We hope our readers have not been wearied by this somewhat
extended investigation of the Mound Builders. Every storm that
beats upon their works tends to level them. The demands of our
modern life are fast obliterating the remaining monuments and,
indeed, it is now only those which are situated in favorable
localities, or are massive in construction, that are left for
our inspection. But these nearly obliterated records of the past
are of more than passing interest to us as monuments of the
prehistoric times of our own country. We wander over these ruins
and find much to interest us, much to excite our curiosity.
The purposes of many are utterly unknown. Some, by their great
proportions, awaken in us feelings of admiration for the
perseverance and energy of their builders. But when we
investigate the objects of stone, of clay, and of copper this
people left behind them, we notice how hard it is to draw a
dividing line between them and the Indians.
In fact, there is no good reason for separating them from the
Indian race as a whole. We do not mean to say that they were
not, in many respects, different from the tribes found in the
same section of the country by the early explorers, though, we
ought, perhaps, to confine this remark to the central portion of
the country occupied by these ancient remains. But the American
of to-day differs from the American of early Colonial times.
The miserable natives of Southern California were Indians, but
very different indeed from the ambitious, warlike Iroquois, who
displayed so much statesmanship in the formation of their
celebrated league. In another chapter we shall discuss this part
of our subject, as well as the question of the antiquity of
(1) The manuscript of this chapter was submitted to Prof. F. W.
Putnam, curator of the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and
Ethnology, Harvard University, for criticism.
(2) Conant's "Footprints of Vanished Races," p. 122.
(3) Force: "Some Considerations on the Mound Builders," p. 64;
"Am. Antiquarian," March, 1884, pp. 93-4; "10th Annual Report,
Peabody Museum," p. 11.
(4) Short's "North Americans of Antiquity", p. 28.
(5) Squier and Davis's "Ancient Monuments," p. 105.
(6) Foster's "Prehistoric Paces," p. 148.
(7) Squier's "Aboriginal Monuments of New York," Smithsonia
Contribution No. 11, p. 83.
(8) Squier's "Aboriginal Monuments of New York," Smithsonia
Contribution No. 11, p. 87.
(9) Foster's "Prehistoric Races," p. 121.
(10) "They are numbered by millions." Ibid.
(11) Prof. Forshey could frame no satisfactory hypothesis of
their origin. Ibid, p. 122.
(12) "Native Races," Vol. IV, pp. 739 and 740.
(13) Smithsonian Rep., 1870, p. 406.
(14) Narrative of U.S. exploring expedition during the years
1838-42, Vol. IV, p. 334.
(15) Prof. Gibbs in Frank Leslie's Monthly, August, 1883.
(16) "Ancient Monuments," p. 139.
(17) Jones's "Explorations in Tennessee," p. 15.
(18) "Ancient Monuments," p. 143. Explorers for Bureau of
Ethnology so report it in the South. Prof. Putnam, who has
certainly had great experience, says he has always found the
layers to be horizontal.
(19) "Sixteenth Annual Report Peabody Museum," p, 171. An
ornament shaped to resemble the head of a wood-pecker, made of
gold, derived from some Spanish source, was found in a mound in
Florida. This particular mound must have been erected after the
discovery of America. ("Smithsonian Report," 1877, p. 298,
(20) "Sixteenth and Seventeenth Report Peabody Museum." These
ornaments were made of hammered iron. This is the first time
that native iron has been found in the mounds. (Putnam.)
(21) "Prehistoric Races," p. 178.
(22) J. E. Stevens's Paper, read before the Muscatine Academy of
Science, Dec., 1878.
(23) That this was at any rate sometimes the case See "Ancient
Monuments," p. 159.
(24) "Peabody Museum Reports," Vol. II, p. 58.
(25) Jones's "Explorations in Tennessee," p. 15. See also "First
An. Rep. Bureau of Ethnology," p. 198.
(26) "Ancient Monuments," p. 169. See also note on same page for
another account of a larger number of skeletons.
(27) Short's "North Americans of Antiquity," App. A.
(28) James's "Popular Science," File 1883, p. 445.
(29) "Ancient Monuments," p. 173.
(30) "Ancient Monuments," p. 74.
(31) "Views of Louisiana."
(32) This cut represents the mound as it probably was before the
outlines were destroyed by cultivation. It is based on a model
prepared by Dr. Patrick for the Peabody Museum.
(33) "Peabody Museum Report," Vol. II, p.473. As this may
include some of the wash from the mound, perhaps it would be
better to give the real area of the base as over twelve acres.
(34) That is, if we follow the plan.
(35) "Prehistoric Races," p. 107.
(36) "Ancient Monuments," p. 174.
(37) Pickett's "History of Alabama," Vol. I., p. 301.
(38) Carr's "Mounds of the Mississippi Valley," pp. 91, 92;
(39) "Ancient Monuments," p. 117. Note.--For the statement made
in this text we are under obligation to Prof. Thomas, of the
Bureau of Ethnology, who, in answer to a letter of inquiry,
kindly furnished the information.
(40) "Am. Antiquarian," March, 1884, p. 99.
(41) It may be that no mounds were built for signaling purposes
alone. The work of erecting mounds was so great that it is quite
likely they were always erected for some other purpose, and used
only secondarily for signal purposes. Such is shown to be the
case with many of the signal mounds in Ohio. Such is the opinion
of Mr. MacLean, who has made extensive researches.
(42) Force's "Some Consideration of the Mound Builders," p. 65.
(43) Similar effigy mounds have been recently observed in
Minnesota, but they have not yet been described. (Putnam.)
(44) Peet's American Antiquarian, May, 1884, p. 184.
(45) Peet's American Antiquarian, January, 1884. We are
indebted to the writings of Mr. Peet in this periodical for the
months of January, May, and July, 1884, for many interesting
facts in reference to the effigy mounds. He has studied them
more than any other person, and his conclusions are consequently
of great value.
(46) Peet's "Emblematic Mounds and Totem System of the Indian
(47) "Ancient Monuments," p. 40.
(48) American Antiquarian, January, 1883.
(49) Putnam, in "Proceedings of American Antiquarian Society,"
(50) Peet's "Emblematic Mounds and Totem System of the Indian
(51) Abbott's "Primitive Industry," p. 383.
(52) Peet's "Military Architecture of the Emblematic Mound
(53) "Smithsonian Report," 1877, p. 278, et seq.
(54) "Ancient Monuments," p. 97; American Antiquarian,
January, 1883, p. 77.
(55) This information is communicated by Mr. L. N. Tower, a
gentleman in the employ of C. & N. W. E. R., at Tracy, Minn.,
who, at the request of the writer visited this locality, made
(56) American Antiquarian, November, 1884, p. 403.
(57) The dimensions of this figure vary. Mr. MacLean's survey
makes the entire length of the serpent part eleven hundred and
sixteen feet; the distance between the extended jaws, one
hundred feet. The oval figure is one hundred and thirteen feet
long by fifty feet wide. The frog or head portion is fifty-five
feet. Mr. Squier says, "The entire length, if extended, would be
not less than one thousand feet." Mr. Putnam's measurements make
it fourteen hundred and fifteen feet. The writer would state
that he visited this effigy in the summer of 1884. Though there
but a very short time, and not prepared to make careful
measurements, he did notice some points in which the
illustrations, previously given, are certainly wrong. The oval
is not at the very extremity of the cliff. The little
projections generally called ears of the serpent are not at
right angles to the body, but incline backwards.
The convolutions of the serpent's body bend back and forth quite
across the surface of the ridge.
(59) "Ancient Monuments," p. 47.
(60) Foster's "Prehistoric Races," p. 175.
(61) "Contributions North American Ethnology," Vol. IV, p. 210.
A cut of this "restored" pueblo is there given.
(62) See discussion of this subject in "Proceedings of Am.
Antiq. Society," Oct., 1883.
(63) "Peabody Museum Reports," Vol. II, p. 205.
(64) "Ancient Monuments," p. 47.
(65) Peet: "The Mound Builders."
(66) "Ancient Monuments," p. 53.
(67) Force: "Some Considerations on the Mound Builders," p. 64.
(68) "Archaeologia Americana," Vol. I, p. 129.
(69) For words at Newark, consult "Ancient Monuments," p. 67,
et seq. "American Antiquarian," July, 1882.
(70) "Ancient Monuments," p. 74.
(71) "Ancient Monuments," p. 88.
(72) Mr. Putnam visited the work a few years since, and came to
the conclusion that the larger and old openings were part of the
original design, and that they were places where it was easier
to put up log structures than earthen walls. Just such openings
occur in the massive stone wall around Fort Hill, in Highland
County. A few of the openings at Fort Ancient he thinks are
unquestionably of recent origin, in order to drain the holes
inside the embankments.
(73) Cincinnati Quart. Journal Science, 1874, p. 294.
(74) Peet: "The Mound Builders."
(75) Peet's "Mound Builders:" "If the reader will compare some
of these last cuts with that of the fortified camp at Cissbury,
Eng., p. 183, he will see how similar this last work is to those
just mentioned. Perhaps the real lesson to be learned is that
rude people, whether Indians, Mound Builders, or Celts, resorted
to about the same method of defense."
(76) "Antiquarian Research," p. 89.
(77) Conant's "Footprints of Vanished Races," p. 15, et
seq. Mr. Conant refers to Mr. Pidgeon's work in such a way
as to give the impression that he was convinced of the
genuineness of his account.
(78) "Traditions of Decodah," p. 89, et seq.
(79) "Antiquarian Research," p. 190.
(80) "The American Indian, so far as known, without the
exception of a single tribe, worshiped the sun." Carr's "Mounds
of the Mississippi Valley," p. 56.
(81) Conant's "Footprints of Vanished Races," p. 60.
(82) Ibid., p. 32. If the explorers are really satisfied this
was a walled town, it ought to throw some light on the
inclosures in the Ohio Valley.
(83) Conant's "Footprints of Vanished Races," p. 35.
(84) Conant's "Footprints of Vanished Races," p. 77.
(85) Vol. III, p. 290, et seq.
(86) Morgan's "Ancient Society," p. 11.
(87) "Ancient Monuments," p. 210; also Peet: "The Mound
Builders." "Their relics are marked by a peculiar finish."
(88) Rau's "Anthropological Research."
(89) "Proceedings Am. Antiq. Society," April, 1877, p. 61.
(90) "Smithsonian Contribution to Knowledge," Vol. XIII.
(91) Abbott's "Primitive Industry," p. 315.
(92) "Annual Report of Bureau of Ethnology," 1880-1, p. 123,
(93) In the "Annual Report of Bureau of Ethnology," for 1880-1,
Mr. Henshaw has very fully discussed these mound-pipes, and
shown that Messrs. Squier and Davis wore mistaken in a number of
their identifications of the animal forms. He concludes there
"are no representations of birds or animals not indigenous to
the Mississippi Valley."
(94) The recent discoveries by Putnam and Metz, in the
Altar-mounds in the Little Miami Valley, have brought to light
many interesting and important sculptures in stone and
terra-cotta, which, as works of art, are in some respects
superior to those from the Scioto Valley, but as they have not
yet been figured, we can only refer to them here in this brief
(95) "Number Eight," Mound City, near Chillicothe, Ohio.
"Ancient Monuments," p. 152.
(96) Rau: "Anthropological Subjects," p. 130.
(97) Morgan's "Ancient Society," p. 12.
(98) American Antiquarian, 1879, p. 64.
(99) McAdams: American Antiquarian, 1880, p. 140.
(100) "Smithsonian Report," 1866. We have gathered these points
for comparison from Dr. Rau's article in that report.
(101) Bella Hubbard, American Antiquarian, 1876, p. 219.
(102) Foster's "Prehistoric Races," p. 346.
END OF CHAPTER X.**************************
The Prehistoric World:
or, Vanished Races by E. A. Allen
Processed by D.R. Thompson
THE PUEBLO COUNTRY.<1>
Description of the Pueblo Country--Historical outline--
Description of Zuni--Definition of a Pueblo--Old Zuni--
Inscription Rock--Pueblo of Jemez--Historical notice of Pecos
--Description of the Moqui tribes--The Estufa--Description of the
San Juan country--Aztec Springs--In the Canyon of the McElmo--The
Ruins of the Rio Mancos--On Hovenweep Creek--Description of a
Cliff-house--Cliff Town--Cave houses--Ruins on the San Juan--
Cave Town--The Significance of Cliff-houses--Moqui traditions--
Ruins in Northern New Mexico--Ruins in the Chaco Canyon--Pueblo
Bonito--Ruins in South-western Arizona--The Rio Verde Valley--
Casa Grande--Ruins on the Gila--Culture of the Pueblo Tribes--
Their Pottery--Superiority of the Ancient pottery--Conclusion.
We have hitherto been describing people and tribes that have
completely vanished. We have peered into the mysterious past and
sought as best we could to conjure back the scenes of many years
ago. The line between the known and the unknown, between the
historic and prehistoric, is not far removed from us in the new
world. Not yet four centuries have passed since the veil was
lifted, and America, with her savage tribes of the North, and
her rude civilization of the South, was revealed to the
wondering eyes of Europe. But with a knowledge of this new land
came also wondrous stories of wealth, and in consequence an army
of adventurers were soon on her shores. Then follows a short
period of war and conquest. The Indian race could not withstand
the whites. European civilization, transplanted to America, has
thriven. But whatever advance the native tribes have made since
the discovery, has been by reason of contact with the whites.
Map of Pueblo Country.-----------
There was no single birthplace of American culture. Advance took
place wherever the climate was mild and the soil fertile, and
thus an abundant supply of food could be obtained. One such
locality was the valley of the San Juan, in what is now the
southwestern part of the United States. It is quite allowable to
suppose that here the mild climate and bountiful soil suggested
agriculture, and with a knowledge of this, rude though it was, a
beginning was made in a culture which subsequently excited the
admiration of the Spaniards. However that may be, we know this
section contains abundant ruins of former inhabitants. And yet
again we find in this same country the remnants of this former
people, doubtless living much the same sort of life as did their
forefathers. American scholars, with the best of reason, think
this section affords the best vantage ground from which to study
the question of native American culture. It presents us not only
with ruins of past greatness, but in the inhabited pueblos,
gives us a picture of primitive times, and invites us, by a
careful study of their institutions, to become acquainted with
Travelers and explorers describe the scenery of the Pueblo
country as a very peculiar one. It is bleak without being
absolutely barren. The great mountain chains form picturesque
profiles, which in a measure compensate for the lack of
vegetation. No country on the face of the globe bears such
testimony to the power of running water to wear away the
surface. The rivers commenced by wearing down great canyons.
They occur here on a grand scale. The canyon of the Colorado
River, having a length of two hundred miles, and through the
whole, nearly vertical walls of rock, three to six thousand feet
in height. Nearly all the tributary streams of the Colorado
empty into it by means of gorges nearly as profound. What is
true of the Colorado is true, though in a lesser degree of the
Rio Grande and of the Pecos, as only portions of these streams
are canyon-born. But, besides digging out these canyons, the
entire surface of the country has in places been removed to the
depth of several hundred feet, leaving large extent of
table-lands, called mesas, with generally steep, or even
precipitous, sides, standing isolated here and there.
Though thus bearing evidence of more extended rainfall, and of
the action of water in the past, it is essentially an arid
country now. Most of the minor water-courses laid down on the
map are dry half of the year, or have but scattered pools of
water; so a description of the surface of the country would tell
us of deep river valleys, in many cases narrow and running
through rocky beds, in which case we call them canyons; in other
cases very wide, but having generally precipitous sides;
the country often mountainous and great stretches of table-land,
but generally dry and desolate, except in the immediate vicinity
of rivers. The river valleys themselves are generally
Such is the country where we are to investigate native American
culture. The history of the country since its first occupation
by the Spaniards is not devoid of interest. It did not take the
Indians of Mexico long to learn that what the Spaniards most
prized was gold, and that the surest way to curry favor with
them was to relate to them exaggerated stories of wonderful
wealth to be gained in distant provinces. About 1530 the viceroy
of New Spain (Mexico) learned from an Indian slave of seven
great cities somewhere to the north; and of their wealth it was
said they had streets exclusively occupied by workers in gold
Though expeditions to the northern provinces of Mexico speedily
dispelled the illusions in regard to them, the wonderful story
of the Seven Cities flitted further north. Six years later these
stories were invested with new life by the arrival in Mexico of
Cabeza De Vaca and three companions. The story of their
remarkable wanderings reads like an extract from a work of
fiction. They were members of the unfortunate Spanish
expeditions to the coast of Florida in 1528. After the shipwreck
and final overthrow of the expedition, these four men had
wandered from somewhere on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico,
first north, and then west, passing through, probably, portions
of Texas and New Mexico, until finally they were so fortunate as
to meet with their own countrymen near Culiacan, in Mexico.
The story they had to tell fell on willing ears. They stated to
the viceroy that they had carefully observed the country through
which they had passed, and had been told of great and powerful
cities containing houses of four and five stories, with the
usual accompaniments of great wealth.
The next incident was the journey of three Franciscan friars and
a negro (who, by the way, had been with De Vaca in his
wanderings), sent out by the Governor Coronado, with orders to
return and report to him all they could learn by personal
observation of the Seven Cities. This expedition did not
accomplish much. Arriving near Cibola (the Spanish name for the
country of the Seven Cities), they sent the negro on ahead to
gain the good will of the Indians. Instead of this, he was
killed by them. On hearing which, the monks contented themselves
with gazing on the pueblo (which they describe as "more
considerable than Mexico") from a safe distance, and then
hurriedly returned to Culiacan. They gave Coronado a most
glowing account of all they had discovered.
Coronado now thought the time had come for decisive action.
Accordingly, with the viceroy's permission, he organized his
forces, and in 1540 set out on his memorable march in search of
the Seven Cities of Cibola. We do not propose to give in detail
the series of conquests beginning with this expedition and
finally ending with the subjection of New Mexico in 1598. It is
needless to say that the Spanish forces found no cities teeming
with wealth. What they did find was a country much the same as
at present. The cities were the communal houses, or combination
of houses, known as pueblos. The pueblo of Zuni is the remaining
one of the mystical seven. The ruins of at least six other
pueblos are known to be in the immediate vicinity.<2>
This historical account, short and imperfect as it is,
introduces us to a most interesting people. If we would know
more of them we can not do better than to adopt the advice of
Hosta, ex governor of Jemez, to Dr. Loew: "If you wish to see
what a great people we once were you must go upon the mesas and
into the canyons of the vicinity, where ruins of our forefathers
One of the most important pueblos yet remaining inhabited, and
one of the first that Coronado encountered in his expedition, is
Zuni. The present pueblo is considered as the remaining one of
the Seven Cities--at least, by the majority of Americanists.
Whipple describes Zuni as follows: "Treading an opening between
rocky bluffs, ... we entered the valley, several miles in width,
which leads to Zuni. The soil seemed light, but where cultivated
it produced fine crops without the aid of irrigation. ...
Within the valley appeared occasional towers, where herders and,
laborers watch to prevent a surprise from Apaches. Near the
center of this apparent plain stood, upon an eminence, the
compact city of Zuni.<3> By its side flowed the river which
bears the same name. It is now but a rivulet of humble
dimensions, though sometimes said to be a large stream. ...
Passing beneath an arch, we entered a court, ... entirely
surrounded by houses of several receding stories, which were
attained by means of ladders loading from one to another. ...
From the top the pueblo reminds one of an immense ant-hill, from
its similar form and dense population. ... Going down from its
outer side into the street, we encounter five stories
In order to prevent confusion, we will state that a pueblo,
which is the Spanish name for these old Indian towns, may be one
of several different types. A common form of village consists of
but one or two, seldom three, large buildings, so arranged as to
surround an interior court. Sometimes there is but one large
building, which is nearly in the shape of a half circle;
instead of being really circular, it has a number of different
sides. In some cases a village consists of a number of these
large houses irregularly arranged. But the tendency is always to
inclose a square.<5>
In the modern villages the buildings forming the square do not
meet, but in some cases are connected by bridges or covered
gangways, and in some instances the houses project over the
streets below, which, being narrow, are thus given an
Illustration of Ground Plan and End View.------------
The buildings, or communal houses, for one house contained
sometimes five hundred rooms, are generally from three to four
hundred feet long and about one hundred and fifty feet in width
at the base. The lower story is divided by cross-walls into a
mass of cell-like rooms, as shown in the illustrations which
represents the ground plan of a pueblo having four ranges of
rooms. Each story in height has one less range of rooms, so
that, looking directly at the end of this building, it would
present the appearance shown by this cut: The only means of
getting from one terrace to the other is by the aid of ladders.
In some cases these terraces run from both sides of the
building; in others they face the inclosed space; and in others
still they face outside. Most of the inhabited pueblos are built
of adobe--that is, sun-dried bricks. The majority of the ancient
ruins were built of stone set in adobe mortar. With this
digression, we will now return to Zuni.
Illustration of Old Zuni.------------
Ruins testifying to the former greatness of these people are
scattered around them. Three miles to the east of the present
pueblo of Zuni, on the bluff seen in the cut, are the ruins of a
larger pueblo, which is called Old Zuni. Mr. Whipple, who
explored this field of ruins, thus describes his visit:
"The projecting summit of the cliffs seemed inaccessible. ...
We followed a trail which, with great labor, had been hammered
out from seam to seam of the rocks along the side of the
precipice. At various points of the ascent, where a projecting
rock permitted, were barricades of stone walls, from which the
old man<7> told us they had hurled rocks upon the invading
Spaniards. Having ascended one thousand feet, we found ourselves
upon a level surface, covered with thick cedars. ... The top of
the mesa was of an irregular figure, a mile in width, bounded
upon all sides by perpendicular bluffs. ... The guide hurried us
on half a mile further, where appeared the ruins of a city,
indeed. Crumbling walls, from two to twelve feet in height, were
crowded together in confused heaps, over several acres of
ground. ... Upon examining the pueblo, we found the standing
walls rested upon ruins of greater antiquity.<8> The primitive
masonry, as well as we could judge, must have been about six
feet thick. The more recent was not more than a foot or a foot
and a half, but the small sandstone blocks had been laid in mud
mortar with considerable care."<9>
The descriptions of ruins have so much that is similar that
repetitions become tiresome. We will not, therefore, delay much
longer with Zuni. A few miles east of Old Zuni we come to
Pescado Springs, near which are the ruins of several pueblos.
"This spring bursts from a broken point of the lava bed, and at
once becomes a pretty stream, glittering with great numbers of
the finny tribe, which gives name to it. The circular wall which
once inclosed the fountainhead is now partly broken down.
Upon each side, and almost tangent, are ruins of pueblos so
ancient that the traditions of present races do not reach them.
They are nearly circular in form, and of equal dimension.
One measured three hundred and fifteen short paces, about eight
hundred feet, in circumference. They were of stone; but the
walls have crumbled, leaving only a heap of rubbish."<10>
Following up this stream, other ruins were found. It seems,
then, that in the pueblo of Zuni we have left a pitiful remnant
of a numerous people. When the Spaniards first appeared on the
scene they were apparently prosperous. The rapid decrease of the
Pueblo tribes was owing to several causes. In 1680 they made an
attempt to throw off the Spanish yoke. At first this was
successful. But inter-tribal warfare at once set in. At this
time also the inroads of the Apaches and Navajos became so
troublesome that the Pueblo tribes could not successfully
cultivate their land. At this time also a succession of dry
years set in, and famine was the result. Their customs and
manners we will describe in another place. There are many
reasons for supposing that the country had been inhabited for a
very long period, even before the Spaniards invaded it.
Some places must have been even then in ruins, or, if inhabited,
it is very strange that the Spanish records do not mention them.
Such, for instance, is Inscription Rock, about fifteen miles
east of Old Zuni, which the Spaniards must have passed when on
their way back and forth to Zuni.
Illustration of Inscription Rock.----------
The small mesa here ends with a bold front of white sandstone
rock, rising almost vertically two hundred and fifty feet high.
This cut gives us a view on the top of the table-rock. We see
here the foundations of two old buildings. A deep ravine nearly
divides this little plateau into two portions. As we have said,
this rises with a bold, precipitous front from the plain. At one
place this front is completely covered with inscriptions.
Here the Indians, unknown years ago, made their strange
hieroglyphics which, presenting to our eyes only a senseless
combination of forms of animals and men and meaningless figures,
may have conveyed to them knowledge of important events. A great
many Spanish inscriptions have also been carved on the rock.
Whipple calls attention to the fact that though Spanish
inscriptions placed there nearly two hundred years ago, seem but
slightly affected by atmospheric action, still some of the
Indian hieroglyphics are "almost wiped out by the fingers of
time." A number of centuries have probably rolled away since
they were inscribed.
It may be interesting to know the reading of some of these old
inscriptions. A translation of one of the earliest and longest
is here given, with the exception of a few words which could not
be made out: "Bartolome Narrso, Governor and Captain-general of
the province of New Mexico, for our lord, the king, passed by
this place on his return from the pueblo of Zuni, on the 29th of
July, of the year 1620, and put them in peace, at their
petition, asking the favor to become subjects of his majesty,
and anew they gave obedience; all of which they did with free
consent, knowing it prudent as well as very Christian, ... to so
distinguished and gallant a soldier, indomitable and famed;
we love ..."<11>
It is somewhat strange to meet thus in the interior of the
United States with the record of a military expedition some
months before the Puritans landed at Plymouth. There seems to be
nothing especial to describe about the ruins. Both Simpson and
Whipple notice that the masonry seems to be unusually good.
As it must have been very difficult to procure water, the
location must have been chosen solely for the protection it
afforded. The early Spanish accounts contain the names of one
hundred and twenty-six pueblos. Some are, however, mentioned two
or three times. Mr. Bandelier has succeeded in identifying every
one. The Rio Puerco Valley was never a very prosperous one, and
the river is scarcely a permanent one. At present a few ruins at
Poblazon, for instance, are to be seen, and the valley looks
poor and barren.
The valley of the Rio Grande River was occupied by a number of
Pueblo tribes, and there are at present eight inhabited pueblos
along this river, in New Mexico, and one in Texas. The region
around Bernalillo was a prosperous section. At intervals, up and
down the river, and along its tributaries, we can still trace
low crumbling ruins, evidence of an old pueblo. If the
statements of the Spanish writers are to be believed, the number
of inhabited towns, at the time of the conquest, was at least
ten times that now existing. The population could never have
exceeded forty thousand. At present it contains about nine
thousand. Still making all allowance for Spanish exaggeration,
we are convinced that it was a thickly populated country at the
time of the conquest.
One of the most interesting pueblos in New Mexico is Jemez, on a
river of that name, sixty miles west of Santa Fe. We speak of it
here because it is the center of a most interesting group of
ruins. Like the pueblo of Zuni, it is a remnant only of a
prosperous people. The reports of Coronado's expedition
frequently mention Jemez, though it may he doubtful whether they
refer to the pueblo of that name now, or to one of the numerous
ruined ones in the immediate vicinity. Jemez is a prosperous
pueblo, having fine fields, large irrigating ditches, and
extensive flocks of sheep.
Simpson describes it in 1849 as follows: "The pueblo of Jemez is
an Indian town of between four and five hundred inhabitants, ...
and is built upon two or three parallel streets, the houses
being of adobe construction, and having second stories disposed
retreatingly upon the first, to which access is had by means of
ladders. ... About the premises are probably a dozen acres
covered with apricot and peach trees. ... The Rio de Jemez, upon
which the pave lies, is an affluent of the Rio Grande, varies
from thirty to fifty feet in breadth, is of a rapid current. ...
Patches of good corn and wheat skirt it here and there along its
banks, and the extent of cultivable land bordering it may be
estimated at about a mile in breadth."
We are more interested, however, in ruins testifying to past
greatness. "Six miles up the river you come to the union of two
canyons--the Guadalupe and San Diego. Where the mesa between
these canyons narrows itself to a point, are the ruins of two
pueblos, one upon the lower prominence of the mesa, the other
upon the mesa proper, and only approachable by two narrow, steep
trails, the mesa everywhere else being nearly perpendicular, and
seven hundred and fifty feet high. The view from the mesa is
picturesque and imposing in the extreme. Far beneath, to the
right and left, a stream makes its way between the colossal
walls of the sandstone upon the narrow width of the mesa;
near frightful precipices are the ruins of a town of eighty
houses, partly in parallel rows, partly in squares, and partly
perched between overhanging rocks, the rim and surfaces of which
formed the walls of rooms, the gaps and interstices being filled
"Nearly every house had one story and two rooms. The building
material was trachytic rock as found upon the mesa.
Broken pottery, charred corn, and millstones for grinding corn,
were found in some of the rooms. The roofs had all fallen in,
and so also had many of the side walls, in the construction of
which wood was but little used. Pinon trees have taken root
within many of the former rooms. Upon asking my Indian guide
whether the former inhabitants of this town were obliged to
descend the steep and dangerous pathway every day to the creek
to procure water, he replied there were cisterns upon the mesa,
in which rain, formerly plentiful, was caught. He then called my
attention to some conical heaps of stones along the rim of the
precipice which was the material for defense."<12>
This description introduces us to another class of ruins--that
is, detached separate houses, different from the great communal
structures we have already described. What connection exists
between these two forms of houses will be studied in another
place. As a rule, the rooms in the detached houses are larger
than in the communal houses. Exceptions occur in some of the
inhabited pueblos.<13> This is only one of many towns in ruins
thereabouts. According to Dr. Loew there are no less than
twenty-five or thirty.
It is not our purpose to describe any more of the pueblos of
this section of New Mexico than is required to enable us to
understand the customs, manners, and habits of the Pueblo
tribes. We learn that in New Mexico we are brought face to face
with feeble remnants of former tribes, and that these were
probably in their most flourishing condition when the Spaniards
first invaded the country, and though in a few instances the
ruins imply a great antiquity, as at Inscription Rock, still we
may be reasonably sure that the majority of them date but a few
centuries back. The ruins of Catholic churches established by
the Franciscan monks in the sixteenth century occur in several
places, five being found around Jemez.
The story of the decline of the Pueblo tribes may be illustrated
by the history of Pecos. This pueblo was situated on the Rio
Pecos, about twenty-five miles south-east of Santa Fe. With the
exception of the present inhabited town of Taos, it was the most
eastern point reached by the pueblo building tribes.
This, though a very large pueblo, has nothing especial to
attract attention, except that the entire mesa was inclosed by a
stone wall about six feet and a half high, and twenty inches
thick, having a total length of three thousand, two hundred and
twenty feet.<14> Its history is, however, interesting and
instructive. Coronado, with his army, visited Pecos before he
abandoned the country in 1543. His reports mention it as a
prosperous pueblo. Several raids were made into New Mexico by
Spanish parties, but the conquest proper occurred in 1598, when
the Pecos pledged fidelity to the crown of Spain.
The Catholic Church at once set about establishing missions at
various pueblos. The Pecos Church was established in 1629,
though missionary work had been done here before that time.
One of the priests who accompanied Coronado remained behind at
Pecos. He was never afterwards heard from. This church became
one of the most renowned in New Mexico. The inhabitants became
herders as well as agriculturists. It was prosperous. In 1680
the Pueblo of Pecos sheltered two thousand Indians. "But a storm
was brewing from whose effects the Pueblo tribes never
recovered." In 1680 the Indians rose against the Spanish and
drove them from New Mexico. The priests were murdered, the
churches were sacked. From this time doubtless date the ruins of
the churches seen around Jemez. At Pecos and many other places
intertribal warfare set in. Bloody battles were fought.
Neither were the Spaniards idle. In 1682 one expedition was
made, and at least two pueblo towns were destroyed by them.
In 1689 the entire country was reconquered. Some tribes were
nearly exterminated, and all more or less weakened and a great
many ruins date from that time. It was the beginning of a
decline for the Pueblo tribes, and this decline was hastened by
intertribal warfare, by drought, and by ravages from wild
Indians. As to the drought, it is sufficient to state that some
ruins are now fifteen, and even twenty, miles from permanent
water. The Comanches were the scourge of the Pecos. On one
occasion they slaughtered all the young men but one. This was a
blow from which they never recovered. Finally reduced by
sickness to but five adults, the Pecos sold their lands and, at
the invitation of their brethren at Jemez, went to live with
them, and the pueblo of Pecos speedily became the ruins we now
No doubt a similar history could be written of many other ruins.
"Our people," said Hosta, "were a warlike race, and had many
fights, not only with the Spaniards, but also with other Indian
tribes the Navajos and Taos, for instance and were thus reduced
to this pueblo of Jemez, which now forms the last remnant."
New Mexico is now becoming rapidly "Americanized," and it will
soon be brought to a test whether the Pueblo tribes can
withstand this new influence and retain their peculiar
civilization, or whether, like many other races, their life
force is nearly spent, in which case they will live only
We must not overlook the Moki Pueblos in Arizona. They are
situated one hundred miles northwest of Zuni. The Spaniards
discovered them, and called their province Tusayan. They are
much like the Pueblo tribes of New Mexico, only they have been
much less disturbed by outside influence. There are a number of
ruined towns in this vicinity. We wish to refer to them because
of their intimate connection with the ruins to the North.
Their houses are built of stone on precipitous mesas.
Illustration of Wolpi. (Maj Powell)------------
Lieut. Ives, who visited them in 1858, has left quite a full
description of them. He states that "each pueblo is built around
a rectangular court, in which, we suppose, are the springs that
furnished the supply to the reservoirs. The exterior walls,
which are of stone, have no openings, and would have to be
scaled or battered down before access could be gained to the
interior. The successive stories are set back, one behind the
other. The lower rooms are reached through trap-doors from the
first landing. The houses are three rooms deep, and open upon
the interior court."<16> He was much pleased with the manner in
which they had terraced off the bluff of the mesas into little
garden patches, irrigating them from the large reservoirs from
There is one feature common to all the Pueblo tribes which is
necessary to refer to here, from its connection with the ruined
structures further north. In all of the inhabited pueblos there
is a structure known as an Estafa, some pueblos having several.
They are usually circular, but occasionally (as at Jemez)
rectangular. They are generally subterranean, or mostly so.
They are great institutions among the Pueblos. "In these
subterranean temples the old men met in secret council, or
assembled in worship of their gods. Here are held dances,
festivities, and social intercourse."
Another common feature, represented in this cut, is the
watch-tower. It is either round, as in this case, or
rectangular. It may be interesting to recall in this connection
the signal mounds of the Mound Builders. They were not always in
the immediate vicinity of other ruins. Neither can we state that
there was a system in their arrangement, one answering to
another at a distance, and yet it was noticed where the rains
were numerous that several were in view from one point.<17>
In dimensions these towers range from ten to fifteen feet in
diameter, and from five to fifteen feet in height, while the
walls are from one to two feet thick. They are in many cases
connected with structures rectangular in form.
Illustration of Watch Tower.-----------
We will now leave the inhabited pueblos and the ruins in their
immediate vicinity and, going to the north, explore a section of
country that shows every evidence of having sustained a
considerable population some time in the past. To understand
this fact clearly, it will be necessary to fix the location of
the places named by means of the map. From time to time confused
reports of the wonders to be seen in the San Juan section of
Colorado had appeared in the East, but the first clear and
satisfactory account is contained in the reports of Messrs.
Jackson and Holmes, members of the U.S. Geographical and
Geological survey of the territories under Dr. Hayden for 1874
In the south-western portion of Colorado is a range of mountains
known as the San Juan. Stretching from their base west to the
Sierras is a great plateau region, drained by the numerous
tributaries of the San Juan River. It would, perhaps, be more in
keeping with the facts of the case to say "had been drained some
time in the past," for this is now such an arid, semi-desert
country that the majority of the streams are dry, or have but
scattered pools of water in them, during a large portion of the
year; and yet, at times, great volumes of water go sweeping
through them. This whole plateau is cut up with long, canyoned
valleys, presenting, in effect, the same surface features that
we have already described in New Mexico. Yet this precipitous,
canyon-marked section of country is literally filled with the
crumbling ruins of a former people. The situation in which they
occur is in many cases very singular, and the whole subject is
invested with great interest to us, because we see in them the
remains of a people evidently the same as the Pueblo
One of the most extensive ruins in this section is situated at
Aztec Springs. This, it will be seen, is about midway between
the Rio Mancos and the McElmo. Mr. Holmes found the site of the
spring, but it contained no water. He was told, however, by
those familiar with the locality that there had been a living
spring there up to within a few years. It was evidently a place
of considerable importance once. Mr. Holmes describes the ruins
as forming the most imposing pile of masonry found in Colorado.
They cover an area of over ten acres. This includes only the
ruins around the springs. But all about this central portion are
scattered and grouped the remnants of smaller structures.
So that nearly a square mile is covered with the ruins of this
ancient pueblo. Most of the stone used was brought from the Mesa
Verde (Green Plateau), a mile away, and must have been a great
work for a people so totally without facilities.
Illustration of Ruins at Aztec Springs.----------
It will be seen that immediately to the right of the Springs is
a large rectangular ruin in better preservation than the rest.
This now "forms a great mound of crumbling rock from twelve to
twenty feet in height, overgrown with artemisia, but showing
clearly, however, its rectangular structure, adjusted
approximately to the four points of the compass." This house,
from its massive walls, must have had an original height of at
least forty feet. "The walls seem to have been doubled, with a
space of seven feet between; a number of cross-walls at regular
intervals indicate that this space has been divided into
apartments, as seen in the plan." Two low lines of rubbish cross
the square, probably partition walls.
Surrounding this house is a net-work of fallen walls, so
completely reduced that none of the stones seem to remain in
place. Mr. Holmes was at a loss to know whether to call them a
cluster of irregular apartments, having low, loosely built
walls, or whether they are the remains of imposing pueblos.
In the group of ruins to the left of the spring are two
well-defined circular estufas. Below the main mass of ruins,
connected by low walls of ruins, is another great square, nearly
two hundred feet in dimensions. One wall seems to have consisted
of a row of apartments; the other walls served to simply inclose
the square, near the center of which was another large estufa.
Several important conclusions can be drawn from a study of this
locality. The spring, now dry, was once evidently the source of
a considerable stream. Whether the group of low ruins were
collections of small houses, or remains of imposing pueblos, we
need not doubt that the walls of the square inclosures were
composed of pueblo houses. The estufas were probably in all
respects similar to those of the present inhabited pueblos.
The country around, now so dry and barren, must once have
supported considerable population. As to the period of
abandonment, we have nothing to guide us. Being an agricultural
settlement, it was probably abandoned at an earlier date than
the cave-dwellings and cliff-houses of the canyons of the
vicinity. The reason for this will appear subsequently. The site
of this ruin, as well as for a long distance around, is covered
with pieces of broken pottery. We notice that the spring has
only lately gone dry. This illustrates the changes now taking
place all through the country. It is drying up, and this process
has been in operation for a long while.
Illustration of Ruins in the McElmo Canyon.-------
Many groups of ruins are now in localities where the people
could not hope for subsistence. About six miles to the north of
these ruins, about a mile from the McElmo, is the group of ruins
here represented, which may throw some light on the remains at
Aztec Springs. The principal feature is the triple walled tower,
of which a plan is given. The tower has a diameter of about
forty-three feet, and a circumference of about one hundred and
thirty-five feet. The walls are traceable nearly all the way
around, and the space between the two outer ones, which is about
five feet, contains fourteen apartments or cells. The walls
about one of these cells were still standing at the time of Mr.
Holmes's visit, but the cell was filled with rubbish from the
fallen walls. A door-way, opening into this apartment, could
still be seen. The inner wall was probably never very high.
It simply inclosed the estufa.
The ruins surrounding this tower consist of low, fallen walls,
scarcely traceable. The apartments number nearly one hundred,
and were generally rectangular. They are not of a uniform size,
and were certainly not arranged in regular order. Now, as Mr.
Holmes observes, it would certainly seem that, if they are the
ruins of such structures as the pueblos of the south, there
would be some regularity of size, and some systematic
arrangement. He says that, in reality, they are more like a
cluster of pens, such as are used by the Moqui tribes for
keeping sheep and goats.
Since these surveys were made, Mr. Bandelier, as agent for the
Archaeological Institute, has made important researches.
He finds that the small, detached houses, such as we described
in the ruined village near Jemez, are found in Arizona, with a
small court-yard or inclosure attached to them. If we understand
the description of the ruins just mentioned, and those at Apache
Springs, they are villages of these small houses and their
inclosures. In such villages the inclosures meet each other, so
as to form a checker-board of irregularly alternating houses and
courts. The houses are easily discernible from the fact of
little rubbish mounds having accumulated where they stood.
Around these parts of the wall can still be traced.
This combination makes a strong, easily defended position.
Each of such villages contains one or more open spaces of large
size, but they are irregularly located.
We must notice one point more: Each village of this nature, that
was of any size, contained a larger ruin in the center. This was
noticed in the ruins at Aztec Springs. This larger building was
in the nature of a citadel, and there the inhabitants could
retire when the approaches were carried by the enemy.
This central building ultimately swallowed up all the others,
and so developed into the pueblo structures we have noticed.
The little walled inclosures surrounding the houses were largely
in the nature of defenses. Tradition asserts that in many cases
they were garden plats, and appearances sometimes confirm this.
"They may also have been the yard proper for each family, in
which the latter slept, cooked--in fact, lived--during the heat
of the Summer months."<18>
Referring once more to the ruins near the McElmo, we are told
that every isolated rock and bit of mesa within a circle of
miles of this place is strewn with remnants of ancient
dwellings. We presume these were small, separate houses.
They may have been outlying settlements of the tribe whose main
village was at Aztec Springs. We must also notice the small
tower in the corner. This was a watch tower. It was fifteen feet
in diameter, walls three and a half feet thick, and in 1876 was
still five feet high, It overlooked the surrounding country.
The rainfall in the past must have been more abundant, to
support the population we are justified in thinking once lived
there. The nearest water is now a mile away, and during the dry
season some fifteen miles to the north, in the Rio Dolores, and
yet we have every reason to believe these old inhabitants were
very saving of water. They built cisterns and reservoirs to
store it up against the time of need.
Illustration of Tower on the Rio Mancos.-----------
We give a cut of the tower of the ruins of a similar village, or
settlement, to the one just described, which occurs twenty miles
to the southeast in the canyon of the Rio Mancos. Being so
similar, we will mention it here. In this case the tower had
only two walls. Mr. Holmes says the diameter of the outer wall
is forty-three feet, that of the inner twenty-five feet.
The space between the two circles is divided by cross-walls into
ten apartments. This tower is placed also in the midst of a
group of more dimly marked ruins or foundations, extending some
distance in each direction from it. Mr. Holmes, however, states
that there are no ruins of importance in connection with this
tower, but that there are a number of ruins in the immediate
vicinity. In this case, then, the citadel (if such it was) was
not directly connected with other ruins.
The Rio Mancos, that we have just mentioned, was a favorite
place of resort for these old people. This stream, rising in
the La Platte Mountains, flows through beautiful valleys to a
great table-land known as the Mesa Verde. Mr. Jackson explored
this valley in 1874, and he reports as follows: "Commencing our
observation in the park-like valley of the Mancos, between the
mesa and the mountains, we find that the low benches which
border the stream upon either side bear faint vestiges of having
at some far away time been covered with dwellings, grouped in
communities apparently, but so indistinct as to present to the
eye little more than unintelligible mounds. By a little careful
investigation, however, the foundation of great square blocks of
single buildings and of circular inclosures can be made out, the
latter generally of a depressed center, showing an excavation
for some purpose."
From this description we can not quite make out whether these
ruins are great communal buildings, like the modern pueblo, or
clusters of separate houses. We incline to the latter opinion,
however. The circular depressed area was doubtless used as an
Estufa, the place of religious meetings for men alone.
"The greater portion of these mounds are now overgrown with
artemisia, pinion-pine, and cedar, concealing them almost
entirely from casual observation." "We found the surest
indication of their proximity in the great quantity of broken
pottery which covered the ground in their neighborhood. The same
curiously indented, painted, and glazed ware, was found
throughout New Mexico and Arizona. It was all broken into very
small pieces, none that we could find being larger than a silver
dollar." Specimens of this pottery will be figured in its
"Nowhere among these open plane habitations could we discover
any vestige of stone-work, either in building material or
implements. It is very evident that the houses were all of
adobe, the mound-like character of the remains justifying that
belief." In this last respect we note a difference between these
remains and those already described. The mesa verde is one of
those elevated plateaus we have so often described. Through this
the Mancos has cut a canyon nearly thirty miles in length, and
from one to two thousand feet deep. The description we have
already given is of the valley of the river before coming to
Entering the canyon, Mr. Jackson continues: "Grouped along in
clusters, and singly, were indications of former habitations,
very nearly obliterated, and consisting mostly, in the first
four or five miles, of the same mound-like forms noticed above,
and accompanied always by the scattered, broken pottery.
Among them we find one building of squared and carefully laid
sandstone, one face only exposed of three or four courses, above
the mass of debris which covered every thing.
This building lay within a few yards of the banks of the stream,
was apparently about ten feet by eight, the usual size, as near
as we could determine, of nearly all the separate rooms or
houses in the larger blocks, none larger, and many not more than
five feet square. The stones exposed are each about seven by
twelve inches square, and four inches thick, those in their
original position retaining correct angles, but, when thrown
down, worn away by attrition to shapeless bowlders."
"As we progressed down the canyon the same general
characteristics held good. The great majority of the ruins
consisting of heaps of debris a central mass considerably
higher and more massive than the surrounding lines of
sub-divided squares. Small buildings, not more than eight feet
square, were often found standing alone apparently, no trace of
any other being detected in their immediate neighborhood."
We would call especial attention in this description to the
character of the ruins, the central, higher mass surrounded by
other ruins; also to the houses found occasionally standing
alone. We notice they are of the same general character as the
ruins at Aztec Springs.
We are finding abundant evidence that this section was once
thickly settled. Going back to the triple-walled tower on the
McElmo, Mr. Jackson says of the immediate vicinity: "On the
mesa is group after group upon the same general plan, a great
central tower and smaller surrounding buildings. They cover the
whole breadth and length of the land, and, turn which way we
would, we stumbled over the old mound and into the cellars, as
we might call them, of these truly aborigines." We believe,
however, that no excavation for cellar purposes are found in the
entire region covered by these ancient ruins.
"Starting down the canyon (the McElmo), which gradually deepened
as the table-land rose above us, we found upon either hand very
old and faint vestiges of the homes of a forgotten people, but
could give them no more attention than merely noting
Mr. Morgan has shown the existence of regular large houses in
the valley of Aminas River, east of the Mancos;<19> and he also
speaks of the ruins at the commencement of McElmo Canyon as being
large communal buildings. We should judge from Mr. Jackson's
report just given that these ruins were rather small clusters of
houses of the same design as the ruins at Apache Springs.
Near the Utah boundary line we notice the Hovenweep Creek
joining the McElmo from the north. The mesa, narrowing to a
point where the two canyons meet, is covered with ruins much like
what we have described already. The Hovenweep is appropriately
named, meaning "deserted valley."
Illustration of Ruins in the Hovenweep Canyon.--------
Further west still is the Montezuma Valley. Mr. Jackson's party
found the ruins so numerous as to excite surprise at the numbers
this narrow valley must have supported. He says, "We camped at
the intersection of a large canyon coming in from the west. ...
At this point the bottoms widen out to from two to three
hundred yards in width, and are literally covered with ruins,
evidently those of an extensive settlement or community,
although at the present time water was so scarce (there not
being a drop within a radius of six miles) that we were
compelled to make a dry camp. The ruins consist evidently of
great solid mounds of rock debris, piled up in
rectangular masses, covered with earth and a brush growth,
bearing every indication of extreme age--just how old is about
as impossible to tell as to say how old the rocks of this canyon
are. This group is a mile in length, in the middle of the valley
space, and upon both sides of the wash. Each separate building
would cover a space, generally, of one hundred feet square; they
are seldom subdivided into more than two or four apartments.
Relics were abundant, broken pottery and arrow-points being
especially plenty. At one place, where the wash held partially
undermined the foundation of ore of the large buildings, it
exposed a wall of regularly laid masonry, extending down six
feet beneath the superincumbent rubbish to the old floor-level,
covered with ashes and the remains of half-charred sticks
Lower down, the valley was noted for little projecting tongues
of rock extending out into the canyon, sometimes connected with
the main walls of the canyon by narrow ledges of rock, and in
cases even this had disappeared, leaving detached masses of rock
standing quite alone. "Within a distance of fifteen miles there
are some sixteen or eighteen of these promontories and isolated
mesas of different height, every one of them covered with ruins
of old and massive stone-built structures."
We have been somewhat full in our description of these ruins,
yet their importance justifies this course. So far we see but
very little to remind us of the pueblo towns. On the other hand,
the buildings seem to be often single houses, or a few houses
grouped together. In some locations they were built of stone, in
others of adobe. It is to be observed, however, that the houses
are very small--not larger than the rooms in the modern pueblos.
We evidently have here quiet scenes of agricultural life.
They of course had enemies, and guarded against their attacks by
the watch-towers, of which an example is given in the McElmo
ruins. The country must have been better watered than now, the
soil productive the seasons kind; and who can tell how long
these agricultural tribes held the land? Under these conditions,
time must have been rapidly bringing them civilization. But we
must now turn to a sorrowful chapter in their history, and trace
the dispersion of these tribes, their unavailing attempts to
hold their own against a savage foe, and the desperate chances
they took before leaving the land of their fathers.
This brings us to a consideration of cliff-houses--that is,
houses so placed that manifestly the only reason the people
would have for putting them where found would be of a defensive
nature; and, for a similar reason, we may be very sure they are
of a later date than the majority of the ruins in the valley or
in the canyons. People would never have settled in the valley in
the first place if they had felt the necessity of seeking
inaccessible places in which to build shelters as a resort in
time of need. We can not do better than to refer once more to
Mr. Jackson's exploration in the valley of the Rio Mancos.
We have already referred to it in reference to the larger ruins.
Illustration of Two-storied House in the Mancos Canyon.----
This cut gives us a general view of the first cliff-house
discovered in this valley. This was far up on the cliff.
Mr. Jackson says, "We had no field-glass with the party, and to
this fact is probably due the reason we had not seen others
during the day in this same line, for there is no doubt that
ruins exist throughout the entire length of the canyon, far above
and out of the way of ordinary observation." Subsequently Mr.
Holmes proved this supposition to be true. The sides of this
canyon have nearly all their ledges occupied by these houses.
Every advantage was taken, both natural and artificial, to
conceal them from view. "Cedars and pines grew thickly along the
ledges upon which they are built, hiding completely any thing
behind them. All that we did find were built of the same
materials as the cliffs themselves with but few, and then only
the smallest, appertures toward the canyon, the surface being
dressed very smooth, and showing no lines of masonry. It was
only on the very closest inspection that the houses could be
separated from the cliff."
Illustration of View of Cliff in which the House is Situated.--
To illustrate the singular position in which this house was
located, we introduce this cut. It is seven hundred feet above
the valley. "Whether viewed from below or from the heights
above, the effect is almost startling, and one can not but feel
that no ordinary circumstances could have driven a people to
such places of resort." As showing the difficulty an enemy
would have to approach such a house, we give Mr. Jackson's
account of his climb to it:
"The first five hundred feet of ascent were over a long, steep
slope of debris, overgrown with cedar, then came
alternately perpendiculars and slopes. Immediately below the
house was a nearly perpendicular ascent of one hundred feet,
that puzzled us for a while, and which we were only able to
surmount by finding cracks and crevices into which fingers and
toes could be inserted. From the little ledges occasionally
found, and by stepping upon each other's shoulders, and grasping
tufts of yucca, one would draw himself up to another shelf, and
then, by letting down a stick of cedar or a hand, would assist
"Soon we reached a slope, smooth and steep, in which there had
been cut a series of steps, now weathered away into a series of
undulating hummocks, by which it was easy to ascend, and without
them almost an impossibility. Another short, steep slope, and we
were under the ledge on which stood our house." By referring to
the first cut, we see that the house stands on a very narrow
ledge, and that the rocks overhang it so as to furnish a roof.
It will also be noticed that the ledge is rounding, so that the
outer walls of the house rise from an incline. Piers, or
abutments, had also been built along the ledge, so as to form an
Illustration of Plan of the House.-------------
The house itself was only about twelve feet high, but this had
been divided into two stories. Whether it ever had any other
roof than the overhanging walls of rock is doubtful. The plan is
shown in the preceding cut. The curved apartment at the right is
a reservoir, capable of holding about five barrels. A series of
pegs were inserted in the wall, so as to form a means of descent
from a window to the bottom. A number of doorways are seen in
the plan; a cut of one is presented in this figure.
Illustration of Doorway of the House.----------------
We are, however, warned that the artist has represented the
stonework a little too regularly. The support for the top of the
doorway is not clearly shown; a number of small beams of wood
were laid across, on these the stones. This cut gives us a view
of the front room. Looking in from the end window, we can see
where the second story commenced. The doorway we have been
describing was not a very handy mode of entrance. Its builders,
however, did the best they could in their limited space.
The house displays perseverance, ingenuity, and taste. It was
plastered, both within and without, so as to resemble the walls
of the canyon, but an ornamental border was added to the
plastering of the interior rooms.
Illustration of Room of the House.--------
This cliff house could only have been used as a place of refuge
in a time of need. We must observe the care with which it was
hidden away. The walls were plastered on the outside, so as to
resemble the canyon-walls. Then we must notice what a secure
place of retreat it afforded the people. No invading party could
hope to storm this castle as long as there was any one to defend
it. This house, with its four small rooms, could give shelter to
quite a band of Indians. Then, besides, it was not alone.
Ruins of half a dozen smaller houses were found near by.
Some had been crushed by the overhanging walls falling upon
them, and others had lost their foothold and tumbled down
It needs but a glance to satisfy any one that only dire
necessity would have driven a people to such resorts. When we
consider how much labor it must have required to convey the
materials to the almost inaccessible place, the many
inconveniences the people must have been put to when they were
occupied, we may imagine how the people clung to their old home.
It is altogether likely that such resorts would be only used now
and then. During seasons of war and invasion probably the women
and old the men, with the little ones, went thither
Mr. Holmes calls attention to one point bearing on the antiquity
of this ruin. The buttresses, which probably support a
balustrade, noticed in the figure on the house, were built on
the sloping surface of the rock. It would take but very little
weathering of the rocks to throw them to the bottom of the
canyon; and, furthermore, the rock is a rough sandstone, and
hence easily crumbles; and it is not well protected by the
overhanging cliff; but no perceptible change has taken place
since the buttresses were first built. The thickness of a sheet
of paper has hardly been washed from the surface, and the
mortar, almost as hard as the rock itself, lies upon it as if
placed there within a dozen years. This structure is, evidently,
not as old as the low mounds of crumbling ruins we have
heretofore described. It is more than probable that such
retreats as this were not provided until near the close of their
stay in the country.
A ruin further down the canyon, described by Mr. Holmes, is of
great interest, as it shows how necessary the people considered
it to be to construct an estufa. It will be observed that there
are two houses. So nicely are these hidden away that Mr. Holmes
had almost completed a sketch of the upper house before he
noticed the lower one. They are both overhung by the rocks above
so as to be protected from the weather. The upper house can only
he approached by means of steps cut in the rock. It appears to
be in an unfinished state, and, when we consider the great labor
required for its construction, we can not wonder that they grew
tired before its completion.
The lower house is some eight hundred feet above the bottom of
the canyon, but is comparatively easy of approach.
The interesting feature about it is the estufa. It was situated
near the center of the main portion of the house. The entrance
to this chamber shows the peculiar importance attached to it by
the builders. Mr. Holmes says: "A walled and covered passage-way
of solid masonry, ten feet of which is still intact, leads from
an outer chamber through the small intervening apartments into
the circular one. It is possible that this originally extended
to the outer wall, and was entered from the outside. If so, the
person desiring to visit the estufa would have to enter the
aperture about twenty-two inches high by thirty wide, and crawl,
in the the most abject manner possible, through a tube-like
passage-way nearly twenty feet in length."
"My first impression was that this peculiarly constructed way
was a precaution against enemies, and that it was probably the
only means of entrance to the interior of the house, but I am
now inclined to think this is hardly probable, and conclude that
this was rather designed to render a sacred chamber as free as
possible from profane intrusion." This illustrates the peculiar
regard in which it was held. Even when sore pressed by their
enemies, and obliged to flee to inaccessible heights, they still
constructed their sacred place.
Illustration of Cliff-town, Rio Mancos.------------
These cliff-houses, of which we give illustrations, are quite
common in the Mancos. Our frontispiece shows an interesting
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