The Prehistoric World: or, Vanished Races
E. A. Allen
Part 8 out of 13
group, about ten miles from the foot of the canyon. These are
situated only about forty feet above the bed of the creek, but
still in a secure position. Here a bed of shale had been
weathered out of the sandstone, leaving a sort of horizontal
groove four feet high and from four to six feet deep. In this a
row of minute houses had been built. They had been made to
occupy the full height and depth of the crevice, so that when
one reaches it at the only accessible point he is between two
houses, and must pass through these to get at the others.
Besides the cliff-houses, the explorers found that these people
had made use of little cave-like openings in the cliffs, and, by
walling up the openings, had converted them into houses.
These were very common in the Mancos, and of all sizes.
Some were evidently merely little hiding places, in which to
store away provisions or other articles. In some places the
cliffs were literally honey-combed with these little
habitations. Sometimes the walls were quite well preserved and
new-looking, while all about were others in all stages of decay.
"In one place in particular a picturesque outstanding promontory
has been full of dwellings. ... As one from below views the
ragged, window-pierced crags, he is unconsciously led to wonder
if they are not the ruins of some ancient castle, behind whose
mouldering walls are hidden the dread secrets of a
long-forgotten people; but a nearer approach quickly dispels
such fancies, for the windows prove to be only the doorways to
shallow and irregular apartments hardly sufficiently commodious
for a race of pigmies. Neither the outer openings nor the
apertures that communicate between the caves are large enough to
allow a person of large stature to pass, and one is led to
suspect that these nests were not the dwellings proper of these
people, but occasional resorts for women and children, and that
the somewhat extensive ruins of the valley below were their
ordinary dwelling places."<20>
Illustration of Caves used as Houses, Rio Mancos.-------
On the San Juan, about ten miles above the mouth of the Mancos,
is a significant combination of cave-dwellings and towers.
In this case, about half-way up the cliff, which is not more
than forty feet high, excavations had been made in a soft bed of
shale. They are now quite shallow, but were probably once deeper
and walled up in front. Directly above these cave-openings, on
the very brink of the cliffs, were the remains of two circular
towers, in each case double-walled, and probably divided by
cross-walls into partitions. The towers were probably their
council chambers and places of worship. The caves, directly
below, down a steep bank, were their fortresses, whither in
times of danger they could flee. The little community, by means
of ladders, could freely pass from their cave resorts to the
towers and back.
Illustration of Ruins in the San Joan Canyon.----------
The San Juan River does not seem to be as rich in ruins as some
of its tributaries. Yet near the mouth of the Montezuma we came
upon a ruin which shows considerable analogy to the pueblos.
Mr. Jackson says upon the top of the bench (fifty feet high)
overlooking the river are the ruins of a quadrangular structure
of a peculiar design. It is arranged very nearly at right angles
to the river. We see from the plan that we have the ruins of a
larger building arranged around an open court--at least, Mr.
Jackson could detect no trace of a wall in front. We must notice
the seven apartments, arranged in the form of a semicircle, back
of the court. Extreme massiveness is indicated throughout the
In the immediate vicinity of this ruin were found a number of
little, cave-like dwellings. They were so small that doubts were
raised as to whether they were suitable for human habitations,
but the majority of them bore ample evidence in smoke-begrimed
walls that such was their use. Twelve miles below the mouth of
the Montezuma this group of ruins was discovered. These were
situated in a cave that was almost exactly a hemisphere in
shape. Where the curve of the roof met the curve from the
bottom a little projecting bench had been utilized as a
foundation for a row of houses.
Illustration of Cave-Town.------------------
The little community that built their houses here seem to have
practised all the industries of a savage life. In one place
there was evidence that on that spot had been carried on the
manufacture of stone implements. At another place holes had been
drilled, as if for a loom. In the main building there were
fourteen rooms or apartments, ranging from sixteen to nine feet
in width. "In the central room of the main building we found a
circular, basin-like depression, that had served as a fireplace,
being still filled with the ashes and cinders of aboriginal
fires, the surrounding walls being blackened with smoke and
soot. This room was undoubtedly the kitchen of the house.
Some of the smaller rooms appear to have been used for the same
purpose, the fires having been made in the corner against the
back wall, the smoke escaping overhead. The masonry displayed in
the construction of the walls is very creditable. A symmetrical
curve is preserved throughout the whole line, and every portion
perfectly plumb. The subdivisions are at right angles to the
front. The whole appearance of the place and its surroundings
indicate that the family or little community who inhabited it
were in good circumstances, and the lords of the surrounding
country. Looking out from one of their houses, with a great dome
of solid rock overhead that echoed and re-echoed every word
uttered with marvelous distinctness, and below them a steep
descent of one hundred feet to the broad, fertile valley of the
Rio San Juan, covered with waving fields of maize and scattered
groves of majestic cotton-woods, these old people, whom even the
imagination can hardly clothe with reality, must have felt a
sense of security that even the incursions of their barbarian
foes could hardly have disturbed."<21>
To describe the defensive ruins on Epsom Creek, Montezuma Creek,
and the McElmo is simply to repeat descriptions already given.
We meet with cave-houses, cliff-houses, and sentinel-towers in
abundance. The whole section appears to have been thickly
settled. Further explorations will doubtless make known many
more ruins, but probably nothing differing in kind from what is
already known. We think the defensive ruins belong to a later
period of their existence than do the old and time-worn
structures we have hitherto described along the river valleys
and open plains, as at Aztec Springs. These structures plainly
show that at the time they were built the people were subject to
an invasion from a stronger foe, one before whose approach they
had to fly for protection to the almost inaccessible cliffs.
They would obviously never have settled there had they always
had to contend with these savage tribes. It needs no great skill
to read the story of the dispersion of these old people from the
ruins we have described; the many watch-towers, which were also
used as fortresses or citadels in which to find protection,
testifying to the need of increased watchfulness. The cave-
houses and cliff-fortresses, cunningly hidden away to escape
detection, or so placed as to defy the assault of their enemies,
show to what desperate straits they were driven; and imagination
only can picture the despair that must have filled their hearts
when the hour of final defeat came, and they must have realized
that even these shifts would not allow them to stay in the lands
of their fathers.
That this is the explanation of these ruins, we will cite the
legendary stories given by an old man among the Moquis
concerning some ruins in the canyon of the McElmo, just over the
line in Utah. At this point the canyon widens out considerably,
and in the center of the valley is still standing a portion of
the old mesa, once filling the entire valley. It is now a mass
of dark red sandstone, about one hundred feet high, and three
hundred feet around, seamed and cracked, and gradually
disappearing, as the rock has gone all around it. The top of
this rock is covered with the ruins of some building; there are
also ruins at the base and all around the immediate vicinity.
There were watch towers and estufas, showing that this was a
place of great interest.
Illustration of Battle Rock, McElmo Canyon.----------
The story is as follows: "Formerly the aborigines inhabited all
this country as far east as the headwaters of the San Juan, as
far north as the Rio Dolores, west some distance into Utah, and
south and south-west throughout Arizona, and on down into
Mexico. They had lived there from time immemorial, since the
earth was a small island, which augmented as its inhabitants
multiplied. They cultivated the valley, fashioned whatever
utensils and tools they needed very neatly and handsomely out of
clay, and wood, and stone, not knowing any of the useful metals;
built their homes and kept their flocks and herds in the fertile
river bottoms, and worshiped the sun. They were an eminently
peaceful and prosperous people, living by agriculture rather
than by the chase. About a thousand years ago, however, they
were visited by savage strangers from the north, whom they
treated hospitably. Soon these visits became more frequent and
annoying. Then their troublesome neighbors, ancestors of the
present Utes, began to forage upon them, and at last to massacre
them and devastate their farms. So, to save their lives at
least, they built houses high up on the cliffs, where they could
store food and hide away until the raiders left.
"But one Summer the invaders did not go back to their mountains,
as the people expected, but brought their families with them and
settled down. So, driven from their homes and lands, starving in
their little niches on the high cites they could only steal away
during the night and wander across the cheerless uplands. To one
who has traveled these steppes such a flight seems terrible, and
the mind hesitates to picture the sufferings of the sad
fugitives. At the 'Creston' (name of the ruin) they halted, and
probably found friends, for the rocks and caves are full of the
nests of these human wrens and swallows. Here they collected,
erected stone fortifications and watch-towers, dug reservoirs in
the rocks to hold a supply of water, which in all cases is
precarious in this latitude, and once more stood at bay.
Their foes came, and for one long month fought, and were beaten
back, and returned day after day to the attack as merciless and
inevitable as the tide. Meanwhile the families of the defenders
were evacuating and moving south, and bravely did their
defenders shield them till they were all safely a hundred
"The besiegers were beaten back and went away. But the narrative
tells us that the hollows of the rocks were filled to the brim
with the mingled blood of conquerors and, conquered, and red
veins of it ran down the canyon. It was such a victory as they
could not afford to gain again, and they were glad, when the
long flight was over, to follow their wives and little ones to
the south. There, in the deserts of Arizona, on well-nigh
unapproachable, isolated bluffs, they built new towns, and their
few descendants, the Moquis, live in them to this day,
preserving more carefully and purely the history and veneration
of their forefathers than their skill or wisdom."<22>
Mr. Jackson thinks this legend arises from the appearance of the
rocks. The bare floor of nearly white sandstone, upon which the
butte stands, is stained in gory streaks and blotches by the
action of an iron constituent in the rocks of another portion of
the adjoining bluffs. That may well be true, but we believe that
there are germs of truth in the story. Driven from their homes,
where did the fugitives go? Some of them may have gone east, but
probably the body of the migration was to the south. It has been
the tendency of all tribes, but especially of the sedentary
tribes, to pass to the south and east, and this is also the
traditions among the inhabitants of still existing pueblos.<23>
We find that every available portion of New Mexico and Arizona
bears evidence of having been once populated by tribes of
Indians, who built houses in all respects like those already
described. In northern New Mexico, Prof. Cope has described a
whole section of country as being at one time more densely
populated than the thickly inhabited portions of the Eastern
States. He says: "The number of buildings in a square mile of
that region is equal to, if not greater than the number now
existing in the more densely populated rural districts of
Pennsylvania and New Jersey."<24>
In one location he found a village of thirty houses, built of
stone, and all in ruins. He found, over a large extent of
country, that every little conical hill and eminence was crowned
with ruins of old houses. We, of course, can not say that these
ruins are necessarily younger than those to the north of the San
Juan, and yet we think from Prof. Cope's description that they
do not present such evidence of antiquity as do the crumbling
ruins previously described. And then, besides, they were always
located in easily defended positions.
The village spoken of was really a Cliff Village, being arranged
along the very edge of a precipitous mesa, the only access to it
being along a narrow causeway. Then again, although we have
described many ruins near which no water is to be had, at least,
in dry seasons, yet we have every reason to suppose water was
formerly more plentiful and easily attained. But in this section
it must always have been a serious question with them to obtain
enough water for necessary purposes. They must have had to store
away water in vessels of pottery, whose ruins are now so
abundant. It is not such a country as we would suppose a people
to choose for a place to settle in, only that they knew not
where else to go.
It is also considered settled that all the inhabited pueblos, as
well as those in ruins near the inhabited ones, were built by
the descendants of these people whose houses we have described.
This is proven by the similarity of pottery. Though some styles
of ancient corrugated ware are found in the San Juan section not
found near the inhabited pueblos, yet vast quantities of ware,
similar to that now found in the inhabited pueblos, can be
picked up all over the ruins to the north. Again, their religion
must have been the same, as ruined estufas are common, in
all respects similar to those now in use. In the modern pueblos
we are struck with the small cell-like rooms, yet they are but
little smaller than the ordinary single houses plentifully found
over the entire field of ruins. All the Pueblo tribes are
agricultural, so were these old people. In fact, all evidence
confirms the conclusion that the remnants of the Pueblo people
that we have already described, are also the descendants of the
people driven by hostile bands from north of the San Juan.
This statement may give false impressions, however.
The traditions of the Pueblo Indians, of New Mexico, are to the
effect that they came from the north, and also that their
ancestors formerly lived in the small houses we have described.
But we do not mean to say that all the small houses and pueblos
in Arizona and New Mexico are later in date than the
cliff-houses. The pressure has always been from the north to the
south. Neither would we be understood as saying that all the
sedentary tribes, both ancient and modern, belong to the same
stock of people. There are several different stocks of people
even among the present Pueblos.<25>
In the valley of the Rio Chaco, about midway between the Rio
Grande and the San Juan, we meet a group of ruined pueblos whose
style of masonry is thought to indicate a greater antiquity than
the inhabited pueblo towns; these probably indicate another
settlement of these people. As these are really remarkable
ruins, we must briefly describe them. In the Chaco Canyon, as
indicated on the map, within the space of ten miles are the
ruins of eight larger pueblos. Another is located at the very
beginning of the canyon, and two more on the edge of the mesas
just outside of the canyon. These are large communal houses of
regular pueblo type, and, theoretically at least, they should be
later in date than the majority of ruins throughout the area
represented on the map. We think the development has been from
small, separate houses, to a closely connected cluster, with a
central citadel, which finally drew to itself all the other
buildings, and became the communal building we call
We give a restoration of, one--the Pueble Bonito--one of the
largest and most important of the ruins. We can not doubt but
what the restoration is substantially correct. It shows the open
court, the terraced structure, and the system of defense.
The circle itself is not as near a half-circle as we would
imagine. The ground plan shows that it was really a many-sided
building. This pueblo must have presented a striking appearance
when it was in a complete state.
Illustration of Restoration of Pueblo Bonito.---------
By comparing this structure with the views of some of the
present pueblo towns, we will understand the remarks made
earlier, as to the different styles of pueblo structures.
This building must have had not far from six hundred and fifty
rooms. "No single edifice of equal accommodations has ever been
found in any part of North America. It would shelter three
thousand Indians."<27> This pueblo will compare favorably with
some of the structures of Yucatan; though not so ornamental, yet
for practical convenience it must have met the wants of the
builders fully as well. This may be given as a fair example of
the entire class.
The evident plan on which they started to build their
structures, is shown in the following plan of the pueblo.
But some of them were not fully completed. Two of them had but
one wing. In the restoration the court is seen to be closed by a
straight row of small buildings, but in most cases the wall
inclosing the court was more or less circular. In one case the
court was left open. We will only give general descriptions.
It is now believed that these great structures were built only
a part at a time; perhaps the main body, or a part of it,
first. Afterwards, as the number of inhabitants increased, a
wing would be added, and then the other; and so, many years
would elapse before the pueblo would assume its completed form.
Illustration of Plan of Pueblo Bonito.---------
These structures ranged in extent from about four hundred to
twelve hundred feet in external measurement and could furnish a
home to from two hundred to eight hundred or a thousand Indians,
and, in one case at least, many more.
In the next cut we have represented the different styles of
masonry employed in the pueblos of this valley. It varied all
the way from careful piling of big and little stones, and of
alternate layers of such materials, to very good masonry indeed.
Speaking of it, Mr. Jackson says, "It is the most wonderful
feature in these ancient habitations, and is in striking
contrast to the careless and rude methods shown in the dwellings
of the present pueblos. The material, a grayish-yellow
sandstone, breaking readily into thin laminae, and was quarried
from the adjacent exposures of that rock. The stones employed
average about the size of an ordinary brick, but as the larger
pieces were irregular in size, the interstices were filled in
with very thin plates of sandstone, or rather built in during
its construction; for by no other means could they be placed
with such regularity and compactness. So closely are the
individual pieces fitted to each other that at a little distance
no jointage appears, and the wall bears every indication of
being a plain, solid surface."
Illustration of Different Styles of Masonry.--------
Besides these important ruins, there are a great many others not
especially different from those previously described. We can not
state positively that these ruins are of a later date than those
of the North; we think they are. From the character of the
structures, we are more inclined to class them with the great
pueblos of the Rio Grande, Puerco, and Zuni. By examining the
map we see that the Rio Chaco would afford a convenient route
for them in their migration from the San Juan Valley.
Illustration of Room in Pueblo Bonito. (Bureau of Ethnology.)---
It may be of some interest to notice one of the rooms in this
pueblo. Simpson says it is walled up with alternate layers of
large and small stones, the regularity of the combination
producing a very pleasant effect. Mr. Morgan thinks this room
will compare not unfavorably with any of equal size to be found
in the more imposing ruins of the South. We must notice the
ceiling. The probabilities are that the Rio Chelly, further to
the west, afforded another line of retreat. Some ruins are found
scattered up and down the river or canyon, which we will not stop
to describe. Off to the south-west are the inhabited towns or
pueblos of the Moquis, who, as we have seen, have a tradition
that they came from the north.
There are some ruins found in the south-western part of Arizona
which must be described in a general survey of the ruins of the
Pueblo country. The river Gila, with numerous tributaries, is
the most important stream in that portion of the State. It is in
just such a section as we would expect to find ruins, if
anywhere. Coronado, as we have seen, invaded the country about
three hundred and fifty years ago. At the time of his visit this
was then a ruin, for his historian describes one ruin as "a
single ruined and roofless house ... the work of civilized
people who had come from afar."<28> This gives us a point as to
the antiquity of some of the ruins in the Gila Valley. As we
shall see, there is every reason to suppose that this section
was at one time a thickly inhabited one.
From the similar character of the remains, we conclude the
original inhabitants to be of the same race of people as those
we have already described, but what was the exact relation
between them we can not tell, but we think a study of the ruins
will only confirm the general truth of the traditions of the
Pueblo tribes. In any one tradition there is doubtless much that
is distorted. One form in which the traditions find expression
is: "That they proceeded from the north-west to the upper waters
of the Rio Colorado. There they divided, portions ascended by
the San Juan, canyon De Chelly, or the more easterly branches of
that stream towards the center of New Mexico. Others, passing
over the waters of the Rio Verde (see map), descended its valley
to the Rio Gila."<29>
One hundred and fifty miles southwest of Zuni we notice the
Verde River flowing into the Rio Salado, and the latter into the
Gila. Besides those streams, there are other smaller ones, not
marked on the map.<30> Mr. Bandelier found near the Canyon del
Tule an improvement on the irrigating ditches, that was a lining
of concrete; and in this section also was noticed the ruins of
both pueblos and the small houses. Near Ft. Apache he found the
ruins of the largest villages discovered in Arizona, but we have
no details of it. The valley of the Rio Verde and Salado seems
to have been a favorite resort.
As early as 1854 attention was called to ruins in the Rio Verde.
Mr. Leroux reported to Mr. Whipple that the "river banks were
covered with ruins of stone houses and regular fortifications,
which appeared to have been the work of civilized men, but had
not been occupied for centuries. They were built upon the most
fertile tracts of the valley, where were signs of acequias
(irrigating ditches) and of cultivation. The walls were of solid
masonry, of rectangular form, some twenty or thirty paces in
length, were of solid masonry, and yet remaining ten or fifteen
feet in height. The buildings were of two stories, with small
apertures or loop-holes for defence, when besieged."<31>
Mr. Bandelier confirms this account as to the number of ruins.
The entire valley of the Verde is filled with ruins of every
description. From the account of the valley itself, we can see
how well suited it was to the needs of village Indians.
Mr. Leroux speaks in high praise of its fertility. Wood, water,
and grass were abundant. In the neighborhood of Fort Reno Mr.
Bandelier discovered a new architectural feature of great
interest to us. This is a raised platform, on which the
buildings were supported. This raised platform is a very
important feature, as we shall learn in the ruins of Mexico and
Central America. We have already seen how it was employed by the
In other words, the detached houses are seen to form villages,
with a central stronghold, and the tendency is observed to raise
an artificial foundation for this central house, which draws
into itself the surrounding houses. This is but another
modification of the same idea which, in other sections of this
area developed into the communal pueblo. Near Tempe a still more
significant arrangement was noticed. Here was a four-sided
platform, three hundred and forty feet long by two hundred and
eighty feet wide, and five feet high, supported a second
platform measuring two hundred and forty by two hundred feet,
and six feet high. Elevated platforms, as a general rule, were
not very distinct. Mr. Bandelier thinks that, owing to the
peculiar drainage of the country, these artificial foundations
were required to preserve the buildings from being swept away by
a sudden torrent. The settlement of the sedentary tribes in this
region cluster on the triangle formed by the Rio Verde, Salado,
and Gila Rivers. "This is a warm region, with a scanty rainfall,
and but little timber, and the soil is very fertile when
irrigated, and two crops a year can be readily raised.
Mr. Bandelier regards it as exceedingly well adapted to the
wants of a horticultural people, and even traces in it some
resemblance to Lower Egypt."
A very celebrated ruin on the Gila River gives us a fair idea of
what this central stronghold of the village cluster, sometimes
supported on a raised foundation, was like. This cut is a view
of the principal ruin in this section, which, however, is only a
portion of an extensive settlement, covering some five acres in
all. The building is not very large, only fifty by forty feet,
and four stories, of ten feet each, in height, with a
possibility that the central portion of the building rose ten
feet higher. The walls are built of adobe, five feet thick at
the base, but tapering slightly at the top.
Illustration of Casa Grandee, on the Gila.----------
This house was surrounded by a court-yard which inclosed about
two acres. Shapeless mounds, presumably the ruins of houses, are
to be seen in various parts of this inclosure. "If the ground
plan of this great house," says Mr. Bandelier, "with its
surroundings of minor edifices, courts and inclosures is placed
by the side of the ground plan of other typical ruins, the
resemblance is almost perfect except in materials used."
This settlement was separated into two divisions. In one place
was noticed a large elliptical tank with heavy embankments,
nearly eight feet deep.
As to other ruins on the Gila, Mr. Bartlett tells us: "One thing
is evident, that at some former period the valley of the Gila
was densely populated. The ruined buildings, the irrigating
canals, and the vast quantities of pottery of a superior
quality, show, that while they were an agricultural people, they
were much in advance of the present semi-civilized tribes of the
Gila." Speaking of the ruins of the Gila east of the San Pedro
River, Emory says: "Whenever the mountains did not infringe too
closely on the river and shut out the valley, they were seen in
great abundance, enough, I should think, to indicate a former
population of at least one hundred thousand; and in one place
there is a long wide valley, twenty miles in length, much of
which is covered with the ruins of buildings and broken pottery.
Most of these outlines are rectangular, and vary from forty to
fifty feet to two hundred by four hundred feet."<32>
It is, however, necessary to be very cautious in judging
population by the number of ancient ruins. Prehistoric people
were naturally of a roving disposition. The multitude of ruins
in Western New York is not regarded as evidence of dense
population, but they were occasioned by the known customs of the
Indians in changing the sites of their villages "every ten,
fifteen, or thirty years; or, in fact, whenever the scarcity of
firewood, the exhaustion of their fields, or the prevalence of
an epidemic made such a step desirable."<33> Doubtless a similar
remark may explain the difference of opinion as to the numbers
of the Mound Builders.<34> And, finally, Mr. Bandelier concludes
that the great number of ruins scattered through New Mexico and
its neighboring territories is by no means evidence of a large
population. The evidence of tradition is to the effect that a
large number of villages were successively, and not
simultaneously, occupied by the same people.<35>
We have about completed our survey of the Pueblo country.
We might state that the large communal houses, known as pueblos,
are found as far south on the Rio Grande as Valverde.
Clusters of separate houses occur as far south as Dona Ana.
A range of low mountains lies to the west of the Rio Grande;
between it and the headwaters of the Gila evidences of ancient
habitations were observed on the small streams. Though these
occur sometimes in little groups, the court-yards are not
connected so as to form a defensive village. Small inclosed
surfaces, with no evidence that a house ever was connected with
them, were also observed. Mr. Bandelier could only surmise that
these were garden-plots, something like the ancient terrace
garden-plots in Peru.
Take it all in all, this is, indeed, a singular region, and the
Pueblo tribes were a singular people. Their architecture shows
us a people in the Middle Status of Barbarism. That they
practised agriculture is shown by the presence of old irrigating
ditches. Corn and corn-cobs are found in the rubbish-heaps of
old settlements. Mr. Morgan thinks that the valley of the San
Juan and its numerous tributaries was the place where the Indian
race first rose to the dignity of cultivators of the soil.<36>
Cotton cloth has been found in the ruins on the Salado River.
"At the time of the Spanish conquests the Pueblo Indians along
the Rio Grande used cotton mantles."<37>
As we have devoted considerable time to the pottery of the Mound
Builders, we must see how it compares with the pottery of this
region. Fragments of pottery are very numerous all over the
field of ruins. All explorers mention their abundance.
Mr. Holmes on one occasion counted the pieces of pottery that by
their shape evidently belonged to different vessels that he
found in an area ten feet square. They numbered fifty-five, and
we are led to believe they were not more numerous here than in
We recall that the ornamentations on the vessels of clay made by
Mound Builders were either incised lines or indentations on the
surface of the vessels. And, still further, the clay vessels
themselves were frequently molded in the shape of animals or
heads of animals. In this plate we have fragments of indented
and corrugated ware, from the San Juan valley. This ware is only
found under such circumstances indented and that we are
justified in considering it very ancient. The ware made at the
time of the conquest was always painted.
Illustration of Indented and Corrugated Ware.--------
At Zuni and some of the other pueblos, at the present day, they
make vessels in the form of various animals and other natural
objects. This is, however, a recent thing. Only one vessel is
known that was found under such circumstances that we are
justified in thinking it very old. That was molded into a shape
resembling some kind of an animal. This was found on the Rio
Gila, in New Mexico; and even that has some peculiarities about
it that renders its age uncertain. Mr. Bandelier says: "No
vessel of ancient date, of human or animal shape, has ever been
found." This is a most important point for us to consider, when
we recall how numerous were animal-shaped vessels among the
Illustration of Painted Pueblo Pottery.---------
In this plate we have specimens of the ordinary painted ware
from the ancient ruins. The most of these are restorations, but
so many fragments have been obtained of each vessel that we have
no doubt of the accuracy of the drawings. They decorated their
pottery by painting. Even in many cases where they were further
ornamented by indentations they still painted it, showing that
painting was regarded as of the most importance. We notice that
the ornamentation consists almost entirely of geometrical
figures, parallel lines, and scrolls. Over the entire field of
ruins the body of the vessels is of one of two colors; it is
either white or red. The color employed to produce the
ornamentation is black. There is almost no exception to this
rule, though sometimes the ornamentation is of a brownish color
with a metallic luster. Along the Rio Grande and the Gila some
changes are noticed. The ornamentation is not strictly confined
to two colors. Symbolical representations of clouds, whirlwind,
and lightning are noticed. The red ware has disappeared, and a
chocolate-colored ground takes its place.
All have noticed the superiority of the ancient pottery over
that of the present tribes. Says Prof. Putnam. "A comparison of
this ancient pottery with that made by the present inhabitants
of the pueblos shows that a great deterioration has taken place
in native American art, a rule which I think can be applied to
all the more advanced tribes of America. The remarkable hardness
of all the fragments of colored pottery which have been obtained
from the vicinity of the old ruins in New Mexico, Colorado,
Arizona, and Utah, and also of the pottery of the same character
found in the ruins of adobe houses, and in caves in Utah, shows
that the ancient people understood the art of baking earthenware
far better than their probable descendants now living in the
pueblos of New Mexico and Arizona."<38>
We have learned that the remnant of an aboriginal people, now
living in the inhabited pueblos of the West, present us, in
their primitive usage, with the fading outlines of a culture
once widespread in the section of country we have examined.
Many of the early sedentary tribes have vanished completely.
Traditions state that other tribes have moved southward into
regions unknown. "The picture which can be dimly traced to-day
of this past is a very modest and unpretending one. No great
cataclysms of nature, no wave of destruction on a large scale,
either natural or human, appear to have interrupted the slow and
tedious development of the people before the Spaniards came.
One portion rose while another fell, sedentary tribes
disappeared or moved off, and wild tribes roamed over the ruins
of their former abode." At present but a few pueblos are left to
show us what the people once were. But the fate of the Pueblo of
Pecos hangs over them all. The rising tide of American
civilization is rapidly surrounding them. Before many decades,
possibly centuries, the present Pueblo tribes will yield to
their fate. They, too, will be numbered among the vanished races
(1) The manuscript of this chapter was submitted to Mr. Ad. F.
Bandelier, of Highland, Illinois. As agent for the
Archaeological Institute of America, he spent three years in
explorations in the Pueblo country.
(2) See an excellent historical account by Bandeliers: "Papers
of the Archaeological Institute of America." American
series No. 1.
(3) The term "City of Zuni" is scarcely correct; it should be
Pueblo of Zuni.
(4) Pacific Railroad Report; Whipple, Vol. III., pp. 67 and 68.
(5) "Archaeological Institute of America," Fifth An. Rep., pp.
55 and 56.
(6) Bancroft's "Native Races," Vol. I., p. 534.
(7) His guide.
(8) The ruins on the top were, however, built after 1680, when
the inhabitants of Flavona, the Spanish "Alvona," fled to the
top of the mesa to escape the forays of the Navajos. The ruins
were abandoned before 1705. Zuni is partly built on the ruins of
Flavona, which is still its aboriginal name. (Bandelier.)
(9) Pacific Railroad Reports, Whipple, Vol. III., p. 69.
(10) Pacific Railroad Reports, Whipple, Vol. III., p. 65.
(11) "Simpson's Report," p. 124.
(12) Dr. Loew, in "U.S. Geographical Survey West of the 100th
Meridian," Vol. VII, p. 343.
(13) "Fifth An. Rep. Archaeological Inst. of America," p. 61.
(14) Bandelier's "Papers of the Archaeological Inst." p. 46.
(15) These facts are drawn from Mr. Bandelier's article already
(16) "Colorado River of the West," p. 119, et seq.
(17) U.S. Survey, Hayden, 1876, p. 390.
(18) Bandelier, "Fifth Annual Report Archaeological Inst. of
America," pp. 62, 68, and 65.
(19) "Contributions to North American Ethnology," Vol. IV, p.
172, et seq.
(21) U.S. Survey, Hayden, 1876, p. 419.
(22) Rendered by Ingersoll, in N.Y. Tribune, Nov. 3, 1874.
(23) Bandelier, in Fifth Ann. Rep., Arch. Inst., p 79.
(24) U.S. Survey West of 100th M., Vol. VII, p. 358.
(25) "First Annual Report of Bureau of Ethnology," p. 74.
(26) "Fifth Annual Report Arch. Inst.," pp. 42, 78.
(27) Morgan: "Contribution to N. A. Ethnology," Vol. IV, p. 163.
(28) "Smithsonian Report," 1863, p. 313.
(29) Whipple, Pacific R. R. Report, Vol. III.
(30) Wherever reference is made to Mr. Bandelier's discoveries,
it is taken from the oft-quoted Fifth Annual Report,
(31) Whipple, Pacific R. R. Reports, Vol. III., p. 14.
(32) Bartlett's "Personal Narrative."
(33) Carr's "Mounds of the Mississippi Valley."
(34) Morgan's "House and House Life," p. 218.
(35) Fifth Annual Report, p. 84.
(36) "Contributions to N. A. Ethnology," Vol. IV., p. 192.
(37) Bandelier's "Fifth Annual Report Arch. Inst.," p. 76.
(38) U.S. Survey West of 100th Meridian, Vol. VII., p. 381.
END OF CHAPTER XI.**********************
The Prehistoric World: or, Vanished Races
by E. A. Allen
Processed by D.R. Thompson
THE PREHISTORIC AMERICANS.<1>
Different views on this subject--Modern system of government--
Ancient system of government--Tribal government universal in
North America--The Indians not wandering Nomads--Indian houses
communal in character--Indian methods of defense--Mandan
villages--Indians sometimes erected mounds--Probable government
of the Mound Builders--Traditions of the Mound Builders among
the Iroquois--Among the Delawares--Probable fate of the Mound
Builders--The Natchez Indians possibly a remnant of the Mound
Builders--Their early traditions--Lines of resemblance between
the Pueblo tribe and the Mound Builders--The origin of the
Indians--America inhabited by Indians from a very early time--
Classification of the Indian tribes--Antiquity of the Mound
The attempts to explain the origin of the numerous tribes found
in possession of America at the time of its discovery by
Europeans have been many and various. There are so many
difficulties attending the solution of this problem that even at
this day no theory has received that full assent from the
scientific world deemed necessary for its establishment as an
ascertained fact. New interest has been thrown around this
question by the discoveries of late years. In our south-western
territories we have clearly established the former wide
extension of the village Indians, remnants of which are still to
be found in the inhabited pueblos; and, as we have seen, the
wide expanse of fertile soil, known as the Mississippi Valley,
has undoubtedly been the home of tribes who are generally
supposed to have attained a much higher stage of culture than
that of the Indians--at least, of such culture as we are
accustomed to ascribe, whether justly or not, to Indian tribes.
It becomes an interesting question, therefore, to determine what
connection, if any, existed between the Mound Builders and the
Indian tribes on the one hand, and the Pueblo tribes on
As to the works of the Mound Builders, one class of critical
scholars think they see in them the memorials of a vanished
race, and point out many details of construction, such as
peculiarities in form, in size, and position, which they think
conclusively prove that the works in question could only have
been produced by races or tribes far more advanced in culture
than any Indians. This belief finds expression by a well-known
writer in the following words: "A broad chasm is to be spanned
before we can link the Mound Builders to the North American
Indians. They were essentially different in their form of
government, their habits, and their daily pursuits." This is
substantially the opinion of a great many writers on
But this conclusion has not been allowed to pass unchallenged.
We have on record the convictions of a few careful investigators
that there is no necessity for supposing that only an extinct or
vanished race could have built the mounds and thrown up the
embankments which we observe in the valley of the Ohio and
elsewhere; that there is nothing, in fact, either in the
construction of the mounds themselves or in the remains of art
found in them, which we may not with safety ascribe to the
ancestors of our present Indians.<3> It will be seen that we
may, indeed, be at a loss to know what conclusion to adopt;
hence, as an aid to us in this direction, it may be well to
inquire into the organization of Indian tribes and their customs
and manners at the time of their discovery.
It is not necessary to sketch their history, as this has been
done many times. Moreover, it is but a dreary recital of the
gradual encroachment of the Whites on the lands of the Indians,
the vain endeavors of the latter to repress them, and a record
of many cruel acts of savage warfare, burning villages, midnight
massacre, and scenes of terrible sufferings. The uniform result
was that the Indian tribes were steadily driven away from their
ancient homes, until we now find them but a sorry remnant on
scattered reservations or grouped together in the Indian
Territory. Their ancient institutions are nearly broken down,
and it is with difficulty that we can gain an understanding of
their early condition; and yet this seems to be necessary
before we are prepared to decide on the origin of the
It seems necessary here to briefly describe the two great plans
or systems of government, under one or the other of which
mankind, as far as we know them, have always been organized,
though, theoretically, there must have been a time, in the very
infancy of the race, when there was either no government or
something different from either of them. At the present day, in
all civilized countries, government is founded upon territory
and upon property. A person is described as living in such a
township, county, and state.<4> This seems to be a very simple
and natural division, but, like every thing else, it is the
result of growth--of a development. It took nearly three
centuries of civilization and a succession of able men, each
improving on what the other had done, to fully develop this
system among the Greeks.<5> This is the basis of the modern form
of government. Whenever it was organized, it marked the
termination of ancient government. The other plan of government
is founded on personal relations.
A person would be described as of such a gens, phratry, and
tribe. It is sufficient to state the words gens, and phratry
simply denote subdivisions of a tribe.<6> This is the ancient
system of government, and goes very far back in the history of
the race. It is that state of society which everywhere preceded
history and civilization. When we go back to the first beginning
of history in Europe, we find the Grecian, Roman, and Germanic
tribes in the act of substituting the modern system of
government for the tribal state, under which they had passed
from savagism into and through the various stages of barbarism,
and entered the confines of civilization. The Bible reveals to
us the tribal state of the Hebrews and the Canaanites.
Under the light of modern research, we can not doubt but what
this form of government was very ancient, and substantially
universal. It originated in the morning of time, and so
completely answered all the demands of primitive society that it
advanced man from savagism, through barbarism, and sufficed to
enable him to make a beginning in civilization. It was so firmly
established as one of the primitive institutions, that when it
was found insufficient to meet the demands of advancing society,
it taxed to the utmost the skill of the Aryan tribes to devise a
system to take its place.
This was the system of government throughout North America when
the Spaniards landed on its shores. This is true, at least as
far as our investigations have gone.<7> In several cases tribes
speaking dialects of the same stock-language had united in a
confederacy; as, for instance, the celebrated league of the
Iroquois, and in Mexico, the union of the three Aztec tribes.
But confederacies did not change the nature of tribal
government. As there was but one general form or plan of
government in vogue amongst the Aborigines of North America at
the time of discovery, we ought certainly to find common
features in the culture of the Pueblo Indians of the South-west,
the Mound Builders of the Mississippi Valley, and the various
Indian tribes; and if the lines of resemblance are sufficient to
show a gradual progress from the rude remains of savage tribes
to the more finished works of the Pueblos, and between these and
the Mound Builders, then we may consider this fact as one more
reason for believing that they constitute but one people in
different stages of development.
The tribal state of society is always associated with village
life. It makes no difference where we commence our
investigations, we will soon be convinced that village life is
the form in which people organized in tribes lived. This is true
of the wild tribes in Africa, and of the hill tribes of India
to-day.<8> The same was true of the early Greeks.<9> There must
be a reason for this. It is found in their peculiar system of
government. People divided into groups and clusters would
naturally be drawn together into villages. We would expect,
then, to find that the Indian tribes lived in villages. We are
accustomed to speak of them as wandering nomads. This is
scarcely correct; or rather, it is certainly wrong, if applied
to the tribes east of the Mississippi, when first encountered by
the whites. Some of them may have been in a state of migration,
in search of better homes, or homes more secure from the attacks
of too powerful enemies, as was the case with the Shawnees, and
wandering bands on hunting or warlike expeditions were common
enough. The Germanic, tribes that overthrew the Roman Empire,
for a similar reason, were in a migrating state. But it is none
the less certain that they established permanent villages
wherever they found suitable places.
Nearly all the tribes claimed separate districts, in which they
had permanent villages, often stockaded.<10> The site of
Montreal was a famous Indian village,<11> and other villages
were found in Canada. The Iroquois tribes had permanent
villages, and resided in them the greater part of the year.<12>
One visited in 1677 is described as having one hundred and
twenty houses, the ordinary one being from fifty to sixty feet
long, and furnishing shelter to about twelve families. In one
case, at least, the town was surrounded by palisades.
In 1539 De Soto made his appearance on the coast of Florida.
Four years later a feeble remnant of this expedition landed at
Panuco, Mexico. His route has not been accurately traced, but it
is certain he travelled the Gulf States and crossed the
Mississippi. De Soto himself found a grave in the waters of this
river, but under new leaders the expedition pushed on through
Arkansas, and probably found its most western point on the
prairies of the West, where, disheartened, it turned back to
near where De Soto died, constructed some rude boats, and
floated down the Mississippi, and so to Mexico. We have two
accounts written by members of this expedition,<13> and a third,
written by Garcilasso de La Vega from the statements of
eye-witnesses and memoranda which had fallen into his hands.
From these considerable can be learned of the Southern Indians
before they had been subjected to European influences. One of
the first things that arrests attention is the description of
the villages. They found, to be sure, some desert tracts, but
every few miles, as a rule, they found villages containing from
fifty to three hundred spacious and commodious dwellings, well
protected from enemies--sometimes surrounded by a wall,
sometimes also by a ditch filled with water. When west of the
Mississippi they found a tribe living in movable tents, they
deemed that fact worthy of special mention. But in the same
section they also found many villages.
One hundred and forty years afterward the French explorer, La
Salle, made several voyages up and down the Mississippi.
He describes much the same state of things as do the earlier
writers. The tribes still dwelt in comfortable cabins, sometimes
constructed of bark, sometimes of mud,<14> often of large size,
in one case forty feet square, and having a dome-shaped roof.
Nor was this village life confined to the more advanced tribes.
The Dakota tribes, which include the Sioux and others, have been
forced on the plains by the advancing white population, but when
first discovered they were living in villages around the
headwaters of the Mississippi. Their houses were framed of poles
and covered with bark.<15>
Lewis and Clark, in 1805, found the valley of the Columbia River
inhabited by tribes destitute of pottery, and living mainly on
fish, which were found in immense quantities in the river.
They describe them as living in large houses, one sometimes
forming a village by itself. They describe one house capable of
furnishing habitations for five hundred people.
Other authorities could be quoted, showing that the Algonquin
Indians, living in Eastern and Atlantic States, had permanent
villages.<16> The idea then, that the Indians are nothing but
wandering savages, is seen to be wrong. It is well to bear this
in mind, because it is often asserted that the Mound Builders
must have been a people possessing fixed habitations. While this
is doubtless correct, we see that it is also true of the
There is another feature of Indian life which we will mention
here, because it shows us a common element in the building of
houses, seen alike in the pueblo structures of the West and the
long houses of the Iroquois. That is, the Indian houses were
always built to be inhabited by a number of families in common.
All nations in a tribal state possess property in common. It is
not allowed to pass out of the gens of the person who possesses
it, but at his death is supposed to be divided among the members
of his gens; in most cases, however, to those nearest of kin
within the gens.<18> This communism showed itself in the method
of erecting houses.
The long house of the Iroquois was divided into apartments so as
to shelter from one hundred to two hundred Indians. A number of
these houses gathered together composed a village. These were
quite creditable structures of Indian art, being warm and
comfortable, as well as roomy. Should we examine the whole list
of writers who have mentioned Indian villages, we would find
them all admitting that the houses were usually occupied by a
number of families, one in the Columbia Valley, as we see,
sheltering five hundred persons.
There is no question but the pueblos were built by people
holding property in common. They were, of course, erected by a
more advanced people, who employed better materials in
construction, but it is quite plain that they were actuated by
the same instincts, and built their houses with the same design
in view as the less advanced Indian tribes in other sections of
the country. What we have described as the small houses in
Arizona in the preceding chapter, in most cases includes several
rooms, and we are told that in one section they "appear to have
been the abode of several families."<19>
Illustration of Long House of the Iroquois.---------
One of the main points the Indians would have to attend to in
the construction of their villages was how to defend them, and
we can not do better than to examine this point. A French writer
represents the villages of Canada as defended by double, and
frequently triple, rows of palisades, interwoven with branches
of trees.<20> Cartier, in 1535, found the village of Hochelaga
(now Montreal) thus defended. In 1637 the Pequot Indians were
the terror of the New England colonies, and Capt. Mason, who was
sent to subject them, found their principal villages, covering
six acres, strongly defended by palisades.
Illustration of Stockaded Onondaga Village.--------
The Iroquois tribes also adopted this method of defense. In 1615
Champlain, with Indian allies, invaded the territory of the
Iroquois. He left a sketch of his attack on one of their
villages. This sketch we reproduce in this illustration, which
is a very important one, because it shows us a regularly
palisaded village among a tribe of Indians where the common
impression in reference to them is that they were a wandering
people with no fixed habitations. The sketch is worthy of
careful study. The buildings within are the long houses which we
have just described. They are located near together, three or
four in a group. The arrangement of the groups is in the form of
a square, inclosing a court in the center. This tendency to
inclose a court is a very common feature of Indian architecture.
Such, as we have seen, is the arrangement of the pueblos.
Such was also the arrangement of the communal buildings in
Mexico, Central America, and Peru. In this case the village
covered about six acres also. The defense was by means of
palisades. There seem to be two rows of them. They seem to have
been well made, since Champlain was unsuccessful in his attack.
In earlier times these fortified villages were numerous.
Illustration of Pomeiock. (Bureau of Ethnology.)-----
Further south, this method of inclosing a village was also in
use. In 1585 the English sent an expedition to the coast of
North Carolina. An artist attached to this expedition left some
cuts, one of which represents a village near Roanoke. It is
surrounded, as we see, by a row of palisades, and contains
seventeen joint tenement houses, besides the council house.
The historians of De Soto's expedition make frequent mention of
walled and fortified towns. "The village of Mavilla," from which
comes our name Mobile, says Biedman, "stood on a plain
surrounded by strong walls." Herrera, in his General History,
states that the walls were formed by piles, interwoven with
other timber, and the spaces packed with straw and earth so that
it looked like a wall smoothed with a trowel.
Speaking of the region west of the Mississippi, Biedman says:
"We journeyed two days, and reached a village in the midst of a
plain, surrounded by walls and a ditch filled by water, which
had been made by Indians." This town is supposed to have been
situated in the north-eastern part of Arkansas, and it is
interesting to note that recent investigators find what are
probably the remains of these walled towns, in the shape of
inclosures with ditches and mounds, in North-eastern Arkansas
and South-eastern Missouri.<21> The tribes throughout the entire
extent of the Mississippi Valley were accustomed to palisade
their villages--at least, occasionally.<22>
Illustration of Mandan Village. (Bureau of Ethnology.)------
On the Missouri River we find some Indian tribes that have
excited a great deal of interest among archaeologists. It has
been surmised that, if their history could be recovered, it
would clear up a great many difficult questions. They were
accustomed to fortify their village's with ditches, embankments,
and palisades. This gives us a cut of one of their villages.
It is to be observed that it has a great likeness to some of the
inclosures ascribed to the Mound Builders.
This has been noted by many writers. Says Brackenridge: "In my
voyage up the Missouri I observed the ruins of several villages
which had been abandoned twenty or thirty years, which in every
respect resembled the vestiges on the Ohio and Mississippi."<23>
Lewis and Clark, in their travels, describe the sites of several
of these abandoned villages, the only remains of which were the
walls which had formerly inclosed the villages, then three or
four feet high. The opinion has been advanced that the
inclosures of the Mound Builders were formerly surmounted by
palisades. Mr. Atwater asserts that the round fort which was
joined to a square inclosure at Circleville showed distinctly
evidence of having supported a line of pickets or palisades.<24>
Should it be accepted that the inclosures of the Mound Builders
represent village sites, and that they were probably further
protected by palisades, it would seem, after what we have just
observed of the customs of the Indians in fortifying their
villages, to be a simple and natural explanation of
We have already referred to the fact that scholars draw a
distinction between the more massive works found in the Ohio
Valley and the low, crumbling ruins occupying defensive
positions found in such abundance along Lake Erie and in Western
New York, asserting the former to be the works of the Mound
Builders proper, and the latter the remains of fortified Indian
villages. This may be true, but it seems to us that there is
such a common design running through all these remains that it
is more reasonable to infer that the more massive works were
constructed by people more advanced than those who built the
less pretentious works, but not necessarily of a dilterent race.
We can not do better than to quote the remarks of Mr.
Brackenridge in this connection: "We are often tempted by a
fondness for the marvelous to seek out remote and impossible
causes for that which may be explained by the most obvious."<25>
But inclosures and defensive works are only a small part of the
Mound Builders' remains. We know that large numbers of mounds
are scattered over the country, and we recall in this connection
what was said as to the erection of mounds by Indian tribes in a
preceding essay. Somewhat at the risk of repetition we will once
more examine this question. It is generally admitted that it was
the custom of Indian tribes to erect piles of stones to
commemorate several events, such as a treaty, or the settlement
of a village, but more generally to mark the grave of a chief,
or some noted person, or of a person whose death occurred under
unusual circumstances.<26> These cairns are not confined to any
particular section of the country, being found in New England,
throughout the South, and generally in the Mississippi Valley.
From their wide dispersion, and from the fact that they do not
differ from the structures built by Indian tribes within a few
years past, it is not doubted but what they are the works
Now, if we could draw a dividing line, and say that, while the
Indians erected mounds of stone, the Mound Builders built theirs
of earth, it would be a strong argument in favor of a difference
of race. But this can not be done. When De Soto landed in
Florida, nearly three hundred and fifty years ago, he had an
opportunity of observing the customs of the Indians as they were
before the introduction of fire-arms, and before contact with
the Whites had wrought the great change in them it was destined
to. Therefore, what few notes his historians have given us of
the ways of life they observed amongst the southern tribes are
of great importance in this connection. At the very spot where
he landed (supposed to be Tampa Bay) they observed that the
house of the chief "stood near the shore, upon a very high
mound, made by hand for strength."
Garcilasso tells us "the town and the house of the Cacique
(chief) Ossachile are like those of the other caciques in
Florida. ... The Indians try to place their villages on elevated
sites, but, inasmuch as in Florida there are not many sites of
this kind where they can conveniently build, they erect
elevations themselves, in the following manner: They select the
spot, and carry there a quantity of earth, which they form into
a kind of platform, two or three pikes in height, the summit of
which is large enough to give room for twelve, fifteen, or
twenty houses, to lodge the cacique and his attendants. At the
foot of this elevation they mark out a square place, according
to the size of the village, around which the leading men have
their houses. To ascend the elevation they have a straight
passage-way from bottom to top, fifteen or twenty feet wide.
Here steps are made by massive beams, and others are planted
firmly in the ground to serve as walls. On all other sides of
the platform the sides are cut steep."<27>
Biedman, the remaining historian, says of the country in what is
now (probably) Arkansas. "The caciques of this country make a
custom of raising, near their dwellings, very high hills, on
which they sometimes build their huts."<28> Twenty-five years
later the French sent an expedition to the east coast of
Florida. The accounts of this expedition are very meager, but
they confirm what the other writers have stated as to the
erection of platform mounds with graded ways.<29> Le Moyne, the
artist of this expedition, has left us a cut of a mound erected
over a deceased chief. It was, however, but a small one.<30>
La Harpe, writing in 1720, says of tribes on the lower
Mississippi: "Their cabins ... are dispersed over the country
upon mounds of earth made with their own hands." As to the
construction of these houses, we learn that their cabins were
"round and vaulted," being lathed with cane and plastered with
mud from bottom to top, within and without. In other cases they
were square, with the roof dome-shaped, the walls plastered with
mud to the height of twelve feet."<31> It is interesting to
observe how closely what little we do know about Mound Builders'
houses coincides with the above.
Recent investigations by the Bureau of Ethnology have brought to
light vestiges of great numbers of their buildings. These were
mostly circular, but those of a square or rectangular form were
also observed. In Arkansas their location was generally on low,
flat mounds, but vestiges of some were also noticed near the
surface of large mounds. In Southern Illinois, South-eastern
Missouri, and Middle and Western Tennessee the sites of
thousands were observed, not in or on mounds, but marked by
little circular, saucer-shaped depressions, from twenty to fifty
feet in diameter, surrounded by a slight earthen ring. We know
the framework of these houses was poles, for in several cases
the charred remains of these poles were found. We know they
were plastered with a thick coating of mud, for regular layers
of lumps of this burnt plastering are found. These lumps have
often been mistaken for bricks, as in the Selzertown mound.
In several cases the plastering had been stamped with an
implement, probably made of split cane of large size.<32>
On the lower Mississippi we meet with the Natchez, a tribe that
has excited a great deal of interest; but at present we only
want to note that they also constructed mounds. They were nearly
exterminated by the French in 1729. But before this Du Pratz had
lived among them, and left a description of their customs.
Their temple was about thirty feet square, and was situated on a
mound about eight feet high, which sloped insensibly from its
main front on the north, but was somewhat steeper on the other
sides. He also states that the cabin of the chief, or great sun,
as he was called, was placed upon a mound of about the same
height, though somewhat larger, being sixty feet over the
surface.<33> A missionary who labored among them, stated that
when the chief died his mound was deserted, and a new one built
for the next chief.<34>
Neither was this custom of erecting mounds confined to the
Southern Indians. Colden states of the Iroquois: "They make a
round hole in which the body is placed, then they raise the
earth in a round hill over it."<35> It was the custom among a
large number of tribes to gather together the remains of all who
had died during several years and bury them all together,
erecting a mound over them.<36> Mr. Jefferson, in his notes on
Virginia, describes one of these mounds, and relates this
interesting fact in reference to it: "A party of Indians passing
about thirty years ago through the part of the country where
this barrow is, went through the woods directly to it, without
any instructions or inquiry; and having staid about it some
time, with expressions which were construed to be those of
sorrow, they returned to the high road, which they had left
about a half dozen miles to pay this visit, and pursued their
Coming down to our own times, the Indians had lost a great many
of their ancient customs, yet, at times, this old instinct of
mound burial asserts itself. About the first of the century
Blackbird, a celebrated chief of the Omahas, returning to his
native home after a visit to Washington, died of the small-pox.
It was his dying request that his body be placed on horseback,
and the horse buried alive with him. Accordingly, in the
presence of all his nation, his body was placed on the back of
his favorite white horse, fully equipped as if for a long
journey, with all that was necessary for an Indian's happiness,
including the scalps of his enemies. Turfs were brought and
placed around the feet and legs, and up the sides of the
unsuspecting animal, and so gradually the horse and its rider
were buried from sight, thus forming a good-sized burial
mound.<38> Another instance came under Mr. Catlin's observation
at the pipe stone quarry in Dakota. He visited there about 1832
and saw a conical mound, ten feet high, that had been erected
over the body of a young man accidentally killed there two
Enough references have now been given to show that the Indian
tribes certainly did erect mounds, and that there is every
reason to suppose they were the authors of the temple mounds of
the South, or of some of them, at any rate. We have now shown
that, according to early writers, the Indians did live in
permanent villages, often stockaded, and knew very well how to
raise embankments and mounds. It would seem as if this removed
all necessity for supposing the existence of an extinct race to
explain the numerous remains, collectively known as Mound
Builders' works. Yet, as this is surely an important point, it
may be well to carry the investigations a little further.
Taking in account the great amount of labor necessary to raise
such structures as the mounds at Cahokia and Grave Creek, and
the complicated works at Newark, some writers have asserted that
the government of the Mound Builders was one in which the
central authority must have had absolute power over the persons
of the subjects, that they were in effect slaves;<39> and as
this was altogether contrary to what is known amongst Indian
tribes, they must have been of a different race.
If the Indians in a tribal state are known to have erected some
mounds, and to have built temple-platforms and walled towns in
the south, then all they needed was sufficient motive, religious
or otherwise, to have built the most stupendous works known.
We think the ruined pueblos in the Chaco Canyon represent as
great an amount of work as many of those of the Mound Builders.
A calculation has been made, showing that over thirty million
pieces of stone were required in the construction of one
pueblo,<40> besides an abundance of timber. Each piece of stone
had to be dressed roughly to fit its place; the timbers had to
be brought from a considerable distance, cut and fitted to their
places in the wall, and then covered with other courses, besides
other details of construction, such as roof-making, plastering,
and so forth, and this is not the calculation of the largest
pueblo either.<41> Yet no one supposes that the Indian tribes
who erected these structures were under a despotic form
We think, however, that it might be freely admitted that in all
probability the government of the Mound Builders was arbitrary,
but so was the government of a great many Indian tribes.
Amongst the Natchez the chief was considered as descended from
the sun. Nor was this belief confined to the Natchez, as the
tribes of the Floridian Peninsula asserted the same thing of
their chiefs. Among all these latter tribes the chief held
absolute and unquestioned power over the persons, property, and
time of their subjects.<42>
Amongst the Natchez the power of the Great Sun (their title for
chief) seems to have been very great. This nation had a
regularly organized system of priesthood, of which the chief was
also the head. On the death of the chief a number of his
subjects were put to death to keep him company. But we must
notice that the subjects considered it an honor to die with the
chief, and made application beforehand for the privilege.
Bearing these facts in mind, it does not seem improbable that in
more distant days, when the Natchez or some kindred tribe were
in the height of their power, the death of some great chief
might well be memorialized by the erection of a mound as grand
in proportion as that of Grave Creek.
In fact, the more we study the subject, the more firmly we
become convinced that there is no hard and fast line separating
the works of the Mound Builders from those of the later Indians.
We therefore think that we may safely assert that the best
authorities in the United States now consider that the mound
building tribes were Indians, in much the same state of culture
as the Indian tribes in the Gulf States at the time of the
discovery of America, and we shall not probably be far out of
the way if we assert, that when driven from the valley of the
Ohio by more warlike people they became absorbed by the southern
tribes, and, indeed the opinion is quite freely advanced that
the Natchez themselves were a remnant of the "Mysterious
If the Mound Building tribes were here at a comparatively late
date, we ought to expect to find some traditions of their former
existence. The statement is quite often made that the Indians
had no tradition as to the origin or purpose of the mounds, and
from this it is argued that the mounds are of great antiquity.
But, instead of finding no traditions, we find nearly every
tribe possessed of some, and often very full and distinct.<43>
It makes no difference that a number of those traditions are
childish, and that traditions are a very unsatisfactory sort of
proof at best. Still, if we observe that the traditions, such as
they are, are corroborative of other proofs, it is well to
examine into them anyway.
The Iroquois tribes have a tradition, that is given in the
writing of Cusick, a Tuscaroa Indian. It is generally considered
as a nonsensical production, but Mr. Hale points out that,
"whenever his statements can be submitted to the tests of
language, they are invariably confirmed."<44> Such, for
instance, are the assertions that they formerly inhabited the
country around the St. Lawrence River in Canada, and further,
that the Mohawk was the oldest tribe, from whence the others
separated in time.
The substance of the tradition supposed to refer to the Mound
Builders, is as follows: South of the great lakes was the seat
of a great empire. The emperor resided in a golden city.
The nations to the north of the great lakes formed a
confederacy, and seated a great council fire on the river St.
Lawrence. This confederacy appointed a high chief as ambassador,
who immediately departed to the south to visit the emperor at
the golden city. Afterwards, the emperor built many forts
throughout his dominions, and almost penetrated to Lake Erie.
The people to the north considered this an infringement on their
territory, and it resulted in a long war.
The people of the north were too skillful in the use of bows and
arrows, and could endure hardships which proved fatal to a
foreign people. At last, the northern people gained the victory,
and all the towns and forts were totally destroyed and left in
ruins.<45> If this tradition stood alone, it would not be
deserving of much attention, but we know the Iroquois tribes did
originally live in the valley of the St. Lawrence. We also feel
sure the Mound Builders were a powerful people, and lived in the
Ohio Valley. What is there unreasonable, therefore, in supposing
that the Iroquois came in contact with them, and that this
tradition rests on facts?
But this tradition is very similar to one among the Delawares.
This tribe spoke a different stock language than the Iroquois,
and belonged to the Algonquin division of the Indian tribes.
There were many wars between the Delawares and the Iroquois, but
finally the latter were acknowledged masters. It is well to keep
this in mind, because with this feeling between the two tribes,
they would not be apt to have similar traditions unless there
was a basis of fact.<46>
Mr. Gallatin informs us that the original home of the Algonquins
was to the north of Lake Superior. The tradition states that the
Delawares (they called themselves the Leni-lenape) were living
in a cold, fir-tree country--evidently the wooded regions north
of Lake Superior. Getting tired of this country, they set out
towards the East in search of a better place, and probably
followed the lake shore around until they finally came to a
great river--that is, the Detroit. The country beyond was
inhabited by a numerous and powerful people, called the
Allegewi,<47> who dwelt in great fortified towns. Here they
found the Huron-Iroquois tribes. This was before the Iroquois
had separated from the Hurons.
Some treachery on the part of the Allegewi was made the occasion
of war. The Leni-lenape and the Hurons united their forces.
This is perhaps the Confederacy of Cusic. A long war resulted,
but in the end the Allegewi were defeated, and, as the tradition
states, "all went southward."<48> We see no reason to doubt but
what we have here a traditional account of the overthrow of the
Mound Builders. The remnant that fled south found the country
inhabited by mound-building tribes, and doubtless became
absorbed among them. In confirmation of this view it may be said
that the languages of the tribes of the Gulf States, which
belong to one stock language,<49> have all been greatly
influenced by words derived from a foreign source.<50>
Perhaps a large body of them may have lived on as a fully
organized tribe. As we have already stated, the opinion is quite
freely advanced that this is the origin of the Natchez.<51>
It seems advisable to inquire more particularly into the customs
and traditions of this tribe. Du Pratz, who lived among them in
1718, and claims to have enjoyed the confidence of their chiefs
and principal men, has left the most complete account of them;
though Father Charlevoix, a Jesuit priest, in his letters, also
describes them fully.
A number of interesting statements in regard to them, at once
arrest attention. Most of the tribes in the southern region of
the United States spoke dialects of a common stock language
(Chata-muskoki), showing a derivation from a common source.
The Natchez spoke a different language. Sun-worship seems to
have been carried to a greater extent than among any other
tribes we are acquainted with. As late as 1730 they still had
their temples, where the eternal fire was kept burning,
carefully watched; for they believed that should it become
extinguished, it would surely bring great trouble on the tribe.
Among the Natchez, if anywhere among Indian tribes, the power of
the chief was absolute, and there seems to have been something
like privileged classes amongst them. We have already referred
to them as Mound Builders.
But most interesting is it to learn of their former wide
extension and ancient power. Du Pratz says, "According to their
traditions they were the most powerful nation of all North
America, and were looked upon by other nations as their
superiors, and on that account were respected by them. To give
an idea of their power, I shall only mention that formerly they
extended from the River Manchas, or Iberville, which is about
fifty leagues from the sea, to the River Wabash, which is
distant from the sea about four hundred and sixty leagues;
and that they had about eight hundred suns, or princes."<52>
It is at least a reasonable supposition that that the Natchez
were a remnant of the Mound Builders.
So far we have dwelt chiefly on the relations between the
Indians and the Mound Builders. Let us now see if we can not
detect some connection between the Pueblo tribes of the
south-west and the Mound Builders. All the tribes in the Gulf
States had traditions of a western and south-western origin.
In regard to the Creek Indians, this tradition is very distinct.
They relate, with many details, their journey from the west,
their fight with the Alabamas, etc.<53> In the Natchez
tradition, as given by Du Pratz, they are seen, not only to come
from the same western source, but distinctly preserve
recollections of pueblo houses.
The substance of their traditions is that they came from a
pleasant country and mild climate, "under the sun," and in the
south-west, where the nation had lived for many ages, and had
spread over an extensive country of mountains, hills, and
plains, in which the houses were built of stone, and were
several stories high. They further relate how, owing to increase
of enemies, the great sun sent some one over to examine and
report on the country to be found to the east. The country being
found extremely pleasant, a large part of their nation removed
thither; and, after many generations, the great sun himself came
also. Speaking of the ancient inhabitants of the country they
came from, the tradition states that "they had a great number of
large and small villages, which were all built of stone, and in
which were houses large enough to lodge a whole tribe."<54>
We would offer the same suggestion on these traditions as on the
others. They are of value only so far as supported by other
testimony. The great objection to them is that the pueblo
structures of the west are evidently of recent origin. So these
traditions would prove that the Natchez Indians were quite
recently connected with the Pueblo tribes, which is not at all
probable. We have some slight evidence that does not rest on
traditions. Mr. Holmes has given us a plan of an ancient village
he discovered on the La Platte River, San Juan Valley. It will
be seen by reference to the plate that the buildings were
separated from each other. The forms are chiefly rectangles and
circles, and one or two seem to have been elliptical.
This description certainly reminds us of the circles and squares
so common among the Mound Builders. But there is also a
truncated mound, fifty by eighty feet, and nine feet high.
"Its flat top and height give it more the appearance of one of
the sacrificial mounds of the Ohio Valley than any others
observed in this part of the West." Mounds are known to exist
Illustration of Ruins near the La Platte Valley of the San Juan.
We need not expect to trace a continuous line of ruins from the
San Juan Valley to that of the Ohio, granting the migration to
have taken place, because a migrating race would not be apt to
erect monuments until they reached the end of their line of
migration. Those who take this view of it say that it is not at
all strange that when these migrating tribes reached their new
homes in the Mississippi Valley they erected structures
differing from those they had formerly built, because all their
surroundings would be different, and in the prairie sections
they would find neither stone for building their pueblos nor
clay suitable for adobe construction. So they would do the next
best thing, and build a fortified village. This is the view of
that eminent scholar, Mr. Morgan. It must be borne in mind,
however, that the fortified villages of the southern Indians,
including those of the Mississippi Valley, corresponded more
nearly with those of the Atlantic shore, and more northern
tribes, than with the pueblo structures.
There is another line of proof which we think has been read the
wrong way, or, at least, applied too strongly, and made to do
service in proving that the Mound Builders migrated from the
valley of the Ohio to Mexico, and there laid the foundation of
that wonderful civilization which is yet a riddle to the
antiquarian.<56> This is derived from a study of the skulls
procured from various sections of this country, Peru, and
Mexico. It is sufficient to state that anatomists have made a
careful study of the skulls of individuals of various nations,
and instituted certain comparisons between them, and discoveries
of great importance have been made by this means. Now, some of
our best American scholars have insisted that the skulls of the
Mound Builders and the ancient inhabitants of Mexico and the
Inca Peruvians are so similar that they must have belonged to
the same race.
This type of skull, however, is characteristic, not only of the
Mound Builders, the ancient Mexicans and the Peruvians, but of
the Pueblos, and of such tribes as the Natchez, Creeks, and
Seminoles. We think, with all due regard to the opinions of
others, that in the present state of our knowledge of craniology
we are not authorized in drawing very important conclusions
therefrom. About all we are justified in stating is that the
sedentary or village Indians, whether found in North or South
America, have certain common features.
It is also hard to see any great resemblance between the works
of the Mound Builders and the Pueblo tribes. The truncated
mounds discovered by Mr. Holmes, we remember, were also used as
foundations for house structures along the Gila. In this feature
we, of course, see a resemblance to the platform mounds of the
Mississippi Valley. But we must be careful in tracing
connections on such a slim basis as this. We must remember also
what a difference there is in the pottery of the two
sections.<57> If we were to give an opinion, based on the
present known facts, we should say the separation between the
people who afterwards developed as the pueblo builders of the
west and the Mound Builders of the Mississippi Valley took place
at an early date.
But let us not suppose that this conclusion clears up all
mysteries. A problem which has thus far defied the efforts of
some of our best thinkers is still before us, and that is:
"From whence came the Indians?" As we remarked at the beginning
of this chapter, no one theory has yet received universal
acceptance. In view of these facts, it is not best to present
any theories, but content ourselves with such statements as seem
reasonably well settled. On all hands it is agreed that the
Indians have been in America a long while, and whatever advance
they were able to make in the scale of civilization has been
achieved in this country.<58>
This statement implies that they were in undisturbed possession
of this country long enough for some tribes of them to reach the
middle status of barbarism, which means advancement sufficient
to enable them to cultivate the ground by irrigation, and to
acquire a knowledge of the use of stone and adobe brick in
building.<59> More than half the battle of civilization had then
been won. Look at it as we will, this demands an immense period
of time for its accomplishment. In the arts of subsistence,
government, language, and development of religious ideas the
advancement they had been able to make from a condition of
savagism to that in which the Mound Builders evidently lived, or
the Aztecs in Mexico, represents a progression far greater than
from thence to civilization.
We are, therefore, sure that the Indians have inhabited this
country for an extended period. We can prolong the mental vision
backwards until we discover them, a savage race, gaining a
precarious livelihood by fishing and the chase. In America there
was but one cereal, or grain, growing wild. That was maize, or
Indian corn. We can not tell in what portion of the continent it
was native, but, in whatever section it was, there, probably,
first commenced permanent village life.
A settled residence, and being no longer dependent on hunting
for a livelihood, would advance the Indians greatly in the scale
of culture. So we can understand how in one section would arise
Indian tribes possessed of quite complicated systems of
government and religion and a knowledge of agriculture. And from
this as a center they would naturally spread out to other
sections. The conclusion to which we seem driven is, that there
is no necessity for supposing the Mound Builders to be any thing
more than village Indians, in much the same state of development
as the southern Indians at the time of the discovery. The Indian
race shows us tribes in various stages of development, from the
highly developed Pueblo Indians on the one hand to the miserable
Aborigines of California on the other.
These various tribes may be classified as the wild hunting
tribes and the sedentary, partially civilized tribes. To this
last division belong the Mound Builders. We have seen how the
partially civilized tribes in the valley of the San Juan were
gradually driven south by the pressure of wild tribes. We need
not doubt but such was the case in the Mississippi Valley.
But we need not picture to ourselves any imposing movement of
tribes. In one location a mound-building tribe may have been
forced to abandon its territory, which would be occupied by
bands of hunting tribes. In other cases they would cling more
tenaciously to their territory. The bulk of them may have been
forced south; some in other directions, and, like the Pimas on
the River Gila, or the Junanos east of the Rio Grande, have
retrograded in culture.<60> Some bands may even have reached
Mexico, and exerted an influence on the culture of the tribes
It is only necessary to add a brief word as to the antiquity of
the Mound Builders' works, or rather as to the time of
abandonment. On this point there is a great diversity of
opinion, and it seems to us almost impossible to come to any
definite conclusion. The time of abandonment may vary greatly in
different sections of the country, and we have seen how apt
Indian tribes, even in the same section, are to abandon one
village site in order to form another a few miles away.<62>
Fort Hill, in Ohio, that so strongly impressed its first
explorers with a sense of antiquity,<63> may have been abandoned
long before the Circleville works, where Mr. Atwater could still
distinguish vestiges of the palisades that once helped to
We have said about all that can be said in a brief review of the
prehistoric life in America north of Mexico. We have seen how
much there is still for our scholars to work up before we can
profess to as full and complete a knowledge as we have of the
prehistoric life in Europe. We are just on the threshold of
discoveries in regard to the Paleolithic Age in this country.
The southern boundary of the great ice sheet is now known to us.
Many scholars have pointed out to us the scattering bits of
evidence going to show that the ancestors of the present Eskimos
once inhabited the interior of this continent. Dr. Abbott has
found unmistakable evidence of the presence of such a people in
New Jersey. Our Indian tribes who came next, are not properly
prehistoric, though many questions relating to them belong to
We have examined the works of the people known as Mound
Builders. They are indeed varied and full of interest, but our
conclusion leaves their origin involved in the still deeper
question of the origin of the Indian race. We are satisfied that
they were village Indians and not tribes of a vanished people.
We have also examined that section of country wherein the
greatest development of village Indian life north of Mexico took
place. It would be very satisfactory could we show lines of
migration from the valley of the San Juan, as a center, to the
Mississippi Valley on the one hand, and to Mexico and the South
on the other. We can find some lines of evidence, but not enough
to positively state such an important truth.
We must now leave this field of inquiry. We trust such of our
readers as have followed us in these pages will have clearer
ideas of the prehistoric life in North America. They must
however regard this knowledge as simply a foundation, a
starting-point, or as the shallows along the shore, while the
massive building, the long journey, or the great ocean, is still
before them. Our scholars are giving their time and attention to
these problems. They are learning what they can of the
traditions and myths of the tribes still existing. They are
studying their languages and plan of government. They are also
making great collections of the works of their hands. We will
hope some day for clear light on all these topics, which will
either confirm our present conclusions or show us wherein we
must change them, or, perhaps, reject them altogether.
Illustration of Stone Mask found in Tennessee.-----------
(1) The manuscript of this chapter was submitted to Cyrus
Thomas, Ph.D., of the Bureau of Ethnology, for criticism.
(2) Baldwin's "Ancient America," p. 58. Gallatin, Trans. Am.
Ethnol. Soc., I., p. 207. Short's "North Americans of
Antiquity," p. 65. Conant's "Footprints of Vanished Races,"
p. 120. Jone's "Antiquities of Tennessee," p. 146. MacLean's
"The Mound Builders," Chap. xii.
(3) Carr's "Mounds of the Mississippi Valley." Schoolcraft's
"Archives of Aboriginal Knowledge," Vol. I., p. 66; Vol. II.,
p. 30. Morgan's "House and House Life American Aborigines,"
Vol. IV.; "Contributions to N. A. Ethnology," p. 199. Brinton:
American Antiquarian, October, 1881. Thomas: American
Antiquarian, March, 1884. Powell: Transactions of
Anthropological Society, 1881, p. 116.
(4) Of course these words vary in different nations, but the
meaning is the same in all.
(5) Morgan's "Ancient Society," p. 269.
(6) The gens, phratry, and tribe were subdivisions of the
Ancient Greeks. Of a similar import were the gens, curiae, and
tribe of the Roman tribes. The Irish sept and the Scottish clan
are the same in meaning as the gens of other tribes. American
authors, in treating of the Indians, have generally used the
words tribe and clan as equivalent of gens. This is not correct.
Almost all the tribes had a complete organization in gens and
phratries, though of course they did not so name them. These
terms are adopted by Mr. Morgan because they have a precise and
historical meaning. As an example of Indian tribal-organization,
we give an outline of the Seneca-Iroquois tribe.
First Phratry, Bear
or Wolf Gens.
Second Phratry, Deer
or Snipe Gens.
It is proper to remark that the phratries are not a necessary
member of the series. Several of the Indian tribes had only gens
and tribe. Mr. Schoolcraft uses the words totemic system to
express the same organization. Totem, the Ojibway dialect,
signifies the symbol or devise which they use to designate the
gens. Thus the figure of a bear would be the totem of the bear
gens. We must remember that the tribes of to-day have, in many
cases, lost their ancient organization. See Morgan's "Ancient
Society," where this subject is fully treated. Also Powell, in
"First Annual Report of Bureau of Ethnology;" Grote's "History
of Greece," Vol. III, p. 55, et seq.; Smith's "Dictionary
of Greek and Roman Antiquities," articles, gens, civitas,
tribus, etc.; also Dorsey, in American Antiquarian, Oct.,
1883, p. 312, et seq.
(7) The Mexican tribes form no exception to this statement. See
this volume, Chapter XV.
(8) Lewis's "Wild Races of South-eastern India."
(9) Grote's "History of Greece," Vol. II.
(10) Mallery: "American Association Reports," 1877.
(12) Morgan: "Contribution to N. A. Ethnology," Vol. IV, p. 119.
(13) "Luis Hernando De Biedman," and "A Gentleman of Elvas,"
both translated in "Historic Collections of Louisiana," Vol. II.
(14) "Historical Collections of Louisiana," Vol. I, p. 61.
(15) Morgan's "Contribution to N. A. Ethnology," Vol. IV,
(16) Read Capt. John Smith, "Hist. of Virginia;" also "Mass.
Hist. Col.," Vol. VIII, of the third series.
(17) Consult "The Mounds of the Mississippi Valley," by Lucian
Carr, of the Kentucky Graphical Survey, where this subject is
fully treated, and copious quotations given.
(18) Morgan's "Ancient Society," p. 526.
(19) Bandelier's "Fifth Annual Report, Arch. Inst.," p. 60.
(20) "Charlevoix's Travels in North America," p. 241.
(21) Fourth Annual Report of Peabody Museum, and from
information furnished me by the U.S. Bureau of Ethnology.
(22) "The custom of palisading appears to have been general
among the northern tribes."--Brackenridge's "Views of
Louisiana," p. 182.
(23) "Views of Louisiana," p. 183.
(24) "Archaeology Americanae," Vol. I., p. 145.
(25) "Views of Louisiana," p. 182.
(26) Carr: "Mounds of the Mississippi Valley," p. 78.
(27) Quoted from Brinton, Am. Antiq., Oct., 1881.
(28) Hist. Col. of Louisiana, Vol. II., p. 105.
(29) "Mounds of the Mississippi Valley," p. 90.
(30) "Expedition to Florida," p. 15.
(31) Shea's "Early Voyages on the Mississippi," p. 135.
"Historical Collections of Louisiana," Vol. I., p. 61. Quoted
from Cyrus Thomas in American Antiquarian, March, 1884.
(32) See article by Cyrus Thomas, of the Bureau of Ethnology, in
American Antiquarian, March, 1884.
(33) "History of Louisiana," Lond., 1763, Vol. II., pp. 188 and
(34) Father Le Petit: Note, p. 142. "Hist. Col. Louisiana,"
(35) "Hist. of the Five Nations," Introduction, p. 16.
(36) Smithsonian Contribution to Knowledge, No. 259, p. 15;
"Mounds of the Mississippi Valley," p. 87.
(37) "Notes on Virginia," p. 191.
(38) Catlin's "North American Indians," p. 95.
(39) Foster's "Prehistoric Races of the U.S.," p. 346.
(40) Pueblo Chettro-kettle, Chaco Canyon.
(41) "Geographical and Geological Survey of the Territories,"
Hayden, 1876, p. 440. Calculations made by Mr. Holmes.
(42) Brinton's "Floridian Peninsula," p. 21. We think, however,
this statement requires to be taken with some allowance.
Personal liberty seems to have been the birthright of every
Indian. ("Mounds of the Mississippi Valley," Carr, p. 24.) The
council of the tribe is the real governing body of all people in
a tribal state of society. ("Ancient Society," Morgan.) When the
war-chief united in his person priestly powers also, he at once
became an object of greater interest. This explains why the
government of the chiefs among all the Southern Indian tribes
appears so much more arbitrary than among the northern tribes.
His real power was probably much the same in both cases, but
superstition had surrounded his person with a great many
formalities. The early explorers, acquainted only with the
arbitrary governments of Europe, saw in all this despotic powers
whereas there might not have been much foundation for
(43) "Traditions of Decodah," Pidgeon. Carr, "Mounds of the
Mississippi Valley," p. 70.
(44) "Indian Migrations," American Antiquarian, April,
(45) Mr. Hale suggests that copper was the gold of the North
American Indians, and that the "golden city" simply means a city
or town where they knew how to work copper. It is well known
that the mound building tribes had such knowledge, at least they
knew how to work native copper.
(46) This tradition was first made known by Heckwelder, a
missionary among the Delawares, in his "History of the Indian
Nations." It is repeated at much greater length, and with
additional particulars, in a paper read by Mr. E. G. Squier,
before the Historical Society of New York. Mr. Squier has simply
translated a genuine Indian record known as the Bark Record. The
two authorities here mentioned consider the Delawares as coming
from west of the Mississippi. Mr. Hale points out that it was
more likely the Upper St. Lawrence--that portion known as the
Detroit River--that was the "Great River" of the traditions.
(47) From this word comes Alleghany Mountains and River.
(48) In this connection it is at least interesting to note that
several authors--Squier, MacLean, and others--have contended,
judging from the fortified hills and camps, that the pressure of
hostilities on the Mound Builders of the Ohio Valley was from
(49) The Chata-muskoki family. (Brinton.)
(50) Hale: American Antiquarian, April, 1883.
(51) We are not at all certain but our scholars will shortly
come to the conclusion that the Cherokees or Shawnees are quite
as likely to be the descendants of the Allegewi as the Natchez.
(52) It is scarcely necessary to caution the reader as to the
value of this statement of ancient greatness. The chroniclers of
De Soto's expedition had nothing to say about it.
(53) Pickett's "History of Alabama," Vol. II.
(54) Du Pratz: "History of Louisiana," Vol. II.
(55) Stone metates, or mills, have so far been found only
in Missouri, not far from the Missouri River. As this is such an
important implement among the Pueblo tribes, its presence in
this locality is significant. (Thomas.)
(56) As the proof seems to be conclusive that the Indians of the
south who were encountered by the Europeans first visiting that
section were the builders of the mounds of that region, it
brings these works down to a date subsequent to the entry of the
civilized tribes into Mexico. (Thomas.)
(57) Some of the pottery from South-eastern Missouri and
Arkansas shows a strong resemblance to that of some Pueblo
(58) Short's "North Americans of Antiquity," p. 202.
(59) Morgan: "Ancient Society," p. 12.
(60) "Fifth Annual Report Archaeological Institute," p. 85.
(61) Short's "North Americans of Antiquity," p. 458.
(62) Carr: "Mounds of the Mississippi Valley," p. 97.
(63) "Ancient Monuments," p. 14.
END OF CHAPTER XII.*****************
The Prehistoric World: or, Vanished Races
by E. A. Allen
Processed by D.R. Thompson
THE NAHUA TRIBES.
Early Spanish discoveries in Mexico--The Nahua tribes defined--
Climate of Mexico--The Valley of Anahuac--Ruins at Tezcuco--The
hill of Tezcocingo--Ruins at Teotihuacan--Ancient Tulla--Ruins
in the province of Querataro--Casa Grandes in Chihuahua--Ancient
remains in Sinaloa--Fortified hill of Quemada--The Pyramid of
Cholula--Mr. Bandelier's investigations at Cholula--Fortified
hill at Xochicalco--Its probable use--Ruins at Monte Alban--
Ancient remains at Mitla--Mr. Bandelier's investigations--
Traditions in regard to Mitla--Ruins along the Panuco River--
Ruins in Vera Cruz--Pyramid of Papantla--Tusapan--Character of
When the ships of the Spanish admiral came to anchor before the
Island of San Salvador, he had indeed discovered a "New World."
It was inhabited by a race of people living in a state of
society from which the inhabitants of Europe had emerged long
before the dawn of authentic history. The animal and plant life
were also greatly different from any thing with which they were
acquainted. The Spaniards little suspected the importance of
their discovery. Columbus himself died in the belief that he had
simply explored a new route to Asia. A quarter of a century
elapsed after the first voyage of Columbus before an expedition
coasted along the shores of Mexico. This was the expedition of
Juan De Grijalva, in 1518. He gave a glowing description of the
country he had seen, which "from the beauty and verdure of its
indented shores, and the lovely appearances of its villages, he
called 'New Spain.'"<1>
Illustration of Map of Mexico.-------------------
This was followed, in the year 1519, by the history-making
expedition of Cortez. The scene of his first landing was about
forty miles south of the present town of Vera Cruz, but to this
place they soon removed. At his very first landing-point he
learned of the existence of what he was pleased to call a
powerful empire, ruled by a most valiant prince. The accounts
the Indian allies gave him of the power and wealth of this
empire inflamed the imagination of Cortez and his followers.
This was an age, we must remember that delighted in tales of the
marvelous; add to this the further fact that Cortez was not, at
the beginning of his expedition, acting with the sanction of his
royal master; indeed, his sailing from the island of Cuba was in
direct violation of the commands of the governor. It was very
necessary for him to impress upon the court of Spain a sense of
the importance of his undertaking.
Certain it is that the accounts that have been handed down to
us, though read with wonder and admiration, though made the
basis on which many writers have constructed most glowing
descriptions of the wonders of the barbaric civilization, which
they would fain have us believe, rivaled that of "Ormus and of
Ind," are to-day seriously questioned by a large and influential
portion of the scientific world. We have another point to be
considered that is of no little weight, as all candid men must
admit that it would influence the opinions the Spaniards would
form of the culture of the Indians. As the man of mature years
has lost the memory of his childhood, so have the civilized
races of men lost, even beyond the reach of tradition, the
memory of their barbaric state. The Spaniards were brought face
to face with a state of society from which the Indo-European
folks had emerged many centuries before. They could not be
expected to understand it, and hence it is that we find so many
contradictory statements in the accounts of the early explorers;
so much that modern scholars have no hesitation in rejecting.
The main tribe of the empire which Cortez is said have
overthrown is known to us by the name of the Aztecs; but as this
name properly denotes but one of many tribes in the same state
of development, it is better to use a word which includes all,
or nearly all, of the tribes that in olden times had their home
in the territory now known as Mexico. Careful comparisons of the
various dialects of ancient Mexico have shown that, with the
exceptions of some tribes in Vera Cruz, they all belonged to one
stock-language; and so they are collectively known as the
We wish now to inquire into the culture of this people, to see
how much of the strange story that the Spaniards have to tell us
has a reasonable foundation. We will state frankly that, though
the literature on this subject is of vast proportions, yet it is
very far from being a settled field. All accounts of the early
explorers of the strange scenes, customs, and manners of the
inhabitants, when they were first discovered, are so intermixed
with self-evident fables, and statements that are undoubtedly
exaggerations, that we have a most difficult task before us.
We will first examine the antiquities of this section, compare
them with those found in more northern regions, and then examine
the statements of the early writers as to the customs of the
people. We do not propose to do more than to follow after our
leaders in thought, and try to make plain the conclusions to
which they have arrived. We are not to deal wholly with a
prehistoric people, though their origin is unknown. What we
desire to do is to clear away the mists of three and a half
centuries, and to catch, if possible, a glimpse of what was
probably the highest development of prehistoric culture in North
America just before the arrival of the Spaniards.
Mexico was surely a land well adapted to the needs of a
prehistoric people. Along the coasts the ground is low.
Back to Full Books