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Title: Animal Carvings from Mounds of the Mississippi Valley - Second Annual Report of the Bureau of Ethnology to the - Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, 1880-81, - Government Printing Office, Washington, 1883, pages 117-166
Author: Henshaw, Henry W. (Henry Wetherbee), 1850-1930
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Animal Carvings from Mounds of the Mississippi Valley - Second Annual Report of the Bureau of Ethnology to the - Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, 1880-81, - Government Printing Office, Washington, 1883, pages 117-166" ***

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Introductory                                     123
  Manatee                                        125
  Toucan                                         135
  Paroquet                                       139
Knowledge of tropical animals by Mound-Builders  142
  Other errors of identification                 144
Skill in sculpture of the Mound-Builders         148
  Generalization not designed                    149
  Probable totemic origin                        150
Animal mounds                                    152
  The "Elephant" mound                           152
  The "Alligator" mound                          158
Human sculptures                                 160
Indian and mound-builders' art compared          164
  General conclusions                            166


Fig. 4.--Otter from Squier and Davis                    128
     5.--Otter from Squier and Davis                    128
     6.--Otter from Rau. Manatee from Stevens           129
     7.--Manatee from Stevens                           129
     8.--Lamantin or Sea-Cow from Squier and Davis      130
     9.--Lamantin or Sea-Cow from Squier                130
    10.--Manatee (_Manatus Americanus_, Cuv.)           132
    11.--Manatee (_Manatus Americanus_, Cuv.)           132
    12.--Cincinnati Tablet--back. From Squier and Davis 133
    13.--Cincinnati Tablet--back. From Short            134
    14.--Toucan from Squier and Davis                   135
    15.--Toucan from Squier and Davis                   135
    16.--Toucan from Squier and Davis                   136
    17.--Toucan as figured by Stevens                   137
    18.--Keel-billed Toucan of Southern Mexico          139
    19.--Paroquet from Squier and Davis                 140
    20.--Owl from Squier and Davis                      144
    21.--Grouse from Squier and Davis                   144
    22.--Turkey-buzzard from Squier and Davis           145
    23.--Cherry-bird                                    145
    24.--Woodpecker                                     146
    25.--Eagle from Squier and Davis                    146
    26.--Rattlesnake from Squier and Davis              147
    27.--Big Elephant Mound in Grant County, Wisconsin  153
    28.--Elephant Pipe. Iowa                            155
    29.--Elephant Pipe. Iowa                            156
    30.--The Alligator Mound near Granville, Ohio       159
    31.--Carvings of heads                              162
    32.--Carvings of heads                              162
    33.--Carvings of heads                              162
    34.--Carving of head                                163
    35.--Carving of head                                163




The considerable degree of decorative and artistic skill attained by the
so-called Mound-Builders, as evidenced by many of the relics that have
been exhumed from the mounds, has not failed to arrest the attention of
archæologists. Among them, indeed, are found not a few who assert for
the people conveniently designated as above a degree of artistic skill
very far superior to that attained by the present race of Indians as
they have been known to history. In fact, this very skill in artistic
design, asserted for the Mound-Builders, as indicated by the sculptures
they have left, forms an important link in the chain of argument upon
which is based the theory of their difference from and superiority to
the North American Indian.

Eminent as is much of the authority which thus contends for an artistic
ability on the part of the Mound-Builders far in advance of the
attainments of the present Indian in the same line, the question is one
admitting of argument; and if some of the best products of artistic
handicraft of the present Indians be compared with objects of a similar
nature taken from the mounds, it is more than doubtful if the artistic
inferiority of the latter-day Indian can be substantiated. Deferring,
however, for the present, any comparison between the artistic ability of
the Mound-Builder and the modern Indian, attention may be turned to a
class of objects from the mounds, notable, indeed, for the skill with
which they are wrought, but to be considered first in another way and
for another purpose than mere artistic comparison.

As the term Mound-Builders will recur many times throughout this paper,
and as the phrase has been objected to by some archæologists on account
of its indefiniteness, it may be well to state that it is employed here
with its commonly accepted signification, viz: as applied to the people
who formerly lived throughout the Mississippi Valley and raised the
mounds of that region. It should also be clearly understood that by its
use the writer is not to be considered as committing himself in any way
to the theory that the Mound-Builders were of a different race from the
North American Indian.

Among the more interesting objects left by the Mound-Builders, pipes
occupy a prominent place. This is partly due to their number, pipes
being among the more common articles unearthed by the labors of
explorers, but more to the fact that in the construction of their pipes
this people exhibited their greatest skill in the way of sculpture. In
the minds of those who hold that the Mound-Builders were the ancestors
of the present Indians, or, at least, that they were not necessarily of
a different race, the superiority of their pipe sculpture over their
other works of art excites no surprise, since, however prominent a place
the pipe may have held in the affections of the Mound-Builders, it is
certain that it has been an object of no less esteem and reverence among
the Indians of history. Certainly no one institution, for so it may be
called, was more firmly fixed by long usage among the North American
Indians, or more characteristic of them, than the pipe, with all its
varied uses and significance.

Perhaps the most characteristic artistic feature displayed in the pipe
sculpture of the Mound-Builders, as has been well pointed out by Wilson,
in his Prehistoric Man, is the tendency exhibited toward the imitation
of natural objects, especially birds and animals, a remark, it may be
said in passing, which applies with almost equal truth to the art
productions generally of the present Indians throughout the length and
breadth of North America. As some of these sculptured animals from the
mounds have excited much interest in the minds of archæologists, and
have been made the basis of much speculation, their examination and
proper identification becomes a matter of considerable importance. It
will therefore be the main purpose of the present paper to examine
critically the evidence offered in behalf of the identification of the
more important of them. If it shall prove, as is believed to be the
case, that serious mistakes of identification have been made, attention
will be called to these and the manner pointed out in which certain
theories have naturally enough resulted from the premises thus
erroneously established.

It may be premised that the writer undertook the examination of the
carvings with no theories of his own to propose in place of those
hitherto advanced. In fact, their critical examination may almost be
said to have been the result of accident. Having made the birds of the
United States his study for several years, the writer glanced over the
bird carvings in the most cursory manner, being curious to see what
species were represented. The inaccurate identification of some of these
by the authors of "The Ancient Monuments of the Mississippi Valley" led
to the examination of the series as a whole, and subsequently to the
discussion they had received at the hands of various authors. The
carvings are, therefore, here considered rather from the stand-point of
the naturalist than the archæologist. Believing that the question first
in importance concerns their actual resemblances, substantially the same
kind of critical study is applied to them which they would receive were
they from the hands of a modern zoological artist. Such a course has
obvious disadvantages, since it places the work of men who were in, at
best, but a semi-civilized condition on a much higher plane than other
facts would seem to justify. It may be urged, as the writer indeed
believes, that the accuracy sufficient for the specific identification
of these carvings is not to be expected of men in the state of culture
the Mound-Builders are generally supposed to have attained. To which
answer may be made that it is precisely on the supposition that the
carvings were accurate copies from nature that the theories respecting
them have been promulgated by archæologists. On no other supposition
could such theories have been advanced. So accurate indeed have they
been deemed that they have been directly compared with the work of
modern artists, as will be noticed hereafter. Hence the method here
adopted in their study seems to be not only the best, but the only one
likely to produce definite results.

If it be found that there are good reasons for pronouncing the carvings
not to be accurate copies from nature, and of a lower artistic standard
than has been supposed, it will remain for the archæologist to determine
how far their unlikeness to the animals they have been supposed to
represent can be attributed to shortcomings naturally pertaining to
barbaric art. If he choose to assume that they were really intended as
imitations, although in many particulars unlike the animals he wishes to
believe them to represent, and that they are as close copies as can be
expected from sculptors not possessed of skill adequate to carry out
their rude conceptions, he will practically have abandoned the position
taken by many prominent archæologists with respect to the mound
sculptors' skill, and will be forced to accord them a position on the
plane of art not superior to the one occupied by the North American
Indians. If it should prove that but a small minority of the carvings
can be specifically identified, owing to inaccuracies and to their
general resemblance, he may indeed go even further and conclude that
they form a very unsafe basis for deductions that owe their very
existence to assumed accurate imitation.


In 1848 Squier and Davis published their great work on the Mounds of the
Mississippi Valley. The skill and zeal with which these gentlemen
prosecuted their researches in the field, and the ability and fidelity
which mark the presentation of their results to the public are
sufficiently attested by the fact that this volume has proved alike the
mine from which subsequent writers have drawn their most important
facts, and the chief inspiration for the vast amount of work in the same
direction since undertaken.

On pages 251 and 252 of the above-mentioned work appear figures of an
animal which is there called "Lamantin, Manitus, or Sea Cow,"
concerning which animal it is stated that "seven sculptured
representations have been taken from the mounds." When first discovered,
the authors continue, "it was supposed they were monstrous creations of
fancy; but subsequent investigations and comparison have shown that they
are faithful representations of one of the most singular animal
productions of the world."

These authors appear to have been the first to note the supposed
likeness of certain of the sculptured forms found in the mounds to
animals living in remote regions. That they were not slow to perceive
the ethnological interest and value of the discovery is shown by the
fact that it was immediately adduced by them as affording a clew to the
possible origin of the Mound-Builders. The importance they attached to
the discovery and their interpretation of its significance will be
apparent from the following quotation (p. 242):

     Some of these sculptures have a value, so far as ethnological
     research is concerned, much higher than they can claim as mere
     works of art. This value is derived from the fact that they
     faithfully represent animals and birds peculiar to other latitudes,
     thus establishing a migration, a very extensive intercommunication
     or a contemporaneous existence of the same race over a vast extent
     of country.

The idea thus suggested fell on fruitful ground, and each succeeding
writer who has attempted to show that the Mound-Builders were of a race
different from the North American Indian, or had other than an
autochthonous origin, has not failed to lay especial stress upon the
presence in the mounds of sculptures of the manatee, as well as of other
strange beasts and birds, carved evidently by the same hands that
portrayed many of our native fauna.

Except that the theories based upon the sculptures have by recent
writers been annunciated more positively and given a wider range, they
have been left almost precisely as set forth by the authors of the
"Ancient Monuments," while absolutely nothing appears to have been
brought to light since their time in the way of additional sculptured
evidence of the same character. It is indeed a little curious to note
the perfect unanimity with which most writers fall back upon the above
authors as at once the source of the data they adduce in support of the
several theories, and as their final, nay, their only, authority. Now
and then one will be found to dissent from some particular bit of
evidence as announced by Squier and Davis, or to give a somewhat
different turn to the conclusions derivable from the testimony offered
by them. But in the main the theories first announced by the authors of
"Ancient Monuments," as the result of their study of the mound
sculptures, are those that pass current to-day. Particular attention may
be called to the deep and lasting impression made by the statements of
these authors as to the great beauty and high standard of excellence
exhibited by the mound sculptures. Since their time writers appear to be
well satisfied to express their own admiration in the terms made use of
by Squier and Davis. One might, indeed, almost suppose that recent
writers have not dared to trust to the evidence afforded by the original
carvings or their fac-similes, but have preferred to take the word of
the authors of the "Ancient Monuments" for beauties which were perhaps
hidden from their own eyes.

Following the lead of the authors of the "Ancient Monuments," also, with
respect to theories of origin, these carvings of supposed foreign
animals are offered as affording incontestible evidence that the
Mound-Builders must have migrated from or have had intercourse, direct
or indirect, with the regions known to harbor these animals. Were it
not, indeed, for the evident artistic similarity between these carvings
of supposed foreign animals and those of common domestic forms--a
similarity which, as Squier and Davis remark, render them
"indistinguishable, so far as material and workmanship are concerned,
from an entire class of remains found in the mounds"--the presence of
most of them could readily be accounted for through the agency of trade,
the far reaching nature of which, even among the wilder tribes, is well
understood. Trade, for instance, in the case of an animal like the
manatee, found no more than a thousand miles distant from the point
where the sculpture was dug up, would offer a possible if not a probable
solution of the matter. But independently of the fact that the
practically identical character of all the carvings render the theory of
trade quite untenable, the very pertinent question arises, why, if these
supposed manatee pipes were derived by trade from other regions, have
not similar carvings been found in those regions, as, for instance, in
Florida and the Gulf States, a region of which the archæology is fairly
well known. Primitive man, as is the case with his civilized brother,
trades usually out of his abundance; so that not seven, but many times
seven, manatee pipes should be found at the center of trade. As it is,
the known home of the manatee has furnished no carvings either of the
manatee or of anything suggestive of it.

The possibility of the manatee having in past times possessed a wider
range than at present seems to have been overlooked. But as a matter of
fact the probability that the manatee ever ranged, in comparatively
modern times at least, as far north as Ohio without leaving other traces
of its presence than a few sculptured representations at the hands of an
ancient people is too small to be entertained.

Nor is the supposition that the Mound-Builders held contemporaneous
possession of the country embraced in the range of the animals whose
effigies are supposed to have been exhumed from their graves worthy of
serious discussion. If true, it would involve the contemporaneous
occupancy by the Mound-Builders, not only of the Southern United States
but of the region stretching into Southern Mexico, and even, according
to the ideas of some authors, into Central and South America, an area
which, it is needless to say, no known facts will for a moment justify
us in supposing a people of one blood to have occupied

Assuming, therefore, that the sculptures in question are the work of
the Mound-Builders and are not derived from distant parts through the
agency of trade, of which there would appear to be little doubt, and,
assuming that the sculptures represent the animals they have been
supposed to represent--of which something remains to be said--the theory
that the acquaintance of the Mound-Builders with these animals was made
in a region far distant from the one to which they subsequently migrated
would seem to be not unworthy of attention. It is necessary, however,
before advancing theories to account for facts to first consider the
facts themselves, and in this case to seek an answer to the question how
far the identification of these carvings of supposed foreign animals is
to be trusted. Before noticing in detail the carvings supposed by Squier
and Davis to represent the manatee, it will be well to glance at the
carvings of another animal figured by the same authors which, it is
believed, has a close connection with them.

[Illustration: Fig. 4.--Otter. From Ancient Monuments.]

Figure 4 is identified by the authors of the "Ancient Monuments" (Fig.
156) as an otter, and few naturalists will hesitate in pronouncing it to
be a very good likeness of that animal; the short broad ears, broad head
and expanded snout, with the short, strong legs, would seem to belong
unmistakably to the otter. Added to all these is the indication of its
fish-catching habits. Having thus correctly identified this animal, and
with it before them, it certainly reflects little credit upon the
zoological knowledge of the authors and their powers of discrimination
to refer the next figure (Ancient Monuments, Fig. 157) to the same

[Illustration: Fig. 5.--Otter of Squier and Davis.]

Of a totally different shape and physiognomy, if intended as an otter it
certainly implies an amazing want of skill in its author. However it is
assuredly not an otter, but is doubtless an unfinished or rudely
executed ground squirrel, of which animal it conveys in a general way a
good idea, the characteristic attitude of this little rodent, sitting
up with paws extended in front, being well displayed. Carvings of small
rodents in similar attitudes are exhibited in Stevens's "Flint Chips,"
p. 428, Figs. 61 and 62. Stevens's Fig. 61 evidently represents the same
animal as Fig. 157 of Squier and Davis, but is a better executed

In illustration of the somewhat vague idea entertained by archæologists
as to what the manatee is like, it is of interest to note that the
carving of a second otter with a fish in its mouth has been made to do
duty as a manatee, although the latter animal is well known never to eat
fish, but, on the contrary, to be strictly herbivorous. Thus Stevens
gives figures of two carvings in his "Flint Chips," p. 429, Figs. 65 and
66, calling them manatees, and says: "In one particular, however, the
sculptors of the mound-period committed an error. Although the lamantin
is strictly herbivorous, feeding chiefly upon subaqueous plants and
littoral herbs, yet upon one of the stone smoking-pipes, Fig. 66, this
animal is represented with a fish in its mouth." Mr. Stevens apparently
preferred to credit the mound sculptor with gross ignorance of the
habits of the manatee, rather than to abate one jot or tittle of the
claim possessed by the carving to be considered a representation of that
animal. Stevens's fish-catching manatee is the same carving given by Dr.
Rau, in the Archæological Collection of the United States National
Museum, p. 47, Fig. 180, where it is correctly stated to be an otter.
This cut, which can scarcely be distinguished from one given by Stevens
(Fig. 66), is here reproduced (Fig. 6), together with the second
supposed manatee of the latter writer (Fig. 7).

[Illustration: Fig. 6.--Otter of Rau; Manatee of Stevens.]

[Illustration: Fig. 7.--Manatee of Stevens.]

To afford a means of comparison, Fig. 154, from the "Ancient Monuments"
of Squier and Davis, is introduced (Fig. 8). The same figure is also to
be found in Wilson's Prehistoric Man, vol. i, p. 476, Fig. 22. Another
of the supposed lamantins, Fig. 9, is taken from Squier's article in the
Transactions of the American Ethnological Society, vol. ii, p. 188. A
bad print of the same wood-cut appears as Fig. 153, p. 251, of the
"Ancient Monuments."

It should be noted that the physiognomy of Fig. 6, above given, although
unquestionably of an otter, agrees more closely with the several
so-called manatees, which are represented without fishes, than with the
fish-bearing otter, first mentioned, Fig. 4.

Fig. 6 thus serves as a connecting link in the series, uniting the
unmistakable otter, with the fish in its mouth, to the more clumsily
executed and less readily recognized carvings of the same animal.

[Illustration: Fig. 8.--Lamantin or sea-cow of Squier and Davis.]

[Illustration: Fig. 9.--Lamantin or sea-cow of Squier.]

It was doubtless the general resemblance which the several specimens of
the otters and the so-called manatees bear to each other that led
Stevens astray. They are by no means facsimiles one of the other. On the
contrary, while no two are just alike, the differences are perhaps not
greater than is to be expected when it is considered that they doubtless
embody the conceptions of different artists, whose knowledge of the
animal, as well as whose skill in carving, would naturally differ
widely. Recognizing the general likeness, Stevens perhaps felt that what
one was all were. In this, at least, he is probably correct, and the
following reasons are deemed sufficient to show that, whether the
several sculptures figured by one and another author are otters or not,
as here maintained, they most assuredly are not manatees. The most
important character possessed by the sculptures, which is not found in
the manatee, is an external ear. In this particular they all agree. Now,
the manatee has not the slightest trace of a pinna or external ear, a
small orifice, like a slit, representing that organ. To quote the
precise language of Murie in the Proceedings of the London Zoological
Society, vol. 8, p. 188: "In the absence of pinna, a small orifice, a
line in diameter, into which a probe could be passed, alone represents
the external meatus." In the dried museum specimen this slit is wholly
invisible, and even in the live or freshly killed animal it is by no
means readily apparent. Keen observer of natural objects, as savage and
barbaric man certainly is, it is going too far to suppose him capable of
representing an earless animal--earless at least so far as the purposes
of sculpture are concerned--with prominent ears. If, then, it can be
assumed that these sculptures are to be relied upon as in the slightest
degree imitative, it must be admitted that the presence of ears would
alone suffice to show that they cannot have been intended to represent
the manatee. But the feet shown in each and all of them present equally
unquestionable evidence of their dissimilarity from the manatee. This
animal has instead of a short, stout fore leg, terminating in flexible
fingers or paws, as indicated in the several sculptures, a shapeless
paddle-like flipper. The nails with which the flipper terminates are
very small, and if shown at all in carving, which is wholly unlikely, as
being too insignificant, they would be barely indicated and would
present a very different appearance from the distinctly marked digits
common to the several sculptures.

Noticing that one of the carvings has a differently shaped tail from the
others, the authors of the "Ancient Monuments" attempt to reconcile the
discrepancy as follows: "Only one of the sculptures exhibits a flat
truncated tail; the others are round. There is however a variety of the
lamantin (_Manitus Senigalensis_, Desm.) which has a round tail, and is
distinguished as the "round-tailed manitus." (Ancient Monuments, p.
252.) The suggestion thus thrown out means, if it means anything, that
the sculpture exhibiting a flat tail is the only one referable to the
manatee of Florida and southward, the _M. Americanus_, while those with
round tails are to be identified with the so-called "Round-tailed
Lamantin," the _M. Senegalensis_, which lives in the rivers of
Senegambia and along the coast of Western Africa. It is to be regretted
that the above authors did not go further and explain the manner in
which they suppose the Mound-Builders became acquainted with an animal
inhabiting the West African coast. Elastic as has proved to be the
thread upon which hangs the migration theory, it would seem to be hardly
capable of bearing the strain required for it to reach from the
Mississippi Valley to Africa.

Had the authors been better acquainted with the anatomy of the manatees
the above suggestion would never have been made, since the tails of the
two forms are, so far as known, almost exactly alike. A rounded tail is,
in fact, the first requisite of the genus _Manatus_, to which both the
manatees alluded to belong, in distinction from the forked tail of the
genus _Halicore_.

Whether the tails of the sculptured manatees be round or flat matters
little, however, since they bear no resemblance to manatee tails, either
of the round or flat tailed varieties, or, for that matter, to tails of
any sort. In many of the animal carvings the head alone engaged the
sculptor's attention, the body and members being omitted entirely, or
else roughly blocked out; as, for instance, in the case of the squirrel
given above, in which the hind parts are simply rounded off into
convenient shape, with no attempt at their delineation. Somewhat the
same method was evidently followed in the case of the supposed manatees,
only after the pipe cavities had been excavated the block was shaped off
in a manner best suited to serve the purpose of a handle. Without,
however, attempting to institute farther comparisons, two views of a
real manatee are here subjoined, which are fac-similes of Murie's
admirable photo-lithograph in Trans. London Zoological Society, vol. 8,
1872-'74. A very brief comparison of the supposed manatees, with a
modern artistic representation of that animal, will show the
irreconcilable differences between them better than any number of pages
of written criticism.

[Illustration: Fig. 10.--Manatee (_Manatus Americanus_, Cuv.).
Side view.]

[Illustration: Fig. 11.--Manatee (_Manatus Americanus_, Cuv.).
Front view.]

There would seem, then, to be no escape from the conclusion that the
animal sculptures which have passed current as manatees do not really
resemble that animal, which is so extraordinary in all its aspects and
so totally unlike any other of the animal creation as to render its
identification in case it had really served as a subject for sculpture,
easy and certain.

As the several sculptures bear a general likeness to each other and
resemble with considerable closeness the otter, the well known
fish-eating proclivities of this animal being shown in at least two of
them, it seems highly probable that it is the otter that is rudely
portrayed in all these sculptures.

The otter was a common resident of all the region occupied by the
Mound-Builders, and must certainly have been well known to them.
Moreover, the otter is one of the animals which figures largely in the
mythology and folk-lore of the natives of America, and has been adopted
in many tribes as their totem. Hence, this animal would seem to be a
peculiarly apt subject for embodiment in sculptured form. It matters
very little, however, whether these sculptures were intended as otters
or not, the main point in the present connection being that they cannot
have been intended as manatees.

Before leaving the subject of the manatee, attention may be called to a
curious fact in connection with the Cincinnati Tablet, "of which a
wood-cut is given in The Ancient Monuments" (p. 275, Fig. 195). If the
reverse side as there shown be compared with the same view as presented
by Short in The North Americans of Antiquity, p. 45, or in MacLean's
Mound-Builders, p. 107, a remarkable discrepancy between the two will be

[Illustration: Fig. 12.--Cincinnati Tablet. (Back.) From Squire
and Davis.]

In the former, near the top, is indicated what appears to be a shapeless
depression, formless and unmeaning so far as its resemblance to any
special object is concerned. The authors remark of this side of the
tablet, "The back of the stone has three deep longitudinal grooves, and
several depressions, evidently caused by rubbing,--probably produced in
sharpening the instrument used, in the sculpture." This explanation of
the depressions would seem to be reasonable, although it has been
disputed, and a "peculiar significance" (Short) attached to this side of
the tablet. In Short's engraving, while the front side corresponds
closely with the same view given by Squier and Davis, there is a notable
difference observable on the reverse side. For the formless depression
of the Squier and Davis cut not only occupies a somewhat different
position in relation to the top and sides of the tablet, but, as will be
seen by reference to the figure, it assumes a distinct form, having in
some mysterious way been metamorphosed into a figure which oddly enough
suggests the manatee. It does not appear that the attention of
archæologists has ever been directed to the fact that such a resemblance
exists; nor indeed is the resemblance sufficiently close to justify
calling it a veritable manatee. But with the aid of a little
imagination it may in a rude way suggest that animal, its earless head
and the flipper being the most striking, in fact the only, point of
likeness. Conceding that the figure as given by Short affords a rude
hint of the manatee, the question is how to account for its presence on
this the latest representation of the tablet which, according to Short,
Mr. Guest, its owner, pronounces "the first correct representations of
the stone." The cast of this tablet in the Smithsonian Institution
agrees more closely with Short's representation in respect to the
details mentioned than with that given in the "Ancient Monuments."
Nevertheless, if this cast be accepted as the faithful copy of the
original it has been supposed to be, the engraving in Short's volume is
subject to criticism. In the cast the outline of the figure, while
better defined than Squier and Davis represent it to be, is still very
indefinite, the outline not only being broken into, but being in places,
especially toward the head, indistinguishable from the surface of the
tablet into which it insensibly grades. In the view as found in Short
there is none of this irregularity and indefiniteness of outline, the
figure being perfect and standing out clearly as though just from the
sculptor's hand. As perhaps on the whole the nearest approach to the
form of a manatee appearing on any object claimed to have originated at
the hands of the Mound-Builders, and from the fact that artists have
interpreted its outline so differently, this figure, given by the
latest commentators on the Cincinnati tablet, is interesting, and has
seemed worthy of mention. As, however, the authenticity of the tablet
itself is not above suspicion, but, on the contrary, is believed by many
archæologists to admit of grave doubts, the subject need not be pursued
further here.

[Illustration: Fig. 13.--Cincinnati Tablet. (Back.) From


The _a priori_ probability that the toucan was known to the
Mound-Builders is, of course, much less than that the manatee was, since
no species of toucan occurs farther north than Southern Mexico. Its
distant habitat also militates against the idea that the Mound-Builders
could have acquired a knowledge of the bird from intercourse with
southern tribes, or that they received the supposed toucan pipes by way
of trade. Without discussing the several theories to which the toucan
pipes have given rise, let us first examine the evidence offered as to
the presence in the mounds of sculptures of the toucan.

It is a little perplexing to find at the outset that Squier and Davis,
not content with one toucan, have figured three, and these differing
from each other so widely as to be referable, according to modern
ornithological ideas, to very distinct orders.

[Illustration: Fig. 14.--Toucan of Squier and Davis.]

The first allusion to the toucan in the Monuments of the Mississippi
Valley is found on page 194, where the authors guardedly remark of a
bird's head in terra cotta (Fig. 79), "It represents the head of a bird,
somewhat resembling the toucan, and is executed with much spirit."

This head is vaguely suggestive of a young eagle, the proportions of the
bill of which, until of some age, are considerably distorted. The
position of the nostrils, however, and the contour of the mandibles,
together with the position of the eyes, show clearly enough that it is a
likeness of no bird known to ornithology. It is enough for our present
purpose to say that in no particular does it bear any conceivable
resemblance to the toucan.

Of the second supposed toucan (Ancient Monuments, p. 260, Fig. 169)
here illustrated, the authors remark:

     The engraving very well represents the original, which is
     delicately carved from a compact limestone. It is supposed to
     represent the toucan--a tropical bird, and one not known to exist
     anywhere within the limits of the United States. If we are not
     mistaken in supposing it to represent this bird, the remarks made
     respecting the sculptures of the manitus will here apply with
     double force.

[Illustration: Fig. 15.--Toucan of Squier and Davis.]

This sculpture is fortunately easy of identification. Among several
ornithologists, whose opinions have been asked, not a dissenting voice
has been heard. The bird is a common crow or a raven, and is one of the
most happily executed of the avian sculptures, the nasal feathers, which
are plainly shown, and the general contour of the bill being truly
corvine. It would probably be practically impossible to distinguish a
rude sculpture of a raven from that of a crow, owing to the general
resemblance of the two. The proportions of the head here shown are,
however, those of the crow, and the question of habitat renders it
vastly more likely that the crow was known to the Mound-Builders of
Ohio than that the raven was. What possible suggestion of a toucan is to
be found in this head it is not easy to see.

Turning to page 266 (Fig. 178) another and very different bird is held
up to view as a toucan.

[Illustration: Fig. 16.--Toucan of Squier and Davis.]

Squier and Davis remark of this sculpture:

     From the size of its bill, and the circumstance of its having two
     toes before and two behind, the bird intended to be represented
     would seem to belong to the zygodactylous order--probably the
     toucan. The toucan (Ramphastos of Lin.) is found on this continent
     only in the tropical countries of South America.

In contradiction to the terms of their description their own figure, as
will be noticed, shows _three_ toes in front and two behind, or a total
of five, which makes the bird an ornithological curiosity, indeed.
However, as the cast in the Smithsonian collection shows three toes in
front and one behind, it is probably safe to assume that the additional
hind toe was the result of mistake on the part of the modern artist, so
that four may be accepted as its proper quota. The mistake then
chargeable to the above authors is that in their discussion they
transferred one toe from before and added it behind. In this curious way
came their zygodactylous bird.

This same pipe is figured by Stevens in Flint Chips, p. 426, Fig. 5. The
wood-cut is a poor one, and exhibits certain important changes, which,
on the assumption that the pipe is at all well illustrated by the cast
in the Smithsonian, reflects more credit on the artist's knowledge of
what a toucan ought to look like than on his fidelity as an exact

The etchings across the upper surface of the base of the pipe, miscalled
fingers, are not only made to assume a hand-like appearance but the
accommodating fancy of the artist has provided a roundish object in the
palm, which the bird appears about to pick up. The bill, too, has been
altered, having become rounded and decidedly toucan-like, while the tail
has undergone abbreviation, also in the direction of likeness to the
toucan. In short, much that was lacking in the aboriginal artist's
conception towards the likeness of a toucan has in this figure been
supplied by his modern interpreter.

[Illustration: Fig. 17.--Toucan as figured by Stevens.]

This cut corresponds with the cast in the Smithsonian collection, in
having the normal number of toes, four--three in front and one behind.
This departure from the arrangement common to the toucan family, which
is zygodactylous, seems to have escaped Stevens's attention. At least he
volunteers no explanation of the discrepancy, being, doubtless,
influenced in his acceptance of the bird as a toucan by the statements
of others.

Wilson follows the cut of Squier and Davis, and represents the bird with
five toes, stating that the toucan is "imitated with considerable
accuracy." He adds: "The most important deviation from correctness of
detail is, it has three toes instead of two before, although the two are
correctly represented behind." How Wilson is guided to the belief that
the sculptor's mistake consists in adding a toe in front instead of one
behind it would be difficult to explain, unless, indeed, he felt the
necessity of having a toucan at all hazards. The truth is that, the
question of toes aside, this carving in no wise resembles a toucan. Its
long legs and proportionally long toes, coupled with the rather long
neck and bill, indicate with certainty a wading bird of some kind, and
in default of anything that comes nearer, an ibis may be suggested;
though if intended by the sculptor as an ibis, candor compels the
statement that the ibis family has no reason to feel complimented.

The identification of this sculpture as a toucan was doubtless due less
to any resemblance it bears to that bird than to another circumstance
connected with it of a rather fanciful nature. As in the case of several
others, the bird is represented in the act of feeding, upon what it
would be difficult to say. Certainly the four etchings across the base
of the pipe bear little resemblance to the human hand. Had they been
intended for fingers they would hardly have been made to extend over the
side of the pipe, an impossible position unless the back of the hand be
uppermost. Yet it was probably just this fancied resemblance to a hand,
out of which the bird is supposed to be feeding, that led to the
suggestion of the toucan. For, say Squier and Davis, p. 266:

     In those districts (_i.e._, Guiana and Brazil) the toucan was
     almost the only bird the aborigines attempted to domesticate. The
     fact that it is represented receiving its food from a human hand
     would, under these circumstances, favor the conclusion that the
     sculpture was designed to represent the toucan.

Rather a slender thread one would think upon which to hang a theory so
far-reaching in its consequences.

Nor was it necessary to go as far as Guiana and Brazil to find instances
of the domestication of wild fowl by aborigines. Among our North
American Indians it was a by no means uncommon practice to capture and
tame birds. Roger Williams, for instance, speaks of the New England
Indians keeping tame hawks about their dwellings "to keep the little
birds from their corn." (Williams's Key into the Language of America,
1643, p. 220.) The Zuñis and other Pueblo Indians keep, and have kept
from time immemorial, great numbers of eagles and hawks of every
obtainable species, as also turkies, for the sake of the feathers. The
Dakotas and other western tribes keep eagles for the same purpose. They
also tame crows, which are fed from the hand, as well as hawks and
magpies. A case nearer in point is a reference in Lawson to the
Congarees of North Carolina. He says, "they are kind and affable, and
tame the cranes and storks of their savannas." (Lawson's History of
Carolina, p. 51.) And again (p. 53) "these Congarees have an abundance
of storks and cranes in their savannas. They take them before they can
fly, and breed them as tame and familiar as a dung-hill fowl. They had a
tame crane at one of these cabins that was scarcely less than six feet
in height."

So that even if the bird, as has been assumed by many writers, be
feeding from a human hand, of which fact there is no sufficient
evidence, we are by no means on this account driven to the conclusion,
as appears to have been believed, that the sculpture could be no other
than a toucan.

As in the Cass of the manatee, it has been thought well to introduce a
correct drawing of a toucan in order to afford opportunity for
comparison of this very striking bird with its supposed representations
from the mounds. For this purpose the most northern representative of
the family has been selected as the one nearest the home of the

The particulars wherein it differs from the supposed toucans are so many
and striking that it will be superfluous to dwell upon them in detail.
They will be obvious at a glance.

Thus we have seen that the sculptured representation of three birds,
totally dissimilar from each other, and not only not resembling the
toucan, but conveying no conceivable hint of that very marked bird,
formed the basis of Squier and Davis' speculations as to the presence of
the toucan in the mounds. These three supposed toucans have been copied
and recopied by later authors, who have accepted in full the remarks and
deductions accompanying them.

At least two exceptions to the last statement may be made. It is
refreshing to find that two writers, although apparently accepting the
other identifications by Squier and Davis, have drawn the line at the
toucan. Thus Rau, in The Archæological Collections of the United States
National Museum, pp. 46-47, states that--

     The figure (neither of the writers mentioned appear to have been
     aware that there was more than one supposed toucan) is not of
     sufficient distinctness to identify the original that was before
     the artist's mind, and it would not be safe, therefore, to make
     this specimen the subject of far-reaching speculations.

[Illustration: Fig. 18.--Keel-Billed Toucan of Southern Mexico
(_Rhamphastos carinatus_.)]

Further on he adds, "Leaving aside the more than doubtful toucan, the
imitated animals belong, without exception, to the North American
fauna." Barber, also, after taking exception to the idea that the
supposed toucan carving represents a zygodactylous bird, adds in his
article on Mound Pipes, pp. 280-281 (American Naturalist for April,
1882), "It may be asserted with a considerable degree of confidence that
no representative of an exclusively exotic fauna figured in the pipe
sculptures of the Mound-Builders."


The presence of a carving of the paroquet in one of the Ohio mounds has
been deemed remarkable on account of the supposed extreme southern
habitat of that bird. Thus Squier and Davis remark ("Ancient Monuments
of the Mississippi Valley," p. 265, Fig. 172), "Among the most spirited
and delicately executed specimens of ancient art found in the mounds, is
that of the paroquet here presented."

"The paroquet is essentially a southern bird, and though common along
the Gulf, is of rare occurrence above the Ohio River." The above
language would seem to admit of no doubt as to the fact of the decided
resemblance borne by this carving to the paroquet. Yet the bird thus
positively identified as a paroquet, upon which identification have,
without doubt, been based all the conclusions that have been published
concerning the presence of that bird among the mound sculptures is not
even distantly related to the parrot family. It has the bill of a
raptorial bird, as shown by the distinct tooth, and this, in connection
with the well defined cere, not present in the paroquet, and the open
nostril, concealed by feathers in the paroquet, places its identity as
one of the hawk tribe beyond doubt.

[Illustration: Fig. 19.--Paroquet of Squier and Davis.]

In fact it closely resembles several of the carvings figured and
identified as hawks by the above authors, as comparison with figures
given below will show. The hawks always appear to have occupied a
prominent place in the interest of our North American Indians,
especially in association with totemic ideas, and the number of
sculptured representations of hawks among the mound relics would argue
for them a similar position in the minds of the Mound-Builders.

A word should be added as to the distribution of the paroquet. The
statement by Squier and Davis that the paroquet is found as far north as
the Ohio River would of itself afford an easy explanation of the manner
in which the Mound-Builders might have become acquainted with the bird,
could their acquaintance with it be proved. But the above authors appear
to have had a very incorrect idea of the region inhabited by this once
widely spread species. The present distribution, it is true, is
decidedly southern, it being almost wholly confined to limited areas
within the Gulf States. Formerly, however, it ranged much farther north,
and there is positive evidence that it occurred in New York,
Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Nebraska. Up to
1835 it was extremely abundant in Southern Illinois, and, as Mr. Ridgway
informs the writer, was found there as late as 1861. Specimens are in
the Smithsonian collection from points as far north as Chicago and
Michigan. Over much of the region indicated the exact nature of its
occurrence is not understood, whether resident or a more or less casual
visitor. But as it is known that it was found as far north as
Pennsylvania in winter it may once have ranged even farther north than
the line just indicated, and have been found in Southern Wisconsin and

Occurring, as it certainly did, over most of the mound region, the
peculiar habits of the paroquet, especially its vociferous cries and
manner of associating in large flocks, must, it would seem, have made
it known to the Mound-Builders. Indeed from the ease with which it is
trapped and killed, it very probably formed an article of food among
them as it has among the whites and recent tribes of Indians. Probable,
however, as it is that the Mound-Builders were well acquainted with the
paroquet, there appears to be no evidence of the fact among their works
of art.


The supposed evidence of a knowledge of tropical animals possessed by
the ancient dwellers of the Mississippi Valley which has just been
discussed seems to have powerfully impressed Wilson, and in his
Prehistoric Man he devotes much space to the consideration of the
matter. His ideas on the subject will be understood from the following

    By the fidelity of the representations of so great a variety of
    subjects copied from animal life, they furnish evidence of a
    knowledge in the Mississippi Valley, of the fauna peculiar not only
    to southern, but to tropical latitudes, extending beyond the Isthmus
    into the southern continent; and suggestive either of arts derived
    from a foreign source, and of an intimate intercourse maintained
    with the central regions where the civilization of ancient America
    attained its highest development: or else indicative of migration,
    and an intrusion into the northern continent, of the race of the
    ancient graves of Central and Southern America, bringing with them
    the arts of the tropics, and models derived from the animals
    familiar to their fathers in the parent-land of the race. (Vol. 1,
    p. 475.)

The author subsequently shows his preference for the theory of a
migration of the race of the Mound-Builders from southern regions as
being on the whole more probable. Wilson does not, however, content
himself with the evidence afforded by the birds and animals which have
just been discussed, but strengthens his argument by extending the list
of supposed exotic forms known to the Mound-Builders in the following
words (vol. 1, p. 477):

     But we must account by other means for the discovery of accurate
     miniature representations of it (_i.e._ the Manatee) among the
     sculptures of the far-inland mounds of Ohio; and the same remark
     equally applies to the jaguar or panther, the cougar, the toucan;
     to the buzzard possibly, and also to the paroquet. _The majority of
     these animals are not known in the United States; some of them are
     totally unknown to within any part of the North American
     continent._ (Italics of the present writer.) Others may be classed
     with the paroquet, which, though essentially a southern bird, and
     common in the Gulf, does occasionally make its appearance inland;
     and might possibly become known to the untraveled Mound-Builder
     among the fauna of his own northern home.

The information contained in the above paragraph relative to the range
of some of the animals mentioned may well be viewed with surprise by
naturalists. To begin with, the jaguar or panther, by which vernacular
names the _Felis onca_ is presumably meant, is not only found in
Northern Mexico, but extends its range into the United States and
appears as far north as the Red River of Louisiana. (See Baird's Mammals
of North America.) Hence a sculptured representation of this animal in
the mounds, although by no means likely, is not entirely out of the
question. However, among the several carvings of the cat family that
have been exhumed from the mounds and made known there is not one which
can, with even a fair degree of probability, be identified as this
species in distinction from the next animal named, the cougar.

The cougar, to which several of the carvings can with but little doubt
be referred, was at the time of the discovery of America and is to-day,
where not exterminated by man, a common resident of the whole of North
America, including of course the whole of the Mississippi Valley. It
would be surprising, therefore, if an animal so striking, and one that
has figured so largely in Indian totemism and folk-lore, should not have
received attention at the hands of the Mound-Builders.

Nothing resembling the toucan, as has been seen, has been found in the
mounds; but, as stated, this bird is found in Southern Mexico.

The buzzard is to-day common over almost the entire United States, and
is especially common throughout most of the Mississippi Valley.

As to the paroquet, there seems to be no evidence in the way of carvings
to show that it was known to the Mound-Builders, although that such was
the case is rendered highly probable from the fact that it lived at
their very doors.

It therefore appears that of the five animals of which Wilson states
"the majority are not known in the United States," and "some of them are
totally unknown, within any part of the North American continent," every
one is found in North America, and all but one within the limits of the
United States, while three were common residents of the Mississippi

As a further illustration of the inaccurate zoological knowledge to
which may be ascribed no small share of the theories advanced respecting
the origin of the Mound-Builders, the following illustration may be
taken from Wilson, this author, however, being but one of the many who
are equally in fault. The error is in regard to the habitat of the conch
shell, _Pyrula (now Busycon) perversa_.

After exposing the blunder of Mr. John Delafield, who describes this
shell as unknown on the coasts of North and South America, but as
abundant on the coast of Hindostan, from which supposed fact, coupled
with its presence in the mounds, he assumes a migration on the part of
the Mound-Builders from Southern Asia (Prehistoric Man, vol. 1, p. 219,
_ibid._, p. 272), Wilson states.

     No question can exist as to the tropical and marine origin of the
     large shells exhumed not only in the inland regions of Kentucky and
     Tennessee, but in the northern peninsula lying between the Ontario
     and Huron Lakes, or on the still remoter shores and islands of
     Georgian Bay, at a distance of upwards of three thousand miles from
     the coast of Yucatan, on the mainland, _the nearest point where the
     Pyrula perversa is found in its native locality_. (Italics of the
     present writer.)

Now the plain facts on the authority of Mr. Dall are that the _Busycon
(Pyrula) perversa_ is not only found in the United States, but extends
along the coast up to Charleston, S.C., with rare specimens as far north
as Beaufort, N.C. Moreover, archæologists have usually confounded this
species with the _Busycon carica_, which is of common occurrence in the
mounds. The latter is found as far north as Cape Cod. The facts cited
put a very different complexion on the presence of these shells in the


[Illustration: Fig. 20.--"Owl," from Squier and Davis.]

The erroneous identification of the manatee, the toucan, and of several
other animals having been pointed out, it may be well to glance at
certain others of the sculptured animal forms, the identification of
which by Squier and Davis has passed without dispute, with a view to
determining how far the accuracy of these authors in this particular
line is to be trusted, and how successful they have been in interpreting
the much lauded "fidelity to nature" of the mound sculptures.

Fig. 20 (Squier and Davis, Ancient Monuments of the Mississippi Valley,
p. 225, Fig. 123) represents a tube of steatite, upon which is carved,
as is stated, "in high relief this figure of an owl, attached with its
back to the tube." This carving, the authors state, is "remarkably bold
and spirited, and represents the bird with its claws contracted and
drawn up, and head and beak elevated as if in an attitude of defense and

[Illustration: Fig. 21.--"Grouse," from Squier and Davis.]

This carving differs markedly from any of the avian sculptures, and
probably was not intended to represent a bird at all. The absence of
feather etchings and the peculiar shape of the wing are especially
noticeable. It more nearly resembles, if it can be said to resemble
anything, a bat, with the features very much distorted.

Fig. 21 (Fig. 170 from Squier and Davis) it is stated, "will readily be
recognized as intended to represent the head of the grouse."

The cere and plainly notched bill of this carving clearly indicate a
hawk, of what species it would be impossible to say.

[Illustration: Fig. 22.--"Turkey Buzzard," from Squier and

Fig. 22 (Fig. 171 from Squier and Davis) was, it is said, "probably
intended to represent a turkey buzzard." If so, the suggestion is a very
vague one. The notches cut in the mandibles, as in the case of the
carving of the wood duck (Fig. 168, Ancient Monuments), are perhaps
meant for serrations, of which there is no trace in the bill of the
buzzard. As suggested by Mr. Ridgway, it is perhaps nearer the cormorant
than anything else, although not executed with the detail necessary for
its satisfactory recognition.

[Illustration: Fig. 23.--"Cherry-bird," from Squier and Davis.]

Fig. 23 (Fig. 173 from Squier and Davis) it is claimed "much resembles
the tufted cherry-bird," which is by no means the case, as the bill
bears witness. It may pass, however, as a badly executed likeness of the
tufted cardinal grosbeak or red-bird. The same is true of Figs. 174 and
175, which are also said to be "cherry-birds."

Fig. 24 (Fig. 179 from Squier and Davis), of which Squier and Davis say
it is uncertain what bird it is intended to represent, is an
unmistakable likeness of a woodpecker, and is one of the best executed
of the series of bird carvings. To undertake to name the species would
be the merest guess-work.

[Illustration: Fig. 24.--Woodpecker, from Squier and Davis.]

The heads shown in Fig. 25, which the authors assert "was probably
intended to represent the eagle" and "are far superior in point of
finish, spirit, and truthfulness to any miniature carving, ancient or
modern, which have fallen under the notice of the authors," cannot be
identified further than to say they are raptorial birds of some sort,
probably not eagles but hawks.

Fig. 26 (Fig. 180 from Squier and Davis), according to the authors,
"certainly represents the rattlesnake." It certainly represents a snake,
but there is no hint in it of the peculiarities of the rattlesnake;
which, indeed, it would be difficult to portray in a rude carving like
this without showing the rattle. This is done in another carving, Fig.

[Illustration: Fig. 25.--"Eagle," from Squier and Davis.]

The extraordinary terms of praise bestowed by the authors on the heads
of the hawks just alluded to, as well as on many other of the sculptured
animals, suggest the question whether the illustrations given in the
Ancient Monuments afford any adequate idea of the beauty and artistic
excellence asserted for the carvings, and so whether they are fair
objects for criticism. While of course for the purpose of this paper an
examination of the originals would have been preferable, yet, in as much
as the Smithsonian Institution contains casts which attest the general
accuracy of the drawings given, and, as the illustrations by other
authors afford no higher idea of their artistic execution, it would seem
that any criticism applicable to these illustrations must in the main
apply to the originals. With reference to the casts in the Smithsonian
collection it may be stated that Dr. Rau, who had abundant opportunity
to acquaint himself with the originals while in the possession of Mr.
Davis, informs the writer that they accurately represent the carvings,
and for purposes of study are practically as good as the originals. The
latter are, as is well known, in the Blackmore Museum, England.

[Illustration: Fig. 26.--"Rattlesnake," from Squier and Davis.]

Without going into further detail the matter may be summed up as
follows: Of forty-five of the animal carvings, including a few of clay,
which are figured in Squier and Davis's work, eleven are left unnamed by
the authors as not being recognizable; nineteen are identified
correctly, in a general way, as of a wolf, bear, heron, toad, &c.;
sixteen are demonstrably wrongly identified, leaving but five of which
the species is correctly given.

From this showing it appears that either the above authors' zoological
knowledge was faulty in the extreme, or else the mound sculptors'
ability in animal carving has been amazingly overestimated. However just
the first supposition may be, the last is certainly true.


In considering the degree of skill exhibited by the mound sculptors in
their delineation of the features and characteristics of animals, it is
of the utmost importance to note that the carvings of birds and animals
which have evoked the most extravagant expressions of praise as to the
exactness with which nature has been copied are uniformly those which,
owing to the possession of some unusual or salient characteristic, are
exceedingly easy of imitation. The stout body and broad flat tail of the
beaver, the characteristic physiognomy of the wild cat and panther, so
utterly dissimilar to that of other animals, the tufted head and
fish-eating habits of the heron, the raptorial bill and claws of the
hawk, the rattle of the rattlesnake, are all features which the rudest
skill could scarcely fail to portray.

It is by the delineation of these marked and unmistakable features, and
not the sculptor's power to express the subtleties of animal
characteristics, that enables the identity of a comparatively small
number of the carvings to be established. It is true that the contrary
has often been asserted, and that almost everything has been claimed for
the carvings, in the way of artistic execution, that would be claimed
for the best products of modern skill. Squier and Davis in fact go so
far in their admiration (Ancient Monuments, p. 272), as to say that, so
far as fidelity is concerned, many of them (_i.e._, animal carvings)
deserve to rank by the side of the best efforts of the artist
naturalists in our own day--a statement which is simply preposterous. So
far, in point of fact, is this from being true that an examination of
the series of animal sculptures cannot fail to convince any one, who is
even tolerably well acquainted with our common birds and animals, that
it is simply impossible to recognize specific features in the great
majority of them. They were either not intended to be copies of
particular species, or, if so intended, the artist's skill was wholly
inadequate for his purpose.

Some remarks by Dr. Coues, quoted in an article by E. A. Barber on Mound
Pipes in the American Naturalist for April, 1882, are so apropos to the
subject that they are here reprinted. The paragraph is in response to a
request to identify a bird pipe:

     As is so frequently the probable case in such matters, I am
     inclined to think the sculptor had no particular bird in mind in
     executing his rude carving. It is not necessary, or indeed,
     permissible, to suppose that particular species were intended to be
     represented. Not unfrequently the likeness of some marked bird is
     so good as to be unmistakable, but the reverse is oftener the case;
     and in the present instance I can make no more of the carving than
     you have done, excepting that if any particular species may have
     been in the carver's mind, his execution does not suffice for its

The views entertained by Dr. Coues as to the resemblances of the
carvings will thus be seen to coincide with those expressed above.
Another prominent ornithologist, Mr. Ridgway, has also given verbal
expression to precisely similar views.

So far, therefore, as the carvings themselves afford evidence to the
naturalist, their general likeness entirely accords with the supposition
that they were not intended to be copies of particular species. Many of
the specimens are in fact just about what might be expected when a
workman, with crude ideas of art expression, sat down with intent to
carve out a bird, for instance, without the desire, even if possessed of
the requisite degree of skill, to impress upon the stone the details
necessary to make it the likeness of a particular species.


While the resemblances of most of the carvings, as indicated above, must
be admitted to be of a general and not of a special character, it does
not follow that their general type was the result of design.

Such an explanation of their general character and resemblances is,
indeed, entirely inconsistent with certain well-known facts regarding
the mental operations of primitive or semi-civilized man. To the mind of
primitive man abstract conceptions of things, while doubtless not
entirely wanting, are at best but vaguely defined. The experience of
numerous investigators attests how difficult it is, for instance, to
obtain from a savage the name of a class of animals in distinction from
a particular species of that class. Thus it is easy to obtain the names
of the several kinds of bears known to a savage, but his mind
obstinately refuses to entertain the idea of a bear genus or class. It
is doubtless true that this difficulty is in no small part due simply to
the confusion arising from the fact that the savage's method of
classification is different from that of his questioner. For, although
primitive man actually does classify all concrete things into groups,
the classification is of a very crude sort, and has for a basis a very
different train of ideas from those upon which modern science is
established--a fact which many investigators are prone to overlook.
Still there seems to be good ground for believing that the conception of
a bird, for instance, in the abstract as distinct from some particular
kind or species would never be entertained by a people no further
advanced in culture than their various relics prove the Mound-Builders
to have been. In his carving, therefore, of a hawk, a bear, a heron, or
a fish, it seems highly probable that the mound sculptor had in mind a
distinct species, as we understand the term. Hence his failure to
reproduce specific features in a recognizable way is to be attributed to
the fact that his skill was inadequate to transfer the exact image
present in his mind, and not to his intention to carve out a general
representative of the avian class.

To carry the imitative idea farther and to suggest, as has been done by
writers, that the carver of the Mound-Building epoch sat down to his
work with the animal or a model of it before him, as does the accurate
zoological artist of our own day, is wholly insupported by evidence
derivable from the carvings themselves, and is of too imaginative a
character to be entertained. By the above remarks as to the lack of
specific resemblances in the animal carvings it is not intended to deny
that some of them have been executed with a considerable degree of skill
and spirit as well as, within certain limitations heretofore expressed,
fidelity to nature. Taking them as a whole it can perhaps be asserted
that they have been carved with a skill considerably above the general
average of attainments in art of our Indian tribes, but not above the
best efforts of individual tribes.

That they will by no means bear the indiscriminate praise they have
received as works of art and as exact imitations of nature may be
asserted with all confidence.


With reference to the origin of these animal sculptures many writers
appear inclined to the view that they are purely decorative and
ornamental in character, _i.e._, that they are attempts at close
imitations of nature in the sense demanded by high art, and that they
owe their origin to the artistic instinct alone. But there is much in
their general appearance that suggests they may have been totemic in
origin, and that whatever of ornamental character they may possess is of
secondary importance.

With, perhaps, no exceptions, the North American tribes practiced
totemism in one or other of its various forms, and, although it by no
means follows that all the carving and etchings of birds or animals by
these tribes are totems, yet it is undoubtedly true that the totemic
idea is traceable in no small majority of their artistic
representations, whatever their form. As rather favoring the idea of the
totemic meaning of the carvings, it may be pointed out that a
considerable number of the recognizable birds and animals are precisely
the ones known to have been used as totems by many tribes of Indians.
The hawk, heron, woodpecker, crow, beaver, otter, wild cat, squirrel,
rattlesnake, and others, have all figured largely in the totemic
divisions of our North American Indians. Their sacred nature too would
enable us to understand how naturally pipes would be selected as the
medium for totemic representations. It is also known to be a custom
among Indian tribes for individuals to carve out or etch their totems
upon weapons and implements of the more important and highly prized
class, and a variety of ideas, superstitious and other, are associated
with the usage; as, for instance, in the case of weapons of war or
implements of the chase, to impart greater efficiency to them. The
etching would also serve as a mark of ownership, especially where
property of certain kinds was regarded as belonging to the tribe or gens
and not to the individual. Often, indeed, in the latter case the
individual used the totem of his gens instead of the symbol or mark for
his own name.

As a theory to account for the number and character of these animal
carvings the totemic theory is perhaps as tenable as any. The origin and
significance of the carvings may, however, involve many different and
distinct ideas. It is certain that it is a common practice of Indians to
endeavor to perpetuate the image of any strange bird or beast,
especially when seen away from home, and in order that it may be shown
to his friends. As what are deemed the marvellous features of the animal
are almost always greatly exaggerated, it is in this way that many of
the astonishing productions noticeable in savage art have originated.
Among the Esquimaux this habit is very prominent, and many individuals
can show etchings or carvings of birds and animals exhibiting the most
extraordinary characters, which they stoutly aver and doubtless have
come to believe they have actually seen.


As having, for the purposes of the present paper, a close connection
with the animal carvings, another class of remains left by the
Mound-Builders--the animal mounds--may next engage attention. As in the
case of the carvings, the resemblance of particular mounds to the
animals whose names they bear is a matter of considerable interest on
account of the theories to which they have given rise.

The conclusion reached with respect to the carvings that it is safe to
rely upon their identification only in the case of animals possessed of
striking and unique characters or presenting unusual forms and
proportions, applies with far greater force to the animal mounds.
Perhaps in none of the latter can specific resemblances be found
sufficient for their precise determination. So general are the
resemblances of one class that it has been an open question among
archæologists whether they were intended to represent the bodies and
arms of men, or the bodies and wings of birds. Other forms are
sufficiently defined to admit of the statement that they are doubtless
intended for animals, but without enabling so much as a reasonable guess
to be made as to the kind. Of others again it can be asserted that
whatever significance they may have had to the race that built them, to
the uninstructed eyes of modern investigators they are meaningless and
are as likely to have been intended for inanimate as animate objects.

There are many examples among the animal shapes that possess
peculiarities affording no hint of animals living or extinct, but which
are strongly suggestive of the play of mythologic fancy or of
conventional methods of representing totemic ideas. As in the case of
the animal carvings, the latter suggestion is perhaps the one that best
corresponds with their general character.


By far the most important of the animal mounds, from the nature of the
deductions it has given rise to, is the so-called "Elephant Mound," of

By its discovery and description the interesting question was raised as
to the contemporaneousness of the Mound-Builder and the mastodon, an
interest which is likely to be further enhanced by the more recent
bringing to light in Iowa of two pipes carved in the semblance of the
same animal, as well as a tablet showing two figures asserted by some
archæologists to have been intended for the same animal.

Although both the mound and pipes have been referred in turn to the
peccary, the tapir, and the armadillo, it is safe to exclude these
animals from consideration. It is indeed perhaps more likely that the
ancient inhabitants of the Upper Mississippi Valley were autoptically
acquainted with the mastodon than with either of the above-named
animals, owing to their southern habitat.

Referring to the possibility that the mastodon was known to the
Mound-Builders, it is impossible to fix with any degree of precision the
time of its disappearance from among living animals. Mastodon bones have
been exhumed from peat beds in this country at a depth which, so far as
is proved by the rate of deposition, implies that the animal may have
been alive within five hundred years. The extinction of the mastodon,
geologically speaking, was certainly a very recent event, and, as an
antiquity of upwards of a thousand or more years has been assigned to
some of the mounds, it is entirely within the possibilities that this
animal was living at the time these were thrown up, granting even that
the time of their erection has been overestimated. It must be admitted,
therefore, that there are no inherent absurdities in the belief that the
Mound-Builders were acquainted with the mastodon. Granting that they may
have been acquainted with the animal, the question arises, what proof is
there that they actually were? The answer to this question made by
certain archæologists is--the Elephant Mound, of Wisconsin.

[Illustration: Fig. 27.--The Elephant Mound, Grant County,

Recalling the fact that among the animal mounds many nondescript shapes
occur which cannot be identified at all, and as many others which have
been called after the animals they appear to most nearly resemble, carry
out their peculiarities only in the most vague and general way, it is a
little difficult to understand the confidence with which this effigy has
been asserted to represent the mastodon; for the mound (a copy of which
as figured in the Smithsonian Annual Report for 1872 is here given) can
by no means be said to closely represent the shape, proportions, and
peculiarities of the animal whose name it bears. In fact, it is true of
this, as of so many other of the effigies, the identity of which must be
guessed, that the resemblance is of the most vague and general kind, the
figure simulating the elephant no more closely than any one of a score
or more mounds in Wisconsin, except in one important particular, viz,
the head has a prolongation or snout-like appendage, which is its chief,
in fact its only real, elephantine character. If this appendage is too
long for the snout of any other known animal, it is certainly too short
for the trunk of a mastodon. Still, so far as this one character goes,
it is doubtless true that it is more suggestive of the mastodon than of
any other animal. No hint is afforded of tusks, ears, or tail, and were
it not for the snout the animal effigy might readily be called a bear,
it nearly resembling in its general make-up many of the so-called bear
mounds figured by Squier and Davis from this same county in Wisconsin.
The latter, too, are of the same gigantic size and proportions.

If it can safely be assumed that an animal effigy without tusks, without
ears, and without a tail was really intended to represent a mastodon, it
would be stretching imagination but a step farther to call all the
large-bodied, heavy-limbed animal effigies hitherto named bears,
mastodons, attributing the lack of trunks, as well as ears, tusks, and
tails, to inattention to slight details on the part of the mound artist.

It is true that one bit of good, positive proof is worth many of a
negative character. But here the one positive resemblance, the trunk of
the supposed elephant, falls far short of an exact imitation, and, as
the other features necessary to a good likeness of a mastodon are wholly
wanting, is not this an instance where the negative proof should be held
sufficient to largely outweigh the positive?

In connection with this question the fact should not be overlooked that,
among the great number of animal effigies in Wisconsin and elsewhere,
this is the only one which even thus remotely suggests the mastodon. As
the Mound Builders were in the habit of repeating the same animal form
again and again, not only in the same but in widely distant localities,
why, if this was really intended for a mastodon, are there no others
like it? It cannot be doubted that the size and extraordinary features
of this monster among mammals would have prevented it being overlooked
by the Mound-Builders when so many animals of inferior interest engaged
their attention. The fact that the mound is a nondescript, with no
others resembling it, certainly lessens the probability that it was an
intentional representation of the mastodon, and increases the likelihood
that its slight resemblance was accidental; a slide of earth from the
head, for instance, might readily be interpreted by the modern artist
as a trunk, and thus the head be made to assume a shape in his sketch
not intended by the original maker. As is well known, no task is more
difficult for the artist than to transfer to paper an exact copy of such
a subject. Especially hard is it for the artist to avoid unconsciously
magnifying or toning down peculiarities according to his own conceptions
of what was originally intended, when, as is often the case, time and
the elements have combined to render shape and outlines obscure.
Archæologic treatises are full of warning lessons of this kind, and the
interpretations given to ancient works of art by the erring pencil of
the modern artist are responsible for many an ingenious theory which the
original would never have suggested. It may well be that future
investigations will show that the one peculiarity which distinguishes
the so-called Elephant Mound from its fellows is really susceptible of a
much more commonplace explanation than has hitherto been given it.

Even if such explanation be not forthcoming, the "Elephant Mound" of
Wisconsin should be supplemented by a very considerable amount of
corroborative testimony before being accepted as proof positive of the
acquaintance of the Mound-Builders with the mastodon.

As regards likeness to the mastodon, the pipes before alluded to, copies
of which as given in Barber's articles on Mound Pipes in American
Naturalist for April, 1882, Figs. 17 and 18, are here presented, while
not entirely above criticism, are much nearer what they have been
supposed to be than the mound just mentioned.

[Illustration: Fig. 28.--Elephant Pipe, Iowa]

[Illustration: Fig. 29.--Elephant Pipe, Iowa.]

Of the two, figure 29 is certainly the most natural in appearance, but,
if the pipes are intentional imitations of any animal, neither can be
regarded as having been intended for any other than the mastodon. Yet,
as pointed out by Barber and others, it is certainly surprising that if
intended for mastodons no attempt was made to indicate the tusks, which
with the trunk constitute the most marked external peculiarities of all
the elephant kind. The tusks, too, as affording that most important
product in primitive industries, ivory, would naturally be the one
peculiarity of all others which the ancient artist would have relied
upon to fix the identity of the animal. It is also remarkable that in
neither of these pipes is the tail indicated, although a glance at the
other sculptures will show that in the full-length figures this member
is invariably shown. In respect to these omissions, the pipes from Iowa
are strikingly suggestive of the Elephant Mound of Wisconsin, with the
peculiarities of which the sculptor, whether ancient or modern, might
almost be supposed to have been acquainted. It certainly must be looked
upon as a curious coincidence that carvings found at a point so remote
from the Elephant Mound, and presumably the work of other hands, should
so closely copy the imperfections of that mound.

In considering the evidence afforded by these pipes of a knowledge of
the mastodon on the part of the Mound-Builders, it should be borne in
mind that their authenticity as specimens of the Mound-Builders' art has
been called seriously in question. Possibly the fact that the same
person was instrumental in bringing to light both the pipes has had
largely to do with the suspicion, especially when it was remembered that
although explorers have been remarkably active in the same region, it
has fallen to the good fortune of no one else to find anything conveying
the most distant suggestion of the mastodon. As the manner of discovery
of such relics always forms an important part of their history, the
following account of the pipes as communicated to Mr. Barber by Mr.
W. H. Pratt, president of the Davenport Academy (American Naturalist for
April, 1882, pp. 275, 276), is here subjoined:

     The first elephant pipe, which we obtained (Fig. 17) a little more
     than a year ago, was found some six years before by an illiterate
     German farmer named Peter Mare, while planting corn on a farm in
     the mound region, Louisa County, Iowa. He did not care whether it
     was elephant or kangaroo; to him it was a curious 'Indian stone,'
     and nothing more, and he kept it and smoked it. In 1878 he removed
     to Kansas, and when he left he gave the pipe to his brother-in-law,
     a farm laborer, who also smoked it. Mr. Gass happened to hear of
     it, as he is always inquiring about such things, hunted up the man
     and borrowed the pipe to take photographs and casts from it. He
     could not buy it. The man said his brother-in-law gave it to him
     and as it was a curious thing--he wanted to keep it. We were,
     however, unfortunate, or fortunate, enough to break it; that
     spoiled it for him and that was his chance to make some money out
     of it. He could have claimed any amount, and we would, as in duty
     bound, have raised it for him, but he was satisfied with three or
     four dollars. During the first week in April, this month, Rev. Ad.
     Blumer, another German Lutheran minister, now of Genesee, Illinois,
     having formerly resided in Louisa County, went down there in
     company with Mr. Gass to open a few mounds, Mr. Blumer being well
     acquainted there. They carefully explored ten of them, and found
     nothing but ashes and decayed bones in any, except one. In that one
     was a layer of red, hard-burned clay, about five feet across and
     thirteen inches in thickness at the center, which rested upon a bed
     of ashes one foot in depth in the middle, the ashes resting upon
     the natural undisturbed clay. In the ashes, near the bottom of the
     layer, they found a part of a broken carved stone pipe,
     representing some bird; a very small beautifully formed copper
     'axe,' and this last elephant pipe (Fig. 18). This pipe was first
     discovered by Mr. Blumer, and by him, at our earnest solicitation,
     turned over to the Academy.

It will be seen from the above that the same gentleman was instrumental
in bringing to light the two specimens constituting the present supply
of elephant pipes.

The remarkable archæologic instinct which has guided the finder of these
pipes has led him to even more important discoveries. By the aid of his
divining rod he has succeeded in unearthing some of the most remarkable
inscribed tablets which have thus far rewarded the diligent search of
the mound explorer. It is not necessary to speak in detail of these
here, or of the various theories to which they have given rise and
support, including that of phonetic writing, further than to call
attention to the fact that by a curious coincidence one of the tablets
contains, among a number of familiar animals, figures which suggest in a
rude way the mastodon again, which animal indeed some archæologists have
confidently asserted them to be. The resemblance they bear to that
animal is, however, by no means as close as exhibited by the pipe
carvings; they are therefore not reproduced here. Both figures differ
from the pipes in having tails; both lack trunks, and also tusks.

Archæologists must certainly deem it unfortunate that outside of the
Wisconsin mound the only evidence of the co-existence of the
Mound-Builder and the mastodon should reach the scientific world through
the agency of one individual. So derived, each succeeding carving of the
mastodon, be it more or less accurate, instead of being accepted by
archæologists as cumulative evidence tending to establish the
genuineness of the sculptured testimony showing that the Mound-Builder
and mastodon were coeval, will be viewed with ever increasing suspicion.

This part of the subject should not be concluded without allusion to a
certain class of evidence, which, although of a negative sort, must be
accorded very great weight in considering this much vexed question. It
may be asked why if the Mound-Builders and the mastodon were
contemporaneous, have no traces of the ivory tusks ever been exhumed
from the mounds? No material is so perfectly adapted for the purposes of
carving, an art to which we have seen the Mound-Builders were much
addicted, as ivory, both from its beauty and the ease with which it is
worked, to say nothing of the other manifold uses to which it is put,
both by primitive and civilized man. The mastodon affords an abundant
supply of this highly prized substance, not a particle of which has ever
been exhumed from the mounds either in the shape of implements or
carving. Yet the exceedingly close texture of ivory enables it to
successfully resist the destroying influences of time for very long
periods--very long indeed as compared with certain articles which
commonly reward the search of the mound explorer.

Among the articles of a perishable nature that have been exhumed from
the mounds are large numbers of shell ornaments, which are by no means
very durable, as well as the perforated teeth of various animals;
sections of deers' horns have also been found, as well as ornaments made
of the claws of animals, a still more perishable material. The list also
includes the bones of the muskrat and turtle, as of other animals, not
only in their natural shape, but carved into the form of implements of
small size, as awls, etc. Human bones, too, in abundance, have been
exhumed in a sufficiently well preserved state to afford a basis for
various theories and speculations.

But of the mastodon, with which these dead Mound-Builders are supposed
to have been acquainted, not a palpable trace remains. The tale of its
existence is told by a single mound in Wisconsin, which the most ardent
supporter of the mastodon theory must acknowledge to be far from a
facsimile, and two carvings and an inscribed tablet, the three latter
the finds of a single explorer.

Bearing in mind the many attempts at archæological frauds that recent
years have brought to light, archæologists have a right to demand that
objects which afford a basis for such important deductions as the coeval
life of the Mound-Builder and the mastodon, should be above the
slightest suspicion not only in respect to their resemblances, but as
regards the circumstances of discovery. If they are not above suspicion,
the science of archæology can better afford to wait for further and more
certain evidence than to commit itself to theories which may prove
stumbling-blocks to truth until that indefinite time when future
investigations shall show their illusory nature.


Although of much less importance than the mastodon, a word may be added
as to the so-called alligator mound, more especially because the
alligator, owing to its southern habitat, is not likely to have been
known to the Mound-Builders of Ohio. That it may have been known to them
either through travel or hearsay is of course possible. A copy of the
mound from the "Ancient Monuments" is subjoined.

The alligator mound was described under this name for no other reason
than because it was known in the vicinity as such, this designation
having been adopted by Squier and Davis, as they frankly say, "for want
of a better," adding "although the figure bears as close a resemblance
to the lizard as any other reptile." (Ancient Monuments, p. 99.)

In truth it bears a superficial likeness to almost any long-tailed
animal which has the power of curling its tail--which, the alligator has
not--as, for instance, the opossum. It is, however, the merest
guess-work to attempt to confine its resemblances to any particular
animal. Nevertheless recent writers have described this as the
"alligator mound" without suggesting a word of doubt as to its want of
positive resemblance to that saurian.

[Illustration: Fig. 30.--"Alligator" Mound.]


The conclusion reached in the foregoing pages that the animal sculptures
are not "exact and faithful copies from nature," but are imitations of a
general rather than of a special character, such as comport better with
the state of art as developed among certain of the Indian tribes than
among a people that has achieved any notable advance in culture is
important not only in its bearing on the questions previously noticed in
this paper, but in its relation to another and highly interesting class
of sculptures.

If a large proportion of the animal carvings are so lacking in artistic
accuracy as to make it possible to identify positively only the few
possessing the most strongly marked characters, how much faith is to be
placed in the ability of the Mound sculptor to fix in stone the features
and expressions of the human countenance, infinitely more difficult
subject for portrayal as this confessedly is?

That Wilson regards the human sculptures as affording a basis for sound
ethnological deductions is evident from the following paragraph, taken
from Prehistoric Man, vol. 1, p. 461:

     Alike from the minute accuracy of many of the sculptures of
     animals, hereafter referred to, and from the correspondence to well
     known features of the modern Red Indian suggested by some of the
     human heads, these miniature portraits may be assumed, with every
     probability, to include faithful representations of the predominant
     physical features of the ancient people by whom they were executed.

Short, too, accepting the popular idea that they are faithful and
recognizable copies from nature, remarks in the North Americans of
Antiquity, p. 98, _ibid._, p. 187:

     There is no reason for believing that the people who wrought stone
     and clay into perfect effigies of animals have not left us
     sculptures of their own faces in the images exhumed from the
     mounds;" and again, "The perfection of the animal representations
     furnish us the assurance that their sculptures of the human face
     were equally true to nature.

Squier and Davis also appear to have had no doubt whatever of the
capabilities of the Mound-Builders in the direction of human
portraiture. They are not only able to discern in the sculptured heads
niceties of expression sufficient for the discrimination of the sexes,
but, as well, to enable them to point out such as are undoubtedly
ancient and the work of the Mound-Builders, and those of a more recent
origin, the product of the present Indians. Their main criterion of
origin is, apparently, that all of fine execution and finish were the
work of the Mound sculptors, and those roughly done and "immeasurably
inferior to the relics of the mounds," to use their own words, were the
handicraft of the tribes found in the country by the whites. Conclusions
so derived, it may strike some, are open to criticism, however well
suited they may be to meet the necessities of preconceived theories.

After discussing in detail the methods of arranging the hair, the paint
lines, and tattooing, the features of the human carvings, Squier and
Davis arrive at the conclusion that the "physiological characteristics
of these heads do not differ essentially from those of the great
American family."

Of later writers some agree with Squier and Davis in believing the type
illustrated by these heads to be Indian; others agree rather with
Wilson, who dissents from the view expressed by Squier and Davis, and,
in conformity with the predilections visible throughout his work, is of
the opinion that the Mound-Builders were of a distinct type from the
North American Indian, and that "the majority of sculptured human heads
hitherto recovered from their ancient depositories do not reproduce the
Indian features." (Wilson's Prehistoric Man, vol. 1, p. 469.) Again,
Wilson says that the diversity of type found among the human sculptures
"proves that the Mound-Builders were familiar with the American Indian
type, but nothing more."--_Ibid._, p. 469.

The varying type of physiognomy represented by these heads would better
indicate that their resemblances are the result of accident rather than
of intention. For the same reason that the sculptured animals of the
same species display great differences of form and expression, according
to the varying skill of the sculptors or the unexacting demands made by
a rude condition of art, so the diversified character of the human faces
is to be ascribed, not to the successful perpetuation in stone by a
master hand of individual features, but simply to a want of skill on the
part of the sculptor. The evidence afforded by the animal sculptures all
tends to the conclusion that exact individual portraiture would have
been impossible to the mound sculptor had the state of culture he lived
in demanded it; the latter is altogether improbable. A glance at the
above quotations will show that it is the assumed fidelity to nature of
the animal carvings and their fine execution which has been relied upon
in support of a similar claim for the human sculptures. As this claim is
seen to have but slight basis in fact the main argument for asserting
the human sculptures to be faithful representations of physical
features, and to embody exact racial characters falls to the ground, and
it must be admitted as in the last degree improbable that the art of the
mound sculptor was adequate for the task of accurate human portraiture.
To base important ethnologic deductions upon the evidence afforded by
the human sculptures in the present state of our knowledge concerning
them would seem to be utterly unscientific and misleading.

Copies of several of the heads as they appear in "Ancient Monuments"
(pp. 244-247) are here subjoined to show the various types of
physiognomy illustrated by them:

[Illustration: Fig. 31. Fig. 32. Fig. 33. Human Carvings from the

[Illustration: Fig. 34. Fig. 35. Human Carvings from the Mounds.]

Could the many other stone and terra-cotta sculptures of the human face
which have been ascribed to the Mound-Builders be reproduced here it
would be seen that the specimens illustrated above are among the very
best. In not a few, traces of the grotesque are distinctly visible, and
there is little in their appearance to suggest that they had a different
origin or contain a deeper meaning than similar productions found among
present Indians. As each of the many carvings differ more or less from
every other, it will at once be perceived that the advocates of
different theories can readily find in the series abundant testimony in
support of any and all assumptions they may choose to advance.


Turning from special illustrations of the artistic skill of the
Mound-Builders, brief attention may be paid to their art in its more
general features, and as compared with art as found among our Indian

Among some of the latter the artistic instinct, while deriving its
characteristic features, as among the Mound-Builders, from animated
nature, exhibits a decided tendency towards the production of
conventional forms, and often finds expression in creations of the most
grotesque and imaginative character.

While this is true of some tribes it is by no means true of all, nor is
it true of all the art products of even those tribes most given to
conventional art. But even were it true in its broadest terms, it is
more than doubtful if the significance of the fact has not been greatly
overestimated. Some authors indeed seem to discern in the introduction
of the grotesque element and the substitution of conventional designs of
animals for a more natural portrayal, a difference sufficient to mark,
not distinct eras of art culture merely, but different races with very
different modes of art expression.

To trace the origin of art among primitive peoples, and to note the
successive steps by which decorative art grew from its probable origin
in the readily recognized adornments of nature and in the mere
"accidents of manufacture," as they have been termed, would be not only
interesting, but highly instructive. Such a study should afford us a
clew to the origin and significance of conventional as contrasted with
imitative art.

The natural process of the evolution of art would seem to be from the
purely imitative to the conventional, the tendency being for artistic
expression of a partially or wholly imaginative character to supplant or
supplement the imitative form only in obedience to external influences,
especially those of a religious or superstitious kind. In this
connection it is interesting to note that even among tribes of the
Northwest, the Haidahs, for instance, whose carvings or paintings of
birds and animals are almost invariably treated in a manner so highly
conventional or are so distorted and caricatured as to be nearly or
quite unrecognizable, it is still some natural object, as a well known
bird or animal, that underlies and gives primary shape to the design.
However highly conventionalized or grotesque in appearance such artistic
productions may be, evidences of an underlying imitative design may
always be detected; proof, seemingly, that the conventional is a later
stage of art superimposed upon the more natural by the requirements of
mythologic fancies.

As it is with any particular example of savage artistic fancy, so is it
with the art of certain tribes as a whole. Nor does it seem possible
that the growth of the religions or mythologic sentiment has so far
preceded or outgrown the development of art as to have had from the
first a dominating influence over it, and that the art of such tribes as
most strongly show its effect has never had what may be termed its
natural phase of development, but has reached the conventional stage
without having passed through the intermediate imitative era.

It is more natural to suppose, so far, at least as the North American
Indians are concerned, that the road to conventionalism has always led
through imitation.

The argument, therefore, that because a tribe or people is less given
than another to conventional methods of art, it therefore must
necessarily be in a higher stage of culture, is entitled to much less
weight than it has sometimes received. Squier and Davis, for instance,
referring to the Mound-Builders, state that "many of these (_i.e._,
sculptures) exhibit a close observance of nature such as we could only
expect to find among a people considerably advanced in the minor arts,
and to which the elaborate and laborious, but usually clumsy and
ungraceful, not to say unmeaning, productions of the savage can claim
but a slight approach."

It is clearly not the intention of the above authors to claim an entire
absence of the grotesque method of treatment in specimens of the
Mound-Builder's art, since elsewhere they call attention to what appears
to be a caricature of the human face, as well as to the disproportionate
size of the heads of many of the animal carvings. Not only are the heads
of many of the carvings of disproportionate size, which, in instances
has the effect of actual distortion, but in not a few of the sculptures
nature, instead of being copied, has been trifled with and birds and
animals show peculiarities unknown to science and which go far to prove
that the Mound-Builders, however else endowed, possessed lively
imaginations and no little creative fancy.

Decided traces of conventionalism also are to be found in many of the
animal carvings, and the method of indicating the wings and feathers of
birds, the scales of the serpent, &c., are almost precisely what is to
be observed in modern Indian productions of a similar kind.

Few and faint as are these tendencies towards caricaturing and
conventionalizing as compared with what may be noted in the artistic
productions of the Haidahs, Chinooks, and other tribes of the Northwest,
they are yet sufficient to show that in these particulars no hard and
fast line can be drawn between the art of the Indian and of the

As showing how narrow is the line that separates the conventional and
imitative methods of art, it is of interest to note that among the
Esquimaux the two stages of art are found flourishing side by side. In
their curious masks, carved into forms the most quaint and grotesque,
and in many of their carvings of animals, partaking as they do of a half
human, half animal character, we have abundant evidence of what authors
have characterized as savage taste in sculpture. But the same tribes
execute carvings of animals, as seals, sea-lions, whales, bears, &c.,
which, though generally wanting in the careful modeling necessary to
constitute fine sculpture, and for absolute specific resemblance, are
generally recognizable likenesses. Now and then indeed is to be found a
carving which is noteworthy for spirited execution and faithful
modeling. The best of them are far superior to the best executed
carvings from the mounds, and, are much worthier objects for comparison
with modern artistic work.

As deducible from the above premises it may be observed that, while the
state of art among primitive peoples as exemplified by their artistic
productions may be a useful index in determining their relative position
in the scale of progress, unless used with caution and in connection
with other and more reliable standards of measurement it will lead to
very erroneous conclusions. If, for instance, skill and ingenuity in the
art of carving and etching be accepted as affording a proper idea of a
people's progress in general culture, the Esquimaux of Alaska should be
placed in the front rank of American tribes, a position needless to say
which cannot be accorded them from more general considerations. On the
other hand, while the evidences of artistic skill left by the Iroquoian
tribes are in no way comparable to the work produced by the Esquimaux,
yet the former have usually been assigned a very advanced position as
compared with other American tribes.


The more important conclusions reached in the foregoing paper may be
briefly summed up as follows:

That of the carvings from the mounds which can be identified there are
no representations of birds or animals not indigenous to the Mississippi

And consequently that the theories of origin for the Mound Builders
suggested by the presence in the mounds of carvings of supposed foreign
animals are without basis.

Second. That a large majority of the carvings, instead of being, as
assumed, exact likenesses from nature, possess in reality only the most
general resemblance to the birds and animals of the region which they
were doubtless intended to represent.

Third. That there is no reason for believing that the masks and
sculptures of human faces are more correct likenesses than are the
animal carvings.

Fourth. That the state of art-culture reached by the Mound Builders, as
illustrated by their carvings, has been greatly overestimated.


  Animal carvings from mounds of the Mississippi Valley,
                      by H. W. Henshaw, 117
  Bat, Carving of the, 144
  Birds domesticated by Indians, 138
  Buzzard, Range of the, 142
  Carvings, Animal, from mounds, 117
  "Cherry Bird", Carving of the, 145
  Cincinnati tablet, 133
  Conch shell, Range of the, 143
  Coues, Dr. E., on bird carvings from mounds, 148
  Cougar, Range of the, 142
  Crow, Carvings of the, 136
  Cushing, F. H., on Zuñi fetiches, 145
  Dall, W. H., on the conch shell (_Pyrula_), 143
  Eagle, Carvings of the, 146
  "Elephant mound", 152
     pipes, 155
  "Grouce," Carving of the, 144
  Henshaw, H. W., Animal Carvings from Mounds of the
                     Miss. Valley, 117
  Human sculptures, 160
  Jaguar, Range of the, 142
  Manatee, Sculptures of the, 125
  Mound-builders' art _vs._ Indian art, 164
     carvings, 117
     skill in sculpture, 148
     methods in art, 149
  Mounds, Animal, 152
  Otter, Carvings of the, 125
  Owl, Carvings of the, 144
  Panther, Range of the, 142
  Paroquet, Carving of the, 139
     , Range of the, 140
  Pipe sculpture of the mounds builders, 124
  Pipes, "Elephant", 155,157
  _Pyrula perversa_, Range of the, 143
  "Rattlesnake," Carving of the, 147
  Skill in sculpture of the Mounds Builders, 148
  Squirrel, Ground, Carving of the, 128
  Totemism, 150
  Tropical animals known to Mound Builders, 142
  "Turkey" Buzzard, Carving of the, 145
  White, C. A., Unios identified by, 129
  Wilson on the conch shell (_Pyrula_), 143
     carvings of tropical animals, 142
  Woodpecker, Carvings of the, 146

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Animal Carvings from Mounds of the Mississippi Valley - Second Annual Report of the Bureau of Ethnology to the - Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, 1880-81, - Government Printing Office, Washington, 1883, pages 117-166" ***

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