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Title: Some Observations on the Ethnography and Archaeology of the American Aborigines
Author: Morton, Samuel George, 1799-1851
Language: English
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Transcriber's Note

A number of typographical errors have been maintained in this version of
this book. They have been marked with a [TN-#], which refers to a
description in the complete list found at the end of the text.




  Author of the Crania Americana, Crania Æygptiaca, &c.


  Printer to Yale College.



Nothing in the progress of human knowledge is more remarkable than the
recent discoveries in American archæology, whether we regard them as
monuments of art or as contributions to science. The names of Stephens
and Norman will ever stand preëminent for their extraordinary
revelations in Mexico and Yucatan; which, added to those previously made
by Del Rio, Humboldt, Waldeck and D'Orbigny in these and other parts of
our continent, have thrown a bright, yet almost bewildering light, on
the former condition of the western world.

Cities have been explored, replete with columns, bas-reliefs, tombs and
temples; the works of a comparatively civilized people, who were
surrounded by barbarous yet affiliated tribes. Of the builders we know
little besides what we gather from their monuments, which remain to
astonish the mind and stimulate research. They teach us the value of
archæological facts in tracing the primitive condition and cognate
relations of the several great branches of the human family; at the same
time that they prove to us, with respect to the American race at least,
that we have as yet only entered upon the threshold of investigation.

In fact, ethnography and archæology should go hand in hand; and the
principal object I have in view in giving publicity to the following too
desultory remarks, is to impress on travellers and others who are
favorably situated for making observations, the importance of preserving
every relic, organic or artificial, that can throw any light on the past
and present condition of our native tribes. Objects of this nature have
been too often thrown aside as valueless; or kept as mere curiosities,
until they were finally lost or become so defaced or broken as to be
useless. To render such relics available to science and art, their
history and characteristics should be recorded in the periodicals of the
day; by which means we shall eventually possess an accumulated mass of
facts that will be all-important to future generalization. I grant that
this course has been ably pursued by many intelligent writers, and the
American Journal of Science is a fruitful depository of such
observations.[4-*] With every acknowledgment to these praiseworthy
efforts, let us urge their active continuance. Time and the progress of
civilization are daily effacing the vestiges of our aboriginal race; and
whatever can be done to rescue these vestiges from oblivion, must be
done quickly.

We call attention in the first place, to two skulls from a mound about
three miles from the mouth of Huron river, Ohio. They were obtained by
Mr. Charles W. Atwater, and forwarded to Mr. B. Silliman, Jr., through
whose kindness they have been placed in my hands. These remains possess
the greater interest, because the many articles found with them present
no trace of European art; thus confirming the opinion expressed in Mr.
Atwater's letter:--"There are a great many mounds in the township of
Huron," he observes, "all which appear to have been built a long time
previous to the intercourse between the Indians and the white men. I
have opened a number of these mounds, and have not discovered any
articles manufactured by the latter. A piece of copper from a small
mound is the only metal I have yet found."

The stone utensils obtained by Mr. Atwater in the present instance,
were, as usual, arrow heads, axes, knives for skinning deer,
sling-stones, and two spheroidal stones on which I shall offer some
remarks in another place. The materials of which these articles are
formed, are jasper, quartz, granite stained by copper, and clay slate,
all showing that peculiar time-worn polish which such substances acquire
by long inhumation.

The two skeletons were of a man and a woman. "They had been buried on
the surface of the ground and the earth raised over them. They lay on
their backs with their feet to the west." The male cranium presents, in
every particular, the characteristics of the American race. The forehead
recedes less than usual in these people, but the large size of the jaws,
the quadrangular orbits, and the width between the cheek bones, are all
remarkably developed; while the rounded head, elevated vertex, vertical
occiput and great inter-parietal diameter, (which is no less than 5·7
inches,) render this skull a type of national conformation. (Fig. 1.)

[Illustration: Fig. 1.]

The female head possesses the same general character, but is more
elongated in the occipital region, and of more delicate proportions

Similar in general conformation to these are all the mound and other
skulls I have received since the publication of my work on American
Crania, viz. five from the country of the Araucos, in Chili, from Dr.
Thomas S. Page of Valparaiso; six of ancient Otomies, Tlascalans and
Chechemecans, from Don J. Gomez de la Cortina of the city of Mexico;
three from near Tampa, in Florida, from Dr. R. S. Holmes, U. S. A.; one
from a mound on Blue river, Illinois, from Dr. Brown of St. Louis; and
four sent me by Lieut. Meigs, U. S. A., who obtained them from the
immediate vicinity of Detroit, in Michigan. To these may be added two
others taken from ancient graves near Fort Chartres, in Illinois, by Dr.
Wistlizenus of St. Louis; a single cranium from the cemetery of Santiago
de Tlatelolco, near the city of Mexico, which I have received through
the kindness of the Baron von Gerolt, Prussian minister at Washington;
and another very old skull from the Indian burying grounds at Guamay,
in Northern Peru, for which I am indebted to Dr. Paul Swift. Last but
not least, I may add the skull obtained by Mr. Stephens[6-*] from a
vault at Ticul, a ruined aboriginal city of Yucatan, and some mutilated
but interesting fragments brought me from the latter country, by my
friend Mr. Norman.[6-+]

These crania, together with upwards of four hundred others of nearly
sixty tribes and nations, derived from the repositories of the dead in
different localities over the whole length and breadth of both Americas,
present a conformable and national type of organization, showing the
origin of one to be equally the origin of all.

To this prevading[TN-1] cranial type I have already adverted. Even the
long-headed Aymaras of Peru, whom, in common with Prof. Tiedemann, I at
first thought to present a congenitally different form of head from the
nations who surrounded them, are proved, by the recent discoveries of M.
Alcide D'Orbigny, to have belonged to the same race as the other
Americans, and to owe their singularly elongated crania to a peculiar
mode of artificial compression from the earliest infancy.[6-++]

But there is evidence to the same effect, but of more ancient date than
any we have yet mentioned. The recent explorations of Dr. Lund in the
district of Minas Geraes, in Brazil, have brought to light human bones
which he regards as fossil, because they accompany the remains of
extinct genera and species of quadrupeds, and have undergone the same
mineral changes with the latter. He has found several crania, all of
which correspond in form to the present aboriginal type.[6-§]

Even the head of the celebrated _Guadaloupe skeleton_ forms no exception
to the rule. The skeleton itself is well known to be in the British
Museum, but wants the cranium, which however is supposed to have been
recovered in the one more recently found in Guadaloupe by Mr.
L'Hérminier, and brought by him to Charleston, South Carolina. Dr.
Moultrie, who has described this very interesting relic, makes the
following observations:--"Compared with the cranium of a Peruvian
presented to Prof. Holbrook by Dr. Morton, in the museum of the state of
South Carolina, the craniological similarity manifested between them is
too striking to permit us to question their national identity. There is
in both the same coronal elevation, occipital compression, and lateral
protuberance accompanied with frontal depression, which mark the
American variety in general."[7-*]

[Illustration: Fig. 2.]

There is additional proof of identity, not only of original
conformation, but of conventional modification of the form of the head,
which I may be excused from reverting to in this place, inasmuch as the
materials I shall use have but recently come to my hands. The first of
these subjects is represented by the subjoined wood-cut, (fig. 2.) It
was politely sent me by Dr. John Houstoun, an intelligent surgeon of the
British Navy, with the following memorandum: "From an ancient town
called Chiuhiu, or Atacama Baja, on the river Loa, and on the western
edge of the desert of Atacama. The bodies are nearly all buried _in the
sitting posture_, [the conventional usage of most of the American
nations from Patagonia to Canada,] with the hands either placed on each
side of the head, or crossed over the breast."[7-+]

This cranium (and another received with it) has that remarkable
sugar-loaf form which renders them high and broad in front, with a short
antero-posterior diameter, both the forehead and occiput bearing
evidence of long continued compression. They correspond precisely with
the descriptions given by Cieza, Torquemada and others among the
earliest travellers in Peru, who saw the natives in various parts of the
country with heads rounded precisely in this manner.[8-*]

[Illustration: Fig. 3.]

The second head figured, (fig. 3,) is that of a Natchez Indian,[8-+]
obtained from a mound not far from that city by the late Mr. James
Tooley, Jr., and by him presented to me. The face in this, as in the
former instance, has all the characteristics of the native Indian; and
the cranium has undergone precisely the same process of artificial
compression, although these tribes were separated from each other by the
vast geographical distance of four thousand miles!

Could we discover the cranial remains of the older Mexican nations, we
should doubtless find many of them to possess the same fanciful type of
conformation;[8-++] for if either of the skulls figured above could be
again clothed in flesh and blood, would we not have restored to us the
very heads that are so abundantly sculptured on the monuments of Central
America, and so graphically described by Herrera, when he tells us that
the people of Yucatan _flattened their heads and foreheads_?

The following diagrams are copied, on an enlarged scale, from Mr.
Stephens's Travels,[8-§] and will serve in further illustration of this
interesting subject. They are taken from bas-reliefs in the _Palace at
Palenque_. The personage fig. 4, (whose head-dress we have partly
omitted,) appears to be a king or chieftain, at whose feet are two
suppliants, naked and cross-legged, of whom we copy the one that
preserves the most perfect outline, (fig. 5.)

[Illustration: Fig. 4.]

[Illustration: Fig. 5.]

The principal figure has better features and expression than the other,
but their heads are formed on the same model; whence we may infer that
if the suppliant is a servant or a slave of the same race with his
master, the artificial moulding of the cranium was common to all
classes. If, on the other hand, we assume that he is an enemy imploring
mercy, we come to the conclusion that the singular custom of which we
are speaking, was in use among other and surrounding nations; which
latter inference is confirmed by other evidence, that, for example,
derived from the Natchez tribe, and the clay effigies so abundantly
found at the ruined temples of the sun and moon at Teotihuacan, near the
city of Mexico.[9-*]

I can aver that sixteen years of almost daily comparisons have only
confirmed me in the conclusions announced in my _Crania Americana_, that
all the American nations, excepting the Eskimaux, are of one race, and
that this race is peculiar and distinct from all others. The first of
these propositions may be regarded as an axiom in ethnography; the
second still gives rise to a diversity of opinions, of which the most
prevalent is that which would merge the American race in the Mongolian.

It has been objected to a common origin for all the American nations,
and even for those of Mexico, that their _monuments_ should present so
great a variety in the configuration of the head and face; a fact which
forcibly impresses every one who examines the numerous effigies in baked
clay in the collection of the American Philosophical Society; yet they
are all made of the same material and by the same national artists. The
varieties are indeed endless; and Mr. Norman in his first work, has
arrived at a reasonable conclusion, in which we entirely agree with him,
"that the people prepared these _penates_ according to their respective
tastes, and with little reference to any standard or canon."[10-*]

They appear to have exercised much ingenuity in this way, blending
almost every conceivable type of the human countenance, and associating
this again with those of beasts, birds, and various fanciful animals,
which last are equal in uncouthness to any productions of the Gothic
artists of the middle ages.

Mr. Norman in his late and interesting volume of travels in Cuba and
Mexico, discovered in the latter country some remarkable ruins near the
town of Panuco, and among them a curious sepulchral effigy. "It was a
handsome block or slab of stone, (wider at one end than the other,)
measuring seven feet in length, with an average of nearly two and a half
feet in width and one foot in thickness. Upon its face was beautifully
wrought, in bold relief, the full length figure of a man, in a loose
robe with a girdle about his loins, his arms crossed on his breast, his
head encased in a close cap or casque, resembling the Roman helmet (as
represented in the etchings of Pinelli) without the crest, and his feet
and ankles bound with the ties of sandals. The figure is that of a tall
muscular man of the finest proportions. The face, in all its features,
is of the noblest class of the European or Caucasian race."[10-+]

Mr. Norman was himself struck "with the resemblance between this, and
the stones that cover the tombs of the Knights Templar in some of the
ancient churches of the old world," but he thinks that neither this nor
any other circumstance proves this effigy to have been of European
origin or of modern date. "The material," he adds, "is the same as that
of all the buildings and works of art in this vicinity, and the style
and workmanship are those of the great unknown artists of the western
hemisphere;" and he arrives at the conclusion, as many ingenuous minds
have done before him, that these and the other archæological remains of
Mexico and Yucatan, "are the works of a people who have long since
passed away; and not of the races, _or the progenitors of the races_,
who inhabited the country at the epoch of the discovery."[11-*]

With the highest respect for this intelligent traveller, I am not able
to agree with him in his conclusion; but I should not now revive my
published opinions or contest his, were it not that some new light
appears to me to have dawned on this very question.

In the first place, then, we regard the effigy found near Panuco as
probably Caucasian; so does Mr. Norman; but instead of referring it to a
very remote antiquity, or to some European occupancy of Mexico long
before the Spanish conquest, we will venture to suggest, that even if
the town of Panuco was itself older than that event, (of which indeed we
have no doubt,) it is consistent with collateral facts to infer, that
the Spaniards may have occupied this very town, in common with, or
subsequent to, the native inhabitants, and have left this sepulchral
monument. That the Spaniards did sometimes practice this joint
occupancy, is well known; and that they have, in some instances, left
their monuments in places wherein even tradition had almost lost sight
of their former sojourn, is susceptible of proof.

Mr. Gregg, in a recent and instructive work on the "Commerce of the
Prairies," states the following particulars, which are the more valuable
since he had no opinions of his own in reference to the American
aborigines, and merely gives the facts as he found them.

Mr. Gregg describes the ruins called _La Gran Quivira_, about 100 miles
south of Santa Fé, as larger than the present capital of New Mexico. The
architecture of this deserted city is of hewn stone, and there are the
remains of aqueducts eight or ten miles in length leading from the
neighboring mountains. These ruins "have been supposed to be the remains
of a _pueblo_ or aboriginal city;" but he adds that the occurrence of
the Spanish coat of arms in more than one instance sculptured and
painted upon the houses, prevents the adoption of such an opinion; and
that traditional report (and tradition only) mentions this as a city
that was sacked and desolated in the Indian insurrection of 1680.[12-*]
Now had it not been for the occurrence of the heraldic paintings, this
city might have been still regarded as of purely Indian origin and
occupancy; as might also the analogous ruins of Abo, Tagique and Chilili
in the same vicinity; for although these may have been originally
constructed by the natives, yet as they are supposed to be near the
ancient mines, it is not improbable that the conquerors in these, as in
many other instances, drove out the rightful owners, and took possession
for themselves;[12-+] for that they did possess and inhabit the towns
above enumerated is a fact beyond question.

Why may not events of an analogous character have taken place at Panuco?
Was it not probably an Indian city into which the Spaniards had intruded
themselves, and having left traces of their sojourn, as at _La Gran
Quivira_, subsequently, owing to some dire catastrophe, or some new
impulse, abandonded[TN-2] it for another and preferable location? This,
we suggest, is a reasonable explanation of the presence of the Caucasian
effigy found by Mr. Norman among the deserted ruins of Panuco.

Mr. Stephens has, I think, conclusively proved that the past and present
Indian races of Mexico were cognate tribes. I had previously arrived at
the same conclusion from a different kind of evidence. What was manifest
in the physical man is corroborated by his archæological remains. The
reiterated testimony of some of the early Spanish travellers, and
especially of Bernal Diaz and Herrera, is of the utmost importance to
this question; and all that is necessary in the chain of evidence, is
some link to connect the demi-civilized nations with the present
uncultivated and barbarous tribes. These links have been supplied by Mr.
Gregg. Those peculiar dwellings and other structures, with inclined or
parapet walls,[12-++] and with or without windows, which are common to
all epochs of Peruvian and Mexican architecture, are constructed and
occupied by the Indians of Mexico even at the present day. After
describing the general character of these modern domicils, Mr. Gregg
goes on to observe, that "a very curious feature in these buildings, is
that there is most generally no direct communication between the street
and the lower rooms, into which they descended from a trap-door from the
upper story, the latter being accessible by means of a ladder. Even the
entrance at the upper stories is frequently at the roof. This style of
building appears to have been adopted for security against their
marauding neighbors of the wilder tribes, with whom they were often at

"Though this was their most usual style of architecture, there still
exists a Pueblo of Taos, composed, for the most part, of but two
edifices of very singular structure--one on each side of a creek, and
formerly communicating by a bridge. The base story is a mass of near
four hundred feet long, a hundred and fifty wide, and divided into
numerous apartments, upon which other tiers of rooms are built, one
above another, drawn in by regular grades, forming _a pyramidal pile_ of
fifty or sixty feet high, and comprising some six or eight stories. The
outer rooms only seem to be used for dwellings, and are lighted by
little windows at the sides, but are entered through trap-doors in the
_azoteas_ or roofs. Most of the inner apartments are employed as
granaries and storerooms, but a spacious hall in the centre of the mass,
known as the _estufa_, is reserved for their secret councils. These two
buildings afford habitation, as is said, for over six hundred souls.
There is likewise an edifice in the Pueblo of Picuris of the same class,
and some of those of Moqui are also said to be similar."[13-*]

The Indian city of Santo Domingo, which has an exclusive aboriginal
population, is built in the same manner, the material being, as usual,
sun-burnt bricks; and my friend Dr. Wm. Gambel informs me, that in a
late journey from Santa Fé across the continent to California, he
constantly observed an analogous style of building, as well in the
dwellings of the present native inhabitants, as in those older and
abandoned structures of whose date little or nothing is known.

Who does not see in the builders of these humbler dwellings, the
descendants of the architects of Palenque, and Yucatan? The style is the
same in both. The same objects have been arrived at by similar modes of
construction. The older structures are formed of a better material,
generally of hewn stone, and often elaborately ornamented with
sculpture. But the absence of all decoration in the modern buildings, is
no proof that they have not been erected by people of the same race with
those who have left such profusely ornamented monuments in other parts
of Mexico; for the ruins of Pueblo Bonito, in the direction of Navajo,
and those of the celebrated Casas Grandes on the western Colorado, which
were regarded by Clavigero as among the oldest Toltecan remains in
Mexico, are destitute of sculpture or other decoration. In fact, these
last named ruins appear to date with the primitive wanderings of the
cultivated tribes, before they established their seats in Yucatan and
Guatimala, and erected those more finished monuments which could only
result from the combined efforts of populous communities, acting under
the favorable influence of peace and prosperity. Every race has had its
center or centers of comparative civilization. The American aborigines
had theirs in Peru, Bogota and Mexico. The people, the institutions and
the architecture were essentially the same in each, though modified by
local wants and conventional usages. Humboldt was forcibly impressed by
this archæological identity, for he himself had traced it, with
occasional interruptions, over an extent of a thousand leagues; and we
now find that it gradually merges itself into the ruder dwellings of the
more barbarous tribes; showing, as I have often remarked, that there is,
in every respect, a gradual ethnographic transition from these into the
temple-builders of every American epoch.[14-*]

I shall close this communication by a notice of certain _discoidal
stones_ occasionally found in the mounds of the United States. Of these
relics I possess sixteen, of which all but two were found by my friend
Dr. Wm. Blanding, during his long residence in Camden, South Carolina.
These disks were accompanied, as usual, by earthern[TN-3] vessels, pipes
of baked clay, arrow-heads and other articles, respecting which Dr.
Blanding has given me the following locality:--"All the Indian relics,
save three or four, which I have sent you, were collected on or near the
banks of the Wateree river, Kershaw district, South Carolina; the
greater part from the mounds or near the foot of them. All the mounds
that I have observed in this state, excepting these, do not amount to as
many as are found on the Wateree within the distance of twenty four
miles up and down the river, between Lancaster and Sumpter districts.
The lowest down is called Nixon's mound, the highest up, Harrison's."

"The discoidal stones," adds Dr. Blanding, "were found at the foot of
the different mounds, not in them. They seemed to be left, where they
were no doubt used, on the play grounds."

The disks are from an inch and a half to six inches in diameter, and
present some varieties in other respects.


Fig. 1 represents a profile of the simplest form and at the same time
the smallest size of these stones, being in diameter about an inch and
three quarters. The upper and under surfaces are nearly plane, with
angular edges and oblique margin, but without concavity or perforation.

Fig. 2. A similar form, slightly concave on each surface.

Fig. 3. A large disk of white quartz, measuring five inches in diameter
and an inch and three fourths in thickness. The margin is rounded, and
both surfaces are deeply concave though imperforate.

Fig. 4 is another specimen four inches in diameter, deeply concave from
the margin to the center, with a central perforation. The margin itself
is slightly convex. The concave surface is marked by two sets of
superficial grooved lines, which meet something in the form of a
bird-track. This disk is made of a light-brown ferruginous quartz.

Fig. 5 is a profile view of a solid lenticular stone, much more convex
on the one side than the other, formed of hard syenitic rock.

Besides these there are other slight modifications of form which it is
unnecessary to particularize.

These disks are made of the hardest stones, and wrought with admirable
symmetry and polish, surpassing any thing we could readily conceive of
in the humbler arts of the present Indian tribes; and the question
arises, whether they are not the works of their seemingly extinct
progenitors?--of that people of the same race, (but more directly allied
to the Toltecans of Mexico,) who appear in former times to have
constituted populous and cultivated communities throughout the valley of
the Mississippi, and in the southern and western regions towards the
gulf of Mexico, and whose last direct and lineal representatives were
the ill-fated Natchez?

I have made much inquiry as to the localities of these and analogous
remains, but hitherto with little success. I am assured that they have
been found in Missouri, perhaps near St. Louis; and in very rare
instances in the northern part of Delaware. Dr. Ruggles has sent me the
plaster model of a small, perforated, but irregularly formed stone of
this kind, taken from an ancient Indian grave at Fall River in Rhode
Island; but Dr. Edwin H. Davis, of Chilicothe, in a letter recently
received from him, informs me that he had obtained, during his
excavations in that vicinity, no less than "two hundred flint disks in a
single mound, measuring from three and a half to five inches in
diameter, and from half an inch to an inch in thickness, of three
different forms, round, oval and triangular." These appear, however, to
be of a different construction and designed for some other use than
those I have described; and Dr. Davis himself offers the probable
suggestion, that "they were rude darts blocked out at the quarries for
easy transportation to the Indian towns." The same gentleman speaks of
having found other disks formed of a micaceous slate, of a dark color
and highly polished. These last appear to correspond more nearly to
those we have indicated in the above diagrams.

Besides these disks, I have met with a few spheroidal stones, about
three inches in diameter. One of these accompanies the disks from South
Carolina, and is marked with a groove to receive the thumb in throwing
it. A similar but ruder ball is contained among the articles found by
Mr. Atwater in the mound near Huron, Ohio.

What was the use of the disks in question? Those who have examined the
series in my possession have offered various explanations; but the only
one that seems in any degree plausible, is that of my friend Dr.
Blanding, who supposes them to have been used in a game analogous to
that of the quoits of the Europeans. It is a curious fact that discoidal
stones much resembling these have been found in Scandinavia;[17-*]
whence I was at first led to suppose it possible, especially in
consideration of their apparently circumscribed occurrence in this
country, that they might have been introduced here by the Northmen; a
conjecture that seems to lose all foundation since these relics have
been found as far west as the Mississippi.

       *       *       *       *       *

_Note._--Since the preceding remarks were written, I have received from
my friend, Mr. William A. Foster, of Lima, ten skulls and two entire
mummied bodies from the Peruvian cemetery at Arica. "This cemetery,"
observes Mr. Foster, "lies on the face of a sandhill sloping towards the
sea. The external surface occupied by these tombs, as far as we
explored, I should say was five or six acres. In many of the tombs three
or four bodies were found clustered together, always _in the sitting
posture_, and wrapped in three or four thicknesses of cloth, with a mat
thrown over all."

These crania possess an unusual interest, inasmuch as, with two
exceptions, they present the horizontally elongated form, in every
degree from its incipient stage to its perfect development.

By what contrivance has the rounded head of the Indian been moulded into
this fantastic shape? I have elsewhere[17-+] offered some explanations
of this subject; but the present series of skulls throws yet more light
on it, and enables me to indicate the precise manner in which this
singular object has been attained.

It is evident that the forehead was pressed downwards and backwards by
two compresses, (probably a folded cloth,) one on each side of the
frontal suture, which was left free; a fact that explains the cause of
the ridge, which, in every instance, replaces that suture by extending
from the root of the nose to the coronal suture. To keep these
compresses in place, a bandage was carried over them from the base of
the occiput obliquely forwards; and then, in order to confine the
lateral portions of the skull, the same bandage was continued by another
turn over the top of the head, immediately behind the coronal suture,
and probably with an intervening compress; and the bandaging was
repeated over these parts until they were immovably confined in the
desired position.

Every one who is acquainted with the pliable condition of the cranial
bones at birth, will readily conceive how effectually this apparatus
would mould the head in the elongated or cylindrical form; for, while it
prevents the forehead from rising, and the sides of the head from
expanding, it allows the occipital region an entire freedom of growth;
and thus without sensibly diminishing the volume of the brain, merely
forces it into a new though unnatural direction, while it preserves, at
the same time, a remarkable symmetry of the whole structure. The
following outline of one of these skulls, will further illustrate my
meaning; merely premising that the course of the bandages is in every
instance distinctly marked by a corresponding cavity of the bony
structure, excepting on the forehead, where the action of a firm
compress has left a plane surface.


This conformation, as we have already observed, was prevalent among the
old Aymara tribes which inhabited the shores and islands of the Lake of
Titicaca, and whose civilization seems evidently to antedate that of the
Inca Peruvians. I was in fact at one time led to consider this form of
head as peculiar to, and characteristic of, the former people; but Mr.
Foster's extensive observations conclusively prove that it was as common
among some tribes of the sea coast, as among those of the mountainous
region of Bolivia; that it belonged to no particular nation or tribe;
and that it was, in every instance, the result of mechanical

In my Crania Americana I have given abundant instances of a remarkable
vertical flattening of the occiput, and irregularity of its sides, among
the Inca Peruvians who were buried in the royal cemetery of Pachacamac,
near Lima. These heads present no other deviation from the natural form;
and even this irregularity I have thought might be accounted for by a
careless mode of binding the infant to the simple board, which, among
many Indian tribes of both North and South America, is a customary
substitute for a cradle. It is probable, however, that even this
configuration was intentional, and may have formed a distinctive badge
of some particular _caste_ of these singular people, among whom a
perfectly natural cranium was of extremely rare occurrence.

We are now acquainted with _four_ forms of the head among the old
Peruvians which were produced by artificial means, viz:

1. The horizontally elongated, or cylindrical form, above described.

2. The conical or sugar-loaf form, represented in the preceding

3. The simple flattening or depression of the forehead, causing the rest
of the head to expand, both posteriorly and laterally; a practice yet
prevalent among the Chenooks and other tribes at the north of the
Columbia river, in Oregon.

4. A simple vertical elevation of the occiput, giving the head in most
instances a squared and inequilateral form.

A curious decree of the ecclesiastical court of Lima, dated A. D. 1585,
and quoted by the late Prof. Blumenbach, alludes to at least four
artificial conformations of the head, even then common among the
Peruvians, and forbids the practice of them under certain specified
penalities.[TN-4] These forms were called in the language of the
natives, "Caito, Oma, Opalla, &c.;" and the continuance of them at that
period, affords another instance of the tenacity with which the
Peruvians clung to the usages of their forefathers.


[4-*] See more particularly the communications of Mr. R. C. Taylor, in
vol. xxxiv, of Mr. S. Taylor, in vol. xxxiv, and of Prof. Forshey in
vol. xlix.

[5-*] We take this occasion to observe, that skulls taken from the
mounds, should at once be saturated with a solution of glue or gum, or
with any kind of varnish, by which precaution further decomposition is
effectually prevented.

[6-*] Incidents of Travel in Yucatan, I, p. 281.

[6-+] Rambles in Yucatan, p. 217.

[6-++] L'Homme Americain, Tome I, p. 306. I corrected my error before I
had the pleasure of seeing M. D'Orbigny's very interesting work. Amer.
Jour. of Science, vol. xxxviii, No. 2. Jour. Acad. Nat. Sciences of
Philadelphia, vol. viii; and again in my Distinctive Characteristics of
the Aboriginal Race of America, p. 6.

[6-§] See Proceedings of the Acad. of Nat. Sciences of Philadelphia for
Dec. 1844.

[7-*] Amer. Jour. of Science, xxxii, p. 364.

[7-+] See Proceedings of the Acad. of Nat. Sciences of Phila., vol. ii,
p. 274. If I mistake not, I was the first to bring forward this _mode of
interment_ practiced by our aboriginal nations, as a strong evidence of
the unity of the American race. "Thus it is that notwithstanding the
diversity of language, customs and intellectual character, we trace this
usage throughout both Americas, affording, as we have already stated,
collateral evidence of the affiliation of all the American
tribes."--Crania Americana, p. 246, and pl. 69. Mr. Bradford in his
valuable work, _American Antiquities_, has added some examples of the
same kind; and the Chevalier D'Eichthal has also adduced this custom, in
connexion with some traces of it in Polynesia, to prove an exotic origin
for a part at least of the American race. See _Mémoires de la Société
Ethnologique de Paris_, Tome II, p. 236. Whence arose this conventional
position of the body in death? This question has been often asked and
variously answered. It is obviously an imitation of the attitude which
the living Indian habitually assumes when sitting at perfect ease, and
which has been naturally transferred to his lifeless remains as a fit
emblem of repose.

[8-*] Crania Americana, p. 116.

[8-+] I have been looking to Dr. Dickerson, of Natchez, for more
complete details derived from the tumuli of that ancient tribe which
formed a link between the Mexican nations on the one hand, and the
savage hordes on the other. Dr. Dickerson is amply provided with
interesting and important materials for this inquiry, which we trust he
will soon make public.

[8-++] The skull brought me from Ticul by Mr. Stephens, is that of a
young female. It presents the natural rounded form; which accords with
the observation of M. D'Orbigny, (L'Homme Americain,) that the
artificial moulding of the head among some tribes of Peruvians was
chiefly confined to the men.

[8-§] Travels in Central America, vol. ii, p. 311.

[9-*] Crania Americana, p. 146.

[10-*] Rambles in Yucatan, p. 216.

[10-+] Rambles by Land and Water, p. 145.

[11-*] Rambles by Land and Water, p. 203.

[12-*] Commerce of the Prairies, I, p. 165.

[12-+] Ibid. I, [TN-5] 270.

[12-++] I am aware that the walls of the ancient Mexican and Peruvian
edifices are often vertical; but where this is the case the pyramidal
form is attained by piling, one on the other, successive tiers of
masonry, each receding from the other and leaving a parapet or platform
at its base.

[13-*] Commerce of the Prairies, I, p. 277.

[14-*] See my Inquiry into the Distinctive Characteristics of the
Aboriginal Race of America, 2d edit., Philad. 1844.

[17-*] See Journal of the Antiquarian Society of Denmark, published in
Copenhagen in the Danish language, vol. i, tab. 2, figs. 52, 53.

[17-+] Jour. Acad. Nat. Sciences of Philad., vol. viii.

Transcriber's Note

The following misspellings and typographical errors were maintained.

        Page      Error
  TN-1   6        prevading should read pervading
  TN-2  12        abandonded should read abandoned
  TN-3  14        earthern should read earthen
  TN-4  19        penalities should read penalties
  TN-5  fn. 12-+  Ibid. I, 270. should read Ibid. I, p. 270.

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