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Title: Prehistoric Man - Researches into the Origin of Civilization in the Old and the New World
Author: Wilson, Daniel, Sir
Language: English
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                     P R E H I S T O R I C   M A N


[Illustration: KASKATACHYUH.
 Drawn by D. Wilson LL.D. from sketches by Paul Kane.
 Cooper & Hodson Lith.      188, Strand, London, W.C.]

                     P R E H I S T O R I C   M A N

               Researches into the Origin of Civilisation
                     in the Old and the New World.


                     DANIEL WILSON, LL.D., F.R.S.E.

                          WITH ILLUSTRATIONS.

                   M A C M I L L A N   A N D   C O .

               [_The right of translation is reserved._]

                      Edinburgh University Press:


                            IN FOND MEMORIAL


                      IN MANY FAVOURITE RESEARCHES

                             THESE VOLUMES



                      GEORGE WILSON, M.D. F.R.S.E.


                            P R E F A C E .

THE subject primarily treated of in the following pages is the man of
that new hemisphere which was revealed to Europe in 1492. There through
all historic centuries he had lived apart, absolutely uninfluenced by
any reflex of the civilisation of the Ancient World; and yet, as it
appears, pursuing a course in many respects strikingly analogous to that
by means of which the civilisation of Europe originated. The recognition
of this is not only of value as an aid to the realisation of the
necessary conditions through which man passed in reaching the stage at
which he is found at the dawn of history; but it seems to point to the
significant conclusion that civilisation is the development of
capacities inherent in man.

The term used in the title was first employed, in 1851, in my
_Prehistoric Annals of Scotland_, where evidence was adduced in proof of
man’s presence in Britain “long anterior to the earliest indications of
the Aryan nations passing into Europe.” It was purposely coined to
express the whole period disclosed to us by means of archæological
evidence, as distinguished from what is known through written records;
and in this sense the term was speedily adopted by the Archæologists of
Europe. But the subject thus defined is a comprehensive one; and in its
rapid growth, distinctive subdivisions have been introduced which tend
to narrow the application of the term. Nevertheless it is still a
legitimate definition of man, wherever his history is recoverable solely
by means of primitive arts.

The first edition of _Prehistoric Man_, published in 1862, was followed
in 1865 by another, carefully revised in accordance with later
disclosures. Since then I have availed myself of further opportunities
for study and research in reference both to existing races, and to the
arts and monumental remains of extinct nations of the New World. Within
the same period important additions have been contributed to our
knowledge not only of the arts, but of the physical characteristics of
primeval man in Europe. In the present edition, accordingly, much of the
original work has been rewritten. Several chapters have been replaced by
new matter. Others have been condensed, or recast, with considerable
modifications and a new arrangement of the whole.

The illustrations have been correspondingly augmented; and some of them
engraved anew from more accurate drawings. In the first edition they
numbered seventy-one. They now amount to one hundred and thirty-four,
including several for which I am indebted to the courtesy of Mr. John
Evans, F.R.S., to the publishers of _Nature_, and to the Council of the
Society of Antiquaries of Scotland.

                                                                  D. W.
  _18th November 1875_.

                            C O N T E N T S

                               CHAPTER I.
  The Influence of the Discovery of America—The Old World and the
    New—American Phases of Life—The Term Prehistoric—Influence of
    Migrations—What is Civilisation?—Domestication—Indian
    Philosophy—Aborigines—The Tartar; The Arab—Languages of
    America—Wanderings of the Nations—Fossil Man—Occupation of the
    New World,                                                        1

                               CHAPTER II.
                        THE PRIMEVAL TRANSITION.
  The Latest Migrations—Founding a Capital—Beginnings of
    History—Prehistoric Phases—Non-Metallurgic Eras—Oscillations of
    the Land—The Glacial Period—Conditions of Climate—Fossil
    Mammalia—The Flint-Folk of the Drift—Advent of European Man—The
    Drift Implements—Scottish Alluvium—Preceltic Races—Their
    Imitative Arts—Man Primeval—His Intellectual
    Condition—Instinct—Accumulated Knowledge—Primeval Britain—Its
    Fossil Fauna—Ossiferous Caves—Brixham Cave—Food—Scottish
    Reindeer—American Drift—Relics of Ancient Life—Extinct
    Fauna—Man and the Mastodon—Indian Traditions—Giants—Drift
    Disclosures—Large Ovoid Discs—Cave Disclosures—American Cranial
    Type—Antiquity of the American Man,                              17

                              CHAPTER III.
                               THE QUARRY.
  The Quarry—Brixham Cave—Brixham Flint Implement—Flint Ridge,
    Ohio—Flint Pits—Drift Quarry Deposits—Traces of Palæolithic
    Art—Lanceolate Flints—Almond-shaped Flints—The Shawnees—The
    Colorado Indians—Caches of Worked Flints—Sepulchral
    Deposits—Cave Drift Disclosures—Illustrative
    Analogies—Cincinnati Collections—Hornstone Spear-heads—American
    Neolithic Art—Flint Drills—Modes of
    Perforation—Flint-Knives—Razors and Scrapers—Arrow-head
    Forms—Discoidal Stones—Sinkers and Lasso Stones—Cupped
    Stones—Archæological Theories—Georgia Boulders—Hand
    Cup-stones—Neolithic Grindstones—Archæological Enigmas—Ancient
    Analogies,                                                       64

                               CHAPTER IV.
                         BONE AND SHELL WORKERS.
  Bone and Ivory Workers—Substitutes for Flint—Proofs of Relative
    Age—Domestic Bone Implements—Rude Palæolithic Art—Whalebone
    Workers—Primitive Working Tools—Fish-spears and
    Harpoons—Artistic Ingenuity—Drawing of the Mammoth—The
    Madelaine Etchings—Righthanded Workers—Deer-horn Quarry
    Picks—Bonebracer or Guard—Birthtime of the Fine Arts—Innuit
    Carvers of Alaska—Troglodytes of Central France—Post-Glacial
    Man—Symmetrical Head-Form—Intellectual Vigour—Evidence of
    Latent Powers—Tawatin Ivory Carving—Lake-Dwellers’
    Implements—Cave Implements—Arts of the Pacific Islanders—Carib
    Shell-Knives—Aborigines of the Antilles—Caribs of St.
    Domingo—Cave Pictures and Carvings—Prized Tropical
    Shells—Ancient Graves of Tennessee—Shell Manufactures—Huron and
    Petun Graves—Sacred Shell-Vessels—Primitive Shell
    Ornaments—American Shell Mounds—A Shell Currency—Ioqua Standard
    of Value,                                                        96

                               CHAPTER V.
  The Fire-using Animal—Esquimaux use of Fire—Fuegian
    Fire-making—Modes of producing Fire—Australian Fire-myth—Men of
    the Mammoth Age—Hearths of the Cave-Men—Pacific Root-Word for
    Fire—Great Cycle of the Aztecs—Rekindling the Sacred
    Fire—Peruvian Sun-Worshippers—Sacrifice of the White Dog—Sacred
    Fires of the Mound-Builders—Indian Fire-making—Sanctity of
    Fire—Tierra del Fuego,                                          135

                               CHAPTER VI.
                               THE CANOE.
  The use of Tools—Tool-using Instinct—Rudimentary stage of
    Art—Primitive River-Craft—The Guanahanè Canoe—Ocean
    Navigation—African Canoe-making—Oregon Cedar Canoes—Native
    Whalers of the Pacific—Prehistoric Boat-Builders—Mawai’s
    Canoes—The Polynesian Archipelago—The Terra Australis
    Incognita—Canoe-Fleets of the Pacific—Primitive
    Navigation—Portable Boats—The Coracle and Kaiak—The Peruvian
    Balsa—Ocean Navigators,                                         151

                              CHAPTER VII.
  Man the Artificer—The Law of Reason—Indigenous Races—Man’s
    Capacity for Deterioration—What is a Stone Period?—Materials of
    Primitive Art—Succession of Races—Indications of Ancient
    Trade—The Shoshone Indian—Texas Implements—Modes of
    Hafting—Deer’s-horn Sockets—Stone Knives—Thlinkets of
    Alaska—Metals of a Stone Period—Arts of the South
    Pacific—Malayan Influence—Fijian Constructive Skill—Fijian
    Pottery—Slow Maturity of Races—The Flint-edged Sword—The League
    of the Five Nations—Iroquois Predominance—Work in Obsidian and
    Flint—Honduras Flint Implements—Sources of the
    Material—Collision of Races—Fate of Inferior Races,             170

                              CHAPTER VIII.
                               THE METALS.
  Dawn of a Metallurgic Era—Primitive Copper-Working—Copper Region
    of Lake Superior—The Pictured Rocks—Jackson Iron Mountain—The
    Cliff Mine—Copper Tools—Ancient Mining Trenches—Great extent of
    Works—Mines of Isle Royale—Their estimated Age—Ancient Mining
    Implements—Stone Mauls and Axes—Ontonagon Mining Relics—Sites
    of Copper Manufactories—Native Copper and Silver—Brockville
    Copper Implements—Lost Metallurgic Arts—Chemical
    Analyses—Native Terra-Cottas—Ancient British Mining Tools—The
    Race of the Copper Mines—Chippewa Superstitions—Earliest
    notices of the Copper Region—Ontonagon Mass of Copper—Ancient
    Native Traffic—Native use of Metals—Condition of the
    Mound-Builders—Mineral Resources—Antiquity of Copper
    Workings—Desertion of the Mines,                                198

                               CHAPTER IX.
  The Age of Bronze—An intermediate Copper Age—European Copper
    Implements—Native Silver and Copper—Tin and Copper Ores—The
    Cassiterides—Ancient Sources of Tin—Arts of Yucatan—Alloyed
    Copper Axe-Blades—Bronze Silver-Mining Tool—Peruvian
    Bronzes—Primitive Mining Tools—Native Metallurgic
    Processes—Metallic Treasures of the Incas—Traces of an Older
    Race—Peruvian History—The Toltecs and Mexicans—Adjustment of
    Calendar—Barbarian Excesses—Native Goldsmith’s Work—Panama Gold
    Relics—Mexican Metallic Currency—Experimental Processes—Ancient
    European Bronzes—Tests of Civilisation—Ancient American
    Bronzes—The Native Metallurgist,                                229

                               CHAPTER X.
                           THE MOUND-BUILDERS.
  Earth Pyramids—Monuments of the Mound-Builders—Seats of Ancient
    Population—Different Classes of Works—Ancient
    Strongholds—Natural Sites—Fort Hill, Ohio—Iroquois
    Strongholds—Analogous Strongholds—Fortified Civic Sites—Sacred
    Enclosures—Newark Eagle Mound—Geometrical Earthworks—Plan of
    Newark Earthworks, Ohio—A Standard of Measurement—Diversity of
    Works—Evidence of Skill—The Cincinnati Tablet—Scales of
    Measurement—Traces of Extinct Rites,                            256

                               CHAPTER XI.
                           SEPULCHRAL MOUNDS.
  Sources of Information—Hill Mounds—The Scioto Mound—The Taylor
    Mound—The Issaquina Mound—The Elliot Mound—The Lockport
    Mound—Black Bird’s Grave—Scioto Valley Mounds—Symbolical
    Rites—Human Sacrifices—The Grave Creek Mound—Common
    Sepulchres—Cremation—Scioto Mound Cranium—Sacred Festivals,     277

                              CHAPTER XII.
                           SACRIFICIAL MOUNDS.
  Mound Altars—Altar Deposits—Quenching the Altar Fires—Mound
    Hearths—Mound City—Military Altar Mounds—Their Structure and
    Contents—Significance of their Deposits—Analogous Indian
    Rites—Transitional Civilisation,                                293

                              CHAPTER XIII.
                            SYMBOLIC MOUNDS.
  The Wisconsin Region—Animal Mounds—Symbolic Mounds—Big Elephant
    Mound—Dade County Mounds—Magnitude of Earthworks—Enclosed Works
    of Art—Rock River Works—The Northern Aztalan—Ancient Garden
    Beds—The Wisconsin Plains—A Sacred Neutral Land—The Alligator
    Mound—The Great Serpent, Ohio—Serpent Symbols—Intaglio
    Earthworks—Suggestive Inferences—The Ancient Race—A Sacerdotal
    Caste—Antiquity of the Race—Inferiority of the Indian Tribes,   303

                              CHAPTER XIV.
  The Toltecs—Ixtlilxochitl—The Aztecs—American
    Architecture—Aztalan—The Valley of Mexico—Montezuma’s
    Capital—Its Vanished Splendour—Mexican Calendar—The Calendar
    Stone—Mexican Deities—Toltec Civilisation—Race Elements—The
    Toltec Capital—Tezcucan Palaces—Their Modern
    Vestiges—Quetzalcoatl—The Pyramid of Cholula—The Sacred
    City—The Moqui Indians—The Holy City of Peru—Worship of the
    Sun—Astronomical Knowledge—Agriculture—The Llama—Woven
    Textures—Science and Art—Native Institutions—Metallurgy—Origin
    of the Mexicans—Mingling of Races,                              324

                               CHAPTER XV.
                            ART CHRONICLINGS.
  Imitative Skill—Archaic European Art—Conventional
    Ornamentation—Imitative Design—Analogies in Rites and
    Customs—Altar Records—Smelting the Ores—Wisconsin Prairie
    Lands—The Race of the Mounds—Mound Carvings—Portrait
    Sculptures—American Iconography—Deductions—Non-Indian
    Type—Other Examples—Antique Iconographic Art—Peculiar Imitative
    Skill—Animals represented—Extensive Geographical
    Relations—Knowledge of Tropical Fauna—Deductions—The Toucan and
    Manatee—Traces of Migration—Assumed Indications—Analogous
    Sculptures—Peruvian Imitative Skill—Carved Stone
    Mortars—Nicotian Religious Rites—Indian Legends—The Red
    Pipe-stone Quarry—The Leaping Rock—Mandan Traditions—Sioux
    Legend of the Peace Pipe—The Sacred Coca Plant—Knisteneaux
    Legend of the Deluge—Indications of Former Migrations—Favourite
    Material—Pwahguneka—Chimpseyan Customs—Chimpseyan Art—Babcen
    Carving—The Medicine Pipe-stem—Indian Expiatory
    Sacrifices—Nicotian Rites of Divination,                        355

                       I L L U S T R A T I O N S

               Portrait of Kaskatachyuh, A CHIMPSEYAH CHIEF.
            1. Flint-Knife, Grinell Leads,
            2. Lewiston Flint Implement,
            3. Flint Disc, Kent’s Cavern,
            4. Brixham Cave Flint Implement,
            5. Lanceolate Flint, Flint Ridge, Ohio,
            6. Almond-shaped Flint, Flint Ridge, Ohio,
            7. Leaf-shaped Flint, Sharon Valley, Ohio,
            8. Flint Implement, Licking County, Ohio,
            9. Flint Hoe, Kentucky,
           10. Flint Spear-head, Indiana,
           11. Flint Awl, Mayville, Kentucky,
           12. Flint Drill, Cincinnati,
           13. Stone Drill, Cincinnati,
           14. Flint-Knife, Cincinnati,
           15. Flint Razor, Kentucky,
           16. 17.Flint Scrapers, Ohio,
           18. Foliated Arrow-head,
           19. Lasso Stone, Kentucky,
           20. Cupped-stone, Ohio,
           21. Cupped Boulder, Tronton, Ohio,
           22. Bone Spatula, Keiss,
           23. Bone Comb, Burghar,
           24. Bone Comb, Burghar,
           25. Whale’s Vertebra Cup,
           26. to 30. Fish-spears and Harpoons,
           31. Harpoon, Kent’s Cavern,
           32. Bone Spear-head, Dordogne Caves,
           33. Fuegian Harpoon,
           34. Fish-spear, Kent’s Cavern,
           35. Fish-spear with bilateral barbs, La Madelaine,
           36. Fish-spear with unilateral barbs, La Madelaine,
           37. Carved Baton, or Mace, Dordogne Caves,
           38. The Mammoth, engraved on ivory, La Madelaine,
           39. Scottish Stone Bracer,
           40. Hunter’s Tally, Deer’s-horn, Cro-Magnon,
           41. Skull of Old Man of Cro-Magnon—Profile,
           42. Skull of Old Man of Cro-Magnon—Front View,
           43. Skull of Old Man of Cro-Magnon—Vertical View,
           44. Tawatin Ivory Carving of Whale,
           45. Tawatin Ivory Carving,
           46. Hog’s Tooth Chisel, Concise,
           47. British Bone Implements,
           48. Carib Shell-Knives,
           49. Tennessee Idol,
           50. Clyde Stone Axe,
           51. Clalam Stone Adze,
           52. Grangemouth Skull,
           53. Texas Stone Axe, hafted,
           54. Texas Flint Implement,
           55. Chisel and deer’s-horn socket, Concise,
           56. Stone Knife, Concise,
           57. South Pacific Stone Implements,
           58. Stone Adze, New Caledonia,
           59. Fijian Pottery,
           60. Honduras serrated Flint Implement,
           61. Honduras State Halberd, flint,
           62. Honduras Flint Implement,
           63. Miners’ Shovels, Lake Superior,
           64. Miners’ Stone Mauls,
           65. Ontonagon Copper Implement,
           66. 67. Brockville Copper Dagger and Gouge,
           68. Brockville Copper Spear,
           69. Terra-cotta Mask,
           70. Newark Earthworks, Ohio,
           71. Cincinnati Tablet,
           72. Stone Pipe, Elliot Mound, Ohio,
           73. Lake Washington Disk,
           74. Mask, Mexican Calendar Stone,
           75. Ticul Hieroglyphic Vase,
           76. Peruvian Web,
           77. Portrait Mound Pipe, full face,
           78. Portrait Mound Pipe, profile,
           79. Portrait Mound Pipe,
           80. Manatee, Pipe-Sculpture,
           81. Toucan, Pipe-Sculpture,
           82. Peruvian Black Ware,
           83. Peruvian Stone Mortars,
           84. Chippewa Pipe,
           85. Babeen Pipe,
           86. Babeen Pipe-Sculpture.

                               CHAPTER I.


The recent development of archæology as a science is due in no slight
degree to the simplicity which characterises the prehistoric disclosures
of Scandinavia, Ireland, and other regions of Europe lying beyond the
range of Greek and Roman influence. But the same element presents itself
on a far more comprehensive scale alike in the archæology and the
ethnology of the western hemisphere. America may be assumed with little
hesitation to have begun its human period subsequent to that of the old
world, and to have started later in the race of civilisation. At any
rate it admits of no question that its most civilised nations had made a
very partial advancement when, in the fifteenth century, they were
abruptly brought into contact with the matured civilisation of Europe.
Hence the earlier stages of human progress can be tested there freed
from many obscuring elements inevitable from the intermingling of
essentially diverse phases of civilisation on old historic areas. In the
days of Herodotus, Transalpine Europe was a greater mystery to the
nations on the shores of the Mediterranean than Central Africa is to us.
To the Romans of four centuries later, Britain was still almost another
world; and the great northern hive from whence the spoilers of the
dismembered empire of the Cæsars were speedily to emerge, was so
entirely unknown to them, that, as Dr. Arnold remarks, “The Roman
colonies along the banks of the Rhine and the Danube looked out on the
country beyond those rivers as we look up at the stars, and actually see
with our eyes a world of which we know nothing.” Nevertheless, the
civilisation of the historic centres around the Mediterranean was not
without some influence on the germs of modern nations then nursing the
hardihood of a vigorous infancy beyond the Danube and the Baltic. The
shores of the Atlantic and German oceans, and the islands of the British
seas, had long before yielded tribute to the Phœnician mariner; and as
the archæologist and the ethnologist pursue their researches, and
restore to light memorials of Europe’s early youth, they are startled
with affinities to the ancient historic nations, in language, arts, and
rites, no less than by the recovered traces of an unfamiliar past.

But it is altogether different with the New World which Columbus
revealed. Superficial students of its monuments have indeed
misinterpreted characteristics pertaining to the infantile instincts
common to human thought, into fancied analogies with the arts of Egypt;
and more than one ingenious philosopher has traced out affinities with
the mythology and astronomical science of the ancient East; but the
western continent still stands a world apart, with a peculiar people,
and with languages, arts, and customs essentially its own. To whatever
source the American nations may be traced, they had remained shut in for
unnumbered centuries by ocean barriers from all the influences of the
historic hemisphere. Yet there the first European explorers found man so
little dissimilar to all with which they were already familiar, that the
name of Indian originated in the belief, retained by the great
cosmographer to the last, that the American continent was no new world,
but only the eastern confines of Asia.

Such, then, is a continent where man may be studied under circumstances
which seem to furnish the best guarantee of his independent development.
No reflex light of Grecian or Roman civilisation has guided him on his
way. The great sources of religious and moral suasion which have given
form to medieval and modern Europe, and so largely influenced the polity
and culture of Asia, and even of Africa, were effectually excluded; and
however prolonged the period of occupation of the western hemisphere by
its own American nations may have been, man is still seen there in a
condition which seems to reproduce some of the most familiar phases
ascribed to the infancy of the unhistoric world. The records of its
childhood are not obscured, as in Europe, by later chroniclings; where,
in every attempt to decipher the traces of an earlier history, we have
to spell out a nearly obliterated palimpsest. Amid the simplicity of its
palæography, the aphorism, by which alone the Roman could claim to be
among the world’s ancient races acquires a new force: “antiquitas
seculi, juventus mundi.”

The discovery of America was itself one of the great events in the most
memorable era of the world’s progress. It wrought a marvellous change in
the ideas and opinions of mankind relative to the planet they occupy,
and prepared the way for many subsequent revolutions in thought, as well
as in action. The world as the arena of human history was thenceforth
divided into the Old and the New. In the one hemisphere tradition and
myth reach backward towards a dawn of undefined antiquity; in the other,
history has a definite and altogether modern beginning. Nevertheless no
great research is needed to show that it also has been the theatre of
human life, and of many revolutions of nations, through centuries
reaching back towards an antiquity as vague as that which lies behind
Europe’s historic dawn; and the study alike of the prehistoric and the
unhistoric races of America is replete with promise of novel truths in
reference to primeval man. Some of the oldest problems in relation to
him find their solution there; and, amid the novel inquiries which now
perplex the student of science, answers of unexpected value are rendered
from the same source.

The study of man’s condition and progress in Europe’s prehistoric
centuries reveals him as a savage hunter, armed solely with weapons of
flint and bone, frequenting the lake and river margins of a continent
clothed in primeval forests and haunted by enormous beasts of prey.
Displaced by intrusive migrations, this rude pioneer disappears, and his
traces are overlaid or erased by the improved arts of his supplanters.
The infancy of the historic nations begins. Metallurgy, architecture,
science, and letters follow, effacing the faint records of Europe’s
nomadic pioneers; and the first traces of late intruders acquire so
primitive an aspect, that the existence of older European nations than
the Celtæ seemed till recently too extravagant an idea for serious

After devoting considerable research to the recovery of the traces of
early arts in Britain, and realising from many primitive disclosures
some clear conception of the barbarian of Europe’s prehistoric dawn, it
has been my fortune to become a settler on the American continent, in
the midst of scenes where the primeval forests and their savage
occupants are in process of displacement by the arts and races of
civilised Europe. Peculiarly favourable opportunities have helped to
facilitate the study of this phase of the New World, thus seen in one of
its great transitional eras: with its native tribes, and its European
and African colonists in various stages of mutation, consequent on
migration, intermixture, or collision. In observing the novel aspects of
life resulting from such a condition of things, I have been impressed
with the conviction that many of the ethnological phenomena of Europe’s
prehistoric centuries are here reproduced on the grandest scale. Man is
seen subject to influences similar to those which have affected him in
all great migrations and collisions of diverse races. Here also is the
savage in direct contact with civilisation, and exposed to the same
causes by means of which the wild fauna disappear. Some difficult
problems of ethnology have been simplified to my own mind; and opinions
relative to Europe’s prehistoric races, based on inference or induction,
have received striking confirmation. Encouraged by this experience, I
venture to set forth the results of an inquiry into the essential
characteristics of man, based chiefly on a comparison of the theoretical
ethnology of primitive Europe, with such disclosures of the New World.

Man may be assumed to be prehistoric wherever his chroniclings of
himself are undesigned, and his history is wholly recoverable by
induction. The term has, strictly speaking, no chronological
significance; but, in its relative application, corresponds to other
archæological, in contradistinction to geological, periods. There are
modern as well as ancient prehistoric races; and both are available for
solving the problem of man’s true natural condition. But also the
relation of man to external nature as the occupant of specific
geographical areas, and subject to certain influences of climate, food,
material appliances and conditions of life, involves conclusions of
growing importance, in view of many novel questions to which the
enlarged inquiry as to his true place in nature has given rise. If races
of men are indigenous to specific areas, and controlled by the same laws
which seem to regulate the geographical distribution of the animal
kingdom, the results of their infringement of such laws have been
subjected to the most comprehensive tests since the discovery of
America. The horse transported to the New World roams in magnificent
herds over the boundless pampas; and the hog, restored to a state of
nature, has exchanged the degradation of the stye for the fierce courage
of the wild boar. There also the indigenous man of the prairie and the
forest can still be seen unaffected by native or intruded civilisation;
while the most civilised races of Europe have been brought into contact
with the African savage; and both have been subjected to all the novel
influences in which the western continent contrasts no less strikingly
with the temperate than with the tropical regions of the eastern
hemisphere. The resultant changes have been great, and the scale on
which they have been wrought out is so ample as to stamp whatever
conclusions can be legitimately deduced from them with the highest
interest and value.

The consequences following from changes of area and climate play a
remarkable part in the history of man, and have no analogies in the
migrations of the lower animals. The Frank, the Anglo-Saxon, and the
Norman; the Hungarian, the Saracen, and the Turk: are all to a great
extent products of the transplanting of seemingly indigenous races to
more favouring localities; but the change to all of them was less than
that to which the colonists of the New World have been subjected. There
the old process was reversed; and the offspring of Europe’s highest
civilisation, abruptly transferred to the virgin forest and steppes of
the American wilderness, was left amid the widening inheritance of new
clearings to develop whatever tendencies lay dormant in the artificial
European man.

Here then are materials full of promise for the ethnical student:—the
Red-Man, indigenous, seemingly aboriginal, and still in what it is
customary to call a state of nature; the Negro, with many African
attributes uneffaced, systematically precluded until very recent years
from the free reception of the civilisation with which he has been
brought in contact, but subjected nevertheless to novel influences of
climate, food, and all external appliances; the White-Man also
undergoing the transforming effects of climate, amid novel social and
political institutions; and all three extreme types of variety or race
testing, on a sufficiently comprehensive scale, their capacity for a
fertile intermingling of blood. The period, moreover, is in some
respects favourable for summing up results, as changes are at work which
mark the close of a cycle in the novel conditions to which one at least
of the intruded races has been subjected for upwards of three centuries.

In Europe we study man only as he has been moulded by a thousand
external circumstances. The arts, born at the very dawn of history, give
form to its modern social life. The faith and morals nurtured among the
hills of Judah, the intellect of Greece, the jurisprudence and military
prowess of Rome, and the civil and ecclesiastical institutions of
medieval Christendom, have all helped to make of us what we are: till in
the European of the nineteenth century it becomes a curious question how
much pertains to the man, and how much to that civilisation, of which he
is in part the author and in part the offspring? In vain we strive to
detach European man from elements foreign to him, that we may look on
him as he is or was by nature; for he only exists for us as the product
of all those multifarious elements which have accumulated along the
track of countless generations. The very serf of the Russian steppes
cannot grow freely, as his nomad brother of Asia does; but must don the
unfamiliar fashions of the Frank, as strange to him as the armour of
Saul upon the youthful Ephrathite.

Is, then, civilisation natural to man; or is it only a habit or
condition artificially superinduced, and as foreign to his nature as the
bit and bridle to the horse, or the truck-cart to the wild ass of the
desert? Such questions involve the whole ethnological problem reopened
by Lamarck, Agassiz, Darwin, Huxley, and others. Whence is man? What are
his antecedents? What—within the compass with which alone science
deals,—are his future destinies? Does civilisation move only through
limited cycles, repeating in new centuries the work of the old;
attaining, under some varying phase, to the same maximum of our
imperfect humanity, and then, like the wandering comet, returning from
the splendour of its perihelion back to night?

Perhaps a question preliminary even to this is: What is civilisation? He
who has seen the Euromerican and the Indian side by side can be at no
loss as to the difference between civilised and uncivilised man. But is
he therefore at liberty to conclude that the element which so markedly
distinguishes the White- from the Red- man of the New World is an
attribute peculiar to the former, rather than the development of innate
powers common to both, and in the possession of which man differs from
all other animals? DOMESTICATION is, for the lower animals, the
subjection of them to artificial conditions foreign to their nature,
which they could not originate for themselves, and which they neither
mature nor perpetuate: but, on the contrary, hasten to throw off so soon
as left to their own uncontrolled action. CIVILISATION is for man
development. It is self-originated; it matures all the faculties natural
to him, and is progressive and seemingly ineradicable. Of both
postulates the social life alike of the forest and of the clearings of
the New World seems to offer proofs; and to other questions involved in
an inquiry into the origin of civilisation and man’s relations to it,
answers may also be recovered from the same source. There the latest
developments of human progress are abruptly brought face to face with
the most unprogressive phases of savage nature; and many old problems
are being solved anew under novel conditions. The race to which this is
chiefly due had been isolated during centuries of preparatory training,
and illustrates in some of the sources of its progress the impediments
to the civilisation of savage races brought in contact with others at so
dissimilar a stage. The very elements for Britain’s greatness seem to
lie in her slow maturity; in her collision with successive races only a
little in advance of herself; in her transition through all the stages
from infancy to vigorous manhood. But that done, the Old Englander
becomes the New Englander; starts from his matured vantage-ground on a
fresh career, and displaces the American Red-man by the American
White-Man, the free product of the great past and the great present.

It was with a strange and fascinating pleasure, that, after having
striven to resuscitate the races of Britain’s prehistoric ages, by means
of their buried arts,[1] I found myself face to face with the aborigines
of the New World. Much that had become familiar to me in fancy, as
pertaining to a long obliterated past, was here the living present;
while around me, in every stage of transition, lay the phases of savage
and civilised life: the nature of the forest, the art of the city; the
God-made country, the man-made town: each in the very process of change,
extinction, and re-creation. Here, then, was a new field for the study
of civilisation and all that it involves. The wild beast is in its
native state, and hastens, when relieved from artificial constraints, to
return to the forest wilds as to its natural condition. The
forest-man—is he too in his natural condition? for Europe’s sons have,
for upwards of three centuries, been levelling his forests, and planting
their civilisation on the clearings, yet he accepts not their
civilisation as a higher goal for him. He, at least, thinks that the
white man and the red are of diverse natures; that the city and the
cultivated field are for the one, but the wild forest and the free chase
for the other. He does not envy the white man, he only wonders at him as
a being of a different nature.

Broken-Arm, the Chief of the Crees, receiving the traveller Paul Kane
and his party into his lodge, at their encampment in the valley of the
Saskatchewan, told him the following tradition of the tribe. One of the
Crees became a Christian. He was a very good man, and did what was
right; and when he died he was taken up to the white man’s heaven, where
everything was very beautiful. All were happy amongst their friends and
relatives who had gone before them; but the Indian could not share their
joy, for everything was strange to him. He met none of the spirits of
his ancestors to welcome him: no hunting nor fishing, nor any of those
occupations in which he was wont to delight. Then the Great Manitou
called him, and asked him why he was joyless in His beautiful heaven;
and the Indian replied that he sighed for the company of the spirits of
his own people. So the Great Manitou told him that he could not send him
to the Indian heaven, as he had, whilst on earth, chosen this one; but
as he had been a very good man, he would send him back to earth again.

The Indian does not believe in the superiority of the white man. The
difference between them is only such as he discerns between the social,
constructive beaver, and the solitary, cunning fox. The Great Spirit
implanted in each his peculiar faculties; why should the one covet the
nature of the other? Hence one element of the unhopeful Indian future.
The progress of the white man offers even less incentive to his ambition
than the cunning of the fox, or the architectural instincts of the
beaver. He, at least, does not overlook, in his sylvan philosophy, that
feature in the physical history of mankind, which Agassiz complained of
having been neglected: viz., the natural relations between different
types of man and the animals and plants inhabiting the same regions. Yet
the Indian of the American wilds is no more primeval than his forests.
Beneath the roots of their oldest giants lie memorials of an older
native civilisation; and the American ethnologist and naturalist, while
satisfying themselves of the persistency of a common type, and of
specific ethnical characteristics prevailing throughout all the
widely-scattered tribes of the American continent,[2] have been studying
only the temporary supplanters of nations strange to us as the extinct
life of older geological periods.

In that old East, to which science still turns when searching for the
cradle-land of the human family, vast areas exist, the characteristics
of which seem to stamp with unprogressive endurance the inheritors of
the soil. Along the shores of the Indian Ocean and the Levant, and
stretching from the Persian Gulf into the fertile valleys of the
Euphrates and the Tigris, are still found seats of civilisation
coexistent with the earliest dawn of man’s history. But beyond these
lies the elevated table-land of Central Asia, stretching away northward,
and pouring its waters into inland seas, or directing their uncivilising
courses into the frozen waters of the Arctic circle. Abrupt
mountain-chains subdivide this elevated plateau into regions which have
been for unrecorded ages the hives of pastoral tribes, unaffected by any
intrusion of civilising arts or settled social habits; until, impelled
by unknown causes, they have poured southward over the seats of
primitive Asiatic civilisation, or westward into the younger continent
of Europe.

From the wandering hordes of the great Asiatic steppes have come the
Huns, the Magyars, and the Turks, as well as a considerable portion of
the Bulgarians of modern Europe; while the sterile peninsula of Arabia
has given birth to moral revolutions of the most enduring influence. Yet
the capacity for civilisation of the Magyar or the Turk, transferred to
new physical conditions, and subjected to higher moral and intellectual
influences; or the wondrous intellectual vigour of the Arab of Bagdad or
Cordova: affords no scale by which to gauge the immobility of the Tartar
on his native steppe, or the Arab in his desert wilderness. Without
agriculture or any idea of property in land, destitute of the very
rudiments of architecture, knowing no written law, or any form of
government save the patriarchal expansion to the tribe of the primitive
family ties: we can discern no change in the wild nomad, though we trace
him back for three thousand years. Migratory offshoots of the hordes of
Central Asia, and of the wanderers of the Arabian desert, have gone
forth to prove the capacity for progress of the least progressive races;
but the great body tarries still in the wilderness and on the steppe, to
prove what an enduring capacity man also has to live as one of the wild
fauna of the waste.

The Indians of the New World, whencesoever they derived their origin,
present to us just such a type of unprogressive life as the nomads of
the Asiatic steppe. The Red-Man of the North-West exhibits no change
from his precursors of the fifteenth century; and for aught that appears
in him of a capacity for development, the forests of the American
continent may have sheltered hunting and warring tribes of Indians, just
as they have sheltered and pastured its wild herds of buffaloes, for
countless centuries since the continent rose from its ocean-bed. That he
is no recent intruder is indisputably proved alike by physical and
intellectual evidence. On any theory of human origin, the blended
gradations of America’s widely diversified indigenous races, demand a
lengthened period for their development; and equally, on any theory of
the origin of languages, must time be prolonged to admit of the
multiplication of mutually unintelligible dialects and tongues in the
New World. It is estimated that there are nearly six hundred languages,
and dialects matured into independent tongues, in Europe. The known
origin and growth of some of these may supply a standard whereby to
gauge the time indicated by such a multiplication of tongues. But the
languages of the American continents have been estimated to exceed
twelve hundred and sixty, including agglutinate languages of peculiarly
elaborate structure, and inflectional forms of complex development. Of
the grammar of the Lenni-Lenapé Indians, Duponceau remarks: “It exhibits
a language entirely the work of the children of nature, unaided by our
arts and sciences, and, what is most remarkable, ignorant of the art of
writing. Its forms are rich, regular, and methodical, closely following
the analogy of the ideas which they are intended to express; compounded,
but not confused; occasionally elliptical in their mode of expression,
but not more so than the languages of Europe, and much less so than
those of a large group of nations on the eastern coast of Asia. The
terminations of their verbs, expressive of number, person, time, and
other modifications of action and passion, while they are richer in
their extension than those of the Latin and Greek, which we call
emphatically the _learned_ languages, appear to have been formed on a
similar but enlarged model, without other aid than that which was
afforded by nature operating upon the intellectual faculties of man.”[3]
At the same time it is no less important to note the limited range of
vocabulary in many of the American languages. Those characteristics,
taken along with their peculiar holophrastic power of inflecting complex
word-sentences, and expressing by their means delicate shades of
meaning, exhibit the phenomena of human speech in some of their most
remarkable phases. But the range of the vocabularies furnishes a true
gauge of the intellectual development of the Indian: incapable of
abstract idealism, realising few generic relations, and multiplying
words by comparisons and descriptive compounds.

To whatever cause we attribute such phenomena, much is gained by being
able to study them apart from the complex derivative elements which
trammel the study of European philology. Assuming for our present
argument the unity of the human race, not in the ambiguous sense of a
common typical structure, but literally, as descendants of one stock: in
the primitive scattering of infant nations, the Mongol and the American
went eastward, while the Indo-European began his still uncompleted
wanderings towards the far west. The Mongol and the Indo-European have
repeatedly met and mingled. They now share, unequally, the Indian
peninsula and the continent of Europe. But the American and the
Indo-European only met after an interval measurable by thousands of
years, coming from opposite directions, and having made the circuit of
the globe.

The Red-Man, it thus appears, is among the ancients of the earth. How
old he may be it is impossible to determine; but with one American
school of ethnologists, no historical antiquity is sufficient for him.
The earliest contributions of the New World to the geological traces of
man were little less startling, when first brought to light, than any
that the European drift has since revealed. The island of Guadaloupe,
one of the lesser Antilles, discovered by Columbus in 1493, furnished
the first examples of fossil man, and of works of art imbedded in the
solid rock. They seemed to the wondering naturalist to upset all
preconceived ideas of the origin of the human race. But more careful
investigation proved the rock to be a concretionary limestone formed
from the detritus of corals and shells. The skeletons are probably by no
means ancient, even according to the reckoning of American history;
though supplying a curious link in the palæontological treasures both of
the British Museum and the Jardin des Plantes. Dr. Lund, the Danish
naturalist, has described human bones, bearing, as he believed, marks of
geological antiquity, found along with those of many extinct mammals, in
the calcareous caves of Brazil. Fossil human remains have also been
recovered from a calcareous conglomerate of the coral reefs of Florida,
estimated by Professor Agassiz to be not less than 10,000 years old;[4]
and the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia treasures the _os
innominatum_ of a human skeleton, a fragment of disputed antiquity, dug
up near Natchez, on the Mississippi, beneath the bones of the

From those, and other discoveries of a like kind, this at least becomes
apparent, that in the New World, as in the Old, the closing epoch of
geology must be turned to for the initial chapters of archæology and
ethnology. According to geological reckoning, much of the American
continent has but recently emerged from the ocean. Among the organic
remains of Canadian post-tertiary deposits are found the _Phoca_,
_Balœna_, and other existing marine mammals and fishes along with the
_Elephas primigenius_, the _Mastodon Ohioticus_, and other long-extinct
species. Looking on the human skeletons of the Guadaloupe limestone in
the Museums of London and Paris,—the first examples of the bones of man
in a fossil state,—the gradation in form between him and other animals
presents no very important contrast to the uninstructed eye. Modern
though those rock-imbedded skeletons are, they accord with older traces
of human remains mingling with those of extinct mammals, to which more
recent speculations have given so novel an interest in relation to the
question of the antiquity of man. The origin and duration of the
American type still remain in obscurity. Man entered on the occupation
of the New World in centuries which there, as elsewhere, stretch
backward as we strive to explore them. His early history is lost, for it
is not yet four centuries since its discovery; and he still survives
there, as he then did, a being apart from all that specially
distinguishes either the cultivated or the uncultured man of Europe. His
continent, too, has become the stage whereon are being tested great
problems in social science, in politics, and in ethnology. There the
civilised man and the savage have been brought face to face to determine
anew how far God “giveth to all life, and breath, and all things; and
hath made of one blood all nations of men to dwell on all the face of
the earth; and hath determined the times before appointed, and the
bounds of their habitation.” There, too, the Black man and the Red,
whose destinies seemed to separate them wide as the world’s hemispheres,
have been brought together to try whether the African is more enduring
than the indigenous American on his own soil; to try for us, also, as
could no otherwise be tried, questions of amalgamation and hybridity, of
development and perpetuity of varieties, of a dominant, a savage, and a
servile race. In all ways: in its recoverable past, in its
comprehensible present, in its conceivable future, the New World invites
our study, with the promise of disclosures replete with interest in
their bearing on secrets of the elder world.


[1] Vide _Prehistoric Annals of Scotland_.

[2] Morton: _Crania Americana_; Nott: _Indigenous Races_, etc.

[3] _American Philosophical Transactions_, N. S. vol. iii. p. 248.

[4] _Types of Mankind._ P. 352.

[5] _Proceed. Acad. Nat. Sc. Philad._ Oct. 1846. P. 107.

                              CHAPTER II.
                        THE PRIMEVAL TRANSITION.


The striking contrasts which the New World presents, in nearly every
respect, to the Old, are full of significance in relation to the origin
of civilisation, and its influence on the progress of man. Viewed merely
as the latest scene of migration of European races on a great scale,
America has much to disclose in illustration of primitive history. There
we see the land cleared of its virgin forest, the soil prepared for its
first tillage, the site of the future city chosen, and the birth of the
world’s historic capitals epitomised in those of the youngest American
commonwealths. Taking our stand on one of the newest of these civic
sites, let us trace the brief history of the political and commercial
capital of Upper Canada.

Built along the margin of a bay, enclosed by a peninsular spit of land
running out from the north shore of Lake Ontario, the city of Toronto
rests on a drift formation of sand and clay, only disturbed in its
nearly level uniformity by the rain-gullies and ravines which mark the
courses of the rivulets that drain its surface. This the original
projectors of the city mapped off into parallelograms, by streets
uniformly intersecting each other at right angles; and in carrying out
their plan, every ravine and undulation is smoothed and levelled, as
with the indiscriminating precision of the mower’s scythe. The country
rises to the north for about twenty miles, by a gradual slope to the
water-shed between Ontario and Lake Simcoe, and then descends to the
level of the northern lake and the old hunting-grounds of the Hurons. It
is a nearly unvarying expanse of partially cleared forest: a blank, with
its Indian traditions effaced, its colonial traditions uncreated. The
cities of the old world have their mythic founders and quaint legends
still commemorated in heraldic blazonry. But there is no mystery about
the beginnings of Toronto. Upper Canada was erected into a distinct
province in 1791, only eight years after France finally renounced all
claim on the province of Quebec; and a few months thereafter General
Simcoe, the first governor of the new province, arrived at the old
French fort, at the mouth of the Niagara river, and in May 1793 selected
the Bay of Toronto as the site of the future capital. The chosen spot
presented a dreary aspect of swamp and uncleared pine forest; but amid
these his sagacious eye saw in anticipation the city rise, which already
numbers upwards of 60,000 inhabitants; and rejecting the old Indian
name, since restored, he gave to his embryo capital that of York.
Colonel Bouchette, Surveyor-General of Lower Canada, was selected to lay
out the projected city and harbour; and he thus describes the locality
as it then existed: “I still distinctly recollect the untamed aspect
which the country exhibited when first I entered the beautiful basin.
Dense and trackless forests lined the margin of the lake, and reflected
their inverted images in its glassy surface. The wandering savage had
constructed his ephemeral habitation beneath their luxuriant foliage,
the group then consisting of two families of Mississagas; and the bay
and neighbouring marshes were the hitherto uninvaded haunts of immense
coveys of wild-fowl; indeed, they were so abundant as in some measure to
annoy us during the night.”[6]

The vicissitudes attending the progress of the Canadian city have been
minutely chronicled by local historians, who record how many dwellings
of round logs, squared timber, or more ambitious frame-houses exceeding
a single story, were in existence at various dates. The first vessel
which belonged to the town, and turned its harbour to account; the first
brick house, the earliest stone one; and even the first gig of an
ambitious citizen, subsequent to 1812, are all duly chronicled. Could we
learn with equal truthfulness of the first years of the city built by
Romulus on the Palatine Hill, its annals would tell no less homely
truths, even now dimly hinted at in the legend of the scornful Remus
leaping over its infant ramparts. Tiber’s hill was once the site only of
the solitary herdsman’s hut; and an old citizen has described to me his
youthful recollections of Toronto as consisting of a few log-huts in the
clearing, and an Indian village of birch-bark wigwams, near the Don,
with a mere trail through the woods to the old French fort, on the line
where now upwards of two miles of costly stores, hotels, and public
buildings mark the principal street of the busy city.

M. Theodore Pavi describes Toronto, in his _Souvenirs Atlantiques_,
published at Paris in 1833, as still in the woods, a mere advanced post
of civilisation on the outskirts of a boundless waste. “To the houses
succeed immediately the forests, and how profound must be those immense
forests, when we reflect that they continue without interruption till
they lose themselves in the icy regions of Hudson’s Bay near the Arctic
Pole.” Upwards of forty years have since elapsed, and that for New-World
cities is an æon. Every year has witnessed more rapid strides, alike in
the progress of Toronto, and in the clearing and settling of the
surrounding country. Railways have opened up new avenues of trade and
commerce, and borne troops of sturdy pioneers into the wilderness
behind. So rapid has been the clearing of the forest, and so great the
rise in the price of labour, that fuel, brought from the distant
coal-fields of Pennsylvania, already undersells the cord-wood hewn in
Canadian forests; and even Newcastle coal warms many a luxurious winter
hearth. All is rife with progress. The new past is despised; the old
past is unheeded; and for antiquity there is neither reverence nor
faith. These are beginnings of history; and are full of significance to
those who have wrought out some of the curious problems of an ancient
past, amid historic scenes contrasting in all respects with this
unhistoric but vigorous youth of the New World. The contrast between the
new and the old is here sufficiently striking. Yet the old also was once
new; had even such beginnings as this; and was as devoid of history as
the rawest clearing of the Far West.

There are other aspects also in which a New World, thus entering on its
historic life, is calculated to throw light on the origin of
civilisation. Though neither its forests nor its aborigines are
primeval, they realise for us just such a primitive condition as that in
which human history appears to begin. In all the most characteristic
aspects of the Indian, as well as in the traces of native American
metallurgy, architecture, letters, and science, we find reproduced the
same phases through which man passed in oldest prehistoric times; and
when, in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, we witness the mineral
wealth of the Andes tempting European colonisation beyond the Atlantic,
we only see the expeditions of new Argonauts; and realise incidents of
the first voyage to the Cassiterides; or the planting of the infant
colonies of Gadir, Massala, and Carthage by Phocian and Punic
adventurers of the historic dawn. But the speculations of modern science
carry us far beyond any dawn of definite history, even when research is
directed to the evidence of man’s primitive arts, and the origin of his

The investigation of the underlying chronicles of Europe’s most ancient
human history has placed beyond question that its historic period was
preceded by an unhistoric one of long duration, marked by a slow
progression from arts of the rudest kind to others which involved the
germs of all later development. From Europe, and the historic lands of
Asia and Africa, we derive our ideas of man; and of the youngest of
these continents, on which he has thus advanced from savage artlessness
to the highest arts of civilisation, we have history, written or
traditional, for at least two thousand years. But in the year 1492 a New
World was discovered, peopled with its own millions, for the most part
in no degree advanced beyond that primeval starting-point which lies far
behind Europe’s oldest traditions. To have found there beings strange as
the inhabitants of Swift’s Houyhnhnm’s Land, or the monsters conjured up
in the philosophic day-dreams of Sir Humphry Davy for the peopling of
other planets,[7] would have seemed less wonderful to the men of that
fifteenth century than what they did find: man in a state of savage
infancy, with arts altogether rudimentary; language without letters,
tradition without history, everything as it were but in its beginning,
and yet himself looking back into a past even more vast and vague than
their own. The significance of this state of things is worth inquiring
into, if it be for nothing else than the light which the analogies of
such a living present may throw on the infancy of Europe, and beyond
that, on the primal infancy of the human race.

Recent discoveries of primitive art in the diluvial formations both of
France and England have tended to add a fresh interest to the
investigation of that “primeval stone-period” which underlies the most
ancient memorials of Europe’s civilisation. The oldest of all written
chronicles assigns a period of some duration in the history of the human
race, during which man tilled the ground, pursued the chase, and made
garments of its spoils, without any knowledge of the working in metals,
on which the simplest of all known arts depend. Through such a primitive
stage it had already appeared to me probable that all civilised nations
had passed,[8] before disclosures of a still older flint-period in the
chroniclings of the drift added new significance to the term _primeval_,
in its application to the non-metallurgic era of Europe’s arts.

The incredulity and even contempt with which the application of a system
of archæological periods to the antiquities of Britain was received, in
recent years, by a certain class of critics, was inevitable, from the
exclusive attention previously devoted to Roman and medieval remains.
But the attention of the antiquary, as well as the geologist, is now
being directed to conclusions forced on both by the traces of man in the
stratified gravel of post-pleiocene formations. The circumstances
attending their repeated discovery place their remote antiquity beyond
question. The difficulty indeed is to bring the phenomena illustrated by
palæolithic relics of the quaternary period into any conceivable harmony
with the limits of chronology as hitherto applied to man. The pre-Celtic
architects of the British long-barrow, and the allophyliæ of the
European stone age, are but men of yesterday in comparison with the
=Flint-Folk of the Drift=. They belong to a lost
Atlantis,—another continent, now in part at least buried beneath the
ocean; and compared with which the Old World of history is as new as
that found for it by Columbus.

The disclosures of geology have familiarised us with the conviction that
the “stable land,” the “perpetual hills,” and the “everlasting
mountains” are but figures of speech. But the idea forces itself on
reluctant minds that man himself has witnessed the disappearance of
Alpine chains and the submergence of continents. The Pacific
archipelagos are but the mountain-crests of a southern continent, which
in earlier ages may have facilitated the wanderings of the nations. The
startling discoveries in the French and English drift are results of
oscillations of the northern hemisphere, which, in times nearer to
historic centuries, depressed the bed of the Baltic in the era of the
Danish kjökkenmöddingr, and made dry land of the upper estuaries of the
Forth and Clyde. It is doubtful, indeed, if the shallowing of Danish and
Scottish seas by the rise of their ocean-beds is altogether a work of
prehistoric times. The rise still going on in parts of the Swedish coast
is a phenomenon long familiar to geologists; and the upheaval of the
Scottish region, embracing the valleys of the Forth and Clyde, it now
appears probable, has been protracted into historic times, and has even
affected the relative levels of sea and land since the building of the
Roman wall.

The changes thus witnessed on a comparatively small scale, on familiar
areas, help us in some degree to estimate the vast physical revolutions
that have taken place throughout the northern hemisphere within that
recent geological period which succeeded the formation of the pleiocene
strata. One of the most remarkable phenomena now recognised as affecting
the conditions of life in recent geological epochs is the prolonged
existence, throughout the whole northern hemisphere, of a temperature
resembling that of the Arctic regions at the present time. After a
period more nearly assimilating in climatic character to the tropics,
though otherwise under varying conditions, the temperature of the whole
northern hemisphere gradually diminished towards the end of the tertiary
epoch, until the highlands of Scotland and Wales—then at a much higher
elevation,—resembled Greenland at the present time, and an Arctic
temperature extended southward to the Pyrenees and the Alps. Glaciers
formed under the influence of perpetual frost and snow descended into
the valleys and plains over the greater portion of Central Europe and
Northern Asia, and an Arctic winter reigned throughout.

This condition of things, pertaining to what is known as the glacial
period, was unquestionably of long duration. But after some partial
variations of temperature, and a consequent advance and retrocession of
the glacial influences along what was then the border lines of a north
temperate zone, the first period of extreme cold drew to a close.
Between the Alps and the mountain ranges of Scotland and Wales, the
winter resembled that which even now prevails on the North American
continent, in latitudes in which the moose, the wapiti, and the grizzly
bear, freely range over the same areas where during a brief summer of
intense heat enormous herds of buffalo annually migrate from the south.
A similar alternation of seasons within the European glacial period can
alone account for the presence, alongside of an Arctic fauna, of animals
such as the hippopotamus and the hyæna, known only throughout the
historical period as natives of the tropics. The range of temperature of
Canadian seasons admits of the Arctic skua-gull, the snow-goose, the
Lapland bunting, and the like Arctic visitors, meeting the king-bird,
the humming-bird, and other wanderers from the gulf of Mexico.

Such conditions of climate may account for the recovery of the remains
of the reindeer and the hippopotamus in the same drift and cave-deposits
of Europe’s glacial period. The woolly mammoth and rhinoceros, the
musk-ox, reindeer, and other Arctic fauna, may be presumed to have
annually retreated from the summer heats, and given place to those
animals, the living representatives of which are now found only in
tropical Africa. A period of depression followed, during which,
throughout an extensive area, all but the highest levels was submerged
beneath an Arctic ocean, and the drift and boulders of the highlands of
Norway and Scotland were dispersed by means of icebergs over the low
levels of what was then an archipelago, in which only the higher peaks
of Britain rose out of the sea. Far to the south of the Thames and the
Seine, the drift of this Arctic ocean was then accumulating the evidence
which now reveals to us the fauna and the arts of quaternary Europe;
just as the overlying boulders of the American drift far south in the
Ohio valleys show their derivation from the Laurentian mountains of
Canada. With the elevation of the old ocean-bed there appears to have
been a renewal of an Arctic temperature indicated by the traces of local
glaciers in the mountains of Scotland, Cumberland, and Wales; and so the
glacial period drew to a close. A gradual rise of temperature carried
the lines of ice and perpetual snow further and further northward,
excepting in regions of great elevation, as in the Swiss Alps. This was
necessarily accompanied with the melting of the glaciers accumulated in
the mountain valleys throughout the protracted period of cold. The
broken rocks and soil of the highlands were swept into the valleys by
torrents of melted ice and snow; the lower valleys were hollowed out and
reformed under this novel agency; and the landscape assumed its latest
contour of valley, estuary, and river-beds.

This is what the elder geologists, including Dean Buckland, accepted for
a time as the evidence of the Mosaic deluge. It is now universally
recognised as the product of no sudden cataclysm, but the result of
operations carried on continuously throughout periods of vast duration,
during which the memorials of animal and vegetable life of the pleiocene
and pleistocene epochs were slowly imbedded in the accumulated débris of
this diluvian reconstruction. The characteristics of the fossil mammals
of the post-glacial period differ in many respects so widely from all
that we are accustomed to associate with the presence of man, that they
help to suggest even an exaggerated idea of antiquity. Nevertheless,
there is no break of continuity. Animals still living have their fossil
representatives alongside of the pleiocene mastodon, cave-lion, and
bear: if indeed the latter be not itself the _ursus ferox_, or grizzly
bear of North America, the claws of which are still worn as the proudest
trophy of the Red Indian hunter.

Of twenty-one species of post-glacial mammals identified in the deposits
of Brixham Cavern, only four are regarded as extinct species, and these
include the _ursus spelæus_ and _hyæna spelæa_. But their habitats have
been widely changed in the climatic and geographical revolutions which
have intervened. Some have to be sought for within the Arctic circle;
others in low latitudes, and on continents lying wholly outside of that
world which was alone known to Aristotle and Pliny. Every thing
indicates a revolution slowly wrought through unnumbered ages, during
which the ancient fauna was being supplanted by novel species, including
those which belong to the historical period of temperate Europe. So far
as appears from present evidence, man himself has to be included among
the new additions to the European fauna. To this post-glacial period
must, at any rate, be assigned the advent of the Flint-Folk of the
Drift: a race of hunters and fishers not greatly differing in their rude
arts from the more immediate precursors of the Historic races in
Europe’s Stone Age; but who were contemporaneous with the Siberian
mammoth and other extinct elephants, the woolly rhinoceros, the musk-ox,
and the reindeer of France; and with numerous extinct carnivora of
proportions corresponding to the gigantic herbivora on which they

The regions in which remains of the Flint-Folk have hitherto chiefly
occurred embrace the valleys of Northern France and Southern England,
where now the vine and the hop clothe the sunny slopes with their
luxuriance. But as fresh evidence accumulates, corresponding indications
are found to extend to the shores and islands of the Mediterranean.
Traces of Europe’s neolithic artificers have been found in the caves of
Gibraltar; and among a singularly interesting accumulation of
flint-flakes, polished stone axes, rude pottery, etc., lying beside the
skeletons of their owners, in the same caves of Andalusia from one of
which a golden tiara of primitive workmanship has been recovered.[9]
Among remoter traces in the Maccagnone, Sicilian cave, Dr. Falconer
could discover nothing suggestive of a different period for the rude
flint implements and the numerous bones of the hippopotamus, mammoth,
cave-lion, and other fossil mammals with which they were conjoined;
while far eastward, near Beyrout, the Rev. H. B. Tristram reports the
occurrence, in the stalagmitic flooring of a limestone cave, of bones
and teeth assigned to a fossil ox, the red-deer, and the reindeer,
alongside of the flint-knives or flakes which the prehistoric cave-men
of Lebanon had used when feasting on such prey.[10] But though such
traces occur on ancient historic sites, we search in vain for any
connecting link between the oldest historic races and those belonging to
an era which one distinguished geologist has designated as “The Second
Elephantine Period”;[11] when, according to his reconstruction of the
physical geography of the region, the Thames was a tributary of the
Rhine; the English Channel was not yet in being, and Britain existed
only as part of a continent which stretched away uninterruptedly
northward towards the Arctic circle.

It thus appears that the advent of man in Northern Europe is assignable
to a period when the mammoth and the tichorine rhinoceros still roamed
its forests, and the great cave-tiger and other extinct carnivora
haunted its caverns; when the gigantic Irish elk, the reindeer, the
musk-ox, and the wild horse were objects of the chase; and the
hippopotamus major was a summer visitor to the Seine and the Thames.
When first employing the term _prehistoric_ which has since obtained
such universal acceptance, I remarked, in reference to Scottish
aboriginal traces: “There is one certain point in this inquiry into
primitive arts which the British antiquary possesses over all others,
and from whence he can start without fear of error. From our insular
position it is unquestionable that the first colonist of the British
Isles must have been able to construct some kind of boat, and have
possessed sufficient knowledge of navigation to steer his course through
the open sea.”[12] It then seemed a postulate on which the most cautious
adventurer into the great darkness which lies behind us might
confidently take his stand. But the point was no certain one after all.
The fauna of the later Elephantine period still roamed over a wide
continent unbroken by the English Channel or the Irish Sea; and the
valley of the Rhine stretching northward through the still unsubmerged
plain of the German Ocean, received as tributaries the Thames and the
Humber, perhaps also the Tweed and the Forth. Measured therefore by the
most moderate estimate of geological chronology, the historical period
is, in relation to the interval since the first appearance of man,
somewhat in a ratio with the superficial soil and vegetable mould, as
compared with the whole deposits of the stratified drift: in other
words, it is so insignificant as, in a geological point of view, to be
scarcely worth taking into account.

Whatever be the consequences involved in such comprehensive inductions,
proofs appear to accumulate, with every renewed search, of the wide
diffusion throughout the bone-bearing drift of the post-glacial period,
of symmetrically-formed flints, bearing indubitable traces of
intelligence and primitive mechanical skill.

It is the old argument of Paley, reproduced in a form undreamt of in his
philosophy. “If,” he might have said, “in digging into a bank of gravel
we find a flint, we do not pause to ask whence it came; but if our spade
strike on a watch?”——In the age of the Flint-Folk mechanical ingenuity
expended itself for other purposes than the manufacture of
time-measurers; but if the artificial origin of the implements of the
drift, and their consequent indications of the presence of man, be
acknowledged, our greatest difficulty is the remoteness of the period
which they seem to indicate. Worked flints and other assumed human
industrial remains have now been recovered from caverns, in various
countries of Europe, as in the caves of Engis and Chokier, near Liége;
at Mont Salève, Geneva; in the south of France, in Belgium, and in
England: in every case so mingled with remains of the mammoth,
rhinoceros, hyæna, and other extinct mammals, as to lead to the
conviction of their contemporaneous deposition. Recent carefully
conducted explorations in the Devonshire caves have resulted in
seemingly indisputable proof that English flint-implements of the Amiens
type are coeval with the extinct fauna; and that consequently the
presence of their manufacturers must be assigned to periods prior to the
successive inundations and depositions by which Brixham cave was
gradually filled with layers of water-worn gravel, silt, or cave-earth,
bone breccia, and solid floorings of carbonate of lime.

The rudeness of many of the worked flints has suggested the idea of
their accidental origin; but the most diligent search in the heaps of
chalk-flints broken for the roads, in France or England, or crushed _in
situ_ by subterranean movements, as in the Isle of Wight, has failed to
recover a single specimen resembling even the rudest implements of the
drift; whereas, in the ancient flint pits of the Shawnees, and probably
of the Mound-Builders of Ohio,—to which I shall again refer,—I have
collected fractured flints of precisely the same types as those familiar
to us among the rudest drift implements. They differ for the most part
in size, and also in type, from those found in early British or Danish
grave-mounds; but artificial origin and inventive design are as obvious
in the one as in the other.

That forgery of drift implements has been practised latterly, especially
by the French workmen, is indisputable, but this need not affect the
question. The facts connected with their discovery had been on record
for nearly a century and a half before their significance was perceived;
and specimens lay unheeded in the British Museum and in the collection
of the Society of Antiquaries of London, with their human workmanship
undisputed, so long as their origin was ascribed to Celtic art.[13] In
reality the explorers of the drift have been perplexed by the very
abundance of the traces of art which it discloses. Dr. Rigollot states
that in the pits of St. Acheul alone, between August and December 1854,
upwards of four hundred specimens were obtained. The lowest estimate of
the number recovered in the valley of the Somme is 3000; but this is
exclusive of the more dubious flint-flakes, styled knives, estimated by
Sir Charles Lyell at many thousands more.[14] In England flint
implements of the same peculiar type have already rewarded research in
many localities; so that Mr. Evans justly remarks: “The number found is
almost beyond belief.”[15] Some reasons tending to account for their
accumulation in such localities are discussed in the following chapter,
in the light of analogous discoveries in the New World. But while it is
no longer possible to question their artificial origin, and the
consequent evidence of the presence of man in those localities where
they abound, the haunts of those primeval hunters and fishers were the
river-valleys of an elder world; and any attempt at estimating the time
required for changes of climate, extinction of fauna, the succession of
races implied in the phases of palæolithic and neolithic arts, and the
gradual introduction and development of metallurgy, involves so many
unknown quantities, that at present it must suffice to recognise as no
longer disputable that the whole historic period of Northern Europe is
insignificant when compared with the time requisite to account for all
the phenomena in question. The relative chronology of the French drift
is: _1st_, superficially, tombs and other remains of the Roman period,
scarcely perceptibly affected in their geological relations by nearly
the whole interval of the Christian era; _2d_, in the alluvium,
seemingly imbedded by natural accumulation, at an average depth of 15
feet, remains of a European stone-period, corresponding to those of the
recently discovered pfahlbauten, or lacustrine villages of the Swiss
Lakes; and, _3d_, the tool-bearing gravel, imbedding works of the
Flint-Folk, wrought seemingly when the rivers were but beginning the
work of excavating the valleys which give their present contour to the
landscapes of France and England.

With such indications of the remoteness of the era of the Drift-Folk it
scarcely calls for special notice, that their tools correspond to some
of those found in cave-deposits, as in Kent’s Hole, Devonshire; but that
they are readily distinguishable from the smaller implements and weapons
of the same material wrought by the primitive Barrow-Builders of Europe,
or by modern savage tribes still ignorant of metallurgy. From whatever
point we attempt to view the facts thus presented to our consideration,
it becomes equally obvious that we are dealing with the traces of a
period irreconcilable with any received system of historic chronology;
but within which, nevertheless, we are compelled to recognise many
indications of the presence of man.

By evidence of a like character, the intermediate but still remote
periods of prehistoric centuries are peopled with successive races of
men. Proofs of oscillation, upheaval, and derangement of the course of
ancient rivers, had furnished indications of the enormous lapse of time
embraced within the British stone-period before the discoveries of
Abbeville and Amiens were heard of.[16] In the year 1819 there was
disclosed in the alluvium of the carse-land, where the river Forth winds
its circuitous course through ancient historic scenes, the skeleton of a
gigantic whale, with a perforated lance or harpoon of deer’s-horn beside
it. They lay together near the base of Dunmyat, one of the Ochil Hills,
twenty feet above the highest tide of the neighbouring estuary. Over
this an accumulation of five feet of alluvial soil was covered with a
thin bed of moss. The locality was examined by scientific observers
peculiarly competent to the task; and at the same time sufficient traces
of the old Roman causeway were observed, leading to one of the fords of
the Forth, to prove that no important change had taken place on the bed
of the river, or the general features of the strath, during the era of
authentic history.[17] Nor was this example a solitary one. Remains of
gigantic Balænæ have been repeatedly found; and one skeleton discovered
in 1824, seven miles further inland, was deposited in the Museum of
Edinburgh University, along with the primitive harpoon of deer’s-horn
found beside it, which in this instance retained some portion of the
wooden shaft by which it had been wielded. Among antique spoils
recovered at various depths in the same carse-land, the collection of
the Scottish Antiquaries includes a primitive quern, or hand-mill,
fashioned from the section of an oak,—such as is still in use by the
Indians of America for pounding their grain,—and a wooden wheel of
ingenious construction, found with several flint arrow-heads alongside
of it.

With such well-authenticated and altogether indisputable evidence
already in our possession, the additions made to our grounds for belief
in the antiquity of the prehistoric dawn of Britain or Europe do not
materially affect the conclusions thereby involved, though they add to
the apparent duration of the human era. Whatever difficulties may seem
to arise from the discoveries at Abbeville and Amiens, or the older ones
at Gray’s Inn Lane, Hoxne, and elsewhere, in relation to the age of man,
the chronology which suffices to embrace the ancient Caledonian whaler
within the period of human history will equally adapt itself to more
recent disclosures. And lying, as the Scottish relics did, almost
beneath the paving of the Roman causeway, they suffice to show that
discoveries relative to the British Celt of Julius Cæsar’s time, or to
the Romanised Briton of Claudius or Nero, which have hitherto seemed to
the antiquary to illuminate the primeval dawn, bear somewhat less
relation to the period to which the Dunmyat and Blair-Drummond Moss
harpoons belong, than the American aborigines of the fifteenth century
do to primeval generations of the New World. The very question raised
anew by such disclosures as the British drift, ossiferous caves,
grave-mounds, and chance deposits reveal, is whether the ancient Celt,
on whom Roman and Saxon intruded, was not himself a very recent intruder
on older allophylian occupants?[18] If he was not, we are left to
imagine for his race an antiquity and a history, compared with which the
dreams of Merlin and the fables of Geoffrey of Monmouth are credible

With the advent of man antedated in geological eras, the Roman period
becomes, in truth, a part of very modern history; and the vast ages
computed to have intervened between the two periods baffle the fancy in
its efforts to comprehend the links by which they are connected. But
crude as are the arts of that primeval age, it will be seen that they
compare favourably with those of uncultured man at any later period.
Recent explorations, and especially those of the Dordogne caves of
Central France, disclose carvings in bone, and engravings on ivory and
slate, hereafter referred to, revealing an imitative skill, and powers
of observation in the delineation of characteristic details of form and
action, such as have rarely, if ever, been equalled in the art of modern
uncultured races. If by the aid of those singularly interesting
disclosures, we do indeed recover traces of the Flint-Folk belonging to
an era estimated by some scientific chronologists as antedating our own
by hundreds of thousands of years, it is of no slight importance to
perceive that the interval which has wrought such revolutions on the
earth as are recorded in the mammaliferous drift, show man the same
reasoning, tentative, and inventive mechanician, as clearly
distinguished then from the highest orders of contemporary life of the
Elephantine or cave periods, as he is now from the most intelligent of
the brute creation. In truth, so far from arriving by such disclosures
any nearer an anthropoid link between man and the brute, the oldest
art-traces of the palæotechnic men of Central France not only surpass
those of many savage races, but they indicate an intellectual aptitude
in no degree inferior to the average Frenchman of the nineteenth

Much of the reasoning relative to the characteristics which
archæological discoveries assign to man in his primeval stage originates
in an illogical association of the concomitants of modern intellectual
and social progress with the indispensable requisites implied in man’s
primary condition as a rational being. It is not necessary for the
confirmation of a primeval Stone or Flint Period, that we degrade man
from that majestic genesis of our race, when he heard the voice of the
Lord God amongst the trees of Paradise and was not afraid. Still less is
it requisite that we make of him that “extinct species of anthropoid
animal” hastily invented by over-sensitive Mosaic geologists to meet the
problematic case of pleistocene products of art. In that primeval
transition of the ethnologist in which geology draws to a close, and
archæology has its beginning, amid all the rudeness of palæolithic art,
we may still recognise the rational lord of creation, the being endowed,
not with physical but moral supremacy; in whom intelligence and
accumulated experience were to prove more than a match for all the brute
force of those gigantic mammalia so familiar to us now in fossil
disclosures of the drift-gravels and cave-earth. Even if no more is
claimed for primeval man than a condition akin to that of many modern
uncivilised races, we can still discern the new and higher order of
beings for which all others were to make way.

But if our modern technological standards are to be the only received
tests of intellectual nobility, “his fair large front and eye sublime,”
with all the suggestive picturings of Milton’s primeval man, are vain.
His arts, though ample enough for all his wants, if tested by such
standards, declare him no better than “the ignoble creature that
arrow-heads and flint-knives would indicate.” He needed no weapons for
war or the chase; implements of husbandry were scarcely less
superfluous, amid a profusion ampler than the luxuriant plenty of the
islands of the Southern Ocean. The needle and the loom were as foreign
to his requirements as the printing-press or the electric telegraph.
What use had he for the potter’s wheel, or the sculptor’s chisel, or the
mason’s tools? And if his simple wants did suggest the need of some
cutting implement, the flint-knife, or

             “Such other gardening tools as art, yet rude,
             Guiltless of fire, had formed,”

harmonise with the simplicity of that primeval life, and its easy toils,
far more naturally than the most artistic Sheffield cutlery could do,
with all its requisite preliminary processes of mining, smelting,
forging, grinding, and hafting the needless tool.

The idea which associates man’s intellectual elevation with the
accompaniments of mechanical skill, as though they stood somehow in the
relation of cause and effect, and with the intellectual as the
offspring, instead of the parent, of the mechanical element, is the
product of modern thought. The very element which begets the
unintellectual condition of the savage is that his whole energies are
expended, and all his thoughts are absorbed, in providing daily food and
clothing, and the requisite tools by which those are to be secured; or
where, as in the luxuriant islands of Polynesia, nature seems to provide
all things to his hand, his degraded moral nature unparadises the Eden
of the bread-fruit tree.

A primeval “Stone period” appears to underlie the most remote traces of
European civilisation; and not only to carry back the evidence of man’s
presence to times greatly more remote than any hitherto conceived of,
but to confirm the idea that his earliest condition was one not only
devoid of metallurgy, but characterised by mechanical arts of the very
simplest kind. But it does not necessarily follow that he was in a
condition of intellectual dormancy. The degradation of his moral nature,
and not the absence of the arts which we associate with modern luxury
and enterprise, made him a savage. The Arab sheikh, wandering with his
flocks over the desert, is not greatly in advance of the Indian of the
American forests, either in mechanical skill or artistic refinement; yet
the Idumean Job was just such a pastoral Arab, but, nevertheless, a
philosopher and a poet, far above any who dwelt amid the wondrous
developments of mechanical and artistic progress in the cities of the
Tigris or the Euphrates. It is not to be inferred, however, that the
whole history of the human race is affirmed by the archæologist to
disclose a regular succession of periods—Stone, Bronze, and Iron, or
however otherwise designated,—akin to the organic disclosures of
geology; or that where their traces are found they necessarily imply
such an order in their succession. The only true analogy between the
geologist and the archæologist is, that both find their evidence
imbedded in the earth’s superficial crust, and deduce the chronicles of
an otherwise obliterated past by legitimate induction therefrom. The
radical difference between the palæontologist and the ethnologist lies
in this, that the one aims at recovering the history of unintelligent
divisions of extinct life; the other investigates all that pertains to a
still existing, intelligent being, capable of advancing from his own
past condition, or returning to it, under the most diverse external

Amid that strangely diversified series of organic beings which pertains
to the studies of the geologist, there appears at length one, “the
beauty of the world, the paragon of animals”;[19] a being capable of
high moral and intellectual elevation, fertile in design, and with a
capacity for transmitting experience, and working out comprehensive
plans by the combined labours of many successive generations. In all
this there is no analogy to any of the inferior orders of being. The
works of the ant and the beaver, the coral zoophyte and the bee, display
singular ingenuity and powers of combination; and each feathered
songster builds its nest with wondrous forethought, in nature’s
appointed season. But the instincts of the inferior orders of creation
are in vain compared with the devices of man, even in his savage state.
Their most ingenious works cost them no intellectual effort to acquire
the craft, and experience adds no improvements in all the continuous
labours of the wonderful mechanicians. The beaver constructs a dam more
perfect than the best achievements of human ingenuity in the formation
of breakwaters, and builds for itself a hut which the author of the
_Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire_ justly contrasts in architectural
skill with the ruder dwelling of the Asiatic Tartar. The bee, in forming
its cell, solves a mathematical problem which has tasked the labours of
acutest analysts. But each ingenious artificer is practising a craft
which no master taught, and to which it has nothing to add. The
wondrous, instinctive, living machine creates for itself the highest
pleasure it is capable of in working out the art with which it is
endowed; and accomplishes it with infallible accuracy, as all its
untaught predecessors did, and as, without teaching, each new-born
successor will do. To such architects and artists history does not
pertain, for their arts knew no primeval condition of imperfection, and
witness no progress. Of their works, as of their organic structure, one
example is a sufficient type of the whole. The palæontologist’s
materials have been designated by one popular geologist, “the Medals of
Creation”; and the term, though borrowed from the antiquary, has a
significance which peculiarly marks the contrast now referred to between
geology and archæology. Like medals struck in the same die, the
multitude of examples of an extinct species, each exquisitely modelled
coral, and every cast of a symmetrical sigillaria, repeat the same
typical characteristics; and the poet’s fancy may be accepted as
literally true, in relation to the most ingenious arts which engage the
study of the naturalist:—

           “All the winged habitants of paradise,
           Whose songs once mingled with the songs of angels,
           Wove their first nests as curiously and well
           As the wood minstrel in our evil day
           After the labour of six thousand years.”[20]

But with the relics of human art, even in its most primitive stage, it
is otherwise. Each example possesses an individuality of its own, for it
is the product of an intelligent will, capable of development, and
profiting by experience.

Accumulated knowledge is the grand characteristic of man. Every age
bequeaths some results of its experience; and this constitutes the
vantage-ground of succeeding generations. The deterioration which
follows in the wake of every impediment to such transmission and
accumulation of knowledge no less essentially distinguishes man from the
ingenious spinners, weavers, and builders, who require no lesson from
the past, and bequeath no experience to the future. Man alone can be
conceived of as an intelligent mechanician, starting with the first
rudiments of art, devising tools, initiating knowledge, and accumulating
experience. Whatever, therefore, tends to disclose glimpses of such a
primitive condition, and of his earliest acquisitions in mechanical arts
and metallurgic knowledge, helps to a just conception of primeval man.
Let us then glance at the evidence we possess of such an initial stage
of being. And first in seeming chronological order are those traces of
human arts in the drift, or in ossiferous caves among the bones of
strange orders of beings hitherto supposed to have long preceded the
existence of man. In the ancient alluvial deposits—most modern among
the strata of the geologist,—lie abundant traces of extinct animal
life, belonging to that recent transitional era of the globe in which
man first appears. In nearly all respects they present a contrast to
everything we are familiar with in the history of our earth as the
theatre of human action. In a zoological point of view they include man
and the existing races of animals, as well as extinct races which appear
to have been contemporaneous with indigenous species. To the
archæologist they are rich in records of that primeval transition in
which the beginnings of history lie. How early in that closing
geological epoch man appeared, or how late into that archæological era
the extinct fossil mammals survived, are the two independent
propositions which the sister sciences have to establish and reconcile.

The insular character of Great Britain renders it a peculiarly
interesting epitome of archæological study, a microcosm complete in
itself, and little less ample in the variety of its records than the
great continent, divorced from it by the ocean; yet the question, as we
have seen, is reopened: Was it already insular when its earliest nomad
trod its unhistoric soil? The Caledonian allophylian, as we now know,
pursued the gigantic whale in an estuary which swept along the base of
the far-inland Ochils; and guided his tiny canoe, above an ocean-bed,
which had to be upheaved into the sunshine of many centuries before it
could become the arena of deeds that live associated on the historic
page with the names of Agricola, Edward, Wallace and Bruce, of Montrose,
Cromwell, and Mar. Its history dawns in an era of geological mutation;
yet not more so than is now at work in other and neighbouring historic
lands. It is a type of the changes which were gradually transforming
that strange post-tertiary microcosm into the familiar historic Britain
of this nineteenth century.

From an examination of the detritus and included fossils, and the
disclosures of peat-mosses, we learn that, when the British Isles were
in possession of their first colonists, the country must have been
almost entirely covered with forests, and overrun by animals long since
extinct. In the deposits of marl that underlie the accumulated peat-bogs
of Scotland and Ireland occur abundant remains of the fossil elk, an
animal far exceeding in magnitude any existing species of deer. Its
bones have been found associated with skeletons of the mammoth and other
proboscidians, and with numerous teeth, jaws, and detached bones of the
extinct rhinoceros, hippopotamus, hyæna, fossil ox, etc.; yet no doubt
is now entertained that the elk was contemporaneous with man in the
British Isles. Stone hatchets, flint arrow-heads, and fragments of
pottery have been recovered alongside of its skeleton, under
circumstances that satisfy geologists, as well as archæologists, of
their contemporaneous deposition; its bones have been found with the
tool-marks of the flint chisel and saw; and evidence of various kinds
seems to exhibit this gigantic deer as an object of the chase, and a
source of primitive food, clothing, and tools.

Professor Jamieson and Dr. Mantell note the discovery, in the county of
Cork, of a human body exhumed from a marshy soil, beneath a peat-bog
eleven feet thick. The soft parts were converted into adipocere, and the
body, thus preserved, was enveloped in a deer-skin of such large
dimensions, as to lead them to the opinion that it belonged to the
extinct elk. In 1863, Professor Beete Jukes exhibited to the geological
section of the British Association the left femur, with a portion of one
of the tines of an antler, recently dug up in the vicinity of
Edgeworthstown, lying in marl, under forty feet of bog. A transverse cut
on the lower end of the femur corresponded with another on the antler,
by which they appeared to have been adapted for junction. After
carefully examining this bone, I entertain no doubt of its having been
cut by a sharp tool, and purposely prepared as the haft of the horn
blade which lay beside it. When the two were fastened together, they
must have made a formidable weapon. Other bones of this fossil deer have
been observed to bear marks of artificial cutting; but one of the most
interesting evidences of their use was produced at a meeting of the
Archæological Institute, June 3, 1864, when the Earl of Dunraven
exhibited an imperfect Irish lyre, found in the moat of Desmond Castle,
Adare, the material of which was pronounced by Professor Owen to be bone
of the Irish elk. The improbability of the recovery of a musical
instrument coeval with the Irish elk has been greatly lessened by more
recent discoveries. Among the carved bone and graven ivory relics of the
Troglodytes of the Dordogne valley was a reindeer bone pierced at one
end by an oblique hole, reaching to the medullary canal. By blowing upon
this, as on a hollow key, a shrill sound is produced; and to this
instrument accordingly M. Paul Broca applies the name of the rallying
whistle. But a later discovery furnishes more definite evidence of
ancient musical art. In 1871 M. E. Piette explored the cavern of Gourdan
(Haute-Garonne), and there in a layer of charcoal and cinders,
intermingled with flint implements, he found what he describes as a
neolithic flute. It also is formed of bone, but pierced with holes at
the side: an undoubted example of the art of one of Jubal’s primitive

The evidence supplied by the ossiferous caves of England, as of the
continents of Europe and America, is full of interest from corresponding
revelations. Kirkdale Cave, Yorkshire, has acquired a special celebrity
from the description and illustration of its contents, given by Dr.
Buckland in his _Reliquiæ Diluvianæ_, in connection with a diluvial
theory subsequently abandoned; and Kent’s Hole, Devonshire, one of the
richest depositories of British fossil carnivora, yielded no less
remarkable traces of primitive mechanical arts. Intermingled with
remains of the rhinoceros, cave-hyæna, great cave-tiger, cave-bear, and
other extinct mammalia in unusual abundance, lay not only worked flints
and the like traces of human art, but also numerous implements wrought
from their bones; and subsequent investigations of ossiferous caves in
various localities, by competent scientific explorers, guided by the
accumulated knowledge and experience of upwards of thirty years, have
given precision to the ideas already entertained of the coexistence of
man with the extinct fauna of the caves.

In those instances, as well as in similar disclosures in Belgium and
Southern France, where the remains of man himself, as well as his
handiwork, have been found associated with the fossil mammalia, the
facts were for a time discredited, or explained away, as irreconcilable
with long-accepted conclusions relative to the age and early condition
of man. But in 1858 another ossiferous limestone cave was accidentally
discovered at Brixham, in the vicinity of the famous Kent’s Hole, and
negotiations were soon after entered into with a view to its thorough
exploration for purposes of science. Unlike Kent’s Hole Cavern, after a
succession of prolonged alternations of occupation by the carnivora of a
late quaternary epoch; of submergence by local floods, with the
deposition of their detrital accumulations in beds of varying character
and contents; and the formation over all, at favourable points, of a
flooring of carbonate of lime upwards of a foot thick: the falling in of
a portion of the roof closed up the entrance of Brixham Cave, except to
the smaller rodents and burrowing animals. Its history as the resort of
the older mammalia, and of man himself, was thus abruptly closed, and it
thenceforth remained intact, until its recent exploration. Thus, though
in its indications of the presence of man, its evidence is meagre when
compared with Kent’s Hole, it is wholly free from any confusing elements
such as in that remarkable cavern manifestly pertain to Celtic, Roman,
and even Saxon times.

Brixham Cave appears to have long been the resort of hyænas, who dragged
their prey into its main passages, and left there the gnawed bones of
the rhinoceros, the fossil horse and ox, the reindeer, roebuck, great
red-deer, etc. It included unmistakable traces of the mammoth, or other
huge proboscidian, was visited by the cave-tiger (_Felis spelæa_), and
finally became a favourite haunt of the great cave-bear (_Ursus
spelæus_), as well as of two other species of bears, one of which seems
to correspond to the _Ursus arctos_, or brown bear, and another has been
supposed to be identical with the _Ursus ferox_, or grizzly bear. From
time to time it was also visited, and some of its remote recesses
explored by man. Thirty-six flints in all have been recovered in the
different strata of the cave beds. A few of those are simply unworked
flints; but twenty-three of them betray traces of human workmanship and
use; and include knives and oval and lanceolate blades, closely
analogous to implements found in the Cavern of Aurignac, in the
Pyrenees, and in that of Le Moustier, in the Dordogne. Others, though
mere flint-flakes, bear decided marks of use as scraping tools. Another
implement is a round pebble of siliceous sandstone, weighing 1 lb. 3
oz., which must have been brought from a distance, and shows on the side
opposite to that by which it is most readily grasped by the hand
distinct evidence of its use as a hammer stone. One, and only one,
object wrought from animal substance, a small cylindrical pin, or rod of
ivory, accompanied the more durable flints. Some of those indications of
the presence of man were found in the bottom, or shingle-bed, overlaid
by undisturbed cave-earth rich in mammalian remains; and the entire
succession of beds was overlaid by a layer of stalagmite in which bones
of the mammoth, rhinoceros, and other fossil mammals occurred.

It does not appear that Brixham Cave had at any time been inhabited by
man. It has no accumulation of split bones or broken tools, nor any
traces of the hearth, as in Kent’s Hole, or in the Caves of Dordogne and
the Pyrenees. But the men of the mammoth period had resorted thither
occasionally,—for hiding, it may be, or in pursuit of their prey; and
thus dropped the worked flints which now reveal the evidence of their
presence. There is no trace of human bones, or any indication that man
fell a prey to the powerful wild animals which chiefly haunted the cave.
But he explored its recesses, in one case at least, to a distance of
seventy-four feet from the entrance; and unless we suppose him to have
groped his way thither, when in search of a more effectual hiding-place
from some human foe, it seems no unfair surmise that he carried with him
the illuminating torch. The extinguished hearths of the French Caves, as
at Aurignac and the Vezère, leave no room to question man’s early
acquaintance with fire. Nor does it seem to me probable that, under the
rigorous climate to which he was exposed in that remote post-glacial
period, he could fail, as man, to employ the art of fire-making to
alleviate his necessities, even as is now done under corresponding
exigencies by the Arctic Esquimaux. Nevertheless it is to be noted that
the flint implements found in Brixham Cave are of the rudest character;
and like other specimens of the worked-flints of the men of the Drift or
Cave periods, indicate a very slight development of constructive skill:
unless, as hereafter shown from analogous American examples, there may
be reason to regard many of them as merely in the first stage of
manufacture into weapons or tools.

Kent’s Cavern yielded a greatly more varied illustration of primitive
arts, such as barbed harpoon heads, bodkins, awls, and needles of bone.
Like others found in the French Caves, they suggest comparison with the
ingenious arts of the Esquimaux: and may also justify the inference that
in milder regions, and under other favouring circumstances, contemporary
man, then as now, manifested a higher intellectual vigour when free from
the exhausting strain involved in the battle for life, either of the
modern hyperborean, or of the post-glacial artificer of the cave period.

At an epoch which, though still prehistoric, is modern when compared
with the latest traces of post-glacial or cave periods, the worked
flints and implements of bone, found in many European primitive
deposits, in caverns, chambered cairns, barrows, and among the chance
disclosures of the agriculturist, continue to exhibit the most infantile
stage of rudimentary art. Fragments of sun-baked urns, and rounded slabs
of slate of a plate-like form, are associated with indications of rude
culinary practices, illustrative of the habits and tastes of savage man.
Broken pottery, calcined bones, charcoal ashes, and other traces of
cooking operations, have been noted under similar circumstances, alike
in England and on the continent of Europe; showing where the hearth of
the Allophylian had stood. Along with those, in Kent’s cavern
especially, the flints lay dispersed in all conditions, from the rounded
mass as it came out of the chalk, through various stages of progress, on
to finished arrow-heads and hatchets; while small flint-chips, and
partially used flint-blocks, thickly scattered through the soil, served
to indicate that the British troglodyte had there his workshop, as well
as his kitchen, and wrought the raw material of that primitive
stone-period into the requisite tools and weapons of the chase. Nor were
indications wanting of the specific food of man in the remote era thus
recalled for us. Besides accumulated bones, shells of the mussel,
limpet, and oyster, lay heaped together near the mouth of the cave,
along with a palate of the scarus: indicating that the aborigines found
their precarious subsistence from the products of the chase and the
spoils of the neighbouring sea.

The same fact is further illustrated by similar relics of a subterranean
stone dwelling at Saverock, near Kirkwall, in Orkney, situated, like the
natural caverns of Torbay, close to the sea-shore. Accumulated remains
of charcoal and peat ashes lay intermingled with bones of the small
northern sheep, the horse, ox, deer, and whale, and also with some rude
implements illustrative of primitive Orcadian arts; while a layer of
shells of the oyster, escallop, and periwinkle, the common whelk, the
purpura, and the limpet, covered the floor and the adjacent ground, in
some places half a foot deep.

In the interval since I first drew attention to such traces of
Scotland’s prehistoric centuries, this class of remains has excited
special interest. Ancient shell-mounds, analogous to the kjökkenmöddingr
of Denmark, discovered on the coasts of Elgin and Inverness-shire, have
yielded similar results; and the explorations of other mounds,
especially that of Keiss, in Caithness, have proved beyond question that
the natives of North Britain were familiar at a comparative late period
with the Reindeer. Specimens of its horns have been found not only
associated with flint implements, cups and personal ornaments of stone
and shale, the miscellaneous heaps of fish-bones, littoral shells, and
other débris of a kitchen-midden; but with the masonry of the Scottish
Broch, or primitive round tower. Some of the reindeer horns thus found
show marks of sawing and cutting, apparently with metal tools. How old
they are may not be strictly determinable; but they serve to place the
Scottish Reindeer Period in a very modern era, compared with that
assigned to the “Reindeer Period” of France; and remove all grounds for
rejecting the statement of Torfæus that, so recently as the twelfth
century, the Jarls of Orkney were wont to cross the Pentland Firth, to
chase the roe and the reindeer in the wilds of Caithness.

But recent discoveries replete with interest and value, which thus
extend the resources of the European archæologist and anthropologist,
are only known to me through the ordinary channels of information; and I
turn therefore to another field of study and research, rendered valuable
by the contrast which it presents in all ways to that of historic
Europe, with its confusing elements pertaining to times when the
ambition of Rome so overrode all nationalities, and obliterated the
memories of history, that even now it is hard to persuade some men there
was a European world before that of the Cæsars.

The city of Toronto, on the northern shore of Lake Ontario, is built on
the drift clays which have accumulated above the rocks of the Lower
Silurian formation to an average depth of upwards of thirty feet, and in
some places to more than seventy feet. The same overlying beds of
boulder clay and drift-gravel extend with monotonous uniformity eastward
from Lake Huron to the Ottawa; and throughout the lower valley of the
St. Lawrence to Labrador. The traces of ancient life recovered from
those Canadian glacial deposits, with very few exceptions, correspond to
living species,—including Radiata, Mollusca, Articulata, and
Vertebrata, now found in other latitudes. As might be anticipated, the
older glacial beds indicate a more Arctic condition of life; and thus
accord with other evidence in pointing to a gradual amelioration of
climate in Northern America. But it is only in the boulder clay of the
lower St. Lawrence that the palæontologist finds the fossils by means of
which such conclusions are formed; and alongside of which it would be
reasonable to anticipate traces of the presence of man. The construction
of an esplanade along the margin of the Bay of Toronto, during recent
years, exposed a cutting of upwards of two miles in length, and laid
bare the virgin soil of the most populous site now devoted to the
civilising processes of European colonisation in Upper Canada. The same
drift clay and gravel have been exposed in numerous other excavations,
but hitherto without disclosures of interest to the archæologist. In two
cases only, so far as I have been able to ascertain, did any trace of
prior human presence appear. At the depth of nearly two feet from the
surface, in front of the Parliament buildings, the bones and horn of a
deer lay amid an accumulation of charcoal and wood ashes, and with them
a rude stone chisel or hatchet. More recently, to the west of the same
spot, at a depth of eight or nine feet, one of the cervical vertebræ of
the Wapiti (_Cervus Canadensis_), was found along with a rude stone
hatchet and a lance-head of flint. But the travelled fossils of the
Toronto drift are of a very different era, and belong to the Hudson
river group of the Lower Silurian, like the rocks on which it is
superimposed. With varying organic remains imbedded in its clay and
gravel, the same formation overlies the true fossiliferous rocks of
Western Canada; and seems to make of its long stretch of wooded levels
and gentle undulations a country fitted to slumber through untold
centuries under the shadow of its forests, a type of the earth of
primeval man, until the new-born mechanical science of Europe provided
for it the railway and the locomotive, and made its vast chain of rivers
and lakes a highway for the steamboat. With such novel facilities added
to the indomitable energy of the intruding occupants, the whole face of
the continent is in rapid process of transformation; and it is well, ere
the change is completed, that some note be made of every decipherable
index of the characteristics of a past thus destined to speedy

From the uncleared wilds that still occupy the shores of Lake Superior,
south-eastward through the great lakes and rivers to the valley of the
St. Lawrence, those drift deposits reveal to the geologist marvellous
changes that have transpired in this extensive area of the North
American continent. Along the low shores stretching away from the rapids
of Sault Ste. Marie to Lake Superior, huge granitic boulders lie strewed
like the wreck of some Titanic Babel; raised beaches at various levels
on the shores of Lakes Huron, Erie, and Ontario, show traces of other
revolutions; and wherever the waves of the St. Lawrence reopen the
deposits along the lower portion of the valley, the bottoms of an
ancient ocean are revealed, frequently with littoral or deep-sea shells
imbedded at different levels in the stratified drift. But remote as is
the antiquity, according to all human chronology, to which the fauna of
these beds of marine detritus belong, the palæontologist detects among
their post-tertiary fossils the phoca, balænæ of more than one species,
fishes, articulata, and the shells of many mollusca still inhabiting the
neighbouring ocean along the northern Atlantic coasts. The period,
therefore, which embraces those relics of ancient life is the same to
which man belongs; and they mark for it one of the phases of that last
transitional era during which the continent was being prepared for his
entrance upon it. Since the natica, fusus, turritella, and other marine
animals of the post-pleiocene period, were the living occupants of the
St. Lawrence valley, vast changes have been wrought on the physical
geography of the continent. The relative levels of the sea and land have
altered, so as to elevate old sea-margins to the slopes of lofty hills,
and leave many hundred miles inland escarpments wrought by the waves of
that ancient sea. The conditions of climate have undergone no less
important changes, developing in a corresponding degree the new
character and conditions of life pertaining to this bed of an extinct
ocean: covered with successive deposits of marine detritus, and then
elevated into the region of sun and rain, to be clothed with the
umbrageous forest, and to become the dwelling-place through another
dimly-measured period of the wapiti, the beaver, and the bison; and with
them, of the Iroquois, the Huron, and the Chippewa: all alike the fauna
of conditions of life belonging to a transitional period of the New
World preparatory to our own.

Marvellous as are those cosmical revolutions belonging to the period of
emergence of the northern zone of America from the great Arctic Ocean,
when we look on each completed whole the process appears to have been
characterised by no abnormal violence. Slowly through long centuries the
ocean shallowed. The deep-sea organisms of a former generation were
overlaid by the littoral shells of a newer marine life, and then the
tidal waves retreated from the emerging sea-beach; until now we seek far
down in the gulf of the St. Lawrence and on the coast of Labrador for
the living descendants of species gathered from the post-pleiocene
drift. Thus the closing epoch of geology in the New World, as in the
Old, is brought into contact with that in which its archæology begins;
and we look upon the North American continent as at length prepared for
the presence of man.

Such records are here noted among the disclosures of the great valley of
the St. Lawrence, which drains well-nigh half a continent; for it is in
the valleys by which the present drainage of historic areas takes place,
that not only such deposits of recent shells and fossil relics of
existing fauna occur, but also that the most extensive remains of the
extinct mammalia are disclosed, in association with objects serving to
link them with those of modern eras. In formations of this character
have been found, in the lower valley of the Mississippi, the _Elephas
primigenius_, the _Mastodon Ohioticus_, the _Megalonyx_, _Megalodon_,
_Ereptodon_, and the _Equus curvidens_, or extinct American horse: with
many other traces of an unfamiliar fauna, and also a flora,
contemporaneous with those gigantic mammifers, but which also include
both marine and terrestrial representatives of existing species.
Corresponding in its great geographical outlines very nearly to its
present condition, the American continent must have presented in nearly
all other characteristics a striking contrast to its modern aspect,
clothed though it seems to us in primeval forests, and scarcely modified
by the presence of man. In the post-pleiocene formations of South
Carolina, exposed along the bed of the Ashley River, remains of the
megatherium, megalodon, and other gigantic extinct mammals occur, not
only associated with existing species peculiar to the American
continent, but also apparently with others, hitherto believed to have
been domesticated and introduced for the first time by modern European
colonists. But more interesting for our present purpose, as possibly
indicating the contemporaneous existence of some of those strange
mammals with man, are notices of remains of human art in the same
formation. Professor Holmes, in exhibiting a collection of fossils from
the post-pleiocene of South Carolina before the Academy of Natural
Sciences of Philadelphia, remarked: “Dr. Klipstein, who resides near
Charleston, in digging a ditch for the purpose of reclaiming a large
swamp, discovered and sent to me the tooth of a mastodon, with the
request that I should go down and visit the place, as there were
indications of the bones and teeth of the animal still remaining in the
sands which underlie the peat-bed. Accordingly, with a small party of
gentlemen, we visited the doctor, and succeeded not only in obtaining
several other teeth and bones of this animal, but nearly one entire
tusk, and immediately alongside of the tusk discovered the fragment of
pottery which I hold in my hand, and which is similar to that
manufactured at the present time by the American Indians.”[21] It would
not be wise to found hasty theories on such strange juxtaposition of
relics, possibly of very widely separated periods. The Ashley River has
channeled for itself a course through the eocene and post-pleiocene
formations of South Carolina, and where these are exposed on its shores
the fossils are washed from their beds, and become mingled with the
remains of recent indigenous and domestic animals, and objects of human
art. But the discovery of Dr. Klipstein was made in excavating an
undisturbed and, geologically speaking, a comparatively recent
formation. The tusk of the mastodon lay alongside of the fragment of
pottery, in a deposit of the peat and sands of the post-pleiocene beds.
Immediately underneath lie marine deposits, rich with varied groups of
mollusca, corresponding to species now living on the sea-coast of
Carolina, but also including two fossil species no longer to be met with
there, though common in the Gulf of Mexico and the West Indian seas.

Here the palæontology of the New World discloses to us types of a fauna
pertaining to its latest transitional period, which serve to illustrate
the marvellous contrast between its commencement and its close. Until
the discovery of teeth of the megatherium in the post-pleiocene bed of
the Ashley River, remains of that extinct mammal had been found only in
the state of Georgia, in North America, while the _Mastodon Ohioticus_
and _Elephas primigenius_ are among the well-known fauna of the Canadian
drift. Of those, some North American localities have furnished remains
in remarkable profusion, but none more so than the celebrated morass in
Kentucky, known by its homely but expressive name of the Big-bone Lick.
Imbedded in the blue clay of this ancient bog, entire skeletons, or
detached bones, of not less than one hundred mastodons and twenty
mammoths, have been found, besides remains of the megalonyx and other
extinct quadrupeds. A magnificent skeleton of the _Mastodon Ohioticus_,
now in the British Museum, was discovered, with teeth and bones of many
others, near the banks of La Pomme de Terre, a tributary of the Osage
River, Missouri; and there once more we seem to come upon
contemporaneous traces of man. “The bones,” says Mantell, who examined
them in the presence of Mr. Albert Koch, their discoverer, “were
imbedded in a brown sandy deposit full of vegetable matter, with
recognisable remains of the cypress, tropical cane, and swamp-moss,
stems of the palmetto, etc., and this was covered by beds of blue clay
and gravel to a thickness of about 15 feet. Mr. Koch states, and he
personally assured me of the correctness of the statement, that an
Indian flint arrow-head was found beneath the leg-bones of this
skeleton, and four similar weapons were imbedded in the same
stratum.”[22] Some of the deductions of Mr. Koch were extravagant, and
tended to bring discredit on his statement. But there appear to be no
just grounds for doubting the main facts. A full-sized view of the large
arrow-head is given in the Smithsonian Report of 1872. Another, but more
dubious account, preserved in the _American Journal of Science_,
describes the discovery in Missouri of the bones of a mammoth, with
considerable portions of the skin, associated with stone spear-heads,
axes, and knives, under circumstances which suggest the idea that it had
been entangled in a bog, and there stoned to death and partially
consumed by fire.[23] Such contiguity of the works of man with those
extinct mammals warns us at least to be on our guard against any
supercilious rejection of indications of his ancient presence in the New
World as well as in the Old.

Whether or not the mammoth and mastodon had been contemporary with man,
their remains were objects of sufficiently striking magnitude to awaken
the curiosity even of the unimpressible Indian; and traditions were
common among the aborigines relative to their existence and destruction.
M. Fabri, a French officer, informed Buffon that they ascribed those
bones to an animal which they named the _Père aux Bœufs_. Among the
Shawnees, and other southern tribes, the belief was current that the
mastodon once occupied the continent along with a race of giants of
corresponding proportions, and that both perished together by the
thunderbolts of the Great Spirit. Another Indian tradition of Virginia
told that these monstrous quadrupeds had assembled together, and were
destroying the herds of deer and bisons, with the other animals created
by the Great Spirit for the use of his red children, when he slew them
all with his thunderbolts, excepting the big bull, who defiantly
presented his enormous forehead to the bolts, and shook them off as they
fell; until, being at length wounded, he fled to the region of the great
lakes, where he is to this day.

The first notice in an English scientific journal of the fossil mammals
of the American drift furnishes such a counterpart to the Shawnee
traditions of extinct giants as might teach a lesson to modern
speculators in science; when it is borne in remembrance that the
difficulty now is to reconcile with preconceived beliefs the discovery
of works of human art alongside of their remains. In 1712, certain
gigantic bones, which would now most probably be referred to the
mastodon, were found near Cluverack, in New England. The famous Dr.
Increase Mather soon after communicated the discovery to the Royal
Society of London; and an abstract in the _Philosophical Transactions_
duly set forth his opinion of this supposed confirmation of the
existence of men of prodigious stature in the antediluvian world, as
proved by the bones and teeth, which he judged to be human,
“particularly a tooth, which was a very large grinder, weighing four
pounds and three-quarters, with a thigh bone seventeen feet long.”[24]
They were doubtless looked upon with no little satisfaction by Dr.
Mather, as a striking confirmation of the Mosaic record, that “there
were giants in those days.” To have doubted the New England
philosopher’s conclusions might have been even more dangerous then than
to believe them now. Possibly, after the lapse of another century and a
half, some of our own confused minglings of religious questions with
scientific investigations will not seem less foolish than the
antediluvian giants of the New England divine.

In all that relates to the history of man in the New World, we have ever
to reserve ourselves for further truths. There are languages of living
tribes, of which we have neither vocabulary nor grammar. There are
nations of whose physical aspect we scarcely know anything; and areas
where it is a moot point even now, whether the ancient civilisation of
central America may not be still a living thing. The ossiferous caves of
England have only revealed their wonders during the present century, and
the works of art in the French drift lay concealed till our own day. We
cannot, therefore, even guess what America’s disclosures will be.
Discoveries in its ossiferous caverns have already pointed to the same
conclusions as those of Europe. A cabinet of the British Museum is
filled with fossil bones of mammalia, obtained by Dr. Lund and M.
Claussen from limestone caverns in the Brazils, closely resembling the
ossiferous caves of Europe. The relics were imbedded in a
reddish-coloured loam, covered over with a thick stalagmitic flooring;
and along with them lay numerous bones of genera still inhabiting the
continent, with shells of the large _bulimus_, a common terrestrial
mollusc of South America.

No clear line of demarcation can be traced here between the era of the
extinct carnivora and edentata, and those of existing species; and there
is therefore no greater cause of wonder than in the analogous examples
of Europe, to learn that in the same detritus of those Brazilian caves
Dr. Lund found human skeletons, which he believed to be coeval with some
of the extinct mammalia. Nor have the first disclosures of works of art
in the American drift still to be made. I have in my possession an
imperfect flint-knife (Fig. 1), to all appearance as unquestionable a
relic of human art as the most symmetrical of those assigned to a
similar origin by the explorers of the French and English drift-gravels.
It was given to me by Mr. P. A. Scott, an intelligent Canadian, who
found it at a depth of upwards of fourteen feet, among the rolled gravel
and gold-bearing quartz of the Grinell Leads, in Kansas Territory, while
engaged in digging for gold. In an alluvial bottom, in the Blue Range of
the Rocky Mountains, distant several hundred feet from a small stream
called Clear Creek, a shaft was sunk, passing through four feet of rich
black soil, and below this, through upwards of ten feet of gravel,
reddish clay, and rounded quartz. Here the flint implement was found,
and its unmistakably artificial origin so impressed the finder, that he
secured it, and carefully noted the depth at which it lay.

[Illustration: FIG. 1.—Flint-Knife, Grinell Leads.]

It is difficult at present to test such chance evidence accurately. The
discovery of the palæolithic implements of Europe had been recorded
upwards of half a century before their true significance was recognised;
whereas the American explorer is on the look-out for similar
disclosures, and evinces at times a feeling as though the honour of his
country is imperilled if he fail. It will be seen, moreover, from the
narrative of a subsequent chapter, that the abundance of flint and stone
implements in the virgin soil of the New World is almost marvellous. The
discovery, therefore, of stray specimens in modern river-gravels, the
washings of gold-drift, or in any excavations liable to be affected by
surface admixtures, must be viewed with the utmost caution. Several
flint implements from the auriferous gravel of California were produced
at the Paris Exposition of 1855. According to the geological survey of
Illinois, for 1866, the bones of the mastodon and other fossil mammals
have been found in a bed of “local drift” near Alton, underlying the
Loess; and at the same depth stone axes and flint spear-heads were

But such disclosures of worked flints or polished implements of stone
are cast into the shade by the reputed discovery of human remains in the
auriferous drift of California. In 1857 Dr. C. F. Winslow produced a
fragment of a human skull found eighteen feet below the surface, in the
“pay drift,” at Table Mountain, in connection with the bones of the
mastodon and fossil elephant. A later disclosure brought to light a
complete human skull, reported to have been discovered in auriferous
gravel, underlying five successive lava formations. Professor Whitney,
after satisfying himself of the genuineness of the discovery, produced
the skull at the Chicago meeting of the American Association for the
Advancement of Science, in 1869, to the manifest delight of some who
were prepared at once to relegate American man to a remoter epoch than
the Flint-folk of the Abbeville and Amiens gravel drift. More recently a
highly polished plummet of syenite, in the form of a double cone
perforated at one end, was produced before the Chicago Academy of
Sciences, as an implement found at a depth of thirty feet, in the
drift-gravel of San Joaquin, California, by some workmen engaged in
digging a well. In this case also Professor Whitney appears to have had
no hesitation in assigning it to the age of the fossil elephant and
mastodon. It does not seem to have been recognised how much more
probable it is that a highly finished stone implement like the San
Joaquin plummet should fall from the surface, in the process of
excavation, and so be perhaps no older than the era of the Mexican
conquest, than that it is a choice specimen of post-pleiocene art.

Much of the evidence hitherto adduced for the antiquity of the American
man has a singularly modern aspect. The human skulls are of the
predominant Indian type of the present day, though that need not
surprise us. Dr. Usher only notes this in the case of the “human
fossils” from the Brazil Caves, to add: “this consideration may spare
science the trouble of any further speculation on the _modus_ through
which the New World became peopled from the Old; for after carrying
backwards the existence of a people monumentally into the very night of
time, when we find that they have also preserved the same type back to a
remote, even to a geological, period, there can be no necessity for
going abroad to seek their origin.”[26] The question of this fancied
American type will come under review hereafter. But on a par with this
evidence are fragments of baskets and clay vessels submitted to the New
Orleans Academy of Sciences in 1867, as contemporary with the elephant
and other fossil mammals, the bones of which were found in digging the
same salt-pits in which the pottery and basket-work were met with; or a
fragment of cane-matting presented to the Smithsonian Institution in
1866 by Mr. J. F. Cleu, along with portions of tusks and teeth of the
fossil elephant which lay above it, at a depth of thirteen feet in a
Louisiana salt mine. Matting, or basket-work, of split cane is as common
among the contents of southern Indian graves as fragments of pottery;
and both may be reasonably suspected to carry with them evidence
inconsistent with any geological antiquity.

[Illustration: FIG. 2.—Lewiston Flint Implement. (5/7).]

Mr. Charles C. Jones notes a discovery of a more suggestive character,
due also to the search for gold. In the state of Georgia the river
Chattahoochee flows through an auriferous region of the Nacoochee
valley. From time to time the gold-diggers have made extensive cuttings
through the soil and underlying drift-gravel, down to the slate-rock
upon which it rests. During one of these excavations, at a depth of some
nine feet, intermingled with the gravel and boulders of the drift, three
large flint implements were found, measuring between three and four
inches in length, and “in material, manner of construction, and
appearance so nearly resembling some of the rough so-called flint
hatchets belonging to the drift-type that they might very readily be
mistaken the one for the others.”[27] With those may not unfitly be
classed a large implement of hornstone, now in the collection of the
Scottish Antiquaries, obtained by me from a dealer in Indian curiosities
at Lewiston in the State of New York, where it was said to have been
found at a great depth when sinking a well. Its form, though common
enough among the implements of the American Mound-Builders, rarely, if
ever, occurs on so large a scale in Europe, except among palæolithic
remains. Ovoid discs of the same class attracted the attention of the
Rev. J. MacEnery in his early explorations of Kent’s Cavern, and have
anew been brought to light in the recent systematic researches there.
Mr. Evans figures one found there in 1866 (Fig. 3), somewhat smaller,
and more ovoid in outline, but of the same type. The Lewiston implement
is shown in Fig. 2. It has been reduced to the present shape by
comparatively few strokes; and on the reverse side it appears as if
broken off by a final ill-directed blow. One edge is worn and fractured
as if by frequent use. Unfortunately more minute information of the
locality and the circumstances attendant on its discovery could not be
obtained. But even if it be regarded as only a stray relic of the same
class as those hereafter described among the ancient mound deposits of
Wisconsin and Ohio, it possesses a novel interest from its discovery
near the banks of the Niagara River, where no traces of the
Mound-Builders or their arts occur. Mr. Evans permits me to introduce
here the analogous example from Kent’s Cavern. It is of grey cherty
flint, and chipped on both faces with more than wonted care. Though
smaller than the Lewiston implement, the difference is only about half
an inch; the larger of the two being a little over five inches long. I
have purposely engraved the Lewiston disc on a large scale, in order to
suggest more clearly the proportions of this class of implements; and to
show the close analogy traceable between those of the American
continent, and the European disclosures of the river and cave drift.

[Illustration: FIG. 3.—Flint Disc, Kent’s Cavern. (½).]

Such, then, are some of the indications which have been assumed to point
to the ancient presence of man in the New World. If we estimate this by
historical, and not by geological periods, whatever proofs of his
antiquity archæology may supply will be found to accord with other
evidence; and especially with proofs furnished by the multitude of
independent languages, and the diversity of types of race, ranging from
the Arctic circle to Tierra del Fuego. But it would be rash to assume
from the partial evidence yet obtained, that the juxtaposition of flint
arrow-heads with the mastodon of Missouri, the pottery with bones and
tusk of the same animal in the post-pleiocene of South Carolina, the
human bones in the rich ossiferous caverns of the Brazils, or the flint
implements, and human remains recovered from Californian and other
auriferous drifts, unquestionably prove the existence of man on the
American continent contemporaneously with the fossil elephant or the

The proofs hitherto adduced have been at best only suggestive of further
research. There is no question that Dr. Lund visited that portion of
Brazil lying between the Rio das Velhas and the Rio Paraopeba, with very
important palæontological results. He there found a mountain chain of
limestone rock, abounding with fissures and caverns; and from some of
these calcareous caves he recovered, not only the bones of numerous
fossil mammals imbedded in red earth, but also human bones which he
pronounced to be fossil. The remains included not only those of sloths
and armadillos of gigantic size, but also extinct genera of monkeys, all
assumed to have been contemporaries of the fossil cave-men. But
experience is teaching the palæontologist that the mere recovery of
bones or implements from the same cave is no proof of contemporaneity. A
cave which had been filled with cave-earth and bone breccia, together
with extinct animals of the period of the _glyptodon_ and the _mylodon_,
may in a long subsequent era have become the shelter or the place of
sepulture of Indians.

Nearly forty years have elapsed since Dr. Lund’s discovery. Since then
the lamented Agassiz has visited Brazil with valuable results to
science; but no additional light has been thrown on the significance of
the disclosures of this interesting locality. One important fact,
however, has not only been admitted, but insisted upon. The crania of
the fossil men of Brazil betray no traces of approximation to that of
the fossil monkey, but on the contrary differ in no respect from the
predominant American Indian type; and the same has since been affirmed
of a set of human skulls now in the Smithsonian collection, which were
found incrusted with stalagmite, in a limestone cave in Calaveras
County, California. Their fossil character and extreme antiquity were at
first assumed to be indisputable. In this other respect they correspond
with the Brazilian fossil remains. Professor Jeffreys Wyman reported of
them that they present “no peculiarities by which they could be
distinguished from other crania of California.”[28]

Here then might seem to be additional proofs “that the general type of
races inhabiting America at that inconceivably remote era was the same
which prevailed at the period of the Columbian discovery”;[29] and that,
therefore, Dr. Morton’s assumed uniform cranial type pertains to the
American man from remotest geological time. There seems more reason,
however, for believing that the Calaveras Cave was a place of interment
of the present race of Indians; and that its crania are very modern
compared even with the fossil Caribs of Guadaloupe. But the increasing
evidence of the remote antiquity of the European man has naturally
suggested a revision of the evidence adduced in confirmation of his
ancient presence in the New World.

Sir Charles Lyell latterly regarded with greater favour than he had once
done, the possible coexistence of man with the mastodon, megalonyx, and
other extinct species, among bones of which, in the loam of the
Mississippi valley, near Natchez, a human pelvic bone was recovered, and
made the basis of very comprehensive theories. In the delta of the same
river, near New Orleans, a complete human skeleton is reported to have
been found, buried at a depth of sixteen feet, under the remains of four
successive cypress forests; and this discovery furnished the data from
which Dr. Bennet Dowler has assigned to the human race an existence in
the delta of the Mississippi 57,000 years ago.[30]

Evidence of this exceptional nature requires to be used with modest
caution. Antiquaries of Europe having found tobacco pipes of the
sixteenth and seventeenth centuries alongside of pottery and other
undoubted remains of Roman art, have hastily antedated the use of
tobacco to classic times.[31] On equally good evidence it might be
carried back to those of the mammoth, as the discovery of a similar
relic has been recorded at a depth of many feet, in sinking a coal-pit
at Misk, in Ayrshire.[32]


[6] _The British Dominions in North America._ Lond. 1832. Vol. i. p. 89.

[7] _Consolations in Travel, or the Last Days of a Philosopher._

[8] _Prehistoric Annals of Scotland_, vol. i. p. 41.

[9] _Antiguedades Prehistoricas de Andalusia_, Madrid, 1868.

[10] _The Land of Israel: a Journal of Travels in Palestine_, 1865, p.

[11] J. Trimmer: _Jour. Geol. Soc._, vol. ix.

[12] _Prehistoric Annals of Scotland_, 1851, 1st Ed. p. 29.

[13] _Archæologia_, vol. xiii. p. 206; vol. xxxviii. p. 301.

[14] _Antiquity of Man_, 4th Ed. p. 190.

[15] _Archæologia_, vol. xxxviii. p. 296.

[16] _Prehistoric Annals of Scotland_, 1st Ed. p. 33.

[17] _Edin. Phil. Jour._, i. 395.

[18] This question was first brought forward by the author in an
“Inquiry into the Evidence of the existence of Primitive Races in
Scotland prior to the Celtæ.”—_British Association Report_, 1850.

[19] _Hamlet_, Act ii. sc. 2.

[20] Montgomery, _Pelican Island_.

[21] _Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia_,
July 1859, pp. 178, 186.

[22] Mantell’s _Fossils of the British Museum_, p. 473.

[23] _American Journ. of Science and Arts_, vol. xxxvi. p. 199, First

[24] _Philosophical Transactions_, vol. xxiv. p. 85.

[25] _Geol. Survey of Illinois_, by A. H. Worthen, vol. i. p. 38.

[26] _Types of Mankind_, p. 351.

[27] _Antiquities of the Southern Indians_, p. 293.

[28] _Smithsonian Report_, 1867, p. 407.

[29] Dr. Usher, _Types of Mankind_, p. 351.

[30] _Types of Mankind_, p. 272.

[31] _La Normandie Souterraine_, p. 76.

[32] _Prehistoric Annals of Scotland_, vol. ii. p. 505.

                              CHAPTER III.
                              THE QUARRY.


If mere rudeness is to be accepted as the indication of the first
artless efforts of man to furnish himself with tools, the investigator
into primeval history may assume that in the rudest of the drift and
cave implements he has examples of the most infantile efforts in the
industrial arts. He may even indulge the fancy that in the large,
unshapely flint implements recovered from ossiferous caves and alluvial
deposits, alongside of remains of the extinct fauna of a palæolithic
period so dissimilar to any historical era, he has traced his way back
to the first crude efforts of human art, if not to the evolutionary dawn
of a semi-rational artificer. It is a significant fact that no such
clumsy unshapeliness characterises the stone implements of the most
degraded savage races. Examples may indeed be produced, selected for
their rudeness, from among the implements of modern savages. But
Bushmen, Patagonians, Mincopies, Australians, or whatever other race be
lowest in the scale of humanity, each display ingenuity and skill in the
manufacture of some special tools or weapons. Nor is it less worthy of
note that the commoner implements and weapons of flint and stone
recovered from ancient Scandinavian, Gaulish, and British graves, from
the lake-dwellings of Switzerland, the Danish shell-mounds, and other
European depositories of prehistoric industrial art, are scarcely
distinguishable from the flint-knives, scrapers, lance and arrow-heads,
or the stone gouges, axes, and mauls, of the Red Indians, or of the
Islanders of the Pacific. Peculiar types do indeed occur; and the
materials abounding in special localities, such as the obsidian of
Mexico, or the greenstone of Tasmania, give a specific character to the
implements of some regions; but, on the whole, the arts of the stone
periods of different races, however widely separated alike by space and
time, present so many analogies that they seem to confirm the idea of
certain instinctive operations of human ingenuity finding everywhere the
same expression within the narrow range of non-metallurgic art. Few
facts, therefore, related to this branch of the subject have impressed
me more than the essentially diverse types characteristic of the massive
and extremely rude implements of the caves and river-drift. They seem to
point to some unexplained difference between the artificer of the
Mammoth or Reindeer period, and the tool-maker of Britain’s neolithic
era, or the Indian savage of modern times.

[Illustration: FIG. 4.—Brixham Cave Flint Implement. (Evans). (½).]

Sufficient correspondence is traceable between the implements of the
cave-earth and the river-drift to assign them to the same era; and so to
justify us in testing its arts by their combined disclosures. The
ossiferous cave of Brixham, which has recently been subjected to an
exhaustive scientific investigation, consists of a series of galleries
and passages in the Devonshire limestone. They are partly natural
fissures, and partly chambers hollowed out by the action of running
water. Those have been refilled with gravel, red cave-earth, and layers
of stalagmite, which were in process of deposition while the _ursus
spelæus_, or great cave-bear, still haunted their recesses, and when the
reindeer was a native of the neighbouring region. Though visited from
time to time by man, Brixham cave had never been made his dwelling-place
or workshop; and so it has revealed only his rudest tools. Of these,
Fig. 4 is a characteristic example of a rude lanceolate implement, which
embodies within itself some very significant glimpses of the era to
which it belongs. The great valleys were excavated and refilled with the
rolled gravel of the drift during the prolonged operations of ice and
floods. But it is here seen that the violence of the floods extended
even to the recesses of the caves. The implement has been broken into
three pieces, evidently at the period of the original filling up of the
cave. One portion was recovered buried in the cave-earth of the
flint-knife gallery; another fragment lay far apart, under three and a
half feet of earth, in a neighbouring gallery; while a third portion has
escaped even the careful and discriminating search which resulted in the
recovery of those long-dissevered fragments. It has to be borne in
remembrance that every fragment of flint found in the cave-earth was
preserved, whether showing traces of human workmanship or not.
Thirty-two fragments were discovered in all; with an interval of nearly
a month between the finding of the first and second portions of the
implement figured here. A still longer period elapsed before it was
noticed that they fitted to each other as parts of the same worked
flint. Most of the fragments so found have undergone great alteration in
their structure, and have become absorbent and brittle. How little
chance, therefore, is there that any delicately formed flint-tool should
be recovered in the rolled gravel-beds!

But the comparatively virgin soil of the New World has examples of like
primitive workmanship in reserve, to illustrate the significance of some
of those amorphous flints which bear the evidence of art, and yet seem
almost too artless for any purpose of man. The valleys of the Ohio and
its tributaries have a special attraction as the sites of numerous
earthworks and other remains of a prehistoric race, known, from one
prominent class of their structures, as the Mound-Builders. In more
recent centuries, within the period of European intercourse with the New
World, the same valleys have been occupied by warlike tribes of the Red
Indian race; and now that an industrious population has supplanted their
ephemeral lodges with the cities and farmsteads of the Anglo-American
settler, the traces even of the latest aborigines seem primitive as
those of Europe’s neolithic era. During the summer of 1874 I devoted
part of the long vacation to an inspection of some of the most
remarkable earthworks and other ancient remains of this interesting
locality; and among other objects illustrative of its past history, I
visited the Flint Ridge, a siliceous deposit of the carboniferous age,
which extends through the State, from Newark to New Lexington, and has
been worked at various points to furnish materials for native
implements. Here I had an opportunity of exploring the ancient pits from
which it is assumed that the constructors of the gigantic earthworks of
the neighbouring valleys procured the flint, or hornstone, of which
their weapons and implements were chiefly made. The point visited is on
the summit of an undulating range of hills about ten miles distant from
the city of Newark and its remarkable earthworks, hereafter described.
At various points along the ridge, both there and in other parts of the
State, numerous funnel-shaped pits occur, varying from four or five to
fifteen feet deep; and similar traces of mining may be seen in other
localities, as at Levenworth, about three hundred miles below
Cincinnati, where the grey flint, or chert, abounds, of which large
implements are chiefly made. The sloping sides of the pits are in many
cases covered with the fractured flints, broken up, and partially shaped
as if for purposes of manufacture. There for the first time I looked
upon true counterparts of the drift implements; and in the course of an
hour or two had no difficulty in procuring specimens closely repeating
many forms familiar among those common to the cave-earth and the
drift-gravel of France and England.

We are apt to think of the old flint and stone-workers as merely picking
up the chance materials suited to their simple craft. But the use of
flint in the manufacture of sling-stones, arrow-heads, and other missile
weapons, as well as of all ordinary household implements, and those of
war and the chase, involved a constant demand for fresh materials,
frequently procurable only from distant localities. It is what might be
assumed, therefore, apart from any direct evidence, that a regular
system of quarrying for flint nodules best fitted for the tool-makers’
art was pursued; and that a trade or barter in the raw material
furnished supplies to tribes remote from the flint-bearing chalk or
gravel. But also it appears from the interesting explorations of Colonel
A. Lane Fox at Cissbury, near Worthing,[33] and from those of the Rev.
W. Greenwell, at Grime’s Graves, near Brandon, in Norfolk,[34] that the
flint nodules were not only quarried, but prepared on the spot; so that
the miner carried off with him, not a mere load of flint nodules, as the
modern manufacturer might burden himself with the iron ore: but flints
of the required dimensions, roughly shaped for the final operation which
was to fashion them into knives, scrapers, arrow and lance-heads,
hatchets, etc. Precisely the same process is manifest in the remains
found in the pits of Flint Ridge, Ohio. Flakes or spawls, knives,
scrapers, almond and lanceolate blocks, abound in the first crude stage
of manufacture. In studying those on the spot, I was strongly impressed
by the similarity of many of them to the ruder implements of the drift;
and hence was led to surmise that in the latter also we have in many
cases, not the artless implements which fitly suggest a maker
correspondingly deficient in even such skill and reasoning as guides the
modern tool-making savage; but only rudely-blocked flints, fresh from
the quarry, and in a condition least susceptible of injury in the
violence to which the tool-bearing gravels have necessarily been
subjected. May it not be, moreover, that in some of the richest deposits
of such worked flints in the gravels of France and England, we have
really the dispersed materials of such quarry accumulations, and not the
stray implements of individual hunters? In this way only can we
satisfactorily account for the fact that such traces of primeval man are
now successfully sought for on purely geological evidence. The
archæologist digs into the Celtic or Saxon barrow, and finds as his
reward the implements and pottery of its builder. But English
geologists, having determined the character of the tool-bearing gravel
of the French drift, have sought for flint implements in corresponding
English strata, as they would seek for the fossil shells of the same
period, and with like success. They have now been obtained in Suffolk,
Bedford, Hartford, Kent, Middlesex, and Surrey.[35] So entirely indeed
has the man of the drift passed out of the province of the archæologist,
that in 1861 Professor Prestwich followed up his “notes on further
discoveries of flint implements in beds of post-pleiocene gravel and
clay,” with a list of forty-one localities where gravel and clay-pits,
or gravel-beds occur, as some of the places in the south of England
where he thought flint implements might also by diligent search possibly
be found, and subsequent discoveries have confirmed his anticipations.

It has been felt by many as an element which in some degree detracted
from the otherwise incontrovertible force of this accumulated proof,
that where the wrought flints are discovered _in situ_, they occur in
beds of gravel and clay abounding in unwrought flints in every stage of
accidental fracture, and including many which the most experienced
archæologist would hesitate whether to classify as of natural or
artificial origin. But on the assumption of regular quarrying and
working in the flint-bearing strata, such traces of palæolithic art may
be expected to occur in the river-gravels, as a geological formation in
which the requisite material abounded; and which, moreover, in its
latest reconstruction belongs to the river-valleys best adapted to be
the habitat of post-glacial man. They are, in fact, the localities to
which the experience of the archæologist would direct him when in search
of the traces of rude hunting and fishing tribes; but also they are the
same mammaliferous strata to which the geologist turns when looking for
remains illustrative of the extinct fauna of the post-glacial age.

[Illustration: FIG. 5.—Lanceolate Flint, Flint Ridge, Ohio, (2/3).]

In and around the pits of Flint Ridge, Ohio, are now to be seen the
accumulated results of centuries of mining and quarrying, extending in
all probability from the era of the Mound-Builders to the extinction of
the Miamis, Shawnees, and other recent occupants of the Ohio valley.
Swept by floods into the lower valleys, the smaller fragments would be
broken up and disappear; and only such specimens would survive unchanged
as in the valley of the Somme have startled archæologists by their
numbers; and tempted sceptics to assign their origin to accidental
fracture in the beds of gravel and unwrought flints in which they
chiefly occur. In Fig. 5 a worked flint is shown, picked up in one of
the pits on Flint Ridge, in Licking County, Ohio. A small piece has been
broken off the point by recent fracture. Its analogy to one familiar
type of drift implements can scarcely admit of question. This, it will
be remembered, had never been removed from the pit, and doubtless
represents the material thus roughly blocked out, from which the old
artificer designed to fashion a finished tool. Another common type is
shown in Fig. 6, roughly chipped into the crude form of an almond-shaped
blade. Some of the specimens acquired by me are weather-stained from
long exposure, and others discoloured and brittle; but many of them
exhibit little traces of the effect of time. It may be doubted, indeed,
if any of them can be regarded as of remote antiquity; though,
doubtless, the ancient Mound-Builders

[Illustration: FIG. 6.—Almond-shaped Flint, Flint Ridge, Ohio. (2/3).]

derived the materials for their stone implements from this inexhaustible
source; and specimens of the same class of worked flints are frequently
met with in the vicinity of the mounds, and even among their contents.
Flint-flakes, and rudely-fashioned knives and scrapers, are so common in
the ploughed fields, that they are spoken of generally throughout Ohio
and Kentucky by the name of “spawls.” It is difficult, indeed, to make a
selection from the abundant materials illustrative of this part of the
subject. The supply of flint, or its hornstone and chert equivalents,
was inexhaustible; and its natural fracture and cleavage resulted in
forms which frequently required little labour to convert them into
useful household implements. The examples thus far figured were obtained
directly from the Flint Ridge pits; but equally characteristic specimens
lie intermingled with the finished axes and arrow-heads turned up by the
plough, or recovered from the mounds. In the example figured here (Fig.
7), from the original ploughed up in Sharon Valley, Licking County,
Ohio, in the vicinity of a large mound, the reader cannot fail to
recognise an analogy to a familiar class of implements of the drift.

[Illustration: FIG. 7.—Leaf-shaped Flint, Sharon Valley, Ohio. (2/3).]

The Shawnees, who last occupied the region now referred to, were a
numerous and warlike tribe, who according to Indian tradition had come
from Georgia and West Florida into the Ohio Valley. But they became
involved in the French wars, joined in the famous conspiracy of Pontiac
in 1763, and were nearly exterminated in a battle fought within two
miles of the city of Newark. To them must, no doubt, be ascribed many of
the flint and stone implements so abundant in the neighbouring valleys,
as well as the partially worked flints in the numerous pits along Flint
Ridge. But the material for the largest implements is here
inexhaustible; and the natural lines of conchoidal fracture equally
controlled the workmanship of the Troglodyte of the Drift, and the most
recent Shawnee or Chippewa arrow-maker.

In the great mounds which abound throughout the region watered by the
Ohio and its tributaries, delicately-wrought knives and arrow-heads,
prized axe-heads, plummets and hemispheres of hæmatite, elaborately
carved pipes, and even pins and bodkins of bone, lie buried along with
the largest lanceolate and oval-shaped flints; or blocks of the same
material, rough-hewn, as brought from the pits. A general and
well-founded idea prevails that the old Mound-Builders, and, in some
cases also, the modern Indians, were in the habit of making caches of
flint-blocks, so as to protect the material from exposure to the
atmosphere. The modern English gun-flint makers entertained the same
idea, believing that a certain amount of moisture present in the flint
was necessary for working it with ease, and that it lost this by long
exposure. Professor J. W. Powell, in his report of explorations of the
Colorado of the West, made in 1873, thus describes the method pursued by
the Colorado Indians in the manufacture of their stone implements: “The
obsidian, or other stone of which the implement is to be made, is first
selected by breaking up larger masses of the rock, and choosing those
which exhibit the fracture desired, and which are free of flaws; then
these pieces are baked or steamed, perhaps I might say annealed, by
placing them in damp earth covered with a brisk fire for twenty-four
hours; then with sharp blows they are still further broken into flakes
approximating to the shape and size desired. For the more complete
fashioning of the implement a tool of horn, usually of the mountain
sheep, but sometimes of the deer or antelope, is used. The flake of
stone is held in one hand, placed on a little cushion made of untanned
skin of some animal, to protect the hand from the flakes which are to be
chipped off, and with a sudden pressure of the bone-tool the proper
shape is given. They acquire great skill in this, and the art seems to
be confined to but few persons, who manufacture them, and exchange them
for other articles.”[36] No doubt some of the simple bone implements
found in the mounds were used for this purpose. I was shown recently, in
Cincinnati, some well-made arrow-heads, the work of Dr. H. H. Hill, who
informed me that his sole implement was the bone handle of a

Among the many interesting disclosures due to the researches of Messrs.
Squier and Davis, was the discovery in a mound of “Clark’s Work,” one of
the largest earthworks in the Scioto Valley, of what may fairly be
regarded as a magazine of such flint-blocks, fresh as from the quarry.
Many of them are half a foot in length, but they vary in size and shape.
Out of an excavation six feet long by four wide, nearly six hundred were
taken. They lay regularly stacked, edge-ways, in two layers, one above
the other; and the explorers estimated that the whole deposit might
amount to four thousand discs of hornstone, roughly prepared for future

[Illustration: FIG. 8.—Flint Implement, Licking County, Ohio. (1/1).]

Blocks of flint from ten to twelve inches in length, fashioned in like
manner into the nucleus of a lance or spear-head, have occurred from
time to time in Denmark, France, and Belgium; and are to be looked for
elsewhere: since implements of flint are common in many localities where
the material out of which they are fashioned is wholly unknown. Those
are rightly conjectured to be the raw material, which, like pig-iron,
was thus ready to be turned to the special uses of the artificer. No
doubt, by barter and traffic in various ways, such material for the
flint-workers of Europe’s and America’s different stone periods was
disseminated from centres where native flint occurs; just as in the
later copper and Bronze periods of both continents the prized metals
were diffused through remote areas. But it is only in localities where
the flint abounds that implements, or even blocks or nuclei, of the
largest size are of common occurrence. Fig. 8 represents one of the
class of smaller rudely shaped flint implements recovered from a large
mound in the vicinity of Newark. It indicates, alike in the
discoloration and the change of the dulled surface, characteristic
evidences of considerable antiquity. Thus buried in the mounds, or
scattered about in the furrows of every ploughed field, slender
flint-chips, knives, or spawls, with arrow-heads, axes, and other relics
both of the Mound-Builders and their Indian successors, abound. The huge
rough-hewn block of flint or hornstone takes its place as fittingly
beside the delicately finished implements, as the prized lump of
unwrought hæmatite, the large pyrula, or even the mass of copper or
galena. Possibly they were deposited in the sepulchral mound to furnish
to the dead the materials from which to fashion implements adapted to
the new life on which he was about to enter. More probably, however,
they were laid there simply as part of the ordinary furnishings adapted
to the daily experiences of life. But if the Palæolithic tool-maker
fashioned anything akin to the more delicate implements, the
vicissitudes of diluvial and other geological changes have left few and
partial illustrations of such finished handiwork of the Drift-folk.
Their cave-dwellings did indeed admit, under specially favouring
circumstances, of the occasional preservation of bone implements, the
smaller knives and lances of flint, and other comparatively delicate
objects used in indoor work; and the value of these as illustrations of
the habits and usages of the ancient Troglodytes can scarcely be
exaggerated. But even those owe their preservation to processes akin to
that which fractured and dispersed the fragments of the Brixham Cave
implement; and which, in the more violent rearrangement of the
river-gravels, must have generally reduced any carved bone or delicately
worked flint to indistinguishable fragments. The exceptions indeed are
exceedingly rare of finding in the gravel-beds a single bone of any
animal so small as man.

The caves also undoubtedly embody in the contents of their silt and
stalagmite the industrial implements of a later period than that of the
river-gravels; and, as in the case of Kent’s Cavern, even preserve the
evidence of a succession of occupants belonging to distinct eras, and
probably to essentially diverse races of men. But it is only in
exceptional cases of special interest that the cave-drift discloses
traces of actual habitation, the refuse heaps of the kitchen, the broken
or stray tools, and even the flint-cores, hammer-stones, and
flint-chips, which indicate the workshop of the ancient tool-maker. Mr.
Evans figures hammer-stones of various kinds, made of diverse pebbles
and of chipped flint; and others from the French caves consist of
flint-cores with the prominent surfaces worn round by their use as
hammer-stones in the process of chipping the flint into the desired
forms. One of this class of implements now in my possession, of light
grey flint, and bearing manifest traces of long use, was turned up in a
ploughed field in Licking County, Ohio. Another example in my collection
was presented to me by Mr. W. L. Merrin, who picked it up in the
vicinity of one of the pits on Flint Ridge, among the broken flakes and
nodules which showed where the old flint miner had been at work. The
cave deposits embedded animal remains and human implements in part by
the same processes which in neighbouring river-valleys were burying the
works of man alongside of the bones of the largest fossil mammalia. In
the former, at times, the silting up was by a process sufficiently
gentle to preserve unharmed the minuter traces of the cave-dweller and
his arts; but as a rule there have remained to us from that remote
Palæotechnic era, only the larger and ruder implements, corresponding as
it were to the axe of the woodman, and the mattock or plough of the
field labourer, which were alone capable of withstanding the violence of
floods, and the like elements of geological reconstruction.

Enough survives to us, from the disclosures of a different character in
the actual cave-dwellings of the Men of the Drift, to confirm the idea
that we have as yet obtained a very partial glimpse of the arts of that
remote dawn; and that we may watch with interest every fresh disclosure
calculated to lessen the wonder excited by the large lanceolate or ovate
worked flints of that era: rude enough at times to be ascribed to some
irrational Caliban, rather than to a human artificer. It may perhaps be
thought that I have yielded too ready credence to a fanciful analogy;
but as I explored the deserted flint pits of the Shawnees, and the
ancient quarry of the Ohio Mound-Builders, or picked up in the furrows
of their desecrated earthworks huge half-formed ovate and spear-shaped
blocks of hornstone akin to those of the European drift, it seemed to me
like a glimpse of light illuminating the obscurity of that remote dawn.

The whole region of Ohio and Kentucky is rich in remains of the old
flint-workers. In the Granville, the Cherry, Sharon, Hanover, and other
valleys around Newark, in the vicinity of Dayton, and at Fort Ancient,
in Warren County, Ohio, all of which I had special facilities for
exploring, as well as in numerous other localities throughout the State,
flint and stone implements abound. In Cincinnati I examined large
collections, chiefly obtained by searching along the banks of the Ohio
and its tributaries after the spring floods. Occasionally fine specimens
may be observed _in situ_, projecting from the eroded bank, at a depth
of about twenty inches from the surface; but the greater number are
picked up in the silt and gravel left by the falling river, while many
more must be buried in its bed: to form, perchance, a subject of study
for future generations, in the reconstructed river-valleys of a newer
world. Their number indeed is astonishing, in the contrast which the
virgin soil of the New World thus presents to the rare traces of
Europe’s neolithic arts. One enthusiastic collector, Dr. Byrnes, of
Cincinnati, told me that his most successful gleaning had been at a
point near the junction of the Little Miami and Ohio rivers, where in
one day he found upwards of seventy stone implements of various kinds,
exposed by the ice and spring floods, on the river banks.

[Illustration: FIG. 9.—Flint Hoe, Kentucky. (1/3).]

Many of the flint implements are finished with exquisite delicacy, to
the finest serrated edge; while, no doubt owing to the abundant
material, they are frequently on a scale considerably surpassing those
of the European neolithic period. In the collections of Dr. Hill, Dr.
Byrnes, and Mr. Hosea, of Cincinnati, I made drawings of flint-knives,
spear-heads, and hoes, measuring nearly eleven inches in length. Fig. 9
shows an example of the latter implement, reduced to one-third, linear
measure. It was found by Dr. Hill, on the river edge of the Ohio, near
Smithland, Kentucky, and fully illustrates the character of the flint
hoe. The broad end has been worked to an edge, and is fractured from
use; while the narrow end terminates in a flat unworked surface, showing
the natural texture of the nodule from which it has been made. The same
collections above referred to include spear-heads of dark hornstone,
from 6½ to 7 inches long, of which upwards of fifty were found on a farm
in Casey County, Kentucky. On another farm in Jackson County, Indiana,
the owner’s curiosity was excited by the large size of two or three
spear-heads of dark grey hornstone turned up by the plough; and on
digging down he found about ninety stacked edge-ways, one tier above
another. Specimens of them examined by me in different collections
measured from 4½ to 5 inches long. One of the smallest of them is
figured here full size, Fig. 10. Along with some of these large
spear-heads, Dr. Hill produced several beautifully finished leaf-shaped
blades, chipped to a fine edge, measuring upwards of 5 inches long. They
are worked in a pale grey hornstone speckled with white. Twelve of these
were ploughed up in a level between two large mounds, near Brookville,
Indiana; and ten perfect, with numerous broken specimens of a rarer type
of large arrow-head, equally well finished, were found in the vicinity
of another mound, near Anderson’s Ferry, a few miles below Cincinnati.
The number of such implements in this region is astonishing; and
frequently the beauty of a piece of milky-quartz, yellow chert, or pure
rock crystal, appears to have stimulated the workman to his utmost
dexterity in the manufacture of serrated, dentated, and elaborately
finished blades of various forms.

[Illustration: FIG. 10.—Flint Spear-head, Indiana. (1/3).]

In the collections I have named, as well as in those of Mr. Cleneay and
Mr. James of Cincinnati, and of Mr. Merrin and Mr. Shrock of Newark, the
examples of flint and stone implements number many hundreds, and would
require a volume not less ample than Mr. John Evans’s comprehensive
monograph of _The Ancient Stone Implements_, _Weapons, and Ornaments of
Great Britain_, to illustrate their details. I shall limit myself here
to a few examples selected from among those peculiar to the neolithic
art of the New World which offer any suggestive hint relative to the
origin or use of objects already familiar to the archæologist.
Perforated teeth of bears and other animals occur among the mound
relics; shell beads are still more abundant; bone and horn pins and
lance-heads, and a peculiar class of stone implements, most frequently
made of a striated, grey or blue shale, perforated with two or more
holes, are all of common occurrence. The chief varieties are shown in
the _Ancient Monuments of the Mississippi Valley_, Fig. 136, p. 237.
Some of them bear so near a resemblance to the bracers, or guards, found
in British graves, and supposed to have been worn on the left arm to
protect it from the recoil of the string in the use of the bow, that I
am inclined to ascribe the same purpose to them. But others are curved
at the edges, and frequently of too large a size for this purpose. The
latter are also occasionally formed of copper. One example of this class
of implements, or personal decorations, obtained from the Lockport
mound, and now in the possession of Mr. Merrin, measures 5·30 by 3·80

[Illustration: FIG. 11.—Flint Awl, Mayville, Kentucky.    FIG.
12.—Flint Drill, Cincinnati.]

The frequent occurrence of drilled and perforated stone and shell
implements, tubes, pipes, etc., accounts for the finding of a variety of
awls, or drills, made of flint and stone. Not only perforated
shell-gorgets, stone tablets or guards, plummets, and the like relics,
but also beads, bears’ teeth, and other pendants or personal ornaments
of various kinds, have been found in the mounds. They correspond to some
extent to a class of perforated shell and bone implements met with in
the ancient cave deposits of France and England; and the flint awls or
borers by which they were drilled have been recognised among the rarer
objects of the neolithic period found in England, France, Denmark, and
in the Swiss Lake-dwellings.[37] Figs. 11, 12 are good examples of two
types of such tools in use by the ancient flint-workers of the Ohio
Valley. Fig. 11 was found by its present owner, Mr. James Pierce, near
Mayville, Kentucky. The square butt which forms the handle retains the
natural shape of the block of yellow chert of which it is made, while
the chipped surfaces of the blade show the dark grey colour of the core.
Fig. 12 is a larger and ruder example of the flint drill, from the
collection of Dr. Hill, of Cincinnati, probably designed to be attached
to a wooden haft, and used for operations on a larger scale. A more
carefully finished small flint-awl, with a neatly worked handle, but
unfortunately broken at the point, was presented to me by Mr. Merrin, of
Newark, who picked it up in a field in that vicinity. A drill of a
different kind is shown in Fig. 13, also from the collection of Dr.

[Illustration: FIG. 13.—Stone Drill, Cincinnati.   FIG.
14.—Flint-Knife, Cincinnati.]

It is of diorite, and at the first glance might be taken for a stone
arrow-head. But it is worn perfectly smooth along its two edges,
especially towards the point, evidently from continuous use in the
perforation of some hard substance, such as might result in the
hollowing out of the bowl of a stone pipe: though such an instrument
would be called into use in many operations of the old flint-workers.
Knives and razors of diverse forms, and some of them finished with great
care, at times in very fantastic shapes, are also of frequent
occurrence. Their unusual shapes are probably in part due to the chance
fracture of the flint-flakes, specimens of which abound in the pits on
Flint Ridge, frequently requiring little manipulation to convert them
into cutting implements. Fig. 14 is a small knife of this class,
selected from several in the collection of Dr. Hill. It is made of
yellow chert, and has a keen cutting edge. But there is another class of
flint-knives not unfamiliar to European archæologists, of which
interesting examples occur. A good American specimen of the flint-core,
such as has been found in Kent’s Cavern, and elsewhere on British sites,
and is common among the neolithic relics of Denmark, is now in my
possession. It was picked up in the Granville valley, Licking county,
Ohio, not far from the famous Alligator Mound; and shows the facets from
which long curved flakes have been struck off. The curved form which the
flake naturally assumes is frequently retained in the finished
implements, along with three facets, forming an acute triangular blade,
coming to a sharp edge.

[Illustration: FIG. 15.—Flint Razor, Kentucky.]

The Mexican obsidian is characterised by the same fracture; and some of
the early Spanish writers enlarge on the keenness of the edge of the
obsidian razors, as scarcely inferior to those of steel, though they
speedily lose their edge. A good example of the flint razor is shown in
Fig. 15, from the collection of Mr. James Pierce of Mayville, Kentucky.
It is one of the outer flakes of the core, coming to a good edge on the
one side, and chipped to a broad back. Fitted with a wooden haft, it
would form a convenient cutting implement for many purposes. It is shown
here nearly 5-6ths of the original size. The natural cleavage of the
flint, thus controlling the forms which the fractured nodules assume,
has tended to beget certain classes of implements common to all the
stone periods of which we have any trace, from the palæolithic era of
the drift and cave-men to that of the flint-workers among savage tribes
of our own day. Horse-shoe, pear-shaped, oval, discoidal, and other
scrapers abound among the more familiar implements of the old American
flint-workers, reproducing all the forms common to the early stone
periods of Europe, and which have been minutely illustrated by Mr.
Evans.[38] But there is another type of scraper, of a more finished

[Illustration: FIG. 16-17.—Flint Scrapers, Ohio.]

which frequently occurs among American flint implements, of which I am
not aware that any example has hitherto been noted in Europe. In its
more common form it might be mistaken at the first glance for a broken
arrow-head. But the repeated occurrence of examples of this type, with
the well-finished edge invariably inclining, with a curve, to the one
side, leaves no room for doubt as to its purpose as a scraper, designed
to be fastened to a haft, and used for fashioning needles, bodkins,
lance-heads, and other implements of ivory, bone, or horn. This type is
shown in Fig. 16, picked up in the neighbourhood of Newark. Fig. 17 is
another common form, with the edge wrought to one side, but with
slighter curve, or inclination otherwise to the side. Both of these are
figured the full size; but many specimens occur of larger sizes, and
varying curves of the blade, from a long horse-shoe to a broad crescent
shape. There are also arrow-heads of analogous forms, but with no curve
in the blade. Similar arrow-heads are now made by the Blackfeet Indians
out of iron hoops obtained from the Hudson Bay fur traders, and it is
said that with those a skilful marksman will behead a bird on the wing.
Others of the rarer forms of flint implements include foliated,
flamboyant, or fantastically-shaped arrow-heads, and the like
implements, of which an example is shown in Fig. 18, and for which it is
difficult to assign any specific use. Some of them, indeed, look like
the sports of an ingenious workman tempted by chance forms of the
fractured flint to try his hand at some fanciful knife, arrow-head, or
other implement of unwonted design.

[Illustration: FIG. 18.—Foliated Arrow-head.]

Discoidal stones, somewhat varying in form and size, are common in the
valley of the Ohio, and throughout the Southern States. Messrs. Squier
and Davis figure two examples found by them along with an unusually rich
deposit of choice relics, including several coiled serpents carved in
stone, and carefully enveloped in sheet mica and copper, under a mound
within the great earthwork of Paints Creek. The discoidal stones found
there are made of a very dense ferruginous stone, of a dark brown ground
interspersed with specks of yellow mica. Others are of granite,
porphyry, jasper, greenstone, and quartz, sometimes with concave
surfaces, or perforated with a funnel-shaped hollow on either side; but
always of a hard stone, and highly polished. One fine specimen in the
collection of Dr. Byrnes is of polished novaculite, and another of
quartz. The largest are about six inches in diameter, and are generally
finished with great symmetry. There is no doubt that such implements
were employed among the Southern Indians, subsequent to their being
visited by Europeans, in certain favourite games. Adair describes their
use; and adds that they were so highly valued “that they were kept with
the strictest religious care from one generation to another; and were
exempted from being buried with the dead.” It may be that in some of
them we have implements used in the games which formed a prominent part
in the sacred festivities, for which it is assumed that the great
geometrical earthworks were constructed. Indeed the perfect symmetry of
form in the majority of this class of relics seems to accord with the
idea of their having been fashioned by the race who have left such
gigantic memorials of their regard for geometrical configuration. One
perforated discoidal stone, of polished granite, which I examined at
Cincinnati, was dug up by Dr. J. H. Hunt, within a large earthwork at
Cleves, near the great Miami River; and another in the possession of Dr.
Byrnes was found in the vicinity of one of the great mounds on the Ohio.

Among the rarer stone implements which occur among the relics of
Europe’s neolithic arts are certain objects which, though of small size,
otherwise so closely resemble the most highly finished mining hammers
that they have been generally designated hammer-stones. A more careful
and discriminating study of them, however, has led to the assignment of
them to a totally different purpose. An example found near Ambleside,
Westmoreland, and figured in the _Archæological Journal_,[39] shows a
well-finished ovoid implement of stone, with a deep groove round the
middle. Others have been repeatedly found in the neighbourhood of the
English lakes, as well as in other localities; and as they show no
traces of being battered or worn from use in hammering, and are
frequently made of sandstone or other material unsuited for such a
purpose, they are now generally regarded as sinkers for nets or fishing
lines. Objects of nearly similar form, but most frequently made of
diorite, granite, or other equally hard rocks, occur among the stone
implements of the Ohio Valley. Many of them measure from 3 to 4 inches
long. But while in them also the absence of any marks of abrasion or
battering serves to show that they were not used as hammers, a hard and
heavy material appears to have been preferred in their construction.
Hence it has been surmised that they were the weights attached to a
hunting thong, or lasso; though they would equally serve as sinkers for
the fisherman’s nets. One of them, from a mound in Kentucky, is shown in
Fig. 19. It is of granite, and carefully finished, but a hard siliceous
concretion at one end has resisted the efforts of the workman to reduce
it to perfect symmetry. The attempt to determine the uses for which
implements were made, under circumstances so wholly different from
everything we are familiar with, is at best guesswork. But it seems
unlikely that so much labour and skill would be expended in fashioning
such intractable material into symmetrical shape for a mere net-sinker.
In the collection of Mr. Merrin is a large implement of the same form,
weighing fully eighteen pounds. It was found on the site of the Lockport
Mound, at Newark, along with numerous other stone, shell, mica, and
copper relics. Its size and weight at once suggest the idea of its use
as a miner’s maul; but it is made of sandstone, and retains no traces of
use as a hammer. It is equally inapplicable for the hunter’s lasso and
the fisher’s net; and if designed for a weight, must have been for some
very different purpose.

[Illustration: FIG. 19.—Lasso Stone, Kentucky.]

Among various novel relics of the Ohio Valley which attracted my notice
from their resemblance to others familiar to European archæologists, was
a class of cupped stones, very abundant in many localities. In 1867 Sir
James Y. Simpson published an elaborate and nearly exhaustive
disquisition on “Archaic stones and rocks in Scotland, England, and
other countries”; and about the same time Algernon, Duke of
Northumberland, undertook the illustration of the same class of relics
in his own district. The work was projected on a large scale, and did
not appear till after his death, when a large imperial folio was
produced, entitled “_Incised Markings on Stone found in the County of
Northumberland, Argyleshire, &c._” The simplest types of this class of
archaic sculpturings consist of rounded depressions, or “cups,” formed
in the surface of rocks and standing-stones, and varying from 1 to 3
inches in diameter. Those are scattered irregularly over the surface.
But another class has the cups surrounded by concentric rings, and with
lines leading from one group to another, with so much apparent system as
to have suggested the idea of their being specimens of primitive
chorography, not unlike the delineations which I have seen made by an
Indian on a bit of birch-bark, in order to indicate the geography of a
locality. They have, in fact, been supposed to be maps, whether of the
Celtic Britons, or of some older people, and to represent the chief
towns, or intrenched strongholds, and neighbouring villages or
encampments, with the roads leading from one to another. But while the
cup-like hollows constitute their main features, the accompanying linear
marks vary sufficiently to afford antiquarian fancy and conjecture ample
scope in assigning their origin or use. They have accordingly been
described as Phœnician, Druidical, Mithraic; as originating in the
worship of Baal, or of the Persian Sun-god; as the blood-focuses of
Druid altars; emblems of female Lingam worship; Sabean astronomical
devices; or as in some way or other recognisable as possessing a sacred
or religious character.

[Illustration: FIG. 20.—Cupped-stone, Ohio.]

Attention had not been long directed to the cup sculpturings in Britain,
when Professor Nilsson reported their occurrence on Scandinavian
standing-stones; Dr. Keller recognised their presence on the rocks and
boulders of Switzerland; and now it appears that they are no less common
in Ohio and Kentucky, and extend southward into Georgia and other states
of the Gulf. Fig. 20 represents a cupped sandstone block on the banks of
the Ohio, a little below Cincinnati. Others, much larger, were described
to me by Dr. Hill. One above Mayville has thirty-nine cups, and another,
close to the river’s bank, eighty of the same characteristic hollows,
with other linear and circular carvings. Mr. Charles C. Jones figures,
in his _Antiquities of the Southern Indians_, a sculptured boulder of
fine-grained granite in Forsyth county, Georgia, which in more than one
respect is the precise counterpart of ancient British ring and cup
sculpturings. Like the cap-stone of the Bonnington Cromlech, the Old
Bewick block described by Sir J. Y. Simpson, and the Lancresse Cromlech
in the Channel Islands: the Georgia boulder has a row of cups, or
drilled holes, running along one side, while its surface is indented
with cup-like hollows from a half to three-quarters of an inch deep,
with concentric rings and connecting lines closely resembling the
sculpturings on some of the ancient Scottish stones. In Georgia they are
assumed to be the work of the Cherokees; but Mr. Jones adds: “No
interpretation of these figures has been offered, nor is it known by
whom or for what purpose they were made.”[40] But besides the large rock
sculptures, numerous small stones occur in the ploughed fields with
similar cups wrought in them. They are mostly of rough-grained
sandstone, frequently with several holes irregularly disposed on more
than one surface; and closely corresponding to examples figured by Dr.
Keller, some of which were procured from the lake-dwellings of
Neuchâtel. I gathered several specimens, and could have obtained many
more on Ohio farms, including both the smoothly hollowed cups, from one
to two and a half inches in diameter, and those where the hollow is
roughly picked out, or only partially worn into a smoothly rounded cup.
Some of those examples were found in neighbouring fields, while engaged
in excavating the Evans Mound, in Sharon Valley, near Newark, where also
I obtained both polished axes and mullers. The cupped stones were of a
coarse-grained sandstone, with the depressions occurring irregularly on
both sides, and occasionally so close as to run into each other. Into
these the rounded ends of the stone axes and pestles fitted, and the two
classes of objects seemed complements of each other. Here was the
roughly picked hollow, gradually worn into a smooth rounded depression,
in the process, as I conceive, of grinding the ends of stone axes,
maize-crushers, pestles, and the like implements, some of which fitted
exactly into the cups. As the hollow gradually wore too large, a new one
was made. The edges of the smaller cup-stones also frequently show
evidence of their use in grinding down the surfaces of such stone
implements. Such, however, is not the theory which finds favour in the
Ohio Valley. There the hickory, or native walnut, abounds, with its hard
shell, defying all ordinary efforts to reach the tempting kernel. But
the boys have learned to hunt up a cupped stone, and placing the nut in
its hollow, it is fractured at a blow with another stone, and its
contents secured. Hence such objects are called nut-stones; and Mr. C.
C. Jones, in his _Antiquities of the Southern Indians_, has adopted both
the name and the idea implied in it, in spite of the occurrence of the
same cups or depressions on rocks and boulders altogether inapplicable
for such a purpose.[41]

[Illustration: FIG. 21.—Cupped Boulder, Tronton, Ohio.]

Whatever may have been the purpose of the cupped stones, they were not
unknown to the ancient Mound-Builders. Messrs. Squier and Davis state
that “in opening one of the mounds, a block of compact sandstone was
discovered, in which were several circular depressions, in all respects
resembling those in the work-blocks of coppersmiths, in which plates of
metal are hammered to give them convexity.” These accordingly they
suppose to have been the moulds in which the copper bosses and discs
were formed, of which numerous examples have been obtained from the

A highly characteristic example of what may not inaptly be styled a
neolithic grindstone was found near Tronton, Ohio, in the summer of
1874. It is a large sandstone boulder, as shown in Fig. 21, covered with
cups, or pits; and also, as will be seen, with long grooves, which
suffice to prove its use as a stone for shaping and polishing tools.
This adds confirmation to the probable origin of the cups from a like
cause. Since I drew attention to the subject, I have been informed of
the discovery of numerous similarly indented and grooved rocks along the
shores of the Ohio river, including some of the hard granite, or
Laurentian boulders. But gritty sandstone rocks appear to have been

The supposition that the cups on large boulders and small sandstone
grinders may alike be referred to the manipulations of the stone
tool-maker, leaves the more elaborate accompaniments of concentric rings
and linear devices unaccounted for; though it seems to me less
improbable that these additions—which are thus found among other traces
of the Cherokees and Shawnees of the new world, as well as amid the
remains of Europe’s prehistoric races,—may be no more than supplements
of an idle fancy added to the hollows which originated in the needful
grinding of flint and stone implements into their required forms, than
that they are mysterious religious symbols. Yet there is a fascination
in the idea that they are “archæological enigmas”: Phœnician, Mithraic,
Sabean, or Druidical; “lapidary hieroglyphics and symbols,” as Sir J. Y.
Simpson assumes, “the key to whose mysterious import has been lost, and
probably may never be regained.”[42] “They are,” he again says, “too
decidedly ‘things of the past’ for even the most traditional of human
races to have retained the slightest recollection of them”; and, as in
his attempt to determine the race to which to refer them he follows up
the glimpses of their occurrence beyond the British Isles, he asks: “Are
they common in countries which the Celtic race never reached? still
more, are they to be found in the lands of the Lap, Finlander, or
Basque, which apparently neither the Celt nor any other Aryan ever
occupied? Do they appear in Asia within the bounds of the Aryan or
Semitic races? Or can they be traced in Africa, or in any localities
belonging to the Hamitic branches of mankind? Do they exist upon the
stones or rocks of America or Polynesia?”[43] If my theory is correct,
they may be looked for in all. It is with tender memories of a dearly
valued friend that I render the response, that such sculptured cups do
exist upon the stones and rocks of America, and amply justify the
reference of those of the Old World to Europe’s neolithic age, when the
men of its polished Stone Period were grinding and working into
perfected form the most prized relics of their laborious art.

The explanation thus derived from the traces of America’s native savage
arts, in possible elucidation of a class of archaic European sculptures
which have been made the subject of such learned speculation and
research, may seem too artless to be substituted for theories of
religious symbolism or rites of worship. But the ancient evidences of
artistic labour in either hemisphere accord with the idea that man’s
earliest arts were of the most practical kind. He did, indeed, find
leisure to ornament the tools designed for common uses; and gave play to
his imitative faculty in drawings and carvings which answered no other
end than the pleasure the draughtsman in all ages has derived from the
manifestation of his skill in the arts. But the grafting of recondite
theories of symbolism and ritualistic devices either on such
delineations, or on the simpler evidences of his handiwork, is apt to
lead us astray into fanciful and profitless speculations, wholly apart
from the true significance of such traces of primitive mechanical
ingenuity as reveal the presence of man even on the skirts of ancient
glaciers, and among the drift-gravels, of Europe’s post-pleiocene dawn.


[33] _Archæologia_, vol. xlii. p. 68.

[34] _Journ. Ethnol. Soc. N.S._, vol. ii. p. 419.

[35] _Journ. Geol. Soc. Lond._, vol. xvii. pp. 322, 368; vol. xviii. p.
113, etc.

[36] _Report of Explorations of the Colorado of the West and its
Tributaries_, p. 27.

[37] _Ancient Stone Implements of Great Britain_, p. 289.

[38] _Ancient Stone Implements of Great Britain_, pp. 270-277.

[39] _Archæol. Journ._, vol. x. p. 64.

[40] _Antiquities of the Southern Indians_, p. 378.

[41] _Antiquities of the Southern Indians_, p. 315-320.

[42] _Archaic Sculpturings_, p. 92.

[43] _Ibid._, p. 147.

                              CHAPTER IV.
                        BONE AND IVORY WORKERS.


The nearest type which we can now conceive of to the Drift-Folk of
Europe’s post-glacial era is the Esquimaux. It is even possible that,
like them, they may have occupied winter snow-huts; and only retreated
to their cave-dwellings during the brief heat of a semi-arctic summer.
Among a people so situated the industrial arts are called into utmost
requisition, alike for clothing and tools; and the simplest experience
of the hunter directs him to the produce of the chase for the most easy
supply of both. The pointed horn of the deer furnishes the ready-made
dagger, lance-head, and harpoon; the incisor tooth of the larger rodents
supplies a more delicately edged chisel than primitive art could devise;
and the very process of fracturing the bones of the larger mammalia in
order to obtain the prized marrow, produces the splinters and pointed
fragments which an easy manipulation converts into bodkins, hair-pins,
and needles. The ivory of walrus, narwhal, or elephant is more readily
wrought into many desirable forms, and is less liable to fracture, than
the intractable flint or stone; and all those materials are abundant in
the most rigorous winters, when flint and stone are sealed up under the
frozen soil. Tools and weapons of bone and ivory may therefore be
assumed to have preceded all but the rudest stone implements; and
although, owing to the indestructible nature of their material, it is
from the latter that our ideas of earliest post-glacial art are chiefly
derived, enough has been found in contemporary cave-deposits to confirm
this inference from the analogous hyperborean arts of our own day.

Flint, indeed, though so widely used as the primitive tool-maker’s
material, is unknown in many localities. We are familiar with regions at
the present time, where man not only subsists, but supplies himself with
implements and weapons adapted to his need, though neither flint nor
stone is available. This fact has been practically ignored in the
accepted terminology of the science. As now reduced to system, it
proceeds in retrospective order thus:—Historic, prehistoric, neolithic,
palæolithic, with a possible protolithic period of still older
geological epochs. An awkward misnomer inevitably results from this
assumption of stone as the sole basis of primitive art: as where the
archæologist speaks of palæolithic bone implements, or neolithic
pottery. I have therefore substituted here the more comprehensive terms
palæotechnic and neotechnic. They suffice equally for the classification
of implements and personal ornaments of flint, stone, bone, ivory, or
even of metal: as in the neotechnic gold and bronze work; and also for
those made from marine shells. Many of the latter have been recovered
under circumstances which establish their claim to be classed with other
examples of primitive art; and even find illustration among the rarer
disclosures of the ancient cave-drift. In the great Archipelago of the
Caribbean Sea, as well as in widely scattered islands of the Pacific
Ocean, the primeval stage of native art might indeed be more correctly
designated a shell period; for until their discovery by Europeans, the
large shells which the mollusca of the neighbouring oceans produce in
great abundance, furnished to the native artificers the most convenient
and easily wrought material. For the natives of the coral islands of the
Pacific especially, marine shells supplied the want not only of copper
and iron, but of flint and stone; and left them at little disadvantage
when compared, for example, with the Indians of the copper regions of
Lake Superior.

[Illustration: FIG. 22.—Bone Spatula, Keiss.  FIG. 23.—Bone Comb,
Burghar.  FIG. 24.—Bone Comb, Burghar.]

Alike in the ivory and bone carvings of the modern Esquimaux, and in the
rare but invaluable evidences of primitive art furnished by those of the
ancient Cave-Folk of the Dordogne and other oldest human dwellings, it
is seen how favourable such easily wrought material was to the
development of a mechanical skill and artistic ingenuity such as must
have lain dormant had the primitive artificers been wholly limited to
flint and stone. The same result is traceable, though in a less degree,
to the analogous material of the Islanders’ shell-period. But implements
and ornaments made of marine shells have a further interest from the
evidence they occasionally afford of distant traffic, or interchange of
foreign commodities.

Tools of horn, bone, and ivory possess a value of another kind. With
them, as on a common ground, the palæontologist and the archæologist
meet and determine the relative ages of the primitive artist and his
materials. In the Glamorganshire cavern at Paviland Dr. Buckland found
the skull of a mammoth, or other fossil proboscidian, and beside it the
remains of cylindrical rods and armlets made from its ivory. In the
famous Aurignac cave, on the northern slope of the Pyrenees, were arrows
and other implements of reindeer horn, a bodkin fashioned out of the
horn of the roedeer, and a tusk of the _ursus spelæus_, perforated and
carved in imitation of the head of a bird. The Dordogne caves in like
manner reveal the natives of Southern France in its old post-glacial
era, hunting the aurochs and reindeer, and fashioning their horns and
bones into lances, bodkins, needles, clubs, ceremonial or official
batons, and other implements of varied purpose and design. Among the
“prehistoric remains of Caithness,” which rewarded the explorations of
Mr. Samuel Laing in the mounds at Keiss, were numerous implements made
from the horns and bones of the reindeer, red-deer, ox, horse, and
whale. Some of them are of the rudest character; and all indicate a
condition of life akin to that of the tribes of the Labrador, or the
Alaska coast at the present day. Fig. 22 is a spatula roughly formed
from the bone of an ox; unless, as Mr. Joseph Anderson has suggested, it
be the first stage in the process of fabricating a comb, of the type
shown in Figs. 23, 24. The latter, found at Burghar, in Orkney, is a
precise counterpart of the long-handled combs still in use by the
Esquimaux for separating the sinew-threads, which supply them with one
important resource in making their clothing. Those relics point to times
when the fauna differed even more than the men of this era from those of
the present day. In the mounds of the Ohio Valley, on the other hand,
the bone implements and animal remains appear to be referable to
existing species; and so supply evidence in contradiction of the extreme
antiquity assigned by some to the mounds and their builders. One special
value of primitive tools of horn, bone, and ivory is thus manifest. They
embody glimpses of truth in relation to climate, native fauna, culinary
practices, and special objects of the chase; and to this easily worked
material we owe disclosures of an æsthetic faculty, and of artistic
capabilities pertaining to the Troglodytes of the Dordogne, to whom, but
for such evidence, might, and probably would have been assigned a rank
in humanity as far below the standard of the modern savage as the
Patagonian or Australian falls short of that of the average European of
our own day.

The artificial origin of many of the rudest of the worked drift-flints
has been challenged. But of the human workmanship of the large flint
implement found alongside of the bones of a fossil elephant in the
quaternary gravels of the London basin, near Gray’s Inn Lane; or of the
spear-heads which lay under similar fossil bones in the drift of the
valley of the Waveney, at Hoxne, in Suffolk, no doubt has ever been
suggested. Both were discovered upwards of a century before the idea of
man’s contemporaneous existence with the mammals of the drift had been
mooted; but if such specimens of his art are to be made the sole test of
human capacity in that primeval era, they might justify the idea of some
lower type even than the wretched Patagonian or Australian. But
contemporary cave deposits check our conclusions from such partial
evidence; and suggest that in those rudest specimens of palæolithic art
we have only the most indestructible relics of an epoch by no means
destitute of inventive ingenuity or artistic skill.

All the cave deposits referred to were accompanied with human remains.
In the Glamorganshire Cavern a female skeleton lay in close proximity to
the skull of the fossil elephas, embedded in a mass of argillaceous
loam. Adapting his deductions to the ruling idea which then guided the
author of the _Reliquiæ Diluvianæ_, Dr. Buckland refers to the
cylindrical rods and rings of ivory as “made from part of the
antediluvian tusks that lay in the same cave; and,” he adds, “as they
must have been cut to their present shape at a time when the ivory was
hard, and not crumbling to pieces as it is at present on the slightest
touch, we may from this circumstance assume to them a high antiquity.”
Dr. Buckland’s idea of the antiquity implied by such cave remains was
very different from what is now universally accepted. But it is not to
be overlooked that here, as in the Aurignac, and other sepulchral
caverns, the interment may belong to an epoch long subsequent to that of
the fossil mammals. The tusk of a mammoth from the Carse of Falkirk, now
in detached pieces in the museum of the University of Edinburgh, was
rescued from the lathe of an ivory-turner; and the fossil ivory of
Siberia is a regular article of commerce.

But in other examples of a like character we are left in no doubt. The
deer’s-horn harpoons of the whalers of Blair-Drummond Moss are
unquestionably contemporaneous with the fossil whales; and although the
implements are rude enough, they will class with harpoons and
fish-spears here described, some of which have been found associated
with works in bone and ivory of great ingenuity and skill. The Greenland
whale undoubtedly haunted the northern shores of Scotland within
historic times. Its bones occur in Scottish brochs and kitchen-middens;
and among the many traces of prehistoric arts and habits of life
disclosed by the contents of the Scottish subterranean dwellings, one of
the most interesting is a large drinking-cup fashioned from the vertebra
of a whale. It was found in a weem on the Isle of Eday, in Orkney, along
with a bone scoop, bone pins, combs, and other primitive relics,
including some of metal. The cup measures 4½ inches high; and, as shown
in Fig. 25, is a very simple adaptation of the natural form of the bone
by sawing off the protruding spinous processes.

[Illustration: FIG. 25.—Whale’s Vertebra Cup.]

The ancient workman had his knife, saw, adze, chisel, drill, and
scraper,—or plane, as we may term it,—all made of flint. The worn and
triturated edges of many of those flint-tools show abundant evidence of
their use in fashioning some hard substance. He had also his file, made
of grit-stone; of which various examples have been found in the caves.
They are generally styled whetstones; but their purpose was probably the
very same as that of a modern file. Some are of coarse-grained stone,
and others of a finer grit. Without some such tools it would have been
impossible to bring the more elaborate implements of bone and ivory to
the state of finish which they present. Among such, the harpoons and
fish-spears furnish a variety of types, diversified by the ingenuity of
the workman, and the necessities of his craft. Examples of such
primitive fishing implements of widely different eras are here grouped
together. The three-pronged fish-spear, Fig. 26, illustrates the art of
the Esquimaux fisherman: that living race of Arctic seas, which alike in
arts and in condition of life, realises for us in so many ways the men
of Europe’s post-glacial age. Alongside of it are a hook, or spear-head
of deer’s-horn, Fig. 27, and a barbed fish-spear of the same material,
Fig. 28, both the work of the ancient Lake-dwellers

[Illustration: FIG. 26-30.—Fish-spears and Harpoons.]

of Neuchâtel. They present interesting analogies to the most familiar
types of bone or ivory fish-spears of the French and English
post-glacial era, of which Figs. 29, 30 are examples from the Dordogne
Caves. Fig. 31, though worn and fractured, illustrates a form of the
cave harpoon-blade, barbed only on one side. It is from Kent’s Cavern,
where other, though less perfect, examples have been found. One of
these, figured by Mr. Evans,[44] is specially noticeable for its curved
form. Similar implements have repeatedly occurred in the cave-deposits,
as in those of the Dordogne, and at Bruniquel, where also serrated
flints or saws were found in unusual abundance. Fig. 36, from the cave
of La Madelaine, is a good example of the unilateral fish-spear, much
superior in workmanship to the similar implement of the modern Fuegian,
shown in Fig. 33, and well adapted to the wants of a river-fisherman.
But the form of the Kent’s Cavern type rather suggests that it was one
of the blades of a large two-pronged, or three-pronged spear, similar to
examples still in use among the Esquimaux:

[Illustration: FIG. 31.—Harpoon, Kent’s Cavern.]

[Illustration: FIG. 32.—Bone Spear-head, Dordogne Caves.]

[Illustration: FIG. 33.—Fuegian Harpoon.]

of which one, now in the museum of the University of Toronto, shown in
Fig. 26, illustrates the probable design of the curved blades. In the
caves of the Dordogne and Garonne valleys repeated discoveries of bone
needles, in association with the barbed fish-spear, have been noted.
They are objects of delicate manipulation, the value of which is proved
by the occurrence of examples accidentally broken, and drilled with a
new eye. The caves of the Dordogne pertained, even in the remote era of
the mammoth or reindeer periods, to a race of inland hunters and
fishermen to whom such a harpoon would have been cumbrous, if not wholly
unsuited to their requirements. But the Kent’s Hole Troglodyte had
probably more formidable prey to encounter, and so adapted the
implements of the chase to his special requirements. Of the bilateral
barbed fish-spear, a good, though imperfect example is shown, the
natural size, in Fig. 32, from Laugerie Basse, in the Dordogne. Another,
Fig. 34, was found imbedded in the red cave-earth of Kent’s Cavern,
underneath a bed of black earth, containing flint-flakes and bones of
extinct mammals, over which the stalagmitic flooring had accumulated to
a thickness of a foot and a half. Similar implements have been recovered
from other Dordogne Caves. Fig. 35, from La Madelaine, is a variation of
the latter type, in which the barbs are disposed alternately on either

[Illustration: FIG. 34.—Fish-spear, Kent’s Cavern.]

[Illustration: FIG. 35.—Fish-spear with bilateral barbs, La Madelaine.]

[Illustration: FIG. 36.—Fish-spear with unilateral barbs, La

It is alike interesting and highly suggestive of the characteristics of
man as a rational being, thus to find his ingenuity, when stimulated by
similar necessities, begetting closely analogous results in ages
separated by intervals so vast that we vainly strive to measure them by
any standards of historical chronology. But the ingenuity manifested in
the construction of his fishing and hunting gear very inadequately
reveals to us the aptitudes of the men of the drift or the cave periods.
In those remote epochs, as now, man was an intelligent being, gratifying
his taste in many ways by works often involving great labour, and
leading to no other practical results than many labours of the carver
and house-decorator, the painter, sculptor, and engraver of our own day.
Among the works of art, for example, of the cave-men of the Dordogne,
contemporary with the mammoth and the reindeer of Central France,
various incised drawings of animals, executed both on bone and slate,
apparently with a flint stylus or graver, have excited an unusual
interest. They include representations of the fossil horse, as on a
carved baton, or mace, Fig. 37; of the reindeer, in groups, and engaged
in combat; of the ox, fish of different kinds, flowers, ornamental
patterns, and some ruder attempts at the human form. Carvings in bone
and ivory illustrate the same ingenious mimetic art. But the most
remarkable of all is the portraiture of the mammoth, Fig. 38, outlined
on a plate of ivory, and to all appearance drawn from the life. It
represents the extinct elephant, sketched with great freedom and even
artistic skill; and not only compares favourably with the best specimens
of modern savage delineation, but exhibits so much freedom of handling
as to look more like the sketch of an artist skilled in the use of his
pencil. I can recall no example of savage art exhibiting such freedom;
and none but an experienced draughtsman could execute with pencil or
etching-needle anything approaching to the expression and character
given by means of a few lines, executed with no laboured effort, but
evidently dashed off by one who had full confidence in his powers.

[Illustration: FIG. 37.—Carved Baton, or Mace (1/3).]

This most ancient example of imitative art was found in the Madelaine
Cave, on the river Vézère, by M. Lartet, when in company with M.
Verneuil and Dr. Falconer. The circumstances of the discovery,
therefore, no less than the character of the explorers, place its
genuineness beyond suspicion. Its worth is great as a piece of
contemporary portraiture of an animal known to us only by its fossil
remains. But this sinks into insignificance in comparison with its value
as a gauge of the intellectual capacity of the men of the reindeer age
of central Europe. Many of their carvings ornament the horn or ivory
handles of implements and weapons; but the etching referred to was
manifestly executed with no other aim than the gratification of the
artistic taste of the draughtsman, and resembles the free sketches
thrown off by an artist in an idle hour.

[Illustration: FIG. 38.—The Mammoth, engraved on ivory.]

But there is another point worthy of notice here, the interest of which
is greatly increased by the undoubted antiquity of the relic. This
palæographic tablet is a right-handed drawing; and the same may be
affirmed of the group of reindeer, and of others of the Madelaine
etchings. They are executed in profile, looking to the left, as any
right-handed draughtsman naturally does, unless he has some special
reason for deviating from the direction which the facility of his pencil

The question of right-handedness, as a natural or acquired practice
peculiar to man, has a special interest when viewed in relation to his
innate instincts or attributes in the remote dawn of human intelligence
thus anew brought to light. The universality of right-handedness as a
characteristic of man has been assumed, partly on the concurrent
evidence of language, which shows the general habit of using one hand in
preference to another. But the prevalence of the use of the right hand
among savage nations is still a mere assumption. The statistics have yet
to be collected, and are by no means readily accessible. Any evidence of
the prevalence of right-handedness among a people still in the primitive
stage of stone implements must be exceedingly vague. In the rude
manipulations of a purely savage life, with the imperfection of the
tools and the general absence of combined operations, the distinction in
the use of one hand rather than the other is of little importance. In
digging roots, climbing rocks or trees, in the rude operations of the
primitive boat-maker or hut-builder, in hunting, flaying, cooking, or
most other of the operations pertaining not only to the hunter, but even
to the pastoral stage, there is little manifest motive for the use of
one hand more than the other; and on the supposition of either becoming
more generally serviceable, it would neither attract notice, nor
interfere in any degree with the arts of life, though some gave a
preference to the right hand, and others to the left. Hence the
difficulty of determining the prevalence of right-handedness among
savage nations. Its manifestations in the rude arts of the isolated
workman are obscure, and any uniformity of action becomes apparent only
in those combined operations which are comparatively rare in savage
life. Yet even in the languages of the Hawaiians, Fijians, Maoris and
Australians, terms are met with showing the preferential use of one
hand. In the rudest state of society, man as a tool-using animal has
this habit engendered in him; and as he progresses in civilisation, and
improves on his first rude weapons and implements, there must arise an
inevitable tendency to give the preference to one hand over the other,
not only in combined action, but from the necessity of adapting certain
tools to the hand.[45]

An interesting episode relating to this assumed speciality of man is
introduced in a communication by the Rev. W. Greenwell to the
Ethnological Society of London, on the opening of some ancient Norfolk
flint pits, popularly known as “Grime’s Graves.” In these were found not
only implements of flint, a hatchet of basalt, hammers, stones of
quartzite and other pebbles, and numerous clippings and cores of flint,
along with a bone-pin, and another implement of bone which Mr. Greenwell
supposes to have been used in detaching the flakes of flint for knives
and arrow-heads; but also a number of primitive deer-horn picks, which
had been used by the ancient quarrymen by whom the flint was thus
procured, and fashioned into tools.

The picks made from the antlers of the red-deer were constructed simply
by detaching the horn at a distance of about sixteen or seventeen inches
from the brow end, and then breaking off all but the large brow-tine,
with the help of fire and rude cutting implements of flint. They had
been used both as picks and hammers, the point of the brow-tine serving
for a pick, and the broad flat part opposite to it as a hammer for
breaking off and detaching the flint from the chalk; while excavations
through the solid chalk were effected by means of hatchets of basalt.
The marks of both tools were abundant on the walls of the galleries; and
many of the rude picks, including the two specially referred to, were
coated with an incrustation of chalk, bearing the impress of the
workmen’s fingers. Here, as in the Brixham cavern, an accident, which
brought the ancient operations to an abrupt close, sealed up the
evidence of them beyond reach of all obscuring interpolations, until
their discovery in recent years. In clearing out one of the subterranean
galleries excavated in the chalk, it was found that “the roof had given
way about the middle of the gallery, and blocked up the whole width of
it. On removing this, it was seen that the flint had been worked out in
three places at the end, forming three hollows, extending beyond the
chalk face of the end of the gallery.” In front of two of these hollows
lay two picks, corresponding to others found in various parts of the
shafts and galleries, made from the antler of the red-deer. But in this
case the writer notes that the handle of each was laid towards the mouth
of the gallery, the tines, which formed the blades of the tools,
pointing towards each other, “showing, in all probability, that they had
been used respectively by a right and a left-handed man. The day’s work
over, the men had laid down each his tool, ready for the next day’s
work; meanwhile the roof had fallen in, and the picks had never been
recovered,” until their reproduction in evidence of the supposed habits
of the right and left-handed workmen, by whom they were employed at the
close of that last day’s labour, in the prehistoric dawn.[46]

[Illustration: FIG. 39.—Scottish Stone Bracer.]

Mr. Evans, in discussing the use of certain perforated plates of stone
frequently found in British graves, adopts the idea that they were
bracers, or guards, to protect the left arm of the archer against the
recoil of the string in shooting with the bow. But, he adds, “unless
there was some error in observation, plates of this kind have been
occasionally found on the right arm”; and he refers to a skeleton
observed by Lord Londesborough, on the opening of a chambered barrow at
Driffield, the bones of the right arm of which were laid in a very
singular and beautiful armlet, made of some large animal’s bone, set
with two gold-headed bronze pins or rivets, most probably to attach it
to a strap which passed round the arm, and was secured by a small bronze
buckle found underneath the bones. This also Mr. Evans supposes to have
been the bracer, or guard of an archer; and he adds, “possibly this
ancient warrior was left-handed.” A Scottish example, from a large
tumulus on the shore of Broadford Bay, Isle of Skye, is here shown, Fig.
39. These plates, or guards, are most frequently made of a close-grained
green chlorite slate; and in various cases flint arrow-heads have been
noted among other contents of the same grave. But the cist in which the
supposed left-handed warrior lay contained a bronze dagger, some large
amber beads, and a drinking-cup; but no arrow-heads to confirm the idea
that he had been laid to rest with his bow beside him, and the guard
ready braced on his arm, like one of the seven hundred left-handed
Benjamites, every one of whom could sling stones at a hair’s breadth,
and not miss. Possibly the novel and richly finished armlet occupied its
proper place on the right arm as a personal decoration suited to the
rank of the wearer.

But bronze pins and daggers carry us into later times than those of the
Troglodytes of the Dordogne. Ancient though the Driffield barrow
unquestionably is according to ordinary chronology, it is a very recent
sepulchre compared with the catacombs of the French reindeer period, the
drawings from which undoubtedly suggest the right-handedness of the
draughtsmen who used the stylus and graver so dexterously in that
birthtime of the fine arts in transalpine Europe.

But similar traces of primitive art, assigned to a still earlier epoch,
have been recently reported from the vicinity of the Dardanelles. Mr.
Frank Calvert describes the discovery of numerous stone implements, some
of them of large size, and much worn, imbedded in drift two or three
hundred feet thick, underlying stratified rocks, as he believes, of the
miocene period. Flint implements are rare, and the most common material
is red or other coloured jasper. Among fossil bones, teeth, and shells
from the same formation, remains of the Dinotherium, and the shell of a
species of Melania pertaining to the miocene epoch, have been
identified; and Mr. Calvert writes to the _Levant Herald_:—“From the
face of a cliff composed of strata of that period, at a geological depth
of 800 feet, I have myself extracted a fragment of the joint of a bone
of either a dinotherium or a mastodon, on the convex side of which is
deeply incised the unmistakable figure of a horned quadruped, with
arched neck, lozenge-shaped chest, long body, straight forelegs, and
broad feet. There are also traces of seven or eight other figures,
which, together with the hind quarters of the first, are nearly
obliterated. The whole design encircles the exterior portion of the
fragment, which measures nine inches in diameter, and five in thickness.
I have also found, not far from the site of the engraved bone, in
different parts of the same cliff, a flint flake, and some bones of
animals fractured longitudinally, obviously by the hand of man, for the
purpose of extracting the marrow, according to the practice of all
primitive races.”[47]

These traces of primitive art Mr. Calvert recognises as “conclusive
proofs of the existence of man during the miocene period of the tertiary
age.” They at least furnish additional illustrations of his intellectual
activity, however remote the antiquity to which he is traced; and show
the same ideas of comparison which enter so largely, not only into
modern artistic design, but into much of the rhetoric and poetry of
later times.

Among living races the Innuit of Alaska, within three degrees of
Behring’s Strait, are skilful carvers in ivory. They chiefly use the
teeth of the Beluga, a small white whale common in their seas, and from
this they carve birds, fish, seals, deer, and other animals, as well as
bodkins, needles, awls, and other implements, with considerable skill.
They obtain the walrus tusks in barter from more northern tribes; and
from those they make fish-spears, harpoons, and other larger implements.
They also amuse themselves with graving, on plates of bone or ivory,
dances, hunting-scenes, and other familiar incidents. Of the latter, Mr.
W. H. Dall remarks, in his interesting narrative of _Alaska and its
Resources_: “These drawings are analogous to those discovered in France,
in the caves of Dordogne.”[48] They are so, in so far as both are
attempts at representing contemporary animal life by untutored man; but
the accompanying illustrations of Innuit art show how greatly the work
of the modern savage draughtsman falls short of that of the artist of
the Mammoth epoch of Europe.

[Illustration: FIG. 40.—Hunter’s Tally Deer’s-horn.]

Fortunately our knowledge of the men of that remote era is supplemented
by evidence of a still more direct kind. In 1868 the construction of a
railroad led to the removal of an extensive talus on the left bank of
the river Vézère, at Cro-Magnon, exposing a cave, or shallow recess in
the face of the rock, within which were found a succession of strata,
with traces of the action of fire, and including flint scrapers, bone
bodkins, arrow-points, and other implements, along with bones of the
_Elephas primigenius_, _Felis spelæa_, the reindeer, fossil-horse, and
ivory tablets and tynes of deer-horn, marked with a series of notches,
supposed to be hunters’ tallies recording the produce of the chase. One
of the latter, interesting as an illustration of these earliest efforts
at numerical notation, is shown in Fig. 40. But most valuable of all
were the human skeletons, including those of an old man, a woman, and
portions of others of two young men, and a child. Beside them lay nearly
three hundred marine shells, chiefly the _Littorina littorea_, some
perforated teeth, and—as if to determine the era of the Troglodytes of
Cro-Magnon,—several implements made of reindeer horn.

Evidence of a similar kind accumulates with the interest which it has
excited. To the south of the Alps the caverns of Baoussé Roussé have
yielded a singularly rich series of implements and personal ornaments of
flint, ivory, bone, and shell; and more important than all, a nearly
perfect human skeleton, brought to light in the Mentone Cave, with the
skull still decorated with its ornamental head-gear of perforated shells
(_Cyclonassa neritea_) and canine teeth of the _Cervus elaphus_,
originally strung, as is supposed, on a net for the hair. Across the
forehead lay a large bone hair pin, made of the radius of a stag, with
the natural condyle retained as its head.[49] The correspondence between
the Mentone skull and those of Cro-Magnon is considerable. Already,
therefore, sufficient remains of the ancient cave dwellers have been
recovered to enable us to form some definite idea of their physical

[Illustration: FIG. 41.—Skull of Old Man of Cro-Magnon—Profile.]

The Cro-Magnon men and women are large of stature. Their skulls, like
that of the Mentone Cave, are of a dolichocephalic type, and so far
accord with the Esquimaux, rather than with any Turanian head-form. But
it is important to note that in no other respect do they yield the
slightest countenance to the theory favoured by some, that the cave-men
of palæolithic Europe bore an affinity to the Esquimaux, and that in the
latter we have the living representatives of post-glacial, if not still
older man. If indeed the Cro-Magnon and Mentone skulls are, as they have
been assumed to be, those of contemporaries of the mammoth and reindeer
of Southern Europe, Dr. Pruner-Bey remarks of the race: “If we consider
that its three individuals had a cranial capacity much superior to the
average at the present day; that one of them was a female, and that
female crania are generally below the average of male crania in size;
and that nevertheless the cranial capacity of the Cro-Magnon woman
surpasses the average capacity of _male_ skulls of to-day, we are led to
regard the great size of the brain as one of the more remarkable
characters of the Cro-Magnon race. This cerebral volume seems to me even
to exceed that with which at the present day a stature equal to that of
our cave-folks would be associated: whether the skulls from the Belgium
caves are small, not only absolutely, but even relatively in the rather
small stature of the inhabitants of those caves.”[50] Along with this
ample cerebral development, the general form of the head is graceful and
symmetrical. Alike in the Cro-Magnon and Mentone examples the total
absence of prognathism is noted. An expressive, though strongly marked
orthognathic profile with ample forehead, prominent nose, moderately
developed superciliary ridges and maxillaries, and a well-formed chin,
all compare favourably, not only with the foremost savage races, but
with many civilised nations of modern times.

[Illustration: Skull of Old Man of Cro-Magnon.
 FIG. 42.—Front View.  FIG. 43.—Vertical View.]

Of the age of those Troglodytes of France, M. Lartet remarks: “The
presence of the remains of an enormous bear, of the mammoth, of the
great cave-lion, of the reindeer, the spermophile, etc., in the
hearth-beds, strengthens in every way the estimation of their antiquity;
and this can be rendered still more rigorously, if we base our argument
on the predominance of the horse here, in comparison with the reindeer,
on the form of the worked flints, and of the bone arrow and
dart-heads.”[51] This argument, however, overlooks the possibility of
the interments long after the accumulation of the hearth-beds with their
included relics. Assuming this cavern period of Central France as the
later subdivision of the palæolithic age of Europe, its drawings and
carvings represent the arts of a remote era, compared even with the
polished stone-hammers and chipped flints contemporary with the oldest
implements of bronze. It is obvious, therefore, that a comparison
between the rude worked flints of the cave-men of Southern France, and
the highly finished stone implements of the Bronze Period of Northern
Europe, is no true gauge of any intermediate progress or development.
The artist to whose pencil or graving-tool we owe the only authentic
portraiture of the mammoth, unquestionably possessed skill and
intellectual vigour adequate to the production of any stone implement or
personal ornament pertaining to the arts of Western Europe at the
commencement of its metallurgic period. In truth it is far easier to
produce evidences of deterioration than of progress, in instituting a
comparison between the contemporaries of the mammoth, and later
prehistoric races of Europe, or savage nations of modern centuries. They
had advanced, as M. Paul Broca says, “to the very threshold of
civilisation.” They possessed arts, industry, and apparently such a
degree of social organisation as their external circumstances admitted
of. But then, as at many subsequent periods, the elements of progress
were arrested at this stage, and the whole work of civilisation had to
be begun anew.

A careful study of the native arts of the American continent, in
subsequent chapters, will bring under our notice the intellectual
efforts of man in a purely savage state, and so help to a determination
of what is implied in certain partial manifestations of mimetic design.
This is the true corrective of any tendency to an undue estimate of the
general progress implied by such evidence. It will be seen that a rare
aptitude is shown among certain tribes for mimetic drawing and carving;
yet it is of limited application, and accompanied by little superiority
to surrounding tribes in the employment of the arts for the general
requirements of savage life. Even in such cases, however, it is an
evidence of latent powers, capable of development under favourable
circumstances. The Esquimaux have been stimulated by the necessities of
Arctic life to great ingenuity in the fashioning of their weapons, and
in all other appliances of the chase, on which their very existence
depends; but they are skilful, as a savage people, in the ornamental, as
well as the useful arts. Their skin and fur dresses are fashioned and
decorated with great taste; and many of their ivory and bone implements
are beautifully carved. There is in the Museum of the University of
Toronto a set of Esquimaux children’s toys, including miniature men,
dogs, sledges, and objects of the chase, all carved in ivory with
ingenious skill. The Thlinkets of Alaska, lying on the borders of the
true Esquimaux region, make ladles and spoons from the horns of the
deer, the mountain sheep, and the goat, which are special objects of the
chase, and carve them with elaborate ingenuity. Grotesque masks of wood,
paddles, knife handles of bone, bodkins, combs, and other personal
ornaments, chiefly of walrus ivory, are all carved with great variety of
design, though scarcely in a style of high art.

[Illustration: FIG. 44.—Tawatin Ivory Carving of Whale.]

Among the tribes lying immediately to the south, the Tawatin Indians of
British Columbia specially excel in ivory carving. Their personal
ornaments are lavishly decorated; and many of their carvings resemble in
so far the mammoth portraiture of the Madelaine artist, that they are
simply efforts of skill, having no other end in view than the pleasure
derived from their execution. It will be seen, however, in the
conventional representation of the whale, as shown in Fig. 44, how far
they fall short of the ancient workers in ivory in literal truthfulness
of delineation. In one respect indeed this piece of Tawatin carving
recalls a characteristic of early Christian art. Trifling as the
correspondence is, it is curious thus to find the modern Indian carver
of the Pacific coast giving to the monster of the deep the same barbed
tongue which forms the conventional attribute of the dragons and
leviathans of medieval Europe. But it is greatly more interesting to
note, not only the thoroughly native style of art of their more
elaborate carvings; but to recognise in many of them certain traits
which recall characteristics of the finished sculptures on the ruins of
Central America and Yucatan. This is strikingly shown in another of
their carvings, Fig. 45, where some of the points of resemblance help to
confirm other traces, hereafter indicated on different grounds, of early
intercourse, if not of a common relationship, between savage tribes of
the North-West, and ancient civilised nations of Central America and the
Mexican plateau.

[Illustration: FIG. 45.—Tawatin Ivory carving.]

In times still prehistoric, though apparently recent in comparison with
the mammoth or reindeer period of France, the works of the ancient
Lake-dwellers of Switzerland furnish illustrations of the application of
horn, bone, and ivory to many useful purposes for which the metals are
now considered as alone suitable. The site of the pfahlbauten at
Concise, on Lake Neuchâtel, has been peculiarly rich in the
illustrations it has yielded of implements in flint, stone, bone, horn,
and also in bronze. The skulls, horns, and bones, both of domesticated
animals, and of those procured in the chase, are also abundant; and
among the latter, the red deer and the wild boar appear to have
predominated as articles of food.

The Natural History Museum of Cambridge, Massachusetts, which owes its
existence to the indefatigable zeal of the lamented Professor Agassiz,
is enriched by a collection of remains of the ancient Swiss
Lake-dwellers, obtained under peculiarly favourable circumstances. The
father of the distinguished naturalist was for a period of fifteen years
the clergyman of Concise; and it chanced that the son revisited his
native canton at a time when the construction of a railway viaduct
across part of the neighbouring lake led to the discovery of numerous
traces of its ancient population. He was accordingly able to secure a
choice collection illustrative of aboriginal arts, including some
characteristic specimens of horn and bone implements, from which some
illustrative examples are here selected. Fig. 46 may be described as a
chisel made of a hog’s tooth inserted in a haft of deer’s-horn,
precisely after a fashion familiar to the Red Indian, of converting the
incisor of the beaver into a useful cutting tool. The same collection
includes knives, daggers, bodkins, or awls, made of bone or ivory, and
hafted in like manner with horn; as well as implements of flint and
stone hereafter referred to.[52]

[Illustration: FIG. 46.—Hog’s Tooth Chisel, Concise.]

Among the tools and personal ornaments wrought of mammoth ivory, which
Dean Buckland describes as found in the Goat Hole Cavern at Paviland, is
a skewer made of the metacarpal bone of a wolf, flattened at the edge at
one end, and terminated at the other by the natural rounded condyle of
the bone. Implements of this type are by no means rare. The original
disclosures of Kent’s Cavern included arrow and lance-heads, bodkins,
pins, hair-combs, netting-tools, and other implements, all made of bone.
Similar objects have been repeatedly found in Scottish weems and brochs,
and in the kitchen-middens of Britain, Denmark, and other European
accumulations of the like kind. Fig. 47 represents a group of such
objects, chiefly from one of the primitive subterranean dwellings, at
Skara, in Orkney. It includes a small perforated ivory pin, and a bodkin
made after the fashion of the Goat Hole wolf-bone implement from the
metatarsal bone of a small ox. Implements of this simple character are
common to the arts of many periods and states of society; and like the
flint and stone implements of nearly every age and country, help to
illustrate the tool-making instinct peculiar to man.

[Illustration: FIG. 47.—British Bone Implements.]

Isolated in the little island-worlds of the Pacific Ocean, man is found
again and again, in a condition which seems to involve all but absolute
privation of the materials on which his constructive faculty can
operate. The extensive archipelago interposed between the Society and
Gambier Islands and the Marquesas, consists exclusively of coral
islands. There the native arts are mostly of an inferior character;
though their small and slight canoes are propelled with great rapidity
by means of a paddle ingeniously formed with a curved blade. But every
idea of rudeness in their arts gives way to wonder and admiration on
discovering the limited materials at the command of the workmen. The
cocoa-palm furnishes supplies for matting and weaving, and the cassytha
stems and cocoa-nut fibre are plaited into ropes. A finer cord is made
of human hair; and bones of the turtle and the larger kinds of fish
supply the only material for fish-hooks and spears. There are no natural
productions on the islands harder than shell or coral; and from these
accordingly the native tools are made. Here, therefore, we see what
reason is capable of achieving in the development of ingenious arts,
amid a privation of nearly all that seems indispensable to the first
efforts at constructive skill. Compared with such inadequate means, the
flint, stone, horn, and bone of Europe’s stone-period seem little less
ample, than the contrast of her later metallurgic riches with the
resources of that primitive era.

Though the natives of the Antilles possessed some natural advantages
over the inhabitants of the volcanic and coral islands of the Pacific:
yet the abundance of large and easily-wrought shells invited their
application to many useful purposes; and accordingly when first visited
by the Spaniards, the large marine shells with which the neighbouring
seas abound, constituted an important source for the raw material of
their implements and manufactures. The great size, and the facility of
workmanship of the widely-diffused _pyrulæ_, _turbinella_, _strombi_,
and other shells, have indeed led to a similar application of them among
uncivilised races, wherever they abound. Of such, the Caribs made
knives, lances, and harpoons, as well as personal ornaments; while the
mollusc itself was sought for and prized as food. In Barbadoes the
_Strombus gigas_ still furnishes a favourite repast; and numerous
weapons and implements made from its shells have been dug up on the
island. The accompanying illustrations (Fig. 48) are selected from
specimens illustrative of the primitive manufactures of the Antilles
presented to me by Dr. Bovell. They were dug up with other relics, in
the island of Barbadoes, where traces of the aboriginal Carib blood
continued till very recently to mark a portion of the coloured
population. The Christy collection includes various examples of axes
believed to be of Carib workmanship, from Porto Rico, St. Juan, and St.
Thomas. They are worked in greenstone, mottled jade, green jasper, and a
hard light green slate, mostly in wedge-form. But the most
characteristic specimen of local art is an axe of coral rock, 7½ inches
long, semi-cylindrical, and tapering at both ends, which was found in
the cave of Cuevetas, twenty miles from Puerto del Principe, Cuba.

[Illustration: FIG. 48.—Carib Shell-Knives.]

The Carib aborigines of the Antilles furnish a striking example of what
the more active manifestations of moral degradation among a savage
people really imply. Compared with the gentle, passive Indians met by
the Spaniards on the first islands visited by European explorers, the
Caribs were a cruel and fierce race of cannibals, as hateful in all
their most salient characteristics as the New Zealanders or Fijians. Yet
time has proved, even under very unfavourable circumstances, that the
fierceness and aggressive cruelty of the Caribs of the Lesser Antilles
corresponded to the wild fury of the old viking rovers of Europe, and
gave proof of energy and stamina capable of sturdy endurance; while the
gentle and friendly Indians of the larger Antilles, without, in reality,
any superior moral attributes, but only the characteristics of a weak
and passive nature, have disappeared, leaving behind them scarcely a
memorial of their existence. The Caribs are the historic race of the
Antilles. Their chronicles derive vitality and endurance, like those of
ancient Europe, from the vicissitudes of war. Those show them as
restless aggressors; and though long since expelled from their ancient
insular possessions, they still appear on the southern mainland as the
people of an encroaching area; and the marches of their extending
frontier ring with the shouts of border warfare, as fierce, and to us
not greatly less substantial than the Wendish and Bulgarian warrings of
Henry the Fowler, and his German Markgräfs of well-nigh a thousand years

In 1851, Sir Robert Schomburgk communicated to the British Association
the results of recent ethnological researches in St. Domingo. In these
the observant traveller deplored the fact that of the millions of
natives who at its discovery peopled the island, not a single pure
descendant now exists, though he could trace in the Indios of mixed
blood the peculiar features and other physical characteristics of the
Indian still uneradicated. In the absence of a true native population,
Sir Robert Schomburgk remarks: “My researches were restricted to what
history and the few and poor monuments have transmitted to us of their
customs and manners. Their language lives only in the names of places,
trees, and fruits, but all combine in declaring that the people who
bestowed these names were identical with the Carib and Arawaak tribes of
Guiana. An excursion to the calcareous caverns of Pommier, about ten
leagues to the west of the city of Santo Domingo, afforded me the
examination of some picture-writings executed by the Indians after the
arrival of the Spaniards. These remarkable caves, which are in
themselves of high interest, are situated within the district over
which, at the landing of the Spaniards, the fair Indian Catalina reigned
as cacique.” To this district they were tempted by the news of rich
mines in its mountains. In 1496, a fortified tower was erected, called
originally San Aristobal; but so abundant was the precious metal, that
even the stones of the fortress contained it, and the workmen named it
the Golden Tower. But the lives of millions of the miserable natives
were sacrificed in recovering the gold from their mountain veins; and
then, the mines being exhausted, the country was abandoned to the
exuberance of tropical desolation, while the caverns which had
previously been devoted to religious rites, became places of retreat
from the Spaniard and his frightful bloodhounds. One of the smaller
caves still exhibits a highly interesting series of symbolic pictures,
which the Indians had traced on its white and smooth walls. Near the
entrance of a second cave, Sir R. Schomburgk discovered decorations of a
more enduring character carved on the rock, and of these he remarks:
“They belong to a remoter period, and prove much more skill and patience
than the simple figures painted with charcoal on the walls of the cave
near Pommier. The figures carved of stone, and worked without iron
tools, denote, if not civilisation, a quick conception and an
inexhaustible patience, to give to these hard substances the desired
forms.” From his examination of the tools and utensils still in use in
Guiana, Sir Robert doubted such to be the work of the Caribs; but he
admitted that they are only found where we have sure evidence of their
presence; and he under-estimated both the skill and patience shown by
many native artists equally poorly provided with tools.

Other relics of native art and history attracted the attention of the
traveller, and he specially dwelt with interest on a paved ring of
granite, upwards of 2200 feet in circumference, with a human figure
rudely-fashioned in granite occupying the centre. It stands in the
vicinity of San Juan de Maguana, in St. Domingo, which formed, at the
time of its first discovery, a distinct kingdom, governed by the cacique
Caonabo, the most fierce and powerful of the Carib chiefs, and an
irreconcilable enemy of the European invaders. It is called at the
present day, “El Cercado de los Indios,” but Sir Robert Schomburgk
questioned its being the work of the inhabitants of the island when
first visited by the Spaniards, and assigned it, along with figures
which he examined cut on rocks in the interior of Guiana, and the
sculptured figures of St. Domingo, to a people far superior in intellect
to those Columbus met with in Hispaniola. These he conceived to have
come from the northern part of Mexico, adjacent to the ancient district
of Huastecas, and to have been conquered and extirpated by their Carib
supplanters, prior to European colonists displacing them in their turn.

The roving Caribs supplied themselves with axes and clubs of jade,
greenstone, and others of the most prized materials of the mainland; but
they turned the easily wrought shells of the neighbouring seas to
account in much the same way as the natives of the coral islands of the
Pacific to whom any harder material is unknown. But while noting the
varied uses to which the shells of the Caribbean Sea were applied by the
natives of the archipelago, a greater interest attaches to the
indications of an ancient trade in these products of the Gulf of
Florida, carried on among widely-scattered tribes of North America, long
before its discovery by Columbus.

Abundant evidence proves that the large marine shells were regarded with
superstitious reverence, alike by the more civilised nations of the land
around the Gulf, and by others even so far north as beyond the shores of
the great Canadian Lakes. In the latter case it is not difficult to
account for the origin of such a feeling among tribes familiar only with
small native fresh-water shells. But in one of the singular migratory
scenes of the ancient Mexican paintings, copied from the Mendoza
Collection,[53] in the Bodleian Library at Oxford, a native, barefooted,
and dressed in a short spotted tunic reaching to his loins, bears in his
right hand a spear, toothed round the blade, it may be presumed with
points of obsidian, and in his left hand a large univalve shell. A
river, which he is passing, is indicated by a greenish stripe winding
obliquely across the drawing, and his track, as shown by alternate
footprints, has previously crossed the same stream. On this trail he is
followed by other figures nearly similarly dressed, but sandalled, and
bearing spears and large fans; while a second group approaches the river
by a different trail, and in an opposite direction to the shell-bearer.
Other details of this curious fragment of pictorial history are less
easily interpreted. An altar or a temple appears to be represented on
one side of the stream; and a highly-coloured circular figure on the
other, may be the epitomised symbol of some Achæan land or Sacred Elis
of the New World. But whatever be the interpretation of the ancient
hieroglyphic painting, its general correspondence with other migratory
depictions is undoubted; and it is worthy of note, that, in some
respects, the most prominent of all the figures is the one represented
fording the stream, and bearing a large tropical univalve in his hand.

The evidence thus afforded of an importance attached to the large
sea-shells of the Gulf of Mexico, among the most civilised of the
American nations settled on its shores, deserves notice in connection
with the discovery of the same marine products among relics pertaining
to Indian tribes upwards of three thousand miles distant from the native
habitat of the mollusca, and separated by hundreds of miles from the
nearest sea-coast.

[Illustration: FIG. 49.—Tennessee Idol.]

Tracing them along the northern route through the Mississippi and Ohio
valleys, these shells have been found in the ancient graves of
Tennessee, Kentucky, and Indiana, and northward to the regions of the
Great Lakes. Dr. Gerard Troost, in a communication to the American
Ethnological Society,[54] describes an interesting series of sepulchral
remains discovered in Tennessee. The crania were characterised by
remarkable artificial compression, as in an example figured by Dr.
Morton (plate 55, _Crania Americana_), and the graves abounded with
relics, “lares, trinkets, and utensils, all of a very rude construction,
and all formed of some natural product, none of metal.” From an
examination of those, Dr. Troost was led to the conclusion that the race
to whom they pertained came from some tropical country. Among their
stone implements obsidian abounded. Numerous beads were formed of
tropical marine shells of the genus _marginella_, ground so as to make a
perforation on the back, by means of which they could be strung together
for purposes of personal ornament. Plain beads were made from the
columellæ of the _Strombus gigas_; and such columellæ were found worked
to a uniform thickness, perforated through the centre, and in all stages
of manufacture, to that of perfected beads and links of the much-prized
_wampum_. Similar accumulations of shell beads in the great mounds of
the Ohio valley are referred to in a subsequent chapter; but another
relic has an additional value from the light it throws not only on early
native arts, but on ancient manners and modes of thought. Dr. Troost
describes and figures various rudely sculptured idols, from some of
which he was led to assume the existence of Phallic rites among the
ancient idolaters of Tennessee. The greater number of the idols were of
stone, but the one figured here (Fig. 49) has been modelled of clay and
pounded shells, and hardened in the fire. It represents a nude human
figure, kneeling, with the hands clasped in front; and when found, it
still occupied, as its primitive niche or sanctuary, a large tropical
shell (_Cassis flammea_), from which the interior whorls and columella
had been removed, with the exception of a small portion at the base, cut
off flat, so as to form its pedestal. The special application of this
example of the tropical cassides adds a peculiar interest to it, as
manifestly associated with the religious rites of the ancient race by
whom the spoils of southern seas were transported inland, and converted
to purposes of ornament and use.

The discovery of similar relics to the north of the Great Lakes is still
more calculated to excite interest; and, indeed, when first brought
under notice they gave rise to extravagant ethnological theories, based
on the assumption of their East Indian origin.[55] But though they
furnished no evidence of such far wanderings from the old East, they
throw considerable light on ancient migrations of native American races,
and illustrate the extent of traffic carried on between the north and
south, in ages prior to the displacement of the Red-man by the European.
Two large tropical shells, both specimens of the _Pyrula perversa_, have
been presented to the Canadian Institute at Toronto: not as examples of
the native conchology of the tropics, but as Indian relics pertaining to
the great northern chain of fresh-water lakes. The first was discovered
on opening a grave-mound at Nottawasaga, on the Georgian Bay, along with
a gorget made from the same kind of shell; the second was brought from
the Fishing Islands, near Cape Hurd, on Lake Huron. Thirteen other
examples from the Georgian Bay are in the Museum of Laval University;
and many more have come under my notice procured from grave-mounds and
sepulchral depositories in different parts of Western Canada. Recently,
in the summer of 1874, a large ossuary of the Tiontonones, or Petuns,
was accidentally opened at Lake Medad, in the county of Wentworth,
within which were found evidences of extensive sepulture, numerous clay
and stone pipes of curious workmanship, shell and stone implements, and
a number of the same tropical shells, both whole and in pieces, most of
which are now in the possession of Mr. B. E. Charlton of Hamilton,
Ontario. Similar ossuaries have been repeatedly opened in the Huron
Country, between Lake Simcoe and the Georgian Bay. In one pit, about
seven miles from Penetanguishene, three large conch-shells were found,
along with twenty-six copper kettles, a pipe, a copper bracelet, a
quantity of shell beads, and numerous other relics. The largest of the
shells, a specimen of the _Pyrula spirata_, weighed three pounds and a
quarter, and measured fourteen inches in length; but a piece had been
cut off this, as well as another of the large shells, probably for the
manufacture of some smaller ornament. In another cemetery in the same
district, among copper arrow-heads, bracelets, and ear-ornaments, pipes
of stone and clay, beads of porcelain, red pipe-stone, etc., sixteen of
the same prized tropical univalves lay round the bottom of the pit
arranged in groups of three or four together. From such shells the
sacred wampum, official gorgets, and other special decorations were
made; and the appearance of some of those found in northern graves
suggests that they may have been handed down through successive
generations as great medicines, before their final deposition, with
other rare and costly offerings, in honour of the dead.

The attractions offered by such products of tropical seas are by no
means limited to the untutored tastes of the American Indian. In India,
China, and Siam, the _Pyrum_, and other large and beautiful shells of
the Indian Ocean, are no less highly prized by the natives, not only as
an easily wrought material for implements and personal ornaments; but in
some cases, as vessels employed in their most sacred rites. A
sinistrorsal variety found on the coasts of Tranquebar and Ceylon, is
devoted by the Cingalese exclusively to such purposes. Reversed shells
of the species _Turbinella_, are held in like veneration in China, where
great prices are given for them; and are often curiously ornamented with
elaborate carvings, as shown on several fine specimens in the British
Museum. They are kept in the pagodas, and are not only employed by the
priests on special occasions in administering medicine to the sick; but
the vessel for holding the consecrated oil, with which the Emperor is
anointed at his coronation, is made from one of them.

Such analogies in the choice of materials, and in objects set apart for
the sacred rites of different nations, are full of interest in reference
to characteristics common to man in all ages, and in regions the most
remote. But when they are met with in the arts and customs of the same
continent, they point with greater probability to borrowed usages, and
often help the ethnologist to track the footprints of migrating nations
to their earlier homes. But the use of shells for personal ornaments has
been traced back, along with other evidence of the antiquity of man,
almost to what seems the primeval dawn. In the caves of southern France
and Italy, along with mammoth and reindeer bones and ivory, and in the
sepulchral deposits at Aurignac, lay shell necklaces or bracelets made
of the _Littorina littorea_, still abundant on the shores of the
Atlantic, along with perforated shells of the miocene period, evidently
gathered in a fossil state to be converted to purposes of personal
decoration. So also in a later, but still prehistoric age, the
megalithic tomb, brought to light, in 1838, under the Knock-Maraidhe
Cromlech in the Phœnix Park, Dublin, disclosed two male skeletons,
underneath the skulls of which lay a number of the common _Nerita
littoralis_, perforated, evidently for the purpose of being strung
together as neck ornaments. An ornamental bone-pin, with a knob carved
at each end, and a rude flint-knife, constituted the only other contents
of this primitive tomb which had been constructed with such costly toil.

Other British cists and cairns have disclosed similar relics of the
shell necklace and bracelet, made of the oyster, limpet, and cockle
shells, the contents of which supplied an important source of food. For
not only in the ancient kitchen-middens of northern Europe, but mingling
with more ancient cave deposits, as in Kent’s Cavern, lay heaps of the
shells of such edible molluscs, the refuse of the table of the old
cave-men, which shows one resource on which they depended for
subsistence. America, too, had its ancient shell and refuse heaps, as at
Cannon’s Point, St. Simon’s Island, Georgia, where a vast mound of
oyster and mussel shells, intermingled here and there with a mediola or
helix, and with flint arrow-heads, stone axes, and fragments of pottery,
covers an area of not less than ten acres. But they abound upon all the
sea islands of the Southern States, and in many cases constitute regular
sepulchral mounds or shell cairns. One of these singular cairns on
Stalling’s Island, in the Savannah river, more than two hundred miles
from its mouth, is an elliptical mound measuring nearly three hundred
feet in length, and enclosing, along with human skeletons, bones of
large fish, deer, and other wild animals, accompanied with broken
pottery, arrow-heads, axes, flint-knives, and charred wood. On the
islands, and along the coast of Georgia and Florida, the inexhaustible
supplies of oysters, conches, and clams, furnished an abundant supply of
food. Around the Indian villages the shells accumulated in waste heaps;
and even now, at times, show the circular hollow where the native hut
had stood. With a mild climate, abundant game and indigenous fruits, in
addition to the inexhaustible spoils of the sea, the Southern Indians
had little temptation to roam; and the numerous shell-mounds and cairns
afford proof of their settled occupation of many localities. A large
drinking-cup, made of the conch-shell, was one of the special attributes
of the Indian cacique; and such cups are frequently found deposited
beside the buried skeleton.

Fresh-water shell heaps also abound; and Professor Jeffries Wyman made
those of East Florida the subject of an interesting paper in _The
American Naturalist_. Such memorials of the encampments of the
aborigines are historical records of the habits and customs of ancient
native tribes. The fresh-water mussels, which constituted an important
article of food, and also supplied the pearls which they prized for
decoration, enter largely into the contents of the heaps. Intermingled
with them are “numerous fragments of pottery, stone axes, chisels,
crushing-stones, awls, mortars, net-sinkers, arrow and spear points,
flint-knives, shell beads, soapstone ornaments, pipes, and the bones of
deer, buffalo, alligators, turtles, racoons, and other animals.”[56]
Many of the bones have been split, like those found in the ancient
mounds and caves of Europe, for the purpose of extracting the marrow;
and along with such evidences of culinary arts are piles of chipped
flint and stone, with broken or unfinished axes, spear and arrow-heads,
and other traces of the Indian tool-maker’s workshop. In all ways we
thus recognise, amid diversities of race, climate, and other external
circumstances, many minute analogies between the men of palæolithic and
neolithic ages of Europe, and those of the new world’s more recent
centuries, in regions apart from its singular centres of a native

But also the convenient form and beauty of various marine shells have
led to their use, not only as a substitute for the flint and stone of
other localities, or the unknown bronze and iron of later ages, but even
for the precious metals as the medium of a recognised currency, and this
from times of unknown antiquity, alike in the old world and in the new.
Of such substitutes for a metallic currency the _Cypræa moneta_ is the
most familiar. The cowrie shells used as currency are procured on the
coast of Congo, and in the Philippine and Maldive Islands. Of the
latter, indeed, they still constitute the chief article of export. At
what remote date, or at what early stage of rudimentary civilisation,
this singular representative shell-currency was introduced, it is
perhaps vain to inquire; but the extensive area over which it has long
been recognised proves its great antiquity. The Philippine Islands form,
in part, the eastern boundary of the Southern Pacific, and the Maldives
lie off the Malabar coast in the Indian Ocean; but their shells
circulate as currency not only through Southern Asia, but far into the
African continent.

Corresponding to this cowrie currency of Asia and Africa is the American
Ioqua, or _Dentalium_, a shell found chiefly at the entrance of the
Strait of De Fuca, and employed both for ornament and money. The
Chinooks and other Indians of the Northern Pacific coast wear long
strings of ioqua shells as necklaces and fringes to their robes. These
have a value assigned to them, increasing in proportion to their size,
which varies from about an inch and a half to upwards of two inches in
length. Mr. Paul Kane thus wrote to me: “A great trade is carried on
among all the tribes in the neighbourhood of Vancouver’s Island, through
the medium of these shells. Forty shells of the standard size, extending
a fathom’s length, are equal in value to a beaver’s skin; but if shells
can be found so far in excess of the ordinary standard that thirty-nine
are long enough to make the fathom, it is worth two beavers’ skins, and
so on, increasing in value one beaver skin for every shell less than the
first number.”

But as the New World has thus its disclosures and illustrations of
native arts and usages full of interest to the student of primeval man,
so also the first glimpse of a western hemisphere revealed its
aborigines already familiar with that distinctive evidence of reason,
the art of fire-making, earliest of all the practical sciences, and the
indispensable precursor of every higher art of civilisation.


[44] _Ancient Stone Implements of Great Britain_, Fig. 405, p. 460.

[45] For a detailed discussion of this subject in its general bearings,
_vide_ “_Right-handedness_,” _Canadian Journal, N.S._, vol. xiii. p.

[46] _Journ. Ethnol. Soc., N. S._, vol. ii. p. 419.

[47] _Athenæum_, April 5, 1873.

[48] _Alaska and its Resources_, p. 237.

[49] _Découverte d’un Squellette humain de l’époque Paléolithique dans
les cavernes des Baoussé Roussé_, par Emile Rivière, p. 31.

[50] _Reliquiæ Aquitanicæ._ VII. Account of the human bones found in the
cave of Cro-Magnon in Dordogne, by Dr. Pruner-Bey.

[51] _Reliquiæ Aquitanicæ._ M. Louis Lartet, p. 70.

[52] For a more detailed account, _vide_ _Proc. Soc. Antiq. Scot._, vol.
vi. p. 376.

[53] Lord Kingsborough’s _Mexican Antiquities_, vol. i. plate 68.

[54] _Transactions_, _American Ethnological Society_, vol. i. pp.

[55] _Inquiry into the Origin of the Antiquities of America_, p. 162.

[56] _Antiquities of the Southern Indians_, p. 200.

                               CHAPTER V.


No incident attending the discovery of America is more suggestive than
the evidence which first satisfied Columbus that his exploration of the
mysterious western ocean had not been in vain. The sun had descended
beneath the waves as his eye ranged along the horizon in search of the
long expected land, when suddenly a light glimmered in the distance,
once and again reappeared to the eyes of Pedro Gutierrez and others whom
he summoned to confirm his vision, and then darkness and doubt resumed
their reign. But to Columbus all was clear. Not only did those flitting
gleams reveal to him certain signs of the long-wished-for land; they
told him no less clearly that the land was inhabited by man.

There is something singularly significant in the old Greek myth which
represents the Titanic son of Iapetus stealing the fire of Zeus that he
might confer on the human race a power over the crude elements of
nature. Man is peculiarly fire-using. The element which becomes in his
hands a power that controls all the others, and subjects them to his
use, is an object of dread to the lower animals, alike amid arctic snows
and the shadows of a night-camp in the tropics. Its use, moreover, is so
universal as to admit of its being regarded as one of the primitive
instincts of man, and so peculiarly his own that he may be appropriately
designated the _fire-using animal_. Nevertheless, his supposed ignorance
of fire during primitive ages has been employed as an argument in
confirmation of the idea that the first habitat of man must have been a
climate where his unclothed body experienced no discomfort from the
changing seasons, and where fruit was found in sufficient abundance to
supply his wants without need of artificial preparation.[57]

Yet it is in climates where the torrid sun presents itself as the
life-giving force that, alike in the old and the new world, the worship
of fire, and the rites associated with its use, have been found most
fully developed. It is noticeable, moreover, that fire is less used in
the frigid than in the temperate zones as the direct source of heat. The
Esquimaux in his snow-hut would find a fire productive only of
discomfort. Even in the adaptation of animal food to his use cookery is
less indispensable than in other latitudes; and fire is more prized by
him in his brief summer as a protection against the myriads of noxious
insects then warmed into life, than as a means of counteracting the
rigour of a polar winter. He depends for warmth on his fur clothing, and
still more on the heat-producing blubber and fat which constitute so
large a portion of his food. Yet the lamp, generally made of stone, with
its moss wick, and the stone kettle, play an important part among the
implements and culinary apparatus of an Esquimaux’s hut. On those he
depends for his supply of water from melted snow, for thawing and drying
his clothes, and for cooking; and without the light of the lamp the
indoor life of the long unbroken arctic night would be spent as in a
living tomb. The Esquimaux generally possess a piece of iron pyrites and
of quartz. These serve them for flint and steel, with which they ignite
a tuft of dried moss frayed in the hand. But they are also familiar with
the more laborious fire-making process by means of friction, which is in
general use throughout America.

At the opposite extremity of the Continent lies Tierra del Fuego, the
natives of which are exposed to still greater privations, and have been
pronounced by observant voyagers as among the most degraded of savage
races. Yet the Fuegians exhibit considerable ingenuity in constructing
their fishing tackle, slings, bows and stone-tipped arrows, stone
knives, and javelins pointed with bone. A bone harpoon in use by them,
barbed only on one side (Fig. 33), resembles examples already referred
to found in the Dordogne and other caves of the era when the mammoth and
its hunters existed together in Southern France. M. Lecoq de
Boisbeaudrau suggests that the deflection of the harpoon so formed
serves as an equivalent for the refraction of the fish in the water, and
thus the fisherman secures an unerring aim. If so, it furnishes an
ingenious application of the fruits of experience directed to rectify a
difficulty common to the modern Fuegian and to the Troglodyte of
post-glacial times.

The canoes of the Fuegians are rudely constructed of bark sewed together
with prepared sinews. In the bottom a hearth of clay is made, on which
they habitually keep a fire alight. They too have learned the value of
iron pyrites, and with its help readily obtain the spark required for
igniting their prepared tinder of dried moss or fungus. Captain Weddell
states that he produced the tinder-box in presence of a party of
Fuegians, in order to ascertain how fire is obtained by them, and
presently he discovered that his steel had been purloined. This,
however, he recovered, and after sending the culprit to his canoe with
threats of punishment, he learned that they procure fire by rubbing iron
pyrites and a flinty stone together, catching the sparks in a dry
substance resembling moss.[58]

The ancient use of pyrites for fire-making is supposed to be embodied in
its etymology (πῦρ). Mr. John Evans has pointed out that the lower beds
of the same English chalk in which the flint abounds are prolific of
pyrites; and he makes the suggestion that the use of a nodule of pyrites
for a hammer-stone in the process of manufacturing flint implements, may
have led to the discovery of this method of producing fire. But if so,
it is a discovery of remote antiquity, for such nodules have been found
both in French and Belgian caves, associated with the bones of fossil
mammals and worked flints of the palæolithic era. They also occur in the
Swiss lake-dwellings, as at Robenhausen, along with neolithic

But pyrites is not always available; and Esquimaux, Fuegians, and
Australians practise also the more usual, and probably the more ancient,
method of producing fire by friction. The process among the Tahitians
and South Sea islanders is pursued in the laboriously artless fashion of
rubbing one piece of wood against another; though it is said that, with
perfectly dry wood, they obtain fire in this way in two or three
minutes. Australian fire-making is effected in nearly the same way; but
the American Indians have improved on the process by the use of the bow
and drill. Among the Iroquois and other tribes, the drill was provided
with a stone whorl, or fly-wheel, to give it momentum; and when rapidly
revolved by means of a bow and string, with the point resting on a piece
of dry wood, surrounded with moss or punk, sparks are produced in a few
seconds, and the tinder is ignited.

The art of fire-making is thus found in use among savage nations, even
in the most degraded state: as among the Fuegians, whose wretched
condition and repulsive appearance and habits have led travellers to
describe them as scarcely human. They are indeed in every way inferior
to the Esquimaux. Yet their implements and weapons display remarkable
ingenuity and skill; and the origin of the name of their desolate region
is traced to the numerous fires seen by the first Spanish discoverers
who navigated its coasts.

The aborigines of Australia rival the Fuegians alike in physical and
intellectual degradation; but, like them also, have achieved or
perpetuated the discovery which lies at the very foundation of all
possible civilisation. According to the inconsequential account
furnished by a native Australian of their first acquisition of fire:—“A
long, long time ago a little bandicoot[59] was the sole owner of a
fire-brand, which he cherished with the greatest jealousy. So selfish
was he in the use of his prize, that he obstinately refused to share it
with the other animals. So they held a general council, where it was
decided that the fire must be obtained from the bandicoot either by
force or strategy. The hawk and pigeon were deputed to carry out this
resolution; and after vainly trying to induce the fire-owner to share
its blessings with his neighbours, the pigeon, seizing, as he thought,
an unguarded moment, made a dash to obtain the prize. The bandicoot saw
that affairs had come to a crisis, and, in desperation, threw the fire
towards the river, there to quench it for ever. But, fortunately for the
black man, the sharp-eyed hawk was hovering near, and seeing the fire
falling into the water, with a stroke of his wing he knocked the brand
far over the stream into the long dry grass of the opposite bank, which
immediately ignited, and the flames spread over the face of the country.
The black man then felt the fire, and said it was good.”[60]

The discovery of the art of fire-making, prefigured in this rude myth,
is intimately associated in the minds of the Australian aborigines with
their distinctive ideas of man. According to the mythology of the
Booroung tribe, inhabiting the Mallee country, on Lake Tyrill, they were
preceded on the earth by a race of Nurrumbunguttias, or old spirits, who
had the knowledge of fire; but these were translated to heaven before
the black man came into existence. One of them, named _War_, or the
Crow,—the Australian Prometheus,—is now the star Canopus; and he it
was who first brought fire back to earth, and gave it to the black

It is a noticeable fact that, while the Maoris of New Zealand use the
same word, _ahi_, for fire, which under slight modifications is employed
through widely severed island groups of the Pacific: different
Australian tribes use distinct names for it, as _darloo_ at Moreton Bay,
_koyung_ at Lake Macquarrie, and _kaubi_ at Bathurst. In the Kamilarai
of Wellington Valley it is called _koyan_; while in the Wiradurei,
spoken about 200 miles inland from Lake Macquarrie, it is _win_. Such
diversity of names for the common acquisition proves that fire is no
recent novelty derived from a single source by the savage tribes of that
strange southern continent.

Amid all the remarkable evidence recently disclosed relative to the
antiquity and the rude arts of primitive man, nothing has yet appeared
suggestive of a condition inferior to the savages of Tierra del Fuego or
Australia; while much tends to an opposite conclusion. Alike in physical
development and in arts, the Troglodytes of the Dordogne caves were
undoubtedly far in advance of either; and yet they were the
contemporaries of the mammoth, the Siberian rhinoceros, the cave- lion
and bear, the gigantic Irish elk, the reindeer, and the fossil horse of
Central Europe,—the men of a period separated from our own by epochs
the duration of which can be gauged by no standards of historical
chronology. It could scarcely admit of doubt that such men were capable
of achieving the art of fire-making. It might even be questioned if they
could have subsisted under the conditions of life marking that
post-glacial epoch without the use of fire. But on this subject we are
not left to conjecture.

The contents of the Aurignac cavern, in the department of the
Haute-Garonne, at the foot of the Pyrenees, were at first supposed to
disclose a singularly interesting example of sepulture contemporaneous
with the fossil mammals of the drift; and accompanied not only with
implements and personal ornaments fashioned from their bones and tusks,
as well as others of flint; but with the ashes of the funeral fires and
the débris of the funeral feast which formed a part of the last rites to
the dead. Unfortunately some discredit has been cast on the evidence
which seemed to indicate that the remains of extinct mammalia, and those
of the entombed dead, were contemporaneous; and the importance of the
deductions which this discovery seemed to justify render it all the more
needful that the proof should be indisputable. But the practice of
regular interment of the dead, accompanied with some funeral rites, by
the men of the post-glacial age, is suggested by the contents of the
sepulchral recess of Cro-Magnon, in the valley of the Vézère. No ashes
of funeral fires can be pointed to, but the traces of the use of fire
are abundant.

Throughout the floors of various caves in this district which have been
rich in disclosures of primitive art, particles of charcoal abound at
every level where broken bones occur, suggesting that fires were in
daily use, and were employed for cooking much more than for warmth.
Possibly, indeed, those caverns were only the summer dwellings of the
Drift-Folk of post-glacial times; and with them, as with the Esquimaux,
and the Indians of North America generally, fire may have been valued as
a protection against the noxious insects which, especially in the brief
summer of a rigorous climate, render life intolerable. Fire is the
universal servant of man. The Esquimaux and the Red Indian ward off the
mosquito, the black-fly, and the sand-fly by means of a “smudge” made
with the smoke of grass and green-wood; while the Hottentot or Bushman
kindles his night-fire in the tropics as the most effectual guardian
against beasts of prey. Everywhere, and at all epochs, fire appears as
one of the most characteristic indices of rational man; and as we study
such traces of him as reappear for us in the works of art and the
extinguished fires of the Moustier and Madelaine cave-dwellings, or
those of the neolithic, if not an earlier period of the Aurignac
catacomb, we see the unmistakable evidences of human intelligence; and
anew concur in the decision of Columbus, that the night-torch of the
Guanahanè savage was indisputable proof that the unknown world which lay
before him was the habitation of man.

It may be doubted if man has anywhere existed without the knowledge of
fire. By means of it some of his earliest triumphs over nature have been
achieved. With its aid his range is no longer limited to latitudes where
the spontaneous fruits of the earth abound at every season. The use of
fire lies at the root of all the industrial arts. The friendly savages
found by Columbus on the first-discovered island of the New World were
armed with wooden lances, hardened at the end by its means. The most
civilised among the nations conquered by Cortes and Pizarro, had learned
by the same means to smelt the ores of the Andes, and make of their
metallic alloys the tools with which to quarry and hew the rocks, to
sculpture the statues of the gods of Anahuac, and the palaces and
temples of the Peruvian children of the sun. Without fire the imperfect
implements of the stone period would be altogether inadequate to man’s
necessities. By its help he fells the lofty trees, against which his
unaided stone hatchet would be powerless. It plays a no less important
part in preparing the log-canoe of the savage, than in propelling the
wonderful steamship, by means of which the great lakes and rivers of the
New World have become the highways of migrating nations.

A common root-word for fire serves to connect numerous scattered insular
races of the great Pacific archipelagos, through their intercourse with
the Malay voyagers. Yet while the Malay word _ápi_ may be taken as the
source of many diversified forms of the insular term for fire, the
Papuans, rather than the Malays, present the ethnical peculiarities
predominant throughout Polynesia, and characteristic of the Maoris of
New Zealand; and distinct roots in many intermediate island vocabularies
prove the independent knowledge of fire. The Vitian is rich in terms for
light, warmth, shining, kindling, burning, boiling, etc. _Aundre_, to
shine or flame, becomes _oundreva_, to kindle, and _vakaundre_, to cause
to burn. From _yame_, the tongue, is made, by a familiar analogy,
_yame-ni-mbuka_, a flame of fire. _Ilgatu_, fire, begets a group of
words, including _ilgilaiso_, charcoal, and _ilgilaisongawa_, hot
cinders. _Liva_, a flash of lightning, gives _lavi_, to bring fire,
_lovo_, a furnace, a native oven; and recalls one familiar source of the
knowledge of fire: as the _asa_, the sun; _atua_, a deity, probably the
sun-god; _asu_, smoke, etc., of the Rotuma dialect suggest another
association of ideas common to the Old and New World.

The fire-worship of the Ghebirs is but a degraded form of that homage to
visible divinity with which man worships the god of day, and bows down
before the heavenly host. Among the civilised nations of the New World,
accordingly, a peculiar sanctity was associated with the familiar
service of fire. At the close of the great cycle of the Aztecs, when the
calendar was corrected to true solar time at the end of the fifty-second
year, a high religious festival was held, on the eve of which they broke
in pieces their household gods, destroyed their furniture, and
extinguished every fire. In the reconstruction of the ritual calendar,
the intercalated days were held as though non-existent, and dedicated to
no gods: on which account they were reputed unfortunate. At the end of
that dreary interval of fasting and penitence, during which no hearth
smoked, and no warm food could be eaten throughout the land, the
ceremony of the new fire was celebrated. After sunset the priests of the
great temple went forth to a neighbouring mountain, and there, at
midnight, the sacred flame was rekindled, which was to light up the
national fires for another cycle. The process by which it was procured,
by revolving one piece of dry wood in the hollow of another, is
repeatedly illustrated in the Mexican paintings of Lord Kingsborough’s
work. But, true to the bloody rites of the national faith, at this
sacred festival the fire was kindled on the breast of a human victim,
from whence the reeking heart was immediately afterwards torn out, and
cast as a bloody offering to the gods. The period from the extinction to
the rekindling of the sacred flame was one of great suspense. With a
superstitious feeling, in striking accordance with the customs and ideas
of the northern Indians, the women remained confined to their houses,
with their faces covered, under the belief that if they witnessed the
ceremony they would be forthwith transformed into beasts. Meanwhile, the
men gathered on the terraced roofs, and looked forth in dread suspense
into the darkness. The flames on the summits of the great teocallis,
which lighted up the city at all other seasons, had been extinguished;
and if the priests failed to rekindle them, it was believed that the
night must be eternal, and the world would come to an end. But dimly,
through the darkness, a spark was seen to glimmer on the distant summit
of the mountain, and from thence it was swiftly borne to the temple,
towards which the worshippers turned with renewed hope. As the sacred
flame again blazed on the high altar, and was distributed to the other
teocallis, shouts of triumph ascended with it to the sky. Feasts, joyous
processions, and oblations at the temples followed, and were prolonged
through a festival of thirteen days, devoted to a national jubilee for
the recovered flame, the type of a regenerated world.[62] The long
interval which transpired between this closing rite of the great cycle
was of itself sufficient to give it an impressive sanctity in the eyes
of the Aztec worshipper. He who witnessed it in youth saw it only once
again as life drew towards a close; whilst few indeed of all who
rejoiced at the renewed gift of fire could expect to look again on the
strangely significant rite. Compared with the annual miracle of the
Greek Church in the crypt of the Holy Sepulchre, to which it bears some
resemblance, the great festival of the Aztecs was replete with
significance and solemn grandeur, though stained with the blood of their
hideous sacrifices.

The Peruvian sun-worshippers preserved the harmony between their
recurrent festivals and the true solar time, by a ruder process of
adjustment than that which was devised by the remarkable proficiency of
the Aztec priests in astronomical science. Nevertheless, they too had
their secular festival of Raymi, held annually at the period of the
summer solstice. For three days previous a general fast prevailed, the
fire on the great altar of the sun went out, and in all the dwellings of
the land no hearth was kindled. As the dawn of the fourth day
approached, the Inca, surrounded by his nobles, who came from all parts
of the country to join in the solemn celebration, assembled in the great
square of the capital to greet the rising sun. The temple of the
national deity presented its eastern portal to the earliest rays,
emblazoned with his golden image, thickly set with precious stones; and
as the first beams of the morning were reflected back from this emblem
of the sun-god, songs of triumph mingled with the jubilant shout of his
worshippers. Then after various rites of adoration, preparations were
made for rekindling the sacred fire. But this, with the Peruvians, was
done by a process far in advance of that retained by the Aztec priests.
The rays of the sun, collected into a focus by a concave mirror of
polished metal, were made to inflame a heap of dried cotton; and a llama
was sacrificed as a burnt-offering to the sun. Only in the case of the
sky being overcast did the priests resort to friction for rekindling the
altar; but the hiding of his countenance by the god of day was regarded
as little less ominous than the extinction of the sacred fire, which it
became the duty of the virgins of the sun to guard throughout the year.
A slaughter of the llama flocks of the sun furnished a universal
banquet; and, while the god was propitiated by offerings of fruit and
flowers, there appear to have been some rare occasions on which the
sacrifice of a human victim—a beautiful maiden or a child,—gave to
this graceful anniversary a nearer resemblance to the appalling rites of
Aztec worship.

Among the northern Indian tribes some faint traces of the annual
festival of fire are discernible. At the sacrifice of the white dog, the
New Year’s festival of the Iroquois, the proceedings extended over six
days; and such were the obligations which its rites imposed on all, that
if any member of a family died during the period, the body was laid
aside, and the relatives participated in the games as well as the
religious ceremonies. The strangling of the white dog destined for
sacrifice was the chief feature of the first day’s proceedings. On the
second day the two keepers of the faith visited each house, and
performed the significant ceremony of stirring the ashes on the hearth,
accompanied with a thanksgiving to the Great Spirit. On the morning of
the fifth day the fire was solemnly kindled by friction; and the white
dog was borne in procession on a bark litter, until the officiating
leaders halted, facing the rising sun, when it was laid on the flaming
wood and consumed, during an address, which included a special
thanksgiving to the sun, for having looked on the earth with a
beneficent eye.[63]

There is, perhaps, no connection traceable between the various rites
thus described; for it would be easy to find their parallels among
ancient and modern nations. They pertained to the religious practices of
the Chaldeans, to the rites of Baal, and to other early forms of
idolatry. Sabaism is indeed the most natural form of false worship,
commending itself by many visible tokens, as of a divine influence and
power, to uninstructed man; and readily suggests the association of fire
with the sun as its source. “Take ye good heed unto yourselves,” says
the lawgiver of Israel to the tribes in the wilderness, “for ye saw no
manner of similitude on the day that the Lord spake unto you in Horeb
out of the midst of the fire; lest thou lift up thine eyes unto heaven,
and when thou seest the sun, and the moon, and the stars, even all the
host of heaven, shouldst be driven to worship them.” This worship of the
sun, though associated with ancient rites of Asiatic nations, is not
therefore necessarily an evidence of the eastern origin either of the
faith or of the nations of the New World. But, in the services to which
it gave rise there, we have, at least, suggestive hints of the links
that bind together its own ancient and modern tribes. Perhaps also they
may supply a clew to the interpretation of some of the obscure
sculptures still remaining on sites of the extinct native civilisation
of America, and of rites once practised amid the sacred enclosures, and
on the altar-mounds which give such peculiar interest to the
river-terraces of the Mississippi valley.

Among the remarkable structures of the Mound-Builders, reviewed in a
subsequent chapter, their explorers have been struck by the
peculiarities of a certain class of mounds, erected on the most elevated
summits of outlying hills. Concerning these “there can be no doubt that
the ancient people selected prominent and elevated positions upon which
to build large fires, which were kept burning for long periods, or
renewed at frequent intervals. They appear to have been built generally
upon heaps of stones, which are broken up and sometimes partially
vitrified. In all cases they exhibit marks of intense and protracted
heat.”[64] Such indications have been supposed to mark ancient
signal-stations adapted to the telegraphic system still in use among
native tribes, of sending up columns of smoke as a warning that enemies
are at hand. But this “putting out fire,” as it is called among the
Indians of the north-west, for the purposes of signal, is now
accomplished by the simple process of setting the short-tufted buffalo
grass in flame, and presents slight analogy to the traces of intense
fires on the ancient hill-mounds, where the amount of scoriaceous
material often covers a large space several feet deep.

Perhaps greater importance is due to the employment of the same method
of fire-making at the present day among the Indians of the north-west,
as we see illustrated in ancient Aztec paintings; while the
sun-worshippers of the southern continent had devised a totally distinct
method, corresponding to that by which the Romans kindled the sacred
fire. Mr. Paul Kane thus describes the process employed by the Chinooks
on the Columbia River:—“The fire is obtained by means of a flat piece
of dry cedar, in which a small hollow is cut, with a channel for the
ignited charcoal to run over; on this the Indian sits to hold it steady,
while he rapidly twirls a round stick of the same wood between the palms
of his hands, with the point pressed into the hollow. In a very short
time sparks begin to fall through the channel upon finely frayed
cedar-bark placed underneath, which they soon ignite. There is a great
deal of knack in doing this, but those who are used to it will light a
fire in a very short time. The men usually carry these sticks about with
them, as after they have been once used they produce the fire more
quickly.”[65] I witnessed the process successfully employed under the
most unfavourable circumstances, on one occasion when camping out with
Chippewa guides on the Lake of Bays, in Western Canada. We had struck
our tents, and were making our way down the river, when a steady rain
set in, which continued throughout the day. We had to pass several long
portages, involving in each case the unloading, and carrying over them,
our canoes and baggage; and on one of these occasions, finding myself
alone with my Indian guide at the foot of a portage where we must
necessarily be detained a considerable time, I suggested to him by words
and signs, whether it were possible to kindle a fire. Rain was falling
in torrents, the trees were dripping, and the grass and fallen leaves
resembled a soaked sponge. But Kineesè set to work in Indian fashion,
hunted out a pine-knot, such as are of common occurrence in the Canadian
forest, where the tree itself has rotted away and left the cores of its
oldest branches like pins of iron. Having secured this, and a piece of
half-burned wood from under the remains of an old camp-fire, he next
stripped off the bark from the lee-side of a birch tree, and collecting
a heap of the dry inner bark, thin as paper, he carefully disposed it
under a cover of pine-bark, and placed over all a pile of chips cut with
his axe from the centre of a pine log. All being now ready, he frayed a
handful of the birch-bark into the consistency of tow, and placing this
on the charred wood, he made the hard point of the pine-knot revolve in
the wood by means of a cord, while his bent position, pressing the other
end to his breast, protected it from the rain. In a surprisingly short
time he blew the tinder into a flame, applied it to the pile he had
prepared, and nursing this with chips and dry twigs, we were able to
welcome our companions to a blazing log fire, kindled under
circumstances which, even with the aid of flint and steel, would have
seemed impossible to the European woodsman.

The knowledge of this simple process, however acquired, constitutes
perhaps the oldest of all human traditions relating to the arts of life.
A mode of obtaining fire nearly equivalent to that of flint and steel
has already been referred to as in use both among the Fuegians and
Esquimaux; but the process of friction is also resorted to by the
latter, and with slight variations in the application of the principle,
it appears to be the recognised Indian mode of procuring fire. Among all
the Indian tribes not only was a certain superstitious sanctity attached
to fire, but they looked with distrust on the novel methods employed by
Europeans for its production. When, in 1811, Elksatowa, the prophet of
the Wabash,—a brother of Tecumseh, the Shawnee warrior,—was exhorting
his tribe to resist the deadly encroachments of the white man, he
concluded one of his eloquent warnings by exclaiming: “Throw away your
fire-steels, and awaken the sleeping flame as your fathers did before
you; fling away your wrought coverings, and put on skins won for
yourselves as was their wont, if you would escape the anger of the Great
Spirit.” Nor is there wanting among many Indians a conviction that the
Ishkodaiwaubo, or fire-liquid, is a malignant form of the same
mysterious element; an evil medicine wrought for their destruction by
the white Manitou.

Various methods are thus traceable throughout the western hemisphere for
calling into existence the wondrous element, so peculiarly distinctive
of man. Yet even in these, common relations of a very comprehensive
character are apparent; while the Peruvian, with the solar mirror,
stands apart alike from the rude Indian and the cultivated native of the
Mexican plateau; and far to the south of both, the Fuegian finds in the
natural products of his inhospitable clime a means of fire-making
analogous to that which the Shawnee prophet taught his people to regard
as one of the unhallowed practices of the Whites. All alike exhibit man,
even in the rudest stage, master of the same secret; and turning to many
useful, and even indispensable purposes, that which no other animal can
be taught to use, or scarcely even to look upon without dread.


[57] Floureus, _De la Longévité Humaine_, p. 127.

[58] Weddell’s _Voyage towards the South Pole in 1822-24_, p. 167.

[59] A small sharp-nosed animal, not unlike the Guinea-pig.

[60] _Canadian Journal, N.S._, vol. i. p. 509.

[61] _Trans. Philosoph. Institute, Victoria_, vol. i.

[62] _Clavigero_, vol. ii. p. 84.

[63] _League of the Iroquois_, pp. 207-221.

[64] _Ancient Monuments of the Mississippi Valley_, p. 183.

[65] _Wanderings of an Artist among the Indians of North America_, p.

                              CHAPTER VI.
                               THE CANOE.


The discovery of fire, and its application even to such simple purposes
of art as the hardening of the wooden spear, or the hollowing of the
monoxylous canoe, suffice to illustrate the characteristics of man, not
merely as a reasoning, but also as a tool-using, or, as Franklin defined
him, a tool-making animal. Whilst, however, an innate instinct seems to
prompt him to supplement his helplessness by such means, mechanical
science, the industrial and the fine arts, are all progressive
developments which his intellect superinduces on that tool-using
instinct. And through all the countless ages revealed to the geologist,
with ever new orders of successive life; with beast, bird, crustacean,
insect, and zoophyte, endowed with wonderful constructive instincts, and
perpetuating memorials of architecture and sculpture, of which the
microscope is alone adequate to reveal the exquisite beauty and infinite
variety of design: yet so thoroughly is the use of tools the exclusive
attribute of man, that the discovery of a single artificially shaped
flint in the drift or cave-breccia, is deemed proof enough that man has
been there. The flint implement or weapon lies beside bones revealing
species kindred to the sagacious elephant, or to those of carnivora
allied to the dog, with its wonderful instincts bordering on reason and
the forethought of experience; yet no theorist dreams of the hypothesis
that some wiser _Elephas primigenius_, in advance of his age, devised
the flint-spear wherewith to oppose more effectually the aggressions of
the gigantic carnivora, whose remains abound in the ossiferous caverns.

But if man was created with a tool-using instinct, and with faculties
capable of developing it into all the mechanical triumphs which command
such wonder and admiration in our day, he was also created with a
necessity for such. “The heritage of nakedness, which no animal envies
us, is not more the memorial of the innocence that once was ours, than
it is the omen of the labours which it compels us to undergo. With the
intellect of angels, and the bodies of earth-worms, we have the power to
conquer, and the need to do it. Half of the industrial arts are the
result of our being born without clothes; the other half of our being
born without tools.”[66]

With the growing wants of men as they gathered into communities, novel
arts were developed; and the demands of each new-felt want called into
being means for its supply. Artificers in brass and iron multiplied, and
the sites of the first cities of the earth were adorned with temples,
palaces, sculptured marbles, and cunningly-wrought shrines. But whenever
communities were broken up and scattered, the elements of an acquired
civilisation were inevitably left behind. All but the most indispensable
arts disappear during the process of migration; and although the
wanderers might at length find a home in “a land whose stones are iron,
and out of whose hills thou mayest dig brass,” no arts are so speedily
lost among migratory tribes as those of metallurgy. The hold of the
accumulated wisdom and experience of successive generations must be
partial and uncertain among an unlettered people, dependent on tradition
for all knowledge excepting such as is practically transmitted in the
operations of daily experience. Few indeed of all the wanderers from the
old centres of European civilisation to the wilds of the New World bring
with them the slightest knowledge either of the science or the practice
of metallurgy. Every chemical analyst knows what it is to receive
pyrites for silver, and ochres for iron or gold. Even now the skill of
the American miner has to be imported, and the copper-miners of Lake
Superior are chiefly derived from Cornwall, Norway, or the mining
districts of Germany.

With all our many artificial wants so promptly supplied, even in the
remotest colony, we are slow to perceive how much we owe to the wondrous
appliances of modern civilisation, and its division of labour. The
Dutchman exported his very bricks across the Atlantic, wherewith to
found his New Amsterdam on the banks of the Hudson; and the English
colonist, with enterprise enough to mine the copper and iron of Lake
Superior, still seeks a market for the ores in England, and imports from
thence both the engineers and the iron wherewith to bridge his St.
Lawrence. With such facts before us in relation even to the systematic
colonisation of a highly civilised and enterprising commercial nation,
it is easy to understand what must have been the condition of the
earth’s primeval wanderers. Their industrial arts were all to begin
anew; and thus we see that the non-metallurgic condition of primitive
social life which is designated its Stone Period, is not necessarily the
earliest human period, but only the rudimentary state to which man had
returned, and may return again, in the inevitable deterioration of a
migratory era.

Evidence of various kinds still points to a cradle-land for the human
family towards the western borders of Central Asia, and remote from its
coasts: probably in that range of country stretching between the
head-waters of the Indus and the Tigris. The earliest history of man
that we possess represents the postdiluvian wanderers journeying
eastward, and at length settling on a plain that long afterwards
remained one of the chief centres of history. But the arts there
developed belonged exclusively to a far inland people; and to this day
the rude craft of the Tigris and the Euphrates betrays a total absence
of maritime instinct or skill in navigation. The highest effort of their
boat-builders is little more than to construct a temporary raft, on
which themselves and their simple freight may float in safety down the
current of the great river. Similar rafts are still in use by the
Egyptians, formed of earthenware jars bound together by withes and
cords, and covered with bulrushes. Like the corresponding river-craft of
the Euphrates, these are steered down the Nile, never to return; for, on
their arrival at Cairo, the rafts are broken up, and the jars sold in
the bazaars. Such was the rudimentary condition of navigation in that
great Asiatic hive of nations where man chiefly dwelt for centuries
remote from the sea. But from thence the wanderers were scattered over
the face of the whole earth. The primitive river-craft, therefore, found
an early development into sea-craft; and oceanic migration gave a new
character to the wanderings of the primeval nomads. Thenceforth,
accordingly, those instinctive tendencies began to characterise certain
branches of the human family, as leaders of maritime enterprise, which
may be traced under very diverse degrees of social development: as in
the Phœnicians, the Northmen, the Malays, and the Polynesians; while
other tribes and nations, such as the Celts and the Fijians, though
living on the coast, are tempted by no longings to voyage on the ocean’s

The islands of the Central American archipelago were the first to reward
the sagacity of Columbus, as he steered his course westward in search of
the old East. The arts of their simple natives accordingly attracted his
attention; and although he found among them personal ornaments of gold,
sufficient to awaken the avaricious longings of the Spaniards for that
fatal treasure of the New World, yet practically they were in ignorance
of metallurgic arts, and lacked that stimulus to ingenious industry
which the requisites of clothing call forth in less genial climes. The
natives of Guanahanè, or San Salvador, were friendly and gentle savages,
in the simplicity, if not in the innocence, of nakedness. Their only
weapons were lances of wood hardened in the fire, pointed with the teeth
or bone of a fish, or furnished with a blade made either of the
universal flint, or more frequently, with them, from the large tropical
shells which abound in the West Indian seas. They had learned to turn
the native cotton-plant to economical account; but their chief
mechanical ingenuity was expended on the light barks to which they gave
the now universal name of _canoe_. These were formed from the trunk of a
single tree, hollowed by fire, with the help of their primitive adzes of
flint or shell, and were of various sizes, from the tiny bark only
capable of holding its solitary owner, to the galley manned by forty or
fifty rowers, who propelled it swiftly through the water with their
paddles, and baled it with the invaluable native calabash, which
supplied every domestic utensil, and rendered them indifferent to the
potter’s art.

The canoe has a peculiar interest and value in relation to the
archæology of the New World. With our wondrous steamships, wherewith we
have bridged the Atlantic, we are apt to lose faith in the capacity of
uncivilised man for overcoming such obstacles as the dividing oceans
which had so long concealed America from the ancient world. But the bark
in which Columbus first crossed the Atlantic was in no degree more
capable of braving the ocean’s terrors than the navies of the
Mediterranean had been a thousand years before; and the primitive canoes
of the American archipelago far more nearly resembled the Pinta, or the
Niña with its lateen sails, than the smallest of our modern ocean craft.

Throughout the Polynesian archipelago, fragments of foreign vocabularies
are the chief traces of that oceanic migration by which alone the
descendants of a common race could people those distant islands of the
sea. The recognition of certain Malay and Polynesian words in the
language of the remote island of Madagascar is one striking illustration
of what such intrusive linguistic elements imply. We can thus trace the
primitive voyagers, in their _praus_, or slight Malayan vessels,
navigating an ocean of three thousand miles; and perceive how, even by
such means, the ocean highway was open to the world’s grey fathers in
remotest prehistoric times.

[Illustration: FIG. 50.—Clyde Stone Axe.]

In this view of the case, the canoe of America is the type of a
developed instinct pregnant with many suggestive thoughts for us; and
the traces of the primeval ship-builder’s art accumulate wonderfully so
soon as attention is drawn to it. On the banks of the Clyde, the voyager
from the New World looks with peculiar interest on the growing fabrics
of those huge steamers, which have made the ocean, that proved so
impassable a barrier to the men of the fifteenth century, the easy
highway of commerce and pleasure for us. The roar of the iron forge, the
clang of the fore-hammer, the intermittent glare of the furnaces, and
all the novel appliances of iron ship-building, tell of the modern era
of steam; but, meanwhile, underneath these very ship-builders’ yards lie
the memorials of ancient Clyde fleets, in which we are borne back, up
the stream of human history, far into prehistoric times. The earliest
recorded discovery of a Clyde canoe took place in 1780, at a depth of
twenty-five feet below the surface, on a site known by the apt
designation of St. Enoch’s croft. It was hewn out of a single oak, and
within it, near the prow, lay a beautifully finished stone axe or celt,
represented here (Fig. 50), doubtless one of the simple implements with
which this primitive ship of the Clyde had been fashioned into shape. At
least sixteen other canoes have been since brought to light; some of
them buried many feet underneath sites occupied by the most ancient
structures of the city of Glasgow. It is difficult to apply any
satisfactory test whereby to gauge the lapse of centuries since this
primitive fleet plied in the far-inland estuary that then occupied the
area through which the Clyde has wrought its later channel; but that the
changes in geological, no less than in technological, aspects indicate a
greatly prolonged interval, cannot admit of doubt. Yet primitive man,
alike in Africa and in the New World, is still practising the rude
ingenuity of the same boat-builder’s art which the allophylian of the
Clyde pursued in that remote dawn.

The vessel in which Captain Speke explored Lake Tanganyika was a long
narrow canoe, hollowed out of the trunk of a single tree. “These
vessels,” he says, “are mostly built from large timbers, growing in the
district of Ugubha, on the western side of the lake. The savages fell
them, lop off the branches and ends to the length required, and then,
after covering the upper surface with wet mud as the tree lies upon the
ground, they set fire to, and smoulder out its interior, until nothing
but a case remains, which they finish by paring out with roughly
constructed hatchets.”

[Illustration: FIG. 51.—Clalam Stone Adze.]

The islanders of the Southern Ocean, the natives of many parts of the
African continent, and the canoe-builders of the New World, all employ
the agency of fire to supplement their imperfect tools. The stone axe of
the St. Enoch’s croft canoe is formed of highly polished dark
greenstone. It measures five and a half inches in length by three and a
half in breadth; and an unpolished band round the centre indicates where
it had been bound to its haft, leaving both ends disengaged, as is
frequently the case with the stone hatchets of the American Indians and
the Polynesians. But the accompanying woodcut (Fig. 51) drawn from one
brought by Mr. Paul Kane from the Strait of De Fuca, shows a more
ingenious mode of hafting the stone adze. Such implements are in use by
the Clalam Indians for constructing out of the trunks of cedar trees,
large and highly ornamented canoes, in which they fearlessly face the
dangers of the Pacific Ocean. Some of their canoes, made out of a single
tree, measure upwards of fifty feet long, and are capable of carrying
thirty as a crew. They have thwarts from side to side, about three
inches thick, and their gunwales curve outwards so as to throw off the
waves. The bow and stern rise in a graceful sweep, sometimes to a height
of five feet, and are decorated with grotesque figures of men and
animals. The Indian crew kneel two and two along the bottom, and propel
the canoe rapidly with paddles from four to five feet long, while a
bowman and steersman sit, each with his paddle, at either end, and thus
equipped these savages venture in their light bark upon the most
tempestuous seas. One of their most coveted prizes is the whale, the
blubber of which is eaten along with dried fish, and esteemed no less
highly by them than by the Esquimaux. Since the encroachments of
European settlements on their territories their game has greatly
diminished, and few whales approach the coast; but, when an opportunity
offers, the Indians are enthusiastic in the chase, and the process by
which their prize is secured furnishes an interesting illustration of
native ingenuity and daring. When a whale is seen blowing in the offing,
they rush to their canoes and push off, furnished with a number of large
sealskin bags filled with air, each attached by a cord to a barbed
spear-head, in the socket of which is fitted a handle five or six feet
long. Upon coming up with the whale, the barbed heads are driven into
it, and the handles withdrawn; until the whale, no longer able to sink
from the buoyancy of the air-bags, is despatched and towed ashore. By
just such a process may the whale have been stranded at the base of
Dunmyat, in times when an ancient ocean washed the foot of the Ochil
hills, and the old Scottish whaler revelled in spoils such as now reward
the enterprise of the savages of the North Pacific coast.

[Illustration: FIG. 52.—Grangemouth Skull.]

It is thus seen to how large an extent the primitive canoe may have
sufficed for remote ocean expeditions. The old navigators of the Clyde
were probably not a whit less fearless than the native whalers of the
Oregon coast; and they had to face dangers fully equal to any of those
to which voyagers of the Pacific are exposed, whenever they navigated
the lochs and island channels towards its mouth, or ventured beyond it,
to face the gales and currents of the Irish Sea. The Clyde has supplied
an unusually rich store of illustrations of primitive ship-carpentry;
but the disclosures of another Scottish locality also merit notice here.
The carse of Falkirk is intimately associated with some very memorable
events of Scottish history. It is traversed by the vallum and chain of
forts reared by Lollius Urbicus the Roman proprætor of Antoninus Pius in
the early part of the second century, and is rich in memorials of many
later incidents. But underneath lie far older records. In the year 1726,
a sudden rise of the river Carron undermined a portion of its banks, and
exposed to view a canoe of unusually large dimensions, fashioned with
care from a single oak tree, and lying at a depth of fifteen feet
beneath successive strata of clay, shells, moss, sand, and gravel. The
Statistical Accounts record the discovery, in the vicinity of Falkirk,
of another ancient boat buried thirty feet below the surface, in the
same carse from which the remains of a mammoth were exhumed in
excavating the Union Canal in 1821. Those traces of primitive human art
have already been referred to in the _Prehistoric Annals of Scotland_,
but a further discovery in the same locality confers a fresh interest
upon them. Soon after the publication of that work, when on a visit to
Falkirk, I was shown by Dr. G. Hamilton a human skull, which at once
attracted my attention from its marked correspondence to the
brachycephalic crania of ancient British graves. It is figured here,
Fig. 52, from a careful drawing executed at a later date. The facial
bones and the whole of the base are wanting, but enough remains to show
that it is well developed, according to a type of crania of the early
Scottish tumuli. But what confers a special interest on it is, that it
was found in the same alluvial carse-land as the ancient canoes and the
fossil bones of the _Elephas primigenius_, twenty feet below the
surface, in a bed of shell and gravel, when digging the area of the
large Grangemouth lock of the Union Canal, on the 29th of June 1843.
Buried at such a depth in the detritus of the river-valley, it may be
regarded as a record of the men of the period when the valleys of the
Forth and Carron were navigable arms of the sea; and may even belong to
the epoch when their shores were peopled by a race of fishermen
contemporaneous with the whalers of Dunmyat and Blair-Drummond Moss, and
with the monoxylous boatmen of the Clyde.

Among many of the islands of the Southern Ocean the boats are simple
wooden canoes, pointed at either end, and propelled through the water
with the paddle; but the barks of the true Polynesians are more
elaborate and ingenious. They frequently are double, with a raised
platform or quarter-deck; and are invariably provided with an outrigger,
an article seemingly of Malay origin. So essential, indeed, is the
latter deemed for safe navigation, that the most remarkable
characteristic recognised by the Tahitians, when Captain Cook’s vessels
first revealed to them the wonders of European civilisation, was the
want of the indispensable outrigger. Throughout the mythology of oceanic
Polynesia, Mawai, the upholder of the earth, and the revealer of the
secrets of the future, plays a prominent part. In one of his prophecies,
Mawai foretold that a ship such as had never been seen before, a canoe
without outriggers, should in process of time come out of the ocean. But
to the mind of a Tahitian, an ocean canoe without an outrigger was so
impossible a thing that they laughed their prophet to scorn: whereupon
Mawai launched his wooden dish on the waters, which swam without
outrigger, and the Tahitians thenceforward looked for the strange marvel
of the outriggerless canoe. Cook’s ship was regarded as the fulfilment
of Mawai’s prediction, and still English vessels are frequently called
Mawai’s canoes. The mythic prophecy seems in reality one of those vague
traditions of ancestral intercourse with other members of the human
family, such as, among the Aztecs, led to the belief that the ships of
Cortes had returned from the source of the rising sun with Quetzalcoatl,
the divine instructor of their forefathers in the arts of civilisation.

The population of the great Polynesian archipelago presents many highly
interesting and suggestive features, bearing closely on the question of
oceanic migration. The area of Polynesia proper extends from the small
islands westward of the Pelews to Easter Island, and from the Mariannes
and the Sandwich Islands to New Zealand on the south. In Tongatabu and
Easter Island, as well as in the Micronesian Rota, Tinian, Ualan, and
throughout the Caroline group, remains of massive stone buildings, the
origin or use of which is wholly unknown to the natives, reveal traces
of an extinct civilisation, and afford some possible clew to the strange
ethnological phenomena of the Oceanic archipelago. Professor Dana, who,
as geologist to the United States Exploring Expedition, had abundant
opportunities for observation, came to the conclusion that an immense
area in the Pacific has for ages been gradually subsiding; and that the
numerous Lagoon Islands mark the spots where what were once the highest
peaks of mountains have finally been submerged. Mr. Hale, the
philologist of the same expedition, gathered sufficient data from a
European who had been resident for a time on the island of Bonabe, in
the Caroline archipelago, and from his own observations, to satisfy him
that the remarkable stone structures, both Ualan and Bonabe, were
erected when the sites on which they stand were at a different level
from what they now occupy. “At present they are actually in the water;
what were once paths, are now passages for canoes, and when the walls
are broken down the water enters the enclosure.”

Such an idea seems like a glimpse of far-reaching truths relative to the
unwritten history of that recently explored Southern Ocean. When
Columbus discovered the islands of the New World he found them lying in
thickly clustered groups, and ere long he reached the mainland of a
great continent, which lay in close vicinity to its island satellites.
But it was altogether different with the Columbus of the Southern Ocean.
A strange Antarctic, as well as an Australian continent lay there also,
awaiting new discoverers; but far beyond their coasts the Pacific and
Southern groups dotted the wide expanse of ocean like the stars that
lose themselves in the abysses of night. We read with wonder, as strange
as that which rewarded the revelations of the Western Ocean in the
closing years of the fifteenth century, of the voyages and discoveries
of Byron, Wallis, Carteret, and of Cook and later explorers of the South
Pacific Ocean. When Captain Cook reached the Cape on his return from his
second expedition, in 1774, he had sailed no less than twenty thousand
leagues, through unknown seas, since he left the same point twenty
months before. His grand quest was in search of the _Terra Australis
Incognita_, a continent which it was assumed must exist in the Southern
Ocean, as a counterpoise to the land occupying so large a portion of the
northern hemisphere; but instead of this, the voyagers sailed for days
and weeks through vast seas, arriving by chance, now and again, at some
little island, cut off from all the world besides, yet tenanted by human
beings. And, as later voyagers have noted, on sailing once more into the
limitless horizon, after another long interval, in which many hundreds
of miles have been passed, another island-speck appears; and not only is
it inhabited, but affinities of speech, mythology, and the primitive
ingenuity of native arts, all concur in proving a community of origin.
The idea suggested to the sagacious naturalist is now very familiar to
the scientific mind. The Pacific Ocean is pre-eminently an area of
subsidence, where already not only implements of shell and stone, but
probably carvings, sculptures, and even architectural structures, lie
buried under the coral breccia of a modern cretacean formation, destined
it may be, to puzzle the intelligent research of a remote future, when
the northern hemisphere shall once more become the area of subsidence;
and the islands of the Pacific will constitute the summits of
mountain-chains in the _Terra Australis_ of that coming time.

We must not be misled here, any more than in our estimate of possible
Atlantic voyagers, by the undue contempt with which the European is apt
to gauge the capacity of primitive island mariners. At Vanikoro, the
native canoe is a mere rudely-fashioned trunk of a tree, sufficiently
grooved to afford foot-hold; yet to this the islander attaches an
outrigger, spreads a mat for his sail, and boldly launches forth into
the ocean, though few Europeans would be induced to venture in such a
craft on the stillest pool. Dr. Pickering, when illustrating the ideas
of ocean migration which he was led to form from intimate observations
of widely-scattered and very diverse branches of the human family,
remarks: “Of the aboriginal vessels of the Pacific, two kinds only are
adapted for long sea-voyages: those of Japan, and the large double
canoes of the Society and Tonga groups. In times anterior to the impulse
given to civilised Europe through the noble enterprise of Columbus,
Polynesians were accustomed to undertake sea-voyages nearly as long,
exposed to equal dangers, and in vessels of far inferior construction.
However incredible this may appear to many, there is sufficient evidence
of the fact. The Tonga people are known to hold intercourse with Vavao,
Samoa, the Fiji Islands, Rotuma, and the New Hebrides. But there is a
document, published before those seas were frequented by whalers and
trading-vessels, which shows a more extensive aboriginal acquaintance
with the islands of the Pacific. I allude to the map obtained by Forster
and Cook from a native of the Society Islands, and which has been shown
to contain not only the Marquesas, and the islands south and east of
Tahiti, but the Samoan, Fiji, and even more distant groups. Again, in
regard to the principles of navigation, the Polynesians appear to
possess a better knowledge of the subject than is commonly supposed, as
is shown from recent discoveries at the Hawaiian Islands. One of the
Hawaiian headlands has been found to bear the name of _The
starting-place for Tahiti_: the canoes, according to the account of the
natives, derived through the missionaries, leaving in former times at a
certain season of the year, and directing their course by a particular

But leaving such glimpses of oceanic migration, there is another aspect
in which the ingenuity of the primitive boat-builder of the New World is
exhibited, which is highly characteristic in itself; and also worthy of
notice from some of its elements of comparison with the primeval
ingenuity of the ancient world. Throughout the islands of the American
archipelago, and among the southern tribes, where large and freely
navigable rivers abound, the native canoe was made of various sizes, but
invariably of the trunk of a tree hollowed out, and reduced to the
required shape. Such appears to be the normal type of the primitive
mariner’s craft; but where obstacles interfere with its accomplishment,
the rudest races devise means to obviate the difficulty. The Californian
canoe is a mere float made of rushes, in the form of a lashed-up
hammock; while those of the Navigator Islands, in the Pacific,—so
called by La Perouse, their first discoverer, owing to the graceful
shape and superior workmanship of their canoes,—are formed of pieces of
wood sewed together by means of a raised margin. In this the skilful
carpenter is guided rather by utility or taste, than by necessity, for
the Navigator Islands are fertile and populous, and clothed to the
summits of their lofty hills with luxuriant forests and richly laden

But across the wide area of the northern continent of America, which
stretches from the Gulf of the St. Lawrence to the Pacific, a different
combination of circumstances has given bent to the development of native
ingenuity in the art of boat-building. In the St. Lawrence itself, and
throughout all its principal tributaries, navigation is constantly
impeded by waterfalls or rapids, which constitute an insurmountable
barrier to ordinary navigation. In like manner the country along the
northern and southern shores of Lake Ontario, the valley of the Ottawa,
reaching towards the Georgian Bay and Lake Superior, and much of the
route between that and the Rocky Mountains, is a chain of lakes or
interrupted river navigation. Hence all the principal routes of travel
consist of lines of lake and river united by “portages,” or
carrying-places, over which the canoe and all its contents have to be
borne by the native boatmen, or voyageurs, as the French Canadians and
Half-breeds of the traders and Hudson’s Bay Company are called. For such
mode of transport the wooden canoe would be all but impracticable; and
accordingly, probably ages before voyageurs of European descent had
learned to handle such canoes, the native Indian devised for himself his
light and graceful bark-boat, made from the rind of the _Betula
papyracea_, or canoe-birch, which grows in great abundance, and where
the soil is good often acquires a height of seventy feet.

Portable boats were not unknown to the ancient tribes of the British
Isles. In Mr. Shirley’s _Account of the Dominion of Farney_ in Ulster, a
curious example of a portable boat is described, formed of the trunk of
an oak tree, measuring twelve feet in length by three feet in breadth,
hollowed out, and furnished with handles at both ends, evidently for
facility of transport from one loch to another. The district is one
abounding with small lakes, such as the ancient Irish chiefs frequently
selected as chosen retreats in which to construct their crannoges, or
other insulated strongholds, beyond the reach of hostile surprise. But a
closer analogy may be traced between the Indian birch-bark canoe and the
coracle of the ancient Briton described by Julius Cæsar as a frame of
wicker-work covered with skins. The same kind of canoe is in use at the
present day on the lakes in the interior of Newfoundland, where the
Montagnars from the Labrador coast frequently spend the summer. Their
birch canoes are carefully secured for the return voyage to the
mainland; and a deer-skin stretched over a wicker frame supplies all the
requisites for inland navigation. But the true counterpart to the
British coracle is the Esquimaux kaiak, which consists of a light frame
covered with skin; and as this is brought over the top, and made to wrap
round the body of its occupant, it enables the amphibious navigator,
both of the North Pacific and the Greenland seas, to brave a stormy
ocean in which no open boat could live.

Hamilco, the Carthaginian, according to Festus Avienus, witnessed the
ancient Britons “ploughing the ocean in a novel boat; for, strange to
tell, they constructed their vessels with skins joined together, and
often navigated the sea in a hide of leather.” Upwards of four centuries
later, Cæsar found the same stormy sea navigated by the southern Britons
in their coracles. When, in the sixth century, in the lives of the Irish
Saints, we once more recover some glimpse of maritime arts, it is in the
same coracles—sometimes made of a single hide, and in other cases, such
as the ocean currach of St. Columba, of several skins sewed
together,—that the evangelists of Iona crossed the Irish sea, visited
the Orkney and Shetland Islands, and even, as there is reason to
believe, preceded the Northmen in the discovery of Iceland. The old
Scottish historian Bellenden, writing in the sixteenth century, asks:
“How can there be greater ingyne than to make a boat of a bull’s hyde
bound with nothing but wands? This boat is called a currock, with which
they fish, and sometimes pass over great rivers.” This primitive boat is
even now to be met with in the river-estuaries of Wales, and on various
parts of the Irish coast: the counterpart of the Esquimaux _kaiak_, or
the _baydar_ with which the Aleutian Islanders navigate the intervening
ocean between Asia and America. Dr. Pickering remarks, on encountering
the latter to the north of the Strait of De Fuca:—“From its lightness,
elegance, and the capacity of being rendered impervious to both air and
water, I could not but admire its perfect adaptation to the purposes of
navigation; for it seemed almost to enable man to take a place among the
proper inhabitants of the deep. Such vessels are obviously fitted to
cope with the open sea, and, so far as the absence of sails permits, to
traverse a considerable expanse of ocean.”

It is a curious fact, well worthy of notice, that throughout the
American continent, seemingly so dependent on maritime colonisation for
its settlement by man, the use of sails as a means of propelling vessels
through the water appears to have been almost unknown. Prescott, when
describing the singular suspension bridges, made of the tough fibres of
the maguey, with which the Peruvians spanned the broad gullies of their
mountain streams, adds: “The wider and more tranquil waters were crossed
on _balsas_, a kind of raft still much used by the natives, to which
sails were attached, furnishing the only instance of this higher kind of
navigation among the American Indians.”[67] This statement of the
historian is too comprehensive; for, although the Peruvians were so
essentially an agricultural and unmaritime people, the use of sails in
their coasting trade constitutes one of their noticeable points of
superiority over other nations of the New World. Attention is specially
directed to this by an incident recorded in the second expedition for
the discovery of Peru preparatory to its conquest. Bartholomew Ruiz, the
pilot of the expedition, after lingering on the coast, near the Bay of
St. Matthew, stood out into the ocean, when he was suddenly surprised by
the sight of a vessel in that strange, silent sea, seemingly like a
caravel of considerable size, with its broad sail spread before the
wind. “The old navigator was not a little perplexed by this phenomenon,
as he was confident that no European bark could have been before him in
these latitudes; and no Indian nation yet discovered, not even the
civilised Mexican, was acquainted with the use of sails in navigation.”
As he drew near, it proved to be a native _balsa_, formed of huge
timbers of light, porous wood, and with a flooring of reeds raised above
them. Two masts sustained the large, square, cotton sail; and a moveable
keel and rudder enabled the boatman to steer. On board of it Ruiz found
ornaments displaying great skill, wrought in silver and gold, vases and
mirrors of burnished silver, curious fabrics, both cotton and woollen,
and a pair of balances made to weigh the precious metals. Here were the
first undoubted evidences of the existence of that strange seat of a
native American civilisation, among the lofty valleys of the Southern
Andes, which he was in search of. The balsa’s crew included both men and
women, who carried with them provisions for their voyage, and had come
from a Peruvian port some degrees to the south. Like older voyagers of
the Mediterranean, the Peruvian pilots were wont to creep timidly along
the shore; but the Spaniards encountered them in the open Pacific, where
no European prow had ever sailed. Caught by a sudden gale their bark
might have been borne far off among the islands that stud the Southern
Ocean, and here was the germ of a race of islanders, to whom, after a
few generations, the memory of their Peruvian ancestry would have
survived only as some mythic legend, like the Manco Capac of their own
Incas, or the Mawai of the Polynesian archipelago.


[66] _What is Technology? an Inaugural Lecture._ By George Wilson, M.D.,
Regius Professor of Technology, Edinburgh University.

[67] _Conquest of Peru_, vol. i. B. I. ch. ii.

                              CHAPTER VII.


As the type of oceanic migration, the canoe claims a prominent place
among the primitive arts of man. In it we see the germs of commerce,
maritime enterprise, and much else that is indispensable to any progress
in civilisation. But the primitive ship implies the existence of tools;
and, as we have seen, probably owed its earliest fashioning to the
useful service of fire. Intelligent design was working out the purposes
of reason by processes which, even in their most rudimentary stage,
reveal the characteristics of a new order of life, compared with which
the tool-born ant, the spider, and the bee, seem but as ingenious
self-acting machines, each made to execute perfectly its one little item
in the comprehensive plan of creation.

As industrial artificers, the creatures so far beneath us in the scale
of organisation seem often to put to shame our most perfect workmanship;
yet provided with no other instruments than the eye and the hand, but
guided by that intelligent reason which distinguishes man from the
brutes, we see him, even as an artificer, presenting characteristics
which are altogether wanting in the lower animals. Labour is for them no
sternly imposed necessity, but an inevitable process, having only one
possible form of manifestation; producing in its exercise the highest
enjoyment the labourer is capable of; and in its results leading our
thoughts from the wise, unerring, yet untaught worker, to Him whose work
it is, and of whose wisdom and skill the workmanship, not less than the
workman, appears a direct manifestation. It is not so with man. The
capacity of the workman is a divine gift, but the work is his own, and
too often betrays, in some of its most ingenious devices and results,
anything rather than a divine origin.

If ours be not the latest stage of being, but is to be succeeded by “new
heavens and a new earth,” marvellous indeed are the revelations which
posthistoric strata have yet to disclose. But even they will scarcely
suffice to reveal the most striking characteristics of a being on whom
the economy of nature reacts in a way it never did on living being
before; in whom all external influences are subordinated to an inner
world of thought, by means of which he is capable of searching into the
past, anticipating the future, of looking inward, and being a law unto
himself. His nature embraces possibilities of the widest conceivable
diversity, for his is no longer the law of instinct, but of reason: law,
therefore, that brings with it conscious liberty, and also conscious

But an important and seemingly conflicting element arises out of the
capacity of man for moral progression, to which some ethnologists fail
to give due weight. A suggestive thought of Agassiz, relative to certain
real or supposed analogies between the geographical distribution of
species of simiæ, and especially the anthropoid apes, and certain
inferior types of man, sufficed as the nucleus of Gliddon’s elaborate
monkey-chart, in the _Indigenous Races of the Earth_, illustrative of
the geographical distribution of monkeys in relation to that of certain
types of men. Notwithstanding the very monkeyfying process to which some
of the illustrations of inferior human types have been subjected in this
pictorial chorography, the correspondences are not such as to carry
conviction to most minds. But, assuming, as a supposed _reductio ad
absurdum_, the descent of all the diverse species of monkeys from a
single pair, Mr. Gliddon thus sums up his final observations: “I
propose, therefore, that a male and female pair of the ‘species’
_Cynocephalus Hamadryas_, be henceforward recognised as the anthropoid
analogues of Noah, Shem, Ham, and Japhet; and that it must be from these
two individuals that, owing to transplantation, together with the
combined action of aliment and climate, the fifty-four monkeys
represented on our chart have originated. It is, notwithstanding,
sufficiently strange, that, under such circumstances, this ‘primordial
organic type’ of monkey should have so highly improved in Guinea, and in
Malayana, as to become _gorillas_ and _chimpanzees_, _orangs_ and
_gibbons_; whereas on the contrary, the descendants of ‘Adam and Eve’
have, in the same localities, actually deteriorated into the most
degraded and abject forms of humanity.” In reality, however, whatever
may be said about the possibility of such simian development, possible
human deterioration is an inevitable attribute of the rational, moral
free-agent man: capable of the noblest aspirations and of wondrous
intellectual advancement, but also with a capacity for moral degradation
such as belongs to him alone. The one characteristic, no less than the
other, separates man from all those other living creatures that might
appear in some respects gifted with endowments akin to his own.

Man, as a tool-using artificer, seems to have a rival in the beaver,
felling its timber, carrying its clay, and building its dam; in the
spider weaving its web, more perfect than any net of human fisher; and
even in the squirrel with its provident hoard of well-secured winter
store, or the monkey employing the cocoa-nut and other shell-fruit as
missiles. But in such artificial appliances there is nothing obsolete,
nothing inventive, nothing progressive; whereas the child born amid the
most highly developed civilisation,—the son of a Watt, a Stephenson, a
Brunel,—if reared from infancy to manhood without any knowledge of
mechanical science or the industrial arts, would start anew from the
rudimentary instincts of the tool-using animal, and expend his
ingenuity, not perhaps without some traces of hereditary mechanical
genius, on the primitive materials of flint, stone, horn, or shell.

Man depends for all on his teachers; and when moral and intellectual
deterioration return him to the toolless condition of the uncivilised
nomad, he is thrown back on the resources of his infantile reason and
primary instincts, and reaches that point from which the primeval
colonist has had to start anew in all lands, and work his way upwards,
through stone, and bronze, and iron periods, into the full co-operation
of a civilised community, treasuring the experience of the past, and
making for itself a new and higher future.

The subdivisions of the archæologist designated =The Stone
Period=, THE BRONZE PERIOD, and THE IRON PERIOD, have been brought
into some discredit, in part by what, as a general system, must be
regarded only as a hypothesis, being assumed as involving facts of no
less indisputable and universal application than the periods of the
geologist. In part, also, their non-acceptance is due to wilful errors
of their impugners; and to the want of appreciation of the inevitable
characteristics which pertain to transitional periods, such as chiefly
come under the European archæologist’s observation. So far as the
American Indian is concerned, the New World is in the first transitional
stage still: that of a stone-period, very partially affected by the
introduction of foreign-wrought weapons and implements; and scarcely
indicating, among the numerous tribes of North America, any traces of
the adoption of a superinduced native metallurgy. Such therefore appears
to be a condition of things, the comparison of which with traces of a
corresponding stage in the early ages of Britain, may be of use in
clearing the subject from much confusion.

The special characteristics of the native civilisation which the early
Spanish adventurers found already existing in Mexico and Central
America, will come under review at a later stage; but it cannot admit of
question that throughout the whole Red Indian forest-area metallurgic
arts were unknown, as they still are among the Indians of the North-west
after an intercourse of upwards of three centuries and a half with
Europeans. Copper, indeed, was wrought among them, but it was used
without any application of fire, and as what maybe most fitly designated
a mere malleable stone. In Britain, as I have already observed, “the
working of gold may have preceded the age of bronze, and in reality have
belonged to the Stone Period. If metal could be found capable of being
wrought and fashioned without smelting or moulding, its use was
perfectly compatible with the simple arts of the Stone Period. Masses of
native gold, such as have been often found both in the Old and the New
World, are peculiarly susceptible of similar application by the workers
in stone; and some of the examples of Scottish gold personal ornaments
fully correspond with the probable results of such an anticipatory use
of the metals.”[68] The idea thus formed from an examination of some of
the most artless examples of primeval British goldsmiths’ work, has been
amply confirmed by observing the mode of using the native copper, and
the traces of its former working, among the American Indians. Even now
their highest attainment in metallurgic skill extends only to grinding
the iron hoops with which the Hudson’s Bay fur-traders supply them, into
knives, arrow-heads, and the like substitutes for the older implements
chipped out of flint, or ground from the broken stone. Further
opportunities will occur for illustrating this subject; which is full of
interest to the ethnologist, from the light it throws on the rate of
progress of a barbarous people towards civilisation; or rather on the
capacity of man in a certain undeveloped stage, for witnessing the most
remarkable products of the useful arts, without evincing any desire to
master them.

After centuries devoted to the elucidation of Roman remains, and the
assignment to Roman artificers of much which more discriminating
classification now awards to totally different workmen: the discovery of
weapons and implements of stone, shell, or bone, in nearly every quarter
of the globe, has at length excited a lively interest among the
archæologists of Europe. Made, as these primitive relics are, of the
most readily wrought materials, and by what may be styled the
constructive instincts, rather than the acquired skill of their rude
artificers, they belong to one condition of man, in relation to the
progress of civilisation, though pertaining to many periods of the
world’s history, and to widely separated areas. In one respect, however,
those relics possess a peculiar value to the ethnologist. The materials
employed in their manufacture have within themselves, most frequently,
the evidence of their geographical origin, and in some of them also of
their era. The periods to which numerous European relics pertain may
frequently be determined, like those of older strata, by the
accompanying imbedded or buried fossils. The bones of the _Bos
primigenius_ have been found indented with the stone javelin of the
aborigines of Northern Europe, and dug up even in places of regular
British sepulture. Those of the _Megaceros Hibernicus_ seem, in like
manner, to be traced to a period of ancient Irish colonisation, when
flint-knives and stone hatchets prove the simple character of the native
arts; though even then they furnished the material for constructing one
of the earliest musical instruments. Yet other evidence shows that the
same gigantic Irish deer was contemporary with the woolly rhinoceros,
the mammoth, and the fossil carnivora of the caverns. The _Bos
longifrons_, doubtless, traces its descent from an ancestry not less
ancient; but from its wild herds the native Briton derived his
domesticated cattle, and its most recent relics pertain to an era later
than the Roman times. The ornamented tusks of the wild boar, the bones
of the brown bear, the teeth and skulls of the beaver, carvings wrought
from the walrus ivory, skates formed from the metatarsal and metacarpal
bones of the red-deer and small native horse, with numerous kindred
relics of palæontology within the era of the occupation of the British
Islands by man, all serve to assign approximate dates to the examples of
his ancient arts which they accompany.

Thus within the historic period, as in prior geological eras, the
progress of time is recorded by the extinction of races. The advent of
man was speedily marked by the disappearance of numerous groups of
ancient life which pertain to that transitional era where archæology
begins; though the most recent discoveries of works of art along with
the fossil mammals of the drift, confirm, by new and striking evidence,
the fact that man entered on this terrestrial stage, not as the highest
in an entirely new order of creation, and belonging to an epoch detached
by some overwhelming catastrophe from all preceding periods of organic
life: but as the last and best of an order of animated beings whose line
sweeps back into the shadows of an unmeasured past.

The disclosures of British tumuli, along with rarer chance deposits,
show that the Celtic Briton was an intruder upon older allophylian
occupants; while the presence of the Roman is recorded for us by the
extinction of an ancient fauna, as well as of whole British tribes. What
the Roman partially accomplished, the Saxon, the Dane, and the Norman
completed: displacing the Briton everywhere but from the fastnesses of
Wales; and gradually extirpating all but such animals as are either
compatible with the development of social refinement, or are worthy of
protection as a means of ministering to man’s pleasures. And as it has
been in the Old World, so it is in the New. The progress of the European
colonists not only involves the extirpation alike of the wild animals
and the forests which formed their haunts; but also the no less
inevitable disappearance of the aborigines who made of them a prey. Thus
the grave-mound of the Red Indian, and the relics of his simple arts,
become the memorials of an extinct order of things no less clearly
defined than the post-tertiary fossils of the drift.

But while the remains of extinct species thus serve to determine the
periods at which certain eras had their close, the traces of living or
extinct fauna are no less valuable as fixing the geographical origin of
the ancient colonists, amid whose relics they are found: just as the
elephants, the camels, the monkeys, and baboons of the Nimrod obelisk,
or the corresponding sculptures on the walls of Memphis or Luxor,
indicate the countries whence tribute was brought, or captives were
carried off, to aggrandise their Assyrian or Egyptian conquerors. Among
relics which help to fix the geographical centres of ancient arts, the
sources of early commerce, or the birthplaces of migrating races, might
be noted the tin and amber of the Old, and the copper of the New World.
So also the Mexican obsidian, the clay-slate of Columbia, the favourite
red pipe-stone, or _Catlinite_, of the Couteau des prairies, and the
pyrulæ and conch-shells of the Gulf of Florida, indicate varied sources
of ancient trade or barter, and lines of migration extending over fully
twenty degrees of latitude. Objects wrought in the favourite materials
brought from such remote sources have been found mingling with relics of
ancient tribes in the islands and on the north shores of the great
Canadian lakes, along the southern slope of the same water-shed whence
the Moose and the Abbitibbe pour their waters into the frozen sea of
Hudson’s Bay.

The designation of any primitive stage of industrial arts as a Stone
Period signifies, as has been already sufficiently indicated, that
condition in which, in the absence of metals, and the ignorance of the
simplest rudiments of metallurgy, man has to find materials for the
manufacture of his tools, and the supply of his mechanical requirements,
in the commoner objects which nature places within his reach.

Nothing can well be conceived much more artless than some of the stone
implements still in use among savage tribes of America. Yet it is worthy
of note that it is not amid the privations of an Arctic winter, but in
southern latitudes, with a climate which furnishes abundant resources
for savage man, that the crudest efforts at tool-making are found. In
the report of the United States Geological Survey for 1872, which
embraces Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, and Utah, Professor Joseph Leidy
furnishes an interesting account of numerous implements of art, rude as
any found in the drift, met by him during a survey of the Bridgers Basin
at the base of the Unitah Mountains, in Southern Wyoming. “In some
places the stone implements are so numerous, and at the same time are so
rudely constructed, that one is constantly in doubt when to consider
them as natural or accidental, and when to view them as artificial.”[69]
But with them are mingled implements of the finest finish. The Shoshones
who haunt the region have no further knowledge of them than is indicated
in their belief that they were a gift of God to their ancestors. But
many are sharp, and fresh in appearance, as if recently worked from the
parent block; and though others are worn, and decomposed on the surface,
Professor Leidy does not assume more than a date of “centuries back” for
the oldest of them. For, indeed, he found that the Shoshone Indians had
in use a stone implement of so simple a character that he says, “had I
not observed it in actual use, and had noticed it among the materials of
the buttes, or horizontal strata of indurated clays and sandstone, I
would have viewed it as an accidental spawl. It consists of a thin
segment of a quartzite boulder, made by striking the stone with a smart
blow. It is called a _teshoa_, and is employed as a scraper in dressing
buffalo skins.” Subsequently he discovered a precisely similar
implement, together with some perforated tusks of the elk, in an ancient
Indian grave.

[Illustration: FIG. 53.—Texas Stone Axe, hafted.]

No such rude implements are found among the productions of the arctic
tool-makers. The necessities of the Esquimaux, in their clothing and
hunting, beget systematic habits of industry and matured skill. The
elaborate decorations of their skin and fur dresses, the carving of
their ivory and bone implements, and the ingenuity lavished upon their
children’s toys, all prove how thoroughly the æsthetic, as well as the
industrial arts, are developed by the stimulus which man’s necessities
create. In Fig. 53, an axe, or war-club, is shown, procured from the
Indians of the Rio Frio, in Texas. The blade is a piece of trachyte, so
rudely chipped that it could scarcely attract attention as having been
subjected to any artificial working, but for the club-like haft into
which it is inserted. I am indebted to Mr. Evans for the use of the
woodcut. He describes the haft as formed of some indigenous wood, which
has evidently been chopped into shape by means of stone tools. Nothing
ruder has been brought to light among the earliest disclosures of drift
or cave deposits. Another Texas implement in the Smithsonian collection
at Washington is a roughly shaped flint blade, which, as shown of the
full size in Fig. 54, closely resembles a familiar class of oval
implements of the river-drift. It is curious, indeed, to note the
undesigned correspondence between the implements of races equally widely
separated by time and space. Several examples of stone celts or hatchets
attached to their handles have been recovered in British and Irish bogs,
and in the submerged lake-dwellings of Switzerland.

[Illustration: FIG. 54.—Texas Flint Implement. (1/1).]

All alike show a wooden haft pierced so as to admit of the insertion of
the stone blade, which must have been secured by a withe or thong
tightly bound round it, according to a fashion still practised in
America, and among the islands of the Pacific. But in spite of this
ligature, the wedge-like form of the axe must have had a tendency to
cleave the haft, and so to loosen its hold. The experience of the
ancient Lake-dwellers led them to counteract this by inserting the stone
blade in a socket of deer’s-horn, the end of which is usually cut into a
squared tenon designed to fit into a mortice in the handle. This must
have accomplished the desired purpose, as examples of such deer’s-horn
sockets are common on the sites of lake-dwellings. During the last visit
of Professor Agassiz to his native Swiss Canton, and the village
parsonage of Concise where his early years were passed, he obtained from
Lake Neuchâtel a valuable collection of stone implements, along with
pottery and other illustrations of the arts and habits of the
Lake-dwellers, already referred to. Some of those are specially
interesting as examples of the mode of hafting implements of flint and

[Illustration: FIG. 55.—Chisel and deer’s-horn socket, Concise.]

Fig. 55 shows a perforated deer’s-horn socket with a chisel of
greenstone inserted in it. The exposed part of the blade measures nearly
two inches in length. It must have been secured in its haft by a strong
cement, such as some of the Pacific Islanders employ at the present day
in fastening their axe-heads to bone and wooden handles. In some cases a
tine of the deer’s antler has been left so as to form the handle of the
hammer or hatchet. A rare example of this type is described by Dr.
Clement, among numerous varieties recovered from different localities on
Lake Neuchâtel. The horn of the stag was also at times converted into a
formidable weapon by retaining the brow-antler as the offensive weapon,
and detaching the rest, so as to leave only the main portion of the horn
as a handle. Fig. 56, also from Lake Neuchâtel, may be described as a
stone knife. The blade, which is of polished serpentine, measures 3½
inches in the exposed part, and is still secure in its horn haft. In the
collection of Mr. J. H. Blake of Boston are flint implements recovered
from an ancient Peruvian tomb on the Bay of Chacota, attached to their
hafts by a tough green cement.

[Illustration: FIG. 56.—Stone Knife, Concise.]

It is remarkable to notice how rarely the simple process of perforating
the blade for the reception of the handle was resorted to, even where
the workmen were in the habit of perforating both bone and stone
implements for other purposes. This was no doubt partly due to the
frangible character of much of the material in which they wrought; but
even after the primitive metallurgist had mastered the art of alloying
and casting his bronze, it seems to have been long before he learned to
fit a handle to his axe or hammer by perforating the blade or
hammer-head. Some of the most usual modes of attaching the axe or
hatchet to a haft of wood or bone, in use among the islanders of the
Pacific, are shown in a group of implements from the collection of the
Scottish Antiquaries, Fig. 57. They bear a close resemblance to others
described by Mr. William H. Dall as pertaining to the Thlinkets, a coast
tribe of Alaska, not far to the south of Behring’s Strait.[70] But tools
and weapons of stone, as well as of native copper, are already becoming
rare among the tribes of the North Pacific Coast, owing to the
introduction of iron by the Russian and Hudson’s Bay traders. Previous
to this change, the Alaskans knew metal only in the form of cold-wrought
native copper, as among all the native tribes north of the Mexican Gulf.
Such a recognition of some convenient uses to which the malleable native
metals could be applied as substitutes for stone, can scarcely be
regarded as even an initial step in the transition towards the first
true metallurgic period. This cannot be considered to have been
introduced until the native copper-worker had perceived the wonderful
transformations which could be wrought by fire, and had learned at least
to melt the pure metal, and to mould the weapons and implements he
required; if not to harden it with alloys, and to quarry and smelt the
unfamiliar ores. To this stage the savage tribes of the New World have
not even now attained, after intercourse with Europeans for more than
three centuries and a half. There, on the contrary, the Indians, who
originally possessed only weapons, implements, and personal ornaments of
bone, shell, flint, and stone, or at most of native copper rudely
hammered into shape, are still seen after an interval of upwards of
three centuries of European colonisation and traffic, without the
slightest acquired knowledge of working in metals. They do, indeed,
possess numerous metal implements and weapons, which, as their greatest
treasures, they freely lavish on the loved or honoured dead; but such
traces of metallurgy afford no proof of acquired native art. The copper
kettles of the ancient Huron graves on the Georgian Bay, or the Chinook
coffin-biers on the Columbia river, were brought, not from the copper
regions of Lake Superior, but from France, London, or Liverpool, along
with the beads, knives, hatchets, and other objects of barter, by means
of which the fur-traders still carry on their traffic with the Indian
hunter. At most this only proves that a race, still in its stone-period,
and possessing no greater skill than is required to grind an iron hoop
into lance or arrow-heads, has been brought into contact with a
civilised people, familiar with metallurgy and many acquired arts, such
as the musket and the rifle may most aptly symbolise.

[Illustration: FIG. 57.—South Pacific Stone Implements.]

The same diversity of inventive power and artistic skill is discernible
among the Indians of North America as has been already referred to in
comparing the arts of other uncivilised races. In some constructive
skill predominates, while others manifest a peculiar aptitude for
imitative art. The powers of imitation common to the barbarous and the
civilised nations of the New World, are specially worthy of note; and
will again come under review when referring to the pipe manufacture, so
curiously typical of American art. But meanwhile an equally instructive
illustration of what may thus be designated æsthetic and constructive
instincts may be selected from the diversely gifted islanders of the
Southern Pacific. On the extreme western verge of the Polynesian
archipelago lie the Fiji Islands, occupied by a people remarkable among
the islanders of the Pacific alike for physical and intellectual
peculiarities. The Fijian physiognomy is described as presenting general
characteristics of debasement, when compared with that of the true
Polynesian, and the entire proportions and contour of their figure are
markedly inferior to those of the Friendly and Navigator islanders. This
is the more remarkable in a people dwelling in the midst of abundance,
and enjoying an unusual variety of choice articles of food. Their
ferocious and treacherous habits, however, and the hideous customs of
cannibalism and systematic parricide, with attendant crimes inevitable
in such a social condition, have rendered the Fijian Islands, which seem
fitted by nature to be abodes of happiness, among the most wretched
scenes of moral degradation. Nevertheless it is in this strange
island-group that the arts of the South Pacific have their highest

The Papuans, or Negrillos, appear to be the true inventive race, from
whom the Fijians, who are unquestionably allied to them in blood,
acquired, elaborated, and greatly improved many applications of art and
skill. The Papuans of New Caledonia, though superior in physical
characteristics to other islanders of the Negrillo type, present some
curious analogies to the Australian, especially in their mode of
sepulture. Fig. 58 is an example of their ingenuity in adapting a simple
stone chisel to its haft, so as to serve as a boat-carpenter’s adze. But
the ingenious Negrillo is altogether unsocial and prone to isolation,
and the Fijians manifest an equally strong disinclination to leave their
island-home. It required, therefore, the intervention of a migratory or
aggressive race to diffuse their acquired knowledge and skill; and this
is supplied by the Malayans, who are found in contact with many nations,
and are of a roving disposition, the proper children of the sea.
“Naturally,” says Dr. Pickering, “the most amiable of mankind, they are
free from antipathies of race, are fond of novelty, inclined rather to
follow than to lead, and in every respect seem qualified to become a
medium of communication between the different branches of the human
family.” Such an impressible race of mediators being found, a curious
light is thrown on the diffusion of knowledge and the primitive arts
throughout the widely-scattered island groups of the Southern Pacific,
where almost every Polynesian art, it is said, can be distinctly traced
to the Fiji Islands, while the Fijian himself is so averse to roam.

[Illustration: FIG.58.—Stone Adze, New Caledonia.]

Mr. Wallace, in reviewing the races of the Malay archipelago, dwells on
the marked differences, physically, intellectually, and morally, between
the Papuan and the Malay. The central home of the Papuans is New Guinea
and some of the adjacent islands; but the same ethnical characteristics
are traceable over the islands to the east of New Guinea, as far as the
Fijis. “The Papuan,” Mr. Wallace remarks, “has a greater feeling for art
than the Malay. He decorates his canoe, his house, and almost every
domestic utensil, with elaborate carving; a habit which is rarely found
among tribes of the Malay race.” In the affections and moral sentiments,
on the contrary, the Papuans compare unfavourably with the Malays, who
are gentle and passive in all their social relations. But this is
properly traced to their listless, apathetic character; while the vigour
of the uncivilised Papuan manifests itself in the unrestrained display
of every emotion and passion, even among the women and children, and in
violent collisions, inevitable in the social life of this savage race.
Among such a people the best and the worst characteristics are often
strangely intermingled. The Fiji Islanders use the bow and throw the
javelin with great dexterity; but their peculiar and distinguishing
weapon is a short missile club, which all habitually wear stuck in the
belt, the symbolic national instrument of assassination. Many analogies
of history tend, however, to refute the error of assuming the occurrence
of moral degradation, even when manifested in parricide, cannibalism,
and systematic treachery and assassination, to be necessarily
incompatible with such intellectual development as distinguishes the
Fijians from the Malays or other islanders of the Pacific. Of all the
aborigines of the Pacific, the ferocious New Zealander has proved most
capable of civilisation; and is found moreover to possess a traditional
poetry and mythical legends of a highly striking and peculiar character.
And turning from still undeveloped races of the world, we have only to
study deeds perpetrated by the pagan Saxon, the Hun, or the later Dane
and Norseman, to see in what hideous aspects the energies of a rude
people may be manifested, who are nevertheless capable of becoming
leaders in the civilisation of Europe. To judge by the monkish
chronicles, no Fiji cannibal could surpass, either in savage atrocity or
in hideousness of aspect, the Hungarian or Northman from whom the
proudest of Europe’s nobles claim descent. The chroniclers of Germany,
France, and Italy, dwell on the savage fury of the Huns; and the liturgy
of the Gallican Church of the ninth century preserves the memorial of
the pagan Northmen’s ravages, in the supplication added to its litany:
_A furore Normannorum libera nos_.

[Illustration: FIG. 59.—Fijian Pottery.]

It is obvious therefore that the savage vices of the Fijians are
perfectly compatible with considerable skill in such arts as pertain to
their primitive and insular condition. Their musical instruments are
superior to those of the Polynesians, and include the Pan-pipe and
others unknown in the islands beyond their range. Their pottery also
exhibits great variety of form, and includes examples of vessels
combined in groups, presenting a curious correspondence to similar
productions of Peruvian art. Their fishing-nets and lines are remarkable
for neat and skilful workmanship, and they carry cultivation to a
considerable extent. “Indeed,” remarks the ethnologist of the United
States Expedition, in summing up the characteristics of the Fijians, “we
soon began to perceive that the people were in possession of almost
every art known to the Polynesians, and of many others besides. The
highly-finished workmanship was unexpected, everything being executed
until recently, and even now for the most part, without the use of iron.
In the collection of implements and manufactures brought home by the
Expedition, the observer will distinguish in the Fijian division
something like a school of arts for the other Pacific islands.” Fig. 59
shows two characteristic specimens of their pottery selected from the
Smithsonian collections at Washington. They are extremely well burnt,
and finished with a bright glaze. One of them illustrates a class of
double vessels suggestive of certain analogies with a familiar style of
Peruvian pottery; and the prevailing characteristics of the whole
collection confirm the superiority ascribed to the Fijian artificer. In
such a strangely-gifted savage race we see the degradation of which
human nature is susceptible; and at the same time recognise germs of a
constructive and artistic capacity capable of development into many
marvellous manifestations, if once subjected to such influences as those
which changed the merciless pirate of the northern seas into the refined
Norman, the chivalrous crusader, and the imaginative troubadour.

The native races of America are neither devoid of energy nor ingenious
artistic skill; and the progress attained by the Mexicans and Peruvians,
as well as by the nations of Central America, proved their capacity for
advancement in the arts of civilisation. But the fate which has
everywhere befallen the Red Indians when brought into direct contact
with European settlers, shows how impossible it is to abruptly bridge
over the gulf which separates the infancy of nations from a maturity
like that to which the rude Saxon and Northman attained through the
schooling of many centuries. The Aztecs at the time of the Mexican
conquest were probably not ruder than the first Angle and Saxon
colonists. They were certainly no crueler than the Northmen of the
eighth century. But they were far in advance of the northern tribes from
which, according to Aztec traditions, they traced their descent.

Among the barbarous races of the northern continent, the tribes of the
Iroquois confederacy, though scarcely rising above the hunter stage,
offer a subject of study of peculiar value in reference to the ethnology
of the New World. In the great valley of the St. Lawrence, at the period
of earliest European contact with its native tribes, we find this
confederacy of Indian nations in the most primitive condition as to all
knowledge of progressive arts; but full of energy, delighting in
military enterprise, and amply endued with the qualities requisite for
effecting permanent conquests over a civilised but unwarlike people. Nor
did the primitive arts of the Iroquois prevent the development of
incipient germs of civilisation among them. Agriculture was
systematically practised; and their famous league, wisely established,
and maintained unbroken through very diversified periods of their
history, exhibits a people advancing in many ways towards the initiation
of a self-originated civilisation, when the intrusion of Europeans
abruptly arrested its progress, and brought them in contact with
elements of foreign progress pregnant for them only with sources of
degradation and final destruction.

The historian of the Iroquois,[71] when describing their simple arts and
manufactures, remarks, that in the western mounds rows of arrow-heads or
flint-blades have been found lying side by side, like teeth, the row
being about two feet long. “This has suggested the idea that they were
set in a frame, and fastened with thongs, thus making a species of
sword.”[72] In this description we cannot fail to recognise the
_mahguahuitl_, or native sword of Mexico and Yucatan. In the large canoe
with its armed crew, first met off the latter coast, Herrera tells us
the Indians had “swords made of wood, having a gutter in the forepart,
in which were sharp-edged flints strongly fixed with a sort of bitumen
and thread.” Among the Mexicans this toothed blade was armed with the
_itzli_, or obsidian, capable of taking an edge like a razor; and the
destructive powers of this formidable weapon are frequently dwelt upon
by the early Spaniards. Among the ruins of Kabah, in Yucatan, the
attention of Stephens was attracted by the protruding corner of a huge
sculptured slab, the basso-relievos on which consist of an upright
figure having a lofty plume of feathers falling to his heels; while
another figure kneels before him holding in his hands the very same
weapon, with its flint or obsidian blades projecting from the wooden
socket. The idea it suggests is not necessarily that assumed by
Stephens: that the sculptors and architects of the great ruins of
Central America and Yucatan were the same people whom the Spaniards
found there on their landing. The sculpture may be of a greatly older
date. On its lower compartment is a row of hieroglyphics; and the
suppliant attitude of the armed figure is rather suggestive of a record
of conquest over some barbarian chief of Mexican or more northern
tribes, of whom the flint-edged sword-blade was the most typical
characteristic. Nevertheless, there is a singular interest in the simple
chain of evidence, thus confirmatory of the Aztec traditions of original
migration, and the subjugation of the elder civilised race of Anahuac by
northern warriors: which leads us, step by step, from such rude arts as
those of the Iroquois, and relics of other barbarous tribes in western
sepulchral mounds, to the Mexican armature of the era of the conquest,
and artistic records of the lettered architects of Yucatan.

The history of the Iroquois and their simple arts, illustrates with
peculiar aptness the unwritten chronicles of the New World. In their
rude state they achieved a remarkable civil and military organisation,
and acquired more extensive and enduring influence than any nation of
native American lineage, excepting the civilised Mexicans and Peruvians.
Their own traditions pointed to an era when they migrated from the
northern shores of the St. Lawrence into that region to the south and
east of Lake Ontario, where they dwelt through all the period of their
authentic history; though two members of the league, the Senecas and
Onondagas, claimed to be autochthones, sprung from the soil of that
Iroquois territory. The league embraced the Oneidas, Onondagas, Cayugas,
Senecas, and Mohawks, all united in a strictly federal union; and to
this the Tuscaroras were admitted, on their expulsion from North
Carolina in 1715. The claim of a common origin advanced by a people
occupying territory so far to the south, throws an interesting light on
the migrations of Indian tribes. It is confirmed by the character of
their language, and received practical recognition in the assignment of
a portion of the Oneida territory for their occupation. In the
seventeenth century the Iroquois were the great aggressive nationality
of the continent to the north of Mexico. In the very beginning of that
century, Captain John Smith, the founder of Virginia, encountered their
canoes on the upper part of the Chesapeake Bay, bearing a band of them
to the territories of the Powhattan confederacy. The Shawnees,
Susquehannocks, Nanticokes, Miamis, Delawares, and Minsi, were, one
after another, reduced by them to the condition of dependent tribes.
Even the Canarse or Long-Island Indians found no protection from them in
their sea-girt home beyond the Hudson; and their power was felt from the
St. Lawrence to Tennessee, and from the Atlantic to the Mississippi.

How long before the discovery of this vast region by Europeans, it had
been in occupation by those who claimed to be its autochthones, we have
no other knowledge than their own traditions of migration. But so far as
arts are any evidence of national progress, they were then in their
infancy. The region they occupied offered no advantages for the
inauguration of a copper or bronze era, such as those of Lake Superior
or the Southern Andes supplied to their ancient possessors. Of working
in metals they knew nothing; and only supplemented their primitive
implements, wrought in stone, flint, horn, bone, and wood, by barter
with the European intruders. Nevertheless, for nearly two centuries, the
Indians of the Five Nations, as they were called before the addition of
the Tuscaroras, presented a sturdy and unbroken front to the
encroachments alike of Dutch, French, and British colonists. But their
hostility was concentrated in opposition to the French nation; and as
the rival colonies of France and England were long nearly balanced, it
is not unjustly affirmed by the historian of the Iroquois, that France
owed the final overthrow of her magnificent schemes of colonisation in
North America to their uncompromising antagonism.

Among the Mexicans the arts of a true stone-period had been carried to
the highest perfection, along with a development of those of their
bronze age. On the northern frontier of Mexico, towards the head-waters
of the Great Barauca, is the Cerro de Navajas, the “Hill of Knives,”
where, before the conquest, obsidian was mined for manufacturing
purposes: like the chert and hornstone of the Flint Ridge pits of
Kentucky and Ohio. Examples of elaborately-worked obsidian and flint,
and of polished implements and ornaments of stone, executed by Mexican
artificers, rival the finest specimens recovered among the relics of
Europe’s neolithic period. The Christy collection is specially rich in
objects of this class. One flame-shaped arrow-head chipped with the
nicest art, is evidently executed as a display of lapidary skill.
Another fine spear-blade, made of a semi-opalescent chalcedony which
occurs as concretions in the trachytic lavas of Mexico, measures eight
inches long, and is supposed to have served as a state halberd, as it is
much too delicate for actual warfare. But it is obvious that a finer
material than usual frequently tempted the worker in flint or obsidian
to an unwonted display of his art. In various private collections in
Kentucky, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, I have seen choice specimens of spear
and arrow-heads, and other objects, made of jasper, milky-quartz, and
rock crystal; some of them wrought into fantastic or purely ornamental

A state battle-axe in the Christy collection made of green quartzose
avanturine, measures 11 inches in length. It is a thick wedge, with the
upper part carved as the head of a Mexican idol or king, and the arms
outlined on the blade. Jade, green serpentine, grey granite, agate, and
obsidian of different colours, were all worked into various shapes for
ornament or use, with a care often prompted by the attractive character
of the material, and with a skill no longer known to the native Mexican

[Illustration: FIG. 60.—Honduras serrated Implement.]

In the southern continent also examples of mastery in the manufacture of
flint and stone implements survive, in some cases as the sole memorials
of races which have perished; and traces of the arts of savage tribes in
the primitive condition of a purely stone-period lie everywhere outside
of the remarkable centres of Peruvian civilisation. Three such relics
from the Bay of Honduras are deserving of special notice, from their
unusually large size and peculiar forms. They were found, along with
other implements, about the year 1794, in a cave between two and three
miles inland. One of them is now preserved in the British Museum, and
the others have been repeatedly exhibited at meetings of the
Archæological Institute. The accompanying illustrations will best convey
an idea of their peculiar forms. One (Fig. 60) is a serrated weapon,
pointed at both ends, and measuring sixteen and a half inches long.
Another (Fig. 61), in the form of a crescent, with projecting points,
measuring 17 inches in greatest length, may have served as a weapon of
parade, like the state partisan or halberd of later times. The third,
which is imperfect, is shown in Fig. 62. The whole are examples of flint
implements of unusually large proportions, and chipped with
extraordinary regularity and skill. A well-executed head of a warrior,
in terra-cotta, obtained about the same period, if not indeed along with
these implements, was presented to the Society of Antiquaries of
Scotland in 1798, and is figured on a subsequent page. The unwonted size
of those Honduras implements attracted special notice when first
produced; but this ceases to excite surprise when it is seen that blocks
of flint or hornstone adequate for the largest of them are readily
procurable throughout extensive regions of North America, as in Ohio and
Kentucky. To the north of Ohio, where the material is rare, flint
implements and weapons are mostly of small size. The larger implements
are of stone; and among the Iroquois, the Hurons, the Chippewas, and
other tribes on the shores of the great lakes, the copper of Lake
Superior seems to have been recognised, and sought for, as a fitter
material for large hatchets and spear-heads.

[Illustration: FIG. 61.—Honduras State Halberd.]

[Illustration: FIG. 62.—Honduras Implement.]

In this respect we see the very privations of those Indian tribes
forcing on their notice the resources of the copper region, which might,
among so energetic a people as the Iroquois proved themselves to be,
have at length led to such a mastery of the metallurgic arts as was
achieved by the nations of Mexico and Peru. But their energies were
diverted into far different channels by the very advent of races already
familiar with all the highest acquirements of civilisation; and whatever
time might have developed out of the Iroquois confederacy, akin to the
native civilisation which had already taken root beyond the verge of
their southern conquests, they had little to hope from the triumph of
either of the European aggressors between whom they so long held the
balance. In the rivalry of the French and English colonists the insular
race proved the victors; and when at a later date England and her
American colonies came into collision, the nations of the League took
different sides, and the Hodenosaunee[73] finally ceased to be the ideal
rallying-point of a united people. They had run their destined course;
and now the poor scattered remnants of the once-famous Indian federation
serve only to illustrate how irreconcilable are the elements of high
civilisation with the most vigorous and progressive energy of a people
only maturing the first stage in the progress of nations. They lacked
the qualities which protect an inferior race from extinction when
brought into contact with a long matured civilisation. Passive and
naturally submissive races, like the Malay or the Negro, survive the
intrusion of a dominant race, and are protected by their docility, as
the natural serfs of the intruders. But an energetic people, who find
their chief employment in war and the chase, can be subjected to no
useful servitude. They are separated by too wide a gulf from their
rivals to claim any equality in the rights of civilisation. The only
alternative left for them is to drive out the intruder, or to be
exterminated by him like the bear and wolf. Stone, Bronze, and Iron
Periods are not indispensable steps in the advancement of the human
race; but all experience proves that when such extreme social conditions
are abruptly brought into contact as stone and iron periods aptly
symbolise, the tendency is towards the degradation and final extinction
of the less advanced race.


[68] _Prehistoric Annals of Scotland_, 2d Ed. vol. i. p. 331.

[69] _U. S. Geological Survey_, 1872, p. 652.

[70] _Alaska and its Resources_, p. 418.

[71] Lewis H. Morgan: _League of the Ho-dé-no-sau-nee, or Iroquois_.

[72] See footnote 71.

[73] _Ho-dé-no-sau-nee_, or People of the Long House, expressive of the
numerous assembly in the Council of the Confederacy.

                             CHAPTER VIII.
                              THE METALS.


The same rational instinct which prompted man in his first efforts at
tool-making, guided him in a discriminating choice of materials; and to
this the discovery of metals, and the consequent first steps in
metallurgy and the arts, may be traced. The Bronze Age of Europe derives
its name from the predominance of relics illustrative of a period which,
though old compared with that of definite history, belongs to a
comparatively late era, characterised by many traces of artistic skill,
and of mastery in the difficult processes of smelting ores and alloying
metals. But the dawn of the metallurgic era in the New World is marked
by phases which derive their distinctive character from two widely
separated regions; and of which one supplies an important link in the
history of human progress, at best but partially indicated in the
disclosures of European archæology.

To untutored man, provided only with implements of stone, the facilities
presented by the great copper regions of Lake Superior for the first
step in the knowledge of metallurgy were peculiarly available. The
forests that flung their shadows along the shores of that great lake
were the haunts of the deer, the beaver, the bear, and other favourite
objects of the chase; the rivers and the lake abounded with fish; and
the rude hunter had to manufacture weapons and implements out of such
materials as nature placed within his reach. The water-worn stone from
the beach, patiently ground to an edge, made his axe and tomahawk: by
means of which, with the help of fire, he could level the giants of the
forest, or detach from them the materials for his canoe and paddle, his
lance, club, or bow and arrows. The bones of the deer pointed his spear,
or were wrought into his fish-hooks; and the shale or flint was chipped
and ground into his arrow-head, after a pattern repeated with little
variation, in all countries, and in every primitive age. But besides
such materials of universal occurrence, the primeval occupant of the
shores of Lake Superior found there a _stone_ possessed of some very
peculiar virtues. It could not only be wrought to an edge without
liability to fracture; but it was malleable, and could be hammered out
into many new and convenient shapes. This was the copper, found in
connection with the trappean rocks of that region, in inexhaustible
quantities, in a pure metallic state. In other rich mineral regions, as
in those of Cornwall and Devon, the principal source of this metal is
from ores, which require both labour and skill to fit them for economic
purposes. But in the veins of the copper region of Lake Superior the
native metal occurs in enormous masses, weighing hundreds of tons; and
loose blocks of various sizes have been found on the lake shore, or
lying detached on the surface, in sufficient quantities to supply all
the wants of the nomad hunter. These, accordingly, he wrought into
chisels and axes, armlets, and personal ornaments of various kinds,
without the use of the crucible; and, indeed, without recognising any
precise distinction between the copper which he mechanically separated
from the mass, and the unmalleable stone or flint out of which he had
been accustomed to fashion his spear and arrow-heads. This is confirmed
by philological evidence. The root of the names for iron and copper in
the Chippewa is the same abstract term, _wahbik_, used only in compound
words. Thus _pewahbik_, iron; _ozahwahbik_, copper: lit. the yellow
stone; _metahbik_, on the bare rock; _oogedahbik_, on the top of a rock;
_kishkahbikah_, it is a precipice; etc.

The earliest references to Britain pertain exclusively to the peninsula
of Cornwall and the neighbouring islands, whither the fleets of the
Mediterranean were attracted in ages of vague antiquity, and the traders
from Gaul resorted in quest of its metallic wealth. The mineral regions
of the New World disclose some corresponding records of its
long-forgotten past; and some idea of their present condition is
indispensable for preparing the mind to appreciate the changes wrought
by time on localities which are now being rescued once more from the
wilderness. The vast inland sea, which constitutes the reservoir of the
chain of lakes whose waters sweep over the Falls of Niagara, and find
their way by the St. Lawrence to the ocean, has been as yet so partially
encroached upon by the pioneers of modern civilisation, that the general
aspect of its shores differs but little from that which they presented
to the eye of its first European explorers in the seventeenth century:
or indeed to its Indian voyagers before the Spaniard first coasted the
island shores of the Bahamas, and opened for Europe the gates of the
West. With its wide extent of waters, covering an area of thirty-two
thousand square miles, a lengthened period of sojourn in the regions
with which it is surrounded, and many facilities for their exploration,
would be required, in order to satisfy the curiosity of the scientific
inquirer. But even a brief visit discloses much that is interesting, and
that serves at once to illustrate, and to contrast with what comes under
the observer’s notice elsewhere.

In tracing out the evidence of ancient occupation of the shores of Lake
Superior, I have, on repeated visits, coasted its shores for hundreds of
miles in canoes; and camped for weeks in some of its least accessible
wilds. The force of the evidence is slowly appreciated, even by careful
personal observation; but some description of the ancient copper region
may help the reader to estimate the lapse of time since its
forest-glades and rocky promontories were enlivened by the presence of
industrious miners. The memorials of Time’s unceasing operations reach
indeed to periods long prior to the earliest presence of man, and
present certain lake phenomena, on a scale only conceivable by those who
have sailed on the bosom of these fresh-water seas with as boundless a
horizon as in mid-Atlantic; and who have experienced the violence of the
sudden storms to which they are liable. But while the same broad
ocean-like expanse, and the violence of their stormy moods, characterise
Ontario, Erie, Huron, and Michigan: it is only on Lake Superior that the
traveller witnesses the grandeur and wild ruggedness of scenery
commensurate with his preconceived ideas of such inland seas. Along its
northern and western shores bold cliffs and rocky headlands frown in
savage grandeur, from amid the unbroken wastes of forest that reach to
the frozen regions around the Hudson Bay, while the gentler coast-lines
of its southern shores are varied by some of the most singular
conformations, wrought out of its rocky walls by the action of the
waves. Among such rock-formations, no features are so remarkable as
those presented by a portion of the extensive range of sandstone cliffs,
which project in jagged and picturesque masses from the southern shore,
soon after passing the Grand Sable; and to which fresh interest has been
given by the interweaving of the Algonquin legends of the locality into
Longfellow’s Indian _Song of Hiawatha_.

The Pictured Rocks are situated between the copper regions and the
ancient portage, which has been recently superseded by a canal opening
navigation for the largest vessels from Lake Huron to Lake Superior.
They lie in the centre of the long indentation, which, sweeping from
Keweenaw Peninsula eastward to White Fish Point, forms the coast most
distant from the northern shores of the lake. Here the cliffs have been
exposed through unnumbered ages to the waves under the action of
northerly winds; while a contemporaneous upheaval, prolonged probably
through vast periods of time, has contributed no unimportant share in
the operations by which their striking forms have been produced. Beyond
those the voyager comes once more on rocky cliffs in the vicinity of
Marquette: so named after the Jesuit missionary by whom the upper waters
of the Mississippi were first reached two centuries ago, in 1673.
Important changes have been wrought in the interval. Mineral treasures,
undreamt of by the ancient miners, are now rewarding the industry of the
Indians’ supplanters. The iron period, with its fully developed
civilisation, is invading those forest tracks; and when I first visited
Marquette in 1855, on the bold trappean rocks which form the landing,
abraded and scratched with the glacial action of a long superseded era,
were piled the rich products of the “Jackson Iron Mountain,” which rears
its bold outline at a distance of twelve miles from the shore.
Immediately to the north of this point the promontory of Presque Isle
presents in some respects a striking contrast to the Pictured Rocks;
though, like them, also indented and hollowed out into detached masses,
and pierced with the wave-worn caverns of older levels of shore and
lake. Here the water-worn sandstone and the igneous rocks overlie or
intermingle with each other in picturesque confusion: the symbol, as it
were, of the transition between the copper and iron eras. For it is just
at Presque Isle that the crystalline schists, with their intermingling
masses of trappean and quartz rocks, richly impregnated with the
specular and magnetic oxide of iron, pass into the granite and sandstone
rocks, which intervene between the ferriferous formations and the
copper-bearing traps of Keweenaw Point. Beyond this, the rich
copper-bearing region of the Keweenaw Peninsula stretches far into the
lake, traversed in a south-westerly direction by magnificent cliffs of
trappean rocks, presenting their perpendicular sides to the south-east,
and covered even amid the rocky débris with ancient forest-trees. In
this igneous rock are found the copper veins, which in recent years have
conferred such great commercial value on the district of Michigan; and
there I not only witnessed extensive mining operations in progress, but
have investigated evidences of the ancient miners’ labours which prove
the prolonged practice there, at some remote period, of native
metallurgic arts.

On landing at Eagle river, one of the points for shipping the copper
ores, on the west side of the Keweenaw Peninsula, the track lies through
dense forest, over a road in some parts of rough corduroy, and in others
traversing the irregular exposed surface of the copper-bearing trap.
After a time it winds through a gorge, covered with immense masses of
trap and crumbling débris, amid which pine, and the black oak and other
hard wood, have contrived to find a sufficient soil for taking root and
attaining their full proportions; and beyond the cliffs, in a level
bottom on the other side of the trap ridge, is the Cliff Mine
settlement, one of the most important of all the mining works in
operation in this region. Here I descended a perpendicular shaft by
means of ladders, to a depth of sixty fathoms, and explored various of
the levels: passing in some cases literally through tunnels made in the
solid copper. The very abundance of the metal proves indeed, at times,
an impediment to its profitable working, owing to the labour necessarily
expended in chiselling out masses from the solid lump, to admit of their
being taken to the surface, and transported through such tracts as have
been described, to the Lake shore. The floor of the level was strewed
with copper shavings: for the extreme ductility of the native copper
precludes the application of other force than manual labour for
separating it from the parent mass. I saw also beautiful specimens of
silver, in a matrix of crystalline quartz, obtained from this mine; and
the copper of the district is stated to contain on an average about 3·10
per cent. of silver. This is indeed by far the richest mineral locality
that has yet been wrought. In a single year upwards of sixteen hundred
tons of copper have been procured from the Cliff Mine, and one mass was
estimated to weigh eighty tons. Its mineral wealth was known to the
ancient miners; but the skill and appliances of the modern miner give
him access to veins entirely beyond the reach of the primitive
metallurgist, who knew of no harder material for his tools than the
native rock and the ductile metal he was in search of.

At the Cliff Mine are preserved some curious specimens of ancient copper
tools found in its vicinity, but it is to the westward of the Keweenaw
Peninsula that the most extensive traces of the aboriginal miners’
operations are seen. The copper-bearing trap, after crossing the
Keweenaw Lake, is traced onward in a south-westerly direction till it
crosses the Ontonagon river about twelve miles from its mouth, at an
elevation of upwards of three hundred feet above the lake. At this
locality the edges of the copper veins crop out in various places,
exposing the metal in irregular patches over a considerable extent of
country, many of which have been partially wrought by the ancient
miners. Here, in the neighbourhood of the Minnesota Mine, are extensive
traces of trenches and other mining operations, which prove that they
must have been carried on for a long period. These excavations are
partially filled up, and so overgrown in the long interval between their
first excavation and their observation by recent explorers, that they
scarcely attract attention. Nevertheless some trenches have been found
to measure from eighteen to thirty feet in depth; and one of them
disclosed a detached mass of native copper, weighing upwards of six
tons, resting on an artificial cradle of black oak, partially preserved
by immersion in the water with which it had been filled. Various
implements and tools of the same metal also lay in the deserted trench,
where this huge mass had been separated from its matrix, and elevated on
the oaken frame, preparatory to its removal entire. It appeared to have
been raised about five feet, and then abandoned, abruptly as it would
seem: since even the copper tools were found among the accumulated soil
by which it had been anew covered up. The solid mass measured ten feet
long, three feet wide, and nearly two feet thick; every projecting piece
had been removed, so that the exposed surface was left perfectly smooth,
possibly by other and ruder workers of a date subsequent to the
desertion of the mining trench by its original explorers.

The mining operations of upwards of a quarter of a century have done
much to efface the traces of the ancient works, as every indication of
them is eagerly followed up by the modern miner, as the most promising
clew to rich metalliferous deposits. But towards the close of 1874 Mr.
Davis, an experienced old miner of Lake Superior, recovered from another
ancient trench, in the same region, a solid mass of nearly pure copper,
heart-shaped, and weighing between two and three tons. It lay at a depth
of seventeen feet from the surface, as when originally detached from its
bed by the ancient miners. Alongside of it were a number of smaller
pieces, from a single ounce to seventeen pounds in weight, evidently
broken off the large mass by the original workers of the mine. Numerous
stone mauls and hammers also, weighing from ten to thirty pounds, lay
scattered through the lower débris with which the trench was refilled.
But the absence of any copper tools seemed to point to the final
desertion of the mine, from some unknown cause, at the very time when
its resources were most available.

Attention was first directed to such traces of ancient mining
operations, by the agent of the Minnesota Mining Company in 1847.
Following up the indications of a continuous depression in the soil, he
came at length to a cavern where he found several porcupines had fixed
their quarters for hybernation; but detecting evidences of artificial
excavation, he proceeded to clear out the accumulated soil, and not only
exposed to view a vein of copper, but found in the rubbish numerous
stone mauls and hammers of the ancient workmen. Subsequent observation
brought to light excavations of great extent, frequently from
twenty-five to thirty feet deep, and scattered over an area of several
miles. The rubbish taken from these is piled up in mounds alongside;
while the trenches have been gradually refilled with soil and decaying
vegetable matter gathered through the long centuries since their
desertion; and over all, the giants of the forest have grown, withered,
and fallen to decay. Mr. Knapp, the agent of the Minnesota Company,
counted 395 annular rings on a hemlock-tree, which grew on one of the
mounds of earth thrown out of an ancient mine. Mr. Foster also notes the
great size and age of a pine-stump which must have grown and died since
the works were deserted; and Mr. Whittlesey not only refers to living
trees upwards of three hundred years old, now flourishing in the
abandoned trenches; but he adds: “on the same spot there are the decayed
trunks of a preceding generation or generations of trees that have
arrived at maturity and fallen down from old age.” The deserted mines
are found at numerous points extending over upwards of a hundred miles
along the southern shore of the lake; and reappear beyond it, in
extensive excavations on Isle Royale. Sir William Logan reports others
observed by him on the summit of a ridge at Maimanse, on the north
shore, where the old excavations are surrounded by broken pieces of
vein-stone, with stone mauls rudely formed from natural boulders. The
extensive area over which such works have thus been traced, the
evidences of their prolonged working, and of their still longer
abandonment, all combine to force upon the mind convictions of their
remote antiquity.

At Ontonagon river I met with Captain Peck, a settler whose long
residence in the country has afforded him many opportunities of noting
the evidences of its ancient occupation. Repeated discoveries had led
him to infer the great antiquity of the works; and he specially referred
to one disclosure of ancient mining operations near the forks of the
Ontonagon river, where, at a depth of upwards of twenty-five feet, stone
mauls and other tools were found in contact with a copper vein; in the
soil above these lay the trunk of a large cedar, and over all grew a
hemlock-tree, with its roots spread entirely above the fallen cedar, in
the accumulated soil with which the trench was filled, and indicating a
growth of not less than three centuries. But the buried cedar, which in
favourable circumstances is far more durable than the oak, represents
another and longer succession of centuries, subsequent to that
protracted period during which the deserted trench was slowly filled up
with accumulations of many winters. In another excavation a bed of clay
had been formed above the ancient flooring to the depth of a foot. On
this lay the skeleton of a deer which had stumbled in and perished
there; and over it clay, leaves, sand, and gravel had accumulated to a
depth of nineteen feet. Not only are such indications frequent
throughout the Keweenaw Peninsula, and to the westward and southward of
Ontonagon; but on Isle Royale the abandoned mines disclose still
stronger evidence of their great antiquity. The United States Geologists
remark: “Mr. E. G. Shaw pointed out to us similar evidences of mining on
Isle Royale, which can be traced lengthways for the distance of a mile.
On opening one of these pits, which had become filled up, he found the
mine had been worked through the solid rock, to the depth of nine feet,
the walls being perfectly smooth. At the bottom he found a vein of
native copper eighteen inches thick, including a sheet of pure copper
lying against the foot-wall.” Stone hammers and wedges lay in great
abundance at the bottom of the trenches, but no metallic implements were
found: a proof perhaps that the mines of Isle Royale continued to be
wrought after their workers had been hastily compelled to abandon those
on the mainland. Mr. Shaw adopted the conclusion, from the appearance of
the wall-rocks, the multitude of stone implements, and the material
removed, that the labour of excavating the rock must have been performed
solely with such instruments, with the aid, perhaps, of fire. But the
appearance of the vein, and the extent of the workings, furnished
evidence not only of great and protracted labour, but also of the use of
other tools than those of stone. Accumulated vegetable matter had
refilled the excavations to a level with the surrounding surface, and
over this the forest extended with the same luxuriance as on the natural
soil. In this barren and rocky region the filling up of the trenches
with vegetable soil must have been the work of many centuries; so that
the whole aspect of the deserted mines of Isle Royale confirms the
antiquity ascribed to them.

What appear to the eye of the traveller as the giants of the primeval
forest, are the growth of comparatively modern centuries, subsequent to
the era when the shores of Lake Superior rang with the echoes of
industrial toil. Two or three centuries would seem altogether inadequate
to furnish the requisite time for the most partial accumulation of soil
and decayed vegetable matter with which the old miners’ trenches have
been filled. Four centuries thereafter are indisputably recorded by
recent survivors of the forest, independent of all traces of previous
arborescent generations; and thus in the excavations and tools of the
copper regions of Lake Superior, we look on memorials of a metallurgic
industry long prior to those closing years of the fifteenth century, in
which the mineral wealth of the New World awoke the Spanish lust for
gold. An uncertain, yet considerable interval must be assumed between
the abandonment of those ancient works, and the forest’s earliest
growth; and thus we are thrown back, at latest, into centuries
corresponding to Europe’s mediæval era for a period to which to assign
those singularly interesting traces of a lost American civilisation.

Owing to the filling up of the abandoned mining trenches with water, not
only the copper and stone implements of the miners are found, but
examples of wooden tools and timber framing have also been preserved, in
several cases in wonderful perfection; and these furnish interesting
supplementary evidence of the character of their industrial arts.

[Illustration: FIG. 63.—Miners’ Shovels.]

Of the wooden implements, the most noticeable are the shovels, by means
of which the soil was excavated. The accompanying woodcut represents two
of them worn away to the one side, as in most of the examples found, as
if used for scraping rather than digging the soil. Mr. Whittlesey gives
a drawing of one which measured three and a half feet long, recovered
among the loose materials thrown out from an extensive rock excavation
in the side of a hill about four miles south-east of Eagle Harbour. Part
of a wooden bowl used for baling water, and troughs of cedar-bark, were
also found in the same débris, above which grew a birch about two feet
in diameter, with its lower roots scarcely reaching through the ancient
rubbish to the depth at which those relics lay. Mr. Foster describes
another wooden bowl found at a depth of ten feet, in clearing out some
ancient workings opened by the agent of the Forest Mine; and which, from
the splintered pieces of rock and gravel imbedded in its rim, must have
been employed in baling water. Similar implements have been met with in
other workings, but they speedily perish on being exposed to the air.
All of them appear to have been made of white cedar. The indestructible
nature of this wood, when kept under water, or in a moist soil, is
abundantly illustrated by the experience of settlers who, on attempting
to clear and cultivate a cedar swamp, discover that the dead trunks,
exhumed undecayed after centuries of immersion, rest above still older
cedar-forests, seemingly unaffected by the influences which restore
alike the oak and the pine to the vegetable mould of the forest soil.

[Illustration: FIG. 64.—Miners’ Stone Mauls.]

The process of working the ancient mines seems to be tolerably clearly
indicated by the discoveries referred to. The soil having been removed
by means of wooden spades, doubtless with the aid of copper tools to
break up the solid earth and clay: remains of charcoal, met with in
numerous instances on the surface of the rock, show that fire was an
important agent for overcoming the cohesion between the copper and its
matrix. Before the introduction of gunpowder fire was universally
employed in excavating rock; and where fuel abounds, as in the old Harz
and Altenberg mining districts of Europe, it is even now found to be
quite as economical in destroying siliceous rocks. Stone hammers or
mauls were next employed to break up the metalliferous rock. These have
been found in immense numbers on different mining sites. Mr. Knapp
obtained in one locality upwards of ten cart-loads; and I was shown a
well at Ontonagon constructed almost entirely out of stone hammers,
obtained from ancient workings in the immediate vicinity. Many of these
are mere water-worn boulders of greenstone or porphyry, roughly chipped
at the centre, so as to admit of their being secured by a withe around
them. But others are well-finished, with a single or double groove for
attaching the handle by which they were wielded. They weigh from ten to
forty pounds; but many are broken, and some of the specimens I saw were
worn and fractured from frequent use.

The extent to which co-operation was carried on by the miners, with the
imperfect means at their command, is illustrated by the objects
recovered on exploring one of their trenches, on a hill to the south of
the Copper Falls mines. On removing the accumulations from the
excavation, stone axes of large size made of greenstone, and shaped to
receive withe-handles, and some large round greenstone masses that had
apparently been used for battering-rams, were found. “They had round
holes bored in them to the depth of several inches, which seemed to have
been designed for wooden plugs to which withe-handles might be attached,
so that several men could swing them with sufficient force to break the
rock and the projecting masses of copper. Some of them were broken, and
some of the projecting ends of rock exhibited marks of having been
battered in the manner here suggested.”[74]

But the industrious miners fully appreciated the practical utility of
the metal they were in search of; and it is not to be supposed that they
employed themselves thus laboriously in mining copper, and yet
themselves used only stone and wooden tools. Copper axes, gads, chisels,
and gouges, as well as knives and spear-heads, of considerable diversity
of form, have been brought to light, all of them wrought from the virgin
copper by means of the hammer, without smelting, alloy, or the use of
fire. At Ontonagon, I had an opportunity of examining an interesting
collection of mining relics, found a few months before. These consisted
of copper tools, with solid triangular blades like bayonets, one
fourteen inches, and the others about twelve inches in length; a chisel,
and two singularly shaped copper gouges about fourteen inches long and
two inches wide, the precise use of which it would be difficult to
determine. The whole were discovered buried in a bed of clay on the
banks of the river Ontonagon, about a mile above its mouth, during the
process of levelling it for the purposes of a brick-field. Above the
clay was an alluvial deposit of two feet of sand, and in this, and over
the relics of the ancient copper workers, a pine-tree had grown to full
maturity. Its gigantic roots gave proof, in the estimation of those who
witnessed their removal, of more than two centuries’ growth; while the
present ordinary level of the river is such that it would require a rise
of forty feet to make the deposit of sand beneath which they lay.

[Illustration: FIG. 65.—Ontonagon Copper Implement.]

An experienced practical miner, who had been among the first to reopen
some of the ancient works at the Minnesota mine, recognised in the
copper gouges implements adapted to produce the singular tool-marks
which then excited his curiosity. Subjoined is a representation of a
peculiar type of copper tools, sketched from one of those found at
Ontonagon. The socket, formed by hammering out the lower part flat, and
then turning it over partially at each side, corresponds to some
primitive forms of bronze implements found in Britain and the north of
Europe; but the latter are cast of a metallic compound, and prove a
skill in metallurgy far in advance of the old metal-workers of

Another, and in some respects more interesting discovery, was made at a
point lying to the cast of Keweenaw Point, in the rich iron district of
Marquette, in what appears to have been the ancient bed of the river
Carp. About ten feet above the present level of its channel, various
weapons and implements of copper were found. Large trees grew over this
deposit also, and the evidences of antiquity seemed not less obvious
than in that of Ontonagon. The relics included knives, spear or
lance-heads, and arrow-heads, some of which were ornamented with silver.
One of the knives, made, with its handle, out of a single piece of
copper, measured altogether about seven inches long, of which the blade
was nearly two-thirds, and of an oval shape. It was ornamented with
pieces of silver attached to it, and was inlaid with a stripe of the
same metal from point to haft. Numerous fragments and shavings of copper
were also found, some of which were such as, it was assumed, could only
have been cut by a fine sharp tool; and the whole sufficed to indicate,
even more markedly than those at Ontonagon, that not only was the native
copper wrought in ancient times in the Lake Superior regions, but that
manufactories were established along its shores, and on the banks of its
navigable rivers. The recognition of silver as a distinct metal by the
present race of Indians is proved by the specific term _shooneya_, by
which it is designated in Chippewa; whereas gold is only known as
_ozahwah-shooneya_, or yellow silver.


                  FIG. 66.                FIG. 67.
             Brockville Copper            Gouge.

In 1856, Dr. Thomas Reynolds of Brockville exhibited to the Canadian
Institute a collection of copper and other relics discovered in that
neighbourhood under singular circumstances; and possessing a special
interest owing to the distance of the site from Lake Superior. They
included a peculiarly-shaped chisel or gouge, six inches in length,
(Fig. 67), a rude spear-head, seven inches long (Fig. 68), and two small
daggers or knives, one of which is shown in Fig. 66, all wrought by
means of the hammer, out of native copper which had never been subjected
to fire, as is proved by the silver remaining in detached crystals in
the copper. They were found at the head of Les Galops Rapids, on the
river St. Lawrence, about fifteen feet below the surface, along with
twenty skeletons disposed in a circular space with their feet towards
the centre. Dr. Reynolds remarks of them: “Some of the skeletons were of
gigantic proportions. The lower jaw of one is sufficiently large to
surround the corresponding bone of an adult of our present generation.
The condition of the bones furnished indisputable proof of their great
antiquity. The skulls were so completely reduced to their earthy
constituents that they were exceedingly brittle, and fell in pieces when
removed and exposed to the atmosphere. The metallic remains, however, of
more enduring material, as also several stone chisels and gouges, and
some flint arrow-heads, all remain in their original condition; and
furnish evidence of the same rude arts which we know to be still
practised by the aborigines of the far West.” After discussing the
possibility of their European origin, Dr. Reynolds adds: “There is also
a curious fact, which these relics appear to confirm, that the Indians
possessed the art of hardening and tempering copper, so as to give it as
good an edge as iron or steel. This ancient Indian art is now entirely

The reference thus made to the popular theory of some lost art of
hardening the native copper, afforded an opportunity of testing it in
reference to the Brockville relics. They were accordingly submitted to
my colleague, Professor Henry Croft, of University College, Toronto,
with the following results: The object of the experiments was to
ascertain whether the metal of which the implements are made is
identical with the native copper of the Lake Superior mines; or whether
it has been subjected to some manufacturing process, or mixed with any
other substance, by which its hardness might have been increased. A
careful examination established the following conclusions:—No
perceptible difference could be observed between the hardness of the
implements and that of metallic copper from Lake Superior. The knife or
small dagger was cleansed as far as possible from its green coating; and
its specific gravity ascertained as 8·66. A fragment, broken off the end
of the broad, flat implement, described as a “copper knife of full
size,” having been freed from its coating, was found to have a specific
gravity of 8·58. During the cleaning of this fragment, a few brilliant
white specks became visible on its surface, which appeared, from their
colour and lustre, to be silver. The structure of the metal was also
highly laminated, as if the instrument had been brought to its present
shape by hammering out a solid mass of copper, which had either split
up, or had been originally formed of several pieces. These laminæ of
course contained air, and the metal was covered with rust, hence the
specific gravity. The process by which a flat piece of copper has been
overlapped, and wrought with the hammer into a rude spear-head, is shown
in the accompanying illustration. A portion of very solid copper, from
Lake Superior, of about the same weight as the fragment, was weighed in
water, and its gravity found to be 8·92. The specific gravity of
absolutely pure copper varies from 8·78 to 8·96, according to the
greater or less degree of aggregation it has received during its
manufacture. The fragment was completely dissolved by nitric acid; and
the solution, on being tested for silver by hydrochloric acid, gave a
scarcely perceptible opacity, indicating the presence of an exceedingly
minute trace of silver. The copper having been separated by
hydro-sulphuric acid, the residual liquid was tested for other metals. A
very minute trace of iron was detected. The native copper from Lake
Superior was tested in the same manner, and was found to contain no
trace of silver, but a minute trace of iron. From this, it appears that
the implements are composed of copper almost pure, differing in no
material respect from the native copper of Lake Superior.

[Illustration: FIG. 68.—Brockville Copper Spear.]

It is thus apparent that, in the case of the Brockville relics, the
theory of a lost art of hardening and tempering copper was a mere reflex
of the prevalent popular fallacy; and there is no reason for
anticipating a different result in other cases in which the same theory
is tested.

More recently a well-finished dagger of hammered copper, nine inches
long, and a smaller copper gouge, have been turned up by the plough: the
former at Burnhamthorpe, and the latter at Chinguacousy, in Ontario; and
from time to time similar discoveries suffice to show the ancient
diffusion of the native copper throughout the whole region of the great
lakes. In his account of the discovery of the Brockville relics, Dr.
Reynolds assumes them to pertain to the present Indian race. The
evidences of antique sepulture, however, are unmistakable; and other
proofs suggest a different origin. Mr. Squier, by whom they had been
previously described, remarks in the Appendix to his _Aboriginal
Monuments of the State of New York_:[75] “Some implements entirely
corresponding with these have been found in Isle Royale, and at other
places in and around Lake Superior.” But besides the copper implements,
there lay in the same deposit a miniature mask of terra-cotta of
peculiar workmanship, suggestive rather of relation to the arts of the
Mound-Builders. Mr. Squier has figured it from an incorrect drawing,
which indicates a minuter representation of Indian features than the
original justifies. It is engraved here, the size of the original, from
a photographic copy, and, as will be seen, is a rude mask, such as is by
no means uncommon among the small terra-cottas of Mexico and Central
America. This mingling of traces of a certain amount of artistic skill
with the arts of the primitive metallurgist, entirely corresponds with
the disclosures of the ancient mounds of the Mississippi; and, indeed,
agrees with other partial manifestations of art in an imperfectly
developed civilisation.

[Illustration: FIG. 69.—Terra-cotta Mask.]

I was struck, when examining the rude stone mauls of the miners of
Ontonagon, by their resemblance to some which I have seen, obtained from
ancient copper workings of North Wales. In a communication made to the
British Archæological Institute by the Hon. William Owen Stanley, in
1850, he gave an account of an ancient shaft broken into at the copper
mines of Llandudno, Carnarvonshire. In this were found mining
implements, consisting of chisels, or picks of bronze, and a number of
rudely-fashioned stone mauls of various sizes, weighing from about 2
lbs. to 40 lbs. Their appearance suggested that they had been used for
breaking, pounding, or detaching the ore from the rock; and the
character both of the bronze and stone implements seems to point to a
period long prior to the Roman occupation of Britain. These primitive
mauls are stated to be similar to water-worn stones found on the
sea-beach at Pen Mawr. Mr. Stanley also describes others, corresponding
in like manner to those found on the shores of Lake Superior, which had
been met with in ancient workings in Anglesea. Were we, therefore,
disposed to generalise from such analogies, as ingenious speculators on
the lost history of the New World have been prone to do, we might trace
in this correspondence a confirmation of the supposed colonisation of
America, in the twelfth century, by Madoc, the son of Owen Gwynnedd,
king of North Wales. But the resemblance between the primitive Welsh and
American mining tools, can be regarded only as evidence of the
corresponding operations of the human mind, when placed under similar
circumstances, and with the same limited means, which is illustrated in
so many ways by the arts of the stone-period, whether of the most
ancient or of modern date. Nor can such correspondences be regarded as
altogether accidental. They confirm the idea of certain innate and
instinctive operations of human ingenuity, ever present and ready to be
called forth for the accomplishment of similar purposes by the same
limited means.

From this review of the evidences of long-abandoned mining operations on
the shores and islands of Lake Superior, it cannot admit of doubt that
in them we look on the traces of an imperfectly developed yet highly
interesting native civilisation, pertaining to centuries long anterior
to the discovery of America in the fifteenth century. The question
naturally arises: By whom were those ancient mines wrought? Was it by
the ancestry of the present Indian tribes of North America, or by a
distinct and long-superseded race? The tendency of opinion among
American writers has been towards a unity and comprehensive isolation of
the races and arts of the New World. Hence the theories alike of Morton
and of Schoolcraft, though founded on diverse premises, favour the idea
that the germs of all that is most noticeable even in the civilisation
of Central America may be found among the native arts, and the manners
and customs of the forest tribes. But neither the traditions nor the
arts of the Indians of the northern lakes supply any satisfactory link
connecting them with the Copper-Miners or the Mound-Builders. Of
Loonsfoot, an old Chippewa chief of Lake Superior, the improbable
statement is made that he could trace back his ancestry by name, as
hereditary chiefs of his tribe, for upwards of four hundred years. At
the request of Mr. Whittlesey he was questioned by an educated
half-breed, a nephew of his own, relative to the ancient copper mines,
and his answer was in substance as follows:—“A long time ago the
Indians were much better off than they are now. They had copper axes,
arrow-heads, and spears, and also stone axes. Until the French came
here, and blasted the rocks with powder, we have no traditions of the
copper mines being worked. Our forefathers used to build big canoes and
cross the lake over to Isle Royale, where they found more copper than
anywhere else. The stone hammers that are now found in the old diggings
we know nothing about. The Indians were formerly much more numerous and
happier. They had no such wars and troubles as they have now.” At La
Pointe on Lake Superior, it was my good fortune to meet with _Beshekee_,
or Buffalo, a rugged specimen of an old Chippewa chief. He retained all
the wild Indian ideas, though accustomed to frequent intercourse with
white men; boasted of the scalps he had taken; and held to his pagan
creed as the only religion for the Indian, whatever the Great Spirit
might have taught the white man. His grandson, an educated half-breed,
acted as interpreter, and his reply to similar inquiries was embodied in
the following sententious declaration of Indian philosophy:—“The white
man thinks he is the superior of the Indian, but it is not so. The Red
Indian was made by the Great Spirit, who made the forests and the game,
and he needs no lessons from the white man how to live. If the same
Great Spirit made the white man, he has made him of a different nature.
Let him act according to his nature; it is the best for him; but for us
it is not good. We had the red-iron before white men brought the
black-iron amongst us; but if ever such works as you describe were
carried on along these Lake shores before white men came here, then the
Great Spirit must once before have made men with a different nature from
his red children, such as you white men have. As for us, we live as our
forefathers have always done.”

La Pointe, or Chaquamegon, where this interview took place, was visited
by the Jesuit Father, Claude Alloüez, in 1666, and is described by him
as a beautiful bay, the shores of which were occupied by the Chippewas
in such numbers that their warriors alone amounted to eight hundred. In
the journal of his travels, he thus refers to the mineral resources for
which the region is now most famed:—“The savages reverence the lake as
a divinity, and offer sacrifices to it because of its great size, for it
is two hundred leagues long and eighty broad; and also, because of the
abundance of fish it supplies to them, in lieu of game, which is scarce
in its environs. They often find in the lake pieces of copper weighing
from ten to twenty pounds. I have seen many such pieces in the hands of
the savages; and as they are superstitious, they regard them as
divinities, or as gifts which the gods who dwell beneath its waters have
bestowed on them to promote their welfare. Hence they preserve such
pieces of copper wrapped up along with their most prized possessions. By
some they have been preserved upwards of fifty years, and others have
had them in their families from time immemorial, cherishing them as
their household gods. There was visible for some time, near the shore, a
large rock entirely of copper, with its top rising above the water,
which afforded an opportunity for those passing to cut pieces from it.
But when I passed in that vicinity nothing could be seen of it. I
believe that the storms, which are here very frequent, and as violent as
on the ocean, had covered the rock with sand. Our Indians wished to
persuade me it was a divinity which had disappeared, but for what reason
they would not say.”[76]

Such is the earliest notice we have of Indian ideas relative to the
native copper. It accords with all later information on the same
subject, and is opposed to any tradition of their ancestors having been
the workers of the abandoned copper mines. A secrecy, resulting from the
superstitions associated with the mineral wealth of the great Lake,
appears to have thrown impediments in the way of inquirers. Father
Dablon narrates a marvellous account communicated to him, of four
Indians who, in old times, before the coming of the French, had lost
their way in a fog, and at length effected a landing on Missipicooatong.
This was believed to be a floating island, mysteriously variable in its
local position and aspects. The wanderers cooked their meal in Indian
fashion, by heating stones and casting them into a birch-bark pail
filled with water. The stones proved to be lumps of copper, which they
carried off with them; but they had hardly left the shore when a loud
and angry voice, ascribed by one of them to Missibizi, the goblin spirit
of the waters, was heard exclaiming, “What thieves are these that carry
off my children’s cradles and playthings?” One of the Indians died
immediately from fear, and two others soon after, while the fourth only
survived long enough to reach home and relate what had happened, before
he also died: having no doubt been poisoned by the copper used in
cooking. Ever after this the Indians steered their course far off the
site of the haunted island. In the same relation, Father Dablon tells
that near the river Ontonagon, or Nantonagon as he calls it, is a bluff
from which masses of copper frequently fall out. One of these presented
to him weighed one hundred pounds; and pieces weighing twenty or thirty
pounds are stated by him to be frequently met with by the squaws when
digging holes for their corn. The locality thus celebrated by the
earliest French missionaries for its traces of mineral wealth, is in
like manner referred to by the first English explorer, Alexander Henry:
a bold adventurer, who visited the island of Mackinac, at the entrance
of Lake Michigan, shortly before the Treaty of Paris in 1763, and was
one among the few who escaped a treacherous massacre perpetrated by the
Indians on the Whites at Old Fort Mackinac. In his _Travels and
Adventures in Canada and the Indian Territories_, he mentions his
visiting the river Ontonagon, in 1765, and adds, “I found this river
chiefly remarkable for the abundance of virgin copper which is on its
banks and in its neighbourhood. The copper presented itself to the eye
in masses of various weight. The Indians showed me one of twenty pounds.
They were used to manufacture this metal into spoons and bracelets for
themselves. In the perfect state in which they found it, it required
nothing but to be beat into shape.”[77] In the following year, Henry
again visited the same region. “On my way,” he says, “I encamped a
second time at the mouth of the Ontonagon, and now took the opportunity
of going ten miles up the river with Indian guides. The object which I
went most expressly to see, and to which I had the satisfaction of being
led, was a mass of copper, of the weight, according to my estimate, of
no less than five tons. Such was its pure and malleable state that with
an axe I was able to cut off a portion weighing a hundred pounds.” This
mass of native copper which thus attracted the adventurous European
explorer upwards of a century ago, has since acquired considerable
celebrity, as one of the most prominent encouragements to the mining
operations projected in the Ontonagon and surrounding districts. It is
now preserved at Washington, and is believed to be the same to which
Charlevoix refers as a sacrificial block held in peculiar veneration by
the Indians; and on which, according to their narration, a young girl
had been sacrificed. The Jesuit father did not obtain access to it, as
it was the belief of the Indians that if it were seen by a white man,
their lands would pass away from them. Those various notices are
interesting as showing to what extent the present race of Indians were
accustomed to avail themselves of the mineral wealth of the copper
regions. Illustrations of a like kind might be multiplied, but they are
all nearly to the same effect, exhibiting the Indian gathering chance
masses, or hewing off pieces from the exposed copper lodes, in full
accordance with the simple arts of his first Stone Period; but affording
no ground for crediting him with any traditionary memorials of
connection with the race that once excavated the trenches, and laid bare
the mineral treasures of the great copper region.

The evidence indicative of the great length of time which has intervened
since the miners of Lake Superior abandoned its shores, receives
confirmation from traces of a long protracted traffic carried on by the
subsequent occupants of their deserted territory. The mineral wealth
that still lay within reach of the non-industrial hunter of the forests
which grew up and clothed the deserted works, in the interval between
their abandonment and re-occupation, furnished him with a prized
material for barter. The head-waters of the Mississippi are within easy
reach of an Indian party, carrying light birch-bark canoes over the
intervening portages; and, once launched on its broad waters, the whole
range of the continent through twenty degrees of latitude is free before
them. Through Lake Huron and the Ottawa into the St. Lawrence, and by
Lakes Huron, Erie, and Ontario, into the Hudson, other extensive areas
of native exchange were commanded. Articles wrought in the brown
pipe-stone of the Upper Mississippi, the red pipe-stone of the Couteau
des Prairies, west of St. Peters, and the copper of Lake Superior,
constituted the wealth which the old north had to offer. In return, one
of the most valued exchanges appears to have been the large tropical
shells of the Gulf of Florida and the West Indian seas: from which
wampum-beads, pendants, gorgets, and personal ornaments of various kinds
were manufactured.

Copper is obtained in its native state still farther north; and
Mackenzie, in his _Second Journey_, mentions its being in common use
among the tribes on the borders of the Arctic Sea; by whom it is wrought
into spear and arrow-heads, and a considerable variety of personal
ornaments. Mr. Henry found the Christinaux of Lake Winipagon wearing
bracelets and other ornaments of copper; and most of the earlier
explorers describe copper implements and personal ornaments among
widely-scattered Indian tribes of the New World. But in all cases they
appear to have been rudely wrought with the hammer, and sparingly
mingled with the more abundant weapons and implements of stone, of a
people whose sole metallurgic knowledge consisted in gathering or
procuring by barter the native copper,—just as they procured the red or
brown pipe-stone,—and hammering the mass into some simple useful form.
Silver, procured in like manner, was not unknown to them; and pipes
inlaid both with silver and lead are by no means rare. But it is only
when we turn to the scenes of a native-born civilisation, in Mexico,
Central America, and Peru, where metallurgic arts were developed, that
we discover evidence of the use of the crucible and furnace, and find
copper superseded by the more useful alloy, bronze.

But intermediately between the copper regions of Lake Superior and the
ancient southern scenes of native American civilisation, the Mississippi
and its great tributaries drain a country remarkable for monuments of a
long forgotten past, not less interesting and mysterious than the
forsaken mines of Keweenaw and Ontonagon, or Isle Royale. Those great
earthworks are ascribed to an extinct race, conveniently known by the
name of the Mound-Builders. Careful investigations into their structure
and contents prove these builders to have been a people among whom
copper was in frequent use, but by them also it was worked only by the
hammer. The invaluable service of fire in reducing and smelting ores,
moulding metals, and adapting them to greater usefulness by
well-proportioned alloys, was unknown; and the investigation and
analysis of their cold-wrought tools seem to prove that the source of
their copper was the Lake Superior mines. But though the ancient
Mound-Builder was thus possessed of little higher metallurgic knowledge
than the Indian hunter: he manifested in other respects a capacity for
extensive and combined operations, the memorials of which perpetuate his
monumental skill and persevering industry in the gigantic earthworks
from whence his name is derived. From these we learn that there was a
period in America’s unrecorded history, when the valleys of the
Mississippi and its tributaries were occupied by a numerous settled
population. Alike in physical conformation—so far as very imperfect
evidence goes,—and in some of their arts, these Mound-Builders
approximated to races of Central and South America, and differed from
the Red Indian occupants of their deserted seats. They were not, to all
appearance, far advanced in civilisation. Compared with the people of
Mexico or Central America when first seen by the Spaniards, their social
and intellectual development was probably rudimentary. But they had
advanced beyond that stage in which it is possible for a people to
continue unprogressive. The initial steps of civilisation had been
inaugurated; and the difference between them and the civilised Mexicans
is less striking than the contrast which the evidences of their settled
condition, and the proofs of extensive co-operation in their numerous
earthworks supply, when compared with all that pertains to the tribes by
whom the American forests and prairies have been exclusively occupied
during the centuries since Columbus.

The Mound-Builders were greatly more in advance of the Indian hunter
than behind the civilised Mexican. They had acquired habits of combined
industry; were the settled occupants of specific territories; and are
proved, by numerous ornaments and implements of copper deposited in
their monuments and sepulchres, to have been familiar with the mineral
resources of the northern lake regions, whether by personal enterprise,
or by a system of exchange. What probabilities there are suggestive of a
connection between the Mound-Builders and the ancient Miners will be
discussed in a later chapter, along with other and allied questions; but
to just such a race, with their imperfect mechanical skill, their
partially developed arts, and their aptitude for continuous combined
operations, may be ascribed, _à priori_, such mining works as are still
traceable on the shores of Lake Superior, overshadowed with the forest
growth of centuries. The mounds constructed by the ancient race are in
like manner overgrown with the evidences of their long desertion; and
the condition in which recent travellers have found the ruined cities of
Central America, may serve to show what even New York, Washington, and
Philadelphia: what Toronto, Montreal, and Quebec, would become after a
very few centuries, if abandoned, like the desolate cities of
Chichenitza or Uxmal, to the inextinguishable luxuriance of the American
forest growth.

The accumulations of vegetable mould, the buried forests of older
generations, and the living trees with their roots entwined among the
forsaken implements of the miners, all point to the lapse of many
centuries since their works were abandoned. Changes wrought on the
river-courses and terraces in the Ohio valleys suggest an interval of
even longer duration since the construction of the great earthworks with
which that region abounds. But to whatever period the working of the
ancient copper mines of Lake Superior be assigned, the aspect presented
by some of them when reopened in recent years is suggestive of peculiar
circumstances attending their desertion. It is inconceivable that the
huge mass of copper discovered in the Minnesota mine, resting on its
oaken cradle, beneath the accumulations of centuries, was abandoned
merely because the workmen, who had overcome the greatest difficulties
in its removal, were baffled in the subsequent stages of their
operations, and contented themselves by chipping off any accessible
projecting point. Well-hammered copper chisels, such as lay alongside of
it, and have been repeatedly found in the works, were sufficient, with
the help of stone hammers, to enable them to cut it into portable
pieces. If, indeed, the ancient miners were incapable of doing more with
their mass of copper, in the mine, than breaking off a few projections,
to what further use could they have turned it when transported to the
surface? It weighed upwards of six tons, and measured ten feet long and
three feet wide. The trench at its greatest depth was twenty-six feet;
while the mass was only eighteen feet from the surface; and in the
estimation of the skilled engineer by whom it was first seen, it had
been elevated upwards of five feet since it was placed on its oaken
frame. The excavations to a depth of twenty-six feet, the dislodged
copper block, and the framework prepared for elevating the solid mass to
the surface, all consistently point to the same workmen. But the mere
detachment of a few accessible projecting fragments is too lame and
impotent a conclusion of proceedings carried thus far on so different a
scale. It indicates rather such results as would follow at the present
day were the Indians of the North-west to displace the modern Minnesota
miners, and possess themselves of mineral treasures which they are as
little capable as ever of turning to any but the most simple uses.

Such evidences, accordingly, while they serve to prove the existence, at
some remote period, of a mining population in the copper regions of Lake
Superior, seem also to indicate that their labours came to an abrupt
termination. Whether by some devastating pestilence, like that which
nearly exterminated the native population of New England immediately
before the landing of the Pilgrim Fathers; by the breaking out of war;
or, as seems not less probable, by the invasion of the mineral region by
a barbarian race, ignorant of all the arts of the ancient Mound-Builders
of the Mississippi, and of the miners of Lake Superior: certain it is
that the works have been abandoned, leaving the quarried metal, the
laboriously wrought hammers, and the ingenious copper tools, just as
they may have been left when the shadows of the evening told their long
forgotten owners that the labours of the day were at an end, but for
which they never returned. Nor during the centuries which have elapsed
since the forest reclaimed the deserted trenches for its own, does any
trace seem to indicate that a native population again sought to avail
itself of their mineral treasures, beyond the manufacture of such
scattered fragments as lay upon the surface.


[74] Squier’s _Aboriginal Monuments of the State of New York_. Appendix,
p. 184.

[75] _Smithsonian Contributions_, vol. ii. pp. 14, 176.

[76] _Relations des Jésuites_, vol. iii. 1666 _et_ 1667.

[77] Henry’s _Travels and Adventures_, New York, 1809, p. 194.

                              CHAPTER IX.


The age of bronze in the archæological history of European civilisation
symbolises a transitional stage of very partial development, and
imperfect materials and arts, through which the Old World passed in its
progress towards the maturity of true historic times; but the Bronze
Period of the New World is the highest stage of its self-developed
civilisation, prior to the intrusion of European arts. Whether we regard
the bronze implements of Britain and the North of Europe as concomitant
with the intrusion of new races, or only as proofs of the discovery or
introduction of a new art pregnant with many civilising and elevating
tendencies, they constitute an important element in primitive ethnology.
For a time they necessarily coincide with many monuments and works of
art pertaining in character to the stone-period; just as the stone
implements and weapons still manufactured by the Indians and Esquimaux
are contemporaneous with many products of foreign metallurgy, but
nevertheless are the perpetuation of processes developed in a period
when metallurgic arts were entirely unknown. The evidence that the
British Bronze Period followed a simpler and ruder one of stone is such
as scarcely to admit of challenge, independent of the _à priori_
likelihood in favour of this order of succession. The question however
suggests itself whether metallurgy did not find its natural beginning
there, as elsewhere, in the easy working of the virgin copper, and so
intercalate a copper age between Europe’s stone, and its true Bronze
Period. On this subject Dr. Latham remarks, in his _Ethnology of the
British Islands_, “Copper is a metal of which, in its unalloyed state,
no relics have been found in England. Stone and bone first; then bronze,
or copper and tin combined; but no copper alone. I cannot get over this
hiatus; cannot imagine a metallurgic industry beginning with the use of
alloys.” It is a mistake, however, to say that no unalloyed British
copper relics have been found. No very special attention was directed
till recently to the distinction. Nearly all the earlier writers who
refer to the metallic weapons and tools of ancient Mexico and Central
America, apply the term “copper” to the mixed metal of which these were
made; while among European antiquaries the corresponding relics of the
Old World are no less invariably designated bronze, though in many cases
thus taking for granted what analysis can alone determine. It is an
error, however, that the later nomenclature of archæological periods has
tended to strengthen: partly from the lack of appreciation of the
importance of the argument in favour of the first use of the metals in a
condition corresponding to the most primitive arts, and the discovery of
scientific processes at later stages.

This peculiar interest attaches to the metallurgy of the New World, that
there all the earlier stages are clearly defined: the pure native metal,
wrought by the hammer without the aid of fire; the melted and moulded
copper; the alloyed bronze; and then the smelting, soldering, graving,
and other processes resulting from accumulating experience and matured
skill. But examples of British implements of pure copper have also been
noted. In a valuable paper by Mr. J. A. Phillips, on the metals and
alloys known to the ancients,[78] the results of analyses of
thirty-seven ancient bronzes are given. Among these are included three
swords, one from the Thames, the others from Ireland; a spear-head, two
celts, and two axe-heads: all of types well-known among the weapons of
the “Bronze Period.” Yet of the eight articles thus selected as examples
of “bronze” weapons, one, the spear-head, proved on analysis to be of
impure but unalloyed copper. Its composition is given as copper, 99·71;
sulphur, ·28. In 1822, Sir David Brewster described a large battle-axe
of pure copper, found at a depth of twenty feet in Ratho Bog, near
Edinburgh, under circumstances scarcely less remarkable than some of the
discoveries of works of art in the drift. The workmen dug down through
nine feet of moss and seven feet of sand, before they came to the hard
black till-clay; and at a depth of four feet in the clay the axe was
found. The author accordingly remarks: “It must have been deposited
along with the blue clay prior to the formation of the superincumbent
stratum of sand, and must have existed before the diluvial operations by
which that stratum was formed. This opinion of its antiquity is strongly
confirmed by the peculiarity of its shape, and the nature of its
composition.”[79] In 1850, my brother, Dr. George Wilson, undertook a
series of analyses of ancient British bronzes for me, and out of seven
specimens selected for experiment, one Scottish axe-head, rudely cast,
apparently in sand, was of nearly pure copper.[80] Of eight specimens of
metal implements selected for me by Mr. Thomas Ewbank, of New York, as
examples of Peruvian bronze; four of them, on analysis, proved to be of
unalloyed copper. The rich collections of the Royal Irish Academy
furnish interesting confirmation of this idea of a transitional copper
era. Dr. Wilde remarks, in his Catalogue of Antiquities, “Upon careful
examination, it has been found that thirty of the rudest, and apparently
the very oldest celts, are of red, almost unalloyed copper.” In addition
to those there are also two battle-axes, a sword-blade, a trumpet,
several fibulæ, and some rudely formed tools, all of copper; and now
that attention has been directed to the subject, further examples of the
same class will doubtless accumulate.

A very important difference, however, distinguishes the mineral
resources of the British and the North American copper regions. Copper,
as we have seen, occurs in the trappean rocks of Keweenaw and Ontonagon,
in masses of many tons weight; and detached blocks of various sizes lie
scattered about in the superficial soil or exposed along the lake shore,
ready for use without any preparatory skill, or the slightest knowledge
of metallurgy. Nature in her own vast crucibles had carried the metal
ores through all their preparatory stages, and left them there for man
to shape into such forms as his convenience or simplest wants suggested.
The native silver had undergone the like preparation, and is of frequent
occurrence as a perfectly pure metal, being found, even when
interspersed in the mass of copper, still in distinct crystals, entirely
free from alloy with it. But neither tin nor zinc occurs throughout the
whole northern region to suggest to the native metallurgist the
production of that valuable alloy which is indissolubly associated with
the civilisation of Europe’s Bronze age. In Britain it is altogether
different. The tin and copper lie together, ready for alloy, but both
occur in the state of impure ores, inviting and necessitating the
development of metallurgy before they can be turned to economic uses.
Tin is obtained in Cornwall almost entirely from its peroxide; and
copper occurs there chiefly combined with sulphur and iron, forming the
double sulphuret which is commonly called copper pyrites or yellow
copper ore. The smelting process to which it has to be subjected is a
laborious and complicated one; and if we are prepared to believe in the
civilisation of Britain’s Bronze Period as a thing of native growth, the
early discovery and use of alloys very slightly affects the question.

The ancient American miner of Lake Superior never learned to subject his
wealth of copper to the action of fire, and transfer it from the
crucible to the shapely mould. No such process was needed where it
abounded in inexhaustible quantities in a pure metallic state. If, in
the midst of such readily available metallic resources, he was found to
have used tools of bronze or brass, to have transported the tin or zinc
of other regions to his furnaces, and to have laboriously converted the
whole into a preferable substitute for the simpler metal that lay ready
for his use, it would be difficult indeed to conceive of such as the
initial stage in his metallurgy industry. But Britain presents no
analogy to this in its development of metallurgy arts. Tin, one of the
least widely-diffused of metals, is found there in the greatest
abundance, and easily accessible, not as a pure metal, but as an ore
which is readily reduced by charcoal and a moderate degree of heat to
that condition. This was the metallic wealth for which Britain was
sought by the ancient traders of Massilia, and the fleets of the
Mediterranean; and on it we may therefore assume her primitive
metallurgists to have first tried their simple arts. But alongside of
it, and even in natural combination with it, as in tin pyrites and the
double sulphuret, lies the copper, also in the condition of an ore, and
requiring the application of the metallurgist’s skill before it can be
turned to account. We know that at the very dawn of history tin was
exported from Britain. Copper also appears to have been wrought, from
very early times, in North Wales as well as in Cornwall. Both metals
were found rarely, and in small quantities, in the native state, but
these may have sufficed to suggest the next step of supplying them in
larger quantities from the ores. To seek in some unknown foreign source
for the origin of metallurgic arts, which had there all the requisite
elements for evoking them, seems wholly gratuitous; and, if once the
native metallurgist learned to smelt the tin and copper ores, and so had
been necessitated to subject them to preparatory processes of fire, the
next stage in progressive metallurgy, the use of alloys, was a simple
one. It might further be assumed that, with the discovery of the
valuable results arising from the admixture of tin with copper, the few
pure copper implements—excepting where already deposited among
sepulchral offerings,—would for the most part be returned to the
melting-pot, and reproduced in the more perfect and useful condition of
the bronze alloy. There seems, however, greater probability in the
supposition that if Britain had a copper period, or age of unalloyed
metals, it was of brief duration.

The _cassiteron_, or tin which made the British Islands famous among
Phœnician and Greek mariners, long before the Roman legions ventured to
cross the narrow seas, was derived, as has been noted, from the same
south-western peninsula, where copper is still wrought. The name of
Cassiterides, or Tin Islands, bestowed on Cornwall and the adjacent
isles, seems to imply that tin was the chief export, and was transported
to the Mediterranean, to be mixed with the copper of the Wady Maghara,
and other Asiatic mines, to form the Egyptian, Phœnician, and Assyrian
bronze. Tin, therefore, the easiest of all metals to subject to the
requisite processes, first engaged the skill of the British
metallurgist; and that mastered, the proximity of the copper ore in the
same mineral districts, inevitably suggests all the subsequent processes
of smelting, fusion, and alloy.

The practical value of the alloy of copper and tin was well-known both
to the Phœnicians and the Egyptians. Tin occurs in considerable
abundance, and in the purest state, in the peninsula of Malacca, and
thence, probably, it was first brought to give a new impetus to early
eastern civilisation. Britain is its next and its most abundant source;
and since America was embraced within the world’s sisterhood of nations,
Chili and Mexico have become known as productive sources of the same
useful metal. But the mineral wealth of Mexico and Peru was familiar to
nations of the New World long before it was made to contribute to
European commerce; and to a proximity of the metals best suited for the
first stages of human progress, corresponding in some degree to that to
which Britain’s ancient metallurgy has been traced, the curious phases
of a native and purely aboriginal civilisation may be ascribed, which
revealed itself to the wondering gaze of the first European adventurers
who followed in the steps of Columbus. Whatever doubts may arise
relative to the native origin of British metallurgy, and the works of
art of the European Bronze Period, in consequence of their most
characteristic illustrations being preserved in the mixed metal, bronze,
and not in pure copper: there is no room for any such doubts relative to
the primitive metallurgy of the New World. The American continent
appears to have had its two entirely independent centres of
self-originated metallurgic arts: its greatly prolonged but slight
progressive Copper Period; and apart from this, and in part at least
contemporaneous with it, a separate Bronze Period, with its distinct
centres of more advanced civilisation and better regulated metallurgic
industry, in which the value of metallic alloys was practically

The great copper region of North America lies along the shores of Lake
Superior, and on its larger islands between the 46th and 48th parallels
of north latitude; and from thence its metallic treasures were diffused
by primitive commercial exchanges, throughout the whole vast regions
watered by the Mississippi and its tributaries: including also the
Atlantic states, and the shores of the great lakes. But southward and
westward of this area of diffusion, the Rio Grande and its tributaries,
with the Rio Colorado, drain a country modified by very diverse
conditions of climate, and having a totally distinct centre of
metallurgic wealth and civilising influences. In this central region of
the twin continents of America, as well as independently in tropical
Peru, native civilisation had advanced a considerable way, before it was
arrested and destroyed by the aggressions of foreign intruders. The
peculiar advantages derivable from the proximity of the distinct metals
had been discovered, and metallurgy had been developed into the
practical arts of a true American Bronze Age.

When Columbus, during his fourth voyage, landed on one of the Guanaja
islands, before making the adjoining mainland of Honduras, it was
visited by a large trading canoe, the size and freight of which equally
attracted his notice. It was eight feet wide, and in magnitude like a
galley, though formed of the trunk of a single tree. In the centre a
raised awning covered and enclosed a cabin, in which sat a cacique with
his wives and children; and twenty-five rowers propelled it swiftly
through the water. The barque is believed to have come from the province
of Yucatan, then about forty leagues distant, through a sea the stormy
violence of which had daunted the most hardy Spanish seamen. It was
freighted with a great variety of articles of manufacture, and of the
natural produce of the neighbouring continent; and among them Herrara
specifies “small hatchets, made of copper, small bells and plates,
_crucibles to melt copper_, etc.” Here, at length, was the true answer
to that prophetic faith which upheld the great discoverer, when, peering
through the darkness, the New World revealed itself to his eye in the
glimmering torch, which told him of an unseen land inhabited by man.
Here was evidence of the intelligent service of fire. Well indeed might
it have been for Columbus had he been obedient to the voice that thus
directed his way. All the accompaniments of the voyagers furnished
evidence of civilisation. They were clothed with cotton mantles. Their
bread was made of Indian corn, and from it also they had brewed a
beverage resembling beer. They informed Columbus that they had just
arrived from a country, rich, populous, and industrious, situated to the
west; and urged him to steer in that direction. But his mind was bent on
the discovery of the imaginary strait that was to lead him directly into
the Indian seas, and it was left to Cortez to discover the singular
seats of native civilisation of Mexico and Central America.

When at length the mainland was reached, the abundance and extensive use
of the metals became apparent; and as further discoveries brought to the
knowledge of the Spaniards the opulent and civilised countries of
Yucatan, Mexico, and Peru, they were more and more astonished by the
native metallic wealth. When the Spaniards first entered the province of
Tuspan, they mistook the bright copper or bronze axes of the natives for
gold, and were greatly mortified after having accumulated them in
considerable numbers to discover the mistake they had made. Bernal Diaz
narrates that “each Indian had, besides his ornaments of gold, a copper
axe, which was very highly polished, with the handle curiously carved,
as if to serve equally for an ornament, as for the field of battle. We
first thought these axes were made of an inferior kind of gold; we
therefore commenced taking them in exchange, and in the space of two
days had collected more than six hundred; with which we were no less
rejoiced, as long as we were ignorant of their real value, than the
Indians with our glass beads.”

Ancient Mexican paintings show that the tribute due by certain provinces
of the Mexican empire was paid in wedges of copper; and Dupaix describes
and figures examples of a deposit of two hundred and seventy-six
axe-heads, cast of alloyed copper, such as, he observes, “are much
sought by the silversmiths on account of their fine alloy.” The forms of
these, as well as of the chisels and other tools of bronze, are simple,
and indicate no great ingenuity in adapting the moulded metal to the
more perfect accomplishment of the artificer’s or the combatant’s
requirements. The methods of hafting the axe-blade, as illustrated by
Mexican paintings, are nearly all of the same rude description as are
employed by the modern savage in fitting a handle to his hatchet of
flint or stone; and, indeed, the whole characteristics of the
metallurgic and artistic ingenuity of Mexico and Peru are suggestive of
immature development; though, from the nature of Peruvian institutions,
the civilisation of the latter, like that of China, may have long
existed, with slight and intermittent manifestations of progress. It was
indeed, in many respects, the transitional Bronze Period of the New
World, in which not only the arts of an elder stone-period had been very
partially modified by metallurgic influences, but in which the sword, or
_mahguahuitl_, made of wood, with blades of obsidian inserted along its
edge, the flint or obsidian arrow-head, the stone hatchet, and other
weapons, were still in common use, along with those of metal.

Yet such traces of primitive arts are accompanied with remarkable
evidence of progress in some directions. Humboldt remarks, in his _Vues
des Cordillères_, on the surprising dexterity shown by the Peruvians in
cutting the hardest stones; and, after reference to the observations of
other travellers, he adds:—“I conjectured that the Peruvians had tools
of copper, which, mixed with a certain proportion of tin, acquires great
hardness. This conjecture has been justified by the discovery of an
ancient Peruvian chisel, found at Vilcabamba, near Cuzco, in a silver
mine worked in the time of the Incas. This valuable instrument, for
which I am indebted to the friendship of the Padre Narcisse Gilbar, is
four and seven-tenth inches long, and four-fifths of an inch broad. The
metal of which it is composed has been analysed by M. Vauquelin, who
found in it 0·94 of copper, and 0·06 of tin.” Unfortunately, the
composition of Mexican and Peruvian bronzes has hitherto attracted so
little attention, that it is impossible to obtain many accurate records
of analyses, or to procure specimens to submit to chemical tests. Dr. J.
H. Gibbon, of the United States Mint, favoured me with the analysis of
another chisel or crowbar, brought from the neighbourhood of Cuzco by
his son, Lieutenant Lardner Gibbon, who formed one of the members of the
Amazon Expedition. Through the kind services of Mr. Thomas Ewbank, of
the American Ethnological Society, I also obtained, in addition to
results determined by himself, eight specimens of such Peruvian
implements, though only a portion of them proved to be of metallic
alloys. They were submitted to careful analysis by my colleague,
Professor Henry Croft, and the results in reference to the bronzes are
given on a subsequent page. Mr. Squier, in the Appendix to his
_Aboriginal Monuments of the State of New York_, engraves an implement
found with various Peruvian knives and chisels, about the person of a
mummy, taken by Mr. J. H. Blake, of Boston, from an ancient cemetery
near Arica. On analysis, it proved to contain about four per cent. of
tin. More recently I inspected a valuable collection of antiquities
brought by Mr. Blake from Peru, including a variety of bronze
implements; and he has favoured me with the following results:—“Many
years ago, I made a series of analyses of bronze instruments, knives,
chisels, hoes, etc., which I found in ancient cemeteries in Peru in
connection with embalmed bodies. I have not been able to find my notes
made at the time; but I know that they consisted of copper and tin only,
and that the proportion of the latter varied from upwards of two to four
per cent. After receiving your last letter, I made an analysis of a
small knife found by me, with many other articles, with the body of a
man, in the ancient cemetery near Arica, in South Peru. The handle is of
the same metal as the blade, and at right angles with it, being joined
at the middle. The end is fashioned to represent the head of a llama. On
analysis, the composition proves to be: Copper, 97·87; tin, 2·13.” Dr.
C. T. Jackson communicated another analysis of a “Chilian bronze
instrument, probably a crowbar,” to the Boston Natural History Society.
It contained 7·615 parts of tin, and is described by him as a bronze,
well adapted for such instruments as were to be hammer-hardened.[81] The
general results indicate a variable range of the tin alloy, from 2·130
to 7·615 per cent.; which, in so far as any general inference can be
drawn from so small a number of examples, shows a more indeterminate and
partially developed metallurgy than the analyses of primitive European
bronzes disclose.

Such is all the evidence I have been able to obtain relative to the
composition of Peruvian alloys, and the progress indicated thereby in
scientific metallurgy. It accords with other evidence of their mining
operations. During a recent visit to Peru Mr. James Douglas obtained for
me a set of primitive stone mining implements recovered from an ancient
shaft, exposed in working the Brillador mine, in the Province of
Coquimbo, Chili. They consist of a maul of granite, eight inches long,
with a groove wrought round the centre and over the thicker end; one of
diorite, also with a groove about one-third from the thicker end; a
conical hammer of granite; and another implement made of diorite,
apparently designed for pounding the copper ore. It has indentations
worked in the sides for the fingers and thumb; and when found was
covered at one end with green oxide of copper, as if from use in
pounding the ore. Near the mine are ancient graves indicated by circles
of stones; within which the skeletons are disposed in a sitting posture,
accompanied by conical bones and rude pottery. Such mining implements
were, no doubt, supplemented with others of metal; but so far as they
illustrate the progress of the ancient miners of Chili, the evidence
fully accords with the ideas otherwise formed of the Peruvians as a
people who had discovered for themselves the rudiments of civilisation,
but who had as yet very partially attained to any mastery of the arts
which have been matured in modern centuries for Europe. This agrees with
the description furnished by Dr. Tschudi of some of the metallurgic
processes still practised in Peru. “The Cordillera, in the neighbourhood
of Yauli,” he remarks, “is exceedingly rich in lead ore containing
silver. Within the circuit of a few miles above eight hundred shafts
have been made, but they have not been found sufficiently productive to
encourage extensive mining works. The difficulties which impede
mine-working in these parts are caused chiefly by the dearness of labour
and the scarcity of fuel. There being a total want of wood, the only
fuel that can be obtained consists of the dried dung of sheep, llamas,
and huanacos. This fuel is called _taquia_. It produces a very brisk and
intense flame, and most of the mine-owners prefer it to coal. The
process of smelting, as practised by the Indians, though extremely rude
and imperfect, is adapted to local circumstances. All European attempts
to improve the system of smelting in these districts have either totally
failed, or in their results have proved less effective than the simple
Indian method. The Indian furnaces can, moreover, be easily erected in
the vicinity of the mines, and when the metal is not very abundant the
furnaces may be abandoned without any great sacrifice. For the price of
one European furnace the Indians may build more than a dozen, in each of
which, notwithstanding the paucity of fuel, a considerably greater
quantity of metal may be smelted than in one of European construction.”
At the village of Yauli, near the mines referred to, situated at an
elevation of 13,100 feet above the sea, from twelve to fourteen thousand
Indians are congregated together, chiefly engaged in mining, after the
fashion handed down to them from generations before the Conquest. Their
processes correspond with the imperfect results disclosed by the
analysis of native alloys; as well as by other proofs that the Peruvians
were also accustomed to work the native copper into tools and personal
ornaments for common use, very much in the same fashion as the ancient
metallurgists of the Ohio valley.

The contrast which the civilisation alike of Mexico and Peru presents,
when compared with the highest arts pertaining to any of the tribes of
North America, is well calculated to excite admiration. But the wonder
of the Spanish conquerors at their gems and gold, the ready credulity of
the missionary priests in their anxiety to magnify the gorgeous paganism
which they had overthrown, and the patriotic exaggeration of later
chroniclers of native descent, have all tended to overdraw the picture
of the beneficent despotism of the Incas of Peru; or the crueller but
not less magnificent rule of the Caciques of Mexico. With a willing
credulity Spanish historians perpetuated what the Peruvian Garcilasso
and the Mexican Ixtlilxochitl related, in their adaptations of native
history and traditions to European conceptions. Religious, political,
and social analogies to European ideas and institutions, accordingly,
strike the modern student with wonder and admiration; nor has the gifted
author of the _Conquests of Mexico and Peru_ always sufficiently
discriminated between the glowing romances begot by an alliance between
the barbarous magnificence of a rude native despotism and the associated
ideas of European institutions. The metallic treasures of the Incas of
Peru are probably not exaggerated; and if so, the precious metals with
which their palaces and temples were adorned would have been the index,
in any European capital, of a wealth sufficient to employ the
merchant-navies of Venice, Holland, or England in the commerce of the
world. But in Peru this was the mere evidence of the abundance of the
precious metals in a country where they were as little the
representatives of a commercial currency as the feathers of the
coraquenque, which were reserved exclusively for the decoration of

The Peruvians occupied a long extent of sea-coast, but no commercial
enterprise tempted them to launch their navies on the Pacific, excepting
for the most partial coasting transit. The great mass of the people
patiently wrought to produce from their varied tropical climates and
fertile soil the agricultural produce on which the entire community
depended; resembling in this, as well as in the vast structures wrought
by a patiently submissive people at the will of their absolute rulers,
the great oriental despotisms when in their earliest and least
licentious forms. Their own traditions traced the dawn of their
government no further back than the twelfth century; and the
characteristics of their imperfect and unequally developed civilisation
confirm the inference that they have not in this respect departed from
the invariable tendency of historic myth and tradition to exaggerate the
national age. Extensive ruins still existing on the shores of Lake
Titicaca are affirmed by the Peruvians to have existed before the Incas
arrived. But slight importance can be attached to the traditions of an
unlettered people concerning events of any kind dating four or five
centuries back. The authority of Bede is of little value relative to
Jute or Anglo-Saxon colonisation less than three centuries before his
time; and the modern New Englander, with deeds and parchments, as well
as abundance of printed history to help his tradition, cannot make up
his mind as to whether the famous Newport Round Tower was built by a
Norse viking of the eleventh, or a New England miller of the seventeenth
century. “No account,” says Prescott, “assigns to the Inca dynasty more
than thirteen princes before the Conquest. But this number is altogether
too small to have spread over four hundred years, and would not carry
back the foundations of the monarchy, on any probable computation,
beyond two centuries and a half—an antiquity not incredible in itself,
and which, it may be remarked, does not precede by more than half a
century the alleged foundation of the capital of Mexico.” Humboldt, in
his _Vues des Cordillères_, indicates the borders of Lake Titicaca, the
district of Callao, and the high plains of Tiahuanaco, as the theatre of
ancient American civilisation; and Prescott, in view of the apparently
recent origin of the Incas, assumes that they were preceded in Peru by
another civilised race, which, in conformity with native traditions, he
would derive from this same cradle-land of South American arts. Beyond
this, however, he does not attempt to penetrate into that unchronicled
past. Who this people were, and whence they came, may afford a tempting
theme for inquiry to the speculative ethnologist; but it is a land of
darkness lying beyond the domain of history. The same mists that hang
round the origin of the Incas continue to settle on their subsequent
annals; and so imperfect were the records employed by the Peruvians, and
so confused and contradictory their traditions, that the historian finds
no firm footing on which to stand till within a century of the Spanish

In reality only a very small portion of what is called Peruvian history
prior to that conquest can be regarded as anything but a historical
romance; and the exaggerated conceptions relative to the completeness
and consistent development alike of Peruvian and Mexican civilisation,
are based on the old axiom which has so often misled the archæologist,
_ex pede Herculem_.

Viewed, however, without exaggeration, the progress in mechanical skill
and artistic ingenuity attained by both of the semi-civilised American
nations, is very remarkable; and seems to find its nearest analogy among
the modern Chinese and Japanese. Small mirrors of polished bronze now in
use in Japan exactly reproduce some of those found in the royal tombs of
Peru. These tombs of the Incas, and also their royal and other
depositories of treasure, have disclosed many specimens of curious and
elaborate metallurgic skill: bracelets, collars, and other personal
ornaments of gold, vases of the same abundant precious metal, and also
of silver; mirrors of burnished silver and bronze, as well as of
obsidian; polished masks, rings, and cups of the same intractable
material; finely adjusted balances made in silver; bells both of silver
and bronze; and numerous commoner articles of copper, or of the more
useful alloy of copper and tin, of which their tools were chiefly made.

But while the arts of civilisation were being fostered on those southern
plateaux of the Andes, another seat of native American civilisation had
been founded on the corresponding plateaux of the northern continent,
and the Aztecs were building up an empire even more marvellous than that
of the Incas. The site of the latter is among the most remarkable of all
the scenes consecrated to such memories. On the lofty table-land which
lies between the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific Ocean, at an elevation
of nearly seven thousand five hundred feet, the valley of Mexico lies
engirdled by its ramparts of porphyritic rock, like a vast fortress
provided by nature for guarding the infancy of American civilisation.
Here was the scene of the heroic age of Toltec Art, where the
foundations of all later progress were laid, and architecture achieved
its earliest triumphs in the New World on the temples and towers of
Tula, the ruined remains of which attracted the attention of the
Spaniards at the time of the Conquest. But the history of the Toltecs
and their ruined edifices stands on the border lines of romance and
fable, like that of the Druid builders of Carnac and Avebury. To them,
according to tradition and such historical evidence as is accessible,
succeeded their Aztec or Mexican supplanters, along with the Acolhuans,
or Tezcucans, as they were latterly called from their capital Tezcuco.
Mr. Edward B. Tylor describes an ancient arch which still stands there.
It is a skew-bridge of twenty feet span, built with slabs of stone set
on edge in the form of a roof resting on two buttresses; and is an
ingenious approximation to the true arch.[82] On the opposite shores of
the same Mexican lake, the largest of five inland waters that
diversified the surface of that great table-land valley, stood Tezcuco
and Mexico, the capitals of the two most important states within which
the native civilisation of the North American continent developed
itself. From the older Toltecans, the encroaching Tezcucans are believed
to have derived the germs of that progress, which is best known to us in
connection with the true Aztec or Mexican state. Legends of the golden
age and heroic races of Anahuac abound, and have been rendered into
their least extravagant forms by the patriotic zeal of Ixtlilxochitl, a
lineal descendant of the royal line of Tezcuco. But the true Mexicans
are acknowledged to be of recent origin, and the founding of Mexico is
assigned to A.D. 1326. Among the special evidences of their civilisation
is their calendar. By the unaided results of native science the dwellers
on the Mexican plateau had effected an adjustment of civil to solar
time, so nearly correct that when the Spaniards landed on their coast,
their own reckoning, according to the unreformed Julian calendar, was
nearly eleven days in error, compared with that of the barbarian nation
whose civilisation they so speedily effaced. But the difference thus
noted represented in the European calendar the accumulated error of
upwards of sixteen centuries; so that the approximation of Mexican
computation to true solar time is probably only a proof of the recent
adjustment of their calendar; and so confirms the probability of the
founding of the Mexican capital within two centuries of its overthrow.
But the founders of Tenochtitlan, as the new capital was called, were a
vigorous, enterprising, and ferocious race. The later name of Mexico was
derived from the Aztec war-god Mexitli, whose favours to his votaries
enabled them to form a powerful state by conquest, to enrich themselves
with spoil, and to replace the rude structures of their city’s founders
with substantial and ornate buildings of stone.

Whatever gloze of mild paternal absolutism may linger around our
conceptions of the prehistoric chronicles of Peru, a clearer light
illuminates the harsh realities of Mexican sovereignty. The god of war
was the supreme deity of the Aztecs, worshipped with hideous rites of
blood. Their civil and military codes, according to the narrative of
their conquerors, were alike cruel as that of Draco; and their religious
worship was a system of austere fanaticism and loathsome butchery, which
seemed to refine the cruelties of the Red Indian savage into a ritual
service fit only for the devil. But besides their hideous war-god, the
Mexican mythology was graced by a beneficent divinity, named
Quetzalcoatl, the instructor of the Aztecs in the use of metals, in
agriculture, and in the arts of government. This and similar elements of
Mexican mythology have been regarded as traces of a milder faith
inherited from their Toltecan predecessors. The idea is one supported by
many probabilities, as well as by some evidence. The early history of
the Northmen, however, in which we witness the blending of a rich poetic
fancy, wherein lay the germ of later Norman romance and chivalry, with
cruelties pertaining to a creed little less bloody than that of the
Mexican warrior, shows that no such theory is needed to account for the
incongruities of the religious system of the Aztecs. In truth, the
ferocity of a semi-barbarous people is often nothing more than its
perverted excess of energy; and, as has been already noted in reference
to the Caribs, is more easily dealt with, and turned into healthful and
beneficent action, than the cowardly craft of the slave. It is only when
such hideous rites are consciously engrafted on the usages of a people
already far in advance of such a semi-barbarous childhood, as in the
adoption of the Inquisition by Spain at the commencement of its modern
history, that they prove utterly baneful; because the nation is already
past that stage of progress in which it can naturally outgrow them.

Hideous, therefore, as were the human sacrifices, with their annual
thousands of victims; the offerings of infants to propitiate Tlaloc,
their rain-god; and the loathsome banquets on the bodies of their
sacrificed victims:—if indeed this be not an exaggeration of Spanish
credulity and fanaticism;—it is nevertheless difficult to concur in the
verdict of the gifted historian of _The Conquest of Mexico_, that “it
was beneficently ordered by Providence that the land should be delivered
over to another race who would rescue it from the brutish superstitions
that daily extended wider and wider, with extent of empire.” The rule of
the conquerors, with their Dominican ministers of religion, was no
beneficent sway; and its fruits in later times have not proved of such
value as to reconcile the student of that strange old native
civilisation of the votaries of Quetzalcoatl, to its abrupt arrestment,
at a stage which can only be paralleled by the earlier centuries of
Egyptian progress.

Metallurgic arts were carried in some respects further by the Mexicans
than by the Peruvians. Silver, lead, and tin were obtained from the
mines of Tasco and Pachuca; copper was wrought in the mountains of
Zacotollan, by means of galleries and shafts opened with persevering
toil where the metallic veins were imbedded in the solid rock; and
there, as at the Lake Superior copper regions, the traces of such
ancient mining have proved the best guides to modern searchers for the
ores. The arts of casting, engraving, chasing, and carving in metal,
were all practised with great skill. Vessels both of gold and silver
were wrought of enormous size: so large, it is said, that a man could
not encircle them with his arms; and the abundant gold was as lavishly
employed in Mexico as in Peru, in the gorgeous adornment of temples and
palaces. Ingenious toys, birds and beasts with moveable wings and limbs,
fish with alternate scales of silver and gold, and personal ornaments in
great variety, were wrought by the Mexican goldsmiths of the precious
metals, with such curious art, that the Spaniards acknowledged the
superiority of the native workmanship over anything they could achieve.
When Cortes first entered the capital of Montezuma in 1513, the Mexican
ruler received him in the palace built by his father Axayacatl, and hung
round his neck a decoration of the finest native workmanship. The shell
of a species of craw-fish, set in gold, formed the centre, and massive
links of gold completed the collar, from which depended eight ornaments
of the same metal, delicately-wrought in imitation of the prized

The arts thus practised on the great plateau extended to the most
southern limits of the North American continent. The ancient graves of
the Isthmus of Panama have been ransacked by thousands in recent years,
from the temptation which the gold relics they contain hold out to their
explorers. Those include representations of beasts, birds, and fishes,
frogs, and other objects, imitated from nature, often with great skill
and ingenuity. One gold frog which I examined had the eyes hollow, with
an oval slit in front, and within each a detached ball of gold, which
appeared to have been executed in a single casting. This insertion of
detached balls is frequently met with in the pottery, as well as in the
goldsmith’s work of the Isthmus, and is singularly characteristic of a
peculiar phase of local art. Human figures, and monstrous or grotesque
hybrids wrought in gold, with the head of the cayman, the eagle, and
other animals, attached to the human form, are also found in the same
graves; but, so far as my own opportunities of observation enable me to
judge, the human figure generally exhibits inferior imitative skill and
execution to the representations of other animate subjects. But all
alike display abundant metallurgic art. Soldering as well as casting was
known to the ancient goldsmith, and the finer specimens have been
finished with the hammer and graving-tool. Judging from the condition of
the human remains found in those huacas of the peninsula, they are
probably of a much higher antiquity than the era of Mexican
civilisation; and lying as they do in the narrow isthmus between the
twin continents, they suggest the probability of a common source for the
origin of Peruvian and Aztec arts.

But while the Mexicans wrought their ingenious toys, lavished their
inexhaustible resources of gold and silver in personal decoration, and
adorned their public edifices with scarcely less boundless profusion
than the Peruvians, they had learned to some extent the practical value
of gold and other metals as a convenient currency. By means of this
equivalent for the gold and silver coinage of Europe, the interchange of
commodities in the great markets of Mexico was facilitated, and an
important step in the progress towards a higher stage of civilisation
secured. This metallic currency consisted of pieces of tin cut in the
form of a =T= or stamped with a similar character, and of transparent
quills filled with gold dust. These were apparently regulated to a
common standard by their size: for the use of scales and weights, with
which the Peruvians were familiar, appears to have been unknown in

The nature of the Mexican currency accords with the knowledge and
experience of a people among whom metallurgic arts were of comparatively
recent origin. The easily fused tin, and the attractive and accessible
gold-dust, supplied ready materials for schooling the ingenious
metallurgist in the use of the metals. Copper was probably first
employed when found in a pure metallic state, as among the old miners of
Lake Superior; while the art of fusing, taught by the Aztec Tubal-Cain,
was tried only on the readily-yielding tin. By this means the arts of
smelting and moulding the ores would be acquired, and applied to copper,
silver, and gold, as well as to tin. Accident might suggest the next
important stage, that of metallic alloys; but under the circumstances
alike of Peruvian and Mexican civilisation, progressing in regions
abounding with the most attractive and easily-wrought metals, it is not
difficult to conceive of the independent discovery of the useful bronze
alloy. Yet by the standard composition of their bronze, far more than by
the ingenious intricacy of their personal ornaments, utensils, and
architectural decorations, the actual progress of the Incas or of the
Aztecs may fairly be tested. The delight of the savage in personal
adornment precedes even the needful covering of his nakedness, and the
same propensity long monopolises the whole inventive ingenuity of a
semi-barbarous people; while the useful bronze tools embody the true
germs of incipient civilisation. Tested by such a standard, the
metallurgic arts of Peru furnish evidence of very partial development.

The alloy of copper and tin, when destined for practical use in
manufacture, is found to possess the most serviceable qualities when
composed of about ninety per cent. of copper to ten of tin; and so near
is the approximation to this theoretical standard among the bronze
relics of the ancient world, that the archæologists of Europe have been
divided in opinion as to whether they should assume a Phœnician or other
common origin for the weapons, implements, and personal ornaments of
that metal found over the whole continent; or that the mixed metal,
derived from a common centre, was manufactured in various countries of
Europe into the objects of diverse form and pattern abounding in their
soil, or deposited among their sepulchral offerings.

But the approximation to a uniform alloy is no more than would
inevitably result from the experience of the extreme brittleness
resulting from any undue excess of the tin. Accident, or the natural
proximity of the metals or ores, as they occur in the mineral regions of
England, may have furnished the first disclosure of the important
secret. But that once discovered, the subsequent steps were inevitable.
Having ascertained that he could produce a harder and more useful
compound than the pure copper by alloying it with tin, the native
metallurgist would not fail to vary the proportions of the latter till
he had obtained a sufficiently near approximation to the best bronze, to
answer the purposes for which it was designed. No interchange of
experience was necessary to lead the metallurgists of remote regions to
similar results; nor would a closer correspondence between the
proportionate ingredients of the native American and European bronze
than has yet been detected, indicate more than common aims, and the
inevitable experience, consequent on the properties of the varying
alloy, leading to corresponding results.

The following table of analyses of ancient European bronze relics will
suffice to show how little foundation there is for the assumption of any
common origin for the alloy of which they were made; and the
corresponding evidence of proportionate ingredients disclosed by
analyses of native American bronzes, disproves the theory of any
European or other foreign source for the metallurgic arts of the New

                      ANALYSES OF ANCIENT BRONZES.

No.│                                        │Coppe│Tin. │Lead.│Iron.│Silve
   │                                        │ r.  │     │     │     │ r.
 1.│Caldron,               Berwickshire,    │92·89│ 5·15│ 1·78│     │
 2.│Sword,                  Duddingston,    │88·51│ 9·30│ 2·30│     │
 3.│Kettle,                 Berwickshire    │88·22│ 5·63│ 5·88│     │
 4.│Axe-head,               Mid-Lothian,    │88·05│11·12│ 0·78│     │
 5.│Caldron,                Duddingston,    │84·08│ 7·19│ 8·53│     │
 6.│Palstave,                Fifeshire,     │81·19│18·31│ 0·75│     │
 7.│Vessel,                   Ireland,      │88·00│12·00│     │     │
 8.│Wedge,                       ”          │94·00│ 5·09│     │ 0·01│
 9.│Sword,                       ”          │88·63│ 8·54│ 2·83│     │
10.│Sword,                       ”          │83·50│ 5·15│ 8·35│ 3·00│
11.│Lituus,                Lincolnshire,    │88·00│12·00│     │     │
12.│Roman patella,               ”          │86·00│14·00│     │     │
13.│Spear-head,                  ”          │86·00│14·00│     │     │
14.│Scabbard,                    ”          │90·00│10·00│     │     │
15.│Axe palstave,           Cumberland,     │91·00│ 9·00│     │     │
16.│Axe-head,                    ”          │88·00│12·00│     │     │
17.│Vessel,               Cambridgeshire,   │88·00│12·00│     │     │
18.│Axe-head,                 Ireland,      │91·00│ 9·00│     │     │
19.│Sword,                    Thames,       │89·69│ 9·58│     │ 0·33│
20.│Sword,                    Ireland,      │85·62│10·02│     │ 0·44│
21.│Celt,                        ”          │90·68│ 7·43│ 1·28│     │
22.│Axe-head,                    ”          │90·18│ 9·81│     │     │
23.│Axe-head,                    ”          │89·33│ 9·19│     │     │
24.│Celt,                        ”          │83·61│10·79│ 3·20│ 0·58│
25.│Celt,               King’s Co., Ireland,│85·23│13·11│ 1·14│     │
26.│Drinking-horn,             ”   ”        │79·34│10·87│ 9·11│     │
27.│Celt,                   Co. Cavan, ”    │86·98│12·57│     │     │ 0·37
28.│Celt,                        ”          │98·74│ 1·09│     │ 0·08│ 0·06
29.│Celt,                  Co. Wicklow, ”   │88·30│10·92│ 0·10│     │
30.│Celt, Co.                 Cavan, ”      │95·64│ 4·56│ 0·25│     │ 0·02
31.│Spear-head,                  ”          │86·28│12·74│ 0·07│ 0·31│
32.│Spear-head,                  ”          │84·64│14·01│     │     │
33.│Scythe,                 Roscommon, ”    │95·85│ 2·78│ 0·12│ 1·32│
34.│Sword-handle,                ”          │87·07│ 8·52│ 3·37│     │
35.│Sword,                       ”          │87·94│11·35│ 0·28│     │
36.│Dagger,                      ”          │90·72│ 8·25│ 0·87│     │
37.│Chisel,                      ”          │91·03│ 8·39│     │     │
38.│Caldron,                     ”          │88·71│ 9·46│ 1·66│ 0·03│
39.│Sword,                    France,       │87·47│12·53│     │     │
40.│Spear-head,           Northumberland,   │91·12│ 7·97│ 0·77│     │

       Nos. 1-6. Dr. George Wilson.
            7-8. Dr. J. H. Gibbon, U.S. Mint.
           9-10. Professor Davy.
          11-18. Dr. Pearson, _Philosoph. Trans._ 1796.
          19-24. J. A. Philips, _Mém. Chem. Soc._, iv. p. 288.
         25, 26. Dr. Donovan, _Chem. Gazette_, 1850, p. 176.
          27-38. Mr. J. W. Mallet, _Transactions R. I. A._ vol.
                   xxii. p. 325.
             39. Mongez, _Mém. de l’Institut_.
             40. Dr. E. Macadam, _Proceed. S. A. Scot._ viii. 300.

    In No. 31 is also Cobalt, ·09; in No. 37, Antimony, ·04; and in
    No. 41, Arsenic, ·03.

From the varied results which so many analyses disclose, ranging as they
do from 79 to 98 per cent. of copper; as well as from the diversity of
the ingredients: it is abundantly obvious that no greater uniformity is
traceable, than might be expected to result from the operations of
isolated metallurgists, very partially acquainted with the chemical
properties of the standard alloy, and guided for the most part by the
experience derived from successive results of their manufacture. It is
thus apparent that the various exigencies of the metallurgist, under the
control of a very ordinary amount of practical skill, would lead to the
determination of the best proportions for this useful alloy; though it
would only be after the accumulated fruits of isolated experiment had
been combined, that anything more than some crude approximation to the
best composition of bronze would be determined. Hence the value of
analytical evidence in determining the degree of civilisation of Mexico
and Peru, as indicated by their metallurgic arts. For the general
requirements of a tool, or weapon of war, where a sufficient hardness
must be obtained without any great liability to fracture, the best
proportions proved to be about 90 per cent. of copper to 10 of tin; or
with a small proportion of lead in lieu of part of the tin: which, as
further experience taught the primitive worker in bronze, communicates
to the cutting instrument a greater degree of toughness, and
consequently diminishes its liability to fracture. But where great
hardness is the chief requisite, as in certain engraving, carving, and
gem-cutting tools, the mere increase of tin in the alloy supplies the
requisite quality: until the excessive brittleness of the product gives
warning that the true limit has been exceeded. In this, I doubt not,
lies the whole secret of Mexican and Peruvian metallurgy, which has
seemed so mysterious, and therefore so marvellous to the most sagacious

The following table furnishes the results of analyses of various ancient
American bronzes. Few as the examples are, they afford definite
illustration of the subject under review, and supply some means of
comparison with the data already furnished relative to the ancient
bronzes of Europe.


         No.│                         │Copper. │  Tin.  │ Iron.
          1.│Chisel from silver mines,│94·     │6·      │
            │Cuzco,                   │        │        │
          2.│Chisel from Cuzco,       │92·385  │7·615   │
          3.│Knife from grave,        │97·87   │2·13    │
            │Atacama,                 │        │        │
          4.│Knife   ”   ”            │96·     │4·      │
          5.│Crowbar from Chili,      │92·385  │7·615   │
          6.│Knife from Amaro,        │95·664  │3·965   │0·371
          7.│Perforated axe,          │96·     │4·      │
          8.│Personal ornament,       │95·440  │4·560   │
            │Truigilla,               │        │        │
          9.│Bodkin from female grave,│96·70   │3·30    │
            │do.,                     │        │        │

                    Nos.   1. Humboldt.
                           2. Dr. J. H. Gibbon.
                        3, 4. J. H. Blake, Esq.
                           5. Dr. T. C. Jackson.
                        6, 7. Dr. H. Croft.
                        8, 9. T. Ewbank, Esq.

The comparison of this with the previous table indicates a smaller
amount of tin in the American bronze than in that of ancient Europe. For
some Egyptian spear-heads Gmelin gives, copper 77·60, tin 22·02; and the
composition of ancient weapons, armour, vessels, and coins, seems to
indicate such a systematic variation of proportions as implies the
result of experience in adapting the alloy for the specific purpose in
view. A much larger number of analyses would be desirable as data from
which to generalise on the metallurgic skill developed independently by
native American civilisation; but the examples adduced seem to show that
there is no lost secret for Europe to discover.

The native metallurgist had learned the art of alloying his ductile
copper with the still softer tin, and producing by their chemical
admixture a harder, tougher metal than either. But he does not appear to
have carried his observation so far as to ascertain the most efficient
proportions of the combining metals; or even to have made any very
definite approximation to a fixed rule, further than to use with great
moderation the alloying tin. He had discovered, but not entirely
mastered, a wonderful secret, such as in the ancient world had proved to
lie at the threshold of all higher truths in mechanical arts. He was
undoubtedly advancing, slowly but surely, on the direct course of
national elevation; and the centuries which have followed since the
conquests of Cortes and Pizarro might have witnessed in the New World
triumphs not less marvellous in the progress of civilisation than those
which distinguish the England of Victoria from that of the first Tudor.
But native science and art were abruptly arrested in their progress by
the Spanish conquistadors; and it is difficult to realise the conviction
that either Mexico or Peru has gained any adequate equivalent for the
loss which thus debars us from the solution of some of the most
interesting problems connected with the progress of the human race. Amid
all the exclusiveness of China, and the isolation of Japan, there is
still an unknown quantity among the elements of their civilisation
derived from the same sources as our own. But the America of the
fifteenth and sixteenth centuries was literally another world, securely
guarded from external influences. Nevertheless while all appears to have
been self-originated, we meet everywhere with affinities to the arts of
man elsewhere, and trace out the processes by which he has been guided,
from the first promptings of a rational instinct to the intelligent
development of many later steps of reason and experience.


[78] _Méms. Chemical Society_, vol. iv. p. 288.

[79] _Edinburgh Philosophical Journal_, vol. vi. p. 357.

[80] _Prehistoric Annals of Scotland_ (2d ed.), vol. i. p. 319.

[81] _Proceedings_, _B. N. H. S._, vol. v., p. 63.

[82] Anahuac, p. 153.

                               CHAPTER X.
                          THE MOUND-BUILDERS.


The progress hitherto noted has related chiefly to the tools of the
workman. In Mexico, and still more in Central America and Peru, those
were applied both to sculpture and architecture on a grand scale. But
some of the most singular memorials of the primitive architecture of the
New World survive in the form of gigantic earthworks, perpetuating in
their construction remarkable evidence of geometrical skill.

Along the broad levels drained by the Mississippi and its numerous
tributaries traces of America’s allophylian population abound; and the
Ohio valley is pre-eminently remarkable for the number and magnitude of
such works. The Ohio and its tributary streams flow through a fine
undulating, fertile country, which now forms one of the great centres of
population; and the evidence of modern enterprise and skill which
abounds there gives additional interest to traces which disclose to us
proof that this vast area is not now rescued for the first time from the
primeval forest, with its wild fauna, and still wilder savage man.

In a region such as this, attracting population to the broad alluvial
terraces overlooking its smoothly-flowiug rivers, it was natural that
the building instinct of man should first employ itself on earthworks;
and that the monuments should assume a pyramidal form. The great mound
of Miamisburg, Ohio, is sixty-eight feet high, and eight hundred and
fifty-two feet in circumference at its base. The more famous Grave Creek
Mound of Virginia rises to a height of seventy feet, and measures at its
base one thousand feet in circumference. Other and still larger
earthworks have been noted, such as the truncated pyramid at Cahokia,
Illinois, which, while it remained intact, occupied an area upwards of
two thousand feet in circumference, and reared its level summit, of
several acres in extent, to a height of ninety feet. But this last
belongs to a different class from the sepulchral mounds which appear to
be unsurpassed by any known works of their kind. “We have seen mounds,”
remarks Flint, an American topographer, with a just appreciation of the
relation of these earthworks to the features of the surrounding
landscape, “which would require the labour of a thousand men employed on
our canals, with all their mechanical aids, and the improved implements
of their labour, for months. We have more than once hesitated in view of
one of those prodigious mounds, whether it were not really a natural
hill. But they are uniformly so placed, in reference to the adjacent
country, and their conformation is so unique and similar, that no eye
hesitates long in referring them to the class of artificial erections.”
The exploration of these huge earth pyramids has set at rest any doubts
as to their artificial origin; and has, moreover, established the fact
that they are structures erected to perpetuate the memory of the
honoured dead in ages utterly forgotten, and by a race of which they
preserve almost the sole remaining vestiges.

The works of the Mound-Builders extend over a wide area, and include
many other structures besides those of a sepulchral character. The
people by whom they were executed must have been in a condition very
different from the forest tribes of the seventeenth and eighteenth
centuries. Nevertheless, though congregated at many favourite points in
large communities, they may have been isolated by extensive tracts of
forest from the regions beyond the river-systems on which they were
settled. The country lying remote from the larger tributaries of the
Mississippi was probably in the era of the Mound-Builders, as in later
times, covered with forest; while perchance on outlying regions, or
beyond the great Lakes and the Rocky Mountains, the progenitors of
modern Indian tribes lurked: like the barbarians of ante-Christian
Europe, beyond the Rhine and the Baltic.

The fertile valley of the Scioto appears to have been one of the seats
of densest population, as indicated by the numerous works which
diversify its surface. Corresponding evidence preserves the traces of an
equally numerous population in the Miami Valley; and the mounds and
earthworks of various kinds throughout the state of Ohio are estimated
at between eleven and twelve thousand. They are stated to be scarcely
less numerous on the Kenhawas in Virginia than on the Scioto and Miamis,
and are abundant on the White River and Wabash, as also upon the
Kentucky, Cumberland, Tennessee, and numerous other tributaries of the
Ohio and Mississippi. Works accumulated in such numbers, and, including
many of great magnitude and elaborateness of design, executed by the
combined labour of large bodies of workmen, afford indisputable evidence
of a settled and industrious population. Beyond those carefully explored
regions, traces of other ancient structures have been observed at widely
separated points; though caution must be exercised in generalising from
data furnished by casual and inexperienced observers. All primitive
earthworks, whether for defence, sepulchral memorials, or religious
rites, have certain features in common; and the tendency of the popular
mind is rather to exaggerate chance resemblances into forced analogies
and parallels, than to exercise any critical discrimination. Including,
however, all large earthworks essentially dissimilar from the slight
structures of the modern Indian, they appear to stretch from the upper
waters of the Ohio to the westward of Lake Erie, and thence along Lake
Michigan, nearly to the Copper Regions of Lake Superior. Examples of a
like character have been traced through Wisconsin, Iowa, and the
Nebraska Territory; while in the south their area is bounded by the
shores of the Gulf of Florida and the Mexican territory, where they seem
gradually to lose their distinctive character, and pass into the great
teocallis of a higher developed Mexican architecture. Their affinities
are indeed more southern than northern. They are scarcely, if at all, to
be found to the eastward of the water-shed between the Mississippi and
the Atlantic, in the States of Pennsylvania, New York, or Virginia; and
they have been rightly designated, from their chief site, the Ancient
Monuments of the Mississippi Valley, including those of its tributaries,
and especially of the valley of the Ohio. There their localities fully
accord with those which, in the primitive history of the Old World,
reveal the most abundant traces of an aboriginal population, in their
occupation of the broad alluvial terraces, or “river bottoms,” as they
are styled. To the north the memorials of an ancient population are of a
different character; and the earthworks in the vicinity of the Great
Lakes must be classed by themselves, as indicating distinct customs and

The remarkable works thus traceable over so large an extent of the North
American continent admit of being primarily arranged into the two
subdivisions of Enclosures and Mounds, and those again embrace a variety
of works evidently designed for very different uses. Under the first of
these heads are included the fortifications or strongholds; the sacred
enclosures, destined, as is assumed, for religious rites; and numerous
miscellaneous works of the same class, generally symmetrical in
structure, but the probable use of which it is difficult to determine.
The second subdivision embraces the true mound-buildings, including what
have been specially designated sacrificial, sepulchral, temple, and
animal-mounds. All partake of characteristics pertaining to a broad
level country; but this is nowhere so strikingly apparent as where
mounds seem to have been purposely erected as observatories or points of
sight from whence to survey the works elaborated on a gigantic scale on
the level plain. In addition to the striking features which their
external aspect exhibits: wherever they have been excavated interesting
relics of the ancient builders have been disclosed, adding many graphic
illustrations of their social condition, and of the artistic and
industrial arts of the period to which they pertain.

The British hill-forts, the remarkable vitrified forts of Scotland, and
the larger strongholds of the British aborigines, such as the ingenious
circumvallations of the White Caterthun overlooking the valley of
Strathmore, all derive their peculiar character from the mountainous
features of the country; while on the low ground, under the shadow of
the Ochils, the elaborate earthworks of the Camp of Ardoch show the
strikingly contrasting castrametation of the Roman invaders. The ancient
raths of Ireland, which abound in the level districts of that country,
as well as on heights where stone is not readily accessible, also
furnish highly interesting illustrations of earthworks with a special
character derived from the features of their localities. An earthen
_dune_ or _rath_, as in the celebrated Rath Keltair at Downpatrick,
occupies a commanding site, where it is strongly entrenched, with a
considerable space of ground enclosed within its outworks. The
celebrated Hill of Tara, in the county of Meath, ceased, according to
tradition, to be the chief seat of the Irish kings, since its desertion
in the latter part of the sixth century, shortly after the death of
Dermot, the son of Fergus. It appears to have been a fortified city; and
now, after the devastations of thirteen centuries, its dunes,
circumvallations and trenches, present many interesting points of
comparison with the more extensive earthworks of the Mississippi valley.
But neither the Scottish White Caterthun, nor the Irish Bath Keltair, or
even the Rath Righ of Tara Hill, can compare with the remarkable
American stronghold of Fort Hill, Ohio, or Fort Ancient on the Little
Miami River, in the same State.

The valley of the Mississippi is a vast sedimentary basin extending from
the Alleghanies to the Rocky Mountains. Through this the great river and
its numerous tributaries have made their way for countless ages, working
out shallow depressions in the plain, on which are recorded successive
epochs of change in the terraces that mark the deserted levels of
ancient channels. The edges of these table-lands bordering on the
valleys are indented by numerous ravines; and the junctions of many
lesser streams with the rivers have formed nearly detached peninsulas,
or in some cases tracts of considerable elevation insulated from the
original table-land. Many of those bluff headlands, peninsulas, and
isolated hills presented all the requisite adaptations for native
strongholds. They have, accordingly, been fortified with great labour
and skill. Embankments and ditches enclose the whole space, varying in
strength according to the natural resources of the ground. The
approaches are guarded by trenches and overlapping walls, more or less
numerous in different forts; and have occasionally a mound alongside of
the other defences of the approach, but rising above the rest of the
works, as if designed both for out-look and additional defence. In some
few cases the walls of these enclosures are of stone, but if they were
ever characterised by any attempt at regular masonry all traces of it
have disappeared, and there seems little reason for supposing that such
walls differed in essential character from the earthworks. No cement was
used, and in all probability we have in them only the substitution of
stone-heaps instead of earth-banks, owing to special local facilities.

One of the simplest, but most extensive of those primitive strongholds,
is Fort Hill, Ohio. The defences occupy the summit of a height, elevated
about five hundred feet above the bed of Bush Creek, which flows round
two sides of the hill, close to their precipitous slope. Along the edge
of this hill a deep ditch has been cut, and the materials taken from it
have been piled up into an embankment, rising from six to fifteen feet
above the bottom of the ditch. In its whole extent the wall measures
eight thousand two hundred and twenty-four feet, or upwards of a mile
and a half in length; and encloses an area of forty-eight acres, now
covered with gigantic forest-trees. One of them, a chestnut, measured
twenty-one feet, and an oak, though greatly decayed, twenty-three feet
in circumference, while the trunks of immense trees lay around in every
stage of decay. Such was the aspect of Fort Hill, Ohio, a few years ago,
and it is probably in no way changed now. Dr. Hildreth counted eight
hundred rings of annual growth in a tree which grew on one of the mounds
at Marietta, Ohio; and Messrs. Squier and Davis, from the age and
condition of the forest, ascribed an antiquity to its deserted site of
considerably more than a thousand years. In their present condition,
therefore, the walls of “Fort Hill” are ruins of an older date than the
most venerable stronghold of the Normans of England; and we see as
little of their original completeness, as in the crumbling Norman keep
we are able to trace all the complex system of bastions, curtains,
baileys, buttress-towers, and posterns, of the military architecture of
the twelfth century. Openings occur in the walls, in some places on the
steepest points of the hill, where access is impossible; and where,
therefore, we must rather suppose that platforms may have been projected
to defend more accessible points. The ditch has in many places been cut
through sandstone rock as well as soil; and at one point the rock is
quarried out so as to leave a mural front about twenty feet high. Large
ponds or artificial reservoirs for water have been made within the
enclosure; and at the southern point, where the natural area of this
stronghold contracts into a narrow and nearly insulated projection
terminating in a bold bluff, it rises to a height of thirty feet above
the bottom of the ditch, and has its own special reservoirs, as if here
were the keep and citadel of the fortress: doubtless originally
strengthened with palisades and military works, of which every trace had
disappeared before the ancient forest asserted its claim to the deserted
fortalice. Here then, it is obvious we look on no temporary retreat of
some nomadic horde, but on a military work of great magnitude; which,
even with all the appliances of modern engineering skill, would involve
the protracted operations of a numerous body of labourers, and when
completed must have required a no less numerous garrison for its
defence. The contrast is very striking between such elaborate works and
the most extensive of those still traceable in Western New York the
origin of which appears to be correctly assigned to Iroquois and other
tribes known to have been in occupation of their sites in comparatively
recent times.

Among the native Indian tribes who have come under direct observation of
Europeans, none played a more prominent part than the Iroquois. At the
period of Dutch discovery in the beginning of the seventeenth century,
they occupied the territory between the Hudson and the Genesee rivers,
of which they continued to maintain possession for nearly two centuries,
in defiance of warlike native foes, and the more formidable aggression
of the French invaders. Their numbers, at the period of their greatest
prosperity, about the middle of the seventeenth century, have been
variously estimated from 70,000, which La Hontan assigned to them, to
the more probable estimate of 25,000 given by the historian of their
League. Very exaggerated pictures have been drawn by some modern writers
of the Iroquois confederacy. It was a union of tribes of savage hunters,
among whom only the germs of incipient civilisation are traceable. They
had indeed acquired settled habits, and devoted themselves to some
extent to agriculture. But with all the matured arts resulting from
combined action in the maintenance of their territory for successive
generations against fierce hostile tribes, and the defence of an
extensive frontier constantly exposed to invasion, the traces of the
Iroquois strongholds are of so slight a description that many of them
have already been obliterated by the plough.

From the facts thus presented to our consideration, it is obvious that
the highest estimate we can entertain of the powers of combination
indicated by the famous League of the Iroquois, furnishes no evidence of
a capacity for the construction and maintenance of works akin to the
strongholds of the Mound-Builders in the Ohio valley. Striking as is the
contrast which the Iroquois present to more ephemeral savage tribes, the
remains of their earthworks present in some respects a greater contrast
to those of the Mound-Builders than the latter do to the elaborate
architecture of Mexico and Yucatan. There are indeed points of
resemblance between the strongholds of the two, as there are between
them and the British hill-forts, or any other earthworks erected on
similar sites; but beyond such general elements of comparison,—equally
interesting, but as little indicative of any community of origin as the
correspondence traceable between the flint and stone weapons in use by
the builders of both,—there is nothing in such resemblances calculated
to throw any light on the origin of those remarkable monuments of the
New World. It is rather from the contrast between the two that we may
turn the remains of Iroquois defences to account, as suggestive of a
greatly more advanced condition of social life and the arts of a settled
population among the Mound-Builders of the Mississippi and its

Further proofs of the settled character of this ancient population are
furnished by another class of defensive works, supposed to mark the
sites of fortified towns. One of these, called “Clark’s Work,” on the
north fork of Point Creek, in the Scioto valley, embraces an area of one
hundred and twenty-seven acres; and encloses within its circumvallations
sacrificial mounds, and symmetrical earthworks assumed with every
probability to have been designed for religious or civic purposes. A
stream has been turned into an entirely new channel, in order to admit
of the completed circuit of the walls. “The embankments measure together
nearly three miles in length; and a careful computation shows that,
including mounds, not less than three million cubic feet of earth were
used in their composition.”[83] Within the enclosures thus laboriously
executed, many of the most interesting relics of ancient art have been
dug up, including several coiled serpents of carved stone, carefully
enveloped in sheet mica and copper; pottery, fragments of carved ivory,
discoidal stones, and numerous fine sculptures.

It is obvious that the population capable of furnishing the requisite
labour for works of so extensive a nature must have been numerous, and
its resources for the maintenance of such a phalanx of workers
proportionally abundant. The garrisons of the great strongholds, and the
population that found shelter within such mural defences as “Clark’s
Work,” must also have been very large, requiring for their subsistence
the contributions of an extensive district. But this only accords with
other proofs of the condition of the Mound-Builders as a settled people.
When we turn from the consideration of single large fortifications
crowning the insulated heights, and estimate the number and extent of
mounds, symmetrical enclosures, and works of various kinds connected
with the arts of peace and the rites of religious worship, which give so
striking a character to the river-valleys and terraces, it is no longer
possible to doubt that many sections of this fertile region were once
before filled by an industrious, settled population.

The Sacred Enclosures have been separated from the military works of the
Mound-Builders on very obvious grounds. Their elaborate fortifications
occupy isolated heights specially adapted for defence; whereas the broad
river-terraces have been selected for their religious works. There, on
the great unbroken levels, they form groups of symmetrical enclosures,
square, circular, elliptical, and octagonal, with long connecting
avenues, suggesting comparisons with the British Avebury, or the
Hebridean Callernish; with the Breton Carnac; or even with the temples
and Sphinx-avenues of the Egyptian Karnak and Luxor.

The predominant impression suggested by the great military earthworks of
the Mound-Builders is that of the action of a numerous population,
co-operating under the guidance and authority of approved leaders, with
a view to the defence of large communities. Elaborate fortifications
such as that of “Clark’s Work” in the Scioto Valley, or “Fort Ancient”
on the Little Miami River, are constructed on well-chosen hills or
bluffs, and strengthened by ditches, mounds, and complicated approaches;
but the lines of earthwork, like those of the great Scottish hill-forts,
are everywhere adapted to the natural features of the site. With the
sacred enclosures it is wholly different. Some of these also do, indeed,
impress the mind with the imposing scale of their embankments. On first
entering the great circle at Newark, and looking across its broad trench
at the lofty embankment overshadowed with full-grown forest-trees, my
thoughts reverted to the Antonine vallum, which by like evidence still
records the presence of the Roman masters of the world in North Britain.
But after driving over a circuit of several miles embracing the
remarkable group of earthworks of which this is only a single feature,
and satisfying myself by personal observation of the existence of
parallel avenues which have been traced for nearly two miles; and of the
grand central oval, circle, and octagon, the smallest of which measures
upwards of half-a-mile in circumference: all idea of mere combined
labour is lost in the higher conviction of manifest skill, and even
science. The angles of the octagon are not coincident, but the sides are
very nearly equal; and the enclosure approaches so closely to a perfect
figure that its error is only demonstrated by actual survey. Connected
with it by parallel embankments 350 feet long, is a true circle,
measuring 2880 feet in circumference; and distant nearly a mile from
this, but connected with it by an elaborate series of earthworks, is the
circular structure above referred to. Its actual form is an ellipse, the
respective diameters of which are 1250 feet, and 1150 feet,
respectively; and it encloses an area of upwards of 30 acres.

At the entrance of this great circle the enclosing embankment curves
outward on either side for a distance of 100 feet, leaving a level way
between the ditches, 80 feet wide. The earthen mound, which is here
higher than at any other point, measures about 30 feet from the bottom
of the ditch to the summit. The area of the enclosure is so nearly a
perfect level that Mr. J. M. Dennis, to whose intimate local knowledge I
was indebted for a thorough survey of the works, informed me that he had
observed during the rains of the previous spring the water stood at a
uniform level nearly to the edge of the ditch. In the centre of this
enclosure is an earthen mound, still called “The Eagle.” Mr. Squier says
of it: “It much resembles some of the animal-shaped mounds of Wisconsin,
and was probably designed to represent a bird with expanded wings.” It
has been opened and found to contain a hearth, or “altar.” The fact is
important; as it distinguishes it in this respect essentially from the
emblematic mounds of Wisconsin, and tends to confirm the idea that the
great circle and its related groups of earthworks all bore some
reference to sacred games, or other strange rites of religion, once
practised within their circumvallations. But successive excavations have
greatly marred the original contour of the mound; and now that, with a
view to the preservation of the principla earthwork, it has been secured
as the Licking County fair ground, the erection of a grand stand on the
summit of the Eagle Mound has contributed still further to obscure the
traces of its primary form.

From the elliptical enclosure a wide avenue of two dissimilar parts,
seemingly constructed without relation to each other, leads to a square
of twenty acres, with seven mounds disposed symmetrically within the
enclosing walls, and numerous other works occupy hundreds of acres with
their geometrical configurations. But in spite of the intelligent
interest which prevails in reference to those remarkable monuments of an
ancient people, the industrial operations of the modern occupants of
their sites are fast obliterating all but the most prominent works. In
the great octagon I noticed a difference of nearly five feet between the
height of the embankments still standing on uncleared land, and those
portions which have been long under the plough. But for the aid of my
intelligent guide I should have found it impossible to trace out the
indications of the parallel ways; and already many of the smaller mounds
and enclosures have entirely disappeared. Roads, railways, and a canal,
have successively invaded the sacred enclosures, and wrought more
changes in a single generation than had been effected in all the
previous interval since the discovery of America. But the accompanying
plan (Fig. 70), derived from surveys executed while the chief earthworks
could still be traced in all their integrity, will enable the reader to
comprehend their character; and if he clearly realises the scale on
which these geometrical figures are constructed, he can be at no loss in
recognising their essential difference from the ephemeral earthworks
which mark the sites of Indian stockades or sepulchral mounds. While
they present certain analogies to mound-groups and enclosures both of
Europe and Asia, in many other respects they are totally dissimilar: and
illustrate rites and customs of an ancient American people without a
parallel among the monumental memorials of the Old World.

[Illustration: FIG. 70.—Newark Earthworks, Ohio.]

Several striking coincidences between the details of these works and
others of the same class are worthy of notice. The diameter of the
circle, the perfect form of which has been noted, is nearly identical
with two others forming parts of remarkable groups in the Scioto valley,
one of them seventy miles distant. The square has also the same area as
a rectangular enclosure belonging to the “Hopeton Works,” where it is
attached to a circle 1050 feet in diameter, and to an avenue constructed
between two parallel embankments 2400 feet long, leading to the edge of
a bank immediately over the river-flat of the Scioto. A like coincidence
in the precise extent of the area enclosed has been noticed in the
octagon of a group, called the High Bank Works, on the same
river-terrace; and in another, at the junction of the Muskingum and Ohio
rivers. The authors of the elaborate surveys embodied in the Smithsonian
Contributions to Knowledge, remark generally that the figures of the
Scioto valley earthworks are not only accurate squares and perfect
circles, but are in most cases of corresponding dimensions; each square
being 1080 feet a side, and the diameter of each of the larger and
smaller circles a fraction over 1700 and 800 feet. This they observe is
“a coincidence which could not possibly be accidental, and which must
possess some significance. It certainly establishes the existence of
some standard of measurement among the ancient people, if not the
possession of some means of determining angles.”[84] It is no less
important to note that it establishes the use of instruments. A standard
of measurement could not otherwise exist, still less be applied, on so
large a scale in geometrical construction; and the very simplest
instruments that we can conceive of, constitute no less certain evidence
of a condition of intellectual development attained by this ancient
people very different from anything achieved by the most advanced Indian
tribes. Varied, moreover, as the combinations of their singular groups
of earthworks are, traces are clearly discernible that certain
well-defined plans of construction, and a proportionate scale of parts,
guided their builders. Justly estimating the importance of such
coincidences, and the still greater value of the evidence of the
construction of geometric figures on so large a scale, the authors of
the surveys have detailed their method of procedure, in order “to put at
once all scepticism at rest, which might otherwise arise as to the
regularity of these works.” This important point rests accordingly on
the most satisfactory evidence;[85] nor are even the imperfections
observed in the construction of some of the rectangular figures without
their significance, as a test of the extent to which geometry had been
mastered by the ancient builders.

That this remarkable class of earthworks originated in some totally
different purpose from the strongholds already described, is obvious.
Their site is invariably on a level plateau, and their avenues are
connected with the neighbouring flats by laboriously constructed
approaches, as if to facilitate the solemn march of processions. The
embankments are frequently slight; where a ditch occurs it is generally
in the interior; and their whole construction is in striking contrast to
the defensive enclosures in their vicinity. At Newark they extend over
the level terrace, and, with outlying structures, embrace an area of
several miles in extent; while on each side of the Valley, formed by the
Racoon Creek, military works occupy prominent elevations presenting
special natural advantages for defence. One of those, obviously of a
defensive character, encloses the summit of a high hill; but it also
contains a small circle with tumuli, covering “altars” corresponding to
those hereafter described, which give their peculiar character to the
sacred mounds. There is no room, therefore, for doubt that the various
works referred to illustrate what may be styled the civil, military, and
ecclesiastical structures of the same people, including in the latter
public games, such as among many ancient nations constituted one special
feature of their religious festivals.

One important inference deducible from the peculiar features of the
works here referred to, is the state of knowledge of their constructors.
The most skilful engineer of our own day would find it difficult,
without the aid of instruments, to lay down an accurate square on the
scale of some of those described, enclosing an area four-fifths of a
mile in circumference. Circles of moderate dimensions might indeed be
constructed, so long as it was possible to describe them by a radius;
but with such works measuring five thousand four hundred feet, or
upwards of a mile in circumference, the ancient geometrician must have
had instruments, and means of measuring arcs: for it seems impossible to
conceive of the accurate construction of figures on such a scale,
otherwise than by finding the angle by its arc, from station to station,
through the whole course of their delineation. It is no less obvious
from the correspondence in area and relative proportions of so many of
the regular enclosures, that the Mound-Builders possessed a recognised
standard of measurement; and that some peculiar significance, possibly
of astronomical origin, was attached to figures of certain forms and

[Illustration: FIG. 71.—Cincinnati Tablet.]

The city of Cincinnati occupies a remarkable site, within a fine basin
of hills, on the Ohio river, which had for its older occupants the
remarkable people now referred to. But the growth of the modern city has
swept away every vestige of their old earthworks; and no definite record
of their details has been preserved. One memorial, however, survives,
which was discovered in 1841, when excavating a large mound within the
limits of the city. It has been the subject of ingenious speculations;
and may have some bearing on our present investigations. In the centre
of the mound, slightly below the level of the natural surface, a
skeleton was found greatly decayed, alongside of which lay two pointed
bones, about seven inches long, formed from the tibia of the elk, and
the engraved tablet shown in the accompanying illustration (Fig. 71). It
is made of fine-grained sandstone, and measures five inches in length,
by two and six-tenths across the middle, and three inches at the ends.
Upon its smooth surface an elaborate figure is represented, by sinking
the interspaces within a rectangular border, so as to produce what has
been regarded by some as a hieroglyphic inscription. But the most
remarkable feature of its graven device is the series of lines by which
the plain surface at each end is divided. The ends of the stone, it will
be observed, form arcs of circles of different dimensions. The greater
arc is divided by a series of lines, twenty-seven in number, into equal
spaces, and within this is another series of seven oblique lines. The
lesser arc at the opposite end is divided in like manner by two series
of twenty-five and eight lines, similarly arranged. This tablet has not
failed to receive due attention. It has been noted that it bears a
“singular resemblance to the Egyptian cartouche.” Its series of lines
were discovered to yield, in the sum of the products of the longer and
shorter ones, a near approximation to the number of days of the year. An
astronomical origin was accordingly assigned to it; and it has been
surmised to be an ancient calendar, recording the approximation of the
Mound-Builders to the true length of the solar year. Mr. Squier perhaps
runs to an opposite extreme in suggesting that it is nothing more than a
stamp, of which specimens have been found made of clay, both in Mexico
and in the Mississippi mounds; and which were probably used in
impressing ornamental patterns on cloth or prepared skins. Such clay
stamps always betray their purpose by the handle attached to them, as in
the corresponding bronze stamps common on Roman sites; whereas the
Cincinnati tablet is about half an inch in thickness, with no means of
holding or using it as a stamp, and bears on its unfinished reverse
grooves apparently made in sharpening the tools by which it was
engraved. But whatever theory be adopted as to its original object or
destination, the series of lines on its two ends have justly attracted
attention: for they constitute no part of the device; and can scarcely
be regarded as an ornamental border. Possibly in them we have a record
of certain scales of measurement in use by the Mound-Builders; and if
so, the discovery is calculated to add fresh interest to our study of
the geometrical structures, which, far more than their great mounds, are
the true characteristics of that mysterious people.[86]

The precise objects aimed at in the construction of the remarkable
series of American earthworks here referred to must obviously be
difficult to determine with certainty. Analogies to these structures
have been traced in the works of Indian tribes formerly in occupation of
Carolina and Georgia. They were accustomed to erect a circular terrace
or platform on which their council-house stood. In front of this, a
quadrangular area was enclosed with earthen embankments, within which
public games were played and captives tortured. To this was sometimes
added a square or quadrangular terrace at the opposite end of the
enclosure. Upon the circular platform it is also affirmed that the
sacred fire was maintained by the Creek Indians, as part of their most
cherished rites as worshippers of the sun. But even the evidence, thus
far, is vague and unsatisfactory; and any recognisable analogies point,
at best, only to the possibility of some of the Indian tribes having
perpetuated on a greatly inferior scale some maimed rites borrowed from
their civilised precursors. The scale upon which the Southern Indian
earthworks were constructed may compare with those of the Iroquois in
the State of New York, but in no degree approximates to the erections of
the Mound-Builders. What, for example, shall we make of the graded ways,
such as that of Piketon, Ohio, where an approach has been laboriously
formed from one terrace to another, one thousand and eighty feet long by
two hundred and fifteen feet in greatest width? The excavated earth has
been employed, in part, to construct lofty embankments on each side of
the ascent, which are now covered with trees of large size. Beyond this
approach, mounds and half-obliterated earthworks indicate that it was
only part of an extensive series of structures. But, viewed alone, it is
one of the most remarkable monuments of prehistoric times to be found on
the whole continent, and certainly bears not the slightest resemblance,
either in its character or the great scale on which it is executed, to
any known work of the Red Indians.


[83] _Ancient Monuments of the Mississippi Valley_, pp. 26-29, plate x.

[84] _Ancient Monuments of the Mississippi Valley_, p. 48.

[85] _Ancient Monuments of the Mississippi Valley_, p. 57.

[86] The woodcut is engraved from a rubbing taken from the original. Mr.
Whittlesey has included this tablet among his “Archæological Frauds”;
but the result of inquiries made by me during a recent visit to
Cincinnati has removed from my mind any doubt of its genuineness.

                              CHAPTER XI.
                           SEPULCHRAL MOUNDS.


When the significance of the military and sacred enclosures of the
Mound-Builders has been fully estimated as memorials of a remarkable
people belonging altogether to prehistoric ages of the New World, their
sepulchral mounds acquire a new value. In the former we see unmistakable
indications of a settled condition of society greatly in advance of
anything attained by the Red Indian, and of populous communities devoted
to agriculture and other industrial arts. From the latter we may hope to
recover some traits of ethnical character; to find in the gifts to the
dead illustrations of their arts and customs; and to catch by means of
their sepulchral rites some glimpses of the nature of that belief which
stimulated the Mound-Builders to the laborious construction of so many
sacred earthworks. Their great mounds are for us not merely the
sepulchres of an ancient race; they are the cemetery of an early though
partial civilisation, from whence we may derive illustrations of the
life, manners, and ideas of a people over whose graves the forest had so
long resumed its sway, that it seemed to the Red Indians’ supplanters to
have been the first occupant of the soil.

Barrows, dunes, moat-hills, cairns, and earth or stone mounds of various
kinds, abound in many parts of the Old as well as of the New World, and
are nowhere more abundant than in some districts of the British Isles.
But although corresponding primitive structures are met with from the
Gulf of the St. Lawrence to the Isthmus of Panama, and beyond it, far
into the southern continent: nevertheless the works of the
Mound-Builders have a character of their own altogether peculiar; and
though numbered by thousands, they are limited to well-defined areas,
leaving a large portion of the continent, including the whole of the
Atlantic sea-board, without any traces of their presence. The
Mound-Builders were not a maritime people. Their whole traffic was
confined to the great rivers, along the banks of which their ancient
traces abound, and to communication by long-obliterated overland routes
of travel. Notwithstanding the careful observations which have been put
on record relative to the mounds and earthworks of “The West,” much yet
remains to be disclosed; for, happily, the excavation of such
earth-pyramids is a work greatly too laborious and costly to tempt those
who are influenced by mere idle curiosity; while their contents, however
valuable to the archæologist, offer no such stimulus to cupidity as, in
Mexico and Peru, has led to the destruction of thousands of the
memorials of extinct arts and customs.

As a general rule, the earth and stone works appear to have been alike
constructed of materials derived from the immediate neighbourhood; so
that such differences do not, in the majority of instances, supply any
indication of diversity in the enclosed deposits. A special character,
however, appears to pertain to one class, designated “Hill Mounds,” from
the sites they occupy. Of these Mr. Squier remarks: “The most elevated
and commanding positions are frequently crowned with them, suggesting at
once the purposes to which some of the mounds or cairns of the ancient
Celts were applied: that of signal or alarm posts. It is not unusual to
find detached mounds among the hills back from the valleys, and in
secluded places, with no other monuments near. The hunter often
encounters them in the depths of the forests when least expected:
perhaps overlooking some waterfall, or placed in some narrow valley
where the foot of man seldom enters.” Similar structures crown many
western heights; but some at least are of Indian origin; and our
knowledge of the characteristics and contents of those of an earlier
race must be greatly extended, before we can assign the true and
probably varied objects aimed at in their erection.

But it is to the exploration of one of the smaller hill-mounds that we
owe the recovery of the most characteristic illustration of the physical
type of the ancient Mound-Builders. The “Scioto Mound Cranium,”
described in a later chapter, was obtained from a mound erected on the
summit of a commanding height overlooking the valley of the Scioto, with
its numerous earthworks. A conical knoll, crowning the hill, rises with
such regularity as almost to induce the belief that it is artificial;
and on its apex stands the tumulus overshadowed by the trees of the
primitive forest. Here under a covering of tough yellow clay, impervious
to moisture, a plate of mica rested on an inner cairn, composed chiefly
of large rough stones; and within this, a compacted bed of carbonaceous
matter contained the skull, with a few bones, and some shells of
fresh-water molluscs, disposed irregularly round it. This, therefore, it
will be seen, confirms the idea that cremation played an important part
in the ancient sepulchral rites.

More recently Professor O. C. Marsh explored the Taylor Mound, another
of the hill-mounds, about two and a half miles south of Newark.
Apparently a cemetery had been excavated on the summit of the ridge,
within which lay the remains of at least eight skeletons, chiefly of
women and children, all huddled together, and some of them showing
evidence of long exposure. Along with those were found nine lance or
arrow-heads of flint, six small axes, one of them made of hematite, and
the remainder of diorite or compact greenstone, a small wedge or hatchet
of hematite, a flint chisel, a scraper, numerous implements of bone and
horn, including needles, a spatula or modeller’s tool, and a whistle
made from the tooth of a black bear. Above this ossuary a number of dead
had been disposed: some of them evidently interred with care, others as
if slaughtered and flung upon the heap of dead; while a mass of
incinerated human remains left no doubt on the minds of the explorers
that cremation had taken place directly over the dead, and before the
regular interment was completed. Hence they were led to the conclusion
that the funeral rites had probably included a suttee sacrifice.

Directly under the apex of the mound upwards of one hundred beads of
native copper, intermingled with a few shell beads, lay in contact with
portions of the cervical vertebræ of a young child, showing that they
had been worn as a necklace. The shell beads are about half an inch
long, and have been carefully polished. The copper beads are only half
this length, and wrought with the hammer out of the native copper; but
with so much skill, that in most of them it is difficult to detect the
joining. Only two of the skulls were sufficiently preserved to indicate
their true form. Both were small, and showed the vertical occiput and
large parietal diameter, supposed to pertain to the Mound-Builders, but
which are characteristic of many American crania.

The contents of the two hill-mounds are thus seen to differ widely; and
so far furnish no clew to any special mode of burial or funeral
ceremonies. But the interment of a detached skull, as shown in the
Scioto Mound, is no solitary case. I was shown by Mr. L. M. Hosea, of
Cincinnati, a large bowl-shaped vessel of steatite, capable of holding
about two gallons, discovered by the blowing down of a tree which stood
on the summit of a mound on the borders of Lincoln and Casey Counties,
Kentucky. It had been inverted over a human skull, beside which lay a
number of shell beads, and a quantity of mica. In the same mound was a
large conch-shell, hollowed out, and filled with bone implements,
including two large, well-finished whistles, several deers’ horn
hammers, and about thirty bone pins and awls. A perforated copper plate,
and some well-finished stone and flint implements, completed the
contents of the mound. Unfortunately the skull was too much decayed to
admit of preservation.

I am indebted to Mr. W. Marshall Anderson for some curious disclosures
of the contents of another mound recently opened by him at Issaquina,
Mississippi. The first remarkable discovery was the exposure of three
skeletons disposed vertically, as if they had been buried with their
heads above ground. On reaching the natural level, a heap of ashes, with
numerous fragments of bone, showed where cremation had taken place. Over
this were three skeletons disposed at length, side by side, with a
drinking vessel and a wide-mouthed bowl of native pottery close to the
head of each. Numerous implements, including tools of copper,
well-finished celts of jasper and lignite, and a grotesque clay-pipe
representing a human head with dog’s ears, and a frog’s mouth, lay
alongside of them. But most noticeable of all was the discovery of two
inverted bowls in the centre of the mound, underneath each of which lay
a human skull. One of them is described by Mr. Anderson as “a beautiful
skull, worthy of a Greek.” But on being exposed to the sun, as they
dried, they crumbled to ashes, “literally,” as he says, “disintegrating
before my eyes, whilst I was busy gathering up copper and stone
implements which would have waited for ever unharmed.”

The only skeletons exposed in the Evans Mound,—a large mound, near
Newark, Ohio, at the opening of which I was present, were in a similar
condition of extreme decay. Among the contents of the Taylor Mound, in
the same locality, the curious fact was communicated to me, that the
fractured quarter of a nearly spherical mass of hematite was found,
which at the time attracted less notice than a well-finished wedge and
hatchet of the same material. But on subsequently opening the Elliot and
Wilson Mounds, situated about five miles apart, in the same valley, each
of them was found to include among its contents a corresponding fragment
of hematite, which on being placed in juxtaposition, proved to be
portions of the same broken sphere, or nodule of hematite, valued in all
probability for some wonder-working power. Meteoric stones and pieces of
hematite have been repeatedly found in the Mounds; and were evidently
objects of special regard. The Elliot Mound furnished another object of
interest, in a pipe 7½ inches long, neatly carved in grey limestone,
with the bowl finished in the form of a bear’s head. As shown in Fig.
72, it is of an unusual style of design.

[Illustration: FIG. 72.—Stone Pipe, Elliot Mound, Ohio.]

The establishment of the village of Lockport, on the outskirts of
Newark, and the more recent erection of extensive ironworks there, have
swept away a curious group of mounds in that neighbourhood, including a
truncated pyramid, the contents of which appear to have been of unusual
interest. I examined in the collection of Mr. Wm. L. Merrin, a solid
copper armlet, a pair of remarkable objects like double cymbals, a
sheath subdivided into three tubes, supposed to be a quiver, a polished
axe, and several perforated plates, all of copper; a perforated lead
amulet, a polished chisel of diorite, numerous large shell beads, and
large plates of mica cut into a horse-shoe shape: all of which were
found at the base of the Lockport Mound, along with a number of
skeletons. Subsequently other objects of interest, including a large,
well-finished stone maul, of oval shape, with a deep groove round its
centre, and a mass of pure lead weighing upwards of four pounds, have
been found on its site, in opening up a road. But it is obvious that in
this, as in so many other cases, we have to regret the destruction of a
valuable memorial of the past, without any adequate record of its
disclosures being preserved. Happily a more intelligent interest has now
been awakened in the subject; the rarer objects of antiquity in stone
and in metal are highly prized, and are therefore likely to be preserved
as marketable articles even by those who can see in them no other value;
and as each mound or earthwork discloses some novel feature, further
research may be expected to add materially to our knowledge.

The remoter hill-mounds may reveal similar analogies in structure or
contents to those of the plains; and so furnish evidence that the
population which crowded the great centres, was diffused in smaller
numbers, far inland from the river’s banks, in outlying valleys and
among the secluded recesses of the hills. There, perhaps, as among the
higher valleys of the Andes under the rule of the Incas, a pastoral
people supplemented the agricultural industry of the central provinces,
and shared with them the common rites and superstitions of the national

In some cases the lofty site of the hill-mound may have determined its
selection from the same motive which occasionally guides the modern
Indian in his choice of a spot for his grave. Of this a striking
illustration is furnished in the history of one modern tumulus on the
Missouri. Upwards of half a century has elapsed since Black Bird, a
famous chief of the Omahaws, visited the city of Washington, and when
returning was seized with small-pox, of which he died on the way. When
the chief found himself dying, he called his warriors around him, and,
like Jacob of old, gave commands concerning his burial, which were as
literally fulfilled. Dressed in his most sumptuous robes, and fully
equipped with his scalps and war-eagle’s plumes, he was borne about
sixty miles below the Omahaw village, to one of the loftiest bluffs on
the Missouri, which commands a magnificent extent of river and
landscape. His favourite war-horse, a beautiful white steed, was led to
the summit; and there, in presence of the whole nation, the dead chief
was placed on its back, looking towards the river, where, as he had
said, he could see the canoes of the white men as they traversed the
broad waters of the Missouri. His bow was placed in his hand, his shield
and quiver, with his pipe and medicine-bag, were hung by his side. A
store of pemmican and a well-filled tobacco-pouch were supplied, to
sustain him on the long journey to the hunting-grounds of the good
Manitou, where the spirits of his fathers awaited his coming. The
medicine-men of the tribe performed their most mystic charms to secure a
happy passage to the land of the great departed; and all else being
completed, each warrior of the chiefs own band covered the palm of his
right hand with vermilion, and stamped its impress on the white sides of
the devoted war-steed. This done, the Indians gathered turfs and soil,
and placed them around its feet and legs. Gradually the pile rose with
the combined labour of many willing hands, until the living steed and
its dead rider were buried together under the memorial mound; and high
over the crest of the lofty tumulus which covered the warrior’s
eagle-plumes, a cedar post was reared to mark more clearly to the
voyagers on the Missouri, the last resting-place of Black Bird, the
great chief of the Omahaws.

One of the most striking evidences of the extent of occupation of the
country, and the denseness of its ancient population, is furnished by a
map in the _Ancient Monuments of the Mississippi Valley_, showing a
section of twelve miles of the Scioto Valley. Square, circular, and
polygonal enclosures, single and in groups, parallels, ditches, and
mounds, occupy every available terrace along the banks of the Scioto
River, and its tributary Paint Creek. A group of mounds in Ross county,
Ohio, occupies the third terrace on the east side of the Scioto Valley,
nearly a hundred feet above the river, and about equidistant from two
remarkable sacred enclosures. The principal mound is twenty-two feet
high; and on penetrating to its centre the traces of a rude sarcophagus
of unhewn logs were indicated by the cast which still remained in the
compacted earth. The bottom had been laid with matting or wood, the only
remains of which were a whitish stratum of decomposed vegetable matter;
and the timbers of the sarcophagus had in like manner decayed, and
allowed the superincumbent earth to fall on the skeleton. Alongside of
it were several hundred beads, made of the columellæ of marine shells
and the tusks of some animal, several of them bearing marks which seemed
to indicate that they were turned, instead of being carved, or ground
into shape by the hand. They retained their position, forming a triple
row, as originally strung round the neck of the dead; and, with the
exception of a few laminæ of mica, were the only objects discovered in
the grave. A layer of charcoal, about ten feet square, lay directly
above the sarcophagus; and seemed, from the condition of the carbonised
wood, to have been suddenly quenched by heaping the earth over it while
still blazing.

Similar layers of charcoal constitute a noticeable feature in mounds of
this class, and seem to indicate either that sacrifices were performed
over the bier, or that funeral rites of some kind were celebrated, in
which fire played an important part. On these funeral pyres probably
many perishable articles were consumed; as the beds of charcoal are
intermingled occasionally with fragments of bone, stone implements, and
other evidences of sacrifices and tribute to the deceased. It is also
apparent that the fire was kindled and allowed to blaze only for a
limited time, when its flames were quenched by heaping the earth over
the glowing embers; so that while charcoal occurs beneath as well as
above the skeleton, the bones are unaffected by fire. The rite was
practised where cremation was not followed; and may have been symbolical
of the lamp of life quenched for ever in the grave. Implements, both of
stone and metal, have been found in these grave-mounds, but for the most
part their contents indicate a different condition of society and mode
of thought from what Indian sepulture implies. Weapons are of rare and
exceptional occurrence. The more common articles are personal ornaments,
such as bracelets, perforated plates of copper, beads of bone, shell, or
metal, and similar decorations worn on the body at the time of its
interment. Among the objects which appear to have been purposely
disposed around the dead, plates of mica occur most frequently. In some
cases the skeleton has been found entirely covered with this material;
and in others the laminæ have been cut into regular figures: disks,
ovals, and symmetrical curves. As a general rule, however, it would
appear that reverence for the dead was manifested in other ways than by
depositing costly gifts in the grave; nor do the relics found indicate
any belief akin to that which induces the modern Indian to lay beside
his buried chief the arms and weapons of the chase, for use by him in
the future hunting-grounds or on the war-path. In a few cases the simple
sarcophagus has been constructed of stone instead of wood; in others the
body appears to have been merely wrapped in bark or matting. In some of
the Southern States both cremation and urn-burial seem to have been
practised; but throughout the valleys of the Ohio and its tributaries a
nearly uniform system of sepulchral rites has been traced. These no
doubt bore some important relation to the solemn religious observances
indicated by other works of the same people; and as it is not in the
sepulchral mounds, but in those which cover the “altars” on which the
sacrificial fires of the ancient worshippers appear to have often
blazed, that the greater number of their works of art, and even their
implements and weapons have been found: it may be that there, rather
than at the grave-mounds, they propitiated the manes of the dead, and
sought by sacrifices of love and reverence to reach beyond this world to
one unseen. Other indications, however, present analogies to the
arrangements of cists and cinerary urns in ancient British tumuli, which
suggest no less clearly the probability of human sacrifices, and a
suttee self-immolation at the grave of the great chief, so congenial to
the ideas of barbaric rank. Such cruel rites we know were practised
among the Mexicans and Peruvians on the largest scale; wives,
concubines, and attendants being immolated by the latter on the tomb of
their deceased Inca, in some cases even to the number of thousands.

The Grave Creek Mound, at the junction of Grave Creek with the Ohio
river, in the State of Virginia, commands, on various accounts, a
prominent distinction among the sepulchral monuments of America. It
occupies a site on an extensive plain in connection with works now much
obliterated; but its own gigantic proportions bid effectual defiance to
the operations which are rapidly erasing less salient records of the
ancient occupants of the soil. In the year 1838, when various
circumstances combined to direct an unusual degree of attention to
American antiquities, Mr. Tomlinson, the proprietor of the land, had it
explored at considerable cost. A shaft sunk from the top, and a tunnel
carried to the centre, disclosed two sepulchral chambers, one at the
base, and another thirty feet above. They had been constructed, as in
other cases, of logs, which had decayed, and permitted the
superincumbent earth, with stones placed immediately over them, to fall
upon the skeletons. In the upper chamber a single skeleton was found in
an advanced state of decay, whilst the lower one contained two
skeletons, one of which was believed to be that of a female. Beside
these lay between three and four thousand shell beads, a number of
ornaments of mica, several bracelets of copper, and sundry relics of
stone carving, referred to, along with works of art from other ancient
mounds, in a future chapter. But among them was included an inscribed
stone disc, which constitutes one of the marvels of American
antiquities. On reaching the lower vault, after removing its contents,
it was determined to enlarge it into a convenient chamber for visitors,
and in doing so ten more skeletons were discovered, all in a sitting
posture, but in too fragile a state to admit of preservation. The
position of these immediately around the sepulchral chamber, in the very
centre of the mound, precludes all idea of subsequent interment, and
scarcely admits of any other mode of accounting for their presence than
that which the human sacrifices both of ancient and modern American
obsequies suggest.

A tumulus of the gigantic proportions of the Grave Creek Mound serves
emphatically to impress the mind with the conviction that such
structures, even when of smaller dimensions, were no accompaniments of
common sepulture, but the special memorials of distinguished chiefs; or,
it may be, at times, of venerated priests. Of the busy population that
once thronged the valleys of the West we have no other memorials than
those which commemorate the toil of many to give a deathless name to one
now as nameless as themselves. The investigators of their works, after
describing in detail the monumental mounds, remark: “The graves of the
great mass of the ancient people who thronged our valleys, and the
silent monuments of whose toil are seen on every hand, were not thus
signalised. We scarcely know where to find them. Every day the plough
uncovers crumbling remains, but they elicit no remark; are passed by,
and forgotten. The wasting banks of our rivers occasionally display
extensive cemeteries; but sufficient attention has never been bestowed
upon them to enable us to speak with any degree of certainty of their
date, or to distinguish whether they belonged to the Mound-Builders or a
subsequent race. These cemeteries are often of such extent as to give a
name to the locality in which they occur. Thus we hear, on the Wabash,
of the ‘Big Bone Bank’ and the ‘Little Bone Bank,’ from which, it is
represented, the river annually washes many human skeletons, accompanied
by numerous and singular remains of art, among which are more
particularly mentioned vases and other vessels of pottery, of remarkable
and often fantastic form.”[87] I have been fortunate enough to obtain an
interesting example of the latter class of pottery, from Big Bone Bank,
figured on a subsequent page, which is specially valuable from the
striking analogy it suggests to familiar forms of Peruvian pottery.

The Ohio and Erie canal traverses the river-terrace of the Scioto Valley
in the vicinity of Chillicothe, where the ancient works of the
Mound-Builders are more abundant than in any other area of equal limits
hitherto explored. In some cases the canal has been cut through them,
and it can scarcely admit of doubt that many interesting traces of the
arts and habits of the remarkable people who once filled the
long-deserted scene, must have been disclosed to heedless eyes. Here and
there, doubtless, a stray relic was picked up, wondered at, and
forgotten; but no note was taken of the circumstances under which it was
found, and no record made of the discovery. And so must it ever be. The
pioneers of civilisation in the uncleared wilds of the West are too
entirely preoccupied with the present, to spare a thought for long
forgotten centuries. Happily, however, this state of things is passing
away, and every year shows increasing evidence of intelligent zeal in
the recovery and preservation of whatever is calculated to throw light
on the prehistoric ages of America.

The contents of the Scioto Valley Mound, as well as of others described
above, prove that the human remains were deposited in them long after
the body had gone to decay; and while numerous indications serve to show
that cremation was extensively practised by the Mound-Builders, it is
not improbable that a custom may have prevailed analogous to the modern
Indians’ scaffolding and subsequent sepulture of the bones of their
dead. The remains thus periodically gathered were sometimes deposited in
a common ossuary, as in that of the Taylor Mound; and in other cases
were burnt, with fitting rites, and their ashes heaped together, forming
mounds, such as one opened on the bank of Walnut Creek, in the Scioto
Valley. The principal portion of this consisted seemingly of
long-exposed and highly-compacted ashes, intermingled with specks of
charcoal, and small bits of burned bones. Beneath this was a small mound
of very pure white clay, resting on the original soil, without any
traces of the action of fire, over which the incinerated remains had
been piled into a mound, nine feet in height by forty in base. The
customs of the North American Indians, however, were very diverse; and
among the ancient Mexicans and Peruvians inhumation, cremation,
urn-burial, and mummification, accompanied with deposition in artificial
vaults and in caves, were all practised. It need not therefore surprise
us to find exceptions among the ancient Mound-Builders to any practice
recognised as most prevalent among them. Considering the decayed state
of most of the bones recovered from the great sepulchral mounds, where
they were equally protected from external air and moisture: if the
common dead were inhumed under the ordinary little grave-mound, their
bones must, for the most part, have long since returned to dust. Nor
must it be overlooked that the extremely comminuted state to which most
of the skeletons in the larger mounds have been reduced, when brought to
light by modern explorers, is due, in part at least, to the falling in
of a superincumbent mass of earth and stones upon them, when the timber
ceiling of their sarcophagus had sustained the weight long enough only
to render them the less able to resist its crushing force. The perfect
preservation of the “Scioto Mound cranium” was due to its being imbedded
in charcoal, over which a superstructure of large stones enveloped with
tough yellow clay had been piled, without any treacherous timber vaults.
It lay in the centre of the carbonaceous deposit, resting on its face.
The lower jaw was wanting, and only the clavicle, a few cervical
vertebræ, and some of the bones of the feet were huddled around it.
Unaccompanied though it was by any relics of art, it is, in itself, one
of the most valuable objects hitherto recovered from the American

Such are some of the traces we are able to recover of the sepulchral
rites of this people. In discussing the conclusions suggested alike by
their disclosures, and by those which the sacrificial mounds, the sacred
circumvallations, and the buried works of art reveal, we are dealing
with characteristics of a race pertaining to periods long preceding any
written history. For us these are their sole chronicles; and yet, even
from such data, we are able to deduce some traits of moral and
intellectual character. Perhaps the most important fact for our present
purpose is the rarity of weapons of war among the sepulchral deposits.
It accords with other indications of the condition of the
Mound-Builders. They had passed beyond that rude stage of savage life in
which war and the chase are the only honourable occupations of man.
Their weapons of war, like their fortresses, were means for the defence
of acquisitions they had learned to prize more highly. They had
conquered the forests, and displaced the spoils of the hunter with the
wealth of autumn’s harvestings; and with the habits of a settled
agricultural people, many new ideas had taken the place of the wild
imaginings and superstitions of the savage. As among all agricultural
nations, the vernal and autumnal seasons doubtless had their appropriate
festivals; and we can still, in imagination, reanimate their sacred
enclosures and avenues with the joyous procession bearing its
thank-offering of first-fruits, or laden with the last golden treasures
of the harvest-home.


[87] _Ancient Monuments of the Mississippi Valley_, p. 171.

                              CHAPTER XII.
                          SACRIFICIAL MOUNDS.


The name of sacrificial mounds has been conferred on a class of
monuments peculiar to the New World, and highly illustrative of the
rites and customs of the ancient race of the mounds. From their contents
also we derive many of the most interesting examples of the arts of that
singular people. The most noticeable characteristics of the sacrificial
mounds are: their almost invariable occurrence within enclosures; their
regular construction in uniform layers of gravel, earth, and sand,
disposed alternately in strata conformable to the shape of the mound;
and their covering a symmetrical hearth or altar of burnt clay or stone,
on which are deposited numerous relics, in all instances exhibiting
traces, more or less abundant, of their having been exposed to the
action of fire.

A sufficient number of sacrificial mounds has been opened to justify the
adoption of certain general conclusions relative to their construction
and the purposes for which they were designed. On the natural surface of
the ground, in most cases, a basin of fine clay appears to have been
modelled with care, in a perfectly symmetrical form, but varying in
shape, and still more in dimensions. They have been found square, round,
elliptical, and in the form of parallelograms; and, in size, range from
a diameter of two feet, to fifty or sixty feet long, and twelve or
fifteen feet wide. The most common dimensions, however, are from five to
eight feet in diameter. The clay basin, or “altar,” as it has been
designated, invariably exhibits traces of having been subjected to the
action of fire, and frequently of intense and long-continued or
oft-repeated heat. It is, moreover, evident that in some cases it had
not only been often used; but, after being destroyed by repeated
exposures to intense heat, it had been several times remodelled before
it was finally covered over by the superincumbent mound.

Within the focus or basin of the altars are found numerous relics:
elaborate carvings in stone, ornaments cut in mica, copper implements,
disks, and tubes, pearl, shell, and silver beads, and various other
objects, hereafter referred to, but all more or less injured by fire. In
some cases the carved pipes and other works in stone have been split and
calcined by the heat, and the copper relics have been melted, so that
the metal lies fused in shapeless masses in the centre of the basin.
Traces of cloth completely carbonised, but still retaining the structure
of the doubled and twisted thread; ivory or bone needles, and other
objects destructible by fire, have also been observed; and the whole are
invariably found intermixed with a quantity of ashes. Large
accumulations of calcined bones, including fragments of human bones,
also lay above some of the deposits, or mingled with them; and in other
cases a mass of calcined shells, or of fine carbonaceous dust, like that
formed by the burning of vegetable matter, filled up the entire hollow.
But while it is obvious from a few traces, that the deposits on the
altars had included offerings of objects which yielded at once to the
destructive element to which they were there exposed, as well as others
capable in some degree of withstanding the intensity of the flame: there
are only faint traces of all but the least destructible relics of stone
or metal. In one mound portions of the contents were cemented together
by a tufa-like substance of a grey colour, resembling the scoriæ of a
furnace, and of great hardness. But subsequent analyses demonstrated
that it was made up in part of phosphates; and a single fragment of
partially calcined bone found on the altar was the patella of a human
skeleton. The long-continued, and probably oft-repeated application of
intense heat had reduced the cemented mass to this condition. A quantity
of pottery, many implements of copper, and a large number of spear-heads
chipped out of quartz and manganese garnet, were also deposited on the
hearth; but they were intermixed with much coal and ashes, and were all
more or less melted or broken up with the intense action of the fire.
Out of a bushel or two of fragments of the spear-heads, and of from
fifty to a hundred quartz arrow-heads, only four specimens were
recovered entire. Scattered over the deposits of earth filling one of
the compartments, were traces of a number of pieces of timber, four or
five feet long, supposed by the explorers to have supported a funeral or
sacrificial pile. They had been somewhat burned, and the carbonised
surface preserved their casts in the hard earth, although the wood had
entirely decayed. They had been heaped over while glowing, for the earth
around them was slightly baked; and thus, after repeated, and perhaps
long-protracted sacrificial rites, some grand final service had
consummated the religious mysteries; and the blazing altar was quenched
by means of the tumulus that was to preserve it for the instruction of
future ages.

The evidence that some of the altars remained in use for a considerable
period, and were repeatedly renewed ere they were finally covered over,
has suggested the idea that they are no more than the hearths of the
ancient Mound-Builders’ dwellings. But in some cases a single
altar-hearth has been found within extensive circumvallations. When in
groups their enclosures are slight demarcations, as of places sacred to
religious observances, and not defensive embankments with outer ditch.
Their contents cannot be regarded as mere miscellaneous deposits, either
like the waste heap of an Indian hut, or the contents of the modern
Indian’s ossuary; and it is obvious that those hearths have been
systematically overlaid with mounds constructed with great care, even
where they were devoid of other traces than the ashes of their final
fires. In one large mound, for example, one hundred and forty feet in
length, by sixty feet in greatest breadth,—already referred to as that
in which so many quartz spear and arrow-heads, with copper and other
relics, were found;—a new and smaller hearth was observed to have been
constructed within the oblong basin of the original altar. In this all
the relics deposited in the mound were placed, and the outer
compartments of the large basin had been filled up with earth to a
uniform level, the surface of which showed traces of fire. A more minute
examination led to the discovery that three successive altars had been
constructed, one above another, in addition to the smaller hearth or
focus which had received the final offerings, ere it was buried under
its enclosing mound. In other examples the altars have been observed to
be very slightly burned; but wherever such was the case, they have also
been destitute of remains.

Along with the evidences of a uniformity of system and purpose in those
structures, there is also considerable variety in some of their details;
and one group may be selected, as on several accounts possessing
peculiar features of interest. On the western bank of the Scioto, an
ancient enclosure occupies a level terrace immediately above the river.
In outline it is nearly square with rounded angles, and consists of a
simple embankment, between three and four feet high, unaccompanied by a
ditch, or any other feature suggestive of its having been a place of
defence. It encloses an area of thirteen acres, within which are
twenty-four mounds, including the large oblong one already referred to.
The whole of these have been excavated, and found to contain altars and
other remains, suggestive of places of sacrifice, and not of sepulture.
Here, therefore, it may be assumed, was one of the sacred enclosures of
the Mound-Builders. The name of “Mound City” has been given to it; and
the results of its exploration prove it to have been one of the most
remarkable scenes of ancient ceremonial in the Scioto Valley. It would
almost seem as if here an altar had been reared to each god in the
American pantheon; for not the least remarkable feature observed in
reference to this class of mounds is, that they do not disclose a
miscellaneous assemblage of relics, like the Indian’s ossuary or
grave-mound. On the contrary, the sacrificial deposits are generally
nearly homogeneous. On one altar sculptured pipes are chiefly found, to
the number of hundreds; on another pottery, copper ornaments, stone
implements, or galena; on others, only an accumulation of calcined
shells, carbonaceous ashes, or burnt bones. One mound of this enclosure
covered a hearth in the form of a parallelogram of the utmost
regularity, measuring ten feet in length, by eight in width, and
containing a deposit of fine ashes, with fragments of pottery, from
which the pieces of one beautiful vase were recovered and restored. With
these also lay a few shell and pearl beads. In another oblong mound, the
altar was an equally perfect square, but with a circular basin,
remarkable for its depth, and filled with a mass of calcined shells.
Another, though of small dimensions, contained nearly two hundred pipes,
carved with ingenious skill, of a red porphyritic stone, into figures of
animals, birds, reptiles, and human heads. In addition to these were
also disks, tubes, and ornaments of copper, pearl and shell beads, etc.,
but all more or less injured by the heat, which had been sufficiently
intense to melt some of the copper relics. The number of the objects
found in this mound exceed any other single deposit. Some of them supply
illustrations of great importance relative to the arts, habits, and
probable origin of their makers; and that they were objects of value
purposely exposed to the destructive element can scarcely admit of
doubt. A like diversity marks the contents of other mounds, both within
the enclosure referred to, and in others where careful explorations have
been effected. From one, for example, upwards of six hundred disks of
hornstone were taken, and it was estimated that the entire deposit
numbered little short of four thousand.

It thus appears that sacrifices by fire were practised as an important
and oft-repeated part of the sacred rites of the Mound-Builders; and
also that certain specific and varying purposes were aimed at in the
offerings. The altar-mounds are chiefly found within what appear to have
been enclosures devoted primarily, if not exclusively, to religious
purposes; but they also occur, generally as single works, within the
military strongholds: where it may be assumed they sufficed for
sacrifices designed to propitiate the objects of national worship, and
to win the favour of their deities, when the garrisons were precluded
from access to the sacred enclosures where national religious rites were
chiefly celebrated.

Within a quarter of a mile of “Mound City” a work of somewhat similar
outline, but of larger dimensions, suggests the idea of a fortified
site: not designed as a military stronghold, but as a walled town,
wherein those who officiated at the sacrifices of the adjacent temple
may have resided. Unlike the slight enclosure of the latter, its walls
are guarded by an outer fosse; and if surmounted by a palisade, or other
military work, they were well suited for defence. The area thus enclosed
measures twenty-eight acres; and nearly, if not exactly, in the centre
is a sacred mound, which covered an altar of singular construction, and
with remarkable traces of sacrificial rites. It had undergone repeated
changes before its final inhumation. Upon the altar was found an
accumulation of burnt remains, carefully covered with a layer of sand,
above which was heaped the superstructure of the mound. “The deposit
consisted of a thin layer of carbonaceous matter, intermingled with
which were some burnt human bones, but so much calcined as to render
recognition extremely difficult. Ten well-wrought copper bracelets were
also found, placed in two heaps, five in each, and encircling some
calcined bones,—probably those of the arms upon which they were worn.
Besides these were found a couple of thick plates of mica, placed upon
the western slope of the altar.”[88]

All investigations coincide in proving that the altars of the
Mound-Builders were used for considerable periods, and that their final
incovering was effected with systematic care. In this respect they
present a striking contrast to the sepulchral mounds of the Indians, the
largest and most imposing of which are no more than huge grave-mounds,
or earth-pyramids, sometimes elliptical or pear-shaped, but exhibiting
in their internal structure no trace of any further design than to heap
over the sarcophagus of the honoured chief such a tumulus as should
preserve his name and fame to after times.

The investigation of this class of ancient works suggests many curious
questions to which it is difficult to furnish any satisfactory answer.
It seems probable that not only each successive stage in the use and
reconstruction of the altar, but in the building of the superincumbent
mound, had its own significance and accompanying rites. In one of the
“Mound City” structures, after penetrating through four successive
sand-strata, interposed at intervals of little more than a foot between
layers of earth; and excavating altogether to a depth of nineteen feet:
a smooth level floor of slightly burned clay was found, covered with a
thin layer of sand, and on this a series of round plates of mica, ten
inches or a foot in diameter, were regularly disposed, overlapping each
other like the scales of a fish. The whole deposit was not uncovered,
but sufficient was exposed to lead the observers to the conclusion that
the entire layer of mica was arranged in the form of a crescent, the
full dimensions of which must measure twenty feet from horn to horn, and
five feet at its greatest breadth. In some mounds the accumulated
carbonaceous matter, like that formed by the ashes of leaves or grass,
might suggest the graceful offerings of the first-fruits of the earth.
In others, the accumulation of hundreds of elaborately carved stone
pipes on a single altar, is suggestive of some ancient peace- or
war-pipe ceremonial, in which the peculiar American custom of
tobacco-smoking had its special significance, and even perhaps its
origin. In others again, we should perhaps trace in the deposition under
the sacred mound of hundreds of spear and arrow-heads, copper axes, and
other weapons of war, a ceremonial perpetuated in the rude Indian
symbolism of burying the tomahawk or war-hatchet. But looking to the
evidence which so clearly separates the sepulchral from the sacred
mounds, it is scarcely possible to avoid the conclusion that on some of
the altars of the Mound-Builders human sacrifices were made; and that
within their sacred enclosures were practised rites not less hideous
than those which characterised the worship which the ferocious Aztecs
are affirmed to have regarded as most acceptable to their sanguinary
gods. Among the Mexicans, if we are to believe the narratives of their
Spanish conquerors, human sacrifices constituted the crowning rite of
almost every festival. That great exaggeration is traceable in the
narratives of the chronicles is admitted in part even by the
enthusiastic historian of the conquest of Mexico; and the charming
historical romance woven by Prescott, is perhaps even more open to
question in its reproduction of the gross charges of cannibalism and
wholesale butchery in the superstitious rites of the Mexicans: than in
its gorgeous picturings of their architectural magnificence, their
temples and palaces, sculptured fountains, floating gardens, and all the
strange blending of Moorish luxury, with the refinements of European
life, and its unreserved freedom of women.

Nothing corresponding to the geometrical enclosures or altar-mounds of
the Mississippi Valley appears among the works of any Indian nation
known to Europeans. Nevertheless in searching for evidence of their
ethnical affinities, we are naturally led to inquire if no traces of
their peculiar rites and customs can be detected in the ruder practices
of savage nations found in occupation of their deserted sites; and some
of those in use by different Indian tribes undoubtedly suggest ideas
such as may have animated the ancient people of the valley in the
construction and use of their mounds of sacrifice. One class of mound
relics, for example, is thus illustrated in Hariot’s narrative of the
discovery of Virginia in 1584. He describes the use of tobacco, called
by the natives _uppówoc_, and greatly enlarges on its medicinal virtues.
He then adds: “This _uppówoc_ is of so precious estimation amongst them
that they think their gods are marvellously delighted therewith,
whereupon sometime they make hallowed fires, and cast some of the powder
therein for a sacrifice.” The discovery of unmistakable evidence that
one of the sacred altars of “Mound City” was specially devoted to
nicotian rites and offerings, renders such allusions peculiarly
significant. In the belief of the ancient worshippers, the Great Spirit
smelled a sweet savour in the smoke of the sacred plant; and the homely
implement of modern luxury became in their hands a sacred censer, from
which the vapour rose with as fitting propitiatory odours as that which
perfumes the awful precincts of the cathedral altar, amid the mysteries
of the Church’s high and holy days.

It is indeed a vague and partial glimpse that we recover of the old
worshipper, with his strange rites, his buried arts, and the traces of
his propitiatory sacrifices. But slight as it is, it reveals a condition
of things diverse in many respects from all else that we know of the
former history of the New World; and on that account, therefore, its
most imperfect disclosures have an interest for us greater than any
discoveries relating to the modern Indian can possess. Still more is
that interest confirmed by every indication which seems to present the
ancient Mound-Builders as in some respects a link between the rude
tribes of the American forests and prairies, and those nations whom the
first Europeans found established in cities, under a well-ordered
government, and surrounded by many appliances of civilisation akin to
those with which they had been long familiar among ancient nations of
southern Asia. To the great centres of native progress still manifest in
the ruined memorials of extinct arts in Central America, and illustrated
by so many evidences of national development attained under Aztec and
Inca rule, attention must be directed with a view to comprehend whatever
was essentially native to the New World. But before turning southward to
those seats of a well-ascertained native civilisation, there still
remains for consideration one other class of earthworks of a very
peculiar character. The mineral regions from whence the Mound-Builders
derived their stores of copper have been described; but between them and
the populous valleys of the Ohio, an extensive region intervenes,
abounding in monuments no less remarkable than some of those already
referred to; and valuable as a possible link in the detached fragments
of such ancient chroniclings. Lying as they do in geographical, and
perhaps also in other relations, immediately between the old regions of
the Mound-Builders and the Miners of ante-Columbian centuries, they
cannot be overlooked in any archæological researches into the history of
the New World.


[88] _Ancient Monuments of the Mississippi Valley_, p. 157.

                             CHAPTER XIII.
                            SYMBOLIC MOUNDS.


The well-watered region which stretches westward from Lake Michigan to
the Mississippi, was occupied until recently by a comparatively dense
Indian population; and even now affords shelter to the remnants of
native tribes. But besides the traces of their ephemeral dwellings and
graves, it abounds with earthworks of a distinctive character, peculiar
to the New World. But of this as of other partially explored regions of
the west, the earlier accounts were vague and contradictory; and it is
only very recently that the characteristics of its monuments have been
accurately defined. Mr. J. A. Lapham, to whose _Antiquities of Wisconsin
surveyed and described_, the minute knowledge of these remarkable
earthworks is chiefly due, claims to have first described the Turtle
Mound at Waukesha and other animal effigies of the same territory, so
early as 1836. These notices, however, only appeared in local
newspapers; and general attention was for the first time directed to
them by Mr. R. C. Taylor in the _American Journal of Arts and Sciences_,
in 1838. Their peculiar character was thereby perceived, and such
general interest awakened, that the American Antiquarian Society was
induced to place funds at Mr. Lapham’s disposal for carrying out the
elaborate surveys since published.

The occurrence of “Animal Mounds” is by no means exclusively confined to
the State of Wisconsin. Some examples are specially worthy of notice
among the varied earthworks of the Ohio and Scioto Valleys. But the
important fact connected with the aboriginal traces of Wisconsin is that
its Animal Mounds do not occur interspersed, as in the Ohio Valley, with
civic and sacred enclosures, sepulchral mounds, and works of defence;
but within its well-defined limits, thousands of gigantic basso-relievos
of men, beasts, birds, and reptiles, all wrought with persevering labour
on the surface of the soil, constitute its distinguishing
characteristic; and disclose no evidence of their construction with any
other object in view than that of perpetuating their external forms. The
vast levels or slightly undulating surfaces of prairie land present
peculiarly favourable conditions for the colossal relievos of the native
artist: yet not more so than are to be met with in other localities
where no such mounds occur. It is important therefore to bear in
remembrance that defensive or military structures, and such as are
apparently designed for sacrificial rites or religious ceremonies, are
scarcely to be met with in the territory marked by those singular groups
of imitative earthworks. The country, moreover, is well adapted for
maintaining a large population, in very diverse stages of social
progress. Through its gently undulating surface numerous rivers and
streams flow in sluggish, yet limpid current, eastward and westward, to
empty themselves into Lake Michigan or the Mississippi. The pools and
groups of lakes into which they expand, furnish abundance of wild rice,
which is at once a means of sustenance to numerous aquatic birds, and
also constituted an important source of supply to the aborigines, so
long as they held possession of the territory. The rivers and lakes also
abound with excellent fish; and where the soil remains uninvaded by the
ploughshare of the intruding settler, numerous traces of older
agricultural labour show where the Indians cultivated the maize, and
developed some of the industrial arts of a settled people. Indian
grave-mounds diversify the surface, and enclose ornaments and weapons of
the rude nomads that still linger on the outskirts of that western
state. But such slight and inartificial mounds are readily
distinguishable from the remarkable structures of a remoter era which
constitute the archæological characteristic of the region. Here, indeed,
as elsewhere, the Indians have habitually selected the ancient
earthworks as places of sepulture; and as a rule have given the
preference to the larger and more conspicuous mounds. On some of these
the surveyors recognised recent graves of the Potowattomies. But their
irregular position shows that they bear no relation to the original
design. In their superficial character they correspond to the slight
grave-mounds made with the imperfect implements of the modern Indians;
and they contrast in all other respects with the laborious construction
of the gigantic animal-mounds.

The symbolic earthworks of the Wisconsin plains are not confined to the
representation of animals, though the predominance of animal-mounds has
suggested that name for the whole. Embankments occur in the form of
crosses, crescents, angles, and straight lines; and also seemingly as
gigantic representations of the war-club, tobacco-pipe, and other
familiar implements or weapons. Some of the crosses and other simpler
forms probably originally represented animals, birds, or fishes, with
extended wings or fins. But in those, as in the better-defined
animal-mounds, time has obliterated the minuter touches of the ancient
modeller, and effaced indications of his meaning. Yet fancy still
recognises among the best preserved relievos the elk, buffalo, bear,
fox, otter, and racoon. The lizard is of frequent occurrence; the turtle
and frog also appear; birds and fishes are repeatedly represented; and
man himself figures among the ancient relievos. Of one form of mound
which Mr. Lapham identifies as the otter, seven examples occur. Sixteen
cruciform earthworks are described, and the ordinary examples, of all
sizes, are counted by hundreds.

It is not without reason that some of the larger mounds in the midst of
those emblematic earthworks have been designated observatory mounds, and
assumed to have been constructed in order to afford a view of the
laborious devices. Ordinarily the mound builder is tempted to give
greater prominence to his tumulus by erecting it on the summit of a hill
or bluff; but on the prairie land of Wisconsin, such natural elevations
are wanting; and hence the construction of a class of works for which
the lowest levels were preferred. The “Big Elephant Mound,” which
measures 135 feet in length, is constructed in a valley gently sloping
to the Mississippi, a few miles below the junction of the Wisconsin
River. The ridges on both sides offered a choice of elevated sites; but
the bottom land nearly on a level with the Mississippi at high water,
has been purposely chosen, so that the device might be surveyed from the
neighbouring heights. Fancy is prompt to assign a meaning to the old
modellers’ works. In this example, the prolonged snout, or proboscis,
has led to its designation as the “Big Elephant Mound”; and the
delineator of it, in the Smithsonian Report for 1872, so confidently
relies on its purposed significance that he asks: “Is not the existence
of such a mound good evidence of the contemporaneous existence of the
mastodon and the Mound-Builders?” The figure, though comparatively
large, is surpassed by many. Some indeed are on a gigantic scale. One
mound of peculiar, but indeterminate form, tapers for a length of five
hundred and seventy feet. At its smaller extremity or tail, it slightly
curves to the east. At the opposite extremity are a large cross, and one
of the largest circular mounds. Its device can no longer be recognised;
but much ingenuity and still more labour, have been expended on its
construction. Another remarkable group in Dade County, includes six
quadrupeds of indeterminate species, six parallelograms, a large
tumulus, a circle, and a human figure. The animals are grouped in two
rows; and the tumulus seems as though it had been erected as an
observatory from which to view the elaborate design. An ingenious
English critic recognises in it the possible memorial of a triumph like
that of the ancient Greek charioteer in the national games, with the
appropriate substitution of a sledge for the chariot, and a train of
dogs for the fleet racers of the hippodrome. “Taking,” he says, “the
rudeness of the age and workmanship into account, the impracticability
of the material, and the scale and material, the whole is really not a
bad representation of the dog-drawn sledges of the Kamschatdales of the
present day. Supposing their horns to have been omitted, from the
impracticability of raising earthworks that would stand well, and in
proportion to represent them, they might have signified the elk or the
reindeer. Whatever animal, however, be taken, it is perhaps a legitimate
inference that we have here the colossal trophy of a super-Atlantic
charioteer at some American race; why not the curious hippodrome, or,
more correctly here, cynodrome, with its starting-cells (carceres), its
course, its meta, and road of triumph to the town?”[89]

It was not necessary for the fanciful interpreter to resort to remote
Kamschatka for the model of his dog-drawn sledge, for such are common
enough among the Indians of the North-west. But a general survey of the
earthworks of Wisconsin in no degree tends to confirm this
interpretation, unless in so far as such animal-mounds may have been
monumental memorials, and trophies of achievements in wars and the
chase. As such they are executed on a scale which gives evidence of the
systematic expenditure of an enormous amount of labour; and as the
opinion has latterly found favour with some that the great mounds are
simply the result of many successive interments; and the marks of
regular stratification in some of them have been adduced in confirmation
of this idea: the corresponding proportions of the animal-mounds are
significant. In them at least a preconceived design has guided the
builders from the outset; and some adequate idea of the magnitude of the
Dade County group will be formed from a correct estimate of the
proportions of the supposed charioteer. He is figured, as is usual in
similar mounds, with his limbs extended, and with arms of
disproportionate length; possibly owing to the design originally
representing some implement in each hand. From head to foot he measures
one hundred and twenty-five feet, and one hundred and forty feet from
the extremity of one arm to that of the other. The head alone is a mound
twenty-five feet in diameter, and nearly six feet in highest elevation
from the surrounding soil. Measuring the whole by this scale, it is
abundantly apparent that a group, including altogether fifteen
mound-figures, must have been a work of immense time and labour, and
doubtless owed its origin to some motive or purpose of corresponding
magnitude in the estimation of its constructors.

Mr. Schoolcraft attempted to solve the mystery of the emblematic mounds
by assuming them to be the Totems, or heraldic symbols, in use among the
Indian tribes, thus reproduced in earthworks on a gigantic scale. The
fox, the bear, the eagle, turtle, or other animal, is selected among
them as the sign of the tribe or family. This usage prevailed among the
Iroquois, Hurons, Algonquins, Cherokees, and other nations occupying
very extensive areas; and, accordingly, guided by the superficial
resemblance of the Animal Mounds to such totemic signs, Mr. Schoolcraft
says: “A tribe could leave no more permanent trace of an esteemed
sachem, or honoured individual, than by the erection of one of these
monuments. They are clearly sepulchral, and have no other object but to
preserve the names of distinguished actors in their history.”[90] But
exploration seems to prove that the emblematical mounds of Wisconsin are
not sepulchral; while any correspondence that may be traced between them
and the totemic symbols of tribes once so widely spread as the
Algonquins, Iroquois, and Cherokees, only increases the mystery of
symbols constructed on this colossal scale, and confined to a territory
so limited. So far indeed is a careful survey from confirming any such
convenient and summary fancy, that Mr. Lapham states, as the result of
elaborate explorations, that he conceives four epochs are traceable in
the history of the locality, two of which at least preceded the era of
occupation by the Indian tribes. The period of the animal-mound builders
strikingly contrasts with that of the earthworks previously described,
in the rarity of enclosed works of art. But the few implements
discovered are full of interest from their obvious resemblance to those
of the Mound-Builders. Several of the large hornstone discs which I have
seen are of the same type as those found in immense numbers in the Ohio
Mounds; and Mr. Albert H. Hoy of Racine, Wisconsin, describes in a
letter to me the discovery of about thirty of the same relics, in that
vicinity, under circumstances suggestive of great antiquity. They lay at
a depth of eight feet in undisturbed soil, under a thin bed of peat, in
what appeared to have been the ancient bed of the Rock River.

The sites of the symbolic earthworks of Wisconsin correspond to those
adopted by the Mound-Builders for their sacred enclosures; though others
of their works, and especially the most remarkable of their
animal-mounds, were constructed on prominent heights. Within the fertile
region bounded by the great lakes and the Mississippi, a numerous
population may have long dwelt undisturbed, in the enjoyment of the
profusion which wood and water and the easily cultivated soil supplied.
On the bluffs and terraces surmounting the rivers and lakes by which
facilities of communication with the surrounding territory, and with
more distant regions, were commanded, the earthworks are found in
extensive and evidently dependent groups. But, unlike the rich memorial
mounds of the Scioto Valley, they reveal few enclosed relics to
chronicle the history of their erection, and throw light on the race of
artists who laboriously diversified the natural landscape with such
devices. In a few cases, human remains have been found in them, under
circumstances which did not clearly point to a modern date; but in
summing up the results of his explorations, Mr. Lapham remarks:—“So far
as I have had opportunity to observe, there are no original remains in
the mounds of imitative form, beyond a few scattered fragments that may
have gained a place there by accident. Many of the mounds have been
entirely removed, including the earth beneath for a considerable depth,
in the process of grading streets in Milwaukee; and it is usually found
that the natural surface had not been disturbed at the time of the
erection, but that the several layers or strata of mould, clay, gravel,
etc., are continuous below the structure, as on the contiguous grounds.
Great numbers of the smaller conical tumuli are also destitute of any
remains; and if human bodies were ever buried under them, they are now
so entirely ‘returned to dust’ that no apparent traces of them are

The extensive works at Aztalan, on the west branch of Rock River,
present analogies of a different kind from the sacred and civic
enclosures of the Mound-Builders. They constitute, it is believed, the
only ancient enclosure, properly so called, throughout the whole region
of the emblematic mounds; and, under the name of the “ancient city of
Aztalan,” were long regarded as one of the wonders of the western world.
Early explorers were on the look-out for the mother city of the Aztecs,
and the first surveyor of the earthworks on Rock River named them
Aztalan, in the full belief that the long-sought city of Mexican
tradition had at length been found. The name was a stimulus to credulity
and wonder; and proved the source of much extravagant exaggeration.
Walls of brick still sustained by their solid buttresses; a subterranean
vault and stairway discovered within one of its square mounds; a
subterranean passage, arched with stone; bastions of solid masonry, and
other features of the like kind: were all made to correspond with the
supposed mother-city of the Aztecs, and the cradle-land of America’s
native civilisation. On being subjected to accurate survey, those
wondrous features vanish. Freed, however, from exaggeration and
falsehood, the Aztalan works still present remarkable characteristics.
An area of seventeen acres on the banks of the Rock River is enclosed on
three sides by a vallum with regular “bastions,” as they have been
termed; although both the construction of the walls, and the site of the
enclosure—commanded as it is by elevated land on nearly every
side,—preclude the idea of its having been a place of defence. Large,
square, terraced mounds occupy the northern and southern angles. In one
of them a human skeleton was found; and in others of the mounds coarse
pottery occurs; but both may have been deposited long subsequent to the
completion of the earthworks of Aztalan. With these exceptions, nothing
has yet rewarded the careful and elaborate excavations of its explorers
tending to throw light on the original builders. Its bastions have been
tunnelled in vain; and cuttings made in some of the largest of a
remarkable range of tumuli outside the enclosures revealed only ashes,
mingled with charcoal and fragments of human bones, unaccompanied by a
single work of art, like those which confer so graphic an interest on
the mounds of the Ohio Valley.

Assuming the works of Aztalan and the animal-mounds of Wisconsin to
belong to the same period: Mr. Lapham assigns the conical mounds to a
later era. These he regards as built for sepulchral purposes, and
exhibiting, both in construction and materials, the workmanship of a
greatly inferior race of builders. Next come what are designated by the
modern settlers “ancient garden beds,” consisting of low, broad,
parallel ridges, as if corn had been planted in drills. They average
four feet in width, and the depth of the space between them is six
inches. These appearances indicate a more perfect system of agricultural
operations than anything known to have been practised by the modern
Indian tribes; but, at the same time, they are no less distinctly
disconnected with the construction of the ancient mounds. Where these
occur within a cultivated area, the parallel ridges of the old
cultivators are carried across them in the same manner as over any other
undulation of the ground. It is obvious, therefore, not only that the
emblematic earthworks preceded them, but that they had neither
sacredness nor any special significance in the eyes of the cultivators
of the soil. Probably, indeed, such traces of agricultural operations
belong to a greatly more modern period.

What, then, are the inferences to be drawn from the ancient monuments
peculiar to the territory lying immediately to the south of the great
copper region of Lake Superior? They are mostly of a negative character,
yet not on that account without significance. If we assume the existence
of contemporary nations in Wisconsin and the Ohio Valley in the period
of the Mound-Builders, the chronicles of that era exhibit them to us in
striking contrast. In the one region every convenient height is crowned
with the elaborate fortifications of a numerous and warlike people;
while, on the broad levels of the river-terraces, ingenious geometrical
structures prove their skill and intellectual development as applied to
the formation of civic and temple enclosures. Their sacred and
sepulchral mounds, in like manner, reveal considerable artistic skill,
and a singular variety in the rites and customs exacted in the
performance of their national worship. Turning to the northern area, all
is changed. Along the river-terraces we look in vain for military
structures. The mounds disclose no altars rich with the metallurgic or
mimetic workmanship of their builders; but, on the contrary, the sole
traces of imitative art occur in the external forms of earthworks, the
exploration of which confutes the idea of their having been erected over
either grave or altar, and reveals no other purpose of their

When it is considered that, along with the mica of the Alleghanies, the
shells of the Gulf of Mexico, and obsidian from the ancient centre of
American civilisation, the copper of Lake Superior is one of the most
abundant materials found in the Mississippi mounds: we are tempted to
trace some intimate relation between the warlike occupants of the Ohio
and Scioto valleys and the singular race who dwelt in peaceful industry
on the well-watered and plentifully stocked plains to the south of the
copper region, and there constructed their strange colossal memorials of
imitative art. The country seems peculiarly adapted by nature as a
central neutral land for the continent to the east of the Rocky
Mountains. On the east it is guarded by Lake Michigan, and on the north
by the great inland sea which constitutes the fountain of the whole lake
and river chain that sweeps away on its course of twenty-five hundred
miles, over Niagara, and through the islands and rapids of the St.
Lawrence, to the Atlantic. On the west, with its infant streamlets
originating almost from the same source, the Mississippi rolls onward in
its majestic course, receiving as its tributaries the great rivers which
rise alike on the western slope of the Alleghanies and the eastern
declivities of the Rocky Mountains, and loses itself at length in the
Gulf of Mexico. This wonderful river system, and the great level contour
of the regions which it drains, exercised a remarkable influence on the
extinct civilisation of America, as well as on later Indian nomad life,
making its primitive eras so different from any phase of Europe’s
history. The Indians who traded with Cartier at Tadousac, on the lower
St. Lawrence, and those whom Raleigh met with on the coast of Carolina,
obtained their copper from the same northern region towards which the
head-waters of the Mississippi and the St. Lawrence converge; while the
world of Europe between the Rhine and the Baltic remained, even in its
late Roman era, almost as much apart from that on its Mediterranean
shores as the America of centuries before Columbus. It seems, therefore,
not inconceivable that the prairie land of Wisconsin derives some of its
archæological characteristics from its relation to the physical
geography of the region between the Rocky Mountains and the Atlantic,
possibly as a sacred neutral ground attached to the metallurgic region
of Lake Superior, like the famous pipe-stone quarry of the Couteau des

This idea of some peculiar relations connecting the symbolic architects
of Wisconsin with the Mound-Builders of the Ohio, derives confirmation
from the few but remarkable animal-mounds of the latter, in which their
connection with the religious rites of the ancient race is borne out.
One example of an animal-mound, upwards of 250 feet in length, and
probably designed to represent a bear, occupies a high level terrace on
the west bank of the Scioto river. Unlike any of the symbolic mounds of
Wisconsin, it is surrounded by an oval embankment measuring four hundred
and eighty feet in greatest diameter. On the south side a space of about
ninety feet wide breaking the continuity of the embankment, is covered
by a long exterior mound, leaving two avenues of approach where it
overlaps the inner oval. This mound has not been opened; but in the
process of excavating the Ohio canal, large quantities of mica, similar
to what occurs so abundantly in the sacrificial mounds, were found in
its immediate vicinity.

The same canal intersects Newark earthworks; and there, within another
elliptic vallum, is the Eagle Mound, measuring 155 feet in length of
body, and 200 feet between the tips of the wings. It is only a minor
feature of the remarkable group, already described, which includes
geometrical enclosures, mounds, and avenues; but it is distinguished
from all the others, by the great scale of its enclosing walls, and
interior ditch. Unfortunately it was opened by a former proprietor in
search of treasure; and no further record of its contents has been
preserved, except that it covered a hearth of a similar character to the
altars already described as characteristic of the sacrificial mounds.
The fact, however, illustrates the contrast between works bearing so
much external resemblance to each other as the symbolic mounds of the
Mississippi Valleys and those of Wisconsin. In the absence of all
included relics of worship or inhumation, the latter seem but as symbols
of the rites practised by the southern Mound-Builders.

About six miles higher up the same valley, the “Alligator,” of Licking
County, attracts attention as another remarkable colossal animal-mound.
It occupies the summit of a lofty hill or spur, which projects into the
Racoon Creek Valley. The outline and general contour of this huge
lizard-mound are still clearly defined, though agricultural operations
have obliterated some of the minuter traces noted by early visitors. The
average height is four feet; but the head, shoulders, and rump, are
elevated in parts to a height of fully six feet. The tail curls off to
the left side, and is now so indefinite, as it tapers towards a point,
that the precise measurement is uncertain; but the total length of the
“Alligator” may be stated at about 220 feet. Excavations made at various
points have only shown that the figure has been modelled in fine clay
upon a framework of stones of considerable size. But when I visited it,
a rain gully had exposed part of the side of the hill, showing this to
consist to a large extent of loose stones; so that the mound is no doubt
constructed with materials obtained on the spot. A raised circular
structure, designated the altar, and covered with stones which had been
much exposed to the action of fire, is described by former observers as
standing on the right side, and connected with the summit of the mound
by a graded way ten feet broad; but the traces of this feature are now
very slight.

The site of this remarkable monument commands a view of the entire
valley for eight or ten miles, and is by far the most conspicuous point
within that limit. An ancient fortified hill stands about three-fourths
of a mile distant on a spur of the same range of heights; and another
entrenched hill nearly faces it on the opposite side of the valley.
Numerous mounds occupy both the hill-tops and the levels in surrounding
valleys; and it is only the luxuriant growth of the forest which
conceals the great Newark group, with its geometrical enclosures,
parallels, and mounds. The Alligator Mound may, therefore, be assumed to
symbolise some object of special awe or veneration, thus reared on one
of the chief high-places of the nation, where the ancient people of the
valley could witness the celebration of rites of their unknown worship.
Its site was obviously selected as the most prominent natural feature in
a populous district abounding with military, civic, and religious
structures. Yet its imposing proportions are surpassed by another
symbolic work constructed on a height remote from any traces of ancient

The Great Serpent of Adam’s County, Ohio, occupies the extreme point of
a crescent-formed spur of land formed at the junction of two tributary
streams of the Ohio. This elevated site has been cut to a conformity
with an oval circumvallation on its summit, leaving a smooth external
platform ten feet wide, with an inclination towards the embankment on
every side. Immediately outside the inner point of this oval is the
serpent’s head, with distended jaws, as if in the act of swallowing
what, in comparison with its huge dimensions, is spoken of as an egg,
though it measures 160 feet in length. Conforming to the summit of the
hill, the body of the serpent winds back, in graceful undulations,
terminating with a triple coil at the tail. The figure is boldly
defined, the earth-wrought relievo being upwards of five feet in height
by thirty feet in base at the centre of the body; and the entire length,
following its convolutions, cannot measure less than a thousand feet.

This singular monument stands alone, and though classed here with the
symbolic animal-mounds of Wisconsin, it has no analogue among the
numerous basso-relievos wrought on the broad prairie-lands of that
region. It is indeed altogether unique among the earthworks of the New
World, and without a parallel in the Old; though it has not unnaturally
furnished the starting-point for a host of speculations relative to
serpent-worship. Among the miniature sculptures of the Mound-Builders,
repeated examples of the serpent occur. On one of the altars of “Mound
City” was a pipe of the form peculiar to the mounds, with a rattlesnake
coiled round the bowl. From another mound of the same earthwork several
sculptured tablets were recovered, representing the rattlesnake,
delicately carved in fine cinnamon-coloured sandstone; and one of them
carefully enveloped in sheets of copper. The character of these
sculptures, and the circumstances under which they were discovered,
suggested to the explorers that they were not designed for ornaments;
but had some relation to superstitious rites. Other serpents are
represented by the Mound-Sculptors; but the rattlesnake is the favourite
type. I recently examined, in the Peabody Museum of Archæology at
Cambridge, Mass., a series of eighteen engraved circular plates made
from the shell of the _Pyrula_, which were obtained from the Brakebill
and Lick Creek Mounds, in East Tennessee. Thirteen of them bear the same
device of a rattlesnake. Among the Mexicans it was the symbol of
royalty; and this helps to give a special interest to a remarkable
tablet figured here, in the same style of art, so suggestive of Mexican
affinities. It is a disk of fine-grained sandstone, nearly 8½ inches in
diameter, and three-quarters of an inch, thick, on which is graven the
elaborate device of two intertwined rattlesnakes, as shown in Fig. 73.
On the back a slight ornament runs round the border; and a fractured
mortice-hole, somewhat out of the true centre, shows where a handle has
been attached to it. It was found in two pieces, near Lake Washington,
Issaquina County, Mississippi; and is now in the possession of Mr. W.
Marshall Anderson, of Circleville, Ohio.

[Illustration: FIG. 73.—Lake Washington Disk.]

The imitative mounds of Wisconsin hitherto described are in bold relief;
but on the Indian Prairie, a few miles from the city of Milwaukee, there
occur five designs, wrought—to use a term of European art,—in
intaglio. Instead of the representations of animals being executed in
relief, the process has been reversed, and the outline has been
completed by piling the excavated earth round the edge. A few similar
examples have been noted at other points; but such a process is more
liable to effacement in the progress of time, unless renewed like the
famous “White Horse” of Berkshire, by a periodical “scouring.” The chalk
hills of southern England present peculiar facilities for effective
colossal intaglio work. Another White Horse, ascribed to Saxon victors
of the Danes, accompanies a group of British earthworks on Braddon Hill,
Wiltshire; and the colossal human figure, armed with a club, at Cerne,
in Dorsetshire, preserves a still closer counterpart to those scattered
over the prairie lands beyond the western shores of Lake Michigan.

But for our present purpose the comparison of these ancient earthworks
with others clearly traceable to modern Indian tribes, is more important
than any analogies between the antiquities of the two hemispheres. One
fact of obvious significance is the great scale on which the prehistoric
races of America wrought, and the consequent evidences of numbers, and
of combined labour perseveringly applied to the accomplishment of their
aim. It is difficult to convey any definite conception of this by mere
description, even though accompanied with minute measurements. A single
cruciform mound measures four hundred and twenty feet between the
extreme points of its limbs. Lizard and other animal-mounds ranging from
eighty to a hundred and fifty feet in length occur in extensive groups;
and by their systematic arrangement, impress the mind with the idea of
protracted toil carried on under the control of some supreme rule, or
stimulated by motives of paramount influence. The Indian tribes that
have come under observation are as diverse in habits, arts, and
religious rites as in language; but none of them have manifested any
capacity for the combination involved in the construction of monuments
which more nearly resemble the great embankments and viaducts of modern
railway engineering. The extent of such works indicates a settled
condition of society, and industry far beyond that of the Iroquois
Confederacy. In all this there may be nothing absolutely incompatible
with the idea of the Indians being degenerate descendants of such a
people, yet it is unsupported by proof. No modern tribe preserves any
traces of such ancestral constructive habits; and while the
animal-mounds appear to be regarded with superstitious reverence by the
Indians, and are rarely disturbed except for purposes of sepulture, they
lay no claim to them as the work of their fathers. The only theory of
their origin is, that they are the work of the great Manitou, and were
made by him to reveal to his red children the plentiful supply of game
that awaits them in the world of spirits. The idea is a consoling one to
tribes whose hunting-grounds have been invaded and laid desolate; and it
is fully as philosophical as a theory gravely propounded to the American
Scientific Association, that the cruciform and curvilinear earthworks
intermingled with the animal-mounds include characters of the Phœnician
alphabet, and are half-obliterated inscriptions commemorative of
explorations by the great voyagers of antiquity.

What then are the inferences thus far deducible as to the races of
Northern America in ante-Columbian centuries? Assuming a community of
arts, and certain intimate relations in race and social condition, among
the ancient people who worked the mines on Lake Superior, and
constructed the varied earthworks that reach southward into Indiana,
Ohio, and Kentucky: there is no reason to suppose that they were united
as one nation. While coincidences of a remarkable kind in the
construction, and still more in the dimensions of their great
earthworks, point to a common knowledge of geometrical configuration,
and a standard of measurement: no two earthworks so entirely correspond
as to show an absolute identity of purpose. The marked diversity between
the truncated, pyramidal mounds of the states on the Gulf, the
geometrical enclosures of Ohio, and the symbolic earthworks of
Wisconsin, indicate varied usages of distinct communities. A dense
population must have centred in certain favourite localities, still
marked by evidence of the combined labours of a numerous people; and
some supreme rule, like that of the Incas of Peru, must have regulated
the operations requisite for the execution of works planned on so
comprehensive a scale.

The Scioto and the Ohio valleys, it may be presumed, were the seats of
separate states, with frontier populations living in part on the produce
of the chase; but depending largely on agricultural industry for the
sustenance of the communities crowded on the flats and river-valleys
where their monuments abound, and for the supply of the workmen by whose
combined labour they were constructed. The religious character and uses
ascribed to one important class of their earthworks, in which scientific
skill is most clearly manifested, points to the probable existence of a
sacerdotal order, such as played an important part in the polity both of
Mexico and Peru. There is indeed so great a discrepancy between the
remarkable combination of science and skill in the execution of the Ohio
earthworks, and the crude state of the arts otherwise associated with
them, as to suggest the idea of a sacerdotal caste, like the Brahmins of
India, distinct in race, and superior in intellectual acquirements to
the great mass of the people.

Of the physical characteristics of the Mound-Builders, notwithstanding
the ransacking of many sepulchral mounds, we possess as yet very partial
evidence. This department of the subject will come under review in a
subsequent chapter; and it will then be seen that while the accepted
Mound-Builders’ type of head has been largely based on the very specimen
selected by Dr. Morton, as “the perfect type of Indian conformation,”
with its undoubted traces of compression, and of the use of the
cradle-board, so characteristic of the Indian hunter: it seems not
improbable that a systematic exploration of the mounds may disclose
evidence of a ruling class differing physically as well as
intellectually from the mass of the community by whose toil the enduring
monuments of their singular rites and customs have been perpetuated.

But, while the Mound-Builders are essentially prehistoric, according to
all New World chronology, there is nothing in the disclosures hitherto
made calculated to suggest for them an extremely remote era. The
marvellous traces of geometrical skill in their great earthworks, more
than anything else, separate them from every known race north of Mexico.
The indications of antiquity in the mines of Lake Superior, and the
mounds of Ohio, suggest no such enormous intervals of time as perplex us
in attempting to deal with the relics of the caves and river-valleys of
Europe. The refilled trenches on the barren rocks of Isle Royale
manifestly demand centuries for the slow accumulation of sufficient soil
and vegetable matter to refill the excavations. Dr. Hildreth ascribes
eight hundred years of growth to a tree felled on one of the mounds at
Marietta; and other trustworthy authorities, including Messrs. Squier
and Davis, furnish similar evidence for lesser periods of four, five,
and six centuries. The longest term thus indicated would be little
enough for the filling up of the deserted trenches of Isle Royal. But
however far back we carry the era of the Mound-Builders, the chief
change which the regions occupied by them have since undergone, is the
clothing of their valleys, and the earthworks erected there, with the
forests which help us to some partial guess at the intervening centuries
since their disappearance. The animal remains hitherto found in their
mounds are those of the existing species of deer, bears, wolves, and
other fauna, not even now wholly extirpated from Ohio; and while their
ingenious sculptures prove that they were familiar with a more southern,
and even a South-American tropical fauna: nothing has yet been
discovered to connect them with an extinct, much less a fossil mammalia,
such as the mastodon. The probability rather is that the ruins of
Clark’s Work, or Fort Ancient, may match in antiquity with those of
England’s Norman keeps, and even that their builders may have lingered
on into centuries nearer the age of Columbus.

The Zuñi, Moquis, Pimos, and other tribes of New Mexico, have left
curious evidences of a people of gentle skill in agriculture, in ceramic
art, and above all, in architecture, beyond anything pertaining to the
northern Indians, or even in some respects to the Mound-Builders. But
there still remains the distinct and perplexing element of a people so
partially civilised, and comparatively rude; yet able to construct
squares, circles, ellipses, and other geometrical figures on a seale
which would tax the skill of many a well-trained civil engineer of the
present day.

Other characteristic traits of the Mound-Builders, especially as shown
in their ingenious sculptures, and illustrated by their mimetic art,
have yet to be considered. But this at least is apparent, that the most
advanced among the Indian tribes of North America within its historical
period represent a phase of life essentially inferior to that which had
preceded it. Before the great river-valleys were overshadowed with their
ancient forests, nations dwelt there practising arts and rites which
involved many germs of civilisation. Their defensive military skill,
their agricultural industry, and even their ideas of the relations of
man to some supreme spiritual power, are suggested by evidence, which,
though inadequate for any detailed chronicle, discloses glimpses of an
unwritten history full of interest even in this tantalising form. We
have still to consider other characteristics of the ancient race,
including their geographical and ethnical relations. But before doing
so, it is desirable to review the history of other ancient American
races among whom civilisation attained a higher development, and of whom
we have historical evidence, as well as the chronicles which archæology


[89] _Journ. Brit. Archæol. Ass._ vol. v. p. 411.

[90] _History of Indian Tribes_, vol. i. p. 52.

[91] _Antiquities of Wisconsin_, p. 80.

                              CHAPTER XIV.


The Toltecs play a part in the initial pages of the New World’s story
akin to the fabled Cyclops of antiquity. They belong to that vague era
which lies beyond all definite records, and furnish a name for the
historian and the ethnologist alike to conjure with: like the Druids or
the Picts of the old British antiquary, or the Phœnicians of his
American disciple. Yet it is not without its value thus to discover
among the nations of the New World, even a fabulous history, with its
possible fragments of truth embodied in the myth. Mr. Gallatin has
compiled a laborious digest of the successive migrations and dynasties
of Mexico, as chronicled from elder sources, by Ixtlilxochitl, Sahagun,
Veytia, Clavigero, the Mendoza Collection, the Codex Tellurianus, and
Acosta.[92] The oldest dates bring the Toltec wanderers to
Huehuetlapallan, A.D. 387, and close their dynasty in the middle of the
tenth century; when they are superseded by Chichimecas and Tezcucans,
whose joint sovereignty, by the unanimous concurrence of authorities,
endured till the sixteenth century. But, meanwhile, the same authorities
chronicle the foundation of Mexico or Tenochtitlan, variously in the
thirteenth or fourteenth century, by Aztec conquerors; and profess to
supply the dynastic chronology of Aztec power. The earliest date is not
too remote for the commencement of a civilisation that has left such
evidences of its later maturity; but unfortunately the various
authorities differ not by years only, but by centuries. Ixtlilxochitl
carries back the founding of Mexico upwards of a century farther than
any other authority; and in the succeeding date, which professes to fix
the election of its king, Acamapichtli, the discrepancies between him
and other authorities vary from two to considerably more than two and a
half centuries, and leave on the mind of the critical student
impressions as unsubstantial as those pertaining to the regal dynasties
of Alban and Sabine Rome. Spanish chroniclers and modern historians have
striven to piece into coherent details the successive migrations into
the Vale of Anahuac, and the desertion of the mythic Aztalan for the
final seat of Aztec empire on the lake of Tezcuco; but their shadowy
history marshals before us only shapes vague as the legends of the
engulfed Atlantis.

There is something suggestive of doubt relative to much else that is
greatly more modern, to find the historian of the Conquest of Mexico
tracing down the migrations and conquests of the Toltecs from the
seventh till the twelfth century, when the Acolhuans or Tezcucans, the
Aztecs, and others, superseded them in the Great Valley. We turn to the
foot-notes, so abundant in the carefully elaborated narrative of
Prescott, and we find his chief or sole authority is the christianised
half-breed Don Fernando de Alva, or Ixtlilxochitl, who held the office
of Indian interpreter of the Viceroyalty of New Spain in the beginning
of the seventeenth century. Compared with such an authority, Bede should
be indisputable as to the details of Hengist and Horsa’s migrations, and
Geoffrey of Monmouth may be quoted implicitly for the history of
Arthur’s reign.

But the Aztecs, at any rate, are no mythic or fabulous race. The
conquest of their land belongs to the glories of Charles V., and is
contemporary with what Europe reckons as part of its modern history. The
letters of its conqueror are still extant; the gossiping yet graphic
marvels of his campaigns, ascribed to the pen of Bernal Diaz, a soldier
of the Conquest, have been diligently ransacked for collation and
supplementary detail; and the ecclesiastical chroniclers of Mexican
conquest and colonisation, have all contributed to the materials out of
which Prescott has woven his fascinating picture of Hernando Cortes and
his great life-work. It is a marvellous historical panorama, glittering
with a splendour as of the mosques and palaces of Old Granada. But a
growing inclination is felt to test the Spanish chroniclers by surviving
relics of that past which they have clothed for us in more than oriental
magnificence; and, for this purpose, to relume that curious phase of
native civilisation which the Conquest abruptly ended. Yucatan and
Central America still reveal indisputable memorials of an era of native
architectural skill, to which attention must be directed. But,
meanwhile, it is important to note that an assumed correspondence
between the architecture of Central America and that which is affirmed
to have existed in Mexico at the time of the Conquest constitutes the
basis of many fallacious arguments on the nature and extent of Aztec
civilisation in the era of the second Montezuma. Again, the conflicting
elements apparent between the barbarous rites and cannibalism ascribed
to the Aztecs, and the evidences of their matured arts and high
civilisation, have been the plentiful source of theories as to Toltecan
and other earlier derivations for all that pertained to such
manifestations of intellect and inventive genius. It is important,
therefore, to determine the actual character of Mexican architecture.
The remains of the extinct Mound-Builders are full of wonder for us; but
the reputed magnificence of Montezuma’s capital throws their earthworks
into the shade, as things pertaining to America’s childhood. Before,
however, this conclusion can be accepted, it is indispensable that we
test, by existing evidence, the descriptions of Mexican art and
architecture handed down to us by chroniclers of the sixteenth and
seventeenth centuries.

A peculiar style is recognised as pertaining to the native architecture
of America, which it has been the favourite fancy of American
antiquaries to trace to an Egyptian or Phœnician source. Alike in
general character and mode of construction, in the style of sculpture,
and the hieroglyphic decorations which enrich their walls: the ruined
palaces and temples of Mexico, as well as of Yucatan and Central
America, have been supposed to reproduce striking characteristics of the
Nile valley. But the experienced eye of Stephens saw only elements of
contrast instead of comparison; and while Prescott sums up his history
of Mexican conquest with this conclusion, “that the coincidences are
sufficiently strong to authorise a belief that the civilisation of
Anahuac was, in some degree, influenced by that of eastern Asia,” he
adds, that the discrepancies are such as to carry back the communication
to a period so remote as to leave its civilisation, in all its essential
features, peculiar and indigenous.

It is not always easy to determine the characteristics of some of the
most famous monuments of Mexican art. The ruined city of Aztalan, on the
western prairies: after filling the imagination with glowing fancies of
a Baalbek or Palmyra of the New World, from whence the Aztecs had
transplanted the arts of an obliterated civilisation to the Mexican
plateau, shrunk before the gaze of a truthful surveyor into a mere group
of mounds and earthworks, presenting no other analogies than those which
class them with the works of the American Mound-Builders. It may be,
however, that a critical survey will reveal traits in the later Aztecs
of Anahuac, rendering such an ancestral birth-land not wholly
inconsistent with their actual condition when brought into contact with
the civilisation of Europe. Such at least seems to be the tendency of
modern disclosures; if, indeed, they do not point to the possibility
that much even of the latest phase of Mexican civilisation may present
closer analogies to the actual Aztalan of the Wisconsin prairies than to
the fancied mother-city of the Aztecs.

Midway across the continent of North America, where it narrows towards a
point between the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific, the civilisation of
the New World appears to have converged at the close of the fifteenth
century. Here the traveller from the Atlantic coast, after passing
through gorgeous tropical flowers and aromatic shrubs of the deadly
_tierra caliente_, emerges at length into a purer atmosphere. The
vanilla, the indigo, and flowering cacao-groves are gradually left
behind. The sugar-cane and the banana next disappear; and he looks down
through the gorges of the elevated _tierra templada_ on the vegetation
of the tropics, carpeting, and scenting with its luscious but deadly
odours, the region which stretches along the Mexican Gulf. Higher still
are regions where the wheat and other grains of Europe’s temperate zone
replace the tall native maize; until at length he enters the _tierra
fria_: climbing a succession of terraces representing every zone of
temperature, till he rests on the summit of the Cordillera. Beyond this
the volcanic peaks of the Andes tower into the regions of perpetual
snow; while the traveller crosses the once thickly-wooded table-land
into the valley of Mexico: an oval basin about sixty-seven leagues in
circumference, and elevated beyond the deadly malaria and enervating
heat of the coast, into a temperate climate, nearly seven thousand five
hundred feet above the sea. Here, encompassed by the salt marshes of the
Tezcucan Lake, stood the ancient Tenochtitlan or Mexico, “The Venice of
the Aztecs.”

In the month of October 1519, Don Diego de Ordaz effected the ascent of
the volcanic Popocatepetl, from whence he beheld the valley of Mexico
with its curious chain of lakes; and caught a glimpse of the far-famed
capital of Montezuma, with its white towers and pyramidal teocallis
reflecting back the sun from their stuccoed walls. The scene seemed to
realise such a dream of romance as Bernal Diaz reports of Cempoal: “The
Buildings,” he says, “having been lately whitewashed and plastered, one
of our horsemen was so struck with the splendour of their appearance in
the sun, that he came back in full speed to Cortes to tell him that the
walls of the houses were of silver!” The men of that generation which
witnessed the discoveries of mighty empires, and an El Dorado beyond the
known limits of the world, had their imaginations expanded to the
reception of any conceivable wonders. Sir Thomas More constructed his
_Utopia_ out of such materials; and Othello styles his wonderful
relations “of antres vast and deserts idle,” a “traveller’s history.”

The poetical imagination of Columbus was one of the sources of his
power, whereby he anticipated with undoubting faith the realisation of
his grand life-work. But from the position in which Cortes was placed,
it was his interest to give currency to the highly-coloured visions of
his first pioneers, rather than to transmit to Europe the colder
narrative of matured experience. Approaching the Mexican capital, he
exclaims in his first burst of enthusiasm: “We could compare it to
nothing but the enchanted scenes we had read of in _Amadis de Gaul_,
from the great towers and temples, and other edifices of lime and stone
which seemed to rise up out of the water.” To achieve the recognised
mastery of this scene of enchantment, he had not only to conquer its
Mexican lords, but to defeat his Spanish foes, and to win to his side
that Emperor who, while shaping Europe’s history in one of its mightiest
revolutions, could control the destinies of the New World. When reading
the accounts transmitted to Spain of the gorgeous treasures of
Montezuma’s palaces, we have to bear in remembrance that the treasures
themselves perished in the retreat of the _noche triste_, as the city
itself vanished in the final siege and capture. The very dreams of an
excited imagination could become realities of the past to the narrators
themselves, when every test of their truth had been swept away.

On the 9th of November 1519, Cortes made his first entry into the
capital of Montezuma, and from thence he wrote to the Emperor Charles
V., giving an account of the Indian metropolis, with its palaces and
stately mansions, far surpassing in grandeur and beauty the ancient
Moorish capital of Cordova. Conduits of solid masonry supplied the city
with water, and furnished means of maintaining hanging-gardens luxurious
as those of ancient Babylon. “There is one place,” says Cortes,
“somewhat inferior to the rest, attached to which is a beautiful garden
with balconies extending over it, supported by marble columns, and
having a floor formed of jasper elegantly inlaid”; and he adds, “Within
the city, the palaces of the cacique Montezuma are so wonderful that it
is hardly possible to describe their beauty and extent. I can only say
that in Spain there is nothing equal to them.” The population of ancient
Mexico, “the greatest and noblest city of the whole New World,” as
Cortes styles it, amounted, according to the lowest computation of its
conquerors, to three hundred thousand; and its streets and canals were
illuminated at night by the blaze from the altars of numberless
teocallis that reared their pyramidal summits in the streets and squares
of what Prescott fitly calls “this city of enchantment.” Vast causeways,
defended by drawbridges, and wide enough for ten or twelve horsemen to
ride abreast, attracted the admiring wonder of the Spaniards by the
skill and geometrical precision with which they were constructed. “The
great street facing the southern causeway was wide, and extended some
miles in nearly a straight line through the centre of the city. A
spectator standing at one end of it, as his eye ranged along the deep
vista of temples, terraces, and gardens, might clearly discern the
other, with the blue mountains in the distance, which, in the
transparent atmosphere of the table-land, seemed almost in contact with
the buildings.”[93] Near the centre of the city rose a huge pyramidal
pile, dedicated to the war-god of the Aztecs, the tutelary deity of the
city: second in size only to the great pyramid-temple of Cholula, and
occupying the area on which now stands the Cathedral of modern Mexico.
Beyond the Lake of Tezcuco stood the rival capital of that name,
resplendent with a corresponding grandeur and magnificence; and the
whole Mexican valley burst on the eyes of the conquerors as a beautiful
vision, glittering with towns and villages, with rich gardens, and broad
lakes crowded with the canoes of a thriving and busy populace.

Three centuries and a half have intervened since Cortes entered the
gorgeous capital of Montezuma; and what remains now of its ancient
splendour, of the wonders of its palaces, the massive grandeur of its
temples, or the cyclopean solidity of its conduits and causeways?
Literally, not a vestige. The city of Constantine has preserved, in
spite of all the destructive vicissitudes of siege and overthrow,
enduring memorials of the grandeur that pertained to the Byzantine
capital more than a thousand years ago. Rome has been sacked by Goth,
Hun, Lombard, and Frank; yet memorials not only of three or four
centuries, but of generations before the Christian era, survive. Even
Jerusalem appears to have some stones of her ancient walls still left
one upon another. In spite, therefore, of the narrative of desolating
erasure which describes to us the final siege and capture of Mexico, we
must assume its edifices and causeways to have been for the most part
more slight and fragile than the description of its conquerors implies,
or some evidences of such extensive and solid masonry must have survived
to our time. Yet if we look in vain for its architectural remains,
evidence of another kind shows what its civilisation really was. Mr.
Tylor describes the ploughed fields around it as yielding such abundance
of obsidian arrow-heads, pottery, and clay figures, that it is
impossible to tread on any spot where there is no relic of old Mexico
within reach. He left England full of doubts as to the credibility of
the historians of the conquest; but personal observation inclines him
rather “to blame the chroniclers for having had no eyes for the
wonderful things that surrounded them.”[94]

One trustworthy memorial of this native civilisation is the famous
Calendar Stone: a huge circular block of dark porphyry, disinterred in
1790 in the great square of Mexico, which discloses evidence of progress
in astronomical science altogether wonderful in a people among whom
civilisation was in other respects so partially developed. The Mexicans
had a solar year of 365 days divided into eighteen months of twenty days
each, with the five complementary days added to the last. The
discrepancy between the actual time of the sun’s annual path through the
heavens and their imperfect year, was regulated by the intercalation of
thirteen days at the end of every fifty-second year. According to Gama,
who differs from Humboldt on this point, the civil day was divided into
sixteen parts; and he conceives the Calendar to have been constructed as
a vertical sundial. Mexican drawings also indicate that the Aztecs were
acquainted with the cause of eclipses. But beyond this our means of
ascertaining the extent of their astronomical knowledge fail; while
there is proof that their inquiries were zealously directed to the more
favoured speculations of the astrologer, which have supplanted true
science in all primitive stages of society. Mr. Stephens drew attention

[Illustration: FIG. 74.—Mask, Mexican Calendar Stone.]

points of correspondence between the central device on the Calendar
Stone, and a mask, with widely expanded eyes and tongue hanging out,
prominent in the curious sacrificial scene sculptured on the Casa de
Piedra at Palenque. But the correspondence amounts to little more than
this, that each is a gigantic mask with protruding tongue. That of the
Calendar Stone is engraved here from a cast brought home by Mr. Bullock,
and now in the Collection of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland. The
statues dug up along with it on the site of the great teocalli of
Mexico, were buried in the court of the University, to place them beyond
reach of the idolatrous rites which the Indians were inclined to pay to
them. At the solicitation of Mr. Bullock they were again disinterred, to
admit of his obtaining casts; and he furnishes this interesting account
of the sensation excited by the restoration to light of the largest and
most celebrated of the Mexican deities:—“During the time it was
exposed, the court of the University was crowded with people, most of
whom expressed the most decided anger and contempt. Not so, however, all
the Indians. I attentively marked their countenances. Not a smile
escaped them, or even a word. All was silence and attention. In reply to
a joke of one of the students, an old Indian remarked, ‘It is very true
we have three very good Spanish gods, but we might still have been
allowed to keep a few of those of our ancestors!’ And I was informed
that chaplets of flowers had been placed on the figure by natives who
had stolen thither unseen in the evening.”[95]

[Illustration: FIG. 75.—Ticul Hieroglyphic Vase.]

The figure which thus reawakened patriotic sympathies in the descendants
of Montezuma’s subjects is a rude disproportioned idol, strikingly
contrasting with the elaborate hieroglyphical devices and
well-proportioned figures and decorations which accompany the grotesque
mask in the Casa de Piedra of Palenque. In the latter, the principal
human figures present the remarkable profile of the ancient Central
American race, as shown on a vase dug up among the ruins of Ticul (Fig.
75), with the prominent nose, retreating forehead and chin, and
protruding under-lip, so essentially different from the features either
of the Mexicans or northern Indians. The subject race on whom they tread
are characterised by a diverse profile, with overhanging brows, a Roman
nose, and a well-defined chin; while their costume is equally indicative
of a different origin.

But the sculpture of the Mexican Calendar Stone embodies evidence of an
amount of knowledge and skill not less interesting for us than the
mysterious hieroglyphics of the Palenque tablets; and was believed by
Humboldt to indicate unmistakable relations to the ancient science of
south-eastern Asia. Mr. Stephens has printed a curious exposition of the
chronology of Yucatan, derived from native sources by Don Juan Pio
Perez. From the correspondence of their mode of computing time with that
adopted by the Mexicans, he assumes that it probably originated with
them; but at the same time he remarks that the inhabitants of Mayapan,
as the Peninsula was called at the period of Spanish invasion, divided
time by calculating it almost in the same manner as their ancestors the
Toltecs, differing only in the particular arrangement of their great
cycles. Their year commenced on the 16th of July, an error of only
forty-eight hours in advance of the precise day in which the sun returns
there to the zenith, on his way to the south, and sufficiently near for
astronomers who had to make their observations with the naked eye. Their
calendar thus presents evidence of native and local origin. According to
Humboldt, the Mexican year began in the corresponding winter half of the
year, ranging from the 9th to the 28th of January; but Clavigero places
its commencement from the 14th to the 26th of February.

If my ideas as to a marked inferiority in the terra-cottas and
sculptures of the Mexicans, and the very questionable proofs of their
architectural achievements, are correct, they tend to confirm the
inference, that not to the Aztecs, but to their more civilised Toltec
predecessors, must be ascribed that remarkable astronomical knowledge in
the arrangement of their calendar, which exhibits a precision in the
adjustment of civil to solar time, such as only a few of the most
civilised nations of the Old World had attained to at that date. But, so
far as an indigenous American civilisation is concerned, it matters
little whether it be ascribed to Toltec or Aztec origin. Of its
existence no doubt can be entertained; and there is little more room for
questioning, that among races who had carried civilisation so far, there
existed the capacity for its further development, independently of all
borrowed aid. The fierce Dane and Norman seemed to offer equally little
promise of intellectual progress in their first encroachments on the
insular Saxon. But out of such elements sprung the race which
outstripped the Spaniard in making of the land of Columbus a New World;
and, left to its own natural progress, the valley of Anahuac, with its
mingling races, might have proved a source of intellectual life to the
whole continent. But modern Mexico has displaced the ancient capital of
Montezuma; cathedral, convents, and churches, have usurped the sites of
Aztec teocallis; its canals have disappeared, and its famous causeways
are no longer laved by the waters of the Tezcucan Lake. It is even
denied by those who have personally surveyed the site, that the waters
of the lake can ever have overflowed the marshes around the modern
capital, or stood at a much nearer point to it than they do at
present.[96] Fresh doubts seem to accumulate around its mythic story.
The ruined masonry of its vanished palaces and temples may be assumed to
have been all swallowed up in the edifices which combine to make of the
modern capital so striking an object, amid the strange scenery of its
elevated tropical valley. But Mexico was not the only city, nor even the
only great capital, of the valley.

In attempting to trace back the history of the remarkable population
found in occupation of the Mexican territory when first invaded by the
Spaniards, we learn, by means of various sources of information already
referred to, but chiefly on the authority of Ixtlilxochitl’s professed
interpretations of picture-writings, no longer in existence; and of
traditions of old men, concerning events reaching back from seven or
eight, even to twelve centuries before their own time: that the Toltecs,
advancing from some unknown region of the north, entered the territory
of Anahuac, “probably before the close of the seventh century.” They
were, according to their historian, already skilled in agriculture and
the mechanical arts, familiar with metallurgy, and endowed with all the
knowledge and experience out of which grew the civilisation of Anahuac
in later ages. In the time of the Conquest, extensive ruins are said to
have indicated the site of their ancient capital of Tula, to the north
of the Mexican valley. The tradition of such ruined cities adds
confirmation to the inferences derived from those more recently explored
in regions to the south; and still the name of Toltec in New Spain is
synonymous with _architect_: the mythic designation of a shadowy race,
such as glances fitfully across the first chapters of legendary history
among the most ancient nations of Europe. But subsequent to those
Pelasgi of the New World, there followed from unknown regions of the
north the Chichimecas, the Tepanecs, the Acolhuans or Tezcucans, the
Aztecs of Mexicans, and other inferior tribes; so that, as we approach a
more definite period of history, we learn of a league between the States
of Mexico and Tezcuco and the kingdom of Tlacopan, under which the Aztec
capital grew into the marvellous city of temples and palaces described
by Cortes and his followers. But Don Fernando de Alva claimed descent on
his mother’s side from the Imperial race of Tezcuco; and he has not
failed to preserve, or to create the memorials of the glory of that
imperial city of the laguna. It contained upwards of four hundred
stately edifices for the nobles. The magnificent palace of the Tezcucan
emperor “extended from east to west, twelve hundred and thirty-four
yards, and, from north to south, nine hundred and seventy-eight. It was
encompassed by a wall of unburnt bricks and cement, six feet wide and
nine high for one-half of the circumference, and fifteen feet high for
the other half. Within this enclosure were two courts. The outer one was
used as the great market-place of the city, and continued to be so until
long after the Conquest. The interior court was surrounded by the
council-chambers and halls of justice. There were also accommodation
there for foreign ambassadors; and a spacious saloon, with apartments
opening into it, for men of science and poets, who pursued their studies
in this retreat, or met together to hold converse under its marble
porticoes.”[97] In this style the native historian describes the glory
of ancient Tezcuco. A lordly pile, provided for the fitting
accommodation of the sovereigns of Mexico and Tlacopan, contained three
hundred apartments, including some fifty yards square. Solid materials
of stone and marble were liberally employed both on this and on the
apartments of the royal harem, the walls of which were incrusted with
alabasters and richly tinted stucco, or hung with gorgeous tapestries of
variegated feather-work. Some two leagues distant, at Tezcotzinco, was
the favourite residence of the sovereign; on a hill, “laid out in
terraces, or hanging-gardens, having a flight of five hundred and twenty
steps, many of them hewn in the natural porphyry. In the garden on the
summit was a reservoir of water, fed by an aqueduct carried over hill
and valley for several miles on huge buttresses of masonry. A large rock
stood in the midst of this basin, sculptured with hieroglyphics
representing the years of Nezahualcoyotl’s reign, and his principal
achievements in each. On a lower level were three other reservoirs, in
each of which stood a marble statue of a woman, emblematic of the three
estates of the empire. Another tank contained a winged lion,”—but here
the modern historian grows incredulous, and appends a (?) before
proceeding in accordance with his authorities to add—“cut out of the
solid rock, bearing in his mouth the portrait of the emperor.”

The authority for all this wrote in the beginning of the seventeenth
century; but his narrative receives some confirmation from architectural
remains still visible on the hill of Tezcotzinco. They are referred to
by Latrobe and Bullock as relics of an era greatly more remote than that
of Aztec civilisation; and more recently Mr. Tylor describes the hill of
Tezcotzinco as terraced, and traversed by numerous roads and flights of
steps cut in the rock. It is connected with another hill by an aqueduct
of immense size constructed with blocks of porphyry, and with its
channel lined with a hard stucco, still very perfect. Baths also remain,
cut out of the solid rock; and on the summit of the hill, overlooking
the ancient city, sculptured blocks of stone furnish evidence that the
tales of architectural magnificence are not wholly fabulous. Mr.
Christy, his travelling companion, made excavations in the neighbouring
mounds, and was rewarded by the discovery of some fine idols of hard
stone, and “an infinitude of pottery and small objects.” But the spirit
of Spanish romance still asserts its influence. Bullock, in his _Six
Months in Mexico_, describes the remains of the royal fountain of
Tezcotzinco as a “beautiful basin, twelve feet long by eight wide,
having a well five feet by four deep in the centre”; while Latrobe, in
his _Rambles in Mexico_, reduces the dimensions of the royal bath to
“perhaps two feet and a half in diameter, not large enough for any
monarch bigger than Oberon to take a duck in!”

Of the great pyramid or teocalli of Huitzilopotchtli in old Mexico, no
vestige now remains, unless such as is reputed to lie buried under the
foundations of the cathedral which occupies its site. But time and fate
have dealt more tenderly with the scarcely less famous pyramid of
Cholula. The ancient city of that name, when first seen by Cortes, was
said to include, within and without its walls, about forty thousand
houses, or according to ordinary rules of computation, two hundred
thousand inhabitants. But whatever its ancient population may have been,
while the fruits of Spanish conquest have advanced it to the rank of
capital of the republic of Cholula, they have left only sixteen thousand
as the number of its occupants. Still, Cholula was unquestionably one of
the most famous of the cities of the New World: a sacred Mecca for the
pilgrims of Anahuac.

Quetzalcoatl, the milder god of the Aztec pantheon, whose worship was
performed by offerings of fruits and flowers in their season, was
venerated as the divine teacher of the arts of peace. His reign on earth
was the golden age of Anahuac, when its people learned from him
agriculture, metallurgy, and the art of government. But their
benefactor, according to the tradition handed down to the Aztecs by an
elder people whom they had superseded, incurred the wrath of another of
the gods. As he passed on his way to abandon the land to the rule of the
terrible Huitzilopotchtli, he paused at the city of Cholula; and while
he tarried there, the great teocalli was reared and dedicated to his
worship. But the benevolent deity could not remain within reach of the
avenger. After spending twenty years among them, teaching the people the
arts of civilisation, he proceeded onward till he reached the ocean; and
there embarking in a vessel, made of serpents’ skins, his followers
watched his retreating bark on its way to the sacred isle of Tlapallan.
But the tradition lived on among the Mexicans that the bark of the good
deity would revisit their shores; and this fondly cherished belief
materially contributed to the success of the Spaniards, when their
huge-winged ships bore the beings of another world to the mainland of
the Mexican Gulf. The legend bears all the marks of anciently derived
hero-worship, in which love for a lost benefactor framed for itself a
deified embodiment of his virtues. This, however, is important to note,
that Aztec traditions assigned the pyramid of Cholula to an older race
and era than their own. It was there when they entered the plateau; and
the arts of the divine metallurgist were taught, not to them but to the
Toltecs, whom they superseded. Nevertheless, the deity shared in their
worship; his image occupied a shrine on the summit of the pyramid of
Cholula when the Spaniards first visited the holy city; and the undying
flame flung its radiance far into the night, to keep alive the memory of
the good deity, who was one day to return and restore the golden age.

The present appearance of the great teocalli very partially justifies
the reference made by Prescott to it as “that tremendous mound on which
the traveller still gazes with admiration as the most colossal fabric in
New Spain, rivalling in dimensions, and somewhat resembling in form, the
pyramidal structures of ancient Egypt.” If it ever was a terraced
pyramid, time and the elements have nearly effaced the traces of its
original outline. On the authority of Humboldt, it is described as a
pyramidal mound of stone and earth, deeply incrusted with alternate
strata of brick and clay, which “had the form of the Mexican teocallis,
that of a truncated pyramid facing with its four sides the cardinal
points, and divided by the same number of terraces.” But the _adobe_ of
the Mexican, which is frequently styled brick, is nothing more than a
mass of unbaked clay, or even mud. If such, therefore, is the supposed
brick which alternated with the other materials of the mound, we can the
more readily reconcile the seeming contradictions of observers. One of
the latest thus describes the impression produced on his mind: “Right
before me, as I rode along, was a mass of trees, of evergreen foliage,
presenting indistinctly the outline of a pyramid, which ran up to the
height of about two hundred feet, and was crowned by an old stone
church, and surmounted by a tall steeple. It was the most attractive
object in the plain; it had such a look of uncultivated nature in the
midst of grain fields. It would have lost half its attractiveness had it
been the stiff and clumsy thing which the picture represents it to be.”
It is accordingly described by Mr. R. A. Wilson, in his _Mexico and its
Religion_, as no more than “the finest Indian mound on this continent,”
rising to a height of about two hundred feet, and crowned by an old
stone church. But careful examination satisfied Mr. Tylor that it still
retains the traces of a terraced teocalli. The church on its summit,
dedicated to Our Lady _de los Remedios_, is served by a priest of the
blood of the Cholulans; and the masonry and architectural skill which it
displays have no doubt somewhat to do with their absence elsewhere; for
if the clergy found the teocalli cased like the pyramidal terraces of
Central America, with cut stone steps and facings, there can be little
doubt they would go no further for a quarry for their intended church.

To the north of the Mexican valley ancient ruins arrest the gaze of the
traveller, onward even to California. On the Rio Colorado and its
tributaries, ruins of great extent, surveyed by recent exploring
parties, are described as built with large stones, nicely wrought, and
accurately squared. But nothing in their style of architecture suggests
a common origin with the ruins of Mexico or Central America. They are
large and plain structures, with massive walls, evidently built for
defence, and with no traces of the ornamentation which abounds on the
ruins of Yucatan. The Moqui Indians, the supposed remnant of the ancient
builders, still construct their dwellings of stone with considerable art
and skill. They are a gentle and intelligent race, small of stature,
with fine black hair; and differ essentially from the Indians of the
North-west. Their villages are included in one common stone structure,
generally of a quadrangular form, with solid, unpierced walls
externally, and accessible only by means of a ladder. These hive-like
colonies are usually placed, for further defence, on the summits of the
lofty plateaus, which in the region of New Mexico are detached by the
broad cañons with which that remarkable region is intersected. By such
means this ingenious people seek protection from the wild tribes with
which they are surrounded. Thus permanently settled, while exposed to
the assaults of marauders, the Moquis cultivate the soil, raise corn,
beans, cotton, and more recently vegetables derived from intercourse
with the Mexicans. They have also their flocks of sheep and goats; and
weave their dyed wools into a variety of substantial and handsome
dresses. But only a small remnant now survives, occupying seven villages
on the range of the Rio del Norte.[98]

Throughout New California ruined structures of stone, and sometimes of
clay abound. The _Casas grandes_, as they are called, appear to have
been defensive structures like the Moqui villages. Captain Johnston
describes one, called the Casa de Montezuma, on the river Gila, which
measured fifty feet by forty, and had been form storeys high. It is
indeed worthy of note that while we find throughout the continent, from
the Rocky Mountains to the Atlantic, scarcely a vestige of
ante-Columbian stone architecture: traces of it increase upon us with
every new exploration of the country that lies between the Rocky
Mountains and the Pacific, and merges towards the south into the seats
of ancient native civilisation and matured architectural skill.

But the Southern Continent had also its seat of a remarkable native
civilisation; which, like that of Mexico, derived some of its most
striking characteristics from the physical aspects of the country in
which it originated. The peculiar natural advantages of Peru resulted
from the settlement of a people on the lofty plateaus of the Andes, but
within the tropics, where at each successive elevation a different
climate was secured. Such products as the mercantile navies of Northern
Europe gather from many distant shores, were there brought within the
compass of an industrious population: who fed their flocks on the cold
crests of the sierra; cultivated their gardens and orchards on its
higher plateaus; and gathered the luxuriant products of the tropics from
the country that for them lay, for the most part, beneath the clouds,
and spread away from the lowest slopes of the Andes to the neighbouring
shores of the Pacific. The character of the people, and the nature of
the civilisation of this remarkable country, presented many striking
contrasts to the customs and institutions of the Mexicans, and they have
generally been assumed as of totally independent origin.

Peru has her historic traditions, no less than Mexico; and her native
historian, Garcilasso de la Vega, a descendant, through his mother, from
the royal line of the Incas: who plays for them the part which Fernando
de Alva did for his Tezcucan ancestry. Seen through such a medium, the
traditions of the Inca race expand into gorgeous pages of romance; and
the institutions of European chivalry and medieval polity are grafted on
the strange usages of an Indian nation, remarkable for its own
well-matured commonwealth, and unique phases of native-born
civilisation. Sabaism constituted the essential element of Peruvian
religious faith, and gave form and colour to the national rites and
traditions. Manco Capac and Mama Oello Huaco, their mythic instructors
in the arts of agriculture, weaving, and spinning, were the Children of
the Sun; their high religious festivals were determined by the solstices
and equinoxes; and Quito, the holy city, which lay immediately under the
Equator, had within it the pillar of the sun, where its vertical rays
threw no shadow at noon, and they believed the god of light to seat
himself in full effulgence in his temple. The sacred pillar stood in the
centre of a circle described within the court of the great temple,
traversed by a diameter drawn from east to west, by means of which the
period of the equinoxes was determined; and both then, and at the
solstices, the pillar was hung with garlands, and offerings of fruit and
flowers were made to the divine luminary and parent of mankind. The
title of the sovereign Inca was the Child of the Sun; and the territory
of the empire was divided into three portions, of which one,
constituting the lands of the Sun, maintained the costly ceremonial of
public worship, with the temples and their numerous priests and vestal
virgins. The national traditions pointed to the Valley of Cuzco as the
original seat of native civilisation. There their mythic Manco Capac
founded the city of that name; on the highlands around it a number of
columns were reared which served for taking azimuths, and by measuring
their shadows the precise time of the solstices were determined.

Besides the divine honours paid to the sun, the Peruvians worshipped the
host of heaven, and dedicated temples to the thunder and lightning, and
to the rainbow, as the wrathful and benign messengers of the supreme
solar deity. It might naturally be anticipated that a nation thus
devoted to astronomical observations, and maintaining a sacred caste
exclusively for watching solar and stellar phenomena, would have
attained to considerable knowledge in that branch of science.
Apparently, however, the facilities which their equatorial position
afforded for determining the few indispensable periods in their
calendar, removed the stimulus to further progress; and not only do we
find them surpassed in this respect by the Muyscas, occupying a part of
the same great southern plateau, who regulated their calendar on a
system presenting considerable points of resemblance to that of the
Aztecs; but they remained to the last in ignorance of the true causes of
eclipses, and regarded such phenomena with the same superstitious and
apprehensive wonder as has affected the untutored savage mind in all
ages. One historian, indeed, affirms that they recognised the actual
length of the solar year, and regulated their chronology by a series of
cycles of decades of years, centuries, and decades of centuries, the
last of which constituted the grand cycle or great year of the sun.[99]
This is only confuted by a reference to the silence of earlier
authorities, and the absence of all evidence on the subject; and may
serve to remind us how partial is the knowledge we possess of the
intellectual development of this singularly interesting people, among
whom science was essentially esoteric.

Prescott seeks to account for the very imperfect nature of the
astronomical science of Peru, by the fact, that the Peruvian priesthood
were drawn exclusively from the body of the Incas: a privileged order of
nobility who claimed divine origin, and were the less tempted to seek in
superior learning the exclusive rights of an intellectual aristocracy.
But other reasons help to explain this singular intellectual condition
of a nation, which had in so many other directions made remarkable
progress in civilisation. The very fact that astronomy constituted, as
it were, the national religion, placed it beyond the reach of scientific
speculation, among a people with whom blasphemy against the sun, and
malediction of the Inca, were alike punished with death. The impediments
to Galileo’s astronomical discoveries were trifling compared with those
which must have beset the presumptuous Inca priest who ventured to deny
the diurnal revolution of the sun round the earth; or to explain, by the
simple interposition of the moon between themselves and the sun, the
mysterious and malign infirmities with which it constituted a part of
the national creed to believe their supreme deity was afflicted during a
solar eclipse. But another cause also tended to retard the progress of
the Peruvians in the intelligent solution of astronomical phenomena.
Among the ancient Egyptians we find the division of the year determined
by the changes of the Nile; and their year regulated by applications of
astronomical science, minutely interwoven with their sacred and civil
institutions. But the phenomena of the seasons, which have fostered with
every other civilised nation the accurate observation of the
astronomical divisions of time, and the determination of the recurring
festivals dependent on seed-time and harvest, were almost inoperative,
where, among a people specially devoted to agriculture, each season and
every temperature could be commanded by a mere change of elevation under
the vertical sun of the equator.

The Peruvians, however, must be tried by their own standards of
excellence. Manco Capac, their mythic civiliser, was no war-god, like
the Mexitli of the ferocious Aztecs. Agriculture was the special art
introduced by him; and husbandry was pursued among them on principles
which modern science has only recently fully developed in Europe. There
alone, in all the New World, the plough was in use; and the Inca
himself, on one of the great annual festivals, consecrated the labours
of the husbandman by turning up the earth with a golden ploughshare.
Artificial irrigation was carried out on a gigantic scale by means of
aqueducts and tunnels of great extent, the ruins of which still attest
the engineering skill of their constructors. The virtues of _guano_,
which are now so well appreciated by the agriculturists of Europe, were
familiar to the Peruvian farmer; and as the country of the Incas
included, at its various levels, nearly all varieties of climate and
production, from the cocoa and palm that fringed the borders of the
Pacific, to the pasture of their mountain flocks on the verge of the
high regions of perpetual snow: a systematic succession of public fairs,
regulated, like all else, by the supreme government, afforded abundant
opportunities for the interchange of their diverse commodities.

Such a country, if any, could dispense with commerce, and attain to
considerable advancement without a representative currency or
circulating medium. Gold, which was so abundant, served only for
barbaric pomp and decoration. Silver was accessible in such quantities,
that Pizarro found in it a substitute for iron to shoe the horses of his
cavalry. Copper and tin in like manner abounded in the mountains; and
the Peruvians had learned to alloy the copper both with tin and silver,
for greater utility in its application to the useful arts. Bartholomew
Ruiz, it will be remembered, found on board the _balsa_ first met by him
off the Peruvian coast, a pair of balances for weighing the precious
metals; and the repeated discovery of well-adjusted silver balances in
tombs of the Incas, confirms the evidence that they made use of weights
in determining the value of their commodities. The Peruvians were thus
in possession of a mode of exchange, which, for their purposes, was
superior to that of the currency of the Mexicans, in the absence of any
such means of ascertaining the exact apportionment of commodities
produced for sale.

Progress in agriculture was accompanied by a corresponding development
of the resources of a pastoral people. Vast flocks of sheep ranged the
mountain pastures of the Andes, under the guidance of native shepherds;
while the Peruvians alone, of all the races of the New World, had
attained to that important stage in civilisation which precedes the
employment of machinery, by their use of the lower animals in
economising human labour. The llama, trained as a beast of burden,
carried its light load along the steep paths of the Cordilleras, or on
the great highways of Peru.

[Illustration: FIG. 76.—Peruvian Web.]

As the mythic Manco Capac was the instructor of the nation in
agriculture, so also the divine daughter of the Sun introduced the arts
of weaving and spinning. Such traditions serve at least to indicate the
favourite directions of the national taste and skill, which were
displayed in the manufacture of a variety of woollen articles of
ingenious patterns and the utmost delicacy of texture. Numerous examples
of the woven textures of the Peruvians have been recovered from their
ancient graves at Atacama and elsewhere; though it cannot be assumed
that in these we have specimens of the rare and costly fabrics which
excited the wondering admiration of the early Spaniards. In the arid
soil and tropical climate of the great desert of Atacama, articles which
prove the most perishable in northern latitudes are found, after the
lapse of centuries, in perfect preservation. Of these I had an
opportunity of examining a collection recovered by Mr. J. H. Blake from
ancient huacas explored by him, and now preserved in his cabinet at
Boston. They include specimens of cloth, wrought in dyed woollen thread,
and sewed in regular and ornamental designs. Each piece is woven of the
exact size which was required for the purpose in view, and some of them
furnish proofs of ingenious skill in the art of weaving. The threads
consist of two or more strands of dyed llama-wool twisted together; and
elaborate patterns are woven into a soft and delicate web. The
accompanying figure, though grotesque, is a good specimen of a
complicated feat achieved in dyed woollen threads on the ancient
Peruvian loom. It was found in a grave at Atacama, along with many other
relics described in a subsequent chapter. Mr. Blake remarks, in
reference to the discoveries of this class which rewarded his
researches:—“In forming an opinion of the degree of skill displayed in
the arts of spinning and weaving, by these specimens, it should be borne
in mind that the implements in use were of the simplest contrivance. The
only ones which have been discovered are simple distaffs; and among the
articles obtained from the Atacama graves were several formed of wood
and stone, such as are still in use among the Indians of Peru at the
present day. Weaving on the loom has not been introduced among them. The
warp is secured by stakes driven into the ground, and the filling-in is
inserted by the slow process of passing it by hand over and under each
thread alternately.” It would be a grave error, however, to assume that
we possess in such relics, recovered from the ordinary graves formed in
the loose sand of the desert, the highest achievements of Peruvian
skill. On the contrary, regarding them, as we must, as fair specimens of
the common woollen tissues of the country, they confirm the probability
that the costly hangings, and beautifully wrought robes of the Inca and
his nobles, fully justified the admiration with which they are referred
to by Spanish writers of the sixteenth century.

Marvellous specimens of ceramic art are also noted among the
manufactures ascribed to the Peruvians before the conquest, surpassing
anything found in the common cemeteries of the race; but the proofs
which exist of the ingenuity expended by the ancient potter on utensils
in daily use, render probable the accounts of such rare _chef-d’œuvres_
executed by their cunningest workmen for the imperial service. So also
we read of animals and plants wrought with wonderful delicacy, in gold
and silver; and scattered with profuse magnificence about the apartments
of the Peruvian nobles. Such specimens of goldsmiths’ work no longer
survive; but still the huacas of the ancient race are ransacked for
golden ornaments, which prove considerable metallurgic skill, and leave
no room to doubt that gold and silver were moulded and graven into many
ingenious forms. Science and art had indeed made wonderful advances
among this remarkable people; though with them, as with the Chinese,
they were more frequently expended in the gratification of a craving for
display, than in realising triumphs of much practical value.
Nevertheless, Peruvian civilisation had wrought out for itself many
elements of progress adapted to its native soil. Its astronomical
science admits, indeed, of no comparison with that of Mexico; and in
lieu of the artistic picture-writing of the Mexicans, it employed the
quipus, an artificial system of mnemonics not greatly superior to the
Red Indian wampum, to which it bears considerable resemblance. In this
it contrasts with the matured hieroglyphical inscriptions of Central
America and Yucatan, which preserve evidences of progress in advance of
the highest civilisation of the Aztecs and the Incas, and indeed of all
but the most civilised nations of ancient or modern centuries. But this
higher phase of intellectual development must be reserved for
consideration in its relations to the psychology of the whole continent.

The remarkable system of national polity doubtless originated in part
from the docile nature still manifested by the descendants of the
Peruvian people; and, when viewed in this connection, it furnishes some
key to the peculiar characteristics of their civilisation. Their
government was a sacerdotal sovereignty, with an hereditary aristocracy,
and a system of castes more absolute seemingly than that of the
Egyptians or Hindus. Something of the partial and unprogressive
development of the Chinese mingled in the ancient Peruvians along with
numerous other traits of resemblance to that singular people. Unlike the
Mexicans, we see in their whole polity, arts, and social life,
institutions of indigenous growth. It would be difficult to limit the
centuries during which such a people may have handed on from generation
to generation the slowly brightening torch. Their own traditions,
preserved with the help of quipus and national ballads, are valueless on
this point. But their institutions reveal some remarkable evidences of a
people preserving many traits of social infancy, alongside of such
matured arts and habits as could only grow up together around the
undisturbed graves of many generations. Offerings of fruits and flowers
took the place of the bloody human sacrifices of Aztec worship; but the
suttee rites, which disclose their traces everywhere in the sepulchral
usages of primitive nations, were retained in full force. The simple
solidity of megalithic art gave an equally primitive character to their
architecture, notwithstanding its application to many practical purposes
of life; and the precious metals, though existing in unequalled
profusion, were retained to the last solely for their contribution to
barbaric splendour. The habits of pastoral life, by means of which the
foremost nations of the Old World appear to have emerged out of
barbarism, were with them modified by the haunts of flocks peculiar to
the strange region of mountain and plateau, where also they carried the
next step in human progression, that of agriculture, to a degree of
perfection probably never surpassed. They had advanced metallurgy
through all its stages, up to that which preceded the use of iron; and
with the help of their metal tools, displayed a remarkable skill in many
mechanical arts. They did no more, because, under their peculiar local
circumstances and the repressive influences of the mild despotism of
Inca rule, they had achieved all that they required.

A gentle people found abundant occupation in tilling the soil, without
being oppressed by a labour which was lightened by the frequently
recurring festivals of a joyous, and, in some respects, elevating
national faith. Nor is it difficult to conceive of such a people
continuing to pursue the even tenor of their way, with scarcely
perceptible progression, through all the subsequent centuries since
their discovery to Europe: had not the hand of the conqueror ruthlessly
overthrown the structure reared by many generations, and quenched the
lamp of native civilisation. The conquerors of the sixteenth century
have given expression to the astonishment with which they beheld
everywhere evidences of order, contentment, and prosperity; and while
the architectural magnificence of Montezuma’s capital has so utterly
disappeared as to suggest the doubt if it ever existed: the traveller
along the ancient routes of Peruvian industry still sees on every hand
ruins, not only of temples, palaces, and strongholds, but of terraced
declivities, military roads, causeways, aqueducts, and other public
works, that astonish him by the solidity of their construction and the
grandeur of their design. But between these two great divisions of the
western hemisphere, in the curiously insulated region of Central
America, traces of ancient civilisation abound, with evidences of a
higher, if not longer enduring development than either. The closing
annals both of Mexico and Peru have acquired a vivid interest from the
incidents of Spanish conquest; and retain many romantic associations
connected with the lustre of their conquerors. But the interest which
attaches to Central America and Yucatan derives little value from
history. There, under the luxuriant forests of that tropical region, may
still be studied the monuments of a lettered people, and the sculptures
and symbolic inscriptions of an extinct faith, amid ruins which appear
to have been already abandoned to decay before Cortes explored the
peninsula in his lust of conquest. Their basso-relievos preserve the
physiognomy of a race essentially diverse from the Mexicans; and their
sculptured hieroglyphics show a process of inscription very far in
advance of the picture-writing of the Aztecs. The magnitude and solidity
of the ruins of Peru still attest the practical aim of works wrought
there on a grand scale, and for purposes of more obvious utility than
those of the Central American peninsula; and the characteristics of some
of the Peruvian crania suggest striking analogies with the peculiar
physiognomy of the northern basso-relievos, such as are no longer
recognisable when we turn to the Mexican race.

Nothing pertaining to the northern continent east of the Rocky Mountains
presents any counterpart to Peruvian architecture, sculpture, or the
ingenious modelling of the potter’s art; or suggests affinities in
language or astronomical science, to Peru or Central America; unless it
be the remarkable remains of the Mound-Builders. But with Mexico it is
otherwise. In the region between the Rocky Mountains and the Atlantic
the stock is to be sought, from which on many grounds it appears most
reasonable to trace the predominant Mexican race of the era of the
Conquest. They were inheritors, not originators of the civilisation of
the plateau. But while the traditions of the Aztecs appear to point to a
migration from the north, the Toltecs whom they displaced can be
assigned on no tangible evidence to a similar origin. Amid many
diversities recognisable among the nations of the New World, the forest
and prairie tribes, now clustering chiefly in the North-west, are the
representatives of one great subdivision, the source of which may be
sought in that northern hive stretching westward towards Behring Strait
and the Aleutian Islands, with possible indications of an Asiatic
origin. But for the more intellectual nations whose ancient monuments
lie to the south of the Rio Grande del Norte, the most probable source
appears to be the southern plateaus of the Peruvian Cordilleras. In the
copper regions of the north the abundant metal supplied all wants too
readily to stimulate to further progress; but the southern region rises
through every change of climate under the vertical rays of the equator;
and its rocky steeps are veined with exhaustless treasures of metallic
ores, in such a condition as to lead man on step by step from the
infantile perception of the native metal as a ductile stone, to the
matured intelligence of the metallurgist, mingling and fusing the
contiguous ores into his most convenient and useful alloys. A branch of
the same race, moving northward along the isthmus, may account for the
abundant architectural remains of the central peninsula, consistently
with its ethnographic traces; while beyond this, to the northward, we
see in the conflicting elements of Mexican civilisation, the confluence
of races from north and south, and the mingling of their diverse arts
and customs under the favouring influences which the vale of Anahuac


[92] _American Ethnological Society’s Transactions_, vol. i. p. 162.

[93] Prescott’s _Conquest of Mexico_, B. III. ch. ix.

[94] _Anahuac_, p. 147.

[95] Bullock’s _Six Months in Mexico_, p. 111.

[96] Topographical View of the Valley, Wilson’s _New History of Mexico_,
p. 452.

[97] Prescott’s _Conquest of Mexico_, B. I. chap. vi.

[98] Dr. Latham speaks of the Moquis as a people that “no living writer
seems to have seen.”—_Varieties of Man_, p. 394. But the above
information communicated to me by Professor Newberry, is the result of
his own personal observations. He showed me also specimens of their
woven dresses, manifesting considerable skill, and exhibiting great
taste in the arrangement of their bright colours. They have recently
been greatly reduced by small-pox.

[99] Montesino’s _Mém. Antiquas MS._, lib. ii. cap. 7; cited by

                              CHAPTER XV.
                           ART CHRONICLINGS.


In studying the elaborate sculptures of Central American architecture,
one of the first of its peculiar characteristics to strike the eye is
the predominance of representations of natural objects, alike in its
decorative details and in the symbolism of its hieroglyphic tablets. The
human form, the head, the heart, the skull, the hand and foot, along
with familiar objects of animate and inanimate nature, supplied the
readiest architectural devices, and the most suggestive signs for
attributes and ideas. In the imitation involved in such a style of art,
resemblances may be traced to the productions of many partially
civilised nations both of ancient and modern times. But in reviewing the
primitive art of the New World, whether pertaining to extinct nations,
like the Mound-Builders of Ohio and the architects of Yucatan, or to
Indian tribes still occupying their old hunting grounds, the critical
observer can scarcely overlook many peculiar manifestations of imitative
skill. Though by no means to be regarded as an exclusive distinction of
the American races, this is a characteristic in which they present a
striking contrast to the primitive races of Europe. Many of the
implements and personal ornaments of the ante-Christian era of European
art, designated the “Bronze Period,” are exceedingly graceful in form,
and some of them highly ornamented, but there is rarely a trace of
imitative design. So also, though the peculiar form of one primitive
class of gold ornaments, found in the British Isles, has suggested a
name derived from the calyx of a flower, which the cups of its rings
seem in some degree to resemble, it is a mere fanciful analogy; for no
example bears the slightest trace of ornament calculated to suggest that
such similarity was present to the mind of the ancient goldsmith. Where
incised or graven ornaments are wrought upon the flower-like forms, they
are the same chevron, or herring-bone and saltire patterns, which occur
on the rudest clay pottery, alike of northern Europe and of America:
though executed on the finer gold work with considerable delicacy and

The correspondence between the forms and ornamentation of the rudest
classes of pottery of the Old and New World, appears, at first sight,
remarkable; but it originates in the inartistic simplicity inseparable
from all infantile art. The ornamentation is only an improvement on the
accidents of manufacture. The first decorations of the aboriginal
potters of Europe and America appear to have been an undesigned result
of the twisted cords passed round the clay to retain its form before it
was hardened in the fire. More complicated patterns were produced by
plaited or knitted cords, or imitated in ruder fashion with the point of
a bone-lance or bodkin. But it is only among the allophylian arts of
Europe that such arbitrary patterns are perpetuated with improving taste
and skill. The European vase and cinerary urn become more graceful in
contour, and more delicate in material and construction, when they
accompany the beautiful weapons and personal ornaments wrought in
bronze. But no attempt is made to imitate leaf or flower, bird, beast,
or any simple natural object; and when in the bronze work of the later
Iron Period, imitative forms at length appear, they are chiefly the
snake and dragon patterns, borrowed seemingly by Celtic and Teutonic
wanderers, with the wild fancies of their mythology, from the eastern
cradle-land of their birth.

This absence of every trace of imitation in the forms and decorations of
the archaic art of northern Europe, is curious and noteworthy: for
remarkable traces, already referred to, pertaining to its palæotechnic
era, prove that it is by no means an invariable characteristic of
primitive art. In the simplest forms of ancient weapons, implements, and
pottery, mere utility was the aim. The rude savage, whether of Europe or
America, had neither leisure nor thought to spare for decorative art.
His æsthetic faculty had not begun to influence his constructive
instincts. Art was the child of necessity, and borrowed its first
adjuncts of adornment from the sources whence it had received its
convenient but arbitrary forms. But the moment we get beyond this
utilitarian stage, the contrast between the products of European and
American art is exceedingly striking; and their value to the ethnologist
and archæologist becomes great, from the insight they give into the
aspects of mental expression, and the intellectual phases of social
life, among unhistoric generations. The useful arts of the British
allophylian progressed until they superinduced the decorative and fine
arts. But the ornamentation was inventive, and not imitative; it was
arbitrary, conventional, and singularly persistent in style. It wrought
itself into all his external expressions of thought; and whatever his
religious worship may have been, we look in vain for proofs of idolatry,
among the innumerable relics which have been recovered from supposed
Druidical fanes, or the older cromlechs and tumuli of the British
Isles.[100] The very opposite characteristics meet the eye the moment we
turn to the primitive arts of the New World. There, indications of
imitative design meet us on every hand. The rude tribes of the
North-west, though living in the simplest condition of savage life, not
only copy the familiar animal and vegetable forms with which they are
surrounded: but represent, with ingenious skill, novel objects of
European art introduced to their notice. Even their plaited and woven
grass and quill-work assume a pictorial aspect; and the pottery is not
only ornamented with patterns derived from flowers and other natural
objects, but more elaborated examples are occasionally moulded into the
forms of animals. Still more is this the case with the tubes, masks,
personal ornaments, and, above all, the pipe-heads, alike of the
Mound-Builders, and of living races. Nor does it stop with such
miniature productions of art. The same imitative faculty reappears in
the great earthworks of Wisconsin and Ohio: where the artist has wrought
out representations of natural objects on a colossal scale.

The chronicles recorded by such means are invaluable. The walls of
Central American ruins are covered with voiceless hieroglyphics; and the
costly folios of Lord Kingsborough’s _Mexican Antiquities_ have placed
at the command of the scholars of both hemispheres the dubious
ideography of native historians. But the artistic representations
preserved alike in the bas-reliefs and statues of Palenque, or in the
characteristic pipe-sculpture of the Ohio mounds, are as significant and
easy of interpretation as those on the Ramesian tablets of Abbosimbul in
Nubia, which demonstrate the existence, in the era of Rameses, of
Semitic and Ethiopian races, with ethnical diversities as clearly
defined as now.

Among the characteristics of ancient and modern nations discernible in
peculiar rites and customs, or disclosed in their arts, there are some
that indicate widely-diffused hereditary influences, and so furnish a
clew to remote affinities of race. The practice of circumcision, for
example, which prevails both in Asia and Africa, wherever the influence
of Semitic nations can be traced, strikingly illustrates the value of
such indices. Another ancient custom, that of systematic cranial
distortion, was common to nations of both hemispheres, and is proved by
the evidence of ancient sculpture to have been in use at the period of
highest architectural art in Central America. The Indian war-trophy of
the scalp, and its singular counterpart, the peace-pipe, are also
significant usages of the New World; though the former appears to have
been equally common among ancient Asiatic nations. Herodotus refers to
scalping as one of the most characteristic war-customs of the Scythians,
and to their hanging the scalp-trophies to the warrior’s bridle-rein.
Hence the ἀποσκυθίζειν of Euripides, quoted by Rawlinson, when remarking
on the resemblance of such ancient customs to those of the Red Indians.
The correspondence is worthy of note, in connection with others
afterwards referred to, as possibly indicative of something more than a
mere American counterpart to Egyptian and Oriental accumulations of
trophies of the slain—the skulls, the hands, the ears, or even the
foreskins,—repeatedly referred to in the Old Testament Scriptures, and
recorded with minute detail on the paintings of Egypt, and the
sculptures of Nimroud and Khorsabad. But no such analogies throw light
on the singular usage of the peace-pipe. The ethnical relations which it
indicates belong exclusively to the New World, where it seems to
perpetuate a significant symbolism derived from an extinct native
civilisation. As such, it is worthy of study by the American
ethnologist, as the most curious of the many practices connected with
the use of the strange nicotian stimulant. The pipe appears to have been
associated with solemn religious rites and civic ceremonials, both in
ancient and modern times. It bore a prominent part in the worship of the
old Mound-Builders; and still retains its place among the paraphernalia
of the inspired medicine-man or priest, and the most sacred credentials
of the ambassador or war-chief.

The implements designed for the use of tobacco or other narcotic herbs,
occupy a prominent place among the works of art of which the sacrificial
mounds are the principal depositories. In accordance with the almost
universal custom of barbarous and semi-civilised nations, the
Mound-Builders devoted to their dead whatever had been most prized in
life, or was deemed valuable for some talismanic charm. Hence the
Mississippi mounds, and the ancient tombs of Mexico and Peru, disclose
the same kind of evidence of the past as Wilkinson has deduced from the
catacombs of Egypt, or Dennis from the sepulchres of Etruria. But in
addition to this, the remarkable religious rites of the American
Mound-Builders have preserved not only their altars, but the offerings
laid upon them. The perishable garments of the dead have necessarily
disappeared; and of instruments or utensils of wood or other combustible
materials it is vain to expect a trace, where even metal has melted, and
the stone been calcined in the blaze of sacrificial fires; but articles
of copper and stone, of fictile ware, and even of shell, ivory, and
bone, have escaped the destructive flame, and withstood the action of
time. In such enduring characters inscriptions are legibly graven upon
the altars of the Mound-Builders. Let us try to translate their records
into the language of modern thought.

What such relics record in reference to metallurgy has already been
seen. The Mound-Builders were acquainted with several of the metals.
They had both the silver and lead of Iowa and Wisconsin in use.
Implements and personal ornaments of copper abound on their altars; and
the mechanical combination of silver with the native copper of which
those are made, indicates that they derived their supplies from Lake
Superior, where alone the metals have hitherto been found in the
singular mechanico-chemical combination of crystals of silver in a
copper matrix. Their sacrificial fires have in some cases fused the
metallic offerings on the altars into a mass of molten metal, so that
the Mound-Builders had thus presented to them this all-important lesson
of metallurgy. Mr. F. S. Perkins, of Burlington, Wisconsin, whose
collection of native copper implements numbers upwards of sixty
specimens, has arrived at the conclusion that some of those from the
ancient mounds have been cast in moulds; and Mr. J. W. Foster concurs in
the belief that the Mound-Builders had learned to smelt the ores.[101]
This still requires further proof. At Cincinnati, I saw in the
collection of Mr. Cleneay, a choice specimen of a copper axe, found on
the banks of Hog Creek, a tributary of the Great Miami. It measures
fifteen inches long, and weighs 5 lb. 5½ oz.; but though
well-proportioned, and finished with unusual care, it is entirely the
work of the hammer. Only in one case, of an axe from the Lockport Mound,
have I seen indications which seem to suggest a process of casting. But
specimens of accidentally melted copper repeatedly occur; and Mr. Jas.
B. Skinner, of Cincinnati, showed me a melted mass of pure silver, of 4
lb. weight, found lying on a heap of charcoal, in cutting through the
embankment surrounding a large mound at Marietta. Nothing further was
needed than the practical sagacity by which similar accidents have been
turned to account, to lead the Mound-Builders one step beyond this, to
the use of the crucible and the mould. It would not, therefore, surprise
me to find partial traces of the use of both. Their imitative skill, and
ability in modelling, had already taught them the use of the mould when
working in clay. But they had, at best, a very rudimentary knowledge of
metallurgy; they do not appear to have acquired, by barter or otherwise,
any specimens of the alloyed metals; and only mechanically combined
their copper with silver. Hematite, though prized by them, was used
simply as a stone. They were familiar with silver, and shaped it into
many personal ornaments. The sulphuret of lead was also known to them;
and was turned to account both for use and ornamentation.

Thus far, then, it appears that the Mound-Builders shared in the
metallurgic wealth of the great copper region. We are reminded,
accordingly, that the broad undulating prairie-lands of Wisconsin, with
their remarkable symbolic earthworks, lie directly between the shores of
Lake Superior and the region occupied by the Mound-Builders. The
monuments of the latter abound with examples of their builders’ arts;
and are surrounded with varied proofs of settled occupation, civic and
religious structures, and permanent defensive military works. Throughout
Wisconsin, on the contrary, the symbolic mounds stand alone, and have
hitherto been found, with a few rare exceptions, to contain no relics.
Neither earthworks adapted to religious rites, nor military defences,
attest that that region was occupied by a numerous population, such as
its many natural advantages fitted it to sustain. Hence the conjecture
that the mineral country on the southern shores of the Great Lake was
the recognised source of supply for the whole population north of the
Gulf of Mexico; and that different tribes throughout the vast basin of
the Mississippi and its tributaries were wont to send working parties
thither, as to a region common to all. Such an idea accords with the
further conjecture that the symbolic mounds of Wisconsin may be
memorials of sacred rites, or pledges of neutrality among nations from
the various tributaries of the great river, as they annually met on this
border-land of the common metallic storehouse. It is obvious that the
Mound-Builders were a highly religious people. Their superstitious rites
were of frequent occurrence, and accompanied with costly sacrifices;
while in the numerous symbolic mounds of Wisconsin, labour alone is the
sacrifice, and the external form preserves the one idea at which their
builders aimed.

So far, this theory of a sacred neutral ground and common mineral region
is conjectural. Nevertheless, it involves certain facts to be borne in
view for comparison with others of a diverse kind. In the once densely
peopled regions of Ohio and Illinois, where the works of the
Mound-Builders abound, the river-valleys were occupied by an ingenious
and industrious agricultural population: who, if not aggressive and
war-like, employed their constructive skill on extensive works for
military defence. Whencesoever the danger existed that they had thus to
apprehend and guard against, there is no trace of its localisation
within the region lying immediately to the south of Lake Superior,
through which their path lay to the great copper country. More probably
offensive and defensive warfare was carried on between tribes or states
of the Mound Race settled on different tributaries of the same great
water-system. But the growing civilisation of the nations of the
Mississippi valley was also exposed to the aggression of barbarian
tribes of the North-west; for if the Mound-Builders differed in culture
and race from the progenitors of the modern Red Indian, some of their
arts and customs render it probable that the latter were not unknown to

So far, then, we connect the race of the Mounds with the shores of Lake
Superior, and thus trace out for them a relation to regions of the
North. But the objects wrought by their artistic skill reveal no less
certainly their familiarity with animals of southern and even tropical
latitudes; and the materials employed in their manufactures include mica
of the Alleghanies, the obsidian of Mexico, and jade and porphyry
derived probably from the same region, or from others still farther
south. Such facts warn us against any hastily constructed hypothesis of
migrations for a people to whom the resources of so many dissimilar
regions were partially known. We see in them, however, proofs of an
extensive traffic; and may assume, as at least exceedingly probable, the
existence of widely extended relations among that singular race. It is
not to be inferred from the use of terms specifically applied to modern
trade, that they are intended to suggest the possession of a currency
and exchanges, of banking agencies, or manufacturing corporations. But,
without confounding the traces of a rudimentary civilisation with
characteristics of its mature development, there are proofs sufficient
to justify the inference that the Mound-Builders traded with the copper
of Lake Superior for objects of necessity and luxury brought from
widely-separated regions of the continent. Such exchanges may have been
effected by many intermediate agencies, rather than by any direct
traffic. But the river system of the Mississippi has furnished to the
later forest tribes facilities for interchange under far less favourable
circumstances; and such a systematic trade among an ingenious and
settled people may have materially contributed to the progress of
civilisation in the populous valleys of the Ohio.

Turning next to the carvings in stone recovered from the mounds, they
include objects of singular interest, some of which, at least, fully
merit the designation of works of art. Compared, indeed, with the
sculptures in porphyry and the great Calendar Stone of Mexico; the
elaborate façades and columned terraces of Uxmal, Zayi, and Kabah; and
the colossal statues, basso-relievos and hieroglyphics of Copan and
Palenque: the art of the Mound-Builders, which expended its highest
efforts on the decoration of a tube, or the sculpture of a pipe-bowl,
may appear insignificant enough. But the imagination is apt to be
impressed by mere size, and requires to be reminded of the superior
excellence of a Greek medal or a Roman gem to all the colossal grandeur
of an Egyptian Memnon. The architecture and sculpture of Central America
preserve to us the highest intellectual efforts of the New World, and
are animated by a historical significance which cannot be overestimated.
Nevertheless, examples among the miniature works of art of the Ohio
Valley admit of comparison with them in some essential elements of
artistic skill. Apart, indeed, from the significance of the
hieroglyphics with which the colossal statues of Copan are graven, they
might rank with the monstrous creations of Hindu art; whereas some of
the objects taken from altars of “Mound City” furnish specimens of
imitative design and portrait-sculpture full of character and

The simplicity, variety, and minute expression in many of the miniature
mound-sculptures, their delicacy of execution and imitative skill,
render them just objects of interest. But foremost in every trait of
value for the elucidation of the history or characteristics of their
workers, are the human heads, which, when the accuracy of many of the
miniature sculptures of animals is considered, it can scarcely be
doubted, perpetuate faithful representations of the ancient people by
whom they were executed. Equally well-authenticated portraiture of
Umbrian, Pelasgian, or other mythical races of Europe would be
invaluable to the ethnologist. It would solve some of the knottiest
problems of his science, better than all the obscure disquisitions to
which the aboriginal population of Greece and Italy has given rise.
American ethnologists, accordingly, have not failed to turn such
iconographic evidence to even more account than legitimate induction
will sustain, in support of their favourite argument for an indigenous
unity of the whole ancient and modern races of the New World.

By means of such artistic relics we can determine the physical
characteristics of the Mound-Builders, and of contemporary tribes or
nations known to them. We also learn the character of fauna, native and
foreign to the region occupied by them, with which they were familiar. I
have had an opportunity of carefully inspecting the valuable collection
of mound-sculptures in the possession of Dr. E. H. Davis of New
York.[102] In some cases, perhaps, their artistic merits have been
overrated. Nevertheless the minute accuracy with which many of the
objects of natural history have been copied is remarkable; and confirms
the reliance to be placed on the ethnical portraiture perpetuated in
their representations of the human head.

[Illustration: FIG. 77.—Portrait Mound Pipe.]

Of these invaluable examples of ancient American iconography, one (Fig.
77) has attracted special notice, not only as the most beautiful head of
the series, but from its supposed correspondence to the type of the
modern North American Indian. The workmanship of this head is described
by its discoverers as “unsurpassed by any specimen of ancient American
art which has fallen under the notice of the authors, not excepting the
best productions of Mexico and Peru.”[103] In the well-executed
illustration which accompanies these remarks, the Red Indian features
are unmistakably represented; nor has this failed to receive abundant
attention, and to have ascribed to it even more than its due importance.
Mr. Francis Pulszky, the learned Hungarian, thus comments on it in his
_Iconographic Researches on Human Races and their Art_:—“A most
characteristic, we may say artistically beautiful head, the workmanship
of these unknown Mound-Builders, dug up and published by Squier,
exhibits the peculiar Indian features so faithfully, and with such
sculptural perfection, that we cannot withhold our admiration from their
artistic proficiency. It proves three things: 1st, That these
Mound-Builders were American Indian in type; 2d, That time (age
ante-Columbian, but otherwise unknown,) has not changed the type of this
indigenous group of races; and 3d, That the Mound-Builders were probably
acquainted with no other men but themselves.”[104] Such are the sweeping
deductions drawn from premises supplied by a single example of
mound-sculpture: or rather by the depiction of it in Messrs. Squier and
Davis’s volume; for after a careful examination of the original, its
ethnic characteristics appear to me to be mainly due to the pencil of
the draughtsman, who has, no doubt undesignedly, given to his drawing
much more of the typical Indian features than are traceable in the
original. Of this Figs. 77 and 78 are more accurate copies; and from
these it will be seen that the nose, instead of having the salient Roman
arch there represented, is perfectly straight, and is neither very
prominent nor dilated.

[Illustration: FIG. 78.—Portrait Mound Pipe.]

The mouth, though protuberant, is small; the lips are thin; instead of
the characteristic ponderous maxillary region of the true Indian, the
chin and the upper lip are both short; and the lower jaw, without any
marked width between the condyles, is small, and tapers gradually
towards the chin. Perhaps it is owing to this smallness of the lower
portion of the head and face, that it was supposed to represent a
female. But such an idea is not suggested by any marked characteristic
either in the features or head-dress. The cheek-bones, though high, are
by no means so prominent as in the original engraving. Indeed, the
projection is almost entirely in front, giving a tumid cheek immediately
under the eye. I doubt if any competent observer, ignorant of the
history of this relic, would assign it to an Indian type.

[Illustration: FIG. 79.—Portrait Mound Pipe.]

It is apparent, therefore, that the inferences drawn from the
representation of a single example of mound-sculpture are based on
inaccurate premises. But even supposing the head to reproduce the
features of the modern Indian: it would by no means prove the three
propositions deduced from its discovery; since it is not the only
specimen of sculptured portraiture discovered in the mounds, and we look
in vain in other examples for these points of Indian physiognomy which
would first attract the eye of the imitative modeller or sculptor. The
salient and dilated nose, prominent cheek-bones, massive jaw, and large
mouth, may be assigned as the most noticeable characteristics; but all
or nearly all of those are wanting in most of the other sculptured heads
or masks. The character of these may be seen in the head engraved here
(Fig. 79), derived from the same rich depository opened in “Mound City.”
It is cut in a compact yellowish stone. The nose is nearly in a line
with the forehead, excepting at the point, which projects in a manner
certainly by no means characteristic of Indian features; and though the
lips protrude, they are delicate, and the mouth is small. The ears in
both are large, and in the latter are perforated with four small holes
around their upper edges. In this case, from the delicacy of the
features, it is suggested with greater probability than in the former
example, that it has been designed after a female model. Another
head,[105] executed in the same material, is much altered by fire. It
has not, like the previous examples, been designed for a pipe-head, but
is broken off from a complete human figure, or other larger piece of
carving. It is much inferior as a work of art, and indeed approaches the
grotesque or caricature. Nevertheless, it has considerable character in
its expression; and no one familiar with the Indian cast of countenance
would readily assign either to it or the previous specimen of
mound-sculpture any aim at such representation, if unaware of the
circumstances of their discovery. In this, as in others of the heads,
the face is tattooed, and the ears have been perforated; and from the
strongly attached oxide of copper, there can be little doubt that they
were decorated with rings or pendants of that metal. Other portrait
sculptures and terra-cottas, either found in the mounds, or discovered
within the region where they chiefly abound, are figured in the works of
Squier, Schoolcraft, Lapham, Foster, Jones, and in the American
Ethnological Society’s Transactions. The majority of them are inferior
as works of art to those already described. But if they possess any
value as indications of the physiognomical type of ancient American
races, they tend to confirm the idea of a prevailing diversity instead
of a uniformity of cranial form and features.

The discovery of a sculptured head betraying traces of Indian features,
among many of a different type, corresponds to another interesting fact,
that animals foreign to the region, and even to the North American
continent, are figured in the mound-sculptures. It presents a parallel
to well-known examples of Etruscan vases moulded in the form of negroes’
heads; and of Greek pottery painted with the same characteristic
features and woolly hair. Specimens of both are preserved among the
collections of the British Museum, and furnish interesting evidence,
alike of the permanency of the negro type, and of the familiarity both
of Greek and Etruscan artists with the African features, long prior to
the Christian era. Similar examples of foreign portraiture have
attracted attention on the older monuments of Egypt, and among the
basso-relievos of the tomb of Darius Hystaspes at Persepolis: supplying
interesting illustrations of imitative art employed in the perpetuation
of ethnic peculiarities of physiognomy. Supposing, therefore, the
Mound-Builders to have been a settled population, as distinct from a
contemporaneous Indian race as the classic nations of antiquity differed
from the barbarian tribes beyond the Alps and the Rhine: it is no more
surprising to trace the genuine Indian features in mound-sculptures,
than to discover those of the Dacian or the Gaul on the column of
Trajan. It proves that the Mound-Builders were familiar with the
American Indian type, but nothing more. The evidence indeed tends very
distinctly to suggest that they were not of the same type; since the
majority of sculptured human heads hitherto recovered from their ancient
depositories do not reproduce the Indian features.

The physical type of the Mound-Builders will again come under
consideration in a subsequent chapter; but it is interesting meanwhile
to observe that even in the characteristics of this portrait-sculpture
distinctive qualities appear. The imitative faculty manifests itself in
expressive varieties of style, in modern Indian art. Some tribes, such
as the Algonquins, confine themselves to literal reproductions of
natural objects, while others, such as the Babeens, indulge in a
grotesque and ingeniously diversified play of fancy. But the
intellectual development implied in individual portraiture goes beyond
this, and is rare indeed among nations in the earlier stages of
civilisation. Even among the civilised Mexicans, imitations of the human
face and figure appear to have seldom passed beyond the grotesque; and
although the sculptors of Central America and Yucatan manifested an
artistic power which accords with the civilisation of a lettered people:
yet in the majority of their statues and reliefs, we see the
subordination of the human form and features to the symbolism of their
mythology, or to mere decorative requirements. It thus seems that, amid
the general prevalence of an aptitude for imitative art, alike among the
ancient and modern nations of the American continent, the
Mound-Builders, though working within a narrow range, developed a power
of appreciating its minuter delicacies such as is only traceable
elsewhere among the choicest sculptures of Uxmal and Palenque.

To this imitative skill we owe other works which have an important
significance in relation to ethnological problems affecting the ancient
population of the New World. Reference has already been made to the
curious collection of stone pipes, recovered from one of the smaller
tumuli of “Mound City.” They included some of the sculptured human
heads; but the bowls of most of them were carved into figures of beasts,
birds, and reptiles. On these the ancient sculptors appear to have
lavished their artistic skill with a degree of care bestowed on none
other of the less perishable works, from which alone we can now judge of
their intellectual development. “Not only,” as Messrs. Squier and Davis
observe, “are the features of the various objects represented
faithfully, but their peculiarities and habits are in some degree
exhibited. The otter is shown in a characteristic attitude, holding a
fish in his mouth; the heron also holds a fish; and the hawk grasps a
small bird in its talons, which it tears with its beak. The panther, the
bear, the wolf, the beaver, the otter, the squirrel, the racoon, the
hawk, the heron, crow, swallow, buzzard, the paroquet, toucan, and other
indigenous and southern birds; the turtle, the frog, toad, rattlesnake,
etc., are recognised at first glance”;[106] and in addition to those,
the jaguar or panther, the cougar, the elk, the opossum, the alligator,
and numerous land and water birds, including several varieties of the
owls, herons, and other species, have all been recognised among more
recent disclosures. Many of those are represented in characteristic
attitudes, and with much skill and fidelity of portraiture. The
exuberant fancy of the ancient sculptors also displays itself at times
in humorous masks, and incongruous devices, such as a goose’s head cut
in a hard black stone, which on looking to the back becomes a human
skull. Some of those works appear to have been executed, like the
sportive sketches of the modern artist, with no other object than the
carver’s own gratification.

Unfinished carvings show the process by which they were wrought. A toad,
in a characteristic attitude, but only roughly shaped out, “very well
exhibits the mode of workmanship. While the general surface appears
covered with striæ running in every direction, as if produced by
rubbing, the folds and lines are clearly cut with some sort of graver.
The marks of the implement, chipping out portions a fourth of an inch in
length, are too distinct to admit the slightest doubt that a cutting
tool was used in the work.” Again, in another pipe-head, blocked out
into the form of a bird, “the lines indicating the feathers, grooves of
the beak, and other more delicate features, are cut or graved on the
surface at a single stroke. Some pointed tool appears to have been used,
and the marks are visible where it has occasionally slipped beyond the
control of the engraver. Indeed, the whole appearance of the specimen
indicates that the work was done rapidly by an experienced hand, and
that the various parts were brought forward simultaneously. The freedom
of the strokes could only result from long practice; and we may infer
that the manufacture of pipes had a distinct place in the industrial
organisation of the Mound-Builders.” But this, though full of interest,
need not surprise us, since the art of the arrow-maker, which required
both skill and experience, was pursued among the forest-tribes as a
special craft; nor is that of the pipe-maker even now wholly abandoned.

[Illustration: FIG. 80.—Manatee, Pipe-Sculpture.]

So far, therefore, we are enabled by such means to look back into that
remote past. We see the industrious sculptor at his task; and holding
silent converse with him over his favourite works, we learn somewhat of
his own physical aspect, of the range of his geographical experience,
his mental capacity and intellectual development. The pottery of the
mounds, in like manner, adds to our knowledge of the art and
civilisation of the age in which it was produced. But, next in
importance to the evidence thus furnished, the miniature sculptures of
the mounds derive their chief value from indications they supply of the
extent and nature of the geographical relations of their owners. 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 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 intercourse maintained with regions where the civilisation of
ancient America attained its highest development; or else indicating
migration 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 animals familiar to their fathers in
the parent-land of the race.

Of one of the most interesting of those exotic models, the _Lamantin_ or
_Manatee_, seven sculptured figures have been taken from the mounds of
Ohio. This phytophagous cetacean, which, when full-grown, measures from
fifteen to twenty feet in length, is found only in tropical waters.
Species haunt the estuaries and large rivers of Central and
intertropical South America; as also those of both the eastern and
western sides of tropical Africa: and sometimes ascend the rivers to a
great distance from the sea. Examples were seen by Humboldt in the Rio
Meta, a branch of the Orinoco, one thousand miles above its mouth. They
are also found among the Antilles, and on the coast of the Florida
peninsula. The most characteristic details in their form which chiefly
attracted attention when the Manatee was first brought under the notice
of Europeans, are faithfully reproduced in the Mound sculptures. Fancy
helped to exaggerate the peculiarities of this strange animal to the
earliest European voyagers, and from them it received the name of the
Siren. But its most remarkable feature is the fore paw, occupying the
usual place of the cetacean fin, but bearing so close a resemblance to a
human hand that the name Manatee is generally supposed to have been
conferred on it by the first Spanish explorers on this account.[107] It
is ranked according to ecclesiastical natural history as a fish; and its
flesh is in special request at St. Christopher’s, Guadaloupe,
Martinique, and in various South American localities, during Lent. Its
form is therefore familiar to the natives of South America, and was once
equally well known to those of the Antilles, and probably to the ancient
coastmen of the Gulf. But we must account by other means for the
discovery of accurate representations of it among the sculptures of the
far-inland Ohio mounds; and the same remark applies to the jaguar or
panther, the cougar, the toucan; to the buzzard possibly, and also to
the paroquet. The majority of those animals are not known in the United
States; some of them are totally unknown within any part of the North
American continent. Others may be classed with the paroquet, which,
though essentially a southern bird, and common around the Gulf, does
occasionally make its appearance inland; and so might become known to
the untravelled Mound-Builder in his northern home.

The importance of such evidence that the ancient dwellers in the Scioto
Valley had some knowledge of tropical animals, and even of those
confined exclusively to the southern continent, has not escaped the
notice of the explorers of the mounds. It has even induced them to
hesitate in assigning the name of the toucan to sculptures concerning
the design of which there could be no other reasonable ground for doubt.
Referring to the manatee sculptures, they remark: “These singular relics
have a direct bearing upon some of the questions connected with the
origin of the mounds. They are undistinguishable, so far as material and
workmanship are concerned, from an entire class of remains found in
them, and are evidently the work of the same hands with the other
effigies of beasts and birds; and yet they faithfully represent animals
found (and only in small numbers), a thousand miles distant upon the
shores of Florida, or—if the birds seemingly belonging to the
zygodactylous order be really designed to represent the toucan,—found
only in the tropical regions of South America. Either the same race,
possessing throughout a like style of workmanship, and deriving their
materials from a common source, existed contemporaneously over the whole
range of intervening territory, and maintained a constant
intercommunication; or else there was at some period a migration from
the south, bringing with it characteristic remains of the land from
which it emanated. The sculptures of the manatees are too exact to have
been the production of those who were not well acquainted with the
animal and its habits.” Of the representations of the toucan, the
accompanying woodcut (Fig. 81) will furnish a sufficient illustration.
It is imitated with considerable accuracy, though inferior to some of
the finest specimens of mound sculpture. The most important deviation
from correctness of detail is, that it has three toes instead of two
before, although the two are correctly represented behind. It is
stooping its head to take food from a rudely outlined human hand; and as
it is known that the brilliant plumage of the toucan leads to its being
frequently tamed by the natives of Guiana and Brazil, this tends not
only to confirm the idea of its representation by the sculptures in
question: but to suggest that the Mound-Builders may have had aviaries,
like those in which the Aztec caciques assembled birds of splendid
plumage and beautiful form from every part of their Mexican empire.

[Illustration: FIG. 81.—Toucan, Pipe-Sculpture.]

Unless we assume such a lapse of time as may suffice for important
changes in the climate and fauna of the Ohio Valley, the evidence thus
far adduced suggests the inference either that the whole extensive
regions thus indicated were occupied at some remote period by a common
race; or we must recognise in such indications of familiarity with the
natural history of the tropics, and even of the southern continent,
proof that that very people, who derived all their metal from the great
northern regions of Lake Superior, had themselves migrated from southern
latitudes rich in metallic ores.

Various considerations tend to favour the idea of such a migration,
rather than the maintenance of intercommunication and exchange, among a
people of the same race, throughout regions so extensive and so
geographically distinct. If the Mound-Builders had some of the arts and
models, not only of Central but of Southern America: they also employed
in their ingenious manufactures pearls and shells of the Gulf of
Florida; obsidian from Mexico; mica believed to have been brought from
the Alleghanies; jade, such as that described by Humboldt among the rare
materials of ancient manufacture in Chili; the lead of Wisconsin; and
the copper, and probably the silver, of Ontonagon and the Keweenaw
peninsula. The fact indeed that some of their most elaborate carvings
represent birds and quadrupeds belonging to latitudes so far to the
south, naturally tends to suggest the idea of a central region where
arts were cultivated to an extent unknown in the Mississippi Valley; and
that those objects, manufactured where such models are furnished by the
native fauna, remain only as evidences of ancient intercourse maintained
between these latitudes and the localities where now alone such are
known to abound. But in opposition to this, full value must be given to
the fact that neither the relics, nor the customs which they illustrate,
pertain exclusively to southern latitudes; nor are such found to
predominate among the singular evidences of ancient and more matured
civilisation which abound in Central and Southern America. The varied
nature of the materials employed in the arts of the Mound-Builders, we
must also remember, indicates a wide range of relations; though it
cannot be assumed that these were maintained in every case by direct

The earlier students of American archæology, like the older school of
British antiquaries, gave full scope to a system of theorising which
built up comprehensive ethnological schemes on the very smallest
premises; but in the more judicious caution of later writers there is a
tendency to run to the opposite extreme. Perhaps Messrs. Squier and
Davis indulge at times in an exaggerated estimate of the merits of the
remarkable works of art discovered and published as the result of their
joint labours; but subsequent critics have either unduly depreciated
them, or solved the difficulties attendant on such discoveries, by
ascribing their manufacture to an undetermined foreign source. Mr.
Schoolcraft specially manifested a disposition to underrate the artistic
ability discernible in some of them; while Mr. Haven, who fully admits
their skilful execution, derives from that very fact the evidence of
foreign manufacture. After describing the weapons, pottery, and personal
ornaments obtained from the mounds, the latter writer adds, “and, with
these were found sculptured figures of animals and the human head, in
the form of pipes, wrought with great delicacy and spirit from some of
the hardest stones. The last-named are relics that imply a very
considerable degree of art; and if believed to be the work of the people
with whose remains they are found, would tend greatly to increase the
wonder that the art of sculpture among them was not manifested in other
objects and places. The fact that nearly all the finer specimens of
workmanship represent birds, or land and marine animals belonging to a
different latitude; while the pearls, the knives of obsidian, the marine
shells, and the copper equally testify to a distant, though not
extra-continental origin, may, however, exclude these from being
received as proofs of local industry and skill.”[108]

[Illustration: FIG. 82.—Peruvian Black Ware.]

A reconsideration of the list already given of animals sculptured by the
ancient pipe-makers, cannot fail to satisfy the inquirer that it is an
over-statement of the case to say that nearly all belong to a different
latitude. The real interest and difficulty of the question lie in the
fact of discovering, along with so many sculptured figures of animals
pertaining to the locality, others represented with equal spirit and
fidelity, though belonging to diverse latitudes. To those familiar with
early Scandinavian and British antiquities, such an assignment of the
mound sculptures to a foreign origin, on account of their models being
in part derived from distant sources, must appear a needless assumption
which only shifts without lessening the difficulty. On the sculptured
standing stones of Scotland—belonging apparently to the closing era of
Paganism, and the first introduction of Christianity there,—may be seen
the tiger or leopard, the ape, the camel, the serpent, and as supposed
by some, the elephant and walrus, along with other representations or
symbols, borrowed, not like the models of the Mound-Builders, from a
locality so near as to admit of the theory of direct commercial
intercourse, or recent migration, but from remote districts of Asia, or
from Africa. The most noticeable difference between the imitations of
foreign fauna on the Scottish monuments, and in the ancient American
sculptures, is that the former occasionally betray, as might be
expected, the conventional characteristics of a traditional type; while
the latter, if they furnish evidence of migration, would in so far tend
to prove it more recent, and to a locality not so distant as to preclude
all renewal of intercourse with the ancestral birth-land. Traces of the
same reproduction of unfamiliar objects are, indeed, apparent in the
mound sculptures. The objects least truthfully represented, in some
cases, are animals foreign to the region where alone such works of art
have been found. But the South American toucan of the mound sculptor,
figured on a previous page, is certainly not inferior to the
accompanying specimens of the Peruvian modeller’s imitative skill,
wrought on a vessel of black ware (Fig. 82), now in the collection of
the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland: though it will be remembered
that the latter are the work of an artist to whom the original may be
presumed to have been familiar. Several of the animals engraved in the
_Ancient Monuments of the Mississippi Valley_ fall far short of the
fidelity of imitation ascribed to them in the accompanying text: but the
characteristic individuality of others displays remarkable imitative
power. The lugubrious expression given to more than one of the toads is
full of humour; and some of the ruder human heads may be described as
portrait-sketches in the style of _Punch_. But after making every
requisite deduction from the exaggerations of enthusiastic observers,
abundant evidence of artistic skill and ingenuity remains to justify the
wonder that a people capable of executing such works should have left no
large monuments of their art. While, however, this affords no sufficient
ground for transferring their origin to another region, we may still
look with interest for the discovery of analogous productions in some of
the great centres of native American civilisation.

[Illustration: FIG. 83.—Peruvian Stone Mortars.]

With one or two stray exceptions, objects precisely similar to the mound
sculptures have not hitherto been met with, beyond the valleys where
other traces of the Mound-Builders abound; but the points of resemblance
between the sculptured mound-pipes and numerous miniature stone mortars
found in Peru are too striking to be overlooked. Of the two examples
given here (Fig. 83), the one is a llama, from Huarmachaco, in Peru, in
the collection of the Historical Society of New York. It is cut in a
close-grained black stone, and measures four inches long. The other, of
darkish brown schist, is from a drawing made by Mr. Thomas Ewbank, while
in Peru. The greater number of those seen by him represent the llama and
its congeners, the alpaca, guanoco, and vicuna. They are all hollowed
precisely like the bowl of the sculptured mound-pipes, but have no
lateral perforation or mouth-piece. Their probable use was as mortars,
in which the Peruvians rubbed tobacco into powder, working it with a
small pestle until it became heated with the friction, when it was taken
as snuff. The transition from this practice to that of inhaling the
burning fumes is simple; and the correspondence between the ancient
Peruvian tobacco-mortar and the stone pipe of the Mound-Builder is
worthy of note, when taken into consideration along with the imitations
of birds of the southern continent found among the sculptures of the
mounds. Dr. Tschudi describes four of the Peruvian mortars preserved at
Vienna, carved in porphyry, basalt, and granite; and he adds: “How the
ancient Peruvians, without the aid of iron tools, were able to carve
stone so beautifully, is inconceivable.”

The absence of any but such miniature carvings in the northern mounds
may also merit notice when viewed in connection with the ideas of
religious worship suggested by the contents of the mound altars.
Idolatry, in its most striking, and also in some of its most barbarous
forms, prevailed, as we know, among the nations of the Mexican Valley,
at the period of the Conquest. The monuments of Yucatan and Central
America leave no room to doubt that the worship of such visible
impersonations of Divine attributes as their sculptors could devise
formed a prominent part of their religious services. Reference has also
been made in a previous chapter to rudely modelled and sculptured idols,
accompanying other ancient remains, in sepulchral deposits in Tennessee.
Others have been found in the huacals of Chiriqui, on the Isthmus of
Panama, along with numerous gold relics and many fine specimens of
pottery. Those facts render it the more singular that, amid so many
traces of imitative sculpture, no relics obviously designed as objects
of worship have been dug up in the mounds, or found in such
circumstances as to connect them with the religious practices of the
Mound-Builders. But the remarkable characteristics of the elaborately
sculptured pipes, and their obvious connection with services
accompanying some of the rites of sacrifice or cremation, may indicate
their having played an important part in the religious solemnities of
the ancient race; and on this the arts and customs of modern tribes help
to throw some curious light.

So far as we can now infer from evidence furnished by relics connected
with the use of the tobacco-plant, it seems to have been as familiar to
the ancient tribes of the North-west, and the aborigines of the Canadian
forests, as to those of the American tropics, of which the _Nicotiana
tabacum_ is a native. No such remarkable depositories indeed have been
found to the north of the great lakes as those disclosed to the
explorers of the tumuli in the Scioto Valley; but even now the
tobacco-pipe monopolises the ingenious art of many tribes; and some of
their most curious legends and superstitions are connected with the
favourite national implement. Among them the dignity of time-honoured
use has conferred on it a sacredness, which survives with much of its
ancient force; and to this accordingly the student of American
antiquities is justified in turning, as a link connecting the present
with that ancient past. But it is worthy of note that the form of the
mound-pipes differs essentially from the endless varieties of pattern
wrought by Indian ingenuity. Some consideration, therefore, of the arts
of the modern pipe-sculptor, and of native customs and traditions
associated with the use of tobacco, is necessary, as a means of
comparison between ancient and modern races of the New World.

In the Old World, the ideas connected with the tobacco-pipe are prosaic
enough. The chibouk may, at times, be associated with the poetical
reveries of the oriental daydreamer, and the hookah with pleasant
fancies of the Anglo-Indian reposing in the shade of his bungalow; but
its seductive antique mystery, and all its symbolic significance,
pertain to the New World. Longfellow, accordingly, fitly opens his _Song
of Hiawatha_ with the institution of “the peace-pipe.” The Master of
Life descends on the mountains of the prairie, breaks a fragment from
the red stone of the quarry, and, fashioning it with curious art into a
pipe-head, he fills it with the bark of the red willow, chafes the
forest into flame with the tempest of his breath, and kindling it,
smokes the calumet as a signal to the nations. The tribes gather at the
divine summons from river, lake, and prairie, to listen to the warnings
and promises with which the Great Spirit seeks to guide them; and this
done, and the warriors having buried their war-clubs, they smoke their
first peace-pipe, and depart:—

                 “While the Master of Life, ascending,
                 Through the opening of cloud-curtains,
                 Through the doorways of the heaven,
                 Vanished from before their faces
                 In the smoke that rolled around him,
                 The pukwana of the peace-pipe!”

In this, as in other passages of his national epic, the American poet
has embodied cherished legends of the New World: placing the opening
scene of _Hiawatha_ on the heights of the red pipe-stone quarry of
Coteau des Prairies, between the Minnesota and Missouri rivers.

On the summit of the ridge between these two tributaries of the
Mississippi rises a bold cliff, beautifully marked with horizontal
layers of light grey and rose or flesh-coloured quartz. From the base of
this a level prairie of about half a mile in width runs parallel to it;
and here it is that the famous red pipe-stone is procured, at a depth of
from four to five feet from the surface, in a ravine at the head of the
Pipe-stone Creek, a tributary of the Big Sioux River. Numerous
excavations indicate the resort of Indian tribes to the locality. “That
this place should have been visited,” says Catlin, “for centuries past
by all the neighbouring tribes, who have hidden the war-club as they
approached it, and stayed the cruelties of the scalping-knife, under the
fear of the vengeance of the Great Spirit who overlooks it, will not
seem strange or unnatural when their superstitions are known. That such
has been the custom there is not a shadow of doubt, and that even so
recently as to have been witnessed by hundreds and thousands of Indians
of different tribes now living, and from many of whom I have personally
drawn the information.”[109]

The enterprising traveller speaks elsewhere of thousands of inscriptions
and drawings observed by him on the neighbouring rocks; while the
feeling in which they originate was thus illustrated by an Indian whose
portrait he painted when in the Mandan country:—“My brother,” said the
Mandan, “you have made my picture, and I like it much. My friends tell
me they can see the eyes move, and it must be very good; it must be
partly alive. I am glad it is done, though many of my people are afraid.
I am a young man, but my heart is strong. I have jumped on to the
Medicine Rock; I have placed my arrow on it, and no Mandan can take it
away. The red stone is slippery, but my foot was true; it did not slip.
My brother, this pipe which I give to you I brought from a high
mountain; it is towards the rising sun. Many were the pipes we brought
from thence, and we brought them away in peace. We left our totems on
the rocks; we cut them deep in the stones; they are there now. The Great
Spirit told all nations to meet there in peace, and all nations hid the
war-club and the tomahawk. The Dahcotahs, who are our enemies, are very
strong; they have taken up the tomahawk, and the blood of our warriors
has run on the rocks. We want to visit our medicines. Our pipes are old
and worn out.”

The Medicine or Leaping Rock, here referred to, is a detached column
standing between seven and eight feet from the precipitous cliff; and
the leap across this chasm is a daring feat which the young warriors are
ambitious of performing. It was pointed out to Catlin by a Sioux chief,
whose son had perished in the attempt. A conical mound marked the spot
of his sepulture; and though the sanctity of this ancient neutral ground
has been invaded, and the Sioux now refuse to permit other tribes to
have access to it, this is of quite recent occurrence. The memorials of
many tribes on the graven rocks; numerous excavations, sepulchral
mounds, and other earthworks in the vicinity; and the recovery from time
to time, in chance excavations, or in ancient ossuaries and
grave-mounds, of pipes wrought in the favourite material: all confirm
the Indian tradition that this had been recognised as neutral ground by
the tribes to the west, and many of those to the east of the
Mississippi, to which they have made regular pilgrimages to renew their
pipes from the rock consecrated by the footprints of the Great Spirit.
The marks of his footsteps are pointed out, deeply impressed in the
rock, and resembling the track of a large bird!

Mandan traditions respecting this sacred spot have a special interest;
for the migrations of that once powerful Indian nation have been traced
from the country lying between Lake Erie and Cincinnati, down the Valley
of the Ohio, over the graves of the ancient Mound-Builders, and thence
up the western branch of the Mississippi, until the extinction of nearly
the whole nation, by the ravages of the small-pox, in the year 1838, at
their latest settlements on the Upper Missouri. The site of their last
homes lies to the north of the Sioux’s country, in whose possession the
pipe-stone quarries are now vested by the law of the strongest. To the
Sioux, accordingly, the guardianship of the traditions of the locality
belongs. For, although they have thus set at defiance its most sacred
characteristic, and so slighted the mandate of the Great Spirit, they do
not the less strongly hold by the superstitious ideas associated with
the spot.

One of these legends is connected with the peculiar features of the
scene. Five large granite boulders form prominent objects on the level
prairie in the vicinity of the pipe-stone quarries; and two holes under
the largest of them are regarded by the Sioux as the abodes of the
guardian spirits of the spot. Catlin, who broke off and carried away
with him fragments of these sacred boulders, remarks: “As for the poor
Indian, his superstitious veneration of them is such, that not a spear
of grass is broken or bent by his feet within three or four roods of
them, where he stops, and, in humble supplication, by throwing plugs of
tobacco to them, solicits permission to dig and carry away the red stone
for his pipes.” For here, according to Indian tradition, not only the
mysterious birth of the peace-pipe, but the postdiluvian creation of
man, took place.

The institution of the peace-pipe is thus narrated by the Sioux: “Many
ages after the red men were made, when all the tribes were at war, the
Great Spirit called them together at the Red Rocks. He stood on the top
of the rocks, and the red nations were assembled on the plain below. He
took out of the rock a piece of the red stone, and made a large pipe. He
smoked it over them all; told them that it was part of their flesh; that
though they were at war, they must meet at this place as friends; that
it belonged to them all; that they must make their calumets from it, and
smoke them to him whenever they wished to appease him or get his
goodwill. The smoke from his big pipe rolled over them all, and he
disappeared in its cloud. At the last whiff of his pipe a blaze of fire
rolled over the rocks and melted their surface. At that moment two
Indian maidens passed in a flame under the two medicine rocks, where
they remain to this day. The voices of Tsomecostee and Tsomecostewondee,
as they are named, are heard at times in answer to the invocations of
the suppliants, and they must be propitiated before the pipe-stone is
taken away.”

An offering of tobacco is the usual gift, and it appears to have been
employed in similar acts of worship from the earliest period of
intercourse with Europeans. In the narrative of the voyage of Drake, in
1572, it is stated that the natives brought a little basket made of
rushes, and filled with an herb which they called _tobak_. This was
regarded as a propitiatory offering; and the writer subsequently notes:
they “came now the second time to us, bringing with them, as before had
been done, feathers and bags of _tobak_ for presents, or rather, indeed,
for sacrifices, upon this persuasion that we were gods.” Harriot in like
manner tells, in his “Briefe and True Report of the New Found Land of
Virginia,” of a plant which the Spaniards generally call _tobacco_, but
there named by the natives _uppówoc_. “This _uppówoc_ is of so precious
estimation among them, that they think their gods are marvellously
delighted therewith, whereupon sometime they make halowed fires, and
cast some of the powder therein for a sacrifice. Being in a storme upon
the waters, to pacifie their gods they cast some up into the aire, and
into the water; so a weare for fish being newly set up, they cast some
therein and into the aire; also after an escape of danger, they cast
some into the aire likewise; but all done with strange gestures,
stamping, sometime dancing, clapping of hands, holding up of hands, and
staring up into the heavens, uttering therewithal and chattering strange
words and noises.”

Such practices and ideas of propitiatory offerings among southern Indian
tribes of the sixteenth century, show that the offerings of tobacco
still made by the Sioux to the spirits that haunt the pipe-stone quarry,
are of no merely local origin, but were anciently as universal as the
peace-pipe itself. Nor were such religious associations confined to the
favourite narcotic of the northern continent. Among the Peruvians the
coca-plant took the place of tobacco; and Dr. Tschudi states that he
found it regarded by the Indians as something sacred and mysterious. “In
all ceremonies, whether religious or warlike, it was introduced for
producing smoke at the great offerings, or as the sacrifice itself.
During divine worship the priests chewed coca-leaves; and, unless they
were supplied with them, it was believed that the favour of the gods
could not be propitiated.” Christianity, after an interval of upwards of
three hundred years, has not eradicated the Indian’s faith in the
virtues of the sacred plant. In the mines of Cerro de Pasco, masticated
coca is thrown on the hard veins of metal to propitiate the gnomes of
the mine, who, it is believed, would otherwise render the mountains
impenetrable; and leaves of it are secretly placed in the mouth of the
dead, to smooth the passage to another world. Thus we find, in the
superstitions perpetuated among the Indians of the southern Cordilleras,
striking analogies to those which survive among the Sioux, and give
character to the strange rites practised by them at the red pipe-stone
quarry, on the Coteau des Prairies.

One of the Indian traditions connected with that locality, which seems
to perpetuate the idea of a general deluge, was thus narrated by a
distinguished Knisteneaux on the Upper Missouri, on the occasion of
presenting to Catlin a handsome red-stone pipe: “In the time of a great
freshet, which took place many centuries ago, and destroyed all the
nations of the earth, all the tribes of the red men assembled on the
Coteau des Prairies, to get out of the way of the waters. After they had
gathered here from every part, the water continued to rise, until at
length it covered them all in a mass, and their flesh was converted into
red pipe-stone. Therefore, it has always been considered neutral ground;
it belongs to all tribes alike, and all were allowed to get it and smoke
it together. While they were all drowning in a mass, a young woman,
Kwaptahw, a virgin, caught hold of the foot of a very large bird that
was flying over, and was carried to the top of a high cliff not far off,
that was above the water. Here she had twins, and their father was the
war-eagle, and her children have since peopled the earth.” The idea that
the red pipe-stone is the flesh of their ancestors is a favourite one
among different tribes. When Catlin and his party attempted to penetrate
to the sacred locality, they were stopped by the Sioux, and one of them
addressing him, said: “This red-pipe was given to the red men by the
Great Spirit. It is a part of our flesh, and therefore is great
medicine. We know that the whites are like a great cloud that rises in
the east, and will cover the whole country. We know that they will have
all our lands; but if ever they get our red-pipe quarry they will have
to pay very dear for it.” Thus is it that even in the farthest West the
Indian feels the fatal touch of that white hand; and to the intrigues of
interested traders is ascribed the encroachment of the Sioux on the
sacred neutral ground, where, within memory of living men, every tribe
on the Missouri had smoked with their enemies, while the Great Spirit
kept the peace among his red children.

Apart, then, from such indications of an artistic power of imitation, by
which the ancient pipe-sculptors are distinguished, it becomes an object
of interest to observe other elements, either of comparison or contrast,
between the memorials of the Mound-Builders’ skill, and numerous
specimens of pipe-sculpture produced by modern tribes.

Notwithstanding the endless variety which characterises the ancient
Mound-Builders’ pipes, one general type is traceable through the whole.
A curved base forms the stem and handle, from the centre of which rises
the bowl, as shown in Fig. 78, so that it is complete as found; whereas
the modern Indian generally employs a pipe-stem, and ascribes to it the
peculiar virtues of the implement. The medicine-man decorates it with
his most elaborate skill, and it is regarded with awe and reverence by
the whole tribe. The stem would seem, therefore, to be characteristic of
the modern race; if indeed it be not the distinguishing memorial of an
origin of the Northern tribes diverse from Toltecan and other ancient
nations. One idea which such comparisons suggest is that in the sacred
associations with the pipe of the Mound-Builders, we have indications of
contact between a migrating race of Central or Southern America, where
no superstitious pipe-usages have been found, and one of the Northern
tribes among whom such superstitions are most intimately interwoven with
all their sacred mysteries.

The utmost variety distinguishes the pipes of the modern Indians:
arising in part from the local facilities they possess for a suitable
material, and in part also from the special style of art and decoration
which has become traditional with the tribe. The easily wrought red
pipe-stone has been generally sought after, from the beauty of its
colour and texture, as well as the mysterious virtues attached to it.
But the pipe-sculptures of many tribes can be distinguished no less
certainly by the material, than by the favourite conventional pattern.

Among the Assinaboin Indians a fine marble, much too hard to admit of
minute carving, but susceptible of a high polish, is cut into pipes of
graceful form, and made so extremely thin, as to be nearly transparent.
When lighted the glowing tobacco shines through, and presents a singular
appearance at night, or in a dark lodge. Another favourite stone is a
coarse species of jasper, also too hard to admit of elaborate
ornamentation. But the choice of material is by no means invariably
guided by the facilities which the position of the tribe affords. Mr.
Kane informed me that, in coming down the Athabaska river, when near its
source in the Rocky Mountains, he observed his Assinaboin guides select
the favourite bluish jasper from among the water-worn stones in the bed
of the river, to carry home for the purpose of pipe manufacture,
although they were then fully five hundred miles from their lodges; and
my own Chippewa guides carried off pieces from the pipe-stone rock, at
the mouth of the Neepigon river, though they had several hundred miles
to traverse before they would reach their homes. Such traditional
adherence to the choice of materials peculiar to a remote source, as
well as the perpetuation of special forms and patterns, are of value as
clews to former migrations, and indications of affinity among scattered

[Illustration: FIG.84.—Chippewa Pipe.]

The Chippewas, at the head of Lake Superior, carve their pipes out of a
dark close-grained stone procured from Lake Huron; and frequently
introduce groups of animals and human figures with considerable artistic
skill. _Pabahmesad_, or the Flier, an old Chippewa, still living on the
Great Manitoulin Island in Lake Huron, is generally known as
_Pwahguneka_, the Pipe Maker, literally “he makes pipes.” Though brought
in contact with the Christian Indians of the Manitoulin Islands, he
resolutely adheres to the pagan creed and rites of his fathers, and
resists all encroachments of civilisation. He gathers his materials from
the favourite resorts of different tribes, using the
_muhkuhda-pwahgunahbeck_, or black pipe-stone of Lake Huron; the
_wahbe-pwahgunahbeck_, or white pipe-stone, procured on St. Joseph’s
Island; and the _misko-pwahgunahbeck_, or red pipe-stone of the Coteau
des Prairies. His saw, with which the stone is first roughly blocked
out, is made of a bit of iron hoop; and his other tools are
correspondingly rude. Nevertheless the workmanship of Pabahmesad shows
him to be a master of his art; as will be seen from a characteristic
illustration of his ingenious sculpture, engraved here (Fig. 84) from
the original, in the museum of the University of Toronto.

[Illustration: FIG. 85.—Babeen Pipe.]

But the most elaborate and curious specimens of pipe-sculpture are those
executed by the Chimpseyan or Babeen Indians, who also carve skilfully
in wood and bone. They display much ingenuity in grass-plaiting for hats
and waterproof baskets, or kettles; and in the manufacture of
basket-nets of wicker-work, with which they catch the ulikon, a kind of
smelt abundant in the rivers along their coast. They are, indeed,
pre-eminent among the savages of the North Pacific coast for artistic
skill; yet to all appearance, in the collision with the whites, their
extermination is inevitable at no distant date. The frontispiece, Plate
1. illustrates the characteristic physiognomy of this people. It is the
portrait of Kaskatachyuh, a Chimpseyan chief, from sketches taken by Mr.
Paul Kane, while travelling in their country. He wears one of the native
hats made of dyed and plaited grass. The Chimpseyans belong to the
Thlinket stock, tribes of which extend as far north as Behring Bay. They
do not feast on the whale, because it is one of their tribal totems; but
the blubber of the porpoise and seal is a favourite delicacy. The
Babeens or big-lip Indians,—as the Chimpseyans are most frequently
called,—have received this name from the deformation of the under-lip
in the women of the tribe, produced by the insertion of a piece of wood
into a slit made in infancy, and increased in size until the lip
protrudes like the bill of a duck; and among the wooden masks which they
carve of life-size, this protruding lip is the invariable characteristic
of those of the women. Other and not less singular customs mark the
distinction between the sexes, and are perpetuated even after death.
Their women are wrapped in mats and placed on an elevated platform, or
in a canoe raised on poles, while the bodies of the males are invariably
burned. The Chimpseyans and the Clalam Indians, occupying Vancouver’s
Island and the coasts in the neighbourhood of Charlotte’s Sound, carve
bowls, platters, and other utensils out of a blue claystone or slate,
from which also they make their pipes, and decorate them with many
ingenious and grotesque devices. One of the smaller and simpler of these
pipes, shown in Fig. 85, is placed here alongside of a _chef-d’œuvre_ of
Pabahmesad, the Chippewa artist. Nothing could better serve to
illustrate the contrast between the ingenious imitative art of Algonquin
pipe-sculpture and the exuberant fancifulness of the Babeen carvings.
Large and complicated designs are common, sometimes inlaid with bone or
ivory, and embracing every native or foreign object adapted to the
sculptor’s fancy. The same talent for carving finds room for its display
on their ivory combs; and on ladles and spoons made from the horns of a
mountain goat, which is one of the principal animals that they hunt on
land. The claystone carvings of strictly native design chiefly occur on
their pipe-sculptures, and consist of human figures, and of strange
monstrosities intermingling human and brute forms, in which curious
analogies may frequently be traced to the sculptures of Central America.
But the powers of observation and imitation are most strikingly
illustrated in claystone carvings of objects of foreign origin. The
collections formed by the United States Exploring Expedition, now at
Washington, include numerous specimens of this class, representing
European houses, forts, boats, horses, and fire-arms; and reproducing in
minute detail the cords, pulleys, and other minutiæ of the shipping
which frequent the coast. The example shown in Fig. 86 is a curious
combination of native and foreign elements; and may be regarded as the
conventional representation by the native artist of a bear hunt in the
vicinity of one of the Hudson Bay Company’s stations. The animal-heads
on some of the human figures represent the grotesque masks already
referred to as among their favourite carvings, and a special branch of
native art. They are executed in wood, the size of life, and brilliantly
coloured; and are worn in the grand dances of the tribe.

[Illustration: FIG. 86.—Babeen Pipe-Sculpture.]

In some of the larger pipes, the entire group presents much of the
grotesque exuberance of fancy, mingled with imitations from nature,
which constitute the charm of ecclesiastical sculptures of the
thirteenth century. Figures in the oddest varieties of posture are
ingeniously interlaced, and connected by elaborate ornaments; the
intermediate spaces being perforated, so as to give great lightness to
the whole. But though well calculated to recall the quaint products of
the medieval sculptor’s chisel, such comparisons are not suggested by
any imitation of European models. Their style of art is thoroughly
American; and traits of the same peculiar devices and modes of thought
which mark some of the most finished sculptures of Yucatan are replete
with interest, when thus recognised in regions so remote, and in the
productions of rude Indian tribes.

But while the modern Indian thus rivals in the elaborateness of his art
the ingenious pipe-sculpture of the mounds, all his superstitious
reverence is reserved for the pipe-stem. On it depends the safety of the
tribe in peace, and its success in war. It is guarded accordingly with
jealous care, and produced at the medicine dance or the war-council with
mysterious ceremonies. Even on such great occasions, so long as the
medicine pipe-stem is used, it is a matter of indifference whether the
bowl attached to it be of the richest carving, or a common trader’s
clay-pipe. Many special privileges and honours pertain to its bearer. It
is not only disrespectful, but unlucky, to pass between him and the
fire. An ornamental tent is provided for his use, and his other official
accoutrements are so numerous that frequently he requires to maintain
several horses for their transport. A bear-skin robe is employed for
wrapping up the consecrated pipe-stem, and thus enveloped, it is usually
borne by the favourite wife of the dignitary. But it is never allowed to
be uncovered in her presence; and should a woman, even by chance, cast
her eyes on it, its virtues can only be restored by a tedious ceremony.

Among the Indian portraits executed by Mr. Paul Kane, is one of
Kea-keke-sacowaw, head chief of the Crees, whom he met on the
Saskatchewan, engaged in raising a war-party against the Blackfeet. He
had with him eleven medicine pipe-stems, the pledges of different bands
that had joined him. The grim old chief appears decorated with his
war-paint, and holding in his hand one of the pipe-stems adorned with
the head and plumage of an eagle. Before beginning his work, the artist
had to witness the ceremony of “opening the medicine pipe-stem,” in the
course of which he smoked each of the eleven pipes; and, thus enlisted
in the cause, his painting was esteemed a great medicine, calculated to
contribute materially to the success of the war-party.

A young Cree Half-breed confessed to the painter that, in a spirit of
daring scepticism, he had once secretly thrown down the medicine
pipe-stem and kicked it about; but soon after, its official carrier was
slain, and such misfortunes followed as left no doubt on his mind of the
sanctity pertaining to this guardian and avenger of the honour of the

But all the ideas and superstitions which such usages illustrate, are
peculiar to the modern Indians. The pipes of the Mound-Builders show
that they used no pipe-stem; and the same appears to have been the case
with the Mexicans before the Conquest. Throughout the whole of Lord
Kingsborough’s great work, traces of the use of the tobacco-pipe are
rare; and where they do occur they tend to confirm the idea that it was
not invested, either in Mexico or Central America, with such sacred
attributes as were attached to it by the ancient race of the Mississippi
Valley: and which, under other but no less peculiar forms, are
maintained among the Indian tribes of the North-west.

Various early writers on the customs of the American Indians refer to
expiatory sacrifices, which present striking, though rude analogies, to
the ancient offerings by fire on the mound-altars. Hearne describes a
custom among the Chippewas, after the shedding of blood, of throwing all
their ornaments, pipes, etc., into a common fire, kindled at some
distance from their lodges; and Winslow narrates of the Nanohiggansets
of New England, that they had a great house ordinarily resorted to by a
few, whom he supposes to be priests; but he adds, “Thither, at certain
times, resort all their people, and offer almost all the riches they
have to their gods, as kettles, skins, hatchets, beads, knives, etc.,
all which are cast by the priests into a great fire that they make in
the midst of the house.”[110] The analogies, however, which appear to be
traceable in such practices of tribes remote from the localities of the
old Mound-Builders, are after all slight, and lack the most important
elements which give a special character to the ancient mound-altars. The
use of tobacco is no longer a characteristic peculiar to the New World;
but it may be that in the mode of indulging in its favourite narcotic,
we have perpetuated as a practice of mere sensual indulgence, what was
once a solemn rite associated with the mysterious worship of the sacred
enclosures and the altar-mounds of the Mississippi Valley. Oviedo, who
is the earliest authority, at least for any minute account of
tobacco-smoking among the native tribes, speaks of it as an evil custom
practised among the Indians of Hispaniola to produce insensibility; and
greatly prized by the Carribees, who called tobacco _kohiba_, and
“imagined, when they were drunk with the fumes of it, the dreams they
had were in some sort inspired.”[111] Again, Girolamo Benzoni narrates
in his travels in America, recently translated from the edition of 1753
by Rear-Admiral Smyth: “In La Española, and the other islands, when
their doctors wanted to cure a sick man, they went to the place where
they were to administer the smoke, and when he was thoroughly
intoxicated by it the cure was mostly effected. On returning to his
senses, he told a thousand stories of his having been at the council of
the gods, and other high visions.”[112]

Many Indian legends ascribe a divine origin to tobacco. A chief of the
Susquehannas told of two hunters of the tribe sharing the venison they
had cooked with a lovely squaw, who suddenly appeared to them; and on
returning to the scene of their feast thirteen moons after, they found
the tobacco plant growing where she had sat. Harriot, who sailed in Sir
Walter Raleigh’s expedition of 1584, states that the Indians of Virginia
regarded tobacco as a means of peculiar enjoyment, in which the Great
Spirit was wont freely to indulge, and that he bestowed it on them that
they might share in his delights. Repeated allusions also refer to its
intoxicating effects as an influence analogous to that which produced
the visions and inspirations of their fasting dreams. It seems,
therefore, by no means improbable, that the original practice of
inhaling the fumes of tobacco was associated exclusively with
superstitious rites and divination; so that the tobacco-plant may have
played a part in the worship of the ancient Mound-Builders, analogous to
that of the inspiring vapour over which the Delphic tripod was placed,
when the priestess of Apollo prepared to give utterance to the divine


[100] Vide _Prehistoric Annals of Scotland_, vol. i. pp. 496-498.

[101] _Prehistoric Races of the United States_, p. 293.

[102] This collection has since been acquired for the Blackmore Museum.

[103] _Ancient Monuments of the Mississippi Valley_, p. 245, fig. 145.

[104] _Indigenous Races of the Earth_, p. 183.

[105] _Ancient Monuments of the Mississippi Valley_ (No. 143).

[106] _Ancient Monuments of the Mississippi Valley_, p. 152.

[107] This derivation from the Spanish _Mano_ is rejected by some
etymologists for a native Carib one, _Manattoüi_.

[108] _Archæology of the United States_, p. 122.

[109] _Illustrations of the Manners, etc., of the North American
Indians._ By Geo. Catlin. Eighth edition. Vol. ii. p. 167. _Vide
Proceed. Amer. Philosoph. Soc._, vol. x. p. 274.

[110] _Mass. Hist. Coll._, Second Series, vol. ix. p. 94.

[111] _Historia General de las Indias_, second edit. p. 74.

[112] _History of the New World._ By Girolamo Benzoni. Hakluyt Society,

                                THE END


                           TRANSCRIBER NOTES

Misspelled words and printer errors have been corrected. Where multiple
spellings occur, majority use has been employed.

Some illustrations were moved to facilitate page layout.

[The end of _Prehistoric Man: Researches into the Origin of Civilization
in the Old and the New World_, by Daniel Wilson.]

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