Ancient America, in Notes on American Archaeology
by John D. Baldwin
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Transcriber's Note

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





Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1871, by JOHN D. BALDWIN, In the Office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington.


The purpose of this volume is to give a summary of what is known of American Antiquities, with some thoughts and suggestions relative to their significance. It aims at nothing more. No similar work, I believe, has been published in English or in any other language. What is known of American Archaeology is recorded in a great many volumes, English, French, Spanish, and German, each work being confined to some particular department of the subject, or containing only an intelligent traveler's brief sketches of what he saw as he went through some of the districts where the old ruins are found. Many of the more important of these works are either in French or Spanish, or in great English quartos and folios which are not accessible to general readers, and not one of them attempts to give a comprehensive view of the whole subject.

Therefore I have prepared this work for publication, believing it will be acceptable to many who are not now much acquainted with the remains of Ancient America, and that some who read it may be induced to study the but as Ancient America covers all time previous to the discovery by Columbus, they may not be deemed out of place. Materials for the paper on "Antiquities of the Pacific Islands" came to me from the Pacific World while I was preparing the others. The discovery of the Pacific is so intimately connected with the discovery of America, that this paper would not be out of place even if the Mexican and Peruvian traditions did not mention that a foreign people communicated with the western coast of America in very ancient times.

WORCESTER, MASS., November, 1871.


Page I. ANCIENT AMERICA.—THE MOUND-BUILDERS 13 Works of the Mound-Builders 14 Extent of their Settlements 31 Their Civilization 33 Their Ancient Mining Works 43

II. ANTIQUITY OF THE MOUND-BUILDERS 47 How long were they here? 51

III. WHO WERE THE MOUND-BUILDERS? 57 Not Ancestors of the Wild Indians 58 Brereton's Story 62 American Ethnology 65 Who the Mound-Builders were 70

IV. MEXICO AND CENTRAL AMERICA 76 Their Northern Remains 77 The "Seven Cities of Cevola" 85 Central Mexico 89 The great Ruins at the South 93

V. MEXICO AND CENTRAL AMERICA 103 Palenque 104 Copan and Quiragua[TN-1] 111 Mitla 117 An Astronomical Monument 122 Ruins farther South 123 The Ruins in Yucatan 125 Mayapan 127 Uxmal 131 Kabah 137 Chichen-Itza 140 Other Ruins 144

VI. ANTIQUITY OF THE RUINS 151 Distinct Eras traced 155 Nothing perishable left 156 "The Oldest of Civilizations" 159 American Cities seen by Tyrians 161

VII. WHENCE CAME THIS CIVILIZATION? 165 The "Lost Tribes of Israel" 166 The "Malay" Theory 167 The Phoenician Theory 171 The "Atlantic" Theory 174 It was an original Civilization 184

VIII. AMERICAN ANCIENT HISTORY 187 The Old Books not all lost 189 The Ancient History sketched 197 The Toltecs our Mound-Builders 200 Some confirmation of the History 205

IX. THE AZTEC CIVILIZATION 207 The Discovery and Invasion 209 The City of Mexico 211 The Conquest 213 Who were the Aztecs? 216 They came from the South 217

X. ANCIENT PERU 222 The Spanish Hunt for Peru 223 The Ruins near Lake Titicaca 226 Other Ruins in Peru 237 The great Peruvian Roads 243 The Peruvian Civilization 246

XI. PERUVIAN ANCIENT HISTORY 257 Garcilasso's History 258 Fernando Montesinos 261 His Scheme of Peruvian History 264 Probabilities 268 Conclusion 272

APPENDIX 277 A. The Northmen in America 279 B. The Welsh in America 285 C. Antiquities of the Pacific Islands 288 D. Deciphering the Inscriptions 292


Page 1. Gateway at Labna Frontispiece. 2. Great Mound near Miamisburg 16 3. Square Mound near Marietta 18 4. Works at Cedar Bank, Ohio 19 5. Works in Washington County, Mississippi 20 6. Works at Hopeton, Ohio 22 7. Principal Figures of the Hopeton Works 23 8. Graded Way near Piketon, Ohio 25 9. Great Serpent Inclosure 29 10. Fortified Hill, Butler County, Ohio 30 11. Stone-work in Paint Creek Valley, Ohio 35 12. Work on North Fork of Paint Creek 36 13. Ancient Work, Pike County, Ohio 38 14. Work near Brownsville, Ohio 38 15. Works near Liberty, Ohio 39 16. Work in Randolph County, Indiana 40 17. } Vases from the Mounds 41 18. } 19. Ancient Mining Shaft 45 20. Pueblo Ruin at Pecos 80 21. Modern Zuni 81 22. Ruins in the Valley of the Gila 83 23. Pueblo Building restored 87 24. Ground Plan of the Building 88 25. Arch of Los[TN-2] Monjas, Uxmal 98 26. Arch most common in the Ruins 100 27. Casa No. 1, Palenque 107 28. Casa No. 2 (La Cruz), Palenque 108 29. Great Wall at Copan 112 30. Ruins at Mitla 116 31. Great Hall at Mitla 118 32. A ruined "Palace" at Mitla 119 33. Mosaic Decoration at Mitla 120 34. Great Mound at Mayapan 127 35. Circular Edifice at Mayapan 129 36. Casa del Gobernador, Uxmal 132 37. Ground Plan 132 38. Two-headed Figure at Uxmal 133 39. Decorations over Doorway, Uxmal 134 40. Ground Plan of Las Monjas, Uxmal 136 41. Ruined Arch at Kabah 139 42. Casa Colorada, Chichen-Itza 141 43. Great Stone Ring 143 44. Great Mound at Xcoch 145 45. Bottom of an Aguada 146 46. Subterranean Reservoir 147 47. Plan of the Walls of Tuloom 148 48. Watch-tower at Tuloom 149 49. Specimen of Inscriptions on Stone 190 50. Specimen of the Manuscript Writing 191 51. Ancient Masonry at Cuzco 227 52. Ruins of a "Temple" on the Island of Titicaca 228 53. Ruin on the Island of Titicaca 229 54. Ruin on the Island of Coati 231 55. Monolithic Gateway at Tiahuanaco 233 56. Remains of Fortress Walls at Cuzco 234 57. End View of Fortress Walls at Cuzco 235 58. End View of Walls at Gran-Chimu 238 59. } Decorations at Chimu-Canchu 238 60. } 61. Edifice at Old Huanuco 239 62. Ground Plan of the Edifice 240 63. "Look-out" at Old Huanuco 240 64. Ruins at Pachacamac 242 65. Peruvian Copper Knives 249 66. Copper Tweezers 249 67. Golden Vase of Ancient Peru 251 68. Ancient Peruvian Silver Vase 251 69. Ancient Peruvian Pottery 252 70. Ancient Peruvian Pottery 253




One of the most learned writers on American antiquities, a Frenchman, speaking of discoveries in Peru, exclaims, "America is to be again discovered! We must remove the veil in which Spanish politics has sought to bury its ancient civilization!" In this case, quite as much is due to the ignorance, indifference, unscrupulous greed, and religious fanaticism of the Spaniards, as to Spanish politics. The gold-hunting marauders who subjugated Mexico and Peru could be robbers and destroyers, but they were not qualified in any respect to become intelligent students of American antiquity. What a select company of investigators, such as could be organized in our time, might have done in Mexico and Central America, for instance, three hundred and fifty years ago, is easily understood. In what they did, and in what they failed to do, the Spaniards who went there acted in strict accordance with such character as they had; and yet we are not wholly without obligation to some of the more intelligent Spaniards connected with the Conquest.

There are existing monuments of an American ancient history which invite study, and most of which might, doubtless, have been studied more successfully in the first part of the sixteenth century, before nearly all the old books of Central America had been destroyed by Spanish fanaticism, than at present. Remains of ancient civilizations, differing to some extent in degree and character, are found in three great sections of the American continent: the west side of South America, between Chili and the first or second degree of north latitude; Central America and Mexico; and the valleys of the Mississippi and the Ohio. These regions have all been explored to some extent—not completely, but sufficiently to show the significance and importance of their archaeological remains, most of which were already mysterious antiquities when the continent was discovered by Columbus. I propose to give some account of these antiquities, not for the edification of those already learned in American archaeology, but for general readers who have not made the subject a study. My sketches will begin with the Mississippi Valley and the regions connected with it.


An ancient and unknown people left remains of settled life, and of a certain degree of civilization, in the valleys of the Mississippi and its tributaries. We have no authentic name for them either as a nation or a race; therefore they are called "Mound-Builders," this name having been suggested by an important class of their works.

Prominent among the remains by which we know that such a people once inhabited that region are artificial mounds constructed with intelligence and great labor. Most of them are terraced and truncated pyramids. In shape they are usually square or rectangular, but sometimes hexagonal or octagonal, and the higher mounds appear to have been constructed with winding stairways on the outside leading to their summits. Many of these structures have a close resemblance to the teocallis of Mexico. They differ considerably in size. The great mound at Grave Creek, West Virginia, is 70 feet high and 1000 feet in circumference at the base. A mound in Miamisburg, Ohio, is 68 feet high and 852 feet in circumference. The great truncated pyramid at Cahokia, Illinois, is 700 feet long, 500 wide, and 90 in height. Generally, however, these mounds range from 6 to 30 feet high. In the lower valley of the Mississippi they are usually larger in horizontal extent, with less elevation.

Figure 2 represents the great mound near Miamisburg, Ohio, which may be compared with a similar structure at Mayapan, Yucatan (Fig. 34). Figure 3 shows a square mound near Marietta, Ohio.

There have been a great many conjectures in regard to the purposes for which these mounds were built, some of them rather fanciful. I find it most reasonable to believe that the mounds in this part of the continent were used precisely as similar structures were used in Mexico and Central America. The lower mounds, or most of them, must have been constructed as foundations of the more important edifices of the mound-building people. Many of the great buildings erected on such pyramidal foundations, at Palenque, Uxmal, and elsewhere in that region, have not disappeared, because they were built of hewn stone laid in mortar. For reasons not difficult to understand, the Mound-Builders, beginning their works on the lower Mississippi, constructed such edifices of wood or some other perishable material; therefore not a trace of them remains. The higher mounds, with broad, flat summits, reached by flights of steps on the outside, are like the Mexican teocallis, or temples. In Mexico and Central America these structures were very numerous. They are described as solid pyramidal masses of earth, cased with brick or stone, level at the top, and furnished with ascending ranges of steps on the outside. The resemblance is striking, and the most reasonable explanation seems to be that in both regions mounds of this class were intended for the same uses. Figure 4 shows the works at Cedar Bank, Ohio, inclosing a mound. The mound within the inclosure is 245 feet long by 150 broad. Figure 5 shows a group of mounds in Washington County, Mississippi, some of which are connected by means of causeways.

Another class of these antiquities consists of inclosures formed by heavy embankments of earth and stone. There is nothing to explain these constructions so clearly as to leave no room for conjecture and speculation. It has been suggested that some of them may have been intended for defense, others for religious purposes. A portion of them, it may be, encircled villages or towns. In some cases the ditches or fosses were on the inside, in others on the outside. But no one can fully explain why they were made. We know only that they were prepared intelligently, with great labor, for human uses. "Lines of embankment varying from 5 to 30 feet in height, and inclosing from 1 to 50 acres, are very common, while inclosures containing from 100 to 200 acres are not infrequent, and occasional works are found inclosing as many as 400 acres." Figures 6 and 7 give views of the Hopeton works, four miles north of Chillicothe, Ohio. Combinations of the square and circle are common in these ancient works, and the figures are always perfect. This perfection of the figures proves, as Squier and Davis remark, that "the builders possessed a standard of measurement, and had a means of determining angles."

About 100 inclosures and 500 mounds have been examined in Ross County, Ohio. The number of mounds in the whole state is estimated at over 10,000, and the number of inclosures at more than 1500. The great number of these ancient remains in the regions occupied by the Mound-Builders is really surprising. They are more numerous in the regions on the lower Mississippi and the Gulf of Mexico than any where else; and here, in some cases, sun-dried brick was used in the embankments.

One peculiarity at the South is, that while the inclosures are generally smaller and comparatively less numerous, there is a greater proportion of low mounds, and these are often larger in extent. Harrison Mound, in South Carolina, is 480 feet in circumference and 15 feet high. Another is described as 500 feet in circumference at the base, 225 at the summit, and 34 feet high. In a small mound near this, which was opened, there was found "an urn holding 46 quarts," and also a considerable deposit of beads and shell ornaments very much decomposed. Broad terraces of various heights, mounds with several stages, elevated passages, and long avenues, and aguadas or artificial ponds, are common at the South. Figure 8 shows the remains of a graded way of this ancient people near Piketon, Ohio.

At Seltzertown, Mississippi, there is a mound 600 feet long, 400 wide, and 40 feet high. The area of its level summit measures 4 acres. There was a ditch around it, and near it are smaller mounds. Mr. J. R. Bartlett says, on the authority of Dr. M. W. Dickeson, "The north side of this mound is supported by a wall of sun-dried brick two feet thick, filled with grass, rushes, and leaves." Dr. Dickeson mentions angular tumuli, with corners "still quite perfect," and "formed of large bricks bearing the impression of human hands." In Louisiana, near the Trinity, there is a great inclosure partially faced with sun-dried bricks of large size; and in this neighborhood ditches and artificial ponds have been examined. In the Southern States these works appear to assume a closer resemblance to the mound work of Central America.

The result of intelligent exploration and study of these antiquities is stated as follows: "Although possessing throughout certain general points of resemblance going to establish a kindred origin, these works nevertheless resolve themselves into three grand geographical divisions, which present in many respects striking contrasts, yet so gradually merge into each other that it is impossible to determine where one series terminates and another begins." On the upper lakes, and to a certain extent in Michigan, Iowa, and Missouri, but particularly in Wisconsin, the outlines of the inclosures (elsewhere more regular in form) were designed in the forms of animals, birds, serpents, and even men, appearing on the surface of the country like huge relievos. The embankment of an irregular inclosure in Adams County, Ohio, is described as follows by Squier and Davis, Mr. Squier having made the drawing of it for the work published by the Smithsonian Institution:

"It is in the form of a serpent, upward of 1000 feet in length, extended in graceful curves, and terminating in a triple coil at the tail. The embankment constituting this figure is more than 5 feet high, with a base 30 feet wide at the centre of the body, diminishing somewhat toward the head and tail. The neck of the figure is stretched out and slightly curved. The mouth is wide open, and seems in the act of swallowing or ejecting an oval figure which rests partly within the distended jaws. This oval is formed by an embankment 4 feet high, and is perfectly regular in outline, its transverse and conjugate diameters being respectively 160 and 80 feet. The combined figure has been regarded as a symbolical illustration of the Oriental cosmological idea of the serpent and the egg; but, however this may be, little doubt can exist of the symbolical character of the monument."

Figure 9 gives a view of this work.

No symbolic device is more common among the antiquities of Mexico and Central America than the form of the serpent, and it was sometimes reproduced in part in architectural constructions. One of the old books, giving account of a temple dedicated to Quetzalcohuatl, says, "It was circular in form, and the entrance represented the mouth of a serpent, opened in a frightful manner, and extremely terrifying to those who approached it for the first time."

On the Ohio and its tributaries, and farther south, where the mounds are numerous, the inclosures have more regular forms; and in the Ohio Valley very often their great extent has incited speculation. At Newark, Ohio, when first discovered, they were spread over an area more than two miles square, and still showed more than twelve miles of embankment from two to twenty feet high. Farther south, as already stated, the inclosures are fewer and smaller, or, to speak more exactly, the great inclosures and high mounds are much less common than low truncated pyramids, and pyramidal platforms or foundations with dependent works. Passing up the valley, it is found that Marietta, Newark, Portsmouth, Chillicothe, Circleville, Ohio; St. Louis, Missouri, and Frankfort, Kentucky, were favorite seats of the Mound-Builders. This leads one of the most intelligent investigators to remark that "the centres of population are now where they were when the mysterious race of Mound-Builders existed." There is, however, this difference: the remains indicate that their most populous and advanced communities were at the South. Figure 10 shows a fortified hill in Butler County, Ohio.

Among those who have examined and described remains of the Mound-Builders, Messrs. Squier and Davis rank first in importance, because they have done most to give a particular and comprehensive account of them. Their great work, published by the Smithsonian Institution, must be regarded as the highest authority, and those who desire to study the whole subject more in detail will find that work indispensable.


Careful study of what is shown in the many reports on these ancient remains seems plainly to authorize the conclusion that the Mound-Builders entered the country at the South, and began their settlements near the Gulf. Here they must have been very numerous, while their works at every point on the limit of their distribution, north, east, and west, indicate a much less numerous border population. Remains of their works have been traced through a great extent of country. They are found in West Virginia, and are spread through Michigan, Wisconsin, and Iowa to Nebraska. Lewis and Clarke reported seeing them on the Missouri River, a thousand miles above its junction with the Mississippi; but this report has not been satisfactorily verified. They have been observed on the Kansas, Platte, and other remote Western rivers, it is said. They are found all over the intermediate and the more southern country, being most numerous in Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Missouri, Arkansas, Kentucky, Tennessee, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, and Texas.

This ancient race seems to have occupied nearly the whole basin of the Mississippi and its tributaries, with the fertile plains along the Gulf, and their settlements were continued across the Rio Grande into Mexico; but toward their eastern, northern, and western limit the population was evidently smaller, and their occupation of the territory less complete than in the Valley of the Ohio, and from that point down to the Gulf. No other united people previous to our time can be supposed to have occupied so large an extent of territory in this part of North America.

It has heretofore been stated that remains of this people exist in Western New York, but a more intelligent and careful examination shows that the works in Western New York are not remains of the Mound-Builders. This is now the opinion of Mr. Squier, formed on personal investigation since the great work of Squier and Davis was published.


It is usual to rank the civilized life of the Mound-Builders much below that of the ancient people of Mexico and Central America. This may be correct, for the remains as they now exist appear to justify it. But if all the ancient stone-work in Central America, with its finely-carved inscriptions and wonderful decorations, had disappeared in the ages before Europeans visited this continent, the difference might not appear to be so great; for then the Central American remains, consisting only of earth-works, truncated pyramids, pyramidal foundations, and their connected works made of earth, would have a closer resemblance to works of the Mound-Builders, to those especially found on the lower Mississippi. On the other hand, if we now had in the Ohio and Mississippi Valleys remains of the more important edifices anciently constructed there, the Mound-Builders might be placed considerably higher in the scale of civilization than it has been customary to allow.

It can be seen, without long study of their works as we know them, that the Mound-Builders had a certain degree of civilization which raised them far above the condition of savages. To make such works possible under any circumstances, there must be settled life, with its accumulations and intelligently organized industry. Fixed habits of useful work, directed by intelligence, are what barbarous tribes lack most of all. A profound change in this respect is indispensable to the beginning of civilization in such tribes.

No savage tribe found here by Europeans could have undertaken such constructions as those of the Mound-Builders. The wild Indians found in North America lived rudely in tribes. They had only such organization as was required by their nomadic habits, and their methods of hunting and fighting. These barbarous Indians gave no sign of being capable of the systematic application to useful industry which promotes intelligence, elevates the condition of life, accumulates wealth, and undertakes great works. This condition of industry, of which the worn and decayed works of the Mound-Builders are unmistakable monuments, means civilization.

Albert Gallatin, who gave considerable attention to their remains, thought their works indicated not only "a dense agricultural population," but also a state of society essentially different from that of the Iroquois and Algonquin Indians. He was sure that the people who established such settlements and built such works must have been "eminently agricultural." No trace of their ordinary dwellings is left. These must have been constructed of perishable materials, which went to dust long before great forests had again covered most of the regions through which they were scattered. Doubtless their dwellings and other edifices were made of wood, and they must have been numerous. It is abundantly evident that there were large towns at such places as Newark, Circleville, and Marietta, in Ohio. Figures 11 and 12 give views of works on Paint Creek, Ohio.

Their agricultural products may have been similar to many of those found in Mexico; and it is not improbable that the barbarous Indians, who afterward occupied the country, learned from them the cultivation of maize. Their unity as a people, which is every where so manifest, must have been expressed in political organization, else it could not have been maintained.

In the details of their works, and in manufactured articles taken from the mounds, there is evidence of considerable civilization. For instance, it has been ascertained that the circular inclosures are perfect circles, and the square inclosures perfect squares. They were constructed with a geometrical precision which implies a kind of knowledge in the builders that may be called scientific. Figures 13, 14, 15, 16 show some of the more important works of the Mound-Builders, chiefly in Ohio. Relics of art have been dug from some of the mounds, consisting of a considerable variety of ornaments and implements, made of copper, silver, obsidian, porphyry, and greenstone, finely wrought. There are axes, single and double; adzes, chisels, drills or gravers, lance-heads, knives, bracelets, pendants, beads, and the like, made of copper. There are articles of pottery, elegantly designed and finished; ornaments made of silver, bone, mica from the Alleghanies, and shells from the Gulf of Mexico.

The articles made of stone show fine workmanship; some of them are elaborately carved. Tools of some very hard material must have been required to work the porphyry in this manner. Obsidian is a volcanic product largely used by the ancient Mexicans and Peruvians for arms and cutting instruments. It is found in its natural state nowhere nearer the Mississippi Valley than the Mexican mountains of Cerro Gordo.

There appears to be evidence that the Mound-Builders had the art of spinning and weaving, for cloth has been found among their remains. At the meeting of the International Congress of Pre-Historic Archaeology held at Norwich, England, in 1868, one of the speakers stated this fact as follows: "Fragments of charred cloth made of spun fibres have been found in the mounds. A specimen of such cloth, taken from a mound in Butler County, Ohio, is in Blackmore Museum, Salisbury. In the same collection are several lumps of burnt clay which formed part of the 'altar,' so called, in a mound in Ross County, Ohio: to this clay a few charred threads are still attached." Figures 17 and 18 represent specimens of vases taken from the mounds.

Mr. Schoolcraft gives this account of a discovery made in West Virginia: "Antique tube: telescopic device. In the course of excavations made in 1842 in the easternmost of the three mounds of the Elizabethtown group, several tubes of stone were disclosed, the precise object of which has been the subject of various opinions. The longest measured twelve inches, the shortest eight. Three of them were carved out of steatite, being skillfully cut and polished. The diameter of the tube externally was one inch and four tenths; the bore, eight tenths of an inch. This calibre was continued till within three eighths of an inch of the sight end, when it diminishes to two tenths of an inch. By placing the eye at the diminished end, the extraneous light is shut from the pupil, and distant objects are more clearly discerned."

He points out that the carving and workmanship generally are very superior to Indian pipe carvings, and adds, if this article was a work of the Mound-Builders "intended for a telescopic tube, it is a most interesting relic." An ancient Peruvian relic, found a few years since, shows the figure of a man wrought in silver, in the act of studying the heavens through such a tube. Similar tubes have been found among relics of the Mound-Builders in Ohio and elsewhere. In Mexico, Captain Dupaix saw sculptured on a peculiar stone structure the figure of a man making use of one. Astronomical devices were sculptured below the figure. This structure he supposed to have been used for observation of the stars. His account of it will be given in the chapter on Mexican and Central American ruins.

The Mound-Builders used large quantities of copper such as that taken from the copper beds on Lake Superior, where the extensive mines yield copper, not in the ore, but as pure metal. It exists in those beds in immense masses, in small veins, and in separated lumps of various sizes. The Mound-Builders worked this copper without smelting it. Spots of pure silver are frequently found studding the surface of Lake Superior copper, and appearing as if welded to it, but not alloyed with it. No other copper has this peculiarity; but copper with similar blotches of silver has been dug from the mounds. It was naturally inferred from this fact that the ancient people represented by these antiquities had some knowledge of the art of mining copper which had been used in the copper region of Lake Superior. This inference finally became an ascertained fact.


Remains of their mining works were first discovered in 1848 by Mr. S. O. Knapp, agent of the Minnesota Mining Company, and in 1849 they were described by Dr. Charles T. Jackson, in his geological report to the national government. Those described were found at the Minnesota mine, in upper Michigan, near Lake Superior. Their mining was chiefly surface work; that is to say, they worked the surface of the veins in open pits and trenches. At the Minnesota mine, the greatest depth of their excavations was thirty feet; and here, "not far below the bottom of a trough-like cavity, among a mass of leaves, sticks, and water, Mr. Knapp discovered a detached mass of copper weighing nearly six tons. It lay upon a cob-work of round logs or skids six or eight inches in diameter, the ends of which showed plainly the marks of a small axe or cutting tool about two and a half inches wide. They soon shriveled and decayed when exposed to the air. The mass of copper had been raised several feet, along the foot of the lode, on timbers, by means of wedges." At this place was found a stone maul weighing thirty-six pounds, and also a copper maul or sledge weighing twenty-five pounds. Old trees showing 395 rings of annual growth stood in the debris, and "the fallen and decayed trunks of trees of a former generation were seen lying across the pits." Figure 19 (opposite) presents a section of this mining shaft of the Mound-Builders: a shows the mass of copper; b the bottom of the shaft; c the earth and debris which had been thrown out. The dark spots are masses of copper.

The modern mining works are mostly confined to that part of the copper region known as Keweenaw Point. This is a projection of land extending into Lake Superior, and described as having the shape of an immense horn. It is about eighty miles in length, and, at the place where it joins the main land, about forty-five miles in width. All through this district, wherever modern miners have worked, remains of ancient mining works are abundant; and they are extensive on the adjacent island, known as Isle Royale. The area covered by the ancient works is larger than that which includes the modern mines, for they are known to exist in the dense forests of other districts, to which the modern mining has not yet been extended.

One remarkable mining excavation of the Mound-Builders was found near the Waterbury mine. Here, in the face of a vertical bluff, was discovered "an ancient, artificial, cavern-like recess, twenty-five feet in horizontal length, fifteen feet high, and twelve feet deep. In front of it is a pile of excavated rock on which are standing, in full size, the forest trees common to this region." Some of the blocks of stone removed from this recess would weigh two or three tons, and must have required levers to get them out. Beneath the surface rubbish were the remains of a gutter or trough made of cedar, placed there to carry off water from the mine. At the bottom of the excavation a piece of white cedar timber was found on which were the marks of an axe. Cedar shovels, mauls, copper gads or wedges, charcoal, and ashes were discovered, over which "primeval" forest trees had grown to full size.

Modern mining on Lake Superior began effectively in 1845. The whole copper region has not been fully explored. Works of the ancient miners are found at all the mines of any importance; and they show remarkable skill in discovering and tracing actual veins of the metal. Colonel Charles Whittlesey, one of the best authorities on this point, believes the Mound-Builders worked the copper-beds of that region during "a great length of time," and more of their works will undoubtedly be explored when the forests shall be cleared away from those portions of the copper region not yet worked by modern miners. So far as they have been traced, they every where show the same methods, the same implements, and the same peculiarities of both knowledge and lack of knowledge in the old miners.



That the Mound-Builders and their works belong to a distant period in the past is evident; but, of course, we have no means of determining their antiquity with any approach to accuracy, no scheme of chronology by which their distance from us in time can be measured. Nevertheless, some things observed in their remains make it certain that the works are very ancient.

1. One fact showing this is pointed out by those who have examined them carefully as follows: None of these works (mounds and inclosures) occur on the lowest-formed of the river terraces, which mark the subsidence of the western streams; and as there is no good reason why their builders should have avoided erecting them on that terrace, while they raised them promiscuously on all the others, it follows, not unreasonably, that this terrace has been formed since the works were erected. It is apparent, also, that in some cases the works were long ago partly destroyed by streams which have since receded more than half a mile, and at present could not reach them under any circumstances. Those streams generally show four successive terraces, which mark four distinct eras of their subsidence since they began to flow in their present courses. The fourth terrace, on which none of the works are found, marks the last and longest of these periods; and it marks also the time since the Mound-Builders ceased to occupy the river-valleys where it was formed. The period marked by this fourth terrace must be the longest, because the excavating power of such streams necessarily diminishes as their channels grow deeper. This geological change, which has taken place since the latest of the mounds and inclosures were constructed, shows that the works are very old; no one can tell how old. To count the years is impossible; but we can see that the date, if found, would take us back to a remote period in the past.

2. Great antiquity is indicated by the skeletons taken from the mounds. Every skeleton of a Mound-Builder is found in a condition of extreme decay. It sometimes appears that the surface of a mound has been used by the wild Indians for interments; but their skeletons, which are always found well preserved, can be readily distinguished by their position in the mounds, as well as by other peculiarities. The decayed bones of Mound-Builders are invariably found within the mounds, never on the surface, usually at the bottom of the structure, and nearly always "in such a state of decay as to render all attempts to restore the skull, or, indeed, any part of the skeleton, entirely hopeless." Not more than one or two skeletons of that people have been recovered in a condition suitable for intelligent examination. It is stated in the work of Squier and Davis that the only skull belonging incontestably to an individual of the Mound-Building race, which has been preserved entire, was taken from a mound situated on a knoll (itself artificial apparently) on the summit of a hill, in the Scioto Valley, four miles below Chillicothe.

What, save time itself, can have brought these skeletons to a condition in which they fall to pieces when touched, and are ready to dissolve and become dust? All the circumstances attending their burial were unusually favorable for their preservation. The earth around them has invariably been found "wonderfully compact and dry." And yet, when exhumed, they are in such a decomposed and crumbling condition that to restore them is impossible. Sound and well-preserved skeletons, known to be nearly two thousand years old, have been taken from burial-places in England, and other European countries less favorable for preserving them. The condition of an ancient skeleton can not be used as an accurate measure of time, but it is sufficiently accurate to show the difference between the ancient and the modern, and in this case it allows us to assume that these extremely decayed skeletons of the Mound-Builders are much more than two thousand years old.

Those familiar with the facts established by geologists and palaeontologists are aware that remains of human skeletons have been discovered in deposits of the "Age of Stone" in Western Europe; not to any great extent, it is true, although the discoveries are sufficient to show that fragments of skeletons belonging to that age still exist. It is not without reason, therefore, that the condition of decay in which all skeletons of the Mound-Builders are exhumed from their burial-places is considered a proof of their great antiquity. There is no other explanation which, so far as appears, can be reasonably accepted.

3. The great age of these mounds and inclosures is shown by their relation to the primeval forests in which most of them were discovered. I say primeval forests, because they seemed primeval to the first white men who explored them. Of course there were no unbroken forests at such points as the Ohio Valley, for instance, while they were occupied by the Mound-Builders, who were a settled agricultural people, whose civilized industry is attested by their remains. If they found forests in the valleys they occupied, these were cleared away to make room for their towns, inclosures, mounds, and cultivated fields; and when, after many ages of such occupation, they finally left, or were driven away, a long period must have elapsed before the trees began to grow freely in and around their abandoned works. Moreover, observation shows that the trees which first make their appearance in such deserted places are not regular forest trees. The beginning of such growths as will cover them with great forests comes later, when other preliminary growths have appeared and gone to decay.

When the Ohio Valley was first visited by Europeans it was covered by an unbroken forest, most of the trees being of great age and size; and it was manifest that several generations of great forest trees had preceded those found standing in the soil. The mounds and inclosures were discovered in this forest, with great trees growing in them. Eight hundred rings of annual growth were counted in the trunk of a tree mentioned by Sir Charles Lyell and others, which was found growing on a mound at Marietta. In the same way, successive generations of forest trees had grown over their extensive mining works near Lake Superior, and many of those works are still hidden in what seem to be primeval forests.

General Harrison made the following suggestion in regard to the establishment of these forests in Ohio. When the individual trees that first got possession of the soil had died out one after another, they would, in many cases, be succeeded by other kinds, till at last, after a great number of centuries, that remarkable diversity of species characteristic of North America would be established. His suggestion, the result of practical observation and study, is not without reason. It is certain, in any case, that the period when these old constructions were deserted is so far back in the past, that sufficient time has since passed for the abandoned towns and fields to remain for years, and perhaps centuries, as waste places, pass through the transition from waste lands to the beginning of forest growths, and then be covered by several generations of such great forest trees as were cleared away to prepare the soil for the settlements, towns, and farms of our people.


There are many indications to warrant the conclusion that the Mound-Builders occupied their principal seats in the Ohio and Mississippi Valleys during a very long period. If they came from the south, as appears evident, their settlements must have been extended up the valley gradually. After their first communities were established in the Gulf regions, considerable time must have elapsed before their advancing settlements were extended northward, through the intervening region, into the Valley of the Ohio. On the Ohio and in the valleys of its tributaries their settlements were very numerous, and evidently populous. The surprising abundance of their works in this region, which have been traced in our time, shows that they dwelt here in great numbers, and had no lack of industry.

This region seems to have been one of the principal centres from which their settlements were advanced into the western part of Virginia; into Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, and Missouri. The spread of their settlements was necessarily gradual, and a long period must have been required to extend them over all the country where remains of their works are known to exist. If their civilization was chiefly developed after their arrival in the country, which is unlikely, many years must have elapsed before colonies went forth, to any great extent, from the original seat of its development. In any case, time was required to make their chief settlements sufficiently old and populous to send forth colonies. It is manifest in their remains that the communities of this ancient people most remote from the populous centres on the Ohio, east, north, and west, were, like all border settlements, the rudest and least populous. The remains at these points do not indicate either as much wealth or as many workers, and the places where these borderers settled must have been the latest occupied and the earliest abandoned. One diligent investigator, who believes they came originally from Mexico, speaks of the time of their stay in the country as follows:

"When we consider the time required to people the whole extent of the territory where their remains are found, and bring that people into a condition to construct such monuments, and when we reflect on the interval that must have passed after their construction until the epoch of their abandonment, we are constrained to accord them a very high antiquity."

He points out that they were sun worshipers, like the Mexicans and Peruvians, and calls attention to the disks dug from their mounds, which appear to have been designed as representations of the sun and moon.

Their long occupation of the country is suggested by the great extent of their mining works. All who have examined these works agree with Colonel Whittlesey that they worked the Lake Superior copper mines "for a great length of time." How long they had dwelt in the Ohio Valley when this mining began can not be told, but a very considerable period must have elapsed after their arrival at that point before the mines were discovered. We can not suppose the first settlers who came up from the Gulf region to the Ohio Valley went on immediately, through the wilderness a thousand miles, to hunt for copper mines on Lake Superior; and, even after they began to explore that region, some time must have passed before the copper was found.

After they discovered the mines and began to work them, their progress could not have been rapid. As their open trenches and pits could be worked only in the summers, and by methods that made their operations much slower than those of modern miners, no great advance of their work was possible during the working time of each season; and yet remains of their mining works have been discovered wherever mines have been opened in our day; and, as previously stated, they are known to exist in heavy forests, where the modern mining works have not yet been established. There is nothing to indicate that they had settlements any where in the mining region. Colonel Whittlesey, and others whose study of the subject gives their opinion much weight, believe the Mound-Builders went up from the settlements farther south in the summers, remained in the copper region through the season, and worked the mines in organized companies until the advance of winter terminated their operations.

Colonel Whittlesey says: "As yet, no remains of cities, graves, domiciles, or highways have been found in the copper region;" and adds, "as the race appears to have been farther advanced in civilization than their successors, whom we call aborigines, they probably had better means of transportation than bark canoes." It may be said, also, that the accumulations called wealth were necessary to make this regular and systematic mining possible. Without these they could not have provided the supplies of every kind required to sustain organized companies of miners through a single season. A great many summers must have passed away before such companies of miners, with all needed tools and supplies, could have made their works so extensive by means of such methods as they were able to use.

They probably occupied the country on the Gulf and Lower Mississippi much longer than any other portion of the great valley. Their oldest and latest abandoned settlements appear to have been in this region, where, we may reasonably suppose, they continued to dwell long after they were driven from the Ohio Valley and other places at the north.

The Natchez Indians found settled on the Lower Mississippi may have been a degenerate remnant of the Mound-Builders. They differed in language, customs, and condition from all other Indians in the country; and their own traditions connected them with Mexico. Like the Mexicans, they had temples or sacred buildings in which the "perpetual fire" was maintained. Each of their villages was furnished with a sacred building of this kind. They had also peculiarities of social and political organization different from those of other tribes. They were sun-worshipers, and claimed that their chief derived his descent from the sun. The Natchez were more settled and civilized than the other Indians, and, in most respects, seemed like another race. One learned investigator classes them with the Nahuatl or Toltec race, thinks they came from Mexico, and finds that, like the ancient people of Panuco and Colhuacan, they had the phallic ceremonies among their religious observances. Their history can not be given, and there is little or nothing but conjecture to connect them with the Mound-Builders. The Natchez were exterminated in 1730 by the French, whom they had treated with great kindness. Of the few who escaped death, some were received among the Chickasaws and Muskogees, but more were sent to Santo Domingo and sold as slaves.

No view that can be taken of the relics left by the Mound-Builders will permit us to believe their stay in the country was short. Any hypothesis based on the shortest possible estimate of the time must count the years by centuries.



This ancient people, whose remains indicate unity and civilization, must have been organized as a nation, with a central administration which all recognized. They must have had a national name, but nobody can tell certainly what it was. No record or tradition has preserved it, unless discovery of it can be made in a national designation found, without clear explanation, in the old books and traditions of Central America, and applied to some country situated at a distance from that part of the continent in the northeast. These old books and traditions mention "Huehue-Tlapalan" as a distant northeastern country, from which the Nahuas or Toltecs came to Mexico; and Brasseur de Bourbourg, who has translated one of the old books and given much attention to others, supposes the Toltecs and the Mound-Builders to be the same people, or did suppose this previous to the appearance of his "Atlantic theory." But this point will be more fully considered when we come to the Central American antiquities.

Some antiquaries suggest that the Mound-Builders were the people called "Allighewi" in old traditions of the Iroquois, but we have nothing to make this very probable. The Iroquois were somewhat superior to the other great family of barbarous Indians in organization for the business of fighting. There are some reasons for believing they came to the lake regions and the Ohio Valley much earlier than the Algonquin branch of the wild Indian race. It is permissible, at least, to conjecture, if one feels inclined to do so, that it was the Iroquois migration from the northwest, or that of the great family to which the Iroquois family belonged, which expelled the Mound-Builders from their border settlements, cut them off from the copper mines, and finally pushed them down the Mississippi; but nothing more than conjecture is possible in this case, and the supposition gives the Iroquois migration a greater antiquity than may be allowable. Moreover, the traditionary lore of the wild Indians had nothing to say of the Mound-Builders, who appear to have been as unknown and mysterious to these Indians as they are to us.


Some inquirers, not always without hesitation, suggest that the Indians inhabiting the United States two hundred years ago were degenerate descendants of the Mound-Builders. The history of the world shows that civilized communities may lose their enlightenment, and sink to a condition of barbarism; but the degraded descendants of a civilized people usually retain traditional recollections of their ancestors, or some traces of the lost civilization, perceptible in their customs and their legendary lore. The barbarism of the wild Indians of North America had nothing of this kind. It was original barbarism. There was nothing to indicate that either the Indians inhabiting our part of the continent, or their ancestors near or remote, had ever been civilized, even to the extent of becoming capable of settled life and organized industry. And, besides, the constant tradition of these Indians, supported by concurring circumstantial evidence, appears to warrant the belief that they came to this part of the continent originally from the west or northwest, at a period too late to connect them in this way with the Mound-Builders.

Two hundred years ago the Valley of the Mississippi, and the regions east of it, were occupied by two great families of Indians, the Iroquois and the Algonquins, each divided into separate tribes. Between these two families there was a radical difference of language. The Indians of New England were Algonquins. The Iroquois dwelt chiefly in New York, and around Lake Erie, from Niagara to Detroit, although separate communities of the group to which they immediately belonged were found in other places, such as the Dacotahs and Winnebagoes at the West, and the isolated Tuscaroras of the Carolinas. Mr. Lewis H. Morgan, who has discussed "Indian Migrations" in several interesting papers printed in the North American Review, thinks the Iroquois were separated very early from the same original stem which produced the great Dacotah family. The Algonquins were spread most widely over the country when it was first visited by Europeans.

Among all these Indians there was a tradition that their ancestors came from a distant region in the Northwest, and this tradition is accepted as true by those who have studied them most carefully. Mr. Morgan supposes they came across the continent, and estimates that not less than a thousand years must have passed between the departure of the various groups of the Algonquin family from a common centre in the northwest and the condition in which they were found two hundred years ago. When Europeans began to explore North America, this family had become divided into several branches, and each of these branches had a modified form of the common language, which, in turn, had developed several dialects. A long period was required to effect so great a change; but, whatever estimate of the time may be accepted, it seems to be a fact that the Algonquins came to the Mississippi Valley long after the Mound-Builders left it, and also later than the Iroquois or Dacotah family. That the Iroquois preceded the Algonquins at the East appears to be indicated by the relative position of the two families in this part of the country. Mr. Parkman, in his work on "The Jesuits in North America," describes it as follows: "Like a great island in the midst of the Algonquins lay the country of tribes speaking the generic tongue of the Iroquois."

There is no trace or probability of any direct relationship whatever between the Mound-Builders and the barbarous Indians found in the country. The wild Indians of this continent had never known such a condition as that of the Mound-Builders. They had nothing in common with it. In Africa, Asia, and elsewhere among the more uncultivated families of the human race, there is not as much really original barbarism as some anthropologists are inclined to assume; but there can be no serious doubt that the wild Indians of North America were original barbarians, born of a stock which had never, at any time, been either civilized or closely associated with the influences of civilization.

Some of the pottery and wrought ornaments of the Mound-Builders is equal in finish and beauty to the finest manufactured by the ancient Peruvians. They constructed artificial ponds like the aguadas in Central America. They used sun-dried brick, especially at the South, where walls of this material have been discovered supporting some of the mounds and embankments. They manufactured cloth. But their intelligence, skill, and civilized ways are shown not only by their constructions and manufactures, but also by their mining works. Who can imagine the Iroquois or the Algonquins working the copper mines with such intelligence and skill, and such a combination of systematic and persistent industry! They had no tradition of such a condition of life, no trace of it. It is absurd to suppose a relationship, or a connection of any kind, between the original barbarism of these Indians and the civilization of the Mound-Builders. The two peoples were entirely distinct and separate from each other. If they really belonged to the same race, which is extremely doubtful, we must go back through unnumbered ages to find their common origin and the date of their separation.


Those who seek to identify the Mound-Builders with the barbarous Indians find nothing that will support their hypothesis. Nevertheless, some of them have tried very strangely to give it aid by one or two quotations from early voyagers to America. The most important are taken from Brereton's account of Gosnold's voyage in 1602. The following occurred on the coast of Maine:

"Eight Indians, in a Basque shallop, with mast and sail, an iron grapple, and a kettle, came boldly aboard us, one of them appareled with a waistcoat and breeches of black serge, made after our sea fashion, hose and shoes on his feet: all the rest (saving one that had a pair of breeches of blue cloth) were naked."

It is known that the Basques were accustomed to send fishing vessels to the northeastern coast of America long before this continent was discovered by Columbus. They continued to do this after the discovery. These Indians had evidently become well acquainted with the Basques, and, therefore, did not fear to approach Gosnold's ship. Probably some of them had been employed on board Basque fishing vessels. Certainly their boat and apparel came from the Basque fishermen, and did not show them to be Mound-Builders. Of the Indians on the coast of Massachusetts, Brereton says:

"They had great store of copper, some very red, some of a paler color; none of them but have chains, earrings, or collars of this metal. They had some of their arrows herewith, much like our broad arrow-heads, very workmanly made. Their chains are many hollow pieces cemented together, each piece of the bigness of one of our reeds, a finger in length, ten or twelve of them together on a string, which they wear about their necks: their collars they wear about their bodies like bandeliers a handful broad, all hollow pieces like the other, but somewhat shorter, four hundred pieces in a collar, very fine and evenly set together." He adds: "I am persuaded they have great store (of flax) growing upon the main, as also mines and many other rich commodities, which we, wanting time, could not possibly discover."

If all this had been true, it would not serve the purpose for which it is quoted; for remains of the Mound-Builders have never existed in Massachusetts, and we should necessarily suppose these Indians had procured copper and copper ornaments by trading with the Basques or with other French voyagers. If only one or two Indians had been represented as wearing ornaments made of copper, this explanation could be readily accepted. But he avers that they had "great store of copper," and adds, "None of them but have chains, earrings, or collars of this metal." Therefore his statement is incredible. The following considerations will show why it must not be regarded as honest, unadorned truth.

1. Those interested in Gosnold's voyage aimed to establish a colony on that coast; and all who served them, or were controlled by them, were easily moved to tell seductive stories of the country "upon the main." The chief aim of Brereton's account of this voyage was to incite emigration. Therefore he gave this wonderfully colored account of mines, flax-growing, copper chains and collars, and "other rich commodities" among the wild Indians of Massachusetts. Settlements on that coast, it was believed, would bring profit to those in whose interest he wrote. Gosnold actually proposed at that time to establish a colony on one of the islands in Buzzard's Bay, and had with him twenty men who were expected to stay as colonists, but finally refused to do so. He saw a great deal of the Indians, and knew much more of their actual condition than the story admits.

2. Eighteen years later the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth from the Mayflower. Neither copper mines nor flax fields were then known in Massachusetts. No Indians with "great store" of copper and flax, and covered with copper ornaments, were seen or heard of by the Pilgrims, either at that time or afterward. In 1602, Brereton, or any other writer employed to write in such a way as would promote emigration, could tell such stories, and romance freely concerning the Indians, without fear of contradiction. Afterward, when the actual barbarism of the Indian tribes in New England and other parts of the country had become generally known, no one could describe any of these Indians as successful miners and flax-growers, and assert gravely that they had such stores of copper that "none of them" lacked great abundance of copper "chains, earrings, collars," and the like, without being laughed at. Brereton's story must be regarded as an invention designed to serve a special purpose, but not warranted by any thing seen during the voyage he describes. Neither in New England nor any where else in our part of the continent did the early colonists find Indians who worked copper mines and had "great store of copper." What Brereton says was not true of any Indians known to our first colonists or to their successors. It corresponds to no reality found in any part of our territory during the last two hundred and fifty years. Therefore, to use his story in support of an absurd hypothesis is not a satisfactory proceeding.


It may be true that all the aboriginal peoples found inhabiting North and South America, save the Esquimaux, belonged originally to the same race. Some writers assume it to be true, although it seems strongly improbable, not to say impossible. If they were all of the same race, time and development, under different conditions of life, had divided this race into at least two extremely unlike branches. The wild Indians of North America were profoundly different from the ancient people of Central America and Peru. The Pueblo or Village Indians of New Mexico have scarcely any thing in common with the Apaches, Comanches, and Sioux. Even the uncivilized Indians of South America are different from those in the United States. Our wild Indians have more resemblance to the nomadic Koraks and Chookchees found in Eastern Siberia, throughout the region that extends to Behring's Strait, than to any people on this continent. Those who have seen these Siberians, traveled with them, and lived in their tents, have found the resemblance very striking; but I infer from what they say that the Korak or Chookchee is superior to the Indian. See Kennan's "Tent Life in Siberia."

Mr. Lewis H. Morgan finds evidence that the American aborigines had a common origin in what he calls "their systems of consanguinity and affinity." If it can be made to appear beyond question that these systems prevail and are identical every where from Patagonia to the Arctic Zone, his argument will have great force. But this has not yet been shown. He says: "The Indian nations, from the Atlantic to the Rocky Mountains, and from the Arctic Sea to the Gulf of Mexico, with the exception of the Esquimaux, have the same system. It is elaborate and complicated in its general form and details; and, while deviations from uniformity occur in the systems of different stocks, the radical features are, in the main, constant. This identity in the essential characteristics of a system so remarkable tends to show that it must have been transmitted with the blood to each stock from a common original source. It affords the strongest evidence yet obtained of unity in origin of the Indian nations within the region defined."

But unity in race among wild Indians found within the region specified would be sufficiently manifest without this evidence. That the same system of consanguinity and affinity, with precisely the same features of identity, ever was extended over the whole continent, remains unproved. The supposed traces of it among the Pueblos are by no means clear. A more complete and accurate research is required to show that identically the same system ever has existed any where between the United States and Patagonia. A system not wholly unlike it, though not the same, might grow up any where in widely separated tribal communities of barbarous peoples, without doing any thing more than the tribal system itself to show a common origin in race.

The aborigines of America may have been originally all of the same race. There are some considerations in favor of this hypothesis which have been used by writers entitled to great respect; but it can not yet be claimed with reason that they have been able to settle this question beyond the reach of doubt, even in their own minds. Therefore, to speak moderately, it would be premature to assume that the Mound-Builders were even remotely of the same race with the wild Indians, from whom they were so different in all we know of them.

The attempt to establish this hypothesis of identity in race has given rise to a tendency to underrate the development of the ancient people of Mexico and Central America, and to lower the estimate of their attainments sufficiently to bring them within reach of close relationship to the wild Indians. The difficulty being reduced in this way, there follows an attempt to get rid of it entirely, and establish connection between these unlike peoples, by talking of "Semi-Village Indians." But the hypothesis used in this case is not well warranted by facts. Such "Semi-Village Indians" as are supposed, really standing half way between the savages and the Pueblos, and being actually savages half developed into Pueblos, have never had a clearly defined and unquestionable existence here since the continent became known to Europeans. In the border region between the northern wild Indians and the old Mexican race there are exceptional communities formed by association or mixture, but we can not reasonably give them the significance claimed for the supposed "Semi-Village Indians." Moreover, these exceptional communities are usually Pueblos whose habits have been changed and their civilization lessened by association with wild Indians, or in some other way. The Navajos began their present condition by fleeing to the mountains from the Spaniards. The Mound-Builders, who must have been, still more than the Pueblos, unlike the barbarous Indians, can not be explained by any reference whatever to such communities. If they were of the same race, they were far from being the same people.

Some ethnologists, whose suggestions are entitled to respectful attention whether accepted or rejected, specify considerations which they believe forbid us to regard the ancient Mexicans and the northern wild Indians as identical in race. They point to the well known fact that the fauna of the American continent below the northern frontier of Mexico is remarkably different from that between this line and the Arctic Sea. At the north, America abounds in species similar to those of Europe and Asia, with some admixture of forms wholly American, while at the south the old-world forms disappear, and the fauna of the whole region between Mexico and Cape Horn becomes "as peculiar as that of Australia."

The explanation given is, that during the glacial period the larger part of North America, like Northern Asia and Europe, was covered with ice and partly submerged, and that the fauna found in this part of North America was introduced after the glacial period by immigration from Asia and Europe over connecting lands or islands at the northwest and the northeast, and perhaps by some migration from the south; the fauna at the south meanwhile remaining very much as it was before, with very little change through later migrations from the north.

Professor Huxley called attention to this subject in a brief address to the London Ethnological Society in 1869. After stating the case, he presented the following queries and suggestions: "The Austro-Columbian fauna, as a whole, therefore, existed antecedently to the glacial epoch. Did man form part of that fauna? To this profoundly interesting question no positive answer can be given; but the discovery of human remains associated with extinct animals in the caves of Brazil, by Lund, lends some color to the supposition. Assuming this supposition to be correct, we should have to look in the human population of America, as in the fauna generally, for an indigenous or Austro-Columbian element, and an immigrant or 'Arctogeal' element." He then suggests that the Esquimaux may now represent the immigrant element, and the old Mexican and South American race that which was indigenous, and that the "Red Indians of North America" may have appeared originally as a mixture of these two races. He adds, very reasonably, "It is easy to suggest such problems as these, but quite impossible, in the present state of our knowledge, to solve them."


They were unquestionably American aborigines, and not immigrants from another continent. That appears to me the most reasonable suggestion which assumes that the Mound-Builders came originally from Mexico and Central America. It explains many facts connected with their remains. In the Great Valley their most populous settlements were at the south. Coming from Mexico and Central America, they would begin their settlements on the Gulf coast, and afterward advance gradually up the river to the Ohio Valley. It seems evident that they came by this route; and their remains show that their only connection with the coast was at the south. Their settlements did not reach the coast at any other point.

Their constructions were similar in design and arrangement to those found in Mexico and Central America. Like the Mexicans and Central Americans, they had many of the smaller structures known as teocallis, and also large high mounds, with level summits, reached by great flights of steps. Pyramidal platforms or foundations for important edifices appear in both regions, and are very much alike. In Central America important edifices were built of hewn stone, and can still be examined in their ruins. The Mound-Builders, like some of the ancient people of Mexico and Yucatan, used wood, sun-dried brick, or some other material that could not resist decay. There is evidence that they used timber for building purposes. In one of the mounds opened in the Ohio Valley two chambers were found with remains of the timber of which the walls were made, and with arched ceilings precisely like those in Central America, even to the overlapping stones. Chambers have been found in some of the Central American and Mexican mounds, but there hewn stones were used for the walls. In both regions the elevated and terraced foundations remain, and can be compared. I have already called attention to the close resemblance between them, but the fact is so important in any endeavor to explain the Mound-Builders that I must bring it to view here.

Consider, then, that elevated and terraced foundations for important buildings are peculiar to the ancient Mexicans and Central Americans; that this method of construction, which, with them, was the rule, is found nowhere else, save that terraced elevations, carefully constructed, and precisely like theirs in form and appearance, occupy a chief place among the remaining works of the Mound-Builders. The use made of these foundations at Palenque, Uxmal, and Chichen-Itza, shows the purpose for which they were constructed in the Mississippi Valley. The resemblance is not due to chance. The explanation appears to me very manifest. This method of construction was brought to the Mississippi Valley from Mexico and Central America, the ancient inhabitants of that region and the Mound-Builders being the same people in race, and also in civilization, when it was brought here.

A very large proportion of the old structures in Ohio and farther south called "mounds," namely, those which are low in proportion to their horizontal extent, are terraced foundations for buildings, and if they were situated in Yucatan, Guatemala, and Southern Mexico, they would never be mistaken for any thing else. The high mounds also in the two regions are remarkably alike. In both cases they are pyramidal in shape, and have level summits of considerable extent, which were reached by means of stairways on the outside. The great mound at Chichen-Itza is 75 feet high, and has on its summit a ruined stone edifice; that at Uxmal is 60 feet high, and has a similar ruin on its summit; that at Mayapan is 60 feet high; the edifice placed on its summit has disappeared. The great mound at Miamisburg, Ohio, is 68 feet high; and that at Grave Creek, West Virginia, is 75 feet high. Both had level summits, and stairways on the outside, but no trace of any structure remains on them. All these mounds were constructed for religious uses, and they are, in their way, as much alike as any five Gothic churches.

Could these works of the Mound-Builders be restored to the condition in which they were when the country was filled with their busy communities, we should doubtless see great edifices, similar in style to those in Yucatan, standing on the upper terraces of all the low and extended "mounds," and smaller structures on the high mounds, such as those above named. There would seem to be an extension of ancient Mexico and Central America through Texas into the Mississippi and Ohio valleys; and so, if there were no massive stone-work in the old ruins of those countries, it might seem that the Mound-Builders' works were anciently extended into them by way of Texas.

The fact that the settlements and works of the Mound-Builders extended through Texas and across the Rio Grande indicates very plainly their connection with the people of Mexico, and goes far to explain their origin. We have other evidence of intercourse between the two peoples; for the obsidian dug from the mounds, and perhaps the porphyry also, can be explained only by supposing commercial relations between them.

We can not suppose the Mound-Builders to have come from any other part of North America, for nowhere else north of the Isthmus was there any other people capable of producing such works as they left in the places where they dwelt. Beyond the relics of the Mound-Builders themselves, no traces of the former existence of such a people have been discovered in any part of North America save Mexico, and Central America, and districts immediately connected with them. At the same time, it is not unreasonable to suppose the civilized people of these regions extended their settlements through Texas, and also migrated across the Gulf into the Mississippi Valley. In fact, the connection of settlements by way of Texas appears to have been unbroken from Ohio to Mexico.

This colonizing extension of the old Mexican race must have taken place at a remote period in the past; for what has been said of the antiquity of the Mound-Builders shows that a very long period, far more than two thousand years, it may be, must have elapsed since they left the Valley of the Ohio. Perhaps they found the country mostly unoccupied, and saw there but little of any other people until an irruption of warlike barbarians came upon them from the Northwest.

In speculating on the causes of their withdrawal after centuries of occupation, absolute certainty is impossible, and we have no means of going much beyond mere conjecture. We may suppose as most probable that an influx of barbarians destroyed their border settlements, interrupted their mining operations, and caused them to retire gradually toward the Gulf. Fragments of their communities may have become incorporated with the barbarous tribes. This conjecture has been used to explain certain exceptional peculiarities noticed in some of the wild Indian tribes. For instance, it has been suggested that the Mandan Indians were a separated and lost fragment of the mound-building people, they being noticeably unlike other Indians in many respects, lighter in color, and peculiar in manners and customs. What is conjectured may be true, but we have no means of proving its truth. That the Mandans were like what a lost community of Mound-Builders might have become by degeneration through mixture and association with barbarians may be supposed, but the actual history of that remarkable tribe might give its peculiarities a very different explanation. The Mandans were supposed to be a branch of the Dacotahs. They may have been, like the Navajos, a changed community of Pueblos, but any attempt to explain them by means of conjecture is useless.

The supposition that the Toltecs and the Mound-Builders were the same people seems to me not improbable. The reasons for it will be stated when we come to a discussion of the antiquities, books, and traditions of Central America. I will only say here that, according to dates given in the Central American books, the Toltecs came from "Huehue-Tlapalan," a distant country in the northeast, long previous to the Christian era. They played a great part and had a long career in Mexico previous to the rise of their successors in power, the Aztecs, who were overthrown by the Spaniards.



Ruins and other vestiges revealing an ancient civilization are found throughout the whole southern section of North America, extending as far north as New Mexico and Arizona. But here the antiquities do not all belong to the same period in the past, nor exhibit unvarying likeness and unity of civilized life. They are somewhat less homogeneous, and do not constantly represent the same degree of civilization. In this region, the monuments suggest successive and varying periods in the civilized condition of the old inhabitants, some of the oldest and most mysterious monuments seeming to indicate the highest development.

In the northern part of this region we find ruins of great buildings similar in plan and arrangement to those still used by the Pueblos, but far superior as monuments of architecture, science, and skill, and much more unlike those farther south than is apparent in the principal structures of the Mound-Builders. They show that the old settlers in the Mississippi Valley did not belong to the Pueblo branch of the Mexican race. Farther south, in the central part of the region specified, development was more advanced. Here, in the last ages of American ancient history, was the seat of the Mexican or Aztec civilization, but the monuments in this part of the country are mostly older than the Aztec period. The most astonishing remains are found still farther south, in Chiapa, Tabasco, Oxaca, Yucatan, Honduras, Tehuantepec, Guatemala, and other parts of Central America. In this southern region, mostly buried in heavy forests, are wonderful ruins of great cities and temples. Only a small part of modern Mexico is included in the region where these ruins are situated, and most of them, probably, were not much better understood by the ancient Mexicans than they are by us. Many of those explored in later times were unknown to that people, just as others, more in number, doubtless, than those already described, still remain unvisited and unknown in the great and almost impenetrable forests of the country.


The ruins in Northern Mexico, including New Mexico and Arizona, consist chiefly, as already stated, of the remains of structures similar in general design and purpose to those of the Village Indians, the Pueblos. In the more ancient times, doubtless, as at present, a large proportion of the dwellings and other edifices, like those in the Mississippi Valley, were built of perishable materials which have left no trace. Many of them, however, were built of stone, and have left ruins which show their character. Stone ruins are common in this northern region, although wood and adobe seems to have been more commonly used as building material. Some of the ruined stone edifices were inhabited when the country was conquered by the Spaniards. The remains present every where the same characteristics. They represent a people who built always in the same way, with some variations in the forms of their structures, and had substantially the same condition of life; but the ruins are not all of the same age. Their character can be sufficiently shown by describing a few of them.

In New Mexico, west of the Rio Grande, between the head waters of the San Jose and Zuni rivers, a bluff or ridge rises in a valley two hundred feet high. The Spaniards named it "El Moro." One side of this bluff is vertical, and shows yellowish-white sandstone rock, on the face of which are inscriptions; "Spanish inscriptions and Indian hieroglyphics." It was carefully described in 1849 by Lieutenant Simpson, and was explored again four or five years later by Lieutenant A. W. Whipple, who described it in his report to the government, published in the third volume of "Explorations and Surveys for a Railroad Route to the Pacific." On the summit of this height, which Lieutenant Simpson named "Inscription Rock," are the ruins of an extensive Pueblo edifice built of stone. The walls were built "with considerable skill." In some places they are still "perfect to the height of six or eight feet, vertical, straight, and smooth; and the masonry is well executed, the stones being of uniform size—about fourteen inches long and six wide." The layers are horizontal, each successive layer breaking joints with that below it. Remains of cedar beams were discovered, and also obsidian arrow-heads, painted pottery, and other relics. Another ruin was seen on a height across the gorge. It was found to be similar to this, both in character and condition of decay.

Lieutenant Whipple went westward along the thirty-fifth parallel. We can not do better than follow the report of what he saw.

His next stopping-place, after leaving "El Moro," was in the beautiful valley of Ojo Pescado. Here, close by a spring that showed artificial stone-work of ancient date, were two old Pueblo buildings in ruins, "so ancient that the traditions of present races do not reach them." Not far away is a deserted town of later date. The two ancient structures were circular in form and equal in size, each being about eight hundred feet in circumference. They were built of stone, but the walls have crumbled and become chiefly heaps of rubbish. The pottery found here, like that at "El Moro," is "painted with bright colors, in checks, bands, and wavy stripes; many fragments show a beautiful polish. A few pieces were discovered larger in size, inferior in color and quality, but indicating a more fanciful taste. United, they formed an urn with a curious handle; a frog painted on the outside and a butterfly within." In the same neighborhood, on the summit of a cliff twenty feet high, was another old ruin "strongly walled around." In the centre was a mound on which were traces of a circular edifice.

The next place of encampment was at Zuni, where, as shown in Figure 21, can be seen one of these great Pueblo buildings inhabited by two thousand people (Lieutenant Whipple's estimate). It has five stories, the walls of each receding from those below it. Looking from the top, he says it reminded him of a busy ant-hill, turkeys and tamed eagles constituting a portion of its inhabitants. Not more than a league away is an "old Zuni" which shows nothing but ruins. Its crumbling walls, worn away until they are only from two to twelve feet high, are "crowded together in confused heaps over several acres of ground." This old town became a ruin in ancient times. After remaining long in a ruined condition it was again rebuilt, and again deserted after a considerable period of occupation. It is still easy to distinguish the differences in construction between the two periods. "The standing walls rest upon ruins of greater antiquity;" and while the primitive masonry is about six feet thick, that of the later period is only from a foot to a foot and a half thick. Small blocks of sandstone were used for the latter. Heaps of debris cover a considerable space, in which, among other things, are relics of pottery and of ornaments made of sea-shells. Pieces of quaintly-carved cedar posts were found here, and their condition of decay, compared with that of the cedar beams at "El Moro," "indicated great antiquity." The place of this ruin is now one of the consecrated places of the Village Indians; it has "a Zuni altar" which is constantly used and greatly venerated. On leaving the place, their guide blew a white powder toward the altar three times, and muttered a prayer. This, he explained, was "asking a blessing of Montezuma and the sun." This altar seems to represent recollections of the ancient sun-worship.

At a place west of Zuni ancient relics were found, indicating that an extensive Pueblo town had formerly stood there, but "the structures were probably of adobes," as there was no debris of stone walls, and only very faint traces of foundations. Near the Colorado Chiquito is an extensive ruin, on the summit of an isolated hill of sandstone, the faces of its walls being here and there visible above heaps of debris. It appears to be very old. As near as could be ascertained, the great rectangular Pueblo building was three hundred and sixty feet in extent on one side, and one hundred and twenty on the other. In some places the walls are ten feet thick, "with small rooms inserted in them." Stone axes, painted pottery, and other articles are found in the debris: "The indented pottery, said to be so very ancient, is found here in many patterns." On a ridge overlooking the valley of Pueblo Creek are traces of an old settlement of large extent, supposed to have been that heard of in 1539 by the friar Marco de Nica as "the kingdom of Totonteac." Adobe seems to have been used here for building. Traces of other ruins were seen in various places, and springs along the route showing ancient stone-work are mentioned.

Ruins are abundant in the Rio Verde Valley down to the confluence of that river with the Rio Salinas. It is manifest that this whole region was anciently far more populous than it is now. Lieutenant Whipple says, "Large fields in the valley of the Rio Gila, and many spots among the Pinal Lena Mountains, are marked with the foundations of adobe houses." Figure 22 represents a Pueblo ruin in the Valley of the Gila. "In Canyon Chelly, near San Francisco Mountain, and upon Rio Verde, there are ruins of more permanent structures of stone, which in their day must have excelled the famed Pueblos of New Mexico." There was a higher degree of civilization in the ancient times, so far as relates to architecture and skill in the arts and appliances of life, than has been shown by people of the same race dwelling there in our time; but the ancient condition of life seems to have been maintained from age to age without material change.


In the New Mexican valley of the Chaco, one degree or more north of Zuni, are ruins of what some suppose to have been the famous "Seven Cities of Cevola." In 1540, Spanish cupidity having been strongly incited by tales of the greatness and vast wealth of Cevola, Coronado, then governor of New Galicia, set out with an army to conquer and rob its cities. The report in which he tells the story of this conquest and of his disappointment is still in existence. The Cevolans defended themselves with arrows and spears, and hurled stones upon his army from the tops of their buildings. But resistance was of no avail; Cevola was conquered by Coronado, and immediately deserted by all its inhabitants who escaped death. The conquering buccaneer, however, did not find the treasures of gold and silver he expected. Three hundred and thirty years or more have passed away since this expedition of the Spanish marauders was undertaken, but the "Seven Cities of Cevola" (if they really were the "cities" whose remains are found in the Chaco Valley), although much dilapidated, are still sufficiently well preserved to show us what they were.

There are seven ruins in the Chaco Valley, all of the same age, from one to three miles apart, the whole line along which they are situated being not more than ten miles in extent. Coronado said of Cevola, "The seven cities are seven small towns, standing all within four leagues together;" and "all together they are called Cevola." The Chaco ruins show that each of these "cities" was, Pueblo fashion, a single edifice of vast size, capable of accommodating from five hundred to three thousand people. They were all built of stone, around three sides of a square, the side opposite the main building being left open. Figure 23 represents one of these buildings restored, according to Lieutenant Simpson. Figure 24 is a ground plan of this structure. The outer faces of the walls were constructed with thin and regular blocks of sandstone; the inner surfaces were made of cobblestone laid in mortar, and the outer walls were three feet thick. They were four or five stories high, and the only entrances to them were "window openings" in the second story. Above the canyon inclosing the valley containing these ruins, at a distance of thirteen miles, are the remains of another "city" of precisely the same kind. Its walls are at present between twenty and thirty feet high, their foundations being deeply sunk into the earth. Lieutenant Simpson, who explored that region in 1849, says it was built of tabular pieces of hard, fine-grained, compact gray sandstone, none of the layers being more than three inches thick. He adds, "It discovers in the masonry a combination of science and art which can only be referred to a higher stage of civilization and refinement than is discoverable in the work of Mexicans or Pueblos of the present day. Indeed, so beautifully diminutive and true are the details of the structure as to cause it at a little distance to have all the appearance of a magnificent piece of mosaic."

Other ruins have been examined in this northern part of the old Mexican territory, and more will be brought to light, for the whole region has not been carefully examined, and new discoveries are constantly reported.


As we go down into Central Mexico, the remains assume another character, and become more important; but the antiquities in this part of the country have not been very completely explored and described, the attention of explorers having been drawn more to the south. Some of them are well known, and it can be seen that to a large extent they are much older than the time of the Aztecs whom Cortez found in power.

In the northern part of the Mexican Valley was the city of Tulha, the ancient capital of the Toltecs. At the time of the conquest its site was an extensive field of ruins. At Xochicalco, in the State of Mexico, is a remarkable pyramid, with a still more remarkable base. It was constructed with five stages or stories, and stands on a hill consisting chiefly of rock, which was excavated and hollowed for the construction of galleries and chambers. The opening serves as an entrance to several galleries, which are six feet high and paved with cement, their sides and ceilings seeming to have been covered with some very durable preparation which made them smooth and glistening. Captain Dupaix found the main gallery sixty yards, or one hundred and eighty feet long, terminating at two chambers which are separated only by two massive square pillars carefully fashioned of portions of the rock left for the purpose by the excavators. Over a part of the inner chamber, toward one corner, is a dome or cupola six feet in diameter at the base, and rather more in height. It has a regular slope, and was faced with square stones well prepared and admirably laid in cement. From the top went up a tube or circular aperture nine inches in diameter, which probably reached the open air or some point in the pyramid.

In this part of Mexico can be seen, among other things, the great pyramid or mound of Cholulu, the very ancient and remarkable pyramidal structures at Teotihuacan, and an uncounted number of teocallis or pyramids of smaller size. The pyramid of Cholulu covers an area of forty-five acres. It was terraced and built with four stages. When measured by Humboldt it was 1400 feet square at the base, and 160 feet high. At present it is a ruin, and, to superficial observers, seems little more than a huge artificial mound of earth. Its condition of decay indicates that it is much older than even the Toltec period. The largest structure at Teotihuacan covers eleven acres. These structures, and the Mexican teocallis generally, were made of earth, and faced with brick or stone.

Captain Dupaix saw, not far from Antequera, two truncated pyramids which were penetrated by two carefully constructed galleries. A gallery lined with hewn stone, bearing sculptured decorations, went through one of them. A similar gallery went partly through the other, and two branches were extended at right angles still farther, but terminating within. He mentions also the ruins of elaborately decorated edifices which had stood on elevated terraces. At one place he excavated a terraced mound, and discovered burnt brick; and he describes two ancient bridges of the Tlascalans, both built of hewn stone laid in cement, one of them being 200 feet long and 36 wide. Obelisks or pillars 42 feet high stood at the corners of these bridges. Important remains of the ancient people exist in many other places; and "thousands of other monuments unrecorded by the antiquaries invest every sierra and valley of Mexico with profound interest."

At Papantla, in the State of Vera Cruz, there is a very ancient pyramidal structure somewhat peculiar in style and character. It is known that important ruins exist in the forests of Papantla and Mesantla which have never been described. The remarkable pyramid at Papantla was examined and described by Humboldt. The only material employed in constructing it was hewn stone. The stone was prepared in immense blocks, which were laid in mortar. The pyramid was an exact square at the base, each side being 82 feet in length, and the height about 60 feet. The stones were admirably cut and polished, and the structure was remarkably symmetrical. Six stages could be discerned by Humboldt, and his account of it says, "A seventh appears to be concealed by the vegetation which covers the sides of the pyramid." A great flight of steps leads to the level summit, by the sides of which are smaller nights. "The facing of the stones is decorated with hieroglyphics, in which serpents and crocodiles carved in relievo are visible. Each story contains a great number of square niches symmetrically distributed. In the first story there are 24 on each side, in the second 20, and in the third 16. There are 366 of these niches on the whole pyramid, and 12 in the stairs toward the east."

The civilization of the Aztecs who built the old city of Mexico will be made a separate topic; but it may be said here that when they came into the Valley of Mexico they were much less advanced in civilization than their predecessors. There is no reason whatever to doubt that they had always resided in the country as an obscure branch of the aboriginal people. Some have assumed, without much warrant, that they came to Mexico from the North. Mr. Squier shows, with much probability, that they came from the southern part of the country, where communities are still found speaking the Aztec language. When they rose to supremacy they adopted, so far as their condition allowed, the superior knowledge of their predecessors, and continued, in a certain way, and with a lower standard, the civilization of the Toltecs. It has been said, not without reason, that the civilization found in Mexico by the Spanish conquerors consisted, to a large extent, of "fragments from the wreck that befell the American civilization of antiquity."


To find the chief seats and most abundant remains of the most remarkable civilization of this old American race, we must go still farther south into Central America and some of the more southern states of Mexico. Here ruins of many ancient cities have been discovered, cities which must have been deserted and left to decay in ages previous to the beginning of the Aztec supremacy. Most of these ruins were found buried in dense forests, where, at the time of the Spanish Conquest, they had been long hidden from observation.

The ruins known as Palenque, for instance, seem to have been entirely unknown to both natives and Spaniards until about the year 1750. Cortez and some of his companions went through the open region near the forest in which these ruins are situated without hearing of them or suspecting their existence. The great ruins known as Copan were in like manner unknown in the time of Cortez. The Spaniards assaulted and captured a native town not far from the forest that covered them, but heard nothing of the ruins. The captured town, called Copan, afterward gave its name to the remains of this nameless ancient city, which were first discovered in 1576, and described by the Spanish licentiate Palacios. This was little more than forty years after the native town was captured; but, although Palacios tried, "in all possible ways," to get from the older and more intelligent natives some account of the origin and history of the ruined city, they could tell him nothing about it. To them the ruins were entirely mythical and mysterious. With the facts so accessible, and the antiquity of the ruins so manifest, it is very singular that Mr. Stephens fell into the mistake of confounding this ruined city, situated in an old forest that was almost impenetrable, with the town captured by the Spaniards. The ruins here were discovered accidentally; and to approach them it was necessary, as at Palenque, to cut paths through the dense tropical undergrowth of the forest.

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