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Schoolcraft, Henry Rowe.. History of the Indian Tribes of the United States: Their Present Condition and Prospects, and a Sketch of Their Ancient Status. Volume 6. . Philadelphia: Lippincott, Grambo and Co, 1857. [format: book; image], [genre: government document; report]. Permission: Northern Illinois University
PROPOSING to make some remarks on the aboriginal antiquities of the United States, it occurred to the author that it would tend to facilitate the object, and clear it of some obscurities, if the inquiry were preceded by a concise view of the characteristic monuments of Mexico, a country distinguished by a similar class of archaeological remains, and which thus furnishes a standard of comparison for a peculiar group of relics, and evidences of art and labor, which have, with perhaps too much precipitancy, been called enigmatical. These indicia are, clearly, of the same type of art, under different states of development. Less violence would appear to be done to Indian history by such a reference of the lower to the higher forms of art, in the same stocks, than by attributing them, as is commonly done, to ancient races of another species, of whom nothing is known, but who are supposed to have preceded the aborigines in the occupation of America. Meantime, such a reference leaves untouched, as a topical subject of inquiry, of subordinate importance, the particular question of intrusive European remains, in the ruins of Indian towns, guacas, or ossuaries.
If the Toltec race of North American Indians have achieved these triumphs of art, in architecture, and in the manipulation of fabrics, it would be no cause for astonishment that the Mississippi valley tribes, occupying a coterminous country, should erect mounds and teocalli, or surround their villages with a rude species of castrametation.
Having mentioned my desires on this subject to Brantz Mayer, Esq., a gentleman of close observation, who has resided in Mexico in an official capacity, and made the topic
itself his study, he furnished me with the subjoined paper, in which the question is treated in a synoptical and condensed, yet clear, comprehensive, and precise, manner. The illustrations are also from his pencil, and exhibit these monuments of art in that peculiar style, which so strikingly marks this class of American remains.
In the following memoranda upon Mexican antiquities, I propose to present a general view of all that have been discovered and noticed within the limits of the Mexican Republic, and a special notice of such as have been preserved within the district that was immediately under Aztec control; consequently, the term "Mexican" must be considered generic, in the classification of these remains.
The question of ancient civilization within that region is one of degree. If we accept as true the account of the conquerors, and especially of Bernal Diaz del Castillo, to whom eminent critics are disposed to ascribe high authority, we are obliged to regard the better classes of the Aztecs as refined, the middle classes as laborious and thrifty, the lower as submissive; while all are entitled to a respectable rank among nations in the sixteenth century, except so far as they were degraded by the cruelties of their superstitious worship and warfare.
It is not necessary, in these observations, to describe particularly the condition of Aztec society, at the period of Spanish invasion and occupation. That task has been so satisfactorily accomplished, in the history of the Conquest, by Mr. Prescott, and made so familiar to English students by the translations of Bernal Diaz del Castillo and of the Cartas de Cortéz, that nothing can be added by a new writer to these original sources. 734 Yet, as geography is illustrated by maps, so is literary description made clearer by illustrations; and, accordingly, I have collected such specimens in the annexed plates, as will convey accurate notions of the forms and arts that were familiar to the aborigines.
When I visited the city of Mexico in 1841 and 1842, I employed most of my leisure in gathering information as to the ancient remains still extant in the Republic. I found few students or collectors in Mexican archeology, and not a single work, except that of Gama, which treated the subject in a scientific or systematic way. 735 The National Museum, in the old University building, was open to strangers, and contained an ill arranged mass of materials, taken from different parts of the country, consisting chiefly of utensils and images. The ex-conde Del Peñasco, since dead, possessed, in a
spacious apartment of his dwelling, a large assemblage of ancient remains; but all these things, in both establishments, were shown rather as curiosities than as objects of historical interest or ethnological value. In literature, most of the memoranda, plans, details, drawings, and descriptions, were scattered in MSS. and magazines; and the modern city had obliterated every vestige of the past on the site of the ancient capital. Whatever information, therefore, was still to be had, could only be obtained from these unclassified sources, and without such intelligent guidance as would enable a stranger who had other occupations, to receive an accurate or connected idea of Mexican art. Accordingly, whenever it was convenient, I spent much of my time in the Museum, and in Count Peñasco's collection, where I made accurate drawings of almost every striking or important object; and, subsequently, I visited every spot of interest in the valley of Mexico, examined the remains at Chapultepec, Tezcoco, Tezcocingo, Teotihuacan, and crossed the mountains to the southern valleys of Puebla and Cuernavaca, where I saw the remarkable remains at Cholula and Xochicalco. 736
My examinations and studies of Mexican antiquities have resulted in the following classification of the remains, within the present limits of the Republic in 1857:
Remains of a National, or Municipal Character.
1. Monumental or pyramidal remains, temples, palaces, &c., &c., of stone, with or without sculpture, carving, or ornament, as at Uxmal, Palenque, &c., &c.
Remains of a Literary, or Record Character.
The Mexican picture-writing preserved at various places, and especially:
3. In the Codex Vaticanus, number 3738.
1. The gigantic idol of
Objects Carved from Obsidian.
1. Teponaztli drums carved of wood.
Miscellaneous, of Stone.
5. Miquahuitl, or obsidian club-sword.
1. The stone called the Calendar Stone, at Mexico; other similar stones, and astronomical paintings.
The Aztec government and influence did not extend, probably, over the whole region subsequently known as New Spain, a large part of which is still comprised in the Mexican Republic; but there are MONUMENTAL REMAINS of the character alluded to in the FIRST CLASS, civil, religious, and defensive, in almost every quarter of the country. These are in the form of pyramids, stone edifices, fortifications, roads, and public improvements generally, exhibiting a considerable knowledge of architecture, ornament, and the mechanic arts.
The principal of these remains, under the First Class, are to be found in the following States, as at present geographically bounded:
1. ZACATECAS. In the State of Zacatecas there are remarkable remains of aboriginal architecture, on a hill called the Cerro de los Edificios, two leagues northerly from the village of Villaneuva, twelve leagues southwest from Zacatecas, about one league north from La Quemada, at an elevation of 7406 feet above the sea, and about 22 1/2° of north latitude. These remains consist of pyramids, fortifications, walls, paved roads, and large quantities of stone edifices. They are elaborately described in the Travels in Mexico, by Captain Lyon, and are noticed, illustrated by a fine plate, in the Viaje Pintoresco y Arqueologico of Nebel.
2. TAMAULIPAS. In the State of Tamaulipas there are many relics of a curious and interesting character. They consist of mounds, pyramids, ruined edifices, tombs, images, fragments of obsidian, pottery, utensils, hewn blocks, carved in bold relief; and, in some places they are found in such quantities and connections as indicate the ancient sites of large cities. The principal information we have relative to the antiquities of Tamaulipas, is in the "Rambles by Land and Water, or Notes of Travel in Cuba and Mexico," written by Mr. B. M. Norman, of New Orleans, in 1845. As this gentleman's antiquarian researches were only episodes of his journey through the comparative wilderness of that tropical region, his work, valuable as it is, serves rather as an index than a full description of what must engage the attention of future investigators.
3. VERA CRUZ. In the State of Vera Cruz there are remains of civic architecture, pottery, images, carving, vessels, &c., &c., &c., at Panuco, Chacuaco, San Nicolas; at Papantla there is a well preserved stone pyramid, which is represented in
indicating the site of an ancient town; on the Island of Sacrificios, near the City of Vera Cruz, pottery, images,
4. YUCATAN. In the State of Yucatan, Messrs. Stephens and Catherwood found the wonderful monumental remains described and drawn by them, between 18° and 21 1/2° of north latitude, at Maxcanu, Uxmal, Sacbey, Xampon, Sanacte, Chunhuhu, Labpahk, Iturbidé, Mayapan, San Francisco, Ticul, Nochacab, Xoch, Kabah, Sabatsche, Labna, Kenick, Izamal, Saccacal, Tecax, Akil, Mani, Macoba, Becanchen, Peto, and Chichen, in the interior of the State, and at Tuloom, Tancar, and on the island of Cozumel, on its eastern coast.
5. CHIAPAS. In the State of Chiapas, the same travellers found architectural remains between 16° and 18° of north latitude, at Ocozingo and Palenque, and they state that in their long, "irregular route through these regions, they discovered the remains of fifty-four ancient cities, most of them a short distance apart, though (from the great change that has taken place in the country, and the breaking up of the old roads,) having no direct communication with each other. With but few exceptions, all were lost, buried, and unknown, and some of them, perhaps, never looked upon by the eye of a white man." The drawings of these ruins, by Mr. Catherwood, have made the public familiar with their style and character, and induce us to believe that Yucatan and Chiapas must have been the seats of quite an advanced civilization and large population.
6. PUEBLA. In the State of Puebla, the only important ancient remain is the Pyramid of Cholula, in the neighborhood of the modern city of Puebla. Humboldt gives the dimensions of this gigantic pyramid, which is built of adobes, or sun-dried brick, as follows: base, 1060 feet; elevation, 162 feet; but, during our war with Mexico, Lieutenant Beauregard, of the Engineer Corps, measured its altitude with a sextant, and found it to be 203 feet. Humboldt, it is understood, used a barometer.
7. MEXICO. In the State of Mexico, there are no architectural remains either at the capital, or in its immediate neighborhood. The modern city has entirely destroyed and displaced all traces of the ancient. But there are collections, as I have already said, of minor antiquarian objects in the museum, and in private hands; while there are monumental and architectural relics, at some distance from the capital, at Tezcoco, Tezcocingo, Teotihuacan, and Xochicalco. (See
8. OAJACA. In the State of Oajaca, there are mounds or tumuli at Tachila; mounds and pyramids at Monte Alban, and at Coyúla, San Juan de los Cués, Guengola, Quiotepec, and near Tehuantepec; while at Mitla, there are the remarkable edifices which I have described in the recent publications of the Smithsonian Institution, Vol. IX., accompanied by Mr. J. G. Sawkins's drawings.
Throughout these ruins there are specimens of sculpture, ornament, and, in some instances, apparently, of hieroglyphic records; many of the latter being copied in the illustrations of the works of Stephens and Catherwood. In Mexico, Yucatan, Chiapas, and Oajaca, there are numerous figures sculptured in stone, of various dimensions; and general resemblances of design, conception, and execution may be traced among them, with the exception of those said to be found in Oajaca, in the neighborhood of Mitla.
The style is more florid as the traveller proceeds southward and examines the remains in Yucatan and Chiapas; nor is it at all improbable, that the centre of civilization was comprised within those States, together with Mexico and Oajaca.
In illustration of the first series of this classification of monumental remains, I insert a sketch of the two
By reference to Plate XI.,
Many of the Mexican pyramids were flat-sided, like those of Teotihuacan; but the one at Papantla was built in stages or storys, like that at
and faces north, south, east, and west, in exact correspondence with the cardinal points. It measures sixty-four feet on its northern front above the plinth, and fifty-eight on its western. The distance between the plinth and frieze is about ten feet; the breadth of the frieze, three and one-half; and the height of the cornice, one foot, five inches. When it was perfect, it is said to have been five stories in elevation. The northern front is still most uninjured, and there the bold carving, between three and four inches in relief, is distinctly visible, in all its grotesqueness, as exhibited in the plate. The massive stones, some of which are seven feet eleven inches long, by two feet nine inches wide, are all laid on each other without cement, and kept together by the weight of the whole edifice.
Besides the pyramids comprised in this FIRST CLASS, or Remains of a National Character, there are all the other constructions and edifices which indicate the existence of general and municipal government, religious service, domestic elegance, civic care, defence, and luxury. Distinct types of these are to be found preeminently in the temples and palaces of Uxmal and Palenque, adorned with a singular mingling of cultivated taste and barbaric oddity; in the edifices and fortifications of Quemada, Mitla, and Misantla; in the paved roads at
The second series of remains in this classification comprises the literary antiquities of the aboriginies in this region, and is known as "picture-writing." The principal relics of this character are found in the collections mentioned in the second classification, on page 579.
The Mexican picture-writing was used only for recording facts, apart from abstract ideas. The material used as a vehicle was paper, made of the agave Mexicana; and the figures delineated on it, in profile outline, were generally colored yellow, blue, red, green, and black, without any attempt at perspective or shading. None of the designs can be said to rise to the dignity of "historical pictures," in the modern sense of that artistic phrase; while many of them, when they record particular incidents, resemble
the rude colored sketches of our North American Indians on beech-bark and buffalo-skins, though they are of a more elaborate character.
The picture-writing consisted of an arbitrary system of symbols, denoting years, months, days, seasons, the elements, and events of frequent occurrence; an effort to delineate persons and their acts; and a phonetic system, which, by means of objects, conveyed sounds that, singly or in combination, expressed the facts they were meant to record. But this appears to have been the extent of the art of perpetuating the memory of things among the Aztecs at the time of the conquest; and as the public edifices were full of these documents, which the Spaniards considered the "symbols of a pestilent superstition," nearly all the "picture-writings" were destroyed by order of the first archbishop of Mexico.
The third classification refers to remains connected with religion, or Aztec worship. This religion was a compound of spiritualism and gross idolatry; for the Aztecs believed in a Supreme Deity, whom they called "Teotl," God; or "Ipalnemoani," "He by whom we live;" or "Tloque Nahuaque," "He who has all in himself;" while their evil spirit bore the name of "Tlaleatcololotl," the "Rational Owl." These spiritual beings are surrounded by a number of lesser divinities, who were probably the ministerial agents of Teotl. These were "Huitzilopotchtli," "the god of war," and "
In Plate VIII. I have presented, in Figs. 1, 2, 3, and 4, the front, profile, top, and bottom of an Aztec statue, or idol, said to be that of
public. It is nine feet high, five and a half feet broad, and is cut from a single block of basalt. The plate shows its figure perfectly. "It is a horrid assemblage of hideous emblems. Claws, fangs, tusks, skulls, and serpents writhe and hang in garlands and fantastic forms around the shapeless mass. Four open hands rest upon the bared breasts of a female. In profile, it is not unlike a squatting toad, whose glistening eyes and broad mouth expand above the cincture of skulls and serpents. Seen in this direction, it appears to have more shape and meaning than in front. On the top of the statue there is a cavity; and as the bottom is also sculptured in relief, it is supposed that this frightful idol was suspended aloft by pillars placed under the square projections which are seen near the centre of the body." 739
The gladiatorial sacrifice, which, among the Aztecs, was reserved for noble or courageous captives, was probably performed upon this stone in the ancient city of Tenochtitlan. According to Clavigero, "a circular mass of stone, three feet high, resembling a mill-stone, was placed within the area of the great temple, upon a raised terrace, about 8 feet from the wall. The captive was bound to this stone by one foot, and armed with a sword, or miquahuitl, and shield. In this position, and thus accoutred, he was attacked by a Mexican soldier or officer, who was better armed for the deadly encounter. If the prisoner was conquered, he was immediately borne to the altar of common sacrifice; but if he overcame six assailants, he was rewarded with life and liberty, and permitted once more to return to his native land with the spoils taken from him in war." It is likely that this stone should be more properly called the Gladiatorial than the Sacrificial; but the central bowl and gutter have hitherto induced most persons to suppose it dedicated to the immolation of victims.
The Common Sacrifice was performed by a priest and six assistants in the ordinary temples, and upon ordinary victims. The sacrificer and his acolytes extended the sufferer across the curving surface of an arched stone, while an assistant kept him firmly down by the stone yokes, a specimen of which is seen in Fig. 7, of Plate VII. As soon as the victim's skin and flesh were sufficiently stretched and tightened by this process, the topiltzin cut a deep gash in the breast with an obsidian knife (Plate VII., Fig. 1),
and, thrusting his hand into the wound, tore out the palpitating heart, which he either threw at the feet of the idol, inserted in its mouth with a golden spoon, or reduced to ashes, which were sacredly preserved.
The carving or sculpture on the large stones comprised in this third classification is generally of a medium quality. It is neither very good nor very bad. It cannot be said to belong to the infancy of art, nor is it of the character, either as to design or execution, which would indicate a high stage of tasteful civilization. It is, however, very far removed from barbarism, and infinitely superior in size and finish to the remains of the northern tribes. Specimens of various kinds of carving are shown in
The FOURTH CLASS comprises objects carved from obsidian, or volcanic glass, and embraces
The foregoing figure represents a
collection. If we say that it is as smooth as if cast of glass, in a mould, and then polished with the highest art, we convey exactly the idea with which we are impressed on examining the mask itself.
Cleverly done, as are the
The one represented in the cut, from Peñasco's collection, is six-tenths of an inch high, one-tenth of an inch thick, and nine-tenths and one-twentieth of an inch in diameter. The graceful curves of the exterior and interior surfaces, and the high polish, are perfectly preserved. How did they contrive to work a brittle volcanic substance to such slender dimensions?
The arrow-heads, lance heads, and the pieces used in their miquahuitls, were not so neatly cut or trimmed, and greatly resembled the similar weapons found among the remains of our Indian tribes. Plate VII., Fig. 1, represents a sacrificial knife of obsidian.
The FIFTH CLASS comprises musical instruments, specimens of which are seen in Plate VII. Fig. 2, a flageolet; Figs. 4 and 5, rattles; and Fig. 8, the drum, or Teponaztli. In the hollow, central part, two thin pieces of wood were inserted, as seen in the plate, and beaten to produce sound. The whistles are drawn in Plate III., Figs. 7 and 8.
The SIXTH CLASS is of pottery. This is remarkable for shapes, and the fineness, in many instances, of its texture. It comprises all sorts of domestic utensils: for example, such as are represented in
or impressing-stamps, in Figs. 6 and 7 of Plate IV.; of small images, altars, and figures, in
One of the finest earthenware remains I saw in Mexico is the
There are two of these rare and beautiful objects in the national collection, found, I understood, about twenty years ago, during excavations in the northern suburb of the capital at St. Juan Tlaltelolco, in the neighborhood of the site of one of the Aztec teocallis.
The one represented in
The SEVENTH CLASS comprises miscellaneous articles of stone; as club or mace-heads, arrow-heads, dressing-tools for skins, pounding-stones, corn-grinding and mashing-stones, smoothing-stones, to be heated when used for that purpose, graining-stones grooved for moulding in lines, hatchets, &c. The forms of these articles resemble those of the similar implements used by our own North American Indians in former days; many specimens of which have been engraved in the plates of preceding volumes. In Plate I., Figs. 1 and 2, I have delineated an axe and pounder, to demonstrate this resemblance.
The EIGHTH CLASS embraces the
In order to give the student an adequate idea of these, I have grouped their headdress, coat, shield, bow, arrow, lance, dart, and miquahuitl in the following cut. Of all these weapons, the miquahuitl was the most original. It was a club, into the edges of which six fragments of sharpened obsidian were inserted, so that, when a blow descended, it not only mashed, but tore the victim's flesh.
The NINTH CLASS comprises the only monumental scientific remain with which I am acquainted in Mexico the stone called the "
This stone has been so frequently engraved, and accounts of the Aztec notation of time so often published, that it has been considered useless to present a plate of this ancient monument in our article. The best essays on it are those of Gama, in his "Description de las dos piedras," &c., &c., and in the late Mr. Gallatin's elaborate essay, in the first volume of the Transactions of the American Ethnological Society. "It appears," says Mr. Gallatin, "that the Aztecs had delineated on this stone all the dates of the principal position of the sun, and had ascertained, with considerable precision, the respective days of the two passages of the sun by the zenith of Mexico, of the two equinoxes, and of the summer and winter solstices. They had, therefore, six different means of ascertaining and verifying the length of the solar year, by counting the number of days which elapsed till the sun returned to each of these six points, the two solstices, the two equinoxes, and the two passages by the zenith."
This classification and survey of ancient remains, and the accompanying plates, cannot, in my judgment, but fortify the conqueror's account of Mexican civilization in the sixteenth century. In that age, European civilization was not what it is now. If we visit Egypt, India, Iddom, Nineveh, Asia Minor, Athens, and Rome, the relative grades of these antique states may be discerned in the monumental remains still extant on their soil; and, if we apply the same tests of opinion to the relics at Uxmal, Palenque, Mitla, and Mexico, we must admit that the population of the new world, like that of the old, was very far removed from the uncivilized character that has been ascribed to it. Savages have no cities, palaces, paved roads, extensive fortifications, aqueducts, pleasure grounds, groves, pyramids, and astronomical systems that will bear the test of scientific scrutiny. Their wandering life denies all idea of that permanence which massive and elaborate architecture proves. Their sculpture may be rough in execution; but love of graceful forms precedes sculpture itself and types the mind that conceives and the skill that executes it. Many of their implements, it is true, may be rude; but the results of their labors with such instruments are only the more remarkable, in consequence of the inadequate means by which they were produced. They who made paper and recorded events; who noted time with astronomical accuracy and constructed the Calendar stone; who raised the pyramids of
Chapter II. Notices of the Aboriginal Remains of Art and Labor in the United States.
THE Toltec and Aztec nations presented to the world the ultimate development of the Indian mind of North America, in the highest perfection of its arts and manners, after the lapse of unrecorded centuries, during which it had occupied a vast and fruitful valley, elevated 7000 feet above the surface of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, and quite remote from either, enjoying a tropical and delightful climate. The semi-civilization of these tribes excited the wonder of Europe during the sixteenth century, and it has been the subject of the researches, and of the comments of the brightest minds. Any attempt to add to the actual sum of observation may be deemed a work of supereroogation; but, having taken them as a standard of comparison, an endeavor will be made to draw some conclusions therefrom, which have not hitherto been noticed. The accumulative and cumbrous character of their mythology and religion, the abundance of food, and the consequent density of population in the country, led to the building of temples in which their gods could be publicly worshipped, and the functions of their priesthood conveniently administered.
The same state of affairs did not exist among the Vesperic tribes. Though descended from the same ethnologic stock, possessing the same characteristic features, actuated by the same ideas, speaking a language of the same cumulative structure, and forming a portion of the same generic race, yet the religion of these more northerly tribes required neither temples, revenues, taxes, nor a costly priesthood. They were, it is true, impressed with a similar idea of the importance of sacrificial offerings, but they never resorted to human sacrifices. They were still in their more simple, normal state. They introduced the worship of the sun into the northern forests; but they did not attempt to graft thereupon those cruel and inhuman rites which had characterized the offerings to Huitzilapochtli, or other deities of the Mexican pantheon. There existed no necessity for it in their polity, and neither means nor power to raise such immense structures as those of Cholula, where the magnitude of the undertaking was regarded as a proof of the greatness of the sacrifice. Mounds of earth served them as altars on which to
light their sun fires; on them they sang their wild hymns, and beneath their surface they entombed their great chiefs and kings.
Recognising God in elementary forms, and believing that he appeared to them personally, or to their priests, in the character of wood-demons, or in some form of animated nature, slight and temporary structures, made of poles and bark, sufficed for a shelter, beneath which were performed the mysterious rites of their priesthood. These structures were equally suited for erection in the forests or in the valleys. The summits of isolated hills were frequently chosen for the performance of their simple rites; and when mounds of earth were erected, the invariable presumption is, that the local population was numerous. The tapping of the light hand-drum, or the quick notes of the shishiquon, was sufficient to guide the measures of the dance which preceded or followed these ceremonies; but, if it was a solemn ecclesiastical ceremony, or a periodical national assemblage, the mikwakeek, or heavy drum, was used.
The private skipetagan, or magic arcanum of each professor of the Meda society, was exhibited, and their skill in necromancy, or necromantic media, renewed on these occasions; and the lectures of the leading priests and directors, conjoined with the strict ceremonial observances, which were a feature of these convocations, strengthened and established the faith of the seers, jossakeeds, and professors of the divine arts of magic, medicine, and religion.
The doctrine of the worship of the sun was the structure upon which was based the foundation of their general system; but this luminary was regarded by the United States tribes, agreeably to the revelations of Sagitchiwäosa, as the symbol and representative of intelligence. The fumes of the sacred weed were offered to him; hymns of mystical importance were sung by the medas; and his rising was hailed with a hieratic chant by the priestly classes. No elaborate monuments of stone were needed for the practice, or the perpetuation of such a system; the apex of a mound, or the summit of a conical hill, sufficed. In a valley or on a plain, a few stout pine posts served to mark the sites devoted to those assemblages; where, as at the exhibitions of some occidental caravansera, multitudes assembled to gaze and admire.
In but few places had edifices of a more permanent kind been erected for the accommodation of these public assemblages. The Chegantualguas, at Natchez, had erected a building in which public worship was administered, even as recently as the year 1721; 740 in which, also, an eternal fire was then, though it seems not with rigorous strictness, maintained. We have no positive evidence, and can only conjecture by the apparent astronomical positions, and the enigmatical forms, of the mounds to be found in the West, that the worship of the sun, at the time of the discovery, was still maintained at Marietta, Kaskaskia, Cahokia, and
Owing to the primitive simplicity of the forest rites, which were practised throughout an area extending for thousands of miles over magnificent valleys and plains, no ruins of "temples" were found by the discoverers of this part of the continent. Their rites had not degenerated into the gross systems of idolatry practised at Mexico, Cuzco, and Cholula; and the stipulated fast and feast, the sacred medicine dance, or, more properly, the medawin, was continued down to the settlement of the colonies, and is still one of their prominent institutions.
When a comparison is instituted between the religion of the Aztec tribes and these normal forest rites of the Vesperic tribes, they present the Indian mind in a suggestive point of view. We can observe in the Aztec the same physical features; the same mental traits and idiosyncracies; the same inaptitude to trace effects to their causes; the same surrender of permanent for temporary enjoyment; and the elements of the same word-building languages; but there is a great disparity in the true objects of life and enjoyment; a greater lassitude of moral force; a lack of mental independence; and a greatly diminished degree of personal and military energy. A tropical climate, abounding in fruits, and every means of subsistence, conjoined with a listless and comparatively idle life, demanding no continued exertion, and a long submission to despotic chiefs and priests, seem to have enervated the public mind, and left it a prey to the influence of ambitious rulers, who founded dynasties, exercising a prescriptive and absolute sway. In the time of Cortez, the common Aztec was a slave, who could not even protect his own domestic circle. The despotic sway over the multitude was, in a great measure, the result of the influence of the priesthood; the executive and ecclesiastical races, as we learn from Clavigero, having been either of the same family, or closely connected. The two offices were generally united in the same person, as was manifestly the case with Montezuma and Atahualpa.
The worship of the sun was still the substructure of the Mexican creed, as it was of that of the Vesperic tribes; but, at the era of Cortez, it exercised only a secondary influence. Tribes, after having attained power by following their leaders in battle, set up and worshipped an image of the god of war. Huitzilapochtli was the great idol adored at the era of the Conquest, and to him the sacrifices offered consisted of the hearts of prisoners taken in war, which were torn out of their bodies, while stretched over the sacrificial stone by the sanguinary priesthood, and the body then hurled from the top of their teocalli. (
Chapter III. Antiquities West of the Alleghanies.
FROM the preceding notices of the tribes once resident in Mexico, and in the valley of the Mississippi, we learn that there were two great ethnological families of red men in North America. Occupying different latitudes, separated by climatic barriers, and holding diverse positions in the scale of civilization, they inhabited coterminous countries, and were, in character, sui generis. They coincided in general features, character, habits, and modes of thought and action. The vocabularies of their languages differed; but the grammatical structure of them, and the philosophical principles upon which they were based, were remarkably coincident. Their arts and occupations were also dissimilar; one being an agricultural people, and the other still retaining their normal type of hunters and foresters. The picture-writing of the Aztecs was an improvement on pictography. Their cosmogonies and mythologies were rendered incongruous, and their religion converted into pure daemonology; the latter was founded on a few leading Indian principles, which, though similar to those of the North, had, however, acquired a grosser intensity of error and idolatry. In mental strength they were likewise inferior to the Indians of the North. The climates, fauna, and flora of their countries were different. The position of one people being in the tropical, and the other in the temperate, latitudes, they resorted to different means for obtaining subsistence. There was nothing, however, in which the broad line of separation was more clearly defined than in their modes of government. The American class adhered to a primitive patriarchal, or representative form, under the control of chiefs and councils; the other groaned under a fearfully despotic rule. Both cultivated the zea maize and nicotiana; both raised species of the batata, of beans, and of melons. In the northern latitudes, in lieu of the tropical fruits indigenous in those regions, the papaw, the plum, and the orange 741 offered their tempting products for the use of man. But, while the one class of tribes had not emerged from the simple hunter state, and still roamed through the vast forests of America, filled with animals and birds of every plumage, the other class had made important progress in arts, agriculture, and architecture; which, though tending to their advance in civilization, exercised a depressing
influence on their moral character, and plunged them tenfold deeper into error and mysticism.
The investigation of the antique remains of labor and art, scattered over the Indian country west of the Alleghanies, which was instituted with a view of procuring some clue to the early history of the people formerly resident on the soil, develops a general correspondence between them and those common among the Mexican tribes at the era of the occupation of the Mexican valley by the Chichimacos and Acolhuans, or Tescocans; which event Clavigero places in 1170. 742 These barbarous tribes were not conquered, nor was Tanochtitlan, or Mexico, founded, until 1324. 743 Could the veil of oblivion be lifted from the events which transpired in the Mississippi valley at that date, i. e., one hundred and ninety-five or two hundred years before the advent of the Spaniards in Mexico, it would, in all probability, be found to have been thickly inhabited by fierce, athletic, and barbarous tribes, possessing all the elements of progress known to the Chichimacoans and their associates. These tribes were worshippers of the sun, whom they propitiated by fires kindled on the apex of high hills; they erected sepulchral mounds, in which they interred the remains of their kings or rulers; and they incessantly maintained the same fierce strife with all their neighbors, which has marked the entire Indian race during three and a half centuries. If the Mississippi tribes defended a town, as the existing remains indicate, by ditches and pickets, in which there was a zig-zag gate, conforming to the Tlascalan fashion, precisely the same mode was prevalent among the barbarous tribes of Mexico at the period when our southern stocks segregated from them.
So few traces of art were observable among the Vesperic tribes along the shores of the Atlantic, from the capes of Florida to the St. Lawrence, that, when the population of the colonies began to cross the Alleghanies, and descend into the rich agricultural valleys of the Ohio and the Mississippi, surprise was expressed to find, concealed beneath a forest growth, the ruins of labor and arts, which appeared superior to any known to have been practised by the ancestors of the existing tribes.
The accounts of the fertile soil, genial climate, and natural beauty of the Ohio valley, given, about the year 1770, by hunters and adventurers, appeared, when recounted east of the mountains, like tales of some newly-found elysium, or land of promise. The desire for the acquisition of landed property was universal; America rang with the tale; and a collision of races was the consequent result. The earliest explorations of a reliable character were those which date from the generic era of Washington's youthful visit in 1754. The first, grant of land from the Indians was that made to William Trent and his associates, in 1768, and conveyed the tract situate between the Monongahela and Ohio rivers. 744 Detached tracts were located, and settlements began to be made in 1770; which is the date of the founding of Red Stone, or Brownsville, west of the mountain slope at the
foot of Laurel Hill. Some other locations were made in these valleys between the years 1770 and 1772. At the latter period, explorers reached the noted flats, covered with Indian tumuli, the stream through which hence received the name of
Marietta was, in fact, one of the locations where the antiquarian remains of prior occupancy existed, and still exist, in one of their most striking and enigmatical forms. They embraced the acute form of the ordinary Indian sepulchral mound, but were composed of a raised platform of earth, of the general form of a parallelopipedon, pierced with gates, or spaces, clearly used as public entrances; and, if the outer lines of the raised work be supposed to have been surmounted with wooden pickets, and turrets for marksmen, the whole must have presented a palatial display. The height of the level floor of this fortified establishment could not possibly, have exceeded seven or eight feet; and, though its solid cubical contents were considerable, it was not, probably, beyond the ability of the inhabitants of a populous Indian town to construct. Such a structure, raised by the Toltecs, or Aztecs, or their predecessors, would not have excited remark, either on account of the amount of labor expended on it, or of the skill evinced in its construction; but, being a deserted ruin, in the territories of tribes who possessed neither much art or industry, beyond the merest requirements of pure hunter tribes, they became a theme of conjecture, and excited wonder; the more so, as the discoverers had never seen the evidences of semi-civilization evinced by the Indian tribes of Mexico. As the country filled up with population, other remains of analogous kind were brought to light, most of which were in the form of small sepulchral mounds, or barrows, ditches, or entrenchments once surmounted by pickets; but they excited little remark, except as bearing evidence of the ordinary appearance of an Indian town. The great
the antiquarian found specimens of hammered native copper, 746 steatites for
their war clubs, 772 bows, arrows, and canoes, 773 were constructed with as much ingenuity as those of the semi-civilized tribes of Polynesia. Their musical instruments consisted of a pipe or flute, tambourine, drum, and rattles. 774 The attempts they made to sculpture objects in natural history on their pipes and vases, 775 exhibited much spirit; 776 and their braided work on pouches, as well as on the stems of their pipes of state, 777 displayed the exercise of much patient ingenuity. Had not warfare so completely engrossed their minds, they must have made rapid advances in the arts. Stones, on which were carved figures for embossing skins, or fabrics of bark, intended to be used as clothing, were manufactured with considerable skill. Specimens of two of these, one of which was found in a small mound at Cincinnati, and the other at
copper found on the Ontonagon, in early times, was one of these, which they were evidently compelled to abandon.
The Aztecs did not drive out or conquer the barbarous tribes of Anahuac, and obtain the mastery of that valley until 1325. 780 There are no reasons for believing that the useful metals were known to, or mining practised at all by the Chichimeca or Acolhuan stock; and until this branch of their arts was developed, the northern tribes were in a position to furnish them with supplies of copper, and the crude material for the manufacture of bronze. There is, likewise, ample reason to believe, that the process of mining in the northern latitudes of the region of Lake Superior was carried on, periodically, by persons who derived their sustenance from, or who permanently resided in, the genial plains south of the great lake. The exploration, for some cause, appears to have been suddenly abandoned, as if the miners were driven off by an inroad of barbarous hordes.
From an examination of the ages of trees, as disclosed by the annual deposit of vegetable fibre, the termination of the ancient mound period appears to have occurred in the twelfth, or early in the thirteenth century. There seems then to have been a general disturbance among, and breaking up of the aboriginal stocks. The late Dr. Locke, after counting the cortical rings of trees growing on the ancient work found by him in Ohio, in 1838, determined it to have existed 600 years; which would place its abandonment in 1238. 781 Mr. Tomlinson, the proprietor of the large tumulus at
General George Rogers Clark, whose opportunities for making a personal inspection of the western vestiges of the mound period were extensive, expresses the opinion that these remains do not exceed the age of 500 years; which would place the date of their abandonment about the year 1380. 783 The Kaskaskia chief, Ducoign, being interrogated on the topic, replied that great Indian wars had prevailed, in which the tribes fought desperately, and destroyed each other's strength. 784 This view of their tradition is also taken by the Iroquois, as exhibited in the curious pamphlet history of Cusic. 785
The fortifications constructed by the Mississippi valley tribes were well adapted to the particular kind of enemy to be encountered. Lines of pickets were placed around a village, situated on an eminence, or in the valley, or on the plain. Ditches formed no part of the defensive plan, at least in their technical military sense. They were sometimes located without the walls, and occasionally within. In the former case they denote a contingent state of labor in the construction in the latter, they appear to have been intended
as pits of refuge, or for heroic resistance an Indian feature in fighting. The principal artistic feature in the construction appears to have been the gate, which was, in all cases, formed according to the Tlascalan plan, though varied in sundry ways. The principal object appears to have been to lead the enemy into a labyrinth of passages, in which he would become perplexed how to proceed. Sections of curved walls produced the same effect; and a small mound-shaped redoubt was sometimes used. These various modes of constructing the gateway have been generalized and presented for study, on a single Plate. 786
The tumuli, or mounds, constituted no part of the military defence, though frequently located at or near the entrenched towns; but, being devoted exclusively to ecclesiastical or sepulchral purposes, they were under the care and control of the Indian priesthood. Some of the smaller mounds had been merely circular altars of earth, a few feet in height; but, after serving this purpose a long time, they were heaped up with loose earth into the shape of cones, and left as memorials of the Indian.
The first formal attempt made to investigate the remains of western antiquities was instituted under the auspices of the American Antiquarian Society. The primary volume of the collections of this society was published in 1820, under the title of Archaeologia Americana. In this work the descriptions, accompanied with plates, which were furnished by Mr. Atwater, comprise the earthworks and mounds at Newark, Marietta, Circleville, Paint creek, Portsmouth, in the Little Miami valley, at
flora of the north did not comprise the cotton plant, the luscious fruits, the legumes, the rich dyes and drugs, and other productions peculiar to the tropics, which had been elements of industry to the native Indians of Mexico. Its mineralogy included none of the native precious metals. The zea maize was conveyed north to about latitude 46°, and disseminated to the further shores of New England, and even to the
In 1848, some twenty-eight years subsequent to Mr. Atwater's examinations, the Smithsonian Institution published, in the first volume of its Transactions, a full and comprehensive memoir on the subject, under the caption of "Monuments of the Mississippi Valley;" the information contained therein having been derived from personal surveys, principally made by Mr. E. G. Squier and Dr. Davis. An elaborate account of these remains is given, illustrated by a large number of engravings. In this work descriptions are presented of the principal earth-works of the Ohio and Mississippi Valleys, from minute instrumental examinations. Whatever had been previously described, is reproduced, with much new matter respecting mounds, fortifications, altars, articles of art, and other remains of human labor and ingenuity, found scattered over those vast plains and valleys. The prominent impression produced in the minds of these writers, by a survey of this field is, that the country must have been inhabited by a population vastly more dense than any which has existed there since its discovery; or else, that these accumulated labors are the results of much longer, and more indefinite periods of occupation than is supposed. One great merit of this work is, that extravagant theories are therein avoided. There is, however, a gloss thrown over rude and enigmatical monuments, which presupposes the occupation of the valley in former ages, by a people more advanced in arts and polity than the remote ancestors of the present race of Indians. This conclusion, which is produced by the actual declension of Indian art in the north, since its first occupancy, had been the theory of Mr. Atwater in 1820; it had been entertained by General Putnam and the Ohio colonists, in 1787, and by Dr. Stiles, president of Yale college, to whom the facts were reported. Dr. Webster, the lexicographer, was of the opinion that the question of these antiquities was solved by referring them to De Soto, during his extensive explorations and semi-Quixotic marches, in the early part of the fifteenth century. Yet the most northerly point ever reached by De Soto was Coligoa, on the head-waters of the River St. Francis, in Missouri. This chivalric explorer never erected any fortifications beyond temporary shelters, and the only ditched and staked camp he constructed was the one in which he passed the winter of 1541, after crossing the Ozark range of Missouri and Arkansas. This must be located in the prairie county of the Neosho, on the Arkansas, west of Van Buren.
A prominent feature in the Smithsonian memoir is a description of the fortified
lines, erected around the escarpment of abrupt hills, which commanded a view of the valleys and plains, and gave great capacity of defence to a comparatively small body of men. This appears to have been the Indian mode of fortification, requiring but little labor and less art; yet evincing a strong natural judgment as to the best means of defence against missiles and hand to hand warfare. Possessing no metallic instruments, trees were felled by kindling fires around their trunks, and then beating off the incinerated parts. This process of girdling and ringing supplied them with pickets to erect around the brows of eminences. Gates were frequently constructed in a zig-zag style, which puzzled the enemy, and brought them unawares into labyrinths, or placed them in a position where they could be cut off by a discharge of arrows. 787
Among the peculiar earth-works of the Ohio valley, are the raised earthen platforms at Marietta, Ohio, with their geometrical lines and counter lines, and interior redoubts, which have, on account of their anomalous character, been frequently referred to. It was thought, by the early discoverers, that there must have been a subterranean passage to these works from the Muskingum river. A mound of acute conical form near the smaller platform, indicates that it was only one of the numerous specimens of the Indian architecture. The drawings made by Mr. Atwater and Mr. Squier, exhibit considerable discrepancies, which it is not attempted to reconcile, but of which the reader is left to judge from the accompanying Plate.
The whole field of antiquarian research, as represented in the Mississippi valley monuments, may be regarded as the local nucleus and highest point of development of arts and industry attained by the red race, after their segregation from the nomadic Toltec stocks. These monuments were widely scattered, but they assume the same mixed sepulchral and civic character which is apparent in those found along the Alleghany branch of the Ohio, in western New York, and in other parts of the Union. The largest mounds in the Union, and those which are truncated or terraced, bear the closest resemblance to the Mexican teocalli. They occupy the most southern portions of the Mississippi valley, and Florida. They become less in size as we progress north, and cease entirely after reaching the latitude of Lake Pepin, on the upper Mississippi, the head-waters of the Wisconsin, 788 and the mining excavations of Lake Superior.
Chapter IV. A Glance at the Pictography of the North American Indians.
IT was not alone the mechanic arts that determined the ancient status of the Indians; there was also an inscriptive art, which deserves attention: namely, their pictography, or picture-writing. Lord Kingsborough, through the medium of his magnificent royal folios, attracted special attention to the Mexican picture-writings, and gave rise to the expectation that much valuable historical information would be derived from this source. The skill displayed in the execution of the native parchment scrolls, the richness of the coloring, and the systematic method evinced in the arrangement of the devices, presented an attractive feature in the study of the history of Indian mental development; and it was confidently believed that some phonetic key to these writings would be revealed. Time has, however, fully demonstrated the fallacy of this expectation. These carefully drawn and painted scrolls are purely ideographic and representative, containing a system of signs for days and years, and an astronomical calendar, formed from a long series of observations on the sun's recessions, by means of which the true length of the solar year was determined to within the fractional part of a day. The totemic devices of clans or families, as they appear in the pictorial writings, are carefully depicted as the eagle, lotus, serpent, &c. 789 A small circle, or a congeries of circles, are the symbols of times, phases, and quantities. There is no equivalent for digits, and no device by which to denote sounds. Much of the subject matter of the drawings relates to astrological theories and horoscopes, of which a peculiar and anomalous mythology forms a prominent feature. It was, evidently, an art devised and perfected by the native priests, and constituted the employment of a class of hieroglyphists, or rude scriveners, to whom the subject was fully explained beforehand; and where the pictographic art failed, symbolic characters were substituted, when the device became wholly mnemonic. The entire scrolls could never have been read without these verbal interpretations. The Spanish missionaries who accompanied the conqueror, finding the subjects to be designed by the native priesthood to uphold a system of daemonology, promptly denounced
it, and destroyed the scrolls indiscriminately, without attempting to preserve those portions relating purely to history. It does not appear that the latter constituted any considerable part of their contents. The late Mr. Gallatin, who elaborately examined the Kingsborough collection, found it rather a barren and unfruitful field of historical research. 790 The term "picture-writing" can in truth be only hyperbolically applied to those semi-mnemonic scrolls, for they are a series of paintings, designed to represent natural objects, and not to express sounds.
The system, as it exists amongst the Vesperic tribes, has been more correctly designated pictography. No specimens of it, equalling the beauty of coloring which characterizes the Aztec drawings, have been found among the northern tribes; nor any that indicate achievements in astronomy or arts; but the scrolls of bark, the paintings on buffalo-skins, the inscriptions on trees and
This is the highest development of the pictographic art of the Indians, and is called KEKEEWIN, or instructions. The rock inscriptions are called muzzinabiks. Tabular drawings of its elements as employed in the various grades of Indian life, of which it is designed to commemorate the acts, are exhibited in preceding pages, 793 and herewith reproduced. One of the
the muzzinabik inscriptions exists on a tabular limestone rock, on an island in Lake Erie. 796
The simpler forms of pictography are shown on the Indian adjedatiks, or grave posts, which contain the hieroglyphic memorials of their dead. 797 Its application to hunting (with the magic indicia of the medas), 798 to travel, D., to topography, B., and to trade, C, are fully illustrated. 799 Superstitious traditions are evident in the serpent-guarded king, Atatarho, and in the fiery flying heads, and stonish giants. 800 Biography, or personal exploits, are thus handed down to posterity. 801 The application of it to warlike excursions is shown by a copy of a pictograph drawn on the face of a rock on Lake Superior. 802 The mystic arts of the pow-wow, or prophet, are designated. 803 The totemic uses of the art in distinguishing families and tribes, are also shown. 804
The separation of the elementary from the concrete, in language, pictography, and whatever denotes mental development in the hunter races, does not appertain to the hunter state, but is, at once, one of the proofs of the possession of a logical intellect by civilized man. Yet a modified term for the pictographic art is applied to such of their complicated drawings as imply medical, mystical, or necromantic knowledge. These blendings of mystical ideas with actual knowledge are not simply called kekeewins, but ke-kee-(no)-wins. The best-executed specimens of the kekeenowin are those which are applied by the Indians to the notation of their
The Indians possess no art which is so characteristic of their mental traits as these various forms of
The subjoined fac-simile of an ancient Indian record of a battle-scene, copied by Dr. A. C. Hamlin from the face of
Chapter V. Intrusive Elements of Art From Europe and Asia.
SCANDINAVIAN sagas and records 807 inform us that, in the year 1000, Biorn landed on the American shores of the north Atlantic, in a flat country, which he found to be covered with forests. The following year Leif, son of Eric the Red Head, followed in his track from Greenland. He first discovered a rocky and barren country which he called Helluland, now known as Newfoundland; and then, sailing in a southerly direction, arrived at some lowlands covered with evergreens and forest trees, which he named Markland, subsequently the Acadia of the French, or Nova Scotia. Continuing his voyage in the same direction during two more days, he again saw land, which presented the appearance of a finely wooded shore, with mountains in the distance. Sailing thence, he came to an island, and subsequently to a river, which he entered, and landed on its banks. This country received the name of Vinland.
It is conjectured that Vinland comprised the area at present occupied by the States of Maine and New Hampshire; and the island appears to have been that of
This new theory of the location of Vinland will not have to encounter the nautical and astronomical objections, which have been urged against the geographical position previously assigned to it in Massachusetts and Rhode Island, by the learned association of Copenhagen; a location which is farther, by several days' sail, towards the south and south-west, than the sagas indicate. It also avoids the mal-interpretation of the figures and devices on the Dighton Rock, which are not of Scandinavian origin, or of any alphabetical value whatever; but, as I have suggested in a paper read before the American Ethnological Society, in 1843, 809 and also in my Ethnological Researches, 810 are in the ordinary style of the Indian kekeewin, or mnemonic pictographs. This kekeewin is a rude ideographic mode of communicating thought, by which triumphs in war and hunting, deaths, and other subjects, are commemorated by the Indians. Chingwalk, an Algonquin, versed in this species of the peculiar knowledge of his people, pronounced it to be one of their ancient muzzinabiks, made when their internal wars were rife; and, taking figure by figure, readily explained it to be the record of a victory gained by the chief of the tribe (probably the ancestors of the Pokanokets), over their enemies. 811 A daguerreotype copy of the inscription is herewith submitted. 812
During the establishment of the settlements made in the Onondaga country, in western New York, subsequent to the close of the Revolutionary war in 1783, when settlers were enabled to enter that ancient part of the Iroquois dominions, numerous monumental traces of European occupation were discovered, which excited a local interest. Most of them, however, were found to be the result of the labors of the early French missionaries during the seventeenth century. None of these once enigmatical remains could, it is believed, date farther back than A. D. 1650. A single vestige of an earlier date was brought to light, as the agricultural laborers cut down the forest growth. This was a boulder, on which was inscribed the digits 1520, and Leo VI., which date is eight years subsequent to the discovery of Florida. This
Mr. Jefferson gives a description of an ancient Indian mound, which was opened in eastern Virginia. 815 After the settlements were extended into western Virginia, antiquities of this kind, some of which were of larger dimensions, were frequently found in the forest. At the period referred to by Mr. Jefferson, they were regarded by the Indians as merely places of honorable interment for the remains of their great men; and he states that they were, even at that time, visited by parties of Indians,
journeying through the country, for the purpose of spending a short time in pious reflection and communion with the dead, according to their beliefs. When the settlements reached the Ohio valley, where these rude mausolea of the Indians were very numerous, the changes of manners and customs brought about by the introduction of European society, had led the Indians to drop the practice. Indians of the modern generation were unacquainted with the purport of these mounds. Replies given by the older sagamores to queries propounded, were vague, and may be regarded as having been designed, in some measure, to repress that inquisitive spirit among the emigrants, which is known to be distasteful to the natives, and is calculated to arouse the suspicious character, and awaken the superstitions of the Indians.
During the process of opening the great
During a visit which Mr. Thomas Ewbank made to Brazil and South America, he had his notice directed to some antique instruments made of bronze, belonging to the
We must regard the invention of the distaff as one of the oldest forms of human art. This ancient implement, as well as the blow-pipe, were certainly employed at the period of their highest development by the semi-civilized tribes of Mexico and Peru. Among the Aztecs, the mode of forming the spools of cotton thread from their peculiar distaff, or spindle, which revolved in a bowl, appears, from the picture writings, 818 to have been a laborious art, which it was necessary for the mistress of a homestead to teach to the children at an early age. The arts of
The Rev. George Howe, of Columbia, South Carolina, has described, in previous pages, 820 what appears to be an ancient Indian crucible for melting gold, which was found in one of the present gold diggings of North Carolina, nine feet below the solid surface.
Prior to the introduction of the steel and flint, the Indians produced fire by percussion. The method employed for this purpose was to cause an upright shaft, resting in
an orifice, to revolve rapidly by means of a string and bow. Descriptions of this process have been furnished in preceding pages. 821
No trace has been discovered of that ancient and simple invention, the potter's wheel. All the pottery of America was made by hand, from the most elaborate vases of Peru and Mexico, to the rude akeeks used by the natives of the Mississippi valley, and by the hunter tribes of New England.
To this resumé of the traces of foreign art found in America, must be added the evidences regarding the mining for native copper in the basin of Lake Superior. This topic has been elaborately discussed by Charles Whittlesy, Esq., of Ohio, whose descriptions are given in prior pages. 822 The theory of foreign art is not, however, without objection. The process employed was rude, and does not appear to have been beyond the capacity of the ancestors of the present Indians, who, judging from a survey of our antiquities, possessed a higher state of art prior to the discovery of America by the Europeans. The excavations seem to have been made during short intervals in the summer, by parties who came thither for that purpose from more southerly positions, whence their food was necessarily procured. No degree of art in metallurgy was developed equalling, certainly none surpassing, that known to be possessed by the Toltecs and Aztecs. It is therefore a more rational inference to refer the mining art of the northern tribes to that source, than to indulge in speculations which would assign to it a foreign origin. 823
Chapter VI. Antiquities on the Pacific Coasts of Oregon.
A CRITICAL examination of the
He remarks: "A very interesting subject of inquiry has been pursued by Mr. Schoolcraft, in his endeavor to follow the earth-works of the Ohio and Mississippi valleys into the region west of the Rocky mountains. A careful inquiry among the officers of the Hudson's Bay Company, and the most intelligent free-trappers of Oregon, had satisfied Mr. Gibbs that none such existed in the country. During an examination of the Lower Yakama, however, the old Indian guide who accompanied him pointed out, on the left bank, a work which may possibly be considered as belonging to the same system, although being, so far as is known, a solitary one, it is somewhat questionable. The work consists of two concentric circles of earth about three feet high, with a ditch between. Within are about twenty cellars, situated without apparent design, except economy of room. They are some thirty feet across, and three feet deep, and the whole circle eighty yards in diameter. Captain M'Clellan's party had no time to examine it more particularly, and no tools to excavate. The ground was overgrown with artemisia bushes; but, except the form of the work, there was nothing to attract particular attention, or lead to the belief that it was the remains of any other
than a Yakama village. Their guide, however, who was a great authority on such matters, declared that it was made very long ago, by men of whom his people knew nothing. He added that there was no other like it. It is well posted for defence in Indian warfare, being on the edge of a terrace about fifteen feet high, a short distance from the river, and flanked on either side by a gulley. Outside of the circle, but quite near it, are other cellars, unenclosed, and in no way differing from the remains of villages frequently met with there. The Indians also pointed out, near by, a low hill or spur, which in form might be supposed to resemble an inverted canoe, and which he had said was a ship. It deserves investigation at least whether any relation can be traced between the authors of this and of the mounds in Sacramento valley, yet occupied by existing tribes.
"In this connection may also be mentioned a couple of modern fortifications, erected by the Yakamas upon the Sunkive fork. They are situated between two small branches, upon the summits of a narrow ridge some two hundred yards long, and thirty feet in height, and are about twenty-five yards apart. The first is a square with rounded corners, formed by an earthen embankment capped with stones; the interstices between which served for loop-holes, and without any ditch. It is about thirty feet on the sides, and the wall three feet high. The other is built of adobes, in the form of a rectangle, twenty by thirty-four feet, the walls three feet high, and twelve to eighteen inches thick, with loop-holes six feet apart. Both are commanded within rifle-shot by neighboring hills. They were erected in 1847 by Skloo, as a defence against the Cayuse. We did not hear whether they were successfully maintained, accounts varying greatly in this respect. In the same neighborhood Captain M'Clellan's party noticed small piles of stones raised by the Indians on the edges of the basaltic walls which enclose these valleys, but were informed that they had no purpose; they were put up through idleness. Similar piles are, however, sometimes erected to mark the fork of a trail. At points on these walls there were also many
If the Toltecs had passed down this coast in the eleventh century, with the art which they displayed in Mexico, it appears almost impossible that they should not have left some vestiges of it along the route they pursued.
Schoolcraft, Henry Rowe.. History of the Indian Tribes of the United States: Their Present Condition and Prospects, and a Sketch of Their Ancient Status. Volume 6. . Philadelphia: Lippincott, Grambo and Co, 1857. [format: book; image], [genre: government document; report]. Permission: Northern Illinois University
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