Friday, June 16, 2006

Ancient Monuments - c. 1847

by JimP
The following is an excerpt from a report found in the Smithsonian Contributions To Knowledge, Vol 1 - published in 1847. The report is entitled Ancient Monuments of the Mississippi Valley by E. G. Squier A. M., and E. H. Davis, M. D. This is from a chapter called Stone Heaps, and the excerpt begins as the authors describe rock piles that overlook a valley called Salt Creek in Tarlton, Ohio.

Smaller and very irregular heaps are frequent amongst the hills. They do not generally embrace more than a couple of cartloads of stone, and almost invariably cover a skeleton. Occasionally the amount of stones is much greater. Rude implements are sometimes found with the skeletons. A number of such graves have been observed near Sinking Springs, Highland County, Ohio; also in Adams County in the same state and in Greenup County, Kentucky, at a point nearly opposite the town of Portsmouth on the Ohio.

Heaps of similar character are found in the Atlantic States, where they were raised by the Indians over the bodies of those who met their death by accident, or in the manner of whose death there was something unusual. Dwight, in his Travels*, mentions a heap of stones of this description which was raised over the body of a warrior killed by accident, on the old Indian trail between Hartford and Farmington, the seat of the Tunxis Indians, in Connecticut. Traces of a similar heap still exist on the old trail between Schenectady and Cherry Valley in New York, with which a like tradition is connected, They were not raised at once, but were the accumulations of a long period, it being the custom for each warrior as he passed the spot to add a stone to the pile. Hence the general occurrence of these rude monuments near some frequented trail or path.

*Travels in New-England and New-York, 1821-22 by Timothy Dwight (published posthumously)


pwax said...

I wrote about the "Donation Pile Myth" earlier see this:

Donation piles are real and well documented but their lack of structure and position at a coincidential location makes them the least interesting type of rock piles.

JimP said...

I remembered your entry on the donation pile myth and that was part of the reason I was moved to post that quote.

I thought the quote was meaningful for three reasons - first, it is one of the very few examples (in Smithsonian literature no less) of so-called experts acknowledging Indian-built rock piles in Southern New England. As you know, that alone is a rarity.

Second, the quote (in my opinion) buffers your stance on the donation pile myth. It gives us a glimpse of how and why this area of archeaology has been dismissed and entirely passed over in this part of the country for two centuries.

Finally, the publication itself, although dismissive of rock piles in Southern New England, is an excellent early resource for similar ancient stonework found in other parts of the country, especially Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee.

pwax said...

Good points