The Anglo-Saxons were not the first people to occupy this
country, neither were their precursors the red Indians. There are
throughout a large portion of the Ohio and Mississippi Valleys, as
well as other sections of the country, remains of a former race of
in-habitants found, of whose origin and history we have no record,
and who are only known to us by the relics discovered in the tumuli
which they have left. The Mound-Builders were a numerous people,
entirely distinct from the North American Indians. Their footprints
may be traced wherever the Mississippi and its tributaries flow.
Says a writer upon the subject: " Traces of them are found in the
fertile valleys of the West, and along the rich savannas of the
South; upon the Ohio, the Kentucky, the Cumberland, the Licking,
upon the streams of the far South, and as far north as the Genesee
and the head waters of the Susquehanna; but rarely upon mountainous
or sterile tracts, and almost invariably upon the fertile margins of
navigable streams." These ancient people were industrious and
domestic in their habits, and enjoyed a wide range of communication.
From the same mound, antiquarian research has gathered the mica of
the Alleghenies, obsidian from Mexico, native copper from the
Northern Lakes, and shells from the Southern Gulf.
The Mound-Builders lived while the mammoth and mastodon were upon
the earth, as is clearly proved by the carvings upon their stone
pipes, but our knowledge of them is very incomplete and mostly
conjectural. It is sufficient, however, to show that at least a
portion of this country was once inhabited by a people who have
passed away without leaving so much as a tradition of their
existence, and who are only known to us through the silent relics
which have been buried for centuries in the mounds heaped above
them. Thorough excavation, careful survey, accurate measurement,
exact delineation and faithful description may assist materially in
the formation of sound and definite conclusions concerning these
peculiar elevations. Were they sepulchres, temples or fortresses?
Beneath this sloping area, the Mound-Builder might have buried his
dead; from it flung defiance to a foe; upon it made sacrifice to the
gods. These conjectures suggest many knotty questions, questions
that have never been satisfactorily answered, and perhaps never will
be, but they form at least a sound basis for extended and systematic
investigation (Dr. Pickett).
Mounds in Kentucky
One of the most perfect specimens of the Temple Mound, and one of
the best preserved, even as late as 1820, was near Lovedale, in
Woodford County. In shape it was an octagon, and measured 150 feet
on each side. It was about six feet high, and had three graded
ascents, one at each of the northern angles, and one at the middle
of the western side. Another very interesting mound of this
character, and one that has excited a great deal of interest, is in
Greenup County. It is described as " a circular work of exquisite
symmetry and proportion, consisting of an embankment of earth 5 feet
high by 30 feet base, with an interior ditch 25 feet across by 6
feet deep, enclosing an area of 90 feet in diameter, in the center
of which rises a mound 8 feet high by 40 feet base; a narrow gateway
through the parapet and a causeway over the ditch lead to the
enclosed mound." Near this mound is what appears to be the remains
of a fortification, and is thus described by Prof. Pickett:
In Christian County there are a number of mounds and earthworks that are supposed to be relics of the Mound-Builders, and several of which are still plainly discernible. A list of all the ancient monuments, mounds and earthworks in Kentucky, was made in 1824, by C. S. Rafinesque, at one time Professor of Natural Sciences, etc., in old Transylvania University at Lexington, and published in the second edition of Marshall's History of Kentucky. In this list Prof. Rafinesque puts the number of works in Christian County at 17: 5 " sites," and 12 " monuments." Some of these have been examined by citizens of the county, and a number of bones, and even perfect or almost perfect skeletons discovered. The writer has conversed with several persons who have been present at the opening of mounds in the county, in which skeletons were found, and their descriptions agree with archaeologists, that these bones and skeletons must have belonged to the pre-historic people. In subsequent chapters further reference will be made to these local works. The Indians - After the Mound-Builders came the red Indians. The means by which the latter came into possession of the country have been discussed at length by archaeologists, but with no satisfactory results. Whether the Mound-Builders lived their time upon the earth, and then passed away entirely, to be, in the long course of ages, succeeded by another race of human beings, or whether they were exterminated by the Indians whom the Europeans found in possession of the soil, we do not, and probably never will know. The Delaware Indians had a tradition, that many centuries ago, the Lenni-Lenape, a powerful race which swept in a flood of migration from the far West, found a barrier to its eastern progress in a mighty civilization, which was entrenched in the river valleys east of the Mississippi. The Lenni-Lenape formed a military league with the Iroquois, proclaimed a war of extermination against these people, and drove them southward in disastrous retreat. There is another tradition that the primitive inhabitants of Kentucky perished in a war of extermination waged against them by the Indians. Upon such traditions as these is based the theory that the Indians conquered the Mound-Builders, and drove them from the country or exterminated them altogether. The origin, also, of the Indian race is a question at once puzzling to those who have given it their study, and many theories have been advanced, all alike more or less unsatisfactory. One hypothesis is that they were an original race indigenous to the Western Hemisphere; another, that they are an offshoot of Semitic parentage, while some imagine, from their tribal organizations and faint coincidences of language and religion, that they were the descendants of the ancient Hebrews. Others still, with as much propriety, contend that their progenitors were the ancient Hindus, and the Brahmin idea, which uses the sun to symbolize the Creator of the universe, has its counterpart in the sun-worship of the Indians. An able writer of the period says: " Although the exact place of origin may never be known, yet the striking coincidences of physical organization between the oriental types of mankind and the Indians, point unmistakably to some part of Asia as the place whence they emigrated. But the time of their roving in the wilds of America is probably thrice the period which has been assigned to, them. Scarcely 3,000 years would suffice to blot out almost every trace of the language they brought with them from the Asiatic cradle of the race, and introduce the present diversity of aboriginal tongues. At the time of their supposed departure eastward (3,000 years ago), a great current of emigration flowed westward to Europe, and thence proceeding farther westward, it met, in America, the midway station in the circuit of the globe, the opposing current direct from Asia. The shock of the first contact was the beginning of the great conflict, which has since been waged by the rival sons of Shem and Japheth." These are some of the many theories and conclusions arrived at by archaeologists and writers upon the subject. But in the absence of all authentic history, and even when tradition is wanting, any attempt to point out definitely the particular theater of their origin must, as we have said, prove unsatisfactory. Their origin is involved in quite as much obscurity as that of the Mound-Builders who preceded them.
Copyright 2002-2014 by
The WebPages may be linked to but shall not be reproduced on another site without written permission.