Indian Mound Group at Racine Wisconsin
The following account of the ancient works near Racine, furnished by Dr. Hoy, will be found to contain additional details, with some inferences in regard to their age, and the character of the people who made them.
“The most numerous and extensive group is situated one mile west of the city. It embraces sepulchral mounds, all small, from one to eight feet high, unaccompanied by circles, effigies, or other earth-works. The city cemetery, just located, embraces a part of these mounds, which will be preserved, adding not only beauty but interest to the rural spot.
“On the point of the high bluff marked A on the map is a mound six feet high, in connection with an embankment 235 feet long. This embankment is two feet high, and twelve feet wide at the point nearest to the mound, and tapers gradually to a mere point at its western extremity, near a spring. I am informed that there were formerly other works connected with this, which have been obliterated by cultivation and other improvements. (An enlarged plan of this interesting group is shown on Plate
“A little further east, on the same side of the river, is a single low mound, occupying the projecting point of a bluff. Opposite this, on the north bank of the stream, there is a cluster of mounds crowded into a small space, bounded on the east by a long mound, and on the west by a ‘lizard mound’ 1eighty feet long.
|1 This appellation is given for convenience to a class of mounds having two projections or legs on one side near the larger extremity, without pretending that they were actually intended to represent lizards.|
“The remaining works, situated on the bluff north of those last named, consist of three lizards, one oblong and six conical tumuli, and three inclosures. The two semicircular embankments are situated on an almost inaccessible bluff eighty feet high. The embankments are slight, not over one foot in elevation, and ten or twelve feet broad, but perfectly distinct and well defined. There is some evidence that they formerly constituted graded ways leading to the river. They are tolerably well situated for works of defence, but, without the addition of palisades, could afford no protection. The small circle, from its size and position, could scarcely have been designed for a work of defence. Neither of these has any perceptible ditch on either side; if one formerly existed, it is now obliterated. The ‘lizards’ are much alike, from two to two and a half feet high, and from twelve to fourteen feet broad at the shoulders, the tail gradually tapering to a point. The longest is 130 feet, and the shortest 80 feet in length.
“In addition to the works represented on there is a cluster of eight mounds, situated on a sandy ridge, three-fourths of a mile further south.
“I opened one of the lizards, but found nothing. We excavated fourteen of the mounds, some with the greatest possible care; they are all sepulchral, of a uniform construction, as represented by Fig. 2. Most of them contained more than one skeleton; in one instance, we found no less than seven. We could detect no appearance of stratification, each mound having been built at one time, and not by successive additions. During these investigations, we obtained sufficient evidence to warrant me in forming the following conclusions. The bodies were regularly buried in a sitting or partly kneeling posture, facing the east, with the legs flexed under them. They were covered with a bark or log roofing, over which the mound was built. The apparent confusion in which the skeletons are sometimes found, is owing to their falling over at different angles, at the time, perhaps, of the giving way and caving in of the temporary roofing. It is quite common to find skeletons before reaching the primitive receptacle or pit. These were undoubtedly subsequent interments, made by the modern Indians. They are in a different state of preservation, and are mostly found in an extended posture. All the primitive crania were crushed and flattened by the weight of the superincumbent materials. In two instances, however, I succeeded, by great care and labor, in restoring these flattened fragments to their original shape. One of them is represented on It was found in one of the mounds of the crowded group on the north side of the river. The two are much alike, and quite different in several particulars from the various Indian crania that I have examined. The zygomatic arch has not the same projection, the angle of the cheek-bone is more obtuse, and the orbits are rather less angular than in the modern Indian. The heavy, projecting jaw, and the flattened occiput, are quite characteristic of these ancient mound skulls. Facial angle, 76°. Internal capacity, eighty cubic inches.
“No implements or ornaments were observed in the mounds, excepting in three instances, in which rude pottery was found. The shape of the pots is precisely similar to those said to be used by the Burmese for all culinary operations. They place three stones in a triangle to support the pot in a perpendicular position.
“The disks of hornstone were obtained while digging a ditch through a peat swamp one-fourth of a mile south of the mounds represented on the plate. About forty were taken out. They were situated immediately on the clay stratum, underneath the peat, which was two feet thick at this point. A number of arrow-heads and stone axes have been found in the vicinity.
“In regard to the antiquity of the works at Racine, it may be stated that, on the mound from which I obtained the pottery, there was a burr-oak stump (Quercus macrocarpa), which contained two hundred and fifty rings; and the tree was cut ten years since, when the land was first occupied. Near this I excavated another mound, on the centre of which were the remains of a large stump which must have been much older. Immediately under the centre of this stump I obtained the cranium before mentioned. A stump on the long mound at A has 310 rings; and near by are the remains of a large tree, and an oak stump five feet in diameter. These facts indicate an antiquity of at least a thousand years.
“In conclusion, I must remark that whatever be the legitimate inference drawn from similar works and remains in other places, concerning the state of civilization attained by the mound-builders, the evidence here goes to prove that they were an extremely barbarous people, in no respect superior to most of the savage tribes of the modern Indians.”
Much care has been taken to present an exact figure of the skull discovered by Dr. Hoy, which he proposes to contribute to the museum of the Smithsonian Institution.