Mound Builder Facts


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;[15] [] therefore they are called “Mound-Builders,” this name having been suggested an impoant class of their works.

Fig. 2.—The Great Mound, near Miamisburg.
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.
 represents the great mound near Miamisburg, Ohio, which may be compared with a similar structure at Mayapan, Yucatan shows a square mound near Marietta, Ohio.

Fig. 3.—Square Mound, near Marietta.
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[18] 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 fur[19]nished 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. shows the works at Cedar Bank, Ohio, inclosing a mound. The mound within the inclosure is 245 feet long by 150 broad.  shows a group of mounds in Washington County, Mississippi, some of which are connected by means of causeways.

Fig. 4—Works at Cedar Bank, Ohio.

Another class of these antiquities consists of inclosures formed by heavy embankments of earth and stone.[20] 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 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.”
Fig. 6.—Works at Hopeton, Ohio.

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. shows the remains of a graded way of this ancient people near Piketon, Ohio.

Piketon, Ohio Sacred Via