Mound Builders Houses


The general view of the house-life and houses of the Indian tribes thus far presented will tend to strengthen the hypothesis about to be stated concerning the earth-works of the Mound-Builders. Apart from the explanation that the long-houses of the Northern Tribes and the joint-tenement house of the Sedentary Indians are capable of affording, they are wholly inexplicable. The Mound-Builders worked native copper, cultivated maize and plants, manufactured pottery and stone implements of higher grade than the tribes of the Lower Status of barbarism; and they raised earth-works of great magnitude, superior to any works of the former tribes. They fairly belong to the class of Sedentary Village Indians, though not in all respects of an equal grade of culture and development. Their embankments, which inclosed a rectangular space, were in all probability, the foundations upon which they erected their houses. It is proposed to consider these embankments under this hypothesis.
Under the name of Mound-Builders certain unknown tribes of the American aborigines are recognized, who formerly inhabited as their chief area the valley of the Ohio and its tributary streams. Traces of their occupation have been found in other places, from the Gulf of Mexico to Lakes Erie and Superior, and from the Alleghanies to the Mississippi, and in some localities west of this river.
Without entering upon a discussion of these works, this chapter will be confined to four principal questions:
I. The house-life of the American aborigines, in the usages of which the Mound-Builders were necessarily involved.
II. The probable center from which the Mound-Builders emigrated into these areas.
III. The uses for which their principal earth-works were designed, with a conjectural restoration of one of their pueblos; and,
IV. The probable numbers of the people.
The Mound-Builders have disappeared, or, at least, have fallen out of human knowledge, leaving these works and their fabrics as the only evidence of their existence. Consequently the proposed questions, excepting the first, are incapable of specific answers; but they are not beyond the reach of approximate solutions. The mystery in which these tribes are enshrouded, and the unique character of their earth-works, will lead to deceptive inferences, unless facts and principles are carefully considered and rigorously applied, and such deductions only are made as they will fairly warrant. It is easy to magnify the significance of these remains and to form extravagant conclusions concerning them; but neither will advance the truth. They represent a status of human advancement forming a connecting link in the progressive development of man. If, then, the nature of their arts, and more especially the character of their institutions, can be determined with reasonable certainty, the true position of the Mound-Builders can be assigned to them in the scale of human progress, and what was possible and what impossible on their part can be known.