Mass Graveyard Discovered Within Prehistoric Earthen Fort in Jefferson County, New York

Mass Graveyard Discovered Within Prehistoric Earthen Fort in Jefferson County, New York





The slightest and much the rudest structure discovered in Jefferson county, is the one here delineated. It is situated about a hundred rods back from the brow of the terrace, already so often referred to, and which here rises abruptly from the inferior level, presenting a bold, and in some places, a precipitous bank.

Notwithstanding its elevation, this terrace has numberless depressions or basins, which are wet and marshy. Upon a slight elevation, in the midst of one of these, and still covered with a primitive forest, is the work in question. It will be observed that it is exceedingly irregular, and that the lines are interrupted by several wide openings, which are quite too broad to be regarded as gateways.
The embankment is not of uniform dimensions. In some places it is elevated but a foot or eighteen inches, by four or five feet base, while in others it is perhaps three feet in height. The ditch is also irregular,—in sections scarcely exceeding a large plough furrow in depth and width. In fact, the work seems imperfect, and to have been constructed in haste for temporary purposes. Within the area, which is quite uneven, are several small accumulations of stones, which bear the marks of fire. Upon removing some of them, the proprietor of the ground found ashes and other burnt matter, amongst which was a carbonized ear of maize. A small but entire vessel of pottery, of considerable symmetry of shape, was also found here some years since.
Human bones have been discovered beneath the leaves; and in nearly every part of the trench skeletons of adults of both sexes, of children, and infants, have been found, covered only by the vegetable accumulations. They seem to have been thrown together promiscuously. They have also been found in a narrow depression resembling an artificial trench, indicated by a dotted line in the plan, and caused by the subsidence of the earth in a cleft of the limestone substratum. These skeletons, from all accounts, do not seem to have been much decayed, and no difficulty was experienced in recovering them entire. The skulls were in some cases fractured, as if by a blow from a hatchet or club. These circumstances would seem to imply, not only that the work is of comparatively late construction, but also that this was the scene of one of those indiscriminate massacres so common in the history of savage warfare.