Historic Description of Licking County, Ohio's Ancient Flint Ridge


Historic Description of Licking County, Ohio's Ancient Flint Ridge
     
Two boys sitting on an outcrop of flint at Flint Ridge.

   That the Mound Builders once occupied, the Flint ridge admits of no doubt; they still exist works, of which there are some eight or ten in number, albeit some of them have been almost obliterated by the plow, furnish ample proof. They are all composed of earth except one, which was constructed of flint stones; and they are all either sepulchral or signal mounds, varying in height from five feet to fifteen feet, and in diameter from ten feet to a hundred feet. Some of them have been opened and found to contain the usual deposits of ashes, charcoal, bones, skeletons, pottery (in fragments), and some mound builders' implements. In two of them were found shell beads, stone axes, and arrowheads. One of the signal mounds, or mounds of observation, says Mr. William Anderson, an intelligent and enthusiastic archaeologist, formerly a resident of the ridge, commands a view of another some five miles distant to the southwest, and he states that from said mound (which is also one of observation), he followed the line of signal mounds to the Ohio river, at a point in Meigs county. The flint mound was, on exploration, ascertained to be of the sepulchral class, two skeletons being found within it, together with some beads and mica in sheets, eight by ten inches in size. The beads were made of marine shells, such as are found in the Gulf of Mexico, with few of river mussel, pierced for the cord or string. "Of lines of circumvallation, there are several circular enclosures, and one four-sided figure (parallelogram). Their walls vary in height from two feet to five feet, and in diameter from thirty feet to one hundred feet. The banks of one of them was ascertained to be composed, in part, of stone. When openings occur in the enclosures, they are on the east side. "It has been long known (says Colonel Charles Whittlesey, in Historical Tract, No. 5, page 36), that a flint bed existed on Flint ridge, that had been extensively quarried in ancient times, the hundreds of old pits, some of them twenty feet deep, and covering more than a hundred acres, bear testimony to the extent of the labors of the Mound Builders here. These pits or "wells," as they are provincially called, are partially filled with water, and are surrounded by broken fragments of flint stones that had undoubtedly been rejected by those who attempted, but tailed to shape them into implements, for only clear and homogeneous pieces could be wrought into knives and arrow or spear-points. With what tools and appliances the ancients wrought such extensive quarries, has not yet been settled. This flint, continues Colonel Whittlesey, is of a grayish white color, with cavities of brilliant quartz crystals. It appears the stones were sorted and partially chipped into shape, on the ground, after which they were carried great distances over the country as an article of traffic. Many acres of ground are now covered with flint chips, the result of this trimming process. The business of manufacturing arrow-points, scrapers, knives, spears, axes, wedges and other implements, was doubtless a trade among the Mound Builders, as the making of some of them, at least, is known to have been among the Indians. In deed, that branch of manufactures' (the making of flint knives. spears and arrow-points), is now flourishing among the Digger Indians of California, who in their mental and moral development fairly represent the diluvial cave-dwellers. There is a strong probability that all the pointed and sharp-edged articles made of flint were, after being wrought into their general form, brought to completion and given their sharp point or edge, by violent pressure, that is, by the use of the thumb stones. Col. Whittlesey, than whom there is no higher authority on this point, thinks that flint knives, spears, and arrow-points were made and used more extensively by the Red men than by the Mound Builders, for the reason that the latter, being agriculturists and probably a pastoral people, had less frequent occa sion to use them than the former, who were more given to the chase and to war. Roth, however, undoubtedly used them more or less as hunters and in their amusements. The late Colonel J. V. Foster, an eminent scientist, and distinguished as the learned author of " Pre-Historic Races of the United States," says that the deposit on the Flint ridge is in the form of a chert, often approaching to chalcedony and jasper in external characters, and that it afforded an admirable material for arrow heads. From the abundance of flint chip- pings he thought this locality was evidcntly^much resorted to and its deposits extensively wrought into various implements, and largely utilized by both the Mound Builders and Indians. These were his conclusions after tolerably thorough explorations of the ridge more than forty years ago, while a member of the first geological corps of Ohio. ' Here the ancient arrow-maker Made his arrowheads of quartz rock— Arrowheads of chalcedony, Arrow-heads of chert and jasper — Smoothed and sharpened at the edges, Hard and polished, keen and costly.' 'Dr. Hildreth, in his report submitted to the legislature of Ohio, in 1838, says, 'that from a remote period the Flint ridge, which he had just had under examination, had furnished a valuable material to the aboriginal inhabitants for the manufacture of knives, spears and arrowheads. How extensively it had been worked for these purposes may be imagined from the almost countless numbers of excavations and pits yet remaining from whence they dug the quartz ; experience having taught them that the rock recently dug from the earth could be split with much greater facility than that which had been exposed to the weather. " The American Antiquarian Society of Worcester, Massachusetts, in 1818, accented for publication, an elaborate paper from Caleb Atwater, esq., of Ohio, descriptive of western antiquities, in which a page was devoted to the Flint ridge. He made mention of its hundreds of pits, or 'wells,' some of which being then (sixty-two years ago), more than twenty feet deep, giving the opinion that they were manifestly not dug, whether by the Mound Builders or Indians, or both, to procure water, either fresh or salt, nor in pursuit of the precious metals, but to secure a softer and more workable quartz, or flint, than was present on the surface, for manufacture into spearheads, knives, and arrow-points. And on that point there is now but Little difference of opinion. It may be observed that the excavations above mentioned date back to a period anterior to the time of the first settlement of the country by the white race. "Professor Read, on page 354, of the third volume of the .Geology of Ohio,' observes that 'any one traversing the Flint ridge for the first time, would be surprised to find such a deposit on such a geological horizon. It simulates very accurately the broken-up debris of a vertical dike, the fragments often covered with perfect crystals of quartz, the rock itself being highly crystalline and often translucent. It is something of a puzzle, " he continues, * to understand how such a deposit is found in a series of undisturbed and unmodified sedimentary rocks. The adjacent surfaces of two blocks of the chert are often found covered with quartz crystals of considerable size, as thoroughly interlocking with each other as if one were the cast and the other the mould.' The learned professor seems to be at a loss to imagine conditions which would spread such a       deposit over the floor of a sea or any other body of water, but inclines to the opinion that a substitution of silicious matter deposited from solution, in the place of a soluble limestone previously deposited, is the most plausible view of the case. "Heaps or piles of flint chippings, composed of unworkable or broken pieces, and of imperfect, half-finished and spoiled implements, found in various localities remote from Flint ridge, and not in the vicinity of any known deposit of that material, but exactly corresponding in quality with that on the ridge, raises the presumption that considerable of the flint quarried there was carried away and manufactured elsewhere. Much of it, however, as the quantity of chips around the quarries indicate, was doubtless put into shape there. "Mr. Anderson, of whom I have already made mention, several years ago, explored and further excavated quite a number of the pits or "wells" on the ridge, and reported finding some stone axes, flint disks, and some balls, apparently well- worn, made of greenstone. More careful, thorough and extensive exploration of the pits or "wells" of the Flint ridge would undoubtedly result in giving us much more information than we now possess, as to the character of implements used, and the modes of mining practiced there, by the earlier races, whoever they were, and whenever they made these excavations on the ridge. "Some modern excavations have 'been made on Flint ridge, by individuals and associations, to find out what the ancient diggers were after, and some of them also prospected for lead, silver and gold, but without valuable results.
    "Considered physically, intellectually and morally, the Mound Builders probably held an intermediate position between the Caucasians and the most civilized portion of Mongolians above them, and the uncivilized inhabitants of the interior Of the Malay peninsula below them. "The Mound Builders were undoubtedly a numerous people and if numerous of necessity an agricultural people; a people uf some mechanical skill, a people who had probably estab lished a strong government by which they were readily held in subjection; a people of some mathematical and engineering knowledge, a superstitious people given to sun worship, and to the offering of animal and sometimes of human sacrifices- Reasons can be given for each of the above expressed opin" ions, but I will not occupy space for that purpose; moreover, those reasons will naturally suggest themselves to every one who has carefully examined the subject. For a more elaborate presentation of matters twrtaining to this ancient race, see 'Ohio Statistics for 1877,