ANCIENT WORKS IN THE BASIN OF ROCK RIVER AND ITS BRANCHES.
THE Rock River country is favorably known as among the most fertile and beautiful in the broad West. The early settlers were eager to reach this valley; and it has now become the centre of a numerous, thriving, and intelligent population. It occupies the central portions of the southern and most populous part of the State; having an area of five thousand five hundred and fifty square miles. At Beloit, where the river passes into Illinois, it has an elevation of one hundred and thirty-eight feet; and the rim of the great basin is from three hundred to eight or nine hundred feet above the level of Lake Michigan.
Ancient works exist in this valley below the State line; but of their nature and extent I have been able to obtain no very particular information. It is believed that they are of less importance than those to the north; and, with the exception of some of the turtle form as far south as Rockford, they do not assume those peculiar imitative figures so characteristic of the mounds of Wisconsin. North of the State line, the mounds are profusely scattered over this broad valley (as will be seen by reference to the map), reaching to the very sources of some of the branches.
The following statement is from the Narrative of an Expedition to the Source of St. Peters River, &c., under the command of Captain Long, in 1823:
On both banks of the Kishwaukee, not far from its mouth, there are many mounds in every respect similar to those met with on Fox (Pishtaka) River, but scattered along the bank without any apparent order. Mr. Say counted upwards of thirty of these mounds. It is probable that they were the cemeteries of a large Indian population, which resided along the banks of the Kishwaukee, and which, perhaps, had its principal village at the beautiful confluence of this stream with Rock River.1
Only one locality of any importance was found on the Pekatonica, a branch of Rock River that has its rise in the centre of the lead-mine region, where ancient works had been constructed. The necessities of these builders probably did not include lead, for in this region but few works are seen; and we find no indications [page 33:] of ancient mining as at the copper mines of Lake Superior. The copper ore associated with the lead was beyond the reach of their metallurgic arts. The works alluded to are sketched onPlate XXV, and consist of several oblong, or circular, and one tapering mound; the last destitute of appendages, or other indications of its relation to the turtle and lizard forms, found further east.
They are situated on the sloping ground, and extend from the top of the hill half way to the river. The soil is here sandy, being in the district of the sand-stone, which is seen cropping out along the road near by. There is nothing to distinguish them from others more within the proper region, as it were, of the mound-builders. One of them had been opened prior to our visit, from which bones were said to have been obtained. Indian graves while exposed along the margin of the river, furnished a few glass beads and some trinkets.
The valley of Sugar river, a considerable stream between the Pekatonica and Rock rivers, appears also to have been avoided by the mound-builders. We could hear of only a few unimportant mounds on sections fourteen and fifteen, township four, range seven; and on thirty-five and thirty-six, township four, range six. None could be heard of about Monroe and Exeter, where lead is dug in considerable quantities. For some unknown reason, they seem not to have occupied this mineral region.
A few mounds of no great interest were seen about Delavan lake, also in and near Beloit, which were not minutely examined by me, but have since been surveyed by Prof. S. P. Lothrop, of Beloit College. (See Plates LIV, LV.) Proceeding up the immediate valley of Rock river, the first works worthy of note are near the junction of the outlet of the four lakes at Fulton.
Plate XXVI represents the works at a place known as Indian Hill, about a mile above the mouth of the outlet. Here is a series of oblong mounds on the steep slope of the hill, converging towards a point where there is a dug-way leading to the river. The hill has an elevation of seventy or eighty feet, and from its summit the valley of the river can be overlooked for several miles above and below. It may be that this was one of the most important posts of observation, and that the peculiar arrangement of the mounds was intended to guard the access to the water from the top of the hill.
The hill is quite steep, and at present covered with trees and an under-growth of hazel-bushes. The graded way has been increased in depth by running water, but it bears evidence of having originally been constructed by art.
At the intersection of Main and State streets, in the village of Fulton, is an irregular oval earth-work, consisting of a flat ridge, and resembling the road-way of a modern turnpike. (See Plate XXV, No. 2.) The breadth varies from thirty to forty feet, and the elevation from two to three feet in the middle. The diameters of the oval are five hundred and three hundred feet. Such a structure might have had its uses in some of the public games or ceremonies of uncivilized life; but it would be idle to attempt to ascertain its particular purpose.
Besides the works already mentioned in this vicinity, there are numerous tumuli of the ordinary circular form, supposed to be sepulchral. They are occasionally [page 34:] arranged in rows, more or less regular, along the margin of a brook or valley, as shown by Fig. 10. Usually two or three mounds near the middle of the row are larger than the others.
Three are found on the east side of the outlet, half a mile below Fulton, and a group a mile above the town. Two miles above, on section eleven, is a group of eight (see Fig 10), situated on the edge of a prairie, so as to be seen in profile, as represented in the figure. About a mile below the village, there is a group of fourteen, and another on the side of Rock river. All these are circular mounds, unaccompanied by others of imitative forms, &c. Some have been opened, and are said in most cases to have contained remains of human skeletons, frequently of several persons in the same tumulus.
We visited the mounds noted by the surveyors of the public land near the northeast corner of the town of Dunkirk, in Dane1 county. When seen from a distance, they might readily be mistaken for a group of large, ancient, artificial mounds but closer observation shows that they are only abrupt natural swells of elevations, here very numerous, which have been aptly compared to the waves of the sea.
The sketch (Fig. 11) was taken with the aid of a card, in the centre of which was a square opening crossed by threads, so as to form little squares, as recommended by Mr. Parrot.1
A few miles above Fulton, the river expands into a broad and shallow lake, known by its Indian name of Koshkonong, said to mean the lake we live on. It is eight miles long, with an average breadth of two miles and five eighths; the periphery, measuring all the sinuosities of the shore, is twenty-eight miles and three quarters; the area, twenty-one square miles. According to the report of Capt. T. J. Cram, there is a rapid current, extending about six hundred feet into the lake, with a depth of water of only from two to three feet. In the other portion of the lake, on the usual channel or track for boats and rafts, the water is from four [page 35:] to twelve feet deep. At the time of our visit (July, 1850), wild rice1 was growing abundantly over almost its whole surface, giving to it more the appearance of a meadow than a lake. Fish and mollusks also abound in its waters, finding plenty of food in the warm mud beneath, and among the roots and stems of the grass and rushes.2
This locality being thus abundantly supplied with the means of subsistence relied upon in a great degree by the American Indians rice and fish we were not surprised to find numerous traces of Indians on the banks of the lake, which are known to have been occupied until a very recent period. There are two prominent points projecting into the water from the south shore, which were favorite spots with the natives. At the easterly point, called Binghams Point, bones of fishes, with shells (various species of Unio), are very abundant, enriching the soil by their gradual decay.
On these points were also found remains of pipes, copper kettles, rusty gun-locks, and knives of old fashioned forum, nearly destroyed by rust and decay. From the other, or Thebean Point,1 we obtained arrow-points, and a triangular ornament of stone, which had probably been brought from Ohio.
On Thebean Point are traces of mounds; and a little further up the lake commences a series of works extending about two miles along the high lands which border upon that portion of it. Some of these works are represented on Plate XXVII.
As in other cases, it will be noticed that the turtles have their heads turned towards the lake, and in a southerly direction. They differ from those heretofore described, in the more eastern portions of Wisconsin, in the diminished length of the tail. It will be observed that there are several mounds of forms varying from those before mentioned in this work. The one at a, of which an enlarged plan is given on the plate, with its dimensions, may be deemed a modification of the lizard-mounds of eastern Wisconsin. Near it is one with a slight appendix, which has been compared to a tadpole. Next to this is a tapering mound, with a slight curve at the smaller extremity. The three, connected by a ridge that extends beyond them in both directions, are quite peculiar. Unfortunately, the lateness of the evening prevented our making a triangulation of the three-pronged mound at the top of the plate; a circumstance which we regretted less, from having previously surveyed several of the same kind, hereafter to be described.
As happens in many other cases, these mounds are placed on high and commanding situations; evincing a taste for beauty of scenery, or a watchfulness, perhaps, rendered necessary by the proximity of enemies. The ground is very uneven, presenting many prominent swells, occupied by the most important mounds, and numerous depressions in the surface, usually of an oval form, caused, perhaps, by the carrying away of soft materials from below by running water; thus leaving the surface unsupported, and ready to sink into pits or depressions. They are now [page 36:] covered with trees, shrubs, and herbage, as are also the other grounds in the vicinity.
Fort Atkinson is the name of a flourishing village on Rock river, a little below the mouth of Bark river. In this vicinity are several groups of mounds, usually in irregular rows, three or four at a place. Some very large burial tumuli, half a mile below the town, on the right bank of the river, have been opened by citizens of the place. One, the largest, is ten feet high and sixty feet in diameter, composed in part of gravel, taken doubtless from the bed of the river, but mixed with the black earth of the surface.
Graves of Indians were passed in penetrating this; and at the bottom was a cavity lined with clay, hardened apparently by water, with an impression, as was supposed, of the rough exterior surface of oak bark, as if a log of this wood had been buried, now entirely decayed and gone; or, perhaps, it was a skeleton enveloped in bark for interment. It will be remarked that, in opening mounds and penetrating to the original deposits, but few implements or ornaments of any kind are found. In this respect, the Wisconsin mound-builders differed from their successors, who are in the habit of burying articles of supposed value and utility with their dead; and from this fact it may perhaps be inferred that they had less material notions of the spirit world, or at least of the necessities of those who were on the journey to that happy land.
Half a mile below the group of circular mounds last referred to, is the remarkable succession of works represented on Plate XXVIII, No. 1. The excavation has been before alluded to. (See pages 15 and 18.) In its general character it is precisely like those near Milwaukee, and the one on the school section at Pewaukee. (See page 31.) in shape it very much resembles some of the figures that have been denominated lizards. (See Plate IX, Fig. 7.) Are we, then, to consider this as of the same origin, formed in the inverse order, and for similar purposes as the mounds? As at Milwaukee, a large mound stands near the smaller extremity.
These works are situated on the immediate bank of the river, which here has an elevation of ten or fifteen feet. The irregular cross at the west end of the group is quite peculiar, as are also the elongated and tapering mounds at the opposite extremity, which, in shape, may be compared to the tear drop! One cross near the fence is exactly like those of Waukesha and Crawfordsville. (Plates XVII and XXII.) The road runs directly over several of these mounds, and they will soon be destroyed and forgotten. Then, the present record only can be referred to as evidence of their former existence, and of their nature and extent.
A mile west of Jefferson, the county town of the county of the same name, situated at the junction of the two principal branches of Rock river, are the works represented on Plate XXVIII, No. 2. There we find the first lizard-mounds observed on Rock river, They have the same form and relative proportions as those before described, but differ in direction, their heads being a little north of west; all those before observed having had direction towards points of the compass lying south of east or west, Another circumstance which probably governed their direction is, that they have their heads towards the water or low grounds, [page 37:] either directly or obliquely. In this respect these mounds do not differ from others.
The bird, or cross, is fifty-two feet in length of body, and one hundred and seventeen feet in alar extent, and resembles those before described. The elongated mound crossing the road to Jefferson, is remarkable for its great length; but it does not extend through the country for many miles, as is represented by some casual but positive observers. The exact length, as ascertained by the tape-line, is, as marked on the plate, four hundred and twenty-five feet. This mound is called the snake, which it resembles in form, though being exactly straight, it does not at once convey the idea of a serpent. If other mounds are termed lizards, frogs, or turtles; surely the mounds of this form are entitled to an equally distinct name.
But what most distinguish these mounds from others, are the two raised or graded ways leading to prominent points on the steep bank of the river. They have, like the ring at Fulton (see page 33, Plate XXV), about the form and dimensions of the road-bed of a modern turnpike. It would be impossible, in the present state of our knowledge of the habits and customs of the authors of these works, to form a reasonable conjecture respecting the purposes of these graded ways. At their upper extremity they are guarded on each side by mounds.
The works under consideration are situated on one of the very remarkable series of diluvial ridges, so common in the upper portions of the Rock river valley, and to which it will be necessary frequently to refer in the following pages. The river has cut away the base of the ridge at this point, so as to present an almost perpendicular cliff of clay and gravel. A little east of the works the ground descends towards the east; but the mounds are either on the summit or on the western slope. The ridge runs a little east of north, and west of south; preserving, in this respect, a general parallelism to the whole system of ridges. There were numerous other ancient works in and about Jefferson, now mostly destroyed. The ridge on which the village is built, as well as the next one towards the east, were formerly covered by a series of them, traces of which are still to be seen in the court-house square. The high bank of the river on the west side above the town, had its group of mounds, serpents, and other effigies. The story of there having formerly been a mound here of the human shape is probably not correct; at least we could not find it, nor learn anything of its whereabouts. Among these mounds there were probably none presenting new forms.
On the banks of a small lake, called Ripley lake, ten miles west from Jefferson, is a group of works represented on Plate XXIX. It will be seen to exhibit some peculiar features, though the mound representing an elephant, said to exist here, could not be found. The two figures near the middle of the group may be considered as in an attitude of defiance or of combat. The elongated embankment to the east is cleft in such a manner as to suggest very readily the idea of a serpent with its mouth slightly opened. These works are on the north bank of the lake; and similar ones extend at intervals along the shore, occupying the higher points, for a distance of half a mile.
The lake is a mile and a half in length; and covers an extent of four hundred [page 38:] and ninety-three acres, with a coast line of four miles and three eighths. It is a fine sheet of pure water, with banks sufficiently elevated to present a picturesque and beautiful scene; and, at the time of our visit (July 4, 1850), the neighboring inhabitants were enjoying a sail upon its smooth surface. It has a prominent cape jutting in from the south, giving variety to the appearance of the shore; and glimpses of farm-houses, seen through the trees on the bank, show that this lovely spot is a favorite place with the modern civilized, as it was with the ancient barbarous people. Nature touches chords in the human heart that vibrate alike in the breasts of all, however different their conditions of life.
Bark river is a considerable tributary of Rock river, entering it at Fort Atkinson. Towards its source are some remains deserving notice. The most extensive group is on the fine level prairie at Summit, represented on Plate XXX. This plain has an elevation of about three hundred feet above Lake Michigan, is very fertile, the soil being two feet deep, and based upon an extensive bed of white limestone, gravel, and sand. It is bordered on all sides by small but very beautiful and picturesque lakes. Some prominent points of the series of hills passing through the State can be seen towards the southeast from this plain.
The mounds are circular and oblong, with occasionally one of imitative form; but nearly all have been ploughed over, so that it is now quite impossible to trace their exact outlines. One appears to have had the bird form. There are one or two resembling lizards, and several of them turtles. Two of the latter were here found with the head in a northerly direction, being on the south side of the lakes; showing that the object was to direct the head towards the water, rather than towards the south. (See Plate XXIX.) Several are simple ridges, gradually diminishing from one end to the other, and may be intended to represent the serpent; they do not differ from the tails of the turtles and lizards. One of unusual length was noticed near the line between sections fourteen and fifteen.
On the southwest quarter of section fourteen, is a natural elevation, formed, probably, by a ledge of limestone beneath, on which is a group of four mounds two oblongs, one lizard, and one turtle; the feet of the latter appeared to have been curved forward. They were much effaced by cultivation.
Several mounds had been opened, but I could not learn that any discoveries of interest had been made; nor have any articles of importance been thrown up by the plough. In such cases we may suppose that the place was not abandoned, or the people drawn off in haste; but that they had time to gather up and remove all light articles.
A short distance above Hartland, on the east side of Bark river, immediately north of the burying-ground, is a series of oblong mounds, one of which is enlarged at the extremities and in the middle, as shown in the figure. (Plate XXXI, No. 1.) This appears to be a form intermediate between the plain oblong and the more elaborate animal-shaped mounds. The turtle at the northern extremity of this group is nearly destroyed by the road. These works are on the southeast quarter of section twenty-six, township eight, range eighteen.
Two miles and a half further up the river, at the village of Merton (northeast quarter of section twenty-four, township eight, range eighteen), are a number of [page 39:] circular and oblong elevations, and one called the cross. (See Plate XXXI, Nos. 2 and 3.) This last is certainly entitled to the name, from its striking resemblance to the cross as emblematically used and represented by the Roman Church in every part of the world; and yet there can be no doubt that this mound was erected long before the first Jesuits visited this country, and spread the doctrines, and presented the emblem of the Christian faith.
The ground here is high, and there are ridges running along the plain, as shown on the map. An excavation had been made in the cross at the intersection of the arms, and bones found of a large size, probably of some Indian who had been buried there.
Mr. Miller, who resides near here, gave us a stone instrument, called by him a skinner; for, said he, I have seen the Indians use a similar instrument in skinning a deer in the State of New York. It is a beautiful green stone, well polished towards the sharp end, showing, perhaps, that it had been much used.
The place just above the village, called Fort Hill, has on it two oblong embankments, but bears no resemblance to a work of defence.
North of Merton we left the main road to ascend a very high, conical, isolated peak (on section fifteen, township eight, range eighteen), in the west part of Washington county. It is composed of drift materials, no solid rock being observed. Towards the summit gravel only is found, the pebbles being mostly limestone. In its general appearance this peak resembles the Blue Mounds in the mineral region further west, though on a smaller scale. (See Fig. 12.) We found three artificial mounds occupying the whole of the narrow summit of this remarkable peak, as shown in the figure. (Fig. 13.) The middle and largest of these was opened, and proved to be composed of black vegetable mould, covering a base of stone; but nothing could be found to show for what purposes they were erected. Whatever these purposes may have been, they were clearly of much importance to those who built the mounds; for the labor of transporting the stone and soil from the plain below up so steep an ascent, must have been very considerable, and not likely to be undertaken for any trivial object. The central mound was six feet in height; the others, four.[page 40:]
The height above the surrounding grounds is about 275 feet.1
In the vicinity of the Four Lakes, where Madison, the capital of the State, is situated, the mound-builders have left unusually numerous traces of their former occupancy and industry. The lakes are united by a stream called the Catfish, through which the waters are conveyed to Rock river at Fulton. The mounds situated six and twelve miles west of the Four Lakes were among the first of the animal-shaped mounds of which an account was published1 and as I have no additional facts to communicate in regard to them, a reference to the places where they are noticed and very fully described, is all that is now required.
A figure on the third lake, within the limits of the town, was fortunately rescued from oblivion by Mr. F. Hudson, whose very accurate drawing I was permitted to copy from the papers belonging to the Wisconsin State Historical Society. (See Plate XXXII, No. 1.) It will be seen that it differs from any mound heretofore described, in having a neck and a proportionately smaller body. Like most mounds of this general character, it has its head directed towards the water. It occupies high ground, having a gentle slope towards the lake, and is very near the steep broken cliff.1
Along the road to Munroe (on section twenty-two, township seven, range nine), north of the small lake called Lake Wingra, is one of the rows of mounds so often alluded to, and which is represented on Plate XXXII, No. 2. The difference in their relative size may indicate the different degrees of dignity of the persons in whose honor they were erected. The row is irregular, being accommodated to the shape of the ground. It occupies one of the highest places about the lakes. Two quadrupeds, one bird, one mound with lateral projections, five oblong, aud twenty-seven circular tumuli, make up this group.
Plate XXXIII represents what still remain of the works near the south angle [page 41:] of the third lake. Here the rows present more the appearance of order and system than those of any other locality surveyed. The rows of smaller mounds parallel with the principal range, may have been for persons of inferior grades belonging to the families buried in the larger ones. The parallel ridges are upon ground sloping considerably towards the lake; and rise one above another, like the seats of an amphitheatre, to which they have been compared. The work in the rear of these ridges is quite regular, and intermediate in its character between a true cross and a bird-shaped mound.
At the foot of this slope commences a flat, extending around the east end of the lake, from which it is separated by a low, sandy ridge. Along this ridge is a very remarkable series of irregular elevations, twenty-four in number; a part of them are represented on the plate. They are largest and most abrupt towards the water, and are covered with soil and a forest of scattered trees. On several are artificial mounds, one of them a turtle; but whether they are themselves artificial seems doubtful, though it is difficult to understand how they could have been formed by any natural process. A recent Indian grave occupies the summit of one; and we noticed, near by, the poles of a wigwam but recently abandoned by the red men, though we were in sight of the capital of the State.
A ridge of sand or gravel is often formed around the margin of the small lakes in Wisconsin, by the expansive force of ice in winter; the materials near the shore being gradually moved year by year a little towards the land. But this cause is hardly adequate to the production of a series of mounds.
There are traces of other mounds south and west of those represented on Plate XXXIII, but they were too much reduced by the plough to enable us to trace them and ascertain their original forms.
On the north shore of the fourth lake, also on the first and second lakes, are said to be numerous works, which we did not visit. Eight miles northeast of Madison, the surveyors of the public lands have reported the existence of mounds (sections thirteen, twenty-three, and twenty-four, township eight, range ten), which we also were obliged to omit in our survey.
ANCIENT WORKS AT AND IN THE VICINITY OF AZTALAN.
These important works are represented on Plates XXXIV and XXXV, and give evidence of greater labor than those at any other locality in the State. They are important also on account of their resemblance or analogy to works in other parts of the United States. It is the only ancient inclosure, properly so called, in Wisconsin; and although it is usually termed a fort or citadel, it will be shown hereafter that it falls more properly into the class denominated sacred inclosures. Without this we might be led to suppose that the ancient mound-builders of Wisconsin were a distinct people from those of Ohio, so different is the general character of their monuments. [page 42:]
The ancient city of Aztalan has long been known, and often referred to, as one of the wonders of the western world. Many exaggerated statements respecting the brick walls supported by buttresses, the stone arch, &c., have been made; for all of which there is little foundation in truth. The remains were discovered in October, 1836, and hastily surveyed in January, 1837, by N. F. flyer, Esq., who soon afterwards published a brief description of them, with a rude wood-cut, in the Milwaukie Advertiser, the first, and then the only newspaper, in this part of the country. This survey was made before there were settlements in the neighborhood, and was done in a cursory manner. The brief account, however, as published, gave a very good general idea of the works; and has been the foundation of all subsequent plans and descriptions up to the present time.
Mr. Taylors description1 was furnished by a friend, who only made a brief visit to the works, accompanied by Mr. Hyer, and added but little to our knowledge of these ruins; though it was published in a more permanent and accessible form, and hence is more generally known and referred to. Messrs. Squier and Davis have condensed this description, and copied the plan in their work, in the first volume of the Smithsonian Contributions (page 131, Plate xliv, Fig. 1), with a number of judicious suggestions as to the nature of the walls, the object of the bastions, &c. By comparing the plan and description thus given with what follows, the curious reader may trace the differences, and discover wherein the first fell short of presenting the whole truth.
The name Aztalan was given to this place by Mr. Hyer, because, according to Humboldt, the Aztecs, or ancient inhabitants of Mexico, had a tradition that their ancestors came from a country at the north, which they called Aztalan; and the possibility that these may have been remains of their occupancy, suggested the idea of restoring the name. It is made up of two Mexican words, atl, water, and an, near; and the country was probably so named from its proximity to large bodies of water.1 Hence the natural inference that the country about these great lakes was the ancient residence of the Aztecs.2
Reference to Plate XXXIV will show that the main feature of these remains is the inclosure or ridge of earth (not brick, as has been erroneously stated), extending around three sides of an irregular parallelogram; the west branch of Rock river forming the fourth side on the east. The space thus inclosed is seventeen acres and two thirds. The corners are not rectangular; and the embankment or ridge is not straight. The earth of which the ridge is made was evidently taken from the nearest ground, where there are numerous excavations of very irregular form and depth; precisely such as may be seen along our modern railroad and canal embankments. These excavations are not to be confounded with the hiding-places (caches) of the Indians, being larger and more irregular in outline. Much of the material of the embankment was doubtless taken from the surface without penetrating a sufficient [page 43:] depth to leave a trace at the present time. If we allow for difference of exposure of earth thrown up into a ridge and that lying on the origin 1 fiat surface, we can perceive no difference between the soil composing the ridge and that found along its sides. Both consist of a light yellowish sandy loam.
The ridge forming the inclosure is 631 feet long at the north end, 1,419 feet long on the west side, and 700 feet on the south side; making a total length of wall of 2,750 feet. The ridge or wall is about 22 feet wide, and from one foot to five in height.
The wall of earth is enlarged on the outside, at nearly regular distances, by mounds of the same material. They are called buttresses or bastions; but it is quite clear that they were never designed for either of the purposes indicated by these names. The distance from one to another varies from sixty-one to ninety-five feet, scarcely any two of them being alike. Their mean distance apart is eighty-two feet. They are about forty feet in diameter, and from two to five feet high. On the north wall, and on most of the west wall, they have the same height as the connecting ridge; but on the south wall, and the southern portion of the west wall, they are higher than the ridge, and at a little distance resemble a simple row of mounds.
On the inner side of the wall, opposite many of these mounds, is a slight depression or sinus; possibly the remains of a sloping way by which the wall was ascended from within the inclosure.
The two outworks, near the southwest angle of the great inclosure, are constructed in the same manner; but both these mounds and the connecting ridge are of smaller dimensions. The ridge or way connecting the mounds at a and c, has something of the same general character, though still more obscure. When viewed from the road, a short distance west, these outworks would be supposed to be nothing more than a few circular mounds. The connecting ridge, at least, is too insignificant to be mistaken for the walls of a fort, or other work of defence. Whether these walls are only a series of ordinary mounds, such as are found all over the western country, differing only in being united one to another, it may perhaps be difficult to decide. They may possibly have been designed for the same and for other purposes.
On opening the walls near the top, it is occasionally found that the earth has been burned. Irregular masses of hard reddish clay, full of cavities, bear distinct impressions of straw, or rather wild hay, with which they had been mixed before burning. These places are of no very considerable extent, nor are they more than six inches in depth. Fragments of the same kind are found scattered about; and they have been observed in other localities at a great distance from these ancient ruins.
This is the only foundation for calling these brick walls. The bricks were never made into any regular form, and it is even doubtful whether the burning did not take place in the wall after it was built. The impression of the grass is sometimes so distinct as to show its minute structure, and also that it was of the angular stems and leaves of the species of carex still growing abundantly along the margin of the river. As indicating the probable origin of this burned clay, it is important to state, that it is usually mixed with pieces of charcoal, partially burned [page 44:] bones, &c. Fragments of pottery are also found in the same connection. The walls and mounds are composed of a light colored clay, which becomes red on being slightly burned.
From all the facts observed, it is likely that clay was mixed wit the straw, and made into some coarse kind of envelope or covering, for sacrifices about to be consumed. The whole was probably then placed on the wall of earth, mixed with the requisite fuel, and burned. The promiscuous mixture of charcoal, burned clay, charred bones, blackened pottery, &c., can only in this way be satisfactorily accounted for. The pottery was broken before it was buried, for the fragments were scattered about in a manner that clearly shows that the vessels were not entire.
A shaft was sunk by us in the sixth mound from the northwest angle on the west wall. A fragment of galena (sulphuret of lead), and another of iron ore used as red paint, and worn smooth, perhaps by long use in adorning the faces of the red men, were near the surface, and were the only articles found. No burned clay was on this mound, and we soon discovered that it is only in a few places that this substance exists. The earth was here a yellowish sandy loam, entirely free from spots of black mould; thus showing that it was built exclusively from the subsoil of the adjacent grounds. The builders had carefully removed the black soil before they commenced the erection of this mound. Our shaft was sunk some distance below the original surface. Two of the smaller mounds in the interior were also opened, but without results of any interest.
The mound, or projection, or buttress (whichever it may be termed), at the northwest angle of the inclosure, proved to be one of some interest. (See Fig. 14.) After removing the sods with which it was covered, we came upon fragments of pottery, charcoal, half-burned human bones, and numerous amorphous masses of burned clay scattered loosely and promiscuously about in the earthy materials of the mound. This continued to the depth of one foot only; below, the earth was quite uniform in appearance, though still showing incontestable proofs of art. Occasional fragments of clay, charcoal, and fresh-water shells almost entirely decayed, were observed as we proceeded. Still deeper we found a cavity which was nearly filled with loose earth, in which were indications of bones very much decayed and charcoal. This was divided below into two other cylindrical cavities, extending beneath the original surface of the ground, and filled with the same loose materials.
Two bodies had doubtless been buried here in the sitting posture, near each other, enveloped and covered, perhaps, by some perishable substances, which had decayed and left the cavity above; and this shows that the mounds at Aztalan, though constituting an inclosure, were used for burial purposes, as were other ordinary circular mounds. [page 45:]
Within this inclosure the ground descends towards the river more abruptly near the western wall, forming a kind of second bank, and then with a smooth even surface. This slope is interrupted only by a natural swell or eminence, shown at c, Plate XXXIV. The highest point in the interior is at the southwest corner, and is occupied by a square truncated mound, that, when seen from the high ground at c, presents the appearance of a pyramid, rising by successive steps like the gigantic structures of Mexico. (See section on Plate XXXIV.) This was doubtless the most sacred spot, as well as the highest. It will be observed that the inclosing walls curve around this pyramid, as if constructed afterwards, and made to conform to the shape of the ground. It is also further guarded by the two outer walls before described.
The level area on the top was fifty-three feet wide on the west side, where, in consequence of the slope of the ground, it has the least elevation; and it was originally, in all probability, a square of this size. On other parts of the mound the sides are high and steep; and the abrading effects of time have acted most upon the summits. There appears to have been a sloping way leading from the top of this mound towards the east; but if so, it has now dwindled to a slight elevation or swell on that side. This road-way was connected with a ridge before alluded to, extending towards the prominent point c. From this last point there is a gradual and easy descent to the river. These level-topped mounds may have been the foundation only of some structure of more perishable materials. From the summit of the two high places, and especially from that at a, the whole works, and quite an extent of surrounding country, can be seen.
At the northwest angle of the inclosure (b) is another rectangular, truncated, pyramidal elevation, of sixty by sixty-five feet level area on the top, with remains of its graded way, or sloping ascent, at the southeast corner, leading also towards a ridge that extends in the direction of the river. This mound occupies the summit of the ridge or bank before spoken of:, though it rises but little, if any, above the top of the adjacent walls. It has been partially destroyed by persons curious in antiquarian research, and by one who, it is said, had been supernaturally convinced that a large amount of money was deposited in it!
There is another square structure (at d), which is level on the top; but as it stands on sloping ground, and has but little elevation, it runs to a grade even with the surface on the upper side. Just at this point a small mound has been erected, perhaps at a subsequent time, and by a different tribe or nation of people.
The analogy between these elevations and the temple-mounds of Ohio and the Southern States, will at once strike the reader who has seen the plans and descriptions. They have the same square or regular form, sloping or graded ascent, the terraced or step-like structure, and the same position in the interior of the inclosure. This kind of formation is known to increase in numbers and importance as we proceed to the south and southwest, until they are represented by the great structures of the same general character on the plains of Mexico.
In this inclosure are ridges usually about two feet high, as represented on the plan. The rings or circles connected with them constitute a very peculiar feature, and are supposed to be the remains of mud houses; the materials of the walls having fallen, leaving only a circular mound of earth to mark their original [page 46:] site.1 No ridge exists along the river bank, as represented on Mr. Hyers plan; the steepness of the bank probably rendering artificial works unnecessary for the purposes of the builders. Some of the interior ridges, it will be observed, are enlarged at intervals; thus showing an analogy with the main walls and outworks.
There are two excavations (e and f), the first triangular, and the last circular, which, from their greater depth and regular shape, as well as distance from the walls, were probably not made in the process of obtaining materials for the structures. The excavation at e is so deep, and the soil so tenacious, that water stands in the bottom much of the time, affording a place for the growth of flags1 and other aquatic plants. Perhaps the bottom may have been rendered water-tight by artificial means. Undoubtedly it was once much deeper than at present; the tendency of rains and the accumulation of vegetable matter being to fill it up. The circular excavation (at f) is surrounded by a ridge consisting, doubtless, of the materials thrown out in the digging.
Near this point are some springs in a small ravine cut into the bank by the passage of water to the river. This ravine serves also as the outlet of the surface water from within this part of the inclosure. A few stones left along the sides and bottom of this ravine (the force of the water not being sufficient to remove them with the lighter particles of the earth), is all the evidence that could be found of an ancient sewer arched with stone. It is quite clear that no such arch existed; nor is there any indication that the aboriginal inhabitants of the American continent were acquainted with the nature of the arch.1 If they were, they certainly did not apply such knowledge in the construction of any works at Aztalan.
Nearly the whole interior of the inclosure appears to have been either excavated or thrown up into mounds and ridges; the pits and irregular excavations being quite numerous over much of the space not occupied by mounds. This want of regularity is opposed to the opinion that these excavations were for the cellars of buildings, as suggested by some.
In a letter from Mr. J. C. Brayton, of Aztalan, he says: Several feet below the surface of the large square mound near the northwest corner of the inclosure was found, a number of years ago, what appeared to be the remains of cloth, apparently enveloping a portion of a human skeleton. Its texture was open, like the coarsest linen fabric; but the threads were so entirely rotten, as to make it quite uncertain of what material they were made.1
Numerous fragments of earthenware have been taken from the mounds at different times: portions of broken vessels, varying in size (judging by the curve of the fragments), from a few inches to three feet across the rim.
A number of rusty gun-locks, in scattered fragments, have been discovered at or near the surface of the ground; and pieces of iron, copper, and brass, have been found in the neighborhood. But all these, being relics of the recent Indian population, fail to throw any light upon the great questions of who made these works, and for what purpose were they constructed. The Winnebagos, the last occupants of this interesting locality, always answer in the negative by a significant shake of the head, when asked if they can tell who erected the mounds.
Mr. Brayton, who has resided in the vicinity of these works since their discovery, is of the opinion that none of the mounds have sensibly changed from natural causes since the first settlement of the country in 1836.
Our examination of the tumuli exterior to the inclosure led to no very important results. The third from the north end of the long row, seen on the plate (about four feet high and thirty feet in diameter), was penetrated to the bottom, and the opening enlarged below in every direction. A post (apparently tamarack) had been inserted, and was now all decayed, except a portion near the bottom.1 This may have been set in since the building of the mound, which was composed of black and yellow soil intermixed, having beneath gravel composed mostly of limestone pebbles. If these smaller tumuli ever covered any deposits, they are now so completely decayed that not the least trace of them can be discovered.
While at Aztalan we were informed that upon opening one of the larger mounds some years ago, the remains of a skeleton were found, inclosed by a rude stone [page 48:] wall, plastered with clay, and covered with a sort of inverted vase of the same materials.
A number of these mounds have been opened at different times, and their contents, having been carried away to various parts of the world, cannot now be recovered.
With the view of ascertaining the contents of the larger elevations for ourselves, we selected one in Mound Street, ten feet in height, and sixty feet in diameter at the base, into which a trench four feet wide was dug, extending from the south side to beyond the centre, and down to the subsoil or stratum of gravel that underlies the superficial covering of vegetable mould.
The earth was quite uniform throughout; consisting of dark-colored mould and yellowish sandy loam, mixed in small quantities. Ashes, mingled with charcoal, were observed as we went down, and occasionally fragments of human bones. No skeleton was found; no stonework or earthenware no stone or metallic implements of any kind could be discovered. Bones of some burrowing animals, and the remains of a fish were taken out. Fragments of rotten wood, apparently oak, were found at all depths. They were not charred, nor did they appear to have had any definite arrangement, but were confusedly placed, as if carelessly thrown upon the mound during the progress of its construction.
From the oft-repeated indications of fire at various depths, we could draw no other conclusion than that this was a mound of sacrifice and that at each repetition of the ceremony an addition was made to the height of the mound.
The gopher1 often burrows in the artificial tumuli to find a dry place for its nest; and roots of trees penetrate to their lowest depths.
The question naturally arises in the mind of the observer, For what purpose was this great inclosure made? Mr. Hyer called it a citadel, and it is usually termed the fort, and supposed to be a work of defence a place to which the mound-builders resorted for safety when hard pressed by an enemy. Various reasons have been assigned for this supposition. Its connection with the river, affording a means of supply to the besieged its buttresses or bastions its outworks its watch-towers might all seem to convey the idea of a military work or a fortification.
Although when we attempt to describe these remains, the technical terms of military men are found convenient, and sometimes applicable; yet the fort, the buttresses, the bastions, &c., have but remote resemblance to such constructions. Expressions like these often lead the superficial observer and reader astray, and may have done so in this case.
Messrs. Squier and Davis show very conclusively that the circular projections on the exterior of the walls could not have been intended for bastions.1 It is equally clear that a ridge of earth twenty-two feet wide and five feet high, does not need the support of buttresses.
But this fort is entirely commanded from the summit of a ridge extending along the west side, nearly parallel with (see Plate XXXIV), and much higher than the west walls themselves, and within a fair arrow-shot; so that an enemy posted on it would have a decided advantage over those within the defences. This ridge would also constitute an excellent breastwork to protect an enemy from the arrows or other weapons shot from the supposed fort. As if purposely to assist an approaching enemy, a number of mounds have been erected along the ridge, affording secure hiding-places and look-out stations, very convenient to the attacking party. These may, however, have been erected at a more recent date.
Again, the large mounds of the remarkable row northwest of the inclosure are not in connection with it, but are excellent points from which to reconnoitre and annoy the occupants of the supposed fortress.
From the summit of the ridge before alluded to, as will be seen by the sections on Plate XXXV, the ground descends towards the river; so that the inclosure is on a declivity, and is thus commanded from the opposite side of the river. Here, again, as if purposely to render aid and comfort to an enemy, a breastwork is erected, extending along the margin of the stream, from behind which arrows or other weapons could be thrown directly into the fort by persons lying in perfect security.
From the skill exhibited by the mound-builders in their works of defence in other portions of the West, we cannot imagine that they would construct such a fort as this; we might at least expect that the walls would be extended so as to include the ridge parallel to it. There is no guarded opening, or gateway, into the inclosure. It can only be entered by water, or by climbing over the walls.
The only ancient work resembling this in its general features heretofore described, is that of Tuloom, in Yucatan, of which an account is given by Mr. Stephens, and quoted by Mr. Squier.1 This is an inclosure of about the same dimensions, and bounded on the east by the sea; it consists of a loose stone wall, with watch-towers at the two west corners, corresponding with the two large pyramidal mounds at Aztalan, except that they are placed on the walls.
Mr. Stephens represents his as a walled city; but it must be admitted that only a very small city can be included in a space fifteen hundred by six hundred and fifty feet, or twenty-two and a half acres. Mr. Squier thinks that this structure was erected for some sacred object, though used, probably, as a place of defence in a last resort; and, in view of all the facts before stated, it may be inferred that the inclosure at Aztalan was intended for similar purposes, and not primarily occupied as a place of defence.
We may suppose it to have been a place of worship; the pyramidal mounds being the places of sacrifice, like the teocalli of Mexico. From its isolated situation there being no other similar structure for a great distance in any direction we may conjecture that this was a kind of Mecca, to which a periodical pilgrimage was [page 50:] prescribed by their religion. Here may have been the great annual feasts and sacrifices of a whole nation. Thousands of persons from remote locations may have engaged in midnight ceremonies conducted by the priests. The temple, lighted by fires kindled on the great pyramids and at every projection on the walls, on such occasions would have presented an imposing spectacle, well calculated to impress the minds of the people with awe and solemnity. That these works were designed for some such uses, seems quite probable.
Plate XXXV represents the same structures on a smaller scale, and shows their relation to the neighboring country. It will be seen that, excepting a few mounds, no other artificial works are connected with the great inclosure; nor do these present that variety of imitative forms so common in other localities. Half a mile off, in a southwesterly direction, is a square pyramidal mound, similar to those within the inclosure.
Do not these facts warrant the suggestion that the people of Aztalan, in Wisconsin, were a different people, in many respects, from those who erected the animal-shaped mounds? This location may possibly have been occupied by a colony of Mexicans; since we know that colonies were sometimes sent out by that singular people.1
It is much to be regretted that the efforts heretofore made to preserve these very interesting remains of the labors of an extinct race are likely to fail. At the time of our survey, a crop of wheat was growing on the south part of the great inclosure; and, in a few years, but slight traces of this part of the works will be left. The north part is still in its original condition, except where excavations have been made by persons curious in such matters, or by the money-diggers!
Would it not be well to select some of the more important monuments, and, by purchase of the ground, or other means, secure their permanent preservation? Unless something of this kind is done, and speedily, all knowledge of them will be confined to the scanty records of those who have attempted to describe them.
ANCIENT WORKS OF THE VALLEY OF ROCK RIVER, ABOVE THOSE AT AZTALAN.
In the valley of Rock river we find no traces of ancient works for some distance above Aztalan; the first being in the town of Ixonia (section nineteen, township eight, range sixteen). Here are seven or eight mounds along the right bank of the river, on an elevated position, as usual, commanding a fine view of the river above and below. There are said to be others in the vicinity.
One of them has been opened for the purpose of making a place in which to bury potatoes, to secure them from the frosts of winter. Numbers of human bones are said to have been thrown out from near the bottom, where the earth had been hardened by some artificial process. No implements or ornaments were noticed. [page 51:]
At Wolf Point (section twenty-seven, township ten, range sixteen), in the lower part of the town of Hustisford, we observed traces of a recently abandoned Indian village, but no ancient works. Here, it is said, a great Indian battle was fought, in times long gone by; and here Black Hawk made a stand against his white pursuers in 1832.
At Hustisford a stone was shown us, which, by the aid of a little imagination, may be supposed to represent the head of a bird; and which was held in great veneration by the Winnebago Indians, who have but very recently been removed from this part of the State. It is a boulder of gneissoid granite, of accidental form, caused by the unequal decay and disintegration of the different layers of which it is composed. (See Fig. 16.)
At this place (Hustisford), there are the remains of a number of lizard mounds by the mill race, and also on the point opposite, on the east side of the river. There is a mound only two feet high, but having a considerable level area on the top, near the mill, which is said to be the place where prisoners of war were tortured and sacrificed by the Indian inhabitants. An examination disclosed partially calcined stones, ashes, charcoal, &c., in the centre.
The river here has a rapid current, caused by a ledge of limestone of the same kind as that in the lead districts of the western part of the State; the whole fall being about seven feet.
The country around is made up of a series of ridges like those before referred to, with intervening valleys, having a general direction nearly north and south. They are usually from twenty to fifty feet, and occasionally even one hundred feet in height, and frequently several miles in length. One of these ridges of great height, on the east side of the river, seems to have been selected as the principal cemetery, as we find it occupied by a series of round mounds, forming a nearly straight row along the summit. (Fig. 17.) They are so situated, that if the forest-trees were removed, a very extended prospect could be obtained, embracing the site of the village below, and the course of the river in either direction. Three of these are partially blended at the base, and two had a slight ridge extending towards the northeast, or in a direction from the village; or the tadpole (the significant name of this variety of mound) was headed towards the principal works and probably main residence of the ancient population.
The lizards are here, as in most localities of a similar kind, placed with the [page 52:] head or largest part towards the water. Among them are a number with only one projection or leg, as shown in Fig. 18.
About five miles northwest of Hustisford, on the road to Juneau, the county seat (section twenty-six, township eleven, range fifteen), is an animal-formed mound, headed southward, and a ridge about one thousand feet in length, being much longer than any heretofore noticed. The direction is a little north of east. They do not appear to be connected with other works in the vicinity.
In the northwest part of this town are a number of mounds, but presenting no varieties different from those before described; excepting one cross, which, from the uniformity and great length of the arms, appears to differ from others. (See Fig. 19.) It is situated near the road, on the north line of section six, township eleven, range fifteen, one of the arms being crossed by it. The middle is on a gentle eminence, [page 53:] so that the arms descend in each direction. Being on an open prairie, there is an extended view from this point. Each arm appears to be of about the same size and length. The plough having already commenced its work of destruction, we could not determine the proportions exactly. The compass indicated that the arms were constructed almost precisely at right angles.
These remains are on the borders of a prairie, which, from the unevenness of its surface, is denominated Rolling Prairie. One prominent elevation has been supposed to be artificial (Fig. 20); but a little examination satisfied us that it was natural.
Towards the source of the Beaver Dam river, we found numerous mounds; especially near the northwest corner of the town of Juneau (township eleven, range fifteen). On section seven are some oblongs, one which was probably a cross, and two others, broad and flat, with tails. These are much injured by cultivation. They occupy a broad, gently undulating plain, the margin of the Rolling Prairie.
At the village of Beaver Dam, the stream is interrupted by a dam, so as to form a pond ten miles in length, similar, in many respects, to the one at Horicon, on Rock river. On the border of this pond, a little west of the village, was a series of mounds, now quite destroyed by the road that runs directly over them. Their forms could not be made out with any degree of accuracy.
Fig. 21 represents two mounds, with a connection probably accidental, situated on section one, township eleven, range fourteen. The effigy could not be made out in the cultivated field; but it was, apparently, of the kind called the lizard.
A few miles N. W. of this locality, on section twenty-seven, township twelve, range fourteen, is a group of various forms, mostly injured or destroyed. Their original number is estimated to have been between thirty and fifty. They were mostly of the turtle form, though some are said to have resembled the lizard, the buffalo, &c.
The works at Waushara, near the outlet of Fox lake, were on both sides of the river; but those on the east side were destroyed by the growth of the village. One circular tumulus was beautifully decorated with flowers, and will be preserved as an ornament in the flower garden of one of the citizens; a commendable instance of good taste.
On the west side of the stream is an extensive group containing a cross, oblongs, circular mounds, one of the bird form, and two that were perhaps intended to represent the elk (see Fig. 22). These are on the ridge, and along the slopes of the ridge, running parallel with the river, and but a short distance from it. Among the figures was a cross, the arms of which were oblique (Fig. 23), and one with the tail forming a tangent to the mound (Fig. 24), its outline resembling some forms of the war-club, or the modern tobacco-pipe.
The next point visited was a high bank at the northeast angle of the lake (sections eleven and fourteen, township thirteen, range thirteen), and near the mouth of a small stream. At this place are several crosses, one structure of the bird form, and numerous ridges, but not arranged with any apparent order or system. In the same locality are numerous corn-hills and caches of the present tribes, who still make their annual visits to the spot. We saw a flattish boulder which had been used as a sort of anvil for pounding or pulverizing corn and perhaps other substances.
Near the source of a small branch of Rock river, called the Rubicon, is a fine little sheet of water called Pike lake. The banks are low, except on the east side; and on the north side there is a group of works as sketched on Plate XXXVI, presenting some characteristics not before observed. Here is another mound with a level area on the top, being the frustrum of a cone, similar to the temple mounds, supposed to be places of sacrifice. There are three others of the ordinary form, two of the imitative forms, and a semicircular ridge embracing a circular [page 55:] excavation at one extremity, and partially inclosing another. The figure at the east has but one projection or leg, and a forked tail; the other figure differs from most of the lizard-mounds in the fact that the body and tail are not in the same straight line.
The bank of the lake is more elevated at this point than on either side, where are some low grounds with springs and marshy places. A little east of this lake is a high peak or hill, which we ascended, but found no traces of ancient works on its summit.
But the most extended and varied groups of ancient works, and the most complicated and intricate, are at Horicon. Plate XXXVII represents the principal groups immediately below the town, but does not include all in this vicinity. They occupy the high bank of the river on both sides.
It will be seen that most of the forms heretofore described are represented at this place, and some are combined in a very curious manner. There are about two hundred ordinary round mounds in this neighborhood, and all, with two exceptions, quite small. The two large ones, on the west side of the river, have an elevation of twelve feet, and are sixty-five feet in diameter at the base. The others are from one to four or five feet high. In several of them we noticed very recent Indian graves, covered with slabs or stakes, in the usual method of modern Indian burial. They belong to the Potawattomies. One is protected by slabs driven in a sloping manner, so as to meet at the top like the roof of a house. Another has a kind of pen made of sticks about six inches in diameter. These graves show the peculiarity of having but one kind of wood on one grave; the slabs being made of oak, and the pen made of elm. The larger and more conspicuous mounds are generally selected by the Indians for the burial of their dead.
There are sixteen mounds of the cruciform variety. (See Plate XXXVI, Nos. 1 and 2.) They are not placed in any uniform directionsome having the head towards the north, some towards the south; nor do they appear to be turned towards the river. The form seen, Plate XXXVI, No. 1, is exactly like that of the mounds on the Milwaukee river; but that represented on No. 2 of the same plate was first observed at this place.
There is one mound, of which only a small portion appears on the plate, regularly tapering for a length of five hundred and seventy feet. At the smaller extremity it is slightly curved to the east. At its larger extremity is a large cross, and one of the largest mounds.
The animal form, Plate XXXVI, No. 3, is repeated, with slight modifications, seven times. It may be supposed to represent the otter.
If the two composite figures, one on each side of the river, near the centre of the group, are animals, performing some action, it is quite difficult to decide what the animal or the action may be that is intended to be represented. Yet it can hardly be supposed that these works were erected without design. They doubtless have some meaning which it is now impossible to ascertain.
Several of the mounds had been opened; but we could not learn of any results, excepting the discovery of human bones, and, in one case, the bones of a quadruped. We opened one of the smaller ones, and, after a careful search, could trace no indi- [page 56:] cations that anything had ever been deposited beneath it. If a human body or anything else had been buried there, all traces of it had disappeared. It is difficult to comprehend for what purpose the very numerous small tumuli were made, if not for burial; and yet it is hardly probable that all evidence of such use would have disappeared. They are here commonly made of the black vegetable mould, but slightly mixed with the subsoil, which has a lighter color.
On the other hand, one of the crosses was composed of whitish earth, evidently taken from beneath the surface-soil. The animal mounds and crosses, being composed of whitish earth, can sometimes be traced in a cultivated field, even after it is ploughed down to a level with the general surface. One of the crosses immediately south of the two large mounds seen on the plate, has the arms extended quite athwart the top of the ridge, which is here flanked on one side by the river, and on the other by an extensive marsh, or natural wet meadow.
Immediately above, the river expands into a broad and shallow lake, extending twelve miles, with a mean breadth of five miles. Until recently this lake was four feet lower than at present, and was mostly covered with a floating morass. Immense numbers of fish and water-fowls are found there, and afford subsistence to the inhabitants. These advantages have probably, from the remotest antiquity, given this situation a prominence in the estimation of the various tribes or nations who have successively occupied the country. It is a fact of some importance, in deciding upon the general characteristics of the mound-builders, that they have selected the same localities as their successors, and probably for the same reasons, to wit: the greater facility of subsistence.
The beaver and otter, in former times, doubtless occupied the shores of this lake, as the muskrat still continues to do. The several sources of the Rock river run into the lake at various points, and their united waters are discharged at Horicon. It has an elevation above Lake Michigan of two hundred and ninety feet. The celebrated Sauk chief, Black hawk, formerly had his residence at this point.
There are various interesting localities of ancient works in the vicinity of Mayville, as will be seen on Plate XXXVIII. The most extended of these is on the northwest quarter of section eighteen, township twelve, range seventeen, two miles northeast of the village. This group is shown on Plate XXXIX. It comprises thirty-five mounds of various forms, and occupies a nearly level strip between the base of a large ridge1 and brook.
We found here one of the largest and most regular turtle-mounds we had yet seen, and three or four of the quadruped form, one of which is represented on an enlarged scale on Plate XXXIX. The two crosses are directed towards the northeast, while most of the other forms have an opposite direction. Their arms are seldom at right angles with the body, nor are the two parts of the body or trunk in the same line. The head is always largest, highest, and nearly rectangular in [page 57:] form. Their height corresponds with that of the other figures, it being usually from two to four feet. If these crosses are to be deemed evidence of the former existence of Christianity on this continent (as some have inferred), we may, with almost equal propriety, assert that Mohammedanism was associated with it, and, as proof:, refer to the mound or ridge here represented in the form of a crescent.
Three mounds, near the north end of the group, are cleft at the extremity, like that noticed at Burlington (Plate XIII, Fig. 2). One of them might be supposed to represent a fish, and, as the finny tribe must have afforded a principal source of subsistence to the builders, it would not be surprising if they should include them in the list of animals to be thus depicted. In that case the cleft extremity should be considered as a forked tail, rather than an open mouth. The general direction of the other figures would naturally suggest the same thing, at least in this locality.
In a cultivated field, near these works, were traces of other mounds, whose nature we could not determine; they were too far gone to be restored.
Half a mile east of this extensive group is a smaller cluster, consisting of two animals and two oblong mounds. They were discovered by the engineer party in the survey of the Valley Railroad, who reported the animals as resembling the horse. Mr. Logan Crawford, Deputy Surveyor of Dodge county, made a survey and drawing of one, given on Plate XXXVIII, which, as will be seen, has but little resemblance to a horse. It was, without doubt, constructed, by men who had never seen or heard of such an animal, being long before its introduction upon the American continent.
The two figures at this place are almost exactly alike, and Mr. Crawfords outline may be relied upon as correct. The dimensions were ascertained by running a line over the mound lengthwise, and then measuring at right angles from this line to thirty-six of the most prominent points in the outline. The height on the shoulders and fore-part of the body is about two and a half feet. The legs, tail, head, and neck, are not more than one foot high. Its whole length is one hundred and twenty-four feet.
Directly north of Mayville (on the northeast quarter of section fourteen, township twelve, range sixteen), on the eastern declivity, and near the base of a ridge, I saw some traces of ancient cultivation, in the form of garden-beds, with intermediate paths. In one place, where the beds were examined, they are one hundred feet long, and had a uniform breadth of six feet, with a direction nearly east and west. The depressions or walks between the beds were about eight inches deep and fifteen inches wide.
The next group of mounds noticed was at the northern extremity of a ridge near the lower dam and mills (northwest quarter of section fourteen). There were five elevations of the circular form, three of them with a projecting ridge, gradually tapering to the extremity, being of the kind called "tadpoles.1 There are also two of the lizard form, the tail of one being in contact with the head of the other.
On the adjoining tract (northeast quarter of section fifteen), are some round mounds; among them two of larger dimensions than usual, being from twelve to fourteen feet in height, and from sixty-five to seventy feet in diameter.
These several groups form a regular row, from east to west, a little north of Mayville. There is a similar arrangement at about the same distance south of the village, commencing at a group of three mounds near the centre of section twenty-six, which were very accurately surveyed and delineated by Mr. Crawford (see Plate XL)the cross, as usual, with a direction opposite to that of the other figures, of which the central one is doubtless intended to represent the trunk and arms of the human body. The trunk is two feet high, the arms and shoulders one foot. The animal-shaped figure is brought too near this man on the plate (being ninety feet distant). It differs from most others of similar configuration in its slender form, rounded head, and recurved caudal extremity. The body is for most of its length two and a half feet high; the legs, head, and tail are one foot and a half high; but the tail gradually slopes down to about six inches at the extremity.
On the northeast quarter of section twenty-seven is a group of four mounds, of which one has the unusual form represented on Plate XXXIX. What it was designed to represent, it is difficult to conjecture.
The next group is three miles southwest of Mayville, being on the northwest quarter of the same section, and occupying the southern extremity of one of the remarkable ridges so often mentioned. The road from Mayville to Horicon passes directly by it. The general character of the figures will be understood by inspection of Plate XL. A portion were in a cultivated field, and the breaking-up plough had just been at work upon the remainder. Another year, and it would have been for ever too late to delineate them. It will be observed that all the figures of this group have their heads in one general southwesterly direction, except the cross, which, as is almost always the case, has a course directly opposite. From the extremity of the longest mound, which is on the highest ground, a general view of the whole is obtained; and this may, perhaps, be regarded as the watch-tower or look-out station. It is four hundred feet long.
On section thirty-three, near Horicon lake, are also some mounds, not shown on the plate, lying west of those represented. They consist of two ridges, one of considerable length, on the side of a ridge sloping towards the lake.
On the very high ledge of limestone, at the southwest corner of section twenty-seven, which overlooks Lake Horicon, I was disappointed in not finding artificial works.
On section twenty-five, township eleven, range sixteen, about seven miles south of Mayville, is a cross examined by Mr. S. E. Lefferts, of that place. We did not visit this locality, though we learned that the cross is associated with other mounds.
At the town of Theresa, on the elevated ground on the south side of the river, near the residence of Solomon Juneau, Esq., is a group of figures mostly of the lizard or oblong forms, and among them an excavation similar to those observed at Fort Atkinson and near Milwaukee (see Plate IX, Fig. 5). Most of the lizard mounds here are directed towards the south, but two are in an opposite direction; this being the first case of the kind observed. [page 59:]
A few Indians (Menomonees and Winnebagos) still reside here, and their wigwams are associated with the more substantial buildings of the white man. One of the oblong elevations was entirely covered with graves recently made by them.
I have heard of other works twelve miles east of Theresa, and at Mound Prairie, eight miles north; also about a mile and a half below Waupun, north of Horicon lake.
|Lapham, Increase Allen, 1811-1875. The antiquities of Wisconsin. Washington : Smithsonian Institution, 1855. p. 32-59.