West Virginia, the Mountain State

By Charles H. Ambler; Festus P. Summers | Go to book overview

Chapter II
The Aborigines

THE MOUND BUILDERS1

THE PREHISTORIC MOUNDS of the central and southern United States, "Western cousins of the Egyptian pyramids," are the repositories of America's greatest archaeological treasures. Scattered here and there throughout the Ohio and Mississippi valleys, from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico, are nearly one hundred thousand of these remains, which constitute the best record of the people who dwelt in these regions prior to the coming of the white man. Ohio alone contains almost ten thousand of them, more than thirty-five hundred of which have been explored. Among the mounds of the larger area are thousands of additional prehistoric remains, such as village sites, cemeteries, pictured rocks, and flint quarries.

These remains were sources of varied speculation on the part of explorers and early settlers west of the Alleghenies. In the absence of archaeological and other data, some inferred that they were the burial places of princes and rulers of an ancient civilization, possibly surpassing in grandeur and achievement that of the Ptolemies and the Belshazzars. Others attributed them to more modern times, and still others thought they were the work of the erratic De Soto, who penetrated the continent of North America in the early part of the sixteenth century in an effort to conquer it for Spain.

Scientific investigations dispelled all these theories and assigned the prehistoric mounds of the Ohio Valley to a culture possibly not so ancient as that of early Egypt or Babylon, and not so modern as the days of the Spanish conquerors. Although it is probable that some mounds in the Ohio Valley were built as late as the discovery of America, the num-

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1
See Henry C. Shetrone, Mound Builders ( New York, 1930); F. W. Hodge, "Handbook of American Indians," in Bureau of American Ethnology, Bulletin No. 30.

-13-

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