Saturday, December 15, 2007

The Mound Builder Myth

Many of you know about my personal interest in Spanish Hill and my studies in the mound builder cultures that preceded the Iroquois and other historic cultures we mostly hear about today. I believe this story is a great illustration of how much we have learned over the past century, as well as how much theories can change over time and with more and more great minds working through the issues...Remember that the name of this article is "The Mound Builder MYTH..." it is called this after a real myth that was alive and well up until just a few decades ago...

The following is an excerpt from the book "History of Waverly, New York" (Albertson:1943) and it shows just how much we did not understand about the people who lived here just a few hundred years before us...

I find it really strange that our continent just like South America had such great civilizations and structures like those of the Mayans and the Incas and so on, yet we for hundreds of years claimed they were created by someone other than the Native Indians that they found here...And just like the South Americans, there were many groups who practiced making mounds and mound structures and they were not all the same people that could ever be characterized as one group called the "Mound Builders."

Some of the actual yet today laughable scientific explanations for who the Mound Builders REALLY were were:
  • The Lost Israelites
  • People of Atlantis
  • Prince Madoc's descendants
  • Vikings

Did you notice these were all "White People"?

Anyway - the good news is that it is commonly accepted now that the ancestors of the Native Indians now known as "Iroquois" and "Cherokee" and even "Winnebagos" (Ho-Chunk) were some of the descendants of the people who once built mounds to facilitate their religious, political, and social structures and way of life.

Another earlier misunderstanding that still exists today in the minds of many students of local history and archaeology is WHERE these mounds were found. The following is an excerpt from E.G. Squier, Ancient Monuments of New York.

Below is a map that is the result of a study sponsored by the Smithsonian Institute and compiled by Cyrus Thomas in 1891. Each orange dot represents an ancient earthwork that existed or was recorded in 1891 for this huge piece of work done in order to preserve the information about them before they were totally annihilated...and one of these works was Spanish Hill in South Waverly, PA.

You can also see by this map and the number of dots on it that the idea that the Native Indians always lived in small groups and had no cities or great trade or cultural centers, etc is simply not true.

In fact - I can show you several of these incredible earthworks that still exist - right now:

If you prefer to just watch videos - - you can pick them out from my video page.

As you can see - we have been doing a lot of work that has taken us far outside our region, to learn more about our own region.

On the other hand, we have found several caches of Flint Ridge, Ohio "trade blades" right in our region, these shown below were part of a cache of 127 blades plowed up in Erwin, NY around 1850. It is thought that these were a buried "stash" of an ancient tradesman who hid the bulk of his wares in order to keep his load light, but accessible when a deal was made nearby.

We believe that examples such as these shows that the western branch of the Susquehanna was not the only route used by the ancients to live, travel and trade by...and that in fact just as Squier had noted above, that they traveled as far east as the country of the Onnondaga and as far south as the Valley of Wyoming - - which would place them in our region of the Twin Tiers of Southern NY and Northern other words - right here.

The overwhelming amount of evidence that SRAC already has in their collections shows that people entered our region THOUSANDS of years ago, and that it was a place that was used by many cultures until it was controlled by the great Susquehannocks (who were later pushed southward by the Iroquois) at the time the white man first appeared on the scene.

Right now we are not sure who are responsible for the great embankments that enclosed ten acres atop Spanish Hill, or for many other earthworks to include those found just outside Elmira, NY...But we at SRAC believe that we can be part of the TRUTH that still alludes us... and that we are getting closer every day...

By storing up what is left of our local collections and housing them here for our communities and other researchers to learn from, we believe that we can support the continuation of research and education about our early prehistory that is yet to be solved conclusively, while celebrating the rich heritage that exists here. To read more about the Mound Builder Myth and the earthworks found east of the Mississippi, click here. To see some of the artifacts found in our region, click here.

What I am saying is that we are at an important place in our history right now that will affect generations to come in how they understand our region's past. I wish I could get you to turn off the reality shows for a while folks and join SRAC in an incredibly interesting and exciting quest of our own that is alot more fulfilling than being a couch potato.

The fact is that we are not just preserving history - we have the opportunity to make it ~ and all you have to do to be a part of it is to click here.

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1 comment:

  1. May sound crazy but better speak to the Myans and Icas who said is was white beared men as thier founders. Why should anyone have race guilt but it does seem important when out of proportion as in article above.

    Also, check out the Sumerian statues and world-wide travel--Egyptians, Sumer and Indus. If race not so important then why make such an issue? There were many races who settled North America and it was fought over for probably thousands of years. Too funny to deny.