Saturday, August 16, 2008

Grid Stone Found at Spanish Hill

When I first met Ted Keir and was invited to see his collection, I fell in love with one of his artifacts that was found on Spanish Hill in South Waverly, PA. Laughingly, I always called it a "petrified steak" a.) because I am known for my corny jokes and b.) because nobody has ever been able to tell us what it is.

I think it would be helpful at this point to give the readers a little background on the site called Spanish Hill, since although it has been written about many times over the past 100 years, it like the artifact shown here is still a bit of mystery and it has become my own personal passion to unravel that mystery and controversy surrounding it bit by bit...

Here are some images of the hill:

As many of you know, I was published in the Pennsylvania in 2005 concerning this truncated glacial moraine that once had ten acres on its top encrowned with an earthen enclosure which also had a ditch on its interior. This interior ditch feature of course is reported to clearly define the enclosure to be one of a ceremonial nature, as opposed to a defensive one.

“the circumstances of the ditch being within the vallum (wall) is a distinguishing mark between religious and military works.” E. G. Squier

General John Clark drew the enclosure and the dittch location in 1876 and believed that the walls had palisades, but I have never found ANY report of post molds being found, and have to believe this was a mistake on his part.

General Clark was also convinced that Spanish Hill was a place called "Carantouan" by Etienne Brule, who was in 1615, sent to this place to gather up 500 warriors for a Huron battle with the Onnondaga (near Syracuse, NY.) When Brule arrived however - he was met with great celebration and ceremony that lasted three days....and he was late with his warriors to the battle. Long story short - he ended up living with these people for years before he again met up with Champlain and from the story he told Champlain the following map was created:

Note that the Nation of Carantouan was said to be made up of 3 villages and you can see them clearly drawn along the river system which is the Susquehanna River. Note also that the dotted line coming in from the west there (north is the top of the image) does not go to any of the villages though...Instead it goes to what I believe is Spanish Hill...and this is where those ceremonies Brule talks about most likely happened, since it says after it was decided to send the warriors, they had to go and get them (from their villages) and arm them.

"Like the religious structures of the Druids, they were usually places of deliberation and council; within them the priests performed the ceremonies of their religion, and within them chiefs and warriors gathered to consult on public affairs, to make war and to conclude peace." - E. G. Squier

You see, ceremonial and temple mounds were built for hundreds of years east of the Mississippi, and there are many historic records of such places being in use by the earliest explorers to include Captain John Smith who actually named the "Susquehanna" River in 1608.

About the Artifact:

This stone is about two inches thick and on one side has this grid that seems to be "burnt" into it.

- 10 1/2 inches at it's widest points

- average 8 inches wide

- The three parallel lines - running most horizontal above - are 2 inches apart exactly

- The ends seem to be worn down- all the edges are smooth - -there is no rough edge on it.

- To me - the stone seems like it was soft, as the lines seems as if someone ran their finger through clay to make the grid is so hard of a rock today though that it is hard to imagine how these lines were made!

Here is an image of the other side of the same rock:

We were recently sent this website as to a possible explanation as to what the stone may be - and I have to agree that some of the stones on this site do have a striking resemblance to the one found at Spanish Hill:

The following images were sent to me by Vincent Barrows, who owns a website concerned with the Cahokia mound Complex at

This following tablet was found at Cahokia (Mississippian Mound -Illinois)

These websites show many of these artifacts that are referred to as stone tablets. Stone tablets are most well known for being found at Mississipian sites. Walthall (1990) has divided Mississippian cultural chronology into Early Mississippian (A.D. 850 to A.D. 1,150*), Middle Mississippian (A.D. 1,150 to A.D. 1,500*), and Late Mississippian (A.D. 1500 to A.D. 1700*). Mississippian sites appeared almost simultaneously throughout the Southeast around A.D. 850* and were mainly located within river floodplain environments.

It gets more confusing though because stone tablets existed in earlier mound builder cultures even dating back to the Adena times, (1000 BC-AD 100) - see below:

We Need Your Help!
It is my hope that we can find a specialist on stone tablets to look at our artifact and to let us know if this could possible be just that, and if so what time period and culture it seems to be representing.

Any help in this pursuit and to help us understand whatever this rock is would be greatly appreciated.

In the meantime, I would ask all collectors to consider how this conversation began and how it would not have taken place if Ted Keir had not preserved not only the artifact itself, but where it was found. Please remember that artifacts are not just cool items you can sell or hang on your wall. With the proper record keeping, it can be used as evidence in answering yet unanswered questions about our prehistoric past.

That very thought is what SRAC was founded on.

Click here to read a followup article on this stone.

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Man Mound, Sauk County, Wisconsin

Image provided by the Sauk County Historical Society

Saturday, August 9th, 2008 was officially declared to be "Man Mound Day" just outside Baraboo, in Greenfield, Sauk County, Wisconsin. I was proud to represent SRAC at this very important event.

The Man Mound is a huge effigy mound in the shape of a man with horns. (Can you image the look on the face of the first settler who happened to find this mound?) While I am sure it was known for quite a while by locals, the first time that the mound was surveyed was in 1859 by William H. Canfield.

Image provided by the Sauk County Historical Society

The mound is 214 feet long and the width at the shoulders is 48 feet. Although I am sure it was alot higher centuries ago, it's highest point is only around 3 feet now.

Of course while the Man Mound is largely unique, the effigy mounds of Baraboo Wisconsin took many shapes:

Image provided by the Sauk County Historical Society

My opinion is that the majority of these mounds represent the thunderbird (Sky Spirit), the Waterspirit, and those creatures that roam the earth. A handful such as the Man Mounds and Bird Man Mounds though take on human form, and to me by doing this seem to represent a person who may have been powerful in that spirit power. For this reason, I would suggest that these man-like mounds may have been made to honor a person, as opposed to others shapes like the Thunderbirds or Waterspirits which seem to me to honor a spirit. It should be noted that several small conical mounds also exist here as well.

It also should be noted that this mound is clearly walking - headed directly west. The west is the place of the water spirit, and this is best illustrated by the fact that it is where the sun on a daily basis is able to enter the world under the surface of the setting below the horizon. The next time you watch a sunset, I hope that you consider an ancient people full of superstitions and little science, and watch the sun as it "goes under the earth" As a result, it isn't hard for me to see why this particular man mound is walking towards the west.

There were in fact a handful of Man Mounds recorded to have existed, however, this one outside of Baraboo is the last one that exists today.

Image provided by the Sauk County Historical Society

At the time that of European settlement in the late 1830's Sauk County is estimated to have had up to 1,500 Native American Indian Effigy Mounds. By 1906, a survey by Arlow B. Stout reported that there were still 734, and 198 of those remained undisturbed while 300 had already been leveled. Today, only about 100 of these mounds still remain.

This mound in particular still exists because of the efforts of the foresight of people back in 1907 when they bought the Man Mound for what would be the equivalent today of $5,000.

The Man Mound Park was dedicated on August 7th, 1908. The following picture is from that ceremony 100 years ago, and the man with the beard and the hat sitting in the front there is W. H. Canfield...

Image provided by the Sauk County Historical Society

W. H. Canfield actually did his speech again during the 2008 ceremony, with the help of one our new friends, Rob Nurre:

I hope to get a copy of the video of this whole event to post different pieces up on the web for you to see, stay tuned....In the meantime, my description of the event here will have to do.

The event was attended by around 300 people I would say and officially began with the Ho-Chunk Thundercloud Singers / Drum. Sauk County Historical Society president Paul Wolter ran the ceremony and many great speeches concerning the mound and the need to continue to preserve it were given to include representation by the Senate and Congress of Wisconsin. The Ho-Chunk Nation was also represented by their Vice President, Dan Brown.

Also - before and after the event, people were invited to look at many displays under a huge tent to the east of the mound, where Susan Fogel and I represented SRAC and what became a very special and uncanny detail from Pennsylvania that drew quite a bit of attention from the professionals up there...

You see, although we don't have evidence of effigy mounds or the Fort Ancient culture in our region, I believe that the Man Mound AND the Bird Man Mound motifs both existed in Pennsylvania and so did everyone at the event after they saw what I brought with me(see above image) ...In fact many times we saw one person grab another by the arm and pull them over to our table to show them this new discovery, which I have been researching for over a year now...

These are the images that were once carved on "Indian Rock" along the Susquehanna River in Safe Harbor, PA - and as you look down through them, you will see the Man Mound shape and the Bird Man Mound shapes.

"Petroglyphs in the Susquehanna River Near Safe Harbor, Pennsylvania,"
by Donald Cadzow of the Pennsylvania Historical Commission

Coincidentally, it was SRAC's own Ellsworth Cowles's engineering expertise that saved these petroglyphs at Safe Harbor from being flooded by a dam that was built!

Stay tuned for a full article concerning his whole topic in the upcoming SRAC Journal!