[Geology and Archaeology.]

The sciences of geology and archaeology, working side by side, have made a wonderful progress in the past half a century. The one, seeking for the history and transformations of the physical earth, and the other, aiming to discover the antiquity, differences of race, and social and ethnical development of man, have obtained results which we cannot regard without amazement and more or less incredulity. The two sciences have been faithful handmaidens the one to the other; but geology has always led the way, and archaeology has been competed to follow in its path.

[Four Eras of Civilization.]

Though we may doubt as to the exactness of the detailed data established by the archaeologists, there are certain broad facts which we must accept from them as established beyond doubt. These facts are of the highest value and interest. The antiquary has been able, from discovered remains of extinct civilizations, to reconstruct societies and peoples, and to trace the occupancy of countries to periods far anterior to that of which history takes cognizance. The general fact seems to be settled that, in prehistoric times, Europe passed through four distinct eras. These were the Rude Stone Age, when man was the contemporary in Europe of the extinct hairy elephant and the cave bear; the Polished Stone Age; the Bronze Age, when bronze was used for arms and utensils; and the Iron Age, in which iron superseded bronze in the making of useful articles.

[Ancient America.]

In the same way it has been established that, on our own continent, the oldest discoverable civilization was one in which rude stone implements were used, and man lived contemporaneously with the megatherium and the mastodon. Then polished and worked stone implements came into use; and after the lapse of ages, copper. The researches of our antiquaries have rendered it probable that America is as ancient, as an inhabited continent, as Europe. Evidences have been brought to light, leading to the conclusion that many thousands of years before the Christian era, America was the seat of a civilization far from rude or savage. Groping into the remains of the far past, we find skeletons, skulls, implements of war, and even basket-work, buried in geological strata, which have been overlaid by repeated convulsions and changes of the physical earth. But so few are the relics of this dim, primeval period, that we can only conclude its antiquity, and we can infer little or nothing of its characteristics.

[Primeval Races.]

Advancing, however, another stage in research and discovery, we come upon clear and overwhelming proofs of the existence on this continent of a great, enterprising, skilful, and even artistic people, spread over an immense area, and leaving behind them the most positive testimony, not only of their existence, but of their manners and customs, their arts, their trade, their methods of warfare, and their religion and worship. Compared with this people, the Red Indians found here by the Pilgrims and the Cavaliers were modern intruders upon the land. These ancient Americans, indeed, were far superior in all respects to the Red Indian of our historic acquaintance. When the Red Indians replaced them, the civilization of the continent fell from a high to a much lower plane.

[The Mound-Builders.]

The great race of which I speak is known as "the Mound-Builders." Like the "Wall-Builders" of Greece and Italy, they stand out, in the light of their remains, as distinctly as if we had historical records of them. The Mound-Builders occupied, often in thickly settled communities, the region about our great Northern Lakes, the valleys of the Mississippi, the Ohio, the Missouri, and the regions watered by the affluents of these rivers, and a wide and irregular belt along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. There is little or no evidence that the same race inhabited any part of the country now occupied by the Eastern and Middle States; but some few traces of them are found in North and South Carolina.

[Ancient Mounds.]

The chief relics left by this comparatively polished race are the very numerous mounds, or artificial hills, found scattered over the country. These are sometimes ten, and sometimes forty and fifty, feet in height, with widely varying bases. They present many forms; they are circular and pyramidal, square and polygonal, and in some places are manifestly imitations of the shapes of beasts, birds, and human beings. There are districts where hundreds of these mounds appear within a limited area. Sometimes - as at Aztalan, in Wisconsin, and at Newark, in the Licking Valley - a vast series of earthwork enclosures is discovered, sometimes with embankments twelve feet high and fifty broad, within which are variously shaped mounds, definitely formed avenues, and passages and ponds. These enclosures amply prove, aside from the geological evidences of their antiquity, the existence of a race very different from the Red Indians. They were clearly a people not nomadic, but with fixed settlements, cultivators of the soil, and skilful in the art of military defence.

[Altars and Temples.]

The excavations of the wonderful mounds have brought to light many things more curious than the mounds themselves. It seems to be established that the mounds were used for four distinct purposes. They were altars for sacrifice, and, like the Persians, whose sacrificial ceremonies strikingly resembled those of the Mound-Builders, they were sun-worshippers. They offered up the most costly gifts, and even human victims. The pyramidal mounds, with avenues leading to the summits, were the sites of the stately sun and moon temples. Here, undoubtedly, imposing ceremonies were often performed. The lower or "knoll" mounds were used as the sepulchres of the dead. They yield up to the modern antiquary numberless skulls, of a type distinctly different from those of the Red Indians. The Mound-Builders buried their dead, most often, in a sitting posture, adorned with shell beads and ivory ornaments. Sometimes the dead were burned. Finally, the mounds were employed as points of observation.

[Relics of the Mounds.]

[Early Arts.]

That the Mound-Builders were a far more civilized race than the Indians is clearly revealed by the relics found in and about the mounds. They have left behind them thousands of flint arrow-heads, many of beautiful workmanship. They used spades, rimmers, borers, celts, axes, fleshers, scrapers, pestles, and other implements whose use cannot now be determined, made of various stones, such as porphyry, greenstone, and feldspar. They knew well the use of tobacco, for among their most artistic and elaborately carved remains are pipes, some of them representing animals and human heads. It seems to be certain that they had even attained the art of weaving cloth fabrics; for pieces of cloth, of a material akin to hemp, have been found in the mounds, with uniform and regularly spun threads, and every evidence that they were woven by some deft invention or mechanical device. It is certain that the Red Indian was ignorant of this valuable art.

[Primeval Mining.]

Among the highly wrought remains of the mounds are fanciful water-jugs, well carved and symmetrical in shape, some of which were evidently made to keep water cool. The human heads represented on these bear no resemblance to the Indian types. Drinking cups with carved rims and handles, sepulchral urns with curious ornaments, kettles and other pieces of skilful pottery, copper chisels, axes, knives, awls, spear and arrow heads, and even bracelets, come to light, here and there. There is no doubt that the Mound-Builders were miners. For, on the southern shores of Lake Superior, great excavations indicate an extensive and skilful mining of copper at a very remote period. It is singular, on the other hand, that no iron implement has ever been discovered in the mounds. The builders used iron-ore as a stone, but never learned the art of moulding it into weapons or utensils.

Thus the fact that vast areas of what are now the United States were once occupied by an active, skilful, imaginative, and progressive race, seems fully established. Not less certain is it that in their physical type, in their government, in their arts, habits, and daily pursuits, they were separated by a wide gap from the Red Indians whom our ancestors found in possession of the continent. The Indian was roving, and hunted for subsistence. The Mound-Builders were sedentary, and undoubtedly cultivated maize as their chief article of food.

[Origin of the Mound-Builders.]

But how remote the Mound-Builders were from the era of European settlement, whence they came; how, whither, and when they vanished, - these are questions before which science stands harassed, impotent to answer positively. There are those who, marking certain apparent resemblances between the implements, religious rites and customs, and cranial formations, of the Mound-Builders, and those of the Asiatic Mongols, conclude that the former were originally Asiatic hordes, who, crossing Behring Straits, when, perhaps, the two continents were united at that point, formed a new home and established a new empire here. Others, with more proof, connect them with that great Toltec race which occupied Central America and Mexico, before they were driven out by the ruder and more warlike Aztecs.

[The Aztecs.]

The Toltecs have left ample records of their existence and gorgeous civilization, in noble monuments and very numerous though till recently undecipherable inscriptions; and many similarities lend weight to the theory that the empire of the Mound-Builders, in the Ohio, Mississippi, and Missouri valleys, was the result of a great Toltec migration from Central America, which they left to Aztec dominion. Thus while we call our continent the "New World," it is not improbable that we may be living in a country which was alive with art, splendor, invention, and power, when Europe was a dreary waste, over which the now extinct monsters roamed unmolested by man.