20 APRIL 1867, Page 19


THE last number of the Edinburgh Review contains a paper which might suggest a new field of labour, either to the Geographical, the Archaeological, or the Ethnological Societies. The writer has endeavoured with considerable success to throw together in a popu- lar form all the known facts about that strangest of historic pro- blems, the disappearance of the early North American civilizations. That they existed is, we conceive, proved beyond all doubt or question. Whether a watch proves a watchmaker or not, as Paley thought it did, a city for 'historic purposes proves citizens, and cities complete or inchoate are scattered all over North America :— " From Guatemala to Upper Canada, and from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean, the surface is strewn with stupendous ruins of pyramidal temples and tumuli, entrenched camps and fortifica- tions, walled towns and villages, amphitheatres and pictorial grottos, embankments and bridges, towers and obelisks, wells and aqueducts, high roads and causeways, gardens and artificial meadows ; the greater part of which were designed, constructed, and maintained by numerous, intelligent, and skilful races of men, who have long since disappeared from the several scenes of their labour, bequeathing to posterity no written, nor oven a solitary traditional memorial of themselves or of their ancestors."

Admit a certain amount of exaggeration and a certain amount of disposition to believe that, because a bee's cell is hexagonal, there- fore a bee can argue upon hexagons, still the remains prove this much,—that races superior in knowledge and capacity to those now roaming over the continent did once inhabit it. We will not quote statements about Mexico, or even just yet about Central America, because most people have read about the former and heard in some dim way about the latter,—the land where, amidst silent jungles, two hundred miles away from the nearest footstep, there exist cities as full of temples, pillars, and sculptures as any cities of Egypt or Greece, —and have some vague idea of

" — the rain'd temples there ;

Stupendous columns, and wild images Of more than man ; where marble demons watch The Zodiac's brazen mystery, and dead men Hang their mate thoughts on the mute walls around."

But north of these regions, in States hardly trodden by white men, exist the same relics of races long since passed into oblivion. Pyramids built by men's handi and wholly beyond the resources of existing tribes are found throughout Texas and New Mexico, and sacred or sacrificial mounds from thence northward to Lake Erie :—

"For the purposes of historical deduction the sacred and sacrificial mounds are far more important than any others of the series. The former abound in Alabama, Georgia, and Florida, and in the great Valley of the Mississippi, whilst the latter are restricted to no particular locality, being met with almost as frequently in the north as in the south. 'In some instances,' observes Mr. Squier, 'they are terraced, or have successive stages ; but whatever their form, whether round, oval, octangular, square, or oblong, they have invariably fiat or level tops of greater or less area.' They are usually approached by imposing graded avenues, and encompassed by ramparts of earth or walla of Cyclopean masonry. Some of these temple mounds are upon a truly gigantic scale. That, for instance, at Cahokia, in Illinois, is reported to be 700 feet long, 600 feet wide at the base, and 90 feet in height ; its solid contents have been roughly estimated at 20,000,000 cubic feet. An immense tetragonal terrace has been reared by the side of it, which is reached by means of a tains. This mound is constructed with as much regularity as any of the teocallis in the south, and was originally cased with atone (some American archaeologists maintain with brick), and surmounted with one or more buildings. The sacrificial mounds, • American Archeology. (Eanbevh Review) LoadOn Longmaum.

which are peculiar to the New World are muchless imposing structures than the temple mounds. Each is crowned with a symmetrical altar of burnt clay or stone, on which are deposited numerous relics, in all instances exhibiting traces of their having been exposed to the action of fire."

"From the Alleghanies to the Rocky Mountains a perpetual succession of vast entrenched camps and colossal fortifications, in earth and stone, follow the entire route. Every eminence is defended, as well as every delta formed by the junction of two streams. Redoubts and breast- works, ramparts and circumvallations, mounds of observation and— anachronistic as it seems—casemates (as in the ruins of Marietta, near the mouth of the Muskingum) attest equally to the number, the skill, and the industry of the population which constructed them. The most perfect and characteristic, as well as the most eminent of these stupen- dous defences, are to be met with in the State of Ohio. A brief de-

scription of those in the county of Licking must here stance Be- tween the delta formed by the Newark and the Racoon there is a perpendicular table-land about thirty-five feet high, upon which regular fortifications of great extent are built. On the west side of the platform is an octangular fort, enclosing a space of about forty acres, with walls about nine feet in height, and of equal breadth. This fort was entered by eight gates about five yards in width, each protected by a tumulus placed in the interior in front of the entrances. Two parallel walls lead to another circular fort, placed south-west of the first, covering a space of twenty-two acres. Proceeding towards the south, you see an observatory that commands almost all the extent upon which these divers constructions are erected. Beneath the ob- servatory a secret passage leads to the bank of the Racoon. Farther to the right is a third fort, also circular, of about twenty-six acres, with an interior moat, out of which the earth was taken to form the walla of the fort, which are about twenty-five or thirty feet high. Two other parallel walls, very distant from each other at this place, run to the north, gradually diminishing their distance, and terminate at another fort, of quadrangular shape, twenty acres in extent. These four dif- ferent forts are connected by rather low walls, and in the centre is a shallow pond covering a superficies of 150 or 200 acres, which pro- bably afforded water to the flocks collected within the wide enclosure. Towers of observation are placed from distance to distance on the rising points ofthe plateau."

" Two classes of objects are equally distributed over the whole con- tinent, namely, ornaments for the person in copper, and various utensils in pottery. Copper, in its virgin state, obtained from the vicinity of the Great Lakes, and hammered into the forms of bracelets, anklets, axes, mauls, dm., appears to have been in very general use from an early period. Silver, lead, and iron were also worked, but on a limited scale ; whilst brass and bronze, the former in the north, and the latter in the south, were more extensively employed. A few years ago the corpse of a warrior was discovered in one of the sepulchral mounds in the streets of Marietta, Ohio, with the remains of a baldrick or buckler, composed of copper overlaid with a thick plate of silver,' lying across his breast. By his side were several broken pieces of copper tubing, filled with iron rust '—all, in fact, that remained of his scabbard and sword. A piece of iron ore, which had the appearance of having been vitrified,' was likewise found with them. In reference to this discovery, Mr. Squier remarks, 'These articles have been critically examined, and it is beyond doubt that the bosses are absolutely plater{ not simply over- laid, with silver' (p. 188). But we can hardly accept this conclusion. The effect described was produced more likely by chemical action ; in other words, the metals had become partially amalgamated by the lapse of time. The presence, however, of oxydized steel or iron, as well as a specimen of vitrified iron ore,' in the same monument, is a much more interesting and important fact than the other ; it betokens an advanced knowledge of metallurgy in very primitive times—a knowledge which must have been lost to succeeding generations, and long anterior to the age of the conquest. Iron was then absolutely unknown in the New World, excepting to one solitary tribe, established at the month of the La Plata, whose arrows and spears were tipped with it. But of all the aboriginal arts that of pottery had attained to the highest degree of perfection. The terra-cotta vases have been compared in form with the choicest antique specimens in Europe. Those found in the pueblos and wells of New Mexico still retain' (says the Abbd Domenech) a very perfect varnish • they are ornamented with brilliant paintings, lines, scallops, frogs, butterflies, tortoises, and monkeys' heads.' In the States to the east of the Mississippi they are almost equally excellent. Yet it has been questioned whether the aborigines were acquainted with the potter's wheel. Besides a large assortment of cinerary urns, many of Old-World types, arrow-heads of rock crystal, agate, and siker, copper and stone axes, hatchets, gouges, and chisels, knives in obsidian, per- forated shells—some from the Gulf shores, and others from the southern coasts of India—the most ancient of the mounds have also yielded bracelets of brass, smooth and polished, rings and tubes of the same material, various ornaments for the person in silver, pipes of terra cotta, slate, and steatite, rude sculptures in wood, and finer sculptures in more durable materials, representing tropical quadrupeds, birds, fishes, itc."

Whence came, whither went, the races who did all these things? How did they gain their civilization, how lose it ? It is certain that they obtained it, certain also that they lost it, and how and why was Kentucky held accursed throughout America because a population said by tradition to have been " white " was massacred en masse? The writer of the paper in the Edinburgh believes, we think on insufficient proof, that the mass of the American people are Mongols, sprung from Mongols who crossed from Asia by Behring's Straits, but that they were civilized, or some of them were civilized, by men who landed in Central America from, it may be, Java, and brought with them the early worship of that island, that of the Sun and of the Lingham, the two creative or productive

principles :— •

" Associated with Sabman worship in former times was that of the lingham or phallus. This well attested fact leaves little room for doubt- ing that the aboriginal Americans derived their religions system in; part from the East. The worship of the lingham was flourishing in the- cities of Pomo° and Tlascalla, in Mexico, at the period of the conquest ; and Mr. Stephens observed at Uxmal, in Yucatan, certain ornaments upon the external cornice of several large buildings, the meaning of which was too plainly sculptured to be misunderstood (Travels, vol. L, p. 181). Nor was this revolting worship restricted to the territories just indi- cated; it appears to have been equally prevalent in the Gulf States, and as far north as Tennessee, where innumerable characteristic images. have been ploughed up; some formed of clay, and others carved out of a kind of amphibolic rock, the toughest of all stony substances."

All that is very unsatisfactory. Supposing the natives autoch- thones, which we by no means assert, it would be as natural for

them to conceive production the highest work, and therefore to, worship the Sun and the Lingham as the first emblems of pro-. ductive force, as for the Hindoos to do so. A similarity of that kind proves nothing except the identity of the human intellect everywhere, but a similarity of buildings proves a great deal

and opens up a rare field for archmological or ethnological exploration. The reviewer hints at a theory that an Asiatic tribe driven out from the islands about 450 B.C., or driven back from the islands, crossed the Pacific, reached Central America, and gradually diffused their creed and their civilization. But he obscures this theory by observations upon a still previous civiliza- tion, which he believes, or seems to believe, identical with that of Egypt :—

" The great pyramid on the plateau of Caernavaca, and known as Xochicalco, 'the house of flowers,' is reported to be scarcely dis- tinguishable from the ordinary type of those in Lower Egypt. Its- position and configuration show it to be one of the group of adjacent hills. It is truncated and divided into four terraces Want of space precludes our pursuing these architectural analogies any farther ; suffice it to say, therefore, that the distinction between the earlier and later pyramidal temples of the New World is quite as remarkable as- that between the ancient Egyptian structure and those erected by the Greek colonists under the Ptolemies. No doubt, very many of the earliest piles have been modified in subsequent ages, to snit the particular neces- sities or tastes of the people ; yet, in every such instance, the archaic- type has been but slightly departed from, whilst the primitive example in the decorations without, always emblematical of the worship con- ducted within, has been scrupulously followed to the last. This is very apparent in the magnificent ruins of Yucatan ; where, according to the unanimous reports of Mr. Stephens and later travellers in that wonderful, country, the serpent entwined about the stem of the lotus is frequently repeated on the friezes of the temples ; and at Palenqud, also, a rectangular square is surrounded by cloisters . . . and lighted by windows bearing the exact form of the Egyptian face.' "

Would it not be worth the while of two or three of the English Societies to combine, and make a thorough exploration of American ruins through men who know well the ruins of early Asiatic Art? The American travellers to whom we are as yet chiefly indebted for information knew little of Asia ; the Abbe Domenech, whom the reviewer trusts so much, has been discredited at least once on a very material point, and no explorer has as yet used the camera sufficiently. We want photographs, not sketches, of all these ruins. The inquiry into language should also con- tinue, and be completed by men who have some knowledge of Asiatic tongues, and particularly of the tongues used in the ex- pression of religions thought. It is probable, to those who have studied these ruins it seems certain, that an Asiatic civilization,.

or two civilizations, or many civilizations, was or were imported into America, flourished and passed away, leaving no histories in written words, and no record except in works. Surely it would be more interesting, as well as more important, to ascertain, if possible, beyond all doubt the truth of these theories, to prove- distinctly that civilized races have existed and have perished in America as in Cambodia, than to discover the particular relation of some tribe in Central Africa to another tribe within the limits of the Cape. These monuments will not last for ever, and before they perish, before the white man has disturbed them, they should be thoroughly examined, described, and photographed by explo- rers who add to Mr. Squier's patience and energy and the Abb6 Domenech's intellectual daring a deep knowledge of the far East- The reviewer believes that Buddhism was established in Java and America about the same time, and gives reasons for his belief. Is not that worth searching out? or is not an examination of the much more extreme theory, that the similarity which exists- among such races so widely scattered is due to the spread over the whole earth, in the pre-historic periods, of some race possessed of the capacity for accumulating the results of brain work, which at present seems to belong exclusively to the Western races, but which race, unlike them, gave way to inferior but more manly tribes, still more worth examination. Most worth it of all is the. extretnest theory, that the world has pro- duced in different places tribes which, at identical stages in their progress, have displayed identical tendencies in organization, art,. and theology, but of which some have, under some mysterious law

of selection, survived, while others have passed away. Why have some survived, and some passed away ? Surely that is at least as well deserving of investigation as the affinities of a Polynesian race ? If races once civilized can disappear utterly, human history loses half its meaning, human energy half its motive ; yet races who could carve, and paint, and build, and organize great govern- ments, and harden copper, and understand astronomy, seem in North America to have passed away.