« AnteriorContinuar »
Mound Bottom and Osborn's Place. At these extensive fortifications, which enclose the sites of two ancient cities, are found three pyramidal mounds, about fifty feet in elevation, and each one containing an acre upon its summit, and besides these, numerous lesser mounds. Such structures must have required the labor of a considerable population for a series of years; and more especially must the erection of these earth pyramids have been slow and tedious, as the aborigines were without horses or carts, and the immense mass of earth must have been carried by hand in baskets and skins. The old road or trail which connected these two ancient cities can still be discerned in the forest, the wellworn way being in some places a foot or more beneath the general surface. It is evident from these facts that a chain of fortified towns extended in ancient days all along Big Harpeth, and from careful excavations and examinations and comparisons of the crania and relics, we are convinced that they were all erected by the same race. One of the most remarkable aboriginal remains in Tennessee is found in the fork of Duck River, near Manchester, and is known as the Stone Fort. The walls of the fort have been formed of loose rocks and stones gathered from the bed of the river. The gateway of the fort, which opens toward the neck of land between the two branches of the river, is carefully protected by an inner line of works, so constructed that the enemy entering the fort would be received in a blind pouch or bag. Directly in front of the gateway of the fort, and about half a mile distant, stands a remarkable mound, the structure of which is similar to that of the walls of the fort, being composed of rocks, none of which exceed a foot and a half in diameter. This oblong mound is 600 feet in circumference and forty feet in height, and the labor of collecting and depositing the loose rocks by hand must have been considerable.
It would be impossible for us upon the present occasion to enter into a minute description of the mounds of Tennessee.
They are found upon the Cumberland, Little Tennessee, Big Tennessee, French Broad, Elk River, Harpeth, Duck and Stone Rivers. As a general rule these mounds are erected upon rich alluvial bottoms, and are either surrounded by extensive earth works, or are located in the neighborhood of these fortifications, which mark the site of towns. The mounds vary in number and size, in a measure, with the extent and richness of the valleys and the size of the earthworks. The smallest are not more than a few feet in height, and about thirty feet in diameter, while the largest attain a height of seventy feet, and cover an acre or two of ground. Many of the smaller mounds were used for the burial of the dead, others for the purpose of religious sacrifice and for the burning of the dead, while the largest pyramidal mounds were most probably the sites of the temples and councilhouses of the aborigines.
The ancient inhabitants of Tennessee also left singular paintings upon the rocks, representing the sun and moon. These paintings occupy the face of perpendicular cliffs on the Harpeth, Tennessee, French Broad, Duck and Cumberland Rivers. The paintings are executed with red ochre, upon high, inaccessible walls of rock overhanging the water, and were, without doubt, devoted to sacred purposes, and were emblematic of the sun, the god of the aborigines. The paintings of the sun on the rocks on Big Harpeth River, about three miles below the road which crosses this stream from Nashville to Charlotte, can be seen for a distance of four miles, and it is probable that the worshippers of the sun assembled before this high place for the performance of their sacred rights. At Buffalo Gap, on the same stream, where the ancient trail of the buffalo is still distinct, a line of buffaloes is painted upon the cliff rock which overhangs from above, and is capable of sheltering a thousand men.
We have still another evidence of the existence of a numerous population, in the fact that the first settlers found the caves filled with human skeletons.
Haywood relates that in the spring of the year 1811, two human beings were found in a copperas cave, in Warren County, in West Tennessee, about fifteen miles south-west from Sparta, and twenty miles from MeMinnville. One of these persons was a male, the other a female. They were interred in baskets made of cane, curiously wrought, and evidencing great mechanical skill. They were both dislocated at the hip joint, and were placed erect in the baskets, with a covering of cane made to fit the baskets in which they were placed. The flesh of these persons was entire and undecayed, of a brown color, produced by time, the flesh having adhered to the bones and sinews. Around the female, next her body, was placed a well dressed doeskin; next to this was placed a rug, very curiously wrought of the bark of a tree and feathers. The bark seemed to have been formed of small strands well twisted. Around each of these strands feathers were rolled, and the whole woven into cloth of a fine texture, after the manner of our common coarse fabrics. This rug was about three feet wide, and between six and seven feet in length. The whole of the ligaments thus formed of bark were completely covered by the feathers, forming a body of about one-eighth of an inch in thickness, the feathers extending about one-quarter of an inch in length from the strand to which they were confined. Its appearance was highly diversified by green, blue, yellow and black, presenting different shades of color when reflected upon by the light in different positions. The next covering was an undressed deer-skin, around which was rolled in good order a plain shroud manufactured after the same order as the one ornamented with feathers. This article resembled very much in its texture the bags generally used for the purpose of holding coffee, exported from Havana to the United States. The female had in her hand a fan formed of the tail feathers of a turkey, curiously bound with buckskin strings and scarlet colored hair, so as to open and shut readily. The hair of these mummies was still remaining upon their heads, and was of a yellow caste and very fine texture. De Soto, in his march in 1539 and 1540, saw great numbers of similar feathered mantles; the Mexicans at the time of the Spanish conquest were clad in similar garments.
The tribes of Indians inhabiting the immense territory called by the Spaniards, Florida, embracing a country of indefinite extent, bordering upon the Gulf of Mexico, and including a large portion of the Valley of the Mississippi, and the present States of Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, and the middle and western portions of Tennessee, were more highly civilized, and farther advanced than those in more northern regions ;. they were worshippers of the sun, were governed by despotic princes, cultivated the soil, had made some advances in the arts, and their manners, customs and religion all pointed to Mexico as their native country.
The population was much greater at the time of the invasion of De Soto than it has been at any subsequent period. Large armies were frequently arrayed against him. In Potosa, Florida, he was furnished with seven hundred burden bearers. In Ocute, Georgia, he was supplied with two hundred of these Indian servants, and at Cafeque, in the same State, four thousand more transported the effects of his army. A numerous population was found in the province of Coofa, and large forces opposed him at Maubila, Chickasa, and Alabama. The invasion of De Soto resulted in the destruction of an immense Indian population in all the territory through which he passed; they were not only destroyed in the bloody battles by thousands, but they were worn out by heavy burdens, and hunted down with bloodhounds. The European diseases, which the natives inherited from the Spaniards, served also to thin out their population. Again, the constant bloody wars in which they were afterwards engaged among themselves, and which, to a great extent, grew out of the invasions, still farther reduced their numbers.
The towns were surrounded with walls of earth and palisades, and had towers of defense. Entrenchments and upon
ditches were also found in various parts of the country. The most remarkable of the latter was at Pascha, west of the Mississippi. Here a large ditch, "wide enough for two canoes to pass abreast, without the paddles touching,” surrounded a walled town. It was cut nine miles long, communicated with the Mississippi, supplied the natives with fish, and afforded them the privileges of navigation.
The natives formed artificial mounds for purposes of burial, worship, habitation and defense. The houses of the chiefs, with but few exceptions, stood upon large and elevated artificial mounds. When the Indians of 1540 resolved to build a town, the site of which was usually selected upon low rich land, by the side of some stream, or in the neighborhood of a large never-failing spring, they first erected a mound from twenty to fifty feet high, round on the sides but flat on the top. The habitations of the chief and his family were erected
the summit. At the foot of the eminence a square was marked out around which the principal men placed their houses, and around them the inferior classes erected their wigwams. Some of these mounds had stairways upon their sides, and were so steep as to be accessible only by the artificial way. They were thus rendered secure from the attacks of an Indian enemy. Mounds were also erected over the chiefs after their death, whilst others were formed by the slow accumulation of the dead through ages.
The aborigines, at the time of De Soto, worshipped the sun, and erected large temples, which were also receptacles of the bones of the dead. The natives worshipped the sun, and entertained great veneration for the moon and certain stars. When the Indian ambassadors crossed the Savannah to meet De Soto, they made three profound bows toward the East, intended for the sun; three toward the West for the moon, and three toward De Soto. Upon the eastern bank of the Mississippi all the Indians approached him without uttering a word, and went through precisely the same ceremony, making to De Soto, however, three bows much