THE EARLIEST DWELLERS.
(Pictures included with this chapter are: Mound Pottery - Carved Pipes - Mound Builders' Pipe - Tablets I, II, and III from Davenport mound - Copper Axe and Cloth - Replica In Limestone of Red Cedar Post - A Nearer view of Replica at Col Davenport's Grave - To view the pictures please go back to the Main page and click on the Picture Index for this book.)
THE CENTRAL ATTRACTION IN THE MUSEUM OF THE DAVENPORT ACADEMY OF SCIENCES-THE ELUSIVE AUTOCHTHON-THE MOUND BUILDER'S CLAIMS TO INTEREST-HIS TEXTILE SKILL-COTTON MATHER HAZARDS AN OPINION-MOUND POTTERY OF ALL KINDS-EFFIGY PIPES, ESPECIALLY THE ELEPHANTS-THE BUREAU OF ETHNOLOGY AND THE ACADEMY OF SCIENCES-PROF. SEYFFARTH'S CONCLUSIONS.
Occupying the place of honor in the center of the semicircular hall of the Academy of Sciences at Davenport are relics and remains of a departed race who may be considered the earliest inhabitants of Scott county. For lack of better name we call them Mound Builders. Long years ago they selected this beautiful location as their home, erected their habitations and means of defense, practiced their religion, developed their civiliazation, lived their lives and departed. No one knows their coming and no man can tell their going. Their racial unity is a matter of conjecture and the title by which they called themselves is a mystery. Mound Builder will do as well as any other until their hieroglyphics can be unriddled by some future archaeologist. Do we not call the Deutsch, Germans, and the Cymri, Welsh? The Mound Builder has no cause for quarrel. There is no written history to teach us better, not even tradition to guide to definiteness. The archaeologist or anthropologist who would learn of primitive Iowa races, their origin and affiliations, has so little to guide him that serious conclusions are impossible. Where he finds an early people, there is sure to be an indication that these have been preceded by others of greater antiquity.
So it has been the world around. This historian in his search for the earliest inhabitant is constantly finding evidence of racial occupation antedating the epoch of which he feels he has some knowledge. The Israelites wandering from their native land found each country people by an older race. The Aryans swarming from the ancient hive in central Asia discovered unknown peoples everywhere. The ancient Hellenes who wore the golden grasshopper as a badge of autochthons or those who sprang from the soil knew of the deception they sought to practise, for they were vigorous invaders who had displaced the Pelasgians who there abode. Before the Babylonians were the Assyrians; before the Assyrians the Chaldeans.
THE CHALLENGE OF THE MOUNDS.
Of this little migrant of Eskimoid type we know nothing. The succeeding Mound Builder left for us monuments which have enabled us to learn some things and conjecture much. Here in Scott county he left objects of utility and art, also written tablets which fairly challenge this later civilization. Here we find nearly all types of those earthen works which are found the length and breadth of the Mississippi valley, defensive embankments, sacred enclosures, temples, sacrificial mounds, sepulchral mounds, effigy mounds. From the defences which crown the bluffs it is easy to argue war forced upon them by other migrants who in their final triumph swept these early dwellers from this rich territory to other less desirable locations.
From the testimony of the mounds it seems most probable that this first settler in Scott county was an agriculturist, a dweller not a nomad, a member of a government which could plan and execute public works of great extent, a trader, for in the same mound appear copper from Lake Superior, mica from the Alleghanies, obsidian from Mexico, pearls and shells from the ocean shore. He was a potter and a cunning artificer in stone and ivory. He could fashion metals and express his artistic instincts in no mean manner. He met the necessity for clothing in this climate by preparing the skins of animals and weaving into cloth the textile fibres which were ready to his hand. Dr. R. J. Farquharson, a Davenport physician who studied this early inhabitant in conjunction with other members of the Academy of Sciences noted the unusual number of perfect sets of teeth found in the mounds examined. In a paper published in the Proceedings he says: "These teeth are invariably without any sign of decay, of almost flinty hardness, and very much worn away, apparently from the attrition of very hard particles in the food, probably the silicious outer coats of some kind of grain or seed." This same gentleman made exhaustive research in the literature of archaeology and gave it as his opinion that the copper axes of which there are more than a score in the Academy museum are not properly instruments but treasures or insignia of rank. Around these axes are the most perfect speciments of the ancient weaving known to moderns. These pieces of cloth which adhere to the metal have been preserved by the antiseptic action of the carbonate of copper by which they are dyed a bright green and rendered incorruptible. It is noted in Dr. Farquharson's paper as a curious circumstance and one perhaps possessing value that the woven fabrics have the identical texture of similar fabrics taken from the lake dwellings of Robenhausen, thus connecting two prehistoric peoples, the Mound Builders and the Lake Dwellers of Switzerland. One of the Davenport specimens of ancient cloth shows a great advance in the textile art. The warp is composed of four cords, that is, of two double and twisted cords, while the woof is composed of one such doubled and twisted cord, which passes between the two parts of the warp, the latter being twisted at each change, allowing the cords to be brought close together so as to cover the woof almost entirely.
HAD TIME TO BE SICK.
Dr. Farquharson examined the bones exhumed from local mounds with professional eye and found evidence that these ancient inhabitants had some of the diseases enjoyed by present dwellers in Davenport and a few which have passed their vogue and been displaced. From the osseous record of ancient disease he reasoned that these prehistoric Davenporters were people of such advanced civilization that invalidism was possible, with a sufficient food supply to maintain the sick and those upon whom it fell to nurse them back to health. There must have been leisure to combat the type of diseases shown by these spinal processes, leisure and dwellings warm and finely habitable. Otherwise there could not have been the recovery and subsequent approach to old age which these bones show.
These deductions lead away from the theory held by many scientists that the race which constructed the mounds of the Mississippi valley were the ancestors of the latter day Indians. Locally there seems to be no evidence in this direction. The Sacs and Foxes who lived in this region, when questioned by the pioneers among the white settlers, could give no hint as to the people who created the mounds of earth. They had no traditions concerning them.
In other portions of the United States, Indians have attempted to connect these mounds with their ancestry and their contention cannot be easily disproved. There was variety enough to the dwellers upon this continent before the white man came. As Marquis de Nadaillac says: "There is nothing in common except the name given by Europeans between the nomad Indians who ranged over immense tracts in search of game and the Indians who tilled the soil and cut canals with remarkable skill making cultivation possible under these burning climes, between the builders of Yucatan whose architectural talent is evidenced in the ruins they left behind them, and the Peruvians, whose heavy, massive monuments belong to a different family; between the Mound Builders whose knowledge of building methods was limited to mounds and retrenchments of earth, and the Cliff Dwellers who built their houses like birds' nests at inaccessible heights, or the people who lived in a veritable communism in the pueblos, those hives which strike the explorer with astonishment; between the nomads we have mentioned, whose knowledge of signs was confined to souvenirs of war or the chase rudely sculptured on stone or cut on wood or to simple marks, and the Mexicans who possessed a complete hieroglyphic and ideographic writing." There was racial range enough to allow for almost any sort of progeny, even the aboriginal yankees of whom quaint Cotton Mather wrote: "The natives of the country now possessed by the New Englanders have been forlorn and wretched heathen ever since they first herded here, and though we know not how or why these Indians first became inhabitants of this mighty continent yet we may guess that probably the devil decoyed these miserable savages hither in hopes that the gospel would never come here to disturb his absolute empire over them." The Indian estimate of Mather and his friends has not been preserved, but it was doubtless not a whit less pungent. The Puritan was a vindictive friend and an implacable neighbor.
LOCAL AMATEUR SCIENTISTS.
Members of the Davenport Academy of Sciences have studied the remains of the earliest inhabitants of this section indefatigably and to good purpose. Excavations were made in local mounds and some at greater distance. Splendid work was done by Capt. W. P. Hall, who devoted many years to research for the benefit of the academy. He traversed the Mississippi and its tributaries in a row boat, earning his way as he went, devoting his life to archaeology and sending all material acquired to the academy. The mounds near Cook's point, some of them within the corporation limits of the city of Davenport, yielded most unique and interesting relics. Other mounds at Albany, Illinois, and Toolesboro, Iowa, yielded a rich harvest of information. Year after year members of the academy pursued this line of research in the true scientific spirit of inquiry, and the campaign added greatly to the world's knowledge of a primitive people.
In the Academy museum has been brought together the most valuable and important collection of Mound Builders' relics in the world. Some of the items are those common to all collections; others are unique and of surpassing interest. There is an extensive array of ancient pottery, and a wealth of stone implements. There are more than a score of copper axes, there are fourteen copper awls and 300 copper beads. There are thirty-two pipes, a large portion being effigy pipes of the ordinary types. These are made of green stone, the red Minnesota stone called Catlinite and softer sandstones or marls. Some of the sculptured bird pipes are decorated with eyes of copper and of pearl. That the small pearls utilized were drilled with delicacy and skill in manipulation before being set, speaks volumes for these lapidaries of ancient Davenport.
Two of these effigy pipes, sculptured to the similitude of an elephant by some pre-historic craftsman, heirlooms of the ancient citizens of this region, brought great fame to the academy some twenty-five years ago. The government bureau of ethnology at that time championed the theory that the race which constructed the mounds of the Mississippi valley were the ancestors of the latter day Indians, while another school of archaeologists contended that the Mound Builders enjoyed a civilization so much higher than the Indians with whom we are acquainted that the hypothesis of the government scientists was impossible. The latter school endeavored to trace the Mound Builders to a Mexican origin or at least a common ancestry. Into this arena, with no theory to maintain, came the Davenport amateur scientists with their elephant pipes and inscribed tablets bearing the figure of the elephant, relics whose authenticity would lend strong corroborative evidence that man and the mastodon were contemporaneous on the American continent, and the Mound Builders a race anterior to the forbears of the American Indian, of higher type and more advanced civilization.
PIPES AND TABLETS DISCREDITED.
Zealous in the defense of its theory, the bureau of ethnology cast reflections upon the genuineness of these pipes and tablets and in the succeeding investigation and discussion by scientific bodies, the Davenport academy and its archaeological treasures became known around the world.
It was fortunate that at this time the academy had for its president a gentleman of scientific scholarship, of literary ability and trained by his profession in the collection of evidence and its application,-Chas. E. Putnam. His rejoinder as to the authenticity of pipes and tablets and the honesty of the people who composed the Davenport Academy of Sciences attracted world-wide attention and forever fixed the character of research entered upon by the Davenport citizens who formed this group of enthusiastic amateurs in science.
One of the elephant pipes was discovered in a mound in Louisa county by Rev. A. Blumer, a Lutheran clergyman, and by him donated to the academy. The other pipe was obtained by Rev. J. Gass, another Lutheran clergyman, from a farmer whose brother had plowed it up in Louisa county and who, unaware of its archaeologic value, had used it for his after dinner smoke for some years.
Sharing with the elephant pipes the focal warmth in this round-the-world discussion of a quarter of a century ago, were four inscribed tablets, also in the Academy museum. Three of them were discovered January 10, 1877, in a mound on the Cook farm near the Mississippi river and adjoining the city of Davenport, the leader of the expedition being Rev. J. Gass, the Lutheran clergyman above mentioned, at that time in charge of a Davenport congregation.
The two larger tablets were originally the two sides of the same slab of slate, but when found the stone was separated into two parts on the plane of cleavage. This double tablet and a smaller one were covered when taken from the mound by a coating of clay, and it was only on removal of this protective covering that the inscriptions were discovered. This larger double tablet was somewhat injured by a stroke from an excavating spade. It is an irregular quadrilateral, twelve inches long on the unbroken edge and from eight to ten inches wide. The smaller tablet is in shape an imperfect square about seven inches on each side and with two holes bored near the upper corners, apparently for the purpose of suspension. It is also of slate.
The upper inscribed one-half of the larger slab is called Tablet I, in the Proceedings of the academy; the lower half, Tablet II, and the smaller one uncovered in the same mound Tablet III. Tablet I bears the depiction of a sacrificial or cremation scene, the sketch being accompanied by hieroglyphics to the number of ninety-eight. Upon Tablet II appears a scene historical or mythical, in which appear some thirty individuals of the animal kingdom-man, bison, deer, birds, hares, Rocky mountain goat, fish, prairie wolf and some figures variously interpreted as she-moose, tapirs and mastodons. Tablet III is a calendar stone whereon are depicted four concentric circles, the smallest of an inch diameter, the space separating the others being approximately three-fourths of an inch.
The fourth inscribed stone, called Tablet IV, was also found in a mound on the Cook farm by Charles E. Harrison, Rev. J. Gass and John Hume. At the base of a stone pillar of rough limestone, the top of which was only a few inches below the surface of the ground, and occupying a small chamber prepared for its preservation was found an inscribed tablet something over a foot long, seven inches wide, and an inch and a half thick. A beautiful quartz crystal was found lying upon the center of the tablet and four flint arrows geometrically arranged were upon its surface. Upon this tablet appears an uncouth human figure seated upon or astride a circle with radial lines extending from it, apparently intended to represent the sun.
PROBABLE ACQUAINTANCE OF MAN AND MASTODON.
These important additions to the inscribed rocks of America naturally aroused great interest in the scientific world. The pictures engraved thereon have been held to indicate that these ancient Davenporters or their ancestors were on terms of acquaintance here or elsewhere with the mastodon who roamed the earth when it was much younger and frolicked over Iowa in the Aftonian interim between the two periods of glaciation from the Kewatin ice sheet. The hieroglyphics which these tablets bear are doubtless of much greater value and their interpretation would advance greatly the world's knowledge of these ancient peoples. So far no one has arisen to perform this great service, but it is but a few years since they were brought to light. Other discoveries will be made which will furnish the clue to the mystery. The world waited long for the explanation of the hieroglyphs of Egypt; the cuneiform characters were long unsolved and patience must wait upon the finding of the Rosetta stone which shall make the Davenport tablets legible.
Of the comment from archaeologists, one citation will suffice. In the third volume of the Academy Proceedings appears a paper by Prof. G. Seyffarth, Ph. D., Th. D., in which these inscribed tablets are called, "the first discovered phonetic and astronomic monuments of the primitive inhabitants of the country, which, sooner or later will cast unexpected light upon the origin, the history, the religion, the language, the science and intellectual faculties of our ancient Indians." It will be noted that Prof. Seyffarth uses the word "Indian" in a general sense as applying to all former inhabitants of this continent.
This learned Prof. Seyffarth, author of numerous accepted works of archaeology, concluded that among the nearly 200 characters which appear upon the four tablets were indications of syllable writing among the Mound Builders. He found evidence that this people were of Asiatic origin. In the picture of Tablet I he saw a scene of sacrifice to the sun, moon and twelve great gods of the starry firmament. The second tablet the professor considers to be a memorial of the Noachian deluge, "and a commentary to all other traditions confirming the latter. It makes no difference whether this slab was engraved in America or in that country from which the first Indians emigrated, whether it was the work of that man in whose grave it was discovered, or was a sacred relic preserved from generation to generation."
Tablet III Prof. Seyffarth styles "the most interesting and the most important tablet ever discovered in North America, for it represents a planetary configuration, the twelve signs of the Zodiac, known to all nations of old, and the seven planets conjoined with six different signs."
Tablet IV the savant considers to be the record of a great eclipse of the sun, the figure to be that of Mars, god of war, and the smaller figures etched on the upper edge of the upper edge of the tablet to be an eagle and a wolf.
At the close of his entended and profound article, Prof. Seyffarth sums up the "reliable results obtained by the unparalleled Davenport antiquities, of which the following are the most important ones:
PROF. SEYFFARTH'S RELIABLE RESULTS.
"1. The primitive inhabitants of North America were no preadamites, nor offsprings of the monkeys, but Noachites.
"2. They belonged to the same nation by which Mexico and South America were populated after the dispersion of the nations in 2780, B. C.
"3. The literature of the American Indians evidences that they emigrated from Japan, or Corea, or proper China.
"4. They must have come over prior to the year 1579, B. C.
"5. Our Indians, as well as those of Mexico and South America knew the history of the deluge, especially that Noah's family then consisted of eight persons.
"6. The primitive inhabitants of America were much more civilized than our present Indian tribes.
"7. The former understood the art of writing, and used a great many of syllabic character, based upon the Noachian alphabet, and wrote from the left to the right hand, like the Chinese.
"8. They were acquainted with the seven planets and the twelve signs of the Zodiac, and they referred the same stars to the same constellations as did the Chaldeans, Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, etc.
"9. They had solar years and solar months, even twelve hours of the day. They knew the cardinal points of the Zodiac and the cardinal days of the year.
"10. Their religion agreed with that of the Babylonians, Egyptians, Assyrians, Greeks, Romans, etc., because they worshipped the planets and the twelve gods of the Zodiac by sacrifices. Compare Isaiah li, 7: 'Babylon hath been a golden cup in the Lord's hand that made all the earth drunken; the nations have been drunken of her wine; therefore the nations are mad.' Plutarch, De Is., p. 377: 'There are no different deities to be found among the Greeks and the barbarian nations, either in the northern or southern countries.' Quite the same is reported by Cicero, Aristotle, Diodorus, Tacitus and other ancient authors."
Another find of remarkable stones with ancient engravings was made by the energetic preacher archaeologist, Rev. J. Gass, in a creek bed in Cleona township, Scott county, and a description apprears in the Academy Proceedings for 1877. Two of the stones were brought to the academy and placed in the museum. The other relics were too cumbersome for the enthusiastic divine's dredging facilities.