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Mound Builders

Robert Silverberg

Publication Year: 1986

In Illinois, the one-hundred-foot Cahokia Mound spreads impressively across sixteen acres, and as many as ten thousand more mounds dot the Ohio River Valley alone. The Mound Builders traces the speculation surrounding these monuments and the scientific excavations which uncovered the history and culture of the ancient Americans who built them.

The mounds were constructed for religious and secular purposes some time between 1000 B.C. and 1000 A.D., and they have prompted curiosity and speculation from very early times. European settlers found them evidence of some ancient and glorious people. Even as eminent an American as Thomas Jefferson joined the controversy, though his conclusions—that the mounds were actually cemeteries of ancient Indians—remained unpopular for nearly a century.

Only in the late 19th century, as Smithsonian Institution investigators developed careful methodologies and reliable records, did the period of scientific investigation of the mounds and their builders begin. Silverberg follows these excavations and then recounts the story they revealed of the origins, development, and demise of the mound builder culture.

Published by: Ohio University Press


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-5


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p. 5-5

List of Illustrations

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pp. 6-8

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1: The Discovery Of The Mounds

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pp. 9-28

...Monuments of past civilizations lie scattered in many parts of the world. Egypt has her pyramids, England her Stonehenge, Greece her Acropolis. Out of the jungles of Cambodia rise the towers of Angkor. The isle of Crete offers the sprawling palace of King Minos at Knossos. The stone cities of the Mayas adorn Mexico's Yucatan...

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2: The Making Of The Myth

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pp. 29-49

...The first notices of Northern mounds began to appear in print late in the eighteenth century. On May 3, 1772, a group of Christian Indians led by the missionary David Zeisberger went from western Pennsylvania to found a settlement called Schonbrunn near the present site of New Philadelphia, Ohio. In the course of laying out the town, Zeisberger discovered burial mounds...

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3: The Triumph Of The Myth

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pp. 50-73

...One of the first organizations in the United States devoted to archaeological studies was the American Antiquarian Society, founded in Boston in 1812. Its members were particularly interested in the Ohio mounds, which seemed to hold such marvels and mysteries...

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4: The Great Debate

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pp. 74-124

...By 1840, the country between the Alleghenies and the Mississippi was no longer a sparsely populated wilderness. The pioneer villages were becoming towns, and even cities; territories were achieving statehood; the once-troublesome Indian marauders had largely been pushed westward, beyond the rim of civilization...

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5: Deflating The Myth

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pp. 125-167

...John Wesley Powell, who had so much to do with demythologizing the American mounds, first encountered them as a boy in Ohio. He was born in 1834, the son of a Wesleyan preacher; his birthplace was near Palmyra, New York, where Joseph Smith supposedly had found the golden plates of Mormon...

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6: The Honored Dead: Adena and Hopewell

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pp. 168-232

...One of the important points Cyrus Thomas raised is that before we can ask ourselves whether it was Indians or Mound Builders who built the mounds, we must know the answer to the question, "What is an Indian?" The standard nineteenth-century response was to point to the nomadic horsemen of the Western plains-the hard-riding "Injuns" familiar to all of us from too many motion pictures....

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7: The Temple Mound People

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pp. 233-267

...The mound-building impulse did not perish with the collapse of Ohio Hopewell. Hopewellian influence lingered in outlying regions; perhaps there was an actual migration of the Ohio people to such places as New York, Kansas, Michigan, and Wisconsin...


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pp. 268-269


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pp. 270-276

E-ISBN-13: 9780821443828
E-ISBN-10: 0821443828
Print-ISBN-13: 9780821408391
Print-ISBN-10: 0821408399

Page Count: 280
Publication Year: 1986