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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 19.djvu/637

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619
ANCIENT COPPER-MINES OF ISLE ROYALE.

travelers. They were built by slow accretions. Not to mention the veneration which impelled the untutored savage to cast a handful of earth on a mound every time that he passed it, in testimony of his remembrance of the departed, it may be well to refer to what has been known as the feast of the dead. This is asserted to have been common to many tribes, although conducted with some variation of details. Gathering the bones of the dead from their temporary resting-places, the tribe assembled at a chosen spot, and with solemn ceremonies performed the last rites of sepulture. Sometimes they were placed in coffins separately, and buried within a pit over which was erected a mound of earth, and sometimes they were arranged serially, and simply buried under a mound. More frequently the bones were burned, the cremation being accompanied with lamentation and followed by feasting. The ashes and the unconsumed fragments were then covered with earth. For many generations this feast of the dead, which occurred sometimes every eight years, or every ten, or when the accumulated bones made it necessary, was doubtless performed on the same spot; and in course of time a mound of considerable dimension was the result, which, while containing human bones, or fragments of them, and much evidence of fire in the form of ashes and charcoal, and reddened stones, yet discloses, on exhumation, no perfect skeletons.

As further testimony to the erection of mounds by the present Indians, the statements and opinions of a few who have investigated the subject, or have dwelt long with them, may be referred to.

Mr. Jones, in his review of the "Antiquities of the Southern Indians," remarks: "During the progress of this investigation it will be perceived that mound-building, which seems to have fallen into disuse prior to the dawn of the historic period, was entirely abandoned very shortly after intercourse was established between Europeans and the red-men." Again, in summing up the evidence, Mr. Jones says, in conclusion, "In a word, we do not concur in the opinion, so often expressed, that the mound-builders were a race distinct from and superior in art, government, and religion, to the Southern Indians of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries." Bradford, in "American Antiquities and Researches," affirms that "from very respectable authority it appears that many tribes still continue to this day to raise a tumulus over the grave, the magnitude of which is proportioned to the rank and celebrity of the deceased."

From the foregoing it appears that every known trait of the mound-builder was possessed also by the Indian at the time of the discovery of America. It hence becomes unnecessary to appeal to any other agency than the Indian. It is poor philosophy and poor science that resorts to hypothetical causes when those already known are sufficient to produce the known effects. The Indian is a known adequate cause. The assignment of the mounds to any other dynasty was born