Popular Science Monthly/Volume 39/July 1891/Man and the Glacial Period



SOME most important facts have come to light during the past two years bearing upon the connection of man with the Ice age in North America.

In October, 1889, Mr. W. C. Mills, president of a local archæological society of some importance at Newcomerstown, on the Tuscarawas River, in Ohio (see map), found a flint implement of palæolithic type fifteen feet below the surface of the glacial terrace bordering the valley at that place. The facts were noted by Mr. Mills in his memorandum-book at the time, and the implement was placed with others in his collection. But, as he was not familiar with implements of that type, and did not at the time know the significance of these gravel deposits, nothing was said about it until meeting me the following spring, when I was led from his account to suspect the importance of the discovery. Mr. Mills soon after sent the implement to me for examination, and its value at once became apparent. In company with Judge C. C. Baldwin and two or three other prominent citizens of Cleveland, I immediately visited Newcomerstown. A cut of the implement is given in the accompanying pages, made from a photograph one quarter the diameter. Beside it is a palæolith which came into my possession from Dr. Evans's collection in London, with his certification that it is from the valley of the Somme. The two implements, as they appear side by side, are in shape and finish the exact counterparts of each other. The one from Newcomerstown,

however, is made from a local flint which occurs in nodules in the "Lower Mercer" limestone, which is situated in the lower part of the coal-measures, and crops out a few miles from there.

The implement has upon it the patina characteristic of the genuine flint implements of great age in the valley of the Somme, and is recognized by Prof. Haynes, of Boston, as in itself fulfilling all the requirements looked for in such a discovery. The gravel-pit in which it was found is one which for some years has been resorted to by the railroads for ballast. Mr. Mills saw the implement as it was projecting from the undisturbed gravel in the fresh exposure, and took it out with his own hands. The surface of the glacial terrace is here thirty-five feet above the present high-water mark of the river, and, as already said, the implement was found fifteen feet below the surface. The terrace is one which characterizes the Tuscarawas River everywhere below the glacial boundary. Additional interest is given to this discovery by the fact that it is from one of the valleys to which I had directed attention several years before as likely to yield such discoveries.

The other most important facts bearing on the antiquity of man come from the Pacific coast, and perhaps have only an indirect connection with the Glacial period; but as their connection

Fig. 1.—The Smaller is the Palæolith from Newcomerstown, the Larger from Amiens (face view).

with the period must stand or fall with the facts collected some years ago by Prof. Whitney, I will allude to them here.

In the autumn of 1889, Mr. Charles Francis Adams, then President of the Union Pacific Railroad, brought to my notice a small clay image, an inch and a half in length, which had been found by Mr. M. A. Kurtz while boring an artesian well at Nampa, Ada County, Idaho. The image was of slightly baked clay, incrusted in part with a coating of red oxide of iron, which indicated considerable age, and came up in the sand-pump from a depth of three hundred and twenty feet. Near the surface the well penetrated a stratum of basalt, fifteen feet thick. Below this basalt there were alternate beds of clay and quicksand to the depth mentioned, where the sandstone rock was encountered. The well was tubed with heavy iron tubing six inches in diameter, so that there could be no mistake about the occurrence of the image at the depth

Fig. 2.—Edge View of the Preceding.

stated. The detailed evidence was published by me in the Proceedings of the Boston Society of Natural History for January, 1890. During this last summer, also, I visited the locality and found ample confirmation of it.

In the valley between the Boisé and Snake Rivers, in south-western Idaho, where Nampa is situated, there is an area of several hundred square miles covered with fresh-appearing basalt, which apparently came from vents thirty or forty miles to the east, but in its western flow barely extended five miles beyond Nampa. Below that point there is no lava for seventy miles. The clay and quicksand covering the stratum in which the image was found would seem to have accumulated in the valley of a stream having access to such, an amount of sedimentary material that for a time it filled up rather than eroded its channel. Apparently the conditions favorable to such effects would be most readily furnished during the Glacial period, when the streams of that region were swollen not only with the increased annual precipitation, but with the melting of the glaciers which doubtless had for a long time occupied the mountains near the head-waters of the Boisé River to the north. Very likely, also, the lava-flows which obstructed the river a few miles above Boisé City turned its course to the southward, so that it may have wandered for some time over the plain in the vicinity of Nampa.

From the erosion of the Boisé River since the outflow of lava it would seem that the time which has elapsed since the volcanic outbursts is closely comparable with that which has passed since the outflow of the lava forming the Table Mountain in Calaveras and Tuolumne Counties, California, under which the famous Calaveras skull was found some years ago. Furthermore, the occurrence of late Pliocene fossils underneath the lava in western Idaho shows that the lava at Nampa is certainly post-Tertiary, so that this discovery of human relics may properly be synchronized with those under Table Mountain in California.

In a visit to Sonora, California, and to Bald Mountain, where the Calaveras skull was discovered, I was so fortunate also myself as to run upon evidence of a previously unreported instance of the discovery of a stone mortar under Table Mountain. The mortar was found in October, 1887, by Mr. C. McTarnahan, the assistant surveyor of Tuolumne County. It was lying in the gravel reached by the Empire Tunnel, and about a mile west of the Valentine shaft where Dr. Snell found a similar relic. This tunnel had been excavated seven hundred and fifty-eight feet before reaching the gravel, and the mortar was found one hundred and seventy-five feet in a horizontal line from the edge of the Table Mountain basalt, and about one hundred feet below the surface. The object was taken out and laid beside the mouth of the tunnel, and was given to Mrs. M. J. Darwin, of Santa Rosa, California, who has since given it to me. The mortar is made from a small bowlder of some eruptive rock, and is six and a half inches through; the hollow being about three and a half inches in diameter, and about three inches deep.

At the annual meeting of the Geological Society of America, in January, 1891, a similar mortar was reported by Mr. George F. Becker, of the United States Geological Survey, as found under Table Mountain, about five miles south of the Empire mine, near Rawhide Gulch. Mr. J. H. Neale, a well-known mining superintendent, made his affidavit that he took this with some other objects of human manufacture from undisturbed gravel underneath the mountain in 1870. At the same meeting of the Geological Society Mr. Becker presented a pestle with a communication from Mr. Clarence King, stating that he found, it, about twenty years ago, and took it with his own hands from undisturbed gravel under Table Mountain in the vicinity of Tuttletown, not far from Rawhide Gulch, and still nearer to the Empire mine.

Thus the evidence establishing the occurrence of human relics under Table Mountain would seem to be sufficient, and I should not now repeat the doubts expressed at former times concerning their genuineness. What the final conclusions will be as to the date of this lava-flow, it is now too early to surmise.

  1. From supplementary notes to the new edition of The Ice Age in North America, and its Bearings on the Antiquity of Man. New York: D. Appleton & Co., 1891.