Early inhabitants in the valleys of the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers who seem to have had a civilization more enlightened than that of the aborigines first met by the white settlers. The mounds built by these people are scattered over the territory extending from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico and from the Rocky Mountains to the Atlantic Ocean. Many of these are in Ohio--some circular, others four and six-sided. Sometimes there are combinations of these and certain structures are known as altar mounds, small rounded heaps of earth having at the center a hollowed mass of hard clay showing the effects of fire and containing ashes and charcoal. The hollowed parts are from three to four feet in diameter. In Adams County, Ohio, between two branches of the Licking River, is a remarkable mound lying upon a narrow ridge and is in the form of a serpent, the jaws being wide open and measuring across some seventy-five feet. The body is about five feet high and behind the head about thirty feet across.
The whole length is 1,348 feet and it covers an area of about four square miles and, following the curves of the body, the tail is arranged in a triple coil. In front of the head is an egg- shaped enclosure with a pile of stones at the center, and beyond this a somewhat indistinct form thought to represent an animal. There are other mounds representing birds, reptiles, and so on in Wisconsin, and the suggestion has been offered that these were of a totemic character and served as objects of worship and perhaps were regarded as the guardians of the villages. The conclusion of various authorities is that the Mound-Builders lived in the stone-age and had no knowledge of smelting, though they made many articles in beaten metals and from other materials. A study of the skulls indicates that they were not of one race.
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