Houses of the Mound Builders of the Ohio Valley and the Yucatan Compared
It is not necessary, as before suggested, that the actual form and structure of the houses of the Mound-Builders should be shown to establish the hypothesis that these embankments were the veritable sites of their houses. If it is made evident that the summit platforms of these embankments, when reformed from their own materials, would afford practicable sites for houses, which when constructed would have been comfortable dwellings adapted to the climate and to Indian life in the Middle Status of barbarism, this is all that can be required. The restoration of this pueblo establishes the affirmative of this proposition, with the superadded confirmation of that defensive character which marks all the house architecture of the Village Indians in New and Old Mexico and Central America.
With their undoubted advancement beyond the Iroquois and Minnitarees, the Mound-Builders may have constructed better houses upon these platform elevations than the plans indicate. No remains of adobes have been found in connection with these embankments, and nothing to indicate that walls of such brick had ever been raised upon them. The disintegrated mass would have shown itself in the form of the embankment after the lapse of many centuries. On the contrary, they were found in the precise form they would have assumed, under atmospheric influences, after structures of the kind described had perished, and the embankments had been abandoned for centuries.
These embankments, therefore, require triangular houses of the kind described, and long-houses, as well, covering their entire length. But the interior plan might have been different, for example, the passage way might have been along the exterior wall, and the stalls or apartments on the court side, and but half as many in number, and, instead of one continuous house in the interior, four hundred and fifty feet in length, it might have been divided into several, separated from each other by cross partitions. The plan of life, however, which we are justified in ascribing to them, from known usages of Indian tribes in a similar condition of advancement, would lead us to expect large households formed on the basis of kin, with the practice of communism in living in each household, whether large or small. There is a direct connection in principle between the platform elevations inclosing a large square on which the High Bank Pueblo was constructed, and the pyramidal platforms in Yucatan, smaller in diameter but higher in elevation, upon which were erected the most artistic houses constructed by the American aborigines. In the latter cases the central area rises to the common level of the embankments upon which the houses were constructed. The former has the security gained by a house-site above the level of the surrounding ground; and it represents about all the advance made by the Village Indians in the art of war above the tribes in a lower condition of barbarism. They placed their houses and homes in a position unassailable by the methods of Indian warfare.
There is some diversity, as would be expected, in the size of the squares inclosed by these embankments. They range from four hundred and fifty to seventeen hundred feet, the majority measuring between eight hundred and fifty and a thousand feet. Gateways are usually found at the four angles and at the center of each side. A comparison of the dimensions of twenty of these squares, figured in the "Ancient Monuments of the Mississippi Valley," gives for the average nine hundred and thirty-seven feet. The aggregate length of the embankments shown in Fig. 46 is three thousand six hundred feet, which, at an average of ten feet for each apartment, would give three hundred and sixty upon each side of the passage way, or seven hundred and twenty in all. From this number should be deducted such as were used for storage, for doorways, and for public uses. Allowing two apartments for each family of five persons, the High Bank Pueblo would have accommodated from fifteen hundred to two thousand persons, living in the fashion of Indians, which is about the number of an average pueblo of the Village Indians. This result may be strengthened by comparing houses of existing Indian tribes. The Seneca-Iroquois village of Tiotohatton, two centuries ago, was estimated at a hundred and twenty houses. Taking the number at one hundred, with an average length of fifty feet, and it would give a lineal length of house-room of five thousand feet. It was the largest of the Seneca, and the largest of the Iroquois villages, and contained about two thousand inhabitants. A similar result is obtained by another comparison. The aggregate length of the apartments in the pueblo of Chettro Kettle, in New Mexico, now in ruins, including those in the several stories, is four thousand seven hundred feet. It contained probably about the same number of inhabitants.
The foregoing explanation of the uses of these embankments rests upon the defensive principle in the house architecture of the Village Indians, and upon a state of the family requiring joint tenement houses communistic in character. To both of these requirements this conjectural restoration of one of the pueblos of the Mound-Builders responds in a remarkable manner. In the diversified forms of the houses of the Village Indians, in all parts of America, the defensive principle is a constant feature. Among the Mound-Builders a rampart of earth ten feet high around a village would afford no protection, but surmounted with long-houses, the walls of which rose continuous with the embankments, the strength of these walls, though of timber coated with earth, would render a rampart thus surmounted and doubled in height a formidable barrier against Indian assault. The second principle, that of communism in living in joint-tenement houses, which is impressed not less clearly upon the houses of the Village Indians in general than upon the supposed houses of the Mound-Builders, harmonized completely with the first. From the two together sprang the house architecture of the American aborigines, with its diversities of form, and they seem sufficient for its interpretation. The Mound-Builders in their new area east of the Mississippi finding it impossible to construct joint tenement houses of adobe bricks to which they had been accustomed substituted solid embankments of earth in the place of the first story closed up on the ground and erected triangular houses upon them covered with earth. When circumstances compelled a change of plan, the second is not a violent departure from the first. There is a natural connection between them. Finally, it is deemed quite sufficient to sustain the interpretation given that these embankments were eminently adapted to the uses indicated, and that the pueblo as restored, and with its inclosed court, would have afforded to its inhabitants pleasant, protected and attractive homes.
With respect to the large circular inclosures, adjacent to and communicating with the squares, it is not necessary that we should know their object. The one attached to the High Bank Pueblo contains twenty acres of land, and doubtless subserved some useful purpose in their plan of life. The first suggestion which presents itself is, that as a substitute for a fence it surrounded the garden of the village in which they cultivated their maize, beans, squashes, and tobacco. At the Minnetaree village a similar inclosure may now be seen by the side of the village surrounding their cultivated land, consisting partly of hedge and partly of stakes, the open prairie stretching out beyond. We cannot know all the necessities that attended their mode of life; although houses, gardens, food, and raiment were among those which must have existed.
There is another class of circular embankments, about two hundred and fifty feet in diameter, connected with each other in some cases by long and low parallel embankments, as may be seen in Fig 46. Undoubtedly they were for some useful purpose, which may or may not be divined correctly, but a knowledge of which is not necessary to our hypothesis respecting the principal embankments. It may be suggested as probable that the Mound-Builders were organized in gentes, phratries, and tribes. If this were the case, the phratries would need separate places for holding their councils and for performing their religious observances. These ring embankments suggest the circular estufas found in connection with the New Mexican pueblos, two, four, and sometimes five at one pueblo. The circles were adapted to open-air councils, after the fashion of the American Indian tribes. As there are two of these connected with each other, and two not connected, it is not improbable that the Mound-Builders at this village were organized in two and perhaps four phratries, and that they performed their religious ceremonies and public business in these open estufas.
[Footnote: The solid rectangular platforms found at Marietta, Ohio, and at several places in the Gulf region, are analogous to those in Yucatan. They are an advance upon the ring inclosures, and were probably designed for religious uses. That the Mound Builders were at one time accustomed to adobe brick is proven by their presence at Seltzertown, in the State of Mississippi, forming a part of the wall of a mound. (See Foster's Pre-Historic Races of the U.S., p. 112.)]