Monday, May 27, 2013

Illinois Early Native American Stone Cist Graves

Illinois Native American Stone Cist Graves

The Indians of Illinois, on the Saline River, according to George Escoll Sellers, inclosed their dead in cists, the description of which is as follows:

Above this bluff, where the spur rises at an angle of about 30°, it has been terraced and the terrace as well as the crown of the spur have been used as a cemetery; portions of the terraces are still perfect; all the burials appear to have been made in rude stone cists, that vary in size from 13 inches by 3 feet to 2 feet by 4 feet, and from 18 inches to 2 feet deep. They are made of thin-bedded sandstone slabs, generally roughly shaped, but some of them have been edged and squared with considerable care, particularly the covering slabs. The slope below the terraces was thickly strewed with these slabs, washed out as the terraces have worn away, and which have since been carried off for door-steps and hearth-stones. I have opened many of these cists; they nearly all contain fragments of human bones far gone in decay, but I have never succeeded in securing a perfect skull; even the clay vessels that were interred with the dead have disintegrated, the portions remaining being almost as soft and fragile as the bones. Some of the cists that I explored were paved with valves of fresh-water shells, but most generally with the fragments of the great salt-pans, which in every case are so far gone in decay as to have lost the outside markings. This seems conclusively to couple the tenants of these ancient graves with the makers and users of these salt-pans. The great number of graves and the quantity of slabs that have been washed out prove either a dense population or a long occupancy, or both.