National Geographic : 1946 Jan
Indians of the Southeastern United States The beautifully carved and polished stones commonly called "banner stones" and "boat stones," the use of which was for many years an archeological mystery, are now known to have been counterweights attached to these spear throwers to increase their efficiency. Points for the javelins were made either from bone, antler, or crudely flaked triangular stone points with stems. Nets were employed in fishing, as evidenced by the finding of notched pebbles used as net sinkers. Fish hooks made of bone were also used. A Form of Fireless Cooking Throughout most of the Archaic they did not know how to make pottery, but fire cracked stones and clay balls in the Archaic sites indicate that they cooked by boiling water in basketry or bark containers by add ing such heated objects to the water. Spoons were made from mussel shells, and larger shells served as bowls and dishes. Wooden bowls and containers were carved and probably often decorated. Awls for leather working were made from leg bones of deer and other animals, and we may assume that cloth ing was made from the skins of animals. These were fastened with long bone pins. Grooved stone axes felled trees and split wood. The Southeastern Indian of the Archaic did not neglect his personal appearance. Red paint for rouge and body painting is fre quently found in graves, as are necklaces made from animal teeth and tubular shell beads. Simple flat stones in place of mortars were used for grinding. This period undoubtedly began before the Christian Era and lasted until approximately the year 700. Shortly before this latter date, the art of pottery making was introduced to the Southeast. The first vessels were crude and of simple bowl form with rounded bottoms. They were made of clay or muck mixed with Spanish moss and were undecorated. When they were fired, the vegetable material burned out, leav ing the ware porous. Some crude sand-tempered ware also was made at this time, and a little later simple fingernail indentations and straight lines were used for decoration. Towards the end of the Archaic, more elaborate forms appeared in the westerly part of the area, but for most of its duration the Archaic was without ceramics. Shortly after the introduction of this simple pottery the second major period of South eastern prehistory begins. Archeologists call this the Burial Mound period. At this time, about the year 700, a new set of ideas came into the lower Mississippi Valley and spread rapidly to the north and east. These new traits centered about an elabo rate cult of the dead, apparently introduced by a people who came into the region from the west. They did not displace the Archaic peoples whom they found already living in the Southeast, but rather merged with them. Their arrival, however, brought about pro found changes in the general manner of life. The most conspicuous features of this new cult were the conical burial mounds. The materials found in them give much evidence of the new traits which were introduced. The bodies in these mounds were usually second ary burials-that is, the bones were first stripped of their flesh, the skeletons disarticu lated, and the bones placed in bundles. A few burials of the old flexed type were still made in the flesh, and cremation was practiced. Sometimes these mounds covered the burial of an important personage who was placed in a pit under the center of the mound. Pottery was not usually included among the burial offerings, but most objects placed in the mound for the dead were "killed" by breaking them so that the "spirit" of the vessel would be re leased to accompany the owner. Early Use of Tobacco Tubular smoking pipes show that the use of tobacco had begun. The grooved ax was re placed by the polished stone celt. Quartz crystals were often placed with burials and round shell breast ornaments came into use. These burial-mound sites are found in lands suitable for farming, unlike the Archaic sites whose location was determined by the exist ence of abundant shellfish. This suggests that agriculture had been introduced, probably with corn as the principal crop. In some areas the practice of artificially deforming the skull in infancy is found at this early date. The use of copper for tools and ornaments spread into the Southeast from the Lake Su perior region, where native copper occurred abundantly. Simple bracelets, circular ear spools, finger rings, and massive celts were typical of the early copper culture. As th" period advanced, very large burial mounds were built in important centers. Typical were the famous Grave Creek Mound of West Vir ginia and the Adena Mound of Ohio. Log tombs containing the extended burials of important persons were covered by these mounds. In some instances, as in northern Kentucky, several such tombs may be found in a single large mound. Sometimes the cen tral tomb is made of stones and throughout the mound are scattered stone slab-lined graves, each containing one or more individuals.