American Aborigines

[The following is an essay on America from an encyclopedia published in 1911.  Please bear in mind that it has not been edited for either factual or political correctness, and is presented here as a document reflective of the time in which it was written.]


A summary account is here given of the American aborigines.  Whether with Payne it is assumed that in some remote time a  speechless anthropoid passed over a land bridge, now the Bering Sea, which then sank behind him; or with  W. Boyd Dawkins and Brinton, that the French cave man came hither by way of Iceland; or with Keane, that two sub-varieties, the long-headed Eskimo-Botocudo type and the Mexican round- headed type, prior to all cultural developments, reached the New World, one by Iceland, the other by Bering Sea; or that Malayoid wanderers were stranded on the coast of South America; or that no breach of continuity has occurred since first the march of tribes began this way—ethnologists agree that the aborigines of the western came from the eastern hemisphere, and there is lacking any biological evidence of Caucasoid or Negroid blood flowing in the veins of Americans before the invasions of historic times. The time question is one of geology.

Following Notes and Queries on Anthropology, published by the British Association for the Advancement of Science, the study of the American aborigines divides itself into two parts: that relating to their biology, and that relating to their culture.  In the four subdivisions of humanity based on the hair, the Americans are straight-haired or Mongoloid.  But it will free this account of them from embarrassments if they be looked upon as a distinct subspecies of Homo sapiens.  Occupying 135 degrees of latitude, living on the shores of frozen or of tropical waters; at altitudes varying from sea-level to several thousands of feet; in forests, grassy prairies or deserts; here starved, there in plenty; with a night here of six months’ duration, there twelve hours long; here among health-giving winds, and there cursed with malaria—this brown man became, in different culture provinces, brunette or black, tall or short, long-headed or short-headed, and developed on his own hemisphere variations from an average type. 

Since the tribes practiced far more in-breeding than out-breeding, the tendency was toward forming not only verbal linguistic groups, but biological varieties; the weaker the tribe, the fewer the captures, the greater the isolation and harder the conditions—producing dolichocephaly, dwarfism and other retrogressive characteristics.  The student will find differences among anthropologists in the interpretation of these marks—some averring that comparative anatomy is worthless as a means of subdividing the American subspecies, others that biological variations point to different Old World origins, a third class believing these structural variations to be of the soil.  The high cheek-bone and the hawk’s- bill nose are universally distributed in the two Americas; so also are proportions between parts of the body, and the frequency of certain abnormalities of the skull, the hyoid bone, the humerus and the tibia.  Viability, by which are meant fecundity, longevity and vigor, was low in average.  The death-rate was high, through lack of proper weaning foods, and hard life.  The readiness with which the American Indian succumbed to disease is well known. For these reasons there was not, outside of southern Mexico, northern Central America and Peru, a dense population.  In the whole hemisphere there were not over ten million souls.

The materials for studying the American man biologically are abundant in the United States National Museum in Washington; the Peabody Museum, at Cambridge, Massachusetts; the American Museum of Natural History, New York; the Academy of Sciences and the Free Museum of Arts and Sciences, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; the Field Museum in Chicago; the National Museum, city of Mexico, and the Museum of La Plata.  In Europe there are excellent collections in London, Cambridge, Paris, Berlin, St Petersburg and Prague.

Professor Putnam measured for the World’s Columbian Exposition 1700 living Indians, and the results have been summed up by Boas.  The breadth of the Indian face is one centimeter more than that of the whites, and the half-breeds are nearer the Indian standard; this last is true also of color in the skin, eyes and hair.  In stature, the tall tribes exceed 170 cm.; middle stature ranges between 166 and 170; and short tribes are under 166 cm.  The Indians are on the whole a tall people.  Tribes that have changed residence have changed stature.  The tallest statures are on the plains in both Americas.  The mountains of the south-east and of the west reveal the shortest statures.  The whole Mississippi valley was occupied by tall peoples.  The Athapascans of New Mexico are of middle stature, the Pueblo peoples are short.  The Shoshoni, Shahaptin and Salish tribes are of middle stature; on the coast of British Columbia, Puget Sound, in Oregon, and northern California, are the shortest of all the North Americans save the Eskimo, while among them, on the Columbia, are taller tribes.  The comparison of cranial indexes is rendered difficult by intentional flattening of the occiput by the hard cradle-board.  The Mississippi valley tribes are nearly brachycephalic; the index increases around the Great Lakes, and lessens farther east.  The eastern Eskimo are dolichocephalic, the western are less so, and the Aleuts brachycephalic.  On the North Pacific coast, and in spots down to the Rio Grande, are short heads, but scattered among these are long heads, frequent in southern California, but seen northward to Oregon, as well as in Sonora and some Rio Grande pueblos.

The same variety of index exists in South America.  In the regions of greatest linguistic mixture is the greatest heterogeneity of cephalic index.


The concepts on which the peoples of the Old World have been classified, such as stature, color, skeletal measurements, nationality, and so on, cannot as yet be used in America with success.  The only basis of division practicable is language, which must be kept separate in the mind from the others.  However, before the conquest, in no other part of the globe did language tally so nearly with kinship.  Marriage was exogamic among clans in a tribe, but practically, though not wholly endogamic as between tribes, wife and slave capture being common in places.  In his family tree of Homo Americanus Keane follows out such a plan, placing the chief linguistic family names on the main limbs, North American on one side, and South American on the other.  Deniker groups mankind into twenty- nine races and sub-races.  American are numbered thus:-- 21, South American sub-race; Palaeo-Americans and South Americans.  22, North American sub-race; tall, mesocephalic. 23, Central American race; short, brachycephalic. 24, Patagonian race; tall, brachycephalic. 25, Eskimo race; short, dolichocephalic.

Farrand speaks of physical, linguistic, geographic, and cultural criteria, the first two the more exact, the latter more convenient and sometimes the only feasible bases.

Culture provinces.

Zoologists divide the earth into biological areas or regions, so both archaeologists and ethnologists may find it convenient to have in mind some such scheme of provinces as the following, named partly after the dominant ethnic groups:--Eskimo, on Arctic shores; Dene (Tinneh), in north-western Canada;

Algonquin-Iroquois, Canada and eastern United States; Sioux, plains of the west; Muskhogee, Gulf States; Tlinkit-Haida, North Pacific coast; Salish-Chinook, Fraser- Columbia coasts and basins; Shoshoni, interior basin; California- Oregon, mixed tribes; Pueblo province, southwestern United States and northern Mexico; Nahuatla-Maya, southern Mexico and Central America; Chibcha-Kechua, the Cordilleras of South America; Carib-Arawak, about Caribbean Sea; Tupi-Guarani, Amazon drainage; Araucanian, Pampas; Patagonian, peninsula; Fuegian, Magellan Strait.  It is necessary to use geographical terms in the case of California and the North Pacific, the Caucasus or cloaca gentium of the western hemisphere, where were pocketed forty out of one hundred or more families of native tribes.  The same is true in a limited sense of Matto Grosso.  That these areas had deep significance for the native races is shown by the results, both in biology and culture.  The presence or absence of useful minerals, plants and animals rendered some congenial, others unfriendly; some areas were the patrons of virile occupations, others of feminine pursuits.

Among the languages of America great differences exist in the sounds used.  A collection of all the phonetic elements exhausts the standard alphabets and calls for new letters.  A comparison of one family with another shows also that some are vocalic and soft, others wide in the range of sounds, while a third set are harsh and guttural, the speaking of them (according to Payne) resembling coughing, barking and sneezing.  Powell also thinks that man lived in America before he acquired articulate speech.  The utterance of these speech elements in definite order constitutes the roots and sentences of the various tongues.  From the manner of assemblage, all American languages are agglutinative, or holophrastic, but they should not be called polysynthetic or incorporative or inflexional.  They were more or less on the way to such organized forms, in which the world’s literatures are preserved.  As in all other languages, so in those of aboriginal America, the sentence is the unit.  Words and phrases are the organic parts of the sentence, on which, therefore, the languages are classified.  It is on this basis of sentential elements that Powell has arranged the linguistic families of North America.  He has brought together, in the Bureau of American Ethnology in Washington, many hundreds of manuscripts, written by travelers, traders, missionaries, and scholars; and, better still, in response to circulars, carefully prepared vocabularies, texts and long native stories have been written out by trained collectors.  A corps of specialists—Boas, Dall, Dorsey, Gatschet, Hewitt, Mooney, Pilling, J. R.  Swanton—have studied many of these languages analytically and comparatively.  Other institutional investigations have been prosecuted, the result of all which will be an intelligent comprehension of the philology of a primitive race.

Linguistic families.

Attention is frequently called to the large number of linguistic families in America, nearly 100 having been named, embracing over 1000 languages and dialects.  A few of them, however, occupied the greater part of lands both north and south of Panama; the others were encysted in the territory of the prevailing families, or concealed in culs- de-sac of the mountains.  They are, through poverty of material, unclassed languages, merely outstanding phenomena.  Factions separated from the parent body developed dialects or languages by contact, intermarriage and incorporation with foreign tribes.  To the old-time belief that languages multiplied by splitting and colonizing, must be added the theory that languages were formerly more numerous, and that those of the Americans were formed by combining.

The families of North America, Middle America and South America are here given in alphabetical order, the prevailing ones in small capitals:--

North America.

ALGONQUIN, E. Can., N. Atlantic States, middle States, middle western States; ATHAPASCAN, N.W. Can., Alaska, Wash., Or., Cal., Ariz., Mex.; Attacapan, La.; Beothukan, Nova Scotia; CADDOAN, Tex., Neb., Dak.; Chimakuan, Wash.; Chimarikan, N.  Cal.; CHIMMESYAN, Brit.  Col.; CHINOOKAN, Or.; Chitimachan, La.; Chumashan, S. Cal,; Coahuiltecan, Tex.; Copehan, N. Cal.; Costanoan, Cal.; ESKIMAUAN, Arctic province; Esselenian, Cal.; IROQUOIAN, N.Y., N.C.; Kalapooian, Or.; Karankawan, Tex.; KERESAN, N. Mex.; KIOWAN, Neb.; KITUNAHAN, Brit.  Col.; KOLUSCHAN, S. Alaska; KULANAPAN, Cal.; Kusan, Cal.; Lutuamian, Or.; Mariposan, Cal.; Moquelumnan, Cal.; MUSKHOGEAN, Gulf States; NATCHESAN, Miss.; Palaihnihan, Cal.; PIMAN, Ariz.; Pujunan, Cal.; Quoratean, Or.; Salinan, Cal.; SALISHAN, Brit.  Col.; Sastean, Or.; SHAHAPTIAN, Or.; SHOSHONEAN, Interior Basin; SIOUAN, Mo. Valley; SKITTAGETAN, Brit.  Col.; Takilman, Or.; TANYOAN, Mex.; Timuquanan, Fla.; Tonikan, Miss.; Tonkawan, Tex.; Uchean, Ga.; Waiilatpuan, Or.; WAKASHAN, Vancouver I.; Washoan, Nev.; Weitspekan, Or.; Wishoskan, Cal.; Yakonan, Or.; Yanan, Or.; Yukian, Cal.; Yuman, L. Cal.; ZUNYAN, N. Mex.

Middle America.

CHAPANECAN, Chi.; Chinantecan, Oax.; Chontalan, S. Mex.; Huatusan, Nic.; Huavean, Tehuant.; Lencan, Hon.; MAYAN, Yuc. and Guat.; NAHUATLAN, Mex.; OTOMITLAN, Cen.  Mex.; Raman, Hond.; Serian, Tiburon I.; Subtiaban, Nic.; TARASCAN, Mich.; Tehuantepecan, Isthmus; Tequistlatecan, Oax.; TOTONACAN, Mex.; Triquian, S. Mex.; Ulvan, Nic.; Xicaquean, Hond.; ZAPOTECAN, Oax.; ZOQUEAN, Tehuant.

South America.

Alikulufan, T. del Fuego; Arauan, R. Purus; ARAWAKIAN, E.  Andes; Atacamenyan, S. Peru; ARAUCANIAN, Pampas; AYMARAN, Peru; Barbacoan, Colombia; Betoyan, Bogota; Canichanan, Bolivia; Carahan, S. Brazil; CARIBIAN, around Caribbean Sea; Catamarenyan, Chaco; Changuinan, Panama; Charruan, Parana R.; CHIBCHAN, Colombia; Churoyan, Orinoco R.; Coconucan, Colombia; Cunan, Panama; GUAYCURUAN, Paraguay R.; JIVAROAN, Ecuador; KECHUAN, Peru; Laman, N.E. Peru; Lulean, Vermejo R.; Mainan, S. Ecuador; Matacoan, Vermejo R.; Mocoan, Colombia; Mosetenan, E. Bolivia; ONAN, T. del Fuego; Paniquitan, Colombia; Panoan, Ucayali R., Peru; Payaguan, Chaco; Puquinan, Titicaca L.; Samucan, Bolivia; Tacanan, N. Bolivia; TAPUYAN, Brazil; Timotean, Venezuela; TUPIAN, Amazon R.; TZONECAN, Patagonia; YAHGAN, T. del Fuego; Yuncan, Truxillo, Peru; Yurucarian, E. Bolivia; ZAPAROAN, Ecuador.

Written language was largely hierographic and heroic.  The drama, the cult image, the pictograph, the synecdochic picture, the ideaglyph, were steps in a progress without a break.  The warrior painted the story of conflicts on his robe only in part, to help him recount the history of his life; the Eskimo etched the prompters of his legend on ivory; the Tlinkit carved them on his totem post; the women fixed them in pottery, basketry, or blankets.  At last, the central advanced tribes made the names of the abbreviated pictures useful in other connections, and were far on the way to a syllabary.  Intertribal communication was through gestures; it may be, survivals of a primordial speech, antedating the differentiated spoken languages.  See publications of the Bureau of American Ethnology, by F. W. Hodge (1906); Farrand, Basis of Am. History, chap. xviii.; and Orozco y Berra, Geografia de las lenguas, &c. (Mexico, 1868).


To supply their wants the Americans invented modifications in natural materials, the working of which was their industries.  The vast collections in richly endowed European and American museums are the witnesses and types of these.  There is danger of confounding the products of native industries.  The following classes must be carefully discriminated: (a) pre-Columbian, (b) Columbian, (c) pre-contact, (d) first contact, (e) post-contact, (f) present, and (g) spurious.  Pre-Columbian or pre-historic material is further classified into that which had been used by Indians before the discovery, and such as is claimed to be of a prior geological period.  Columbian, or 15th-century material, still exists in museums of Europe and America, and good descriptions are to be found in the writings of contemporary historians.  Pre-contact material is such as continued to exist in any tribe down to the time when they were touched by the presence of the trade of the whites.  In some tribes this would bring the student very near to the present time; for example, before Steinen, the Indians in Matto Grosso were in the pre- contact period.  Post-contact material is genuine Indian work more or less influenced by acculturation.  It is interesting in this connection to study also first contact in its lists of articles, and the effects produced upon aboriginal minds and methods.  For example, a tribe that would jump at iron arrow-heads stoutly declined to modify the shafts.  Present material is such as the Indian tribes of the two Americas are making to-day.  Spurious material includes all that mass of objects made by whites and sold as of Indian manufacture; some of it follows native models and methods; the rest is fraudulent and pernicious.  The question whether similarities in technology argue for contact of tribes, or whether they merely show corresponding states of culture, with modifications produced by environment, divides ethnologists. (See Farrand, chap. xviii. )

Aboriginal mechanics.

The study of mechanics involves materials, tools, processes and products.  No iron tools existed in America before the invasion of the whites.  Mineral, vegetable and animal substances, soft and hard, were wrought into the supply of wants by means of tools and apparatus of stone, wood and bone tools for cutting, or edged tools; tools for abrading and smoothing the surfaces of substances, like planes, rasps and sandpaper; tools for striking, that is, pounding for the sake of pounding, or for crushing and fracturing violently; perforating tools; devices for grasping and holding firmly.  These varied in the different culture provinces according to the natural supply, and the presence or absence of good tool material counted for as much as the presence or absence of good substances on which to work.  As a means of grading progress among the various tribes, the tool is valuable both in its working part and its hafting, or manual part.  Fire drills were universal.

Besides chipped stone knives, the teeth of rodents, sharks, and other animals served an excellent purpose.  In north-west America and in the Caribbean area the adze was highly developed.  In Mexico, Colombia and Peru the cutting of friable stone with tough volcanic hammers and chisels, as well as rude metallurgy, obtained, but the evidences of smelting are not convincing.  Engineering devices were almost wanting.  The Eskimo lifted his weighted boat with sheer-legs made of two paddles; he also had a tackle without sheaves, formed by weaving a greased thong through slits cut in the hide of a walrus.  The north- west coast Indians hoisted the logs that formed the plates of their house frames into position with skids and parbuckles of rope.  The architectural Mexicans, Central Americans, and especially the Peruvians, had no derricks or other hoisting devices, but rolled great stones into place along prepared ways and up inclined planes of earth, which were afterwards removed.  In building the fortress of Sacsahuaman, heights had to be scaled; in Tiahuanaco stones weighing 400 tons were carried seventeen miles; in the edifices of Ollantaytambo not only were large stones hauled up an ascent, but were fitted perfectly.  The moving of vast objects by these simple processes shows what great numbers of men could be enlisted in a single effort, and how high a grade of government it was which could hold them together and feed them.  In Arizona, Mexico and Peru, reservoirs and aqueducts prove that hydrotechny was understood. (Hodge, Am. Anthrop. vi. 323.)

Time-keeping devices were not common.  Sun-dials and calendar monuments were known among the more advanced tribes.  Fractional portions of time were gauged by shadows, and time of day indicated by the position of the sun with reference to natural features.  No standards of weighing or measuring were known, but the parts of the body were the units, and money consisted in rare and durable vegetable and animal substances, which scarcely reached the dignity of a mechanism of exchange.  If the interpretation of the Maya calculiform glyphs be trustworthy, these people had carried their numeral system into the hundreds of thousands and devised symbols for recording such high numbers. (See Bulletin 28, Bur. Am. Ethnol.)


The Americans were, in most places, flesh-eaters.  The air, the waters and the land were their base of supplies, and cannibalism, it is admitted, was widespread.  With this animal diet everywhere vegetable substances were mixed, even in the boreal regions.  Where the temperature allowed, vegetable diet increased, and fruits, seeds and roots were laid under tribute.  Storage was common, and also the drying of ripened fruits.  The most favored areas were those where corn and other plants could be artificially produced, and there barbaric cultures were elaborated.  This farming was of the rudest kind.  Plots of ground were burned over, trees were girdled, and seeds were planted by means of sharpened sticks.  The first year the crop would be free from weeds, the second year only those grew whose seeds were wafted or carried by birds, the third year the crop required hoeing, which was done with sticks, and then the space was abandoned for new ground.  Irrigation and terrace culture were practiced at several points on the Pacific slope from Arizona to Peru.  The steps along which plant and animal domestication passed upwards in artificiality are graphically illustrated in the aboriginal food quest.

Clothing and adornment.

Except in the boreal areas the breech-clout was nearly universal with men, and the cincture or short petticoat with women.  Even in Mexico and Mayan sculptures the gods are arrayed in gorgeous breech-clouts.  The foot-gear in the tropics was the sandal, and, passing northward, the moccasin, becoming the long boot in the Arctic.  Trousers and the blouse were known only among the Eskimo, and it is difficult to say how much these have been modified by contact.  Leggings and skin robes took their place southward, giving way at last to the nearly nude.  Head coverings also were gradually tabooed south of the 49th parallel.  Tattooing and painting the body were well-nigh universal.  Labrets, i.e. pieces of bone, stone, shell, &c., were worn as ornaments in the lip (Latin, labrum) or cheek by Eskimo, Tlinkit, Nahuatlas and tribes on the Brazilian coast.  For ceremonial purposes all American tribes were expert in masquerade and dramatic apparel.  A study of these in the historic tribes makes plain the motives in gorgeous Mexican sculptures.


The tribal system of family organization, universal in America, dominated the dwelling.  The Eskimo underground houses of sod and snow, the Dene (Tinneh) and Sioux bunch of bark or skin wigwams, the Pawnee earth lodge, the Iroquois long house, the Tlinkit great plank house, the Pueblo with its honeycomb of chambers, the small groups of thatched houses in tropical America and the Patagonian toldos of skin are examples.  The Indian habitation was made up of this composite abode, with whatever out-structures and garden plots were needed.  A group of abodes, however joined together, constituted the village or home of the tribe, and there was added to these a town hall or large assembly structure where men gathered and gossiped, and where all dramatic and religious ceremonies were held.  Powell contends that in a proper sense none of the Indian tribes was nomadic, but that, governed by water-supply, bad seasons and superstition (and discomfort from vermin must be added), even the Pueblo tribes often tore down and rebuilt their domiciles.  The fur trade, the horse, the gun, disturbed the sedentary habit of American tribes.  Little attention was paid to furniture.  In the smoke-infested wigwam and hut the ground was the best place for sitting or sleeping.  The communal houses of the Pacific coast had bunks.  The hammock was universal in the tropics, and chairs of wood or stone.  Eating was from the pot, with the hand or spoon.  Tables, knives, forks and other prandial apparatus were as lacking as they were in the palaces of kings a few centuries before. (Morgan, Houses and House Life; Farrand, p. 286.)


Stone-working was universal in America.  The tribes quarried by means of crowbars and picks of wood and bone.  They split the silicious rocks with stone hammers, and then chipped them into shape with bone tools.  Soapstone for pottery was partly cut into the desired shape in the native ledge, broken or prised loose, and afterwards scraped into form.  Paint was excavated with the ubiquitous digging-stick, and rubbed fine on stones with water or grease.  For polished stonework the material was pecked by blows, ground with other stones, and smoothed with fine material.  Sawing was done by means of sand or with a thin piece of harder stuff.  Boring was effected with the sand- drill; the hardest rocks may have been pierced with specially hard sand.  At any rate stones were sawed, shaped, polished, carved and perforated, not only by the Mexicans, but among other tribes.  For building purposes stones were got out, dressed, carved and sculptured with stone hammers and chisels made of hard and tenacious rock.  Stone-cutters’ tools of metal are not known to have existed, and they were not needed.  Their quarrying and stone-working were most wasteful.  Those localities where chipping was done reveal hundreds of tons of splinters and failures, and these are often counted as ruder implements of an earlier time.  The dressed stones for great buildings were pecked out of the ledges, and broken off with levers in pieces much too large for their needs. (McGuire, “The Stone Hammer,” Am. Anthrop. iv., 1891; Holmes, Archaeological Studies; see Hodge’s List, Bur. Am. Ethnol., 1906, and Handbook.)


Metals were treated as malleable stones by the American aborigines.  No evidence of smelting ores with fluxes is offered, but casting from metal melted in open fires is assumed.  Gold, silver, copper, pure or mixed with tin or silver, are to be found here and there in both continents, and nuggets were objects of worship.  Tools and appliances for working metals were of the rudest kind, and if moulds for casting were employed these were broken up; at least no museum contains samples of them, and the processes are not described.  In the Arctic and Pacific coast provinces, about Lake Superior, in Virginia and North Carolina, as well as in ruder parts of Mexico and South America, metals were cold-hammered into plates, weapons, rods and wire, ground and polished, fashioned into carved blocks of hard, tenacious stone by pressure or blow, overlaid, cold-welded and plated.  Soldering, brazing and the blowpipe in the Cordilleran provinces are suspected, but the evidence of their existence must be further examined.  A deal of study has been devoted to the cunning Tubal Cains, the surprising productions of whose handiwork have been recovered in the art provinces of Mexico and the Cordilleras, especially in Chiriqui, between Costa Rica and Colombia.  It must be admitted, however, that both the tools and the processes have escaped the archaeologist, as they did “the ablest goldsmiths in Spain, for they never could conceive how they had been made, there being no sign of a hammer or an engraver or any other instrument used by them, the Indians having none such” (Herrera).


The potter’s wheel did not exist in the western world, but it was almost invented.  Time and muscle, knack and touch, a trained eye and brain and an unlimited array of patterns hanging on fancy’s walls, aided by a box of dry sand, were competent to give the charming results.  No more striking contrast can be found between forlorn conditions and refined art products.  Art in clay was far from universal in the two Americas.  The Eskimo on Bering Sea had learned to model shallow bowls for lamps.  No pottery existed in Athapascan boundaries.  Algonquin-Iroquois tribes made creditable ware in Canada and eastern United States.  Muskhogean tribes were potters, but Siouan tribes, as a rule, in all the Mississippi drainage were not.  In their area, however, dwelt clay-working tribes, and the Mandans had the art.  Moreover, the mound-builders in the eastern half of this vast plain, being sedentary, were excellent potters.  The efflorescence of aboriginal pottery is to be found in the Pueblo region of south- western United States, in Mexico, Central America, Caribbean Islands, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and restricted areas of eastern Brazil. (The literature on this subject is extensive.  See Cushing, Fewkes, Holmes, Hough, Stevenson.) On the Pacific side of the continent not one of the forty linguistic families made pottery.  The only workers in clay west of the Rockies and north of the Pueblo country belonged to the Shoshonean family of the Interior Basin.

Textile industries.

The study of Indian textiles includes an account of their fibers, tools, processes, products, ornaments and uses.  The fibers were either animal or vegetable; animal fibers were hair, fur on the skin, feathers, hide, sinew and intestines; vegetable fibers were stalks of small trees, brush, straw, cotton, bast, bark, leaves and seed vessels in great variety as one passes from the north southward through all the culture provinces.  The products of the textile industry in America were bark cloth, wattling for walls, fences and weirs, paper, basketry, matting, loom products, needle or point work, net-work, lacework and embroidery.  In the manufacture of these the substances were reduced to the form of slender filaments, shreds, rods, splints, yarn, twine and sennit or braid.  All textile work was done by hand; the only devices known were the bark peeler and beater, the shredder, the flint-knife, the spindle, the rope-twister, the bodkin, the warp- beam and the most primitive harness.  The processes involved were gathering the raw material, shredding, splitting, gauging, wrapping, twining, spinning and braiding.  Twining and spinning were done with the fingers of both hands, with the palm on the thigh, with the spindle and with the twister.  Ornamentation was in form, color, technical processes and dyes.  The uses to which the textiles were put were for clothing, furniture for the house, utensils for a thousand industries, fine arts, social functions and worship.

In order to comprehend the more intricate processes of the higher peoples it is necessary to examine the textile industry in all of the culture areas.  It is essentially woman’s work, though among the Pueblos, strangely enough, men are weavers.

The Eskimo woman did not weave, but was expert in sewing and embroidering with sinew thread by means of a bodkin.  The Dene (Tinneh) peoples used strips of hide for snowshoes and game-bags, sewed their deerskin clothing with sinew thread, and embroidered in split quill.  Their basketry, both in Canada and in Arizona, was coiled work.  The northern Algonquin and Iroquoian tribes practiced similar arts, and in the Atlantic states wove robes of animal and bird skins by cutting the latter into long strips, winding these strips on twine of hemp, and weaving them by the same processes employed in their basketry.  Textile work in the Sioux province was chiefly the making of skin garments with sinew thread, but in the Gulf states the existence of excellent cane and grasses gave opportunity for several varieties of weaving.  On the Pacific coast of America the efflorescence of basketry in every form of technic was known.  This art reached down to the borders of Mexico.  Loom-weaving in its simplest form began with the Chilkats of Alaska, who hung the warp over a long pole, and wrought mythological figures into their gorgeous blankets by a process resembling tapestry work.  The forming of bird skins, rabbit skins and feathers into robes, and all basketry technique, existed from Vancouver Island to Central America.  In northern Mexico net-work, rude lace-work in twine, are followed farther south, where finer material existed, by figured weaving of most intricate type and pattern; warps were crossed and wrapped, wefts were omitted and texture changed, so as to produce marvelous effects upon the surface.  This composite art reached its climax in Peru, the llama wool affording the finest staple on the whole hemisphere.  Textile work in other parts of South America did not differ from that of the Southern states of the Union.  The addition of brilliant ornamentation in shell, teeth, feathers, wings of insects and dyed fibers completed the round of the textile art.  A peculiar type of coiled basketry is found at the Strait of Magellan, but the motives are not American. (Consult the works of Boas, Dixon, G. T. Emmons, Holmes, Otis T. Mason, Matthews, John Murdoch, E. W. Nelson, A. P. Niblack, Lucien M. Turner.)


Since most American tribes lived upon flesh, the activities of life were associated with the animal world.  These activities were not confined to the land, but had to do also with those littoral meadows where invertebrate and vertebrate marine animals fed in unlimited numbers.  An account of savage life, therefore, includes the knowledge of the animal life of America and its distribution, regarding the continent, not only as a whole, but in those natural history provinces and migrations which governed and characterized the activities of the peoples.  This study would include industries connected with capture, those that worked up into products the results of capture, the social organizations and labors which were involved in pursuit of animals, the language, skill, inventions and knowledge resulting therefrom, and, finally, the religious conception united with the animal world, which has been named zootheism.  In the capture of animals would be involved the pedagogic influence of animal life; the engineering embraced in taking them in large numbers; the cunning and strategy necessary to hunters so poorly armed giving rise to disguises and lures of many kinds.  Capture begins among the lower tribes with the hand, without devices, developing knack and skill in seizing, pursuing, climbing, swimming, and maiming without weapons; and proceeds to gathering with devices that take the place of the hand in dipping, digging, hooking and grasping; weapons for striking, whether clubs, missiles or projectiles; edged weapons of capture, which were rare in America; piercing devices for capture, in lances, barbed spears, harpoons and arrows; traps for enclosing, arresting and killing, such as pens, cages, pits, pen-falls, nets, hooks, nooses, clutches, adhesives, deadfalls, impalers, knife traps and poisons; animals consciously and unconsciously aiding in capture; fire in the form of torches, beacons, burning out and smoking out; poisons and asphyxiators; the accessories to hunting, including such changes in food, dress, shelter, traveling, packing, mechanical tools and intellectual apparatus as demanded by these arts.  Finally, in this connection, the first steps in domestication, beginning with the improvement of natural corrals or spawning ground, and hunting with trained dogs and animals.  Zootechnic products include food, clothing, ornaments, habitations, weapons, industrial tools, textiles, money, &c.

In sociology the dependence of the American tribes upon the animal world becomes most apparent.  A great majority of all the family names in America were from animal totems.  The division of labor among the sexes was based on zootechny.  Labor organizations for hunting, communal hunt and migrations had to do with the animal world.

In the duel between the hunter and the beast-mind the intellectual powers of perception, memory, reason and will were developed; experience and knowledge by experience were enlarged, language and the graphic arts were fostered, the inventive faculty was evoked and developed, and primitive science was fostered in the unfolding of numbers, metrics, clocks, astronomy, history and the philosophy of causation.  Beliefs and practices with reference to the heavenly world were inspired by zoic activities; its location, scenery and environment were the homes of beast gods.  It was largely a zoopantheon; thus zootheism influenced the organization of tribes and societies in the tribes.  The place, furniture, liturgies and apparatus of worship were hereby suggested.  Myths, folk-lore, hunting charms, fetishes, superstitions and customs were based on the same idea. (For life zones, see C. H. Merriam, Biol.  Survey, U.S. Dept. of Agriculture.)


Excepting for extensive and rapid travel over the snow in the Arctic regions by means of dog sleds, the extremely limited transportation by dog travail (or sledge) in the Sioux province, and the use of the llama as a beast of burden throughout the Peruvian highlands, land travel was on foot, and land transportation on the backs of men and women.  One of the most interesting topics of study is the trails along which the seasonal and annual migrations of tribes occurred, becoming in Peru the paved road, with suspension bridges and wayside inns, or tambos.  In Mexico, and in Peru especially, the human back was utilized to its utmost extent, and in most parts of America harness adapted for carrying was made and frequently decorated with the best art.  In the Mexican codices pictures of men and women carrying are plentiful.  Traveling on the water was an important activity in aboriginal times.  Hundreds of thousands of miles of inland waters and archipelagoes were traversed.  Commencing in the Arctic region, the Eskimo in his kayak, consisting of a framework of driftwood or bone covered with dressed sealskin, could paddle down east Greenland, up the west shore to Smith Sound, along Baffin Land and Labrador, and the shores of Hudson Bay throughout insular Canada and the Alaskan coast, around to Mount St Elias, and for many miles on the eastern shore of Asia.  In addition to this most delicate and rapid craft, he had his umiak or freight boat, sometimes called woman’s boat.  The Athapascan covered all north-western Canada with his open and portable birch-bark canoe, somewhat resembling the kayak in finish.  The Algonquin-Iroquois took up the journey at Bear Lake and its tributaries, and by means of paddling and portages traversed the area of middle and eastern Canada, including the entire St Lawrence drainage.  The absence of good bark, dugout timber, and chisels of stone deprived the whole Mississippi valley of creditable water-craft, and reduced the natives to the clumsy trough for a dugout and miserable bull-boat, made by stretching dressed buffalo hide over a crate.  On the Atlantic coast of the United States the dugout was improved in form where the waters were more disturbed.  John Smith’s Indians had a fleet of dugouts.  The same may be said of the Gulf states tribes, although they added rafts made of reed.  Along the archipelagoes of the North Pacific coast, from Mount St Elias to the Columbia river, the dugout attained its best.  The Columbia river canoe resembled that of the Amur, the bow and stern being pointed at the water-line.  Poor dugouts and rafts, made by tying reeds together, constituted the water-craft of California and Mexico until Central America is reached.

The Caribs were the Haidas of the Caribbean Sea and northern South America.  Their craft would vie in form, in size, and seaworthiness with those of the North Pacific coast.  The catamaran and the reed boat were known to the Peruvians.  The tribes of Venezuela and Guiana, according to Im Thurn, had both the dugout and the built-up hull.  The simplest form of navigation in Brazil was the woodskin, a piece of bark stripped from a tree and crimped at the ends.  The sangada, with its platform and sail, belonging to the Brazilian coast, is spoken of as a good seaworthy craft.  Finally, the Fuegian bark canoe, made in three pieces so that it can be taken apart and transported over hills and sewed together, ends the series.  The American craft was propelled by poling, paddling, rowing, and by rude sails of matting.

Fine art.

The aesthetic arts of the American aborigines cannot be studied apart from their languages, industries, social organizations, lore and worships.  Art was limited most of all by poverty in technical appliances.  There were just as good materials and inspirations, but what could the best of them do without metal tools? One and all skilful to a surpassing degree—weavers, embroiderers, potters, painters, engravers, carvers, sculptors and jewelers,--they were wearied by drudgery and overpowered by a never-absent, weird and grotesque theology.  The Eskimo engraved poorly, the Dene (Tinneh) embroidered in quill, the North Pacific tribes carved skillfully in horn, slate and cedar, the California tribes had nimble fingers for basketry, the Sioux gloried in feathers and painted parfleche.  The mound builders, Pueblo tribes, middle Americans and Peruvians, were potters of many schools; gorgeous color fascinated the Amazonians, the Patagonians delighted in skins, and even the Fuegians saw beauty in the pretty snail shells of their desolate island shores.  Of the Mexican and Central American sculpture and architecture a competent judge says that Yucatan and the southern states of Mexico are not rich in sculptures, apart from architecture; but in the valley of Mexico the human figure, animal forms, fanciful life motives in endless variety, were embodied in masks, yokes, tablets, calendars, cylinders, disks, boxes, vases and ornaments.  The Nahuatl lapidaries had at hand many varieties of workable and beautiful stone—onyx, marble, limestone, quartz and quartz crystal, granite, syenite, basalt, trachyte, rhyolite, diorite and obsidian, the best of material prepared for them by nature; while the Mayas had only limestone, and hard, tenacious rock with which to work it, and timber for burning lime.  However, looking over the whole field of North American achievement, architectural and non-architectural, composite and monolithic, the palm for boldness, magnitude of proportions and infinity of labor, must go to the sculptured mosaics of Yucatan.  Maya architecture is the best remaining index of the art achievements of the American race.  The construction of such buildings as the palace at Uxmal and the castillo at Chichen (Chichenitza) indicates a mastery in architectural design.  There is lack of unity in plan and grouping, and an enormous waste of material as compared with available room.  At Uxmal the mass of masonry is to chamber space about as forty to one.  The builders were “ignorant of some of the most essential principles of construction, and are to be regarded as hardly more than novices in the art” (Holmes, Archaeological Studies, &c.).  As for the marvels of Peru, the walls of the temple of the sun in Cuzco, with their circular form and curve inward, from the ground upward, are most imposing.  Some of the gates without lintels are beautiful, and the geometric patterns in the walls extremely effective.  The same objection to over-massiveness might not apply here as in Mexico, owing to volcanic activity.


Institutions in Europe and America have gathered abundant material for an intelligent comprehension of American Indian sociology.  The British Association had a committee reporting during many years on the tribes of northwest Canada.  The American Museum in New York has prepared a series of monographs on the tribes of the North Pacific coast, of northern Mexico, and of the Cordilleras of South America.  The reports of the Bureau of American Ethnology in Washington cover the Eskimo, east and west, and all the tribes of the United States.  In Mexico the former labors of Pimentel and Orozco y Berra are supplemented by those of Bandolier, Penafiel, Herrera and Alfredo Chavero.  Otto Stoll’s studies in Guatemala, Berendt’s in Central America, Ernst’s in Venezuela, Im Thurn’s in Guiana, those of Ehrenreich, von den Steinen, Meyer in Brazil, or of Bandolier, Bastian, Bruhl, Middendorf, von Tschudi in Peru, afford the historian of comparative sociology ample groundwork for a comprehensive grasp of South American tribes.  In all parts of the western hemisphere society was organized on cognate kinship, real or artificial, the unit being the clan.  There were tribes where the basis of kinship was agnate, but these were the exceptions.  The headship of the clan was sometimes hereditary, sometimes elective, but each clan had a totemic name, and the clans together constituted the tribe, the bond being not land, but blood.  Women could adopt prisoners of war, in which case the latter became their younger sons.  When a confederacy was organized under a council, intermarriage between tribes sometimes occurred; an artificial kinship thus arose, in which event the council established the rank of the tribes as elder and younger brother, grandfather, father and sons, rendering the relationship and its vocabulary most intricate, but necessary in a social system in which age was the predominant consideration and etiquette most exacting. (See Morgan, Tables of Consanguinity, Smithsonian Contributions, xvii.)

The Eskimo have a regular system of animal totem marks and corresponding gentes.  Powell sets forth the laws of real and artificial kinship among the North American tribes, as well as tribal organization and government, the formation of confederacies, and the intricate rules of artificial kinship by which rank and courtesy were established. (Many papers in Reports of Bur. Am. Ethnol.) Bandolier declares that in Mexico existed neither state nor nation, nor political society of any kind, but tribes representing dialects, and autonomous in matters of government, and forming confederacies for the purposes of self-defense and conquest.  The ancient Mexican tribe was composed of twenty autonomous kins.  According to Brinton the social organization of ancient Peru was a government by a council of the gentes.  The Inca was a war chief elected by the council to carry out its commands.  Among the Caribs a like social order prevailed; indeed, their family system is identical with the totem system of North American Indians.  Dominated by the rule of blood relationship, the Indians regulated all co-operative activities on this basis.  Not only marriage, but speech and common industries, such as rowing a boat or chasing a buffalo, were under its sway.  It obtrudes itself in fine art, behavior, law-making, lore and religion.  In larger or smaller numbers of cognate kindred, for shorter or longer periods of time, near or far from home, the aborigines developed their legislatures, courts, armies, secret societies and priesthoods.

Art of war.

In organization, engineering, strategy, offence and defense, the art of war was in the barbarous and the savage status or grade.  One competent to judge asserts that peace, not war, was the normal intertribal habit.  They held frequent intercourse, gave feasts and presents, and practiced unbounded hospitality.  Through this traffic objects traveled far from home, and now come forth out of the tombs to perplex archaeologists.  Remembering the organization of the tribe everywhere prevalent, it is not difficult to understand that the army, or horde, that stands for the idea, was assembled on the clan basis.  The number of men arrayed under one banner, the time during which they might cohere, the distances from home they could march, their ability to hold permanently what they had gained, together form an excellent metric scale of the culture grade in the several American provinces, and nowhere, even in the most favored, is this mark high.  With the Mexicans war was a passion, but warfare was little above the raid (Bandelier; Farrand).  The lower tribes hunted their enemies as they hunted animals.  In their war dances, which were only rehearsals, they disguised themselves as animals, and the pantomime was a mimic hunt.  They had striking, slashing and piercing weapons held in the hand, fastened to a shaft or thong, hurled from the hand, from a sling, from an atlatl or throwing-stick, or shot from a bow.  Their weapons were all individual, not one co-operative device of offence being known among them, although they understood fortification.

The term “slavery” is often applied to the aboriginal American tribes.  The truth of this depends upon the definition of the word “slave.” If it means the capture of men, and especially of women, and adoption into the tribe, this existed everywhere; but if subjection to a personal owner, who may compel service, sell or put to death the individual, slavery was far from universal.  Nieboer finds it only on the North Pacific coast as far south as Oregon, among the Navajo and the Cibola pueblos, and in a few tribes of Middle and South America.


The thought life of the American aborigines is expressed in their practical knowledge and their lore.  The fascination which hangs around the latter has well-nigh obscured the former.  As in medicine theory is one thing and practice another, so among these savages must the two be carefully discriminated.  Dorsey, again, draws a distinction between lore narratives, which can be rehearsed without fasting or prayer, and rituals which require the most rigid preparation.  In each culture province the Indians studied the heavenly bodies.  The Arctic peoples regulated their lives by the long day and night in the year; among the tribes in the arid region the place of sunrise was marked on the horizon for each day; the tropical Indians were not so observant, but they worshipped the sun-god above all.  The Mayas had a calendar of 360 days, with intercalary days; this solar year was intersected by their sacred year of twenty weeks of thirteen days each, and these assembled in bewildering cycles.  Their knowledge of the air and its properties was no less profound.  Heat and cold, rain and drought, the winds in relation to the points of the compass, were nearest their wants and supplies, and were never out of their thoughts.  In each province they had found the best springs, beds of clay, paint, soapstone, flinty rock, friable stone for sculpture and hard, tenacious stone for tools, and used ashes for salt.  The vegetal kingdom was no less familiar to them.  Edible plants, and those for dyes and medicines, were on their lists, as well as wood for tools, utensils and weapons, and fibers for textiles.  They knew poisonous plants, and could eliminate noxious properties.  The universal reliance on animal life stimulated the study of the animal kingdom.  Everywhere there were names for a large number of species; industries and fine arts were developed through animal substances.  Society was organized in most cases on animal clans, and religion was largely zoomorphic.  The hunting tribes knew well the nature and habits of animals, their anatomy, their migrations, and could interpret their voices.  Out of this practical knowledge, coupled with the belief in personeity, grew a folk-lore so vast that if it were written down the world would not contain the books.


The religion of the American aborigines, so far as it can be made a subject of investigation, consisted (1) in what the tribes believed about spirits, or shades, and the spirit world—its organization, place, activities and relation to our world; and (2) in what they did in response to these beliefs.  The former was their creeds, the latter their cults or worships.  In these worships, social organization, religious dramas and paraphernalia, amusement and gambling, and private religion or fetishism, found place.  In order to obtain an intelligent grasp of the religion of tribes in their several culture provinces, it must be understood: (1) That the form of belief called animism by Tylor (more correctly speaking, personeity), was universal; everything was somebody, alive, sentient, thoughtful, willful.  This personeity lifts the majority of earthly phenomena out of the merely physical world and places them in the spirit world.  Theology and science are one.  All is supernatural, wakan. (2) That there existed more than one self or soul or shade in any one of these personalities, and these shades had the power not only to go away, but to transform their bodily tenements at will; a bird, by raising its head, could become a man; the latter, by going on all fours, could become a deer. (3) That the regulative side of the spirit world was the natural outcome of the clan social system and the tribal government in each tribe.  Even one’s personal name had reference to the world of ghosts.  The affirmation that American aborigines believed in an all-pervading, omnipotent Spirit is entirely inconsistent with the very nature of the case. (4) Worship was everywhere dramatic.  Only here and there among the higher tribes were bloody sacrifices in vogue, and prayers were in pantomime.

In the culture areas the environment gave specific characters to the religion.  In the Arctic province the overpowering influence of meteorological phenomena manifested itself both in the doctrine of shades and in their shamanistic practices.  The raven created the world.  The Dene (Tinneh) myths resembled those of the Eskimo, and all the hunting tribes of eastern Canada and United States and the Mississippi valley have a mythology based upon their zootechny and their totemism.  The religious conceptions of the fishing tribes on the Pacific coast between Mount St Elias and the Columbia river are worked out by Boas; the transformation from the hunting to the agricultural mode of life was accompanied by changes in belief and worship quite as radical.  These have been carefully studied by Cushing, Stevenson and Fewkes.  The pompous ceremonials of the civilized tribes of Mexico and the Cordilleras in South America, when analyzed, reveal only a higher grade of the prevailing idea.  Im Thurn says of the Carib: “All objects, animate and inanimate, seem exactly of the same nature, except that they differ in the accident of bodily form.” These mythological ideas and symbols of the American aborigines were woven in their textiles, painted on their robes and furniture, burned into their pottery, drawn in sand mosaics on deserts, and perpetuated in the only sculptures worthy of the name, in wood and stone.  They are inseparable from industry; language, social organization and custom wait upon them: they explain the universe in the savage mind.


The archaeology of the western hemisphere should be divided as follows: (1) that of Indian activities; (2) the question of man’s existence in a prior geological period.  There is no dividing line between first-contact ethnology and pre-contact archaeology.  Historians of this time, both north and south of Panama, described tools and products of activities similar to those taken from beneath the soil near by.  The archaeologist recovers his specimens from waste places, cave deposits, abandoned villages, caches, shell-heaps, refuse-heaps, enclosures, mounds, hut rings, earthworks, garden beds, quarries and workshops, petroglyphs, trails, graves and cemeteries, cliff and cave dwellings, ancient pueblos, ruined stone dwellings, forts and temples, canals or reservoirs.  The relics found in these places are material records of language, industries, fine arts, social life, lore and religion.

Here and there in the Arctic province remains of old village sites have been examined, and collections brought away by whalers and exploring expeditions.  Two facts are established—namely, that the Eskimo lived formerly farther south on the Atlantic coast, and that, aboriginally, they were not specially adept in carving and etching.  The old apparatus of hunting and fishing is quite primitive.  The Dene (Tinneh) province in Alaska and north-western Canada yields nothing to the spade.  Algonquin-Iroquois Canada, thanks to the Geological Survey and the Department of Education in Ontario, has revealed old Indian camps, mounds and earthworks along the northern drainage of Lakes Erie and Ontario, and pottery in a curved line from Montreal to Lake of the Woods.  Throughout eastern United States shell-heaps, quarries, workshops and camp sites are in abundance.  The Sioux and the Muskhogee province is the mound area, which extends also into Canada along the Red river.  The forms of these are earth-heaps, conical mounds, walls of earth, rectangular pyramids and effigies (Putnam).  Thomas sums up the work of the Bureau of American Ethnology upon the structure, contents and distribution of these earth monuments, over a vast area from which adobe, building stone and stone-working material were absent. (See Hodge’s List of Pubs. of the Bur. Am. Ethnol.) No writings have been recovered, the artisans shaping small objects in stone were specially gifted, the potters in only a few places approached those of the Pueblos, the fine art was poor, and relics found in the mounds do not indicate in their makers a grade of culture above that of the Indian tribes near by.  The archaeology of the Pacific coast, from the Aleutian Islands, is written in shell-heaps, village sites, caves, and burial-places (Dall, Harlan I. Smith, Schumacher).  The relics of bone, antler, stone, shell and copper are of yesterday.  Even the Calaveras man is no exception, since his skull and his polished conical pestle, the latter made of stone more recent than the auriferous gravels, show him to have been of Digger Indian type.  In Utah begin the ruins of the Pueblo culture.  These cover Arizona and New Mexico, with extensions into Colorado on the north and Mexico on the south.  The reports of work done in this province for several years past form a library of text and illustration.  Cliff dwellings, cave houses, pueblos and casas are all brought into a series without a break by Bandelier, Cushing, Fewkes, Holmes, Hough, Mindeleff, Nordenskjold, Powell and Stevenson.  From Casa Grande, in Chihuahua, to Quemada, in Zacatecas, Carl S. Lumholtz found survivals of the cliff dwellers.  Between Quemada and Copan, in Honduras, is an unbroken series of mural structures.  The traditions agree with the monuments, whatever may be objected to assigning any one ruin to the Toltec, the Chichimec or the Nahuatl, that there are distinct varieties in ground-plan, motives, stone-craft, wall decorations and sculptures.  Among these splendors in stone the following recent explorers must be the student’s guide:--Bowditch, Charnay, Forstemann, F. T. Goodman, Gordon, Holmes, Maudslay, Mercer, Putnam, Sapper, Marshall H. Saville, Seler, Cyrus Thomas, Thompson.  A list of the ruins, printed in the handbook on Mexico published by the Department of State in Washington, covers several pages.  The special characteristics of each are to be seen partly in the skill and genius of their makers, and partly in the exigencies of the site and the available materials.  A fascinating study in this connection is that of the water-supply.  The cenotes or underground reservoirs were the important factors in locating the ruins of northern Yucatan.  From Honduras to Panama the urn burials, the pottery, the rude carved images and, above all, the grotesque jewelry, absorb the archaeologist’s attention. (Publications of Peabody Museum.)

Beyond Chiriqui southward is El Dorado.  Here also bewildering products of ancient metallurgy tax the imagination as to the processes involved, and questions of acculturation also interfere with true scientific results.  The fact remains, however, that the curious metal-craft of the narrow strip along the Pacific from Mexico to Titicaca is the greatest of archaeological enigmas.  Bandelier, Dorsey, Holmes, Seler and Uhle have taken up the questions anew.  Beyond Colombia are Ecuador and Peru, where, in the widening of the continent, architecture, stone-working, pottery, metallurgy, textiles are again exalted.  Among the Cordilleras in their western and interior drainages, over a space covering more than twenty degrees of latitude, the student comes again upon massive ruins.  The materials on the coast were clay and gravel wrought into concrete, sun-dried bricks and pise, or rammed work, cut stalks of plants formed with clay a kind of staff, and lintels were made by burying stems of cana brava (Gynerium saccharoides) in blocks of pise.  On the uplands structures were of stone laid up in a dozen ways.  Walls for buildings, garden terraces and aqueducts were straight or sloping.  Doorways were usually square, but corbelled archways and gateways surmounted with sculptures were not uncommon.  Ornamentation was in carving and in color, the latter far more effectively used than in Middle America.  A glance at the exquisite textiles reveals at once the inspiration of mural decorations.  The most prolific source of Peruvian relics is the sepulchers or huacas, the same materials being used in their construction as in building the houses.  Here, owing to a dry climate, are the dead, clad and surrounded with food, vessels, tools and art products, as in life.  The textiles and the pottery can only be mentioned; their quality and endless varieties astonish the technologist.  In the Carib province there are no mural remains, but the pottery, with its excessive onlaying, recalls Mexico and the jewelers of Chiriqui.  The polished stone work is superb, finding its climax in Porto Rico, which seems to have been the sacred island of the Caribs.  For the coasts of South America the vast shell-heaps are the repositories of ancient history.

Paleolithic man.

Since 1880 organized institutions of anthropology have taken the spade out of the hands of individual explorers in order to know the truth concerning Glacial or Pleistocene man.  The geologist and the trained archaeologist are associated.  In North America the sites have been examined by the Peabody Museum, the Bureau of American Ethnology, and others, with the result that only the Trenton gravels have any standing.  The so-called Paleolithic implements are everywhere.  The question is one of geology, simply to decide whether those recovered at Trenton are ancient.  Putnam and George Frederick Wright maintain that they are ancient, Alex.  Francis Chamberlain and Holmes that they are post-Glacial and comparatively recent (Am. Anthrop., N.S. i. pp. 107, 614).  Elsewhere in the United States fossilized bones, crania of a low order, association of human remains with those of fossil animals are not necessarily evidence of vast antiquity.  In South America the shell-heaps, of enormous size, are supposed to show that the animals have undergone changes in size and that such vast masses require untold ages to accumulate.  The first is a biological problem.  As for the second, the elements of savage voracity and wastefulness, of uncertainty as to cubical contents on uneven surface, and of the number of mouths to fill, make it hazardous to construct a chronological table on a shell-heap.  Hudson’s village sites in Patagonia contain pottery, and that brings them all into the territory of Indian archaeology.  Ameghino refers deposits in Patagonia, from which undoubted human bones and relics have been exhumed, to the Miocene.  The question is of the age of the sediments from which these were taken.  The bones of other associated animals, says John B.  Hatcher, demonstrate the Pleistocene nature of the deposits, by which is not necessarily meant older Quaternary, for their horizons have not been differentiated and correlated in South America.  Hatcher believes that “there is no good evidence in favor of a great antiquity for man in Patagonia.” In a cave near Consuelo Cove, southern Patagonia, have been found fragments of the skin and bones of a large ground-sloth, Grypotherium (Neomylodon) listai, associated with human remains.  Ameghino argues that this creature is still living, while Ur Moreno advances the theory that the animal has been extinct for a long period, and that it was domesticated by a people of great antiquity, who dwelt there prior to the Indians.  Rodolfo Hauthal, Walter E. Roth and Dr R. Lehmann Nitsche review their work with the conclusion, not unanimously held by them, that man co-existed here with all the other animals whose remains were found during an inter-Glacial period.  Arthur Smith Woodward sums up the question in Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London, closing with this sentence: “If we accept the confirmatory evidence afforded by Mr. Spencer Moore, we can hardly refuse to believe that this ground-sloth was kept and fed by an early race of men.” These are individual opinions, subject to revision by that court of appeals, the institutional judgment. (Summary in H. Hesketh Prichard, Through the Heart of Patagonia (1902), Appendix A.)


AUTHORITIES.—A valuable endowment of research in specimens, literature and pictures, deposited in libraries, museums and galleries since 1880, will keep ethnologists and archaeologists employed for many years to come.  The scientific inquirer will find a mass of material in the papers and reports contributed to the numerous societies and institutions which are devoted to anthropological research.  Museums of aboriginal culture are without number; in Washington the Smithsonian Institution, the National Museum, the Bureau of American Ethnology and the American Anthropologist issue publications on every division of the subject, lists of their publications and general bibliographies.  Also the Peabody Museum, Cambridge; the American Museum of Natural History, New York; the Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia; the Field Museum, Chicago; the California Academy and the California University, San Francisco; and the Canadian Institute, Toronto, publish monographs and lists.  The most comprehensive work on North America is the Handbook of American Indians (prepared by the Bureau of American Ethnology, under W. H. Holmes, and edited by F. Webb Hodge).

The following represent a select list of works on the American aborigines:--H.  H. Bancroft, Native Races of the Pacific States of North America, vols. i.-v. (1874-1876); A. F.  Bandelier, Papers on the Sedentary Indians of New Mexico (see Papers of the Archaeological Institute of America, 1881, 1890, 1892); also 10th, 11th, 12th Reports Peabody Museum; Franz Boas, The Central Eskimo (6th Rep. Bur. Am.  Ethnol., 1888); also Bulls. 20, 26, 27 and Reports Brit.  Assoc. 1885-1898; Charles P. Bowditch, Mexican and Central American Antiquities; Bull. 28, Bur. Am. Ethnol.; also The Temples of the Cross and Mayan Nomenclature (Cambridge, Mass., 1906); David Boyle, Reports of the Provincial Museum of Toronto on Archaeology and Ethnology of Canada; D. G.  Brinton, Library of Aboriginal American Literature, vols.  i.-viii. (Philadelphia, 1822-1890); The American Race (New York, 1891); Gustav Bruhl, Die Cultur-volker Amerikas (Cincinnati, 1889); Desire Charnay, The Ancient Cities of the New World (New York, 1887); Frank Cushing, Zuni Folk Tales (New York, 1901); William H. Dall, Alaska and its Resources (Boston: Lee & Shepard, 1870) (also papers by Bur. Am. Ethnol.); J. Deniker, The Races of Man (London, 1900); Roland B. Dixon, The Northern Maidu, Cal., Bull. 17, Am. Mus. Nat. Hist. (New York, 1905); Paul Ehrenreich, Die Volkerstamme Brasiliens (Berlin, 1892); Anthropologische Studien uber die Urbewohner Brasiliens (Berlin, 1897); Livingston Farrand, The American Nation: A History, vol. ii.  (New York, 1904), with copious references; J. W. Fewkes, A Journal of American Ethnology and Archaeology, vols. i.-iv.  (Boston, 1891-1894); Pliny Earle Goddard, Life and Culture of the Hupa, Univ. of Cal., vol. i. (1903): papers by F. W.  Hodge, List of Publications of the Bur. Am. Ethnol., Bull.  31 (1906); W. H. Holmes, Handbook of the Indians North of Mexico; Alice C. Fletcher, Francis la Flesche and John Comfort Fillmore, “A Study of Omaha Indian Music,” Peabody Museum Archaeological and Ethnological Papers. i. (1893); George Byron Gordon, “Researches in Central America,” Memoirs of the Peabody Museum, vol. i.  Nos. 1, 4, 5, 6; and Proc.  Mus.  Univ. of Pa.; William H. Holmes, Archaeological Studies among the Ancient Cities of Mexico (Chicago, 1895); Walter Hough, Archaeological Field Work in N.-E.  Arizona, Museum-Gates Expedition of 1901; Report U.S. National Museum, 1901; Ales.  Hrdlicka, “The Chichimecs,” Am. Anthropologist, 1903, pp. 385-440; also papers on physical anthropology in the Handbook and Pubs. of the National Museum and the American Museum; Archer Butler Hulbert, Historic Highways of America, 16 vols. (Cleveland, O.); E. F. Im Thurn, Among the Indians of British Guiana (London, 1883); A. H. Keane, Ethnology (Cambridge, 1896); and Man, Past and Present (Cambridge, 1899); A. L. Kroeber, Papers on Eskimo, Arapaho, Languages and Culture of California Tribes, in Pubs. of California University and the American Museum of Natural History, N. Y.; Albert Buell Lewis, “Tribes of the Columbia Valley,” Mem.  Anthrop.  Assoc. vol. i. (1906), with bibliography; Joseph D. McGuire, “The Stone Hammer and its Various Uses,” Am.  Anthropologist, iv. (1891); Teobert Maler, “Researches in Usumatsintla Valley” (1901- 1903), Peabody Museum Mem. ii.; Clements R. Markham, Cuzco (London, 1836, and Hakluyt Soc., 1859); Marquis de Nadaillac, L’Amerique prehistorique (Paris, 1883); H. J. Nieboer, Slavery as an Industrial System (The Hague, 1900); G. Nordenskjold, The Cliff Dwellers of the Mesa Verde, Colorado (Stockholm, 1893); Zelia Nuttall, The Book of the Life of the Ancient Mexicans (Univ. of Cal., 1903); An Ancient Mexican Codex, special publications of the Peabody Museum (Cambridge, Mass., 1902); Edward John Payne, History of the New World called America (vol. i.  1892, vol. ii. 1899, Oxford ); Antonio Penafiel, Monumentos del Arte Mexicano antiguo (Berlin, 1890); James C. Pilling, “Bibliographies of Indian Languages,” Bulls.  Bur. Am.  Ethnol. 5-19; J. W. Powell, “Indian Linguistic Families,” 7th Report Bureau of American Ethnology (1891); H. Hesketh Prichard, Through the Heart of Patagonia (New York, 1902) (appendix on the co-existence of mylodon and man); F. W.  Putnam, “Archaeology and Ethnology,” vol. vii., Wheeler Surveys, &c. (Washington, 1879); Charles Rau, The Palenque Tablet, Smithsonian Contributions, Washington; Caecilie Seler, Auf alten Wegen in Mexico und Guatemala (Berlin, 1900); Harlan I. Smith, “Archaeological Discoveries in North-Western America,” Bull.  Am. Geographical Society (May 1906); also Mem. Am. Mus. Nat. History (New York); Karl von den Steinen, Unter den Naturvolkern Zentral-Brasiliens (Berlin, 1884); E. H. Thompson, “Explorations in Loltun and Labna,” Memoirs Peabody Museum of Archaeol. and Ethnol. i. 1897; Max Uhle, “Explorations in Peru,” Memoir Univ. of Cal. i.; Washington Matthews, Navaho Legends (Cambridge, Mass.); Anne Cary Maudslay and Alfred Percival Maudslay, A Glimpse at Guatemala (London, 1899) (Maudslay’s whole series in Biologia Centrali Americana, 1889-1902, are valuable); H. C. Mercer, The Hill Caves of Yucatan (Philadelphia, 1896); Clarence B. Moore, papers on archaeology of Florida and neighbouring states, Journal Acad.  Nat. Sc. (Philadelphia, vol. xiii., 1905); Lewis H. Morgan, Smithsonian Contributions, xvii., 1869; and Ancient Society, New York.


Of related interest:

American Indian Culture and American Society





Copyright © D. J. McAdam· All Rights Reserved