Sunday, March 25, 2012

Adena Hopewell Stone Work at Spruce Hill in Ross County, Ohio

The chief of these upland bulwarks, indeed the 
largest stone edifice of the Mound Builders in this 
country, was erected on Spruce Hill, in the south- 
ern part of Ross county. This work occupies the 
level summit of a hill some four hundred feet 
in height; the elevation is a long triangular shaped 
spur, terminating a range of hills with which it is 
connected by a narrow neck or isthmus, the latter 
affording the really only accessible approach to the 
"fort," for the hillsides at all other points are re- 
markably steep and in places practically perpendicu- 
lar. The summit commands a wide outlook over the 
surrounding country. Within a radius of two or 
three miles on the plain beneath, to the east, north 
and west, were groups of aboriginal works, includ- 
ing isolated mounds and extensive enclosures. It 
was the midst of a mound-building neighborhood; 
the site of Chillicothe, a great aboriginal center, was 
some eleven miles distant to the northeast. No place 
more advantageous for the purposes of defense or 
observation could have been chosen. The barrier con- 
sisted of a wall composed entirely of stone, mostly 
fragments of sandstone from the hill ledge and cob- 
blestones, found in abundance on the summit. No 
earth was used in the wall, the line of which was 
carried around the hill a little below the brow. This 
barricade, once so complete and impregnable, is now 
sadly depleted and displaced ; the victim of the wear 
and tear of hoary time, the upheaval of the elements, 
 and the spoliation by thrifty farmers, who repair their 
fences with the "inestimable stones, unvalued jewels, 
all scattered" the summit and hillside about; most 
ruthless enemy of all to lay siege to the battlements 
were the tall primitive trees which sprang up beneath 
and around the curious, loose masonry, thrusting and 
twisting their roots among the stones and with 
irresistible strength lifting and scattering them 
apart; in many instances firmly imbedding them in 
their trunks; a royal battle, an irrepressible conflict, 
this has been between the stolid stones and the grow- 
ing giants of the forest; for untold cycles, possibly 
for more than a millennium, this contest has been 
waged, and many a monarch of the woods worn and 
bent with the life of centuries has at last fallen in 
decay amid the crude and crumbling masonry, thus 
testifying to the vast period that this fort has stood, 
grim guardian of its charge. At the present time 
the stone structure, "trembling all precipitate down 
dashed," merely suggests its pristine regularity and 
form. The appearance of the ruins demonstrates 
that the line had an average base width of eight or ten 
feet and a height of six or eight, the stones being piled 
one upon the other with no other means than their 
own weight to hold them in place. The width and 
height of the wall originally varied, as the ruins in- 
dicate, according to the requirements of the summit 
contour and the naturally weak or strong defense 
features of the line followed. At the places where the 
approach was most easy the wall was broadest, being 
at points thirty feet and even more across the base. 
The wall is entirely wanting at one point where the 
perpendicular rock cliff rendered protection unneces- 
sary. Where the defense crosses the isthmus, some 
seven hundred feet wide, the wall was heaviest and 
here was the main entrance, with three gateways 
opening upon the terrace extending beyond. This 
 gateway consisted of three openings in the wall, the 
intercepting segments of which, in each case, curving 
inwards, formed a horseshoe, whose inward curves 
were forty or fifty feet in length, leaving narrow pas- 
sages, no wider than eight feet, between. At these 
gateways, the amount of stones is more than four 
times the quantity at other points of the wall, and 
constituted broad, mound-shaped heaps. Between 
these heaps, through the narrow defile, the enemy 
would have to pass in attempting an entrance. On 
the east wall apparently two other single gateways 
originally existed, as indicated by the curved lines, 
but these were subsequently closed up. At the north- 
ern apex of the fort another gateway existed, pro- 
tected as the others by inward carrying walls. Ex- 
cepting the isthmus, this was perhaps the most vul- 
nerable point of the hill-top as the sides sloped 
down into the valley, affording steep but possible 
ascent. Here the walls were unusually high and 
strong. The stone heaps at the great gateway give 
proof of having been subjected to intense heat, a 
feature also discernible at certain other points in 
the wall. Within the enclosure were found two stone 
mounds, located near points of the breastworks 
which commanded the fartherest extent of view. 
These mounds were burned throughout, suggesting 
that great fires may have been maintained thereon, 
perhaps for alarm signals, perhaps for religious cere- 
monies, perhaps for sacrificial rites. 
There were several depressions in the enclosed 
space, one covering two acres, which could afford con- 
stant supply of water. There was no moat or ditch 
at any point, either exterior or interior to the wall. 
The wall, continuous save at the interruptions men- 
tioned above, measures two and a quarter miles in 
length and encloses an area of over one hundred and 
The "Pond" in Spruce Hill Fort. 
forty acres. The magnitude of this hill-top stone en- 
closure exceeds any similar construction attributed to 
the Mound Builder. It evinces tremendous labor and 
unusual ingenuity of arrangement. The wonder at 
this stupendous labor grows when it is considered 
that it must have been erected without the aid of 
beasts of burden or mechanical contrivances. It was 
literally built by hand labor by "piece work." Such a 
fortress, so situated, must have been, to a primitive 
people, impervious to the storm of savage warfare. It 
knew no surrender save to a vandal demolition of a 
modern, ruthless civilization; "but man would mar 
them with an impious hand.'' This effacement is of 
comparatively a recent date. As we learn from the in- 
vestigators who first left descriptions, the result of 
survej's in the first third of the last century, the walls 
were then in a fair state of preservation and easily fol- 
lowed in outline and reconstructed in plan. Now ob- 
literation almost reigns supreme. Some ten years ago, 
the writer with a party of experts, personally in- 
spected the remaining ruins and from them, with 
slight pla'y of the imagination, could rebuild the crude 
fortress. Another inspection during the preparation 
of this monograph, gave evidence of the final touches 
of a destructive hand. The line of the walls presented 
little more than dismantled, scattered, brush-covered 
heaps of grass-grown stones; the great gateway in 
diminished height and demolished shape was still 
there, as if reluctant to yield its post, grimly strug- 
gling to forbid entrance to the spacious field of grow- 
ing corn that filled the enclosure; the little pond, 
still holding water, had shrunk to a fraction of its 
former size; from its depths the gutteral croak of a 
bull frog seemed to mockingly sound the death knell 
to even the memories of the greatness and glory of 
Spruce Hill Fort. Surely in this desolation was there 
theme for some poet, for an apostrophe such as 
Byron's on the passing 1 of the Eternal City : 

"Come and see the cypress, hear the owl, 
And plod your way o'er broken thrones and temples. 
A world is at our feet as fragile as our clay." 
But there is one feature left intact. The insati- 
able tiller of the soil may tear down prehistoric walls 
to "mend his fences," and plow level the mounds 
erected on the plain, that he may plant a few more 
stalks of corn, but his greed has thus far invented no 
method of devastating the landscape. Nature-loving 
Thoreau mourned that the axe was slowly destroying
his forest. "Thank God," he exclaimed, "they can- 
not cut down the clouds." Iconoclastic agriculture 
has kindly left the scene which rewards the ascent of 
Spruce Hill a captivating view such as seldom 

"Hills and valleys, dales and fields, 
Woods or steepy mountain yields." 

Your outlook sweeps the Paint Creek valley for 
miles on either side; the peacefuly flowing stream 
winds its way through fields glowing in the varied 
colors of the summer's ripening grain, all framed 
by the encircling, gentle-sloping, forest-clad hills. 
Were this scene in Bonnie Scotland, travelers would 
cross the sea to extol its surpassing beauty. The largest Indian mound site on the web is here

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Where is Stonehenge?




"We passed over the goodly plain, or rather sea of carpet, which I think for evenness, extent, verdure, and innumerable flocks, to be one of the most delightful prospects in nature."—"Evelyn's Diary," 1654.

There is not a county in England which does not pride itself upon some outstanding characteristic which places it in a category by itself. And if there be a thing particularly characteristic of Wiltshire, it is "the Plain" of which John Evelyn above quoted has written so kindly.
The word Plain is somewhat misleading, for the surface of the Salisbury Downland is anything but even, as poor Samuel Pepys found to his cost when he traversed it in 1668, and on his journey encountered some "great hills, even to fright us." The actual truth lies midway between the "evenness" of Evelyn and the "great hills" of Pepys, and to the man of Wilts that word "Plain" will ever summon up a vision of rolling downs, a short, crisp, elastic turf dotted with flocks, and broken here and there by some crested earthwork or barrow, which rears itself from the undulating Down, and breaks the skyline with its [9]sharp outline. It has been estimated that fully one-half of Wiltshire consists of these high bare chalk downs which rise in bold rounded bluffs from the valleys which thread their way through the county. It is impossible to escape them. The Cotswold shepherd looks downward on their folds, and marks the gleaming white of the occasional chalk pit which breaks the surface of their scarp.
Stonehenge is located in the County of Wiltshire
The huntsman in the Vale of the White Horse, and the farmer on the fringe of the shady depths of the New Forest alike live in the presence of the Wiltshire Downs. There is something of grandeur in the immensity of their broad unbroken line stretching as they do, or did, for mile upon mile, limited only by the horizon, a rolling sea of green pasture.
And the very heart of the Downs is the Plain of Salisbury, that broad stretch which is bounded on the west by the wandering valley of the river Nadder, and on the east by the trickle of the Bourne, between which the "Hampshire" Avon divides the area with almost mathematical accuracy in two equal triangles; and Salisbury lies at the apex of each.
The pasturage of the Downs, and the rich woodland of these valleys must have been important factors in those old days, when the builders of Stonehenge pushed inland from the coast, seeking a spot wherein they might settle. As a [10]general rule, it may be held with considerable certainty, not only in Wiltshire, but also in other parts of England, that our early settlers from the Continent elected to live on the downland rather than in the valleys. Go where you may over the Plain, its turfy surface is scored by terraces or "lynchets," telling the tale of the ancient ploughman's furrows on the slopes, and side by side with them lie the scars of what were once cattle enclosures, farms, and stockaded villages. Nor is the explanation far to seek, for the valleys afforded shelter to the wolves, and were in places obstructed by undrained marshes, unhealthy and unfitted for the herdsman and his flocks, and impenetrable as regards roads.
Midway between the valleys of the Nadder and the Avon lies "Stonehenge," a Megalithic Monument without an equal in this country, about which the legend of the peasant, as well as the speculation of the savant have gathered in an ever-increasing volume.
The bibliography of Stonehenge alone comprises nearly a thousand volumes, and it is hard to pick up an old magazine or periodical which does not contain some notice of it. County historians, astronomers, Egyptologists, and antiquaries have argued, as old Omar would say, "about it and about" until the man of ordinary tastes who chances to visit the spot and to study the stones, finds himself confronted with such a [11]mass of evidence, of theory, and of fantastic speculation, that he sadly turns aside befogged, or maybe fired by the example of others evolves from his inner consciousness yet another theory of his own to add to the already plethoric accumulation on the subject. The object of the following pages is not to propound any new theories, but rather to reduce the existing knowledge of Stonehenge to a compact compass, and to make it readily accessible to that vast body of individuals who take an intelligent interest in the stones, without having the leisure or opportunity of following up the elaborate stages by which certain conclusions have been arrived at. In short, it is a plain statement of the facts about Stonehenge which may serve either as a guide to the visitor, or as a useful remembrance of his visit.