Corn and Ancient Effigy Mounds in Ohio

Of an estimated 10,000 prehistoric mounds in Ohio four are effigies - Alligator, Eagle, Serpent and Centipede. Three have one element in common, fist-sized stones, Aalligators@, donnicks or sleapers of which there are without number small piles in out of the way places. They were pried from a corn field in a natural clearing in the forest by a squaw and carried some distance by her children. Precisely of the same size for each pile. Only for the mounds, the builder burned the rocks to a high temperature as in a pottery kiln to complete the message he intended. This concerned the growing of corn which everyone would understand, recognizing the rocks from childhood.

Serpent Mound in Adams County is 1,300 feet long but that is dwarfed by six fortified or fenced towns in the area; just as education compares with the military today. Still the size of these mounds show their importance remembering that these stone age people carried dirt in baskets. They had no metal tools with which to dig, nor the wheel and except for the dog, no domesticated animals. Eagle and Centipede Mound are located in the center of large enclosures for everyone to see. Alligator and Serpent Mound had other factors in site selection, but all were intended to instruct the public.

With the discovery of remnants of a super nova star in our galaxy with a gamma ray telescope announced in the November 1998 issue of Nature by scientists of the Max Planck Institute of Germany, the last elements of the Great Serpent Mound fell into place (quite literally); as well as the meaning of the effigies, Alligator and Eagle Mounds. Their meanings eluded white men since 1800 in addition to Indians of the Delaware, Wyandot and Shawnee tribes. The Indians respected the mounds and may have recognized that they concerned corn but little else and they passed on nothing , but possibly the names.

The first Welsh settlers from Granville, Massachusetts and the Indians would have had no first hand contact with the alligator, the lizard. The mound builders seem to have come from the Gulf of Mexico about 400 BC so they could have had a word like alligator for anything that rises form the ground to do harm.

Alligator Mound or Mounds at Granville, Ohio looks exactly like a squirrel spread-eagle in landing, stunned and frozen when its nest was blown out of a tree in a winter storm.

The line drawing of Squier and Davis, (1848) given by H. Howe (1900) II, 86, 92, for Alligator Mound (No 2) shows four points built up on the head, shoulder, rump, and left front paw. The spacing and orientation of these correspond to the bright stars of the belt and sword in the constellation Orion. Dimmer stars in Orion mark the left hind paw and a series of them the tail folded over its back to the north for a typical pose of a squirrel viewed form the left side. In the mound, all four legs show and the tail is extended except for its tip turned southward.

Orion is the most easily identified group of stars in the winter sky. It is at its highest elevation on January 1 at 12 A.M. I can not imagine stone age people greeting the New Year with a bonfire on the 25 feet diameter Aalter@ at Granville as we do today at Times Square, New York.

Some of the Mound Builders were serious skywatchers at their AObservatory@ Mound in Newark. They must have thought meteor showers came from Orion on October 22 just before sunrise as well as November 3 and December 15. Time lapsed pictures are needed to tell these meteors come from Taurus or Gemini and not Orion. They also could have thought all shooting stars were squirrels from the sky.

These ancient skywatchers could have witnessed a spectacular meteorite fall with Orion high in the sky and even found one still warm. Actually this could have located the spot for one of the Alligator Mounds. Since this was on top of a high hill they built two mounds. On the site a mile east of Granville and another where it would be more easily seen by the public, on a spur of land south of Raccoon Creek.

The first, which Squire and Davis called No. 2 had been seriously undermined by a gravel pit before 1885. This shifted the body 25E at first and 20E again in 1995. H. Howe (1900) II, 86 describes his visit to Alligator Mound July 19, 1890 on the south side of Raccoon Creek on a sunny afternoon with long shadows. He could not have confused North with South.

The mound builder with one meteorite in hand could not hope to find enough to cover a 25 foot diameter area so he made more by firing stones from a corn field in a pottery kiln, a bed of charcoal in a trench in clay at a dry location.

Thus, the lessons taught by the Alligator Mound were :

1. Remove fist-sized stones from the cornfield

2 Beware of squirrel damage both from the sky and ground. Hold off planting until the stars of Orion (Squirrel) are no longer visible after sunset (April 15-May 1). Also complete the harvest and hid the corn from squirrels before the stars appear before sunrise (late in October).

Evidently the mound builders had not yet developed the practice of burying fish with the corn seed, as a repellent or this was the newest development to avoid the need to fish.

If found these fist-sized burnt stones could be dated with TLD just like pottery shard. They may not exist at Granville or Newark, but those from the oval at Serpent Mound probably can be found just where they landed when thrown over the cliff between 1845 and 1886.

Eagle Mound at Newark in the great circle also had an alter of burnt stone indicating corn. Its purpose was to celebrate nature=s other method to control the squirrel population; snatching as well as falling and freezing.

Centipede Mound, in the circle of SEIP, which was located 2.6 miles east of Bainbridge, Ohio on US-50 , deals with an everyday problem, not worship or sacrifice.

Serpent Mound in Adams County involves more elements and events that are best described in order:

1. In 1053" A.D. a frost or drought reduced the nut crop in the forest south of the Ohio River.

2. In February or March hords of squirrels red, black and gray all mixed together swam the Ohio River. They dug up the corn seed even after April 15th or in spite of the fish repellent; precisely as they did in the same area of the state in 1807. The early settlers really starved as did the mound builders in 1054.

3. A Aguest star@,M1 in Taurus (Crab Nebula) appeared April 11-19 ad 10544 Growing brighter each day. It joined a line of bright stars and 4 planets along the ecliptic in the evening sky. It flashed color as it twinkled and appeared to have multiple rays. This was recorded in Constantinople and Flanders. Our mound builder skywatcher must have made sketches at AObservatory@ Mound in Newark, Ohio showing detail of its halo and two stardogs for differences in curvature for the top and bottom sides of the halo preserved to this day at Serpent Mound. This Aguest star was seen briefly during a solar eclipse in China May 10th.At several places in conjunction with the crescent moon were reported on May 20th. Possibly included in the Chaco Canyon New Mexico petrograph but it=s points are upside down. It would have reached maximum brightness (-6 to -8 m) while obscured by the sun on May 27th. Then on July 4th, 15 minuets before sunrise it was again visible at -6m. This is when it was observed in China and recorded in astronomical history as being visible in daylight for 23 days fading to about -3m.

4. The mound builders decided or were convinced that the star had spooked the squirrels to account for their movement. For this they brought a group of experts from the Athink tank@ at Newark to Fort Hill, a distance of 80 miles. This group included the designer for the Alligator mound with his sketches of Halo and Supernova M1.

Work on Serpent Mound could have started in the fall of 1054 by burning the rest of the trees on the ridge not wanted for tobacco. Earth work proceeded rapidly after corn was planted May 1. Each night the squaws saw their progress by the dimming of the rogue star

A year after it finally dies the monument was dedicated April 15 1057 with a dance and annually thereafter to make sure the star did not return to spook the squirrels.

Howe, (1900 ) I, 922-923 under AThe Hard Year@ describes 1807. In Howe (1900) I, 658-659, he describes a statewide three day squirrel hunt in 1822, for Franklin County alone, hunters reported 19,660 squirrel scalps. Also on page 659, he gives a first hand description of the migration of squirrels in the forest of West Virginia swimming the Kanawha River.

With the cutting of trees in Ohio, squirrel damage now means the phone damage, as mine is as I write. Farmers in Huron County and elsewhere cut just enough corn to pay the bank then waited for the market to improve in January or February; operating machinery within a warm cab. Even corncribs are a thing of the past so the mound builders messages are out of date, but the principles still have value.

The lessons for the Serpent Mound are something like Murphy=s Laws:

1. Beware of the unexpected and at all costs save enough seed for more plantings.

2. Celebrate or respect nature=s way of keeping the balance between good and evil.

Aerial pictures from about 1930 and later show the expected differences for curvature of the north and south side of the halo. Also the sketch shown by Glotzhober and Lepper (1994) p. 11, illustrates this. The portrait by William J. Baer seems to have been based on a sunrise photograph from a tethered balloon after Putnam=s restoration in 1888. The handwork involved precludes an accurate measure of curvature difference between the north and south sides of the halo. The relative size and shapes of the head is good, but without the side protrusion..

A picture from Howe (1900) I, 222, and more clearly printed for Timeline (1998) 15, 5, 34 shows the west end of Serpent Mound after Putnam=s restoration about 1888. The controversial frogs head west of the halo was built up with fresh earth. The picture shows the top of a clay mound in the halo, with long grass and a sapling growing. The top is 3 ft in diameter about 1 2 foot below the oval (halo or egg). When a cone of burnt fist-sized stones is restored this star could be the high point in the effigy. Squire and Davis reported that the burnt stones had been torn down in a search for gold before 1845. They were fist-sized and all thrown over the cliff by boys 1883 per Putnam. This picture and others for the before and after of Putnam=s restoration work should be computer colorized to bring out just what changes Putnam had to make, especially for the head.

The account by Squier and Davis (1848, reprinted 1993) 31 is important because they saw the mound in circa 1845 before trees were uprooted by a tornado. Protrusions from the comet head account for the mouth, side triangles are responsible for the undulate tail.

The mound builders had to compromise scale, but did remarkably well considering they had a limited budget of squaw time and no tools to cut the bedrock at the west end. A 44E halo is ten times as large as a comet=s head. This is a David vs. Goliath story. For his message he made the mouth symmetrical and coiled the tip of the tail possibly from memory.

The burnt stone for the star should still be within a stone's throw over the cliff. They will be rounded and all of the same weight. They should be collected, weighed and classified for rock type, but test work should be delayed until a complete plan is designed.

For TLD to give a date both the specimen and location must be tested. Some scrapings can be made to establish thermoluminescent activity, but for quantitative study a complete plan must be followed. This involves:

1. Location and history of specimen

2. Sampling and other analysis to be made

3. Transporting of samples

4. Etching and heat treatments to remove cutting damage

5. A readout curve for temperature vs. light output

6. Calibration for sensitivity with this amount of radiation per gram can be calculated, but for an age the location must also be tested.

For an unpublished exploratory work of mine in collaboration with my son, Thomas W. Swinehart, who on a Miami University sponsored geology field trip to Wind River Basin in Wyoming collected samples, which were tested in Cleveland, Ohio at the Harshaw Chemical Company using the 30 TLD-700 dosimeter. Transportation whether by air or car made the most difference. For two weeks exposure there were residual numbers for locations on either side of the Wind River Valley. Their residuals statistically were not enough to outweigh the variance from transport.

The proposed date 1054 to 1057 AD is too close to C-14 from Serpent Mound in 1991. 1070" 70 and 1025 and 1215. Wood at Serpent Mound grew in hard ground water, which I am proposing is the reason for C-14 age to be more than historical for the Pyramids by weighing average at 374 years. Members of David Koch Pyramids Radiocarbon Project (1999)

For charcoal its age would be increased by carbonate contamination. All carbonates are not decomposed by hot acid, for example Baesnasite/ Bastnasite. If carbonate is a problem it can be established by infrared on as little as .01 grams. The bed rock at Serpent Mound is so broken up by impact that samples of different kinds of trees should be made into charcoal in a quartz tube furnace and tested with infrared for carbonate then C14 to establish zero age. Also a date from the burnt rock could help resolved the question.

In addition to finding and rebuilding the star, some exploratory work is warranted for the halo. Locating more pictures of the halo for Venus at different altitudes will help; both for the curvature and the location of bright spots. The builders could have recorded these with different colors of clay. Take shallow core samples at measured intervals. By wet screening separate into particle size ranges and compare color. An optional test for the fines to bring out differences that time, leaching and restoration have masked is by the infrared spectrum. For this I can supply detailed instructions as to pellet preparation for a correct spectrum for OH or H2O and the correct base line to use for the long wavelengths where oxides and lattice pores have absorption bands.

Records of comets averaged one a year before 1600 with the invention of the telescope. The mound builders could have used a composite from memory. Comets present a different shape on each approach to the sun and this may change in a few hours. The forces at play are known so there are limitations for what shapes are possible. The line drawing by Squier and Davis (1848) is the best for what the effigy builder could have seen in every respect. The map for Putnam=s restoration of Serpent Mound dropped the triangles and changed the head a little, but it is still within limits. All of the other maps sketches and aerial photographs are more like a snake and not physically possible for a comet as to the curvature of the jaws of the wide.

Reading between the lines of Putnam=s findings at Serpent Mound, all three effigy mounds concerning corn could have been designed by one young man, buried in state near the shelter house. For Serpent Mound, he had trouble with limestone until he found igneous rocks in nearby glacial till. He improved the kiln construction and control of the heat. That enabled a village of artisans to make larger pots, antler points, flint utensils, etc. for the tourist trade. For his burial, they cleared the super structure of his kilns for use in the village and placed his body on a bed of hot charcoal covered with ash and flint chips of different colors. They contributed more ash from the village. For them the ash had great value in terms of work to get more for their livelihood .

Putnam did not find the meteorite he carried. His wife or mother took it back to Newark and carved the Wray figure of him as a boy skywatcher completely wrapped in a bear skin jumpsuit. A picture of this is given in color by Lipper (1998) Timeline, 15, 1, 2. The color is right for a rock from Mars. Could TLD confirm the date it fell at Granville and by isotopic analysis its origin?

copyrightSeptember 1999 Dr. Carl F. Swinehart

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