Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 22.djvu/461

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A PREHISTORIC CEMETERY.

By JOSEPH F. JAMES,

CUSTODIAN CINCINNATI SOCIETY OF NATURAL HISTORY.

ABOUT ten miles from Cincinnati, along the Little Miami River, is a locality which has long been known to the country people as the "Pottery-Field." The ground was strewed with fragments of pottery, bones, arrow-points, and other remains of like character, and the place was generally considered to be the site of an ancient work-shop. The primitive forest still occupies the locality, and is made up of oak, beech, elm, maple, walnut, etc. All around are found numerous mounds or tumuli, most of them small. A few of these were opened by Mr. Florian Gianque, in 1876, and some interesting things found. But, in 1878, Dr. Charles Metz and other gentlemen interested in archæology commenced a systematic exploration of the country thereabout, and so much has been found that we are enabled to form some idea of the habits, and get a glimpse into the life, of the people who once lived in the immediate vicinity of the city of Cincinnati.

During the four years that the excavations have been carried on, between six hundred and fifty and seven hundred skeletons have been brought to light. Many of them are in an advanced state of decay, and crumble to pieces on the slightest touch, while others, again, are in a very good state of preservation. It can, therefore, hardly be inferred that, because some of the skeletons are much decayed, they are necessarily very old; for, though we have well-preserved remains of bones from Babylon, Nineveh, and Egypt, which are certainly twenty-five hundred or three thousand years old, still the cases are exceptional in which they are found in good condition after the lapse of many years. Different kinds of soil and differences in climate have much to do with the matter: for, in a dry and equable climate, bones may resist for a long time the influences which would cause their decay, while, in a moist climate, and with sudden and extreme changes of temperature, such as we have here, any bone, unless buried in peat, or subject constantly to heavy pressure, so as to become partially fossilized, is liable to soon decay.

An examination of the skulls found in the cemetery, as it is called, as well as the other parts of the skeleton shows some interesting facts. In a paper by Dr. F. W. Langdon[1] is given a table of measurements of the crania which shows that the brachycephalous skulls (those with an index of breadth of 800 and over)[2] are largely in the majority, there being fifty-two out of seventy-two of this character. None of them, however, exhibit any signs of the flattening of the frontal

  1. "Journal of the Cincinnati Society of Natural History," vol. iv, pp. 237, cl seq.
  2. The long diameter being taken as 100.