Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 42.djvu/217

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203
PREHISTORIC CANNIBALISM IN AMERICA.

PREHISTORIC CANNIBALISM IN AMERICA.
By Rev. A. N. SOMERS.

IN the summer of 1888 I took a club of young people belonging to my church, to the famous ruins of the mound-builders at Aztalan, Wis., for a day's outing, and exploration of the mounds of that once great village. A superficial survey soon convinced me that it had been a very populous village, as it covered at different times as much as two hundred acres, down to an area of a little more than seventeen acres, which was skillfully and strongly fortified, representing the increased intelligence and caution of several generations constantly shrinking under the ravages of war and possibly cannibalistic devastations.

A first effort located the communal refuse-heap, where had been thrown the refuse and garbage of the village, when it covered an extent of nearly one hundred acres for a very long period of time.

In these heaps one generally learns more of the manner and means of subsistence of the prehistoric people than from all other sources of conjecture combined, for in them are thrown the bones and refuse of their meat-supply, and the broken cooking and other utensils. Broken weapons and ornaments likewise find their way to the garbage-heap, just as with us. But when the mound-builder broke his tools, weapons, and ornaments, they could not be reduced back to raw material, to enter into the construction of something else, as do many of our worn-out or broken implements, for they were made of material, in the main, that would not permit of such transformations. Those, then, no longer useful were thrown, along with the bones and other insoluble and almost imperishable refuse, into a common heap in some convenient place where they would afford the least annoyance.

A few hours' work in this heap was rewarded by over five hundred valuable relics, including broken pots, arrows, ornaments, hoes, and bones—no less than one hundred of which were human bones, in about equal proportion with the bones of beasts, birds, and fishes.

A subsequent trip to the same place, in company with Prof. J. Q. Emery, Principal of the High School at Fort Atkinson, added nearly one thousand more bones to the collection. Another trip to the place, in company with an amateur collector of relics, added about six hundred more bones to the collection; I now have nearly two thousand bones from the refuse-heap, forty per cent of which are human, while the remainder are evenly divided between birds, beasts, and fishes.

This refuse-heap covered a space about one hundred feet long