Friday, July 17, 2009
Outside the Wyre: Alligator Mound
[This is an unauthorised report from long-time reader and sometime contributor John Steventon (the American). I hope this doesn't upset Brian's pre-programmed schedule, but since we all miss him and his personality, I am taking it upon myself to fill in for him, at least this once. Please feel free to complain, throw stones (at a tree or something, not at me), and inform to Brian if you see him at the shops. PS 2 of the images are animated, so give them a sec, eh, after clicking on them.]
The Alligator Mound of Granville, Ohio, USA
High upon a bluff, overlooking the Racoon Valley, lies one of two effigy earthmounds that we know exist in Ohio. As this report goes on, it will become obvious that there may have been others, but like so many native American earthworks and endeavors, they have become car parks, plowed land, and housing developments.
I have just moved to Ohio, and this is the firt bit of history that I have been able to visit in person. (Astral projections don't count because I can't take me camera with me) Anyways, I am writing this as an international exchange of information, since I believe we cannot understand any ancient work without adding a human element to the archeology, and I also believe that many ancient peoples were probably just regular joes, and we should tryu to view ancient monuments through their eyes.
As I mentioned, the Alligator mound lies high on a bluff... probably the highest bit of land around, and offers spectacular views of the valley. It is probably not an alligator, by the way, but Europeans named it that after the Native Americans told them the creature was a 'vicious water creature that ate people'. The mound is only 4 to 6 feet high at it's height, and at 200 feet long, is hard to see from the ground in all it's glory. In England, many burial mounds were built on the top of hills so that their chalky sides could be viewed from far away, and serve as boundary markers on the horizon. Here, from the bottom of the mound, the earthworks do make a bump across the top, but not a big one, and without your white chalk only serve as a mysterious silhoutte.
Why build a mound in the shape of an animal that only the gods could see? Well, perhaps that's the point. There is no evidence of this being a burial mound, and that weird bump from the Alligators side seems to stand out, so it is suggested that this was a ceremonial site. What kind of ceremonies were performed here is not known, but we do know that Native Americans had their gods based on Nature, and so it is no surprise that they would have performed significant acts here on the top of a mountain, perhaps during a glorious sunset (speculation on my behalf, but this is big sky country, and the sunsets from this point would always have been fabulous).
A few miles down the hill and road is a very large ancient city made of many earthworks, including a large circle. All of this is now a country club, where the well-to-do can golf upon these ancient walls and parapets, but the early native Americans lived here. I'm not sure if they built the alligator mound, since several ancient cultures overlap here, but if so, it can be argued that they climbed that very steep hill on special occasions to do their stuff.
All over this land are farms that are slowly giving way to housing developments and shopping centers. The ancient cultures of the Hopewell, Adena, and Fort Ancient peoples were here for thousands of years. In the last 200 years or so, people have managed to plow over, bury, and basically destroy earthworks, burial mounds, and who knows what else? Looking at the Alligator mound, it is easy to see that other effigy mounds could easily have been overlooked of their significance, and cast aside in the name of progress.
Cheers, JOHN :0)