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)


Jayne said...

It's a shame that so much is being lost because, like Oz, the archaeology would only be in the shallow top layers, not very far down at all, particularly in regions where there's only been farming activity and no housing development (yet).
I really enjoyed that post, thanks John :)
Are those plough marks running almost vertically down the last photo or is it the angle of the sun?
Any speculation on what kind of animal the 'vicious water creature' might have been?

John said...

Cheers for not booing me, Jayne.:0)

I'm not sure if they are plow marks or not, but there do appear to be furrows in earlier sketches, so it may be original design. Then again, those farmers seem to have plowed everywhere around here.

As to the creature, speculation says either an opossum or an 'underwater panther'. Frankly, I haven't heard of many possums leaping from the water and attacking folk, but then again, I never heard of an underwater panther, either!

Most cats hate the water, but apparently the Native Americans believed in such a creature. It's either legend or some creature that has gone extinct. I'm guessing the latter, because who would make up an underwater panther?

Cheers, JOHN :0)

John said...

By the way, is the animation working for anyone? It's not on my computer.

If interested, the first photo shows the 'alligator' from the left side, so the bumps we see are the left arm, the spine, and the left leg.

The second photo shows the curl of the tail, the bump on the spine, and the two legs going off to either side.

Cheers, JOHN :0)

Ann oDyne said...

thank god you didnt move to AL or this post might have been about the Coon-Dog Cemetery.

I like to think the OH National Guard is under that mound, as I am old enough to have seen the news of the 4 students they shot at Kent State.

We all miss the wonderful comments of The Hon. Brian and hope he's back on the trawl soon.

Thanks John for the pretty pictures from the banks of the Ohio

John said...

Don't worry, Ann, I got pictures of an old cemetery here... as well as two burial mounds and some earthworks, and some pretty birds... so Brian better get back soon. :0)

Haven't visited Kent State yet... some memories don't fade, do they? When I do, I'll place a flower there...

JOHN :0)

Ann oDyne said...

Thank you that is so nice.
I would bet the ranch there is a place with flowers already ... actually I think it is the 40th anniversary now or soon.
peace and love from an old hippie