Wednesday, May 20, 2015

More on the Mounds

Today I surrender to my penchant for alliteration.  More on the mounds, including myths, misappropriation, miscellanies, mistakes and the mystical Mormons.

The mounds:  As mentioned earlier, mounds prevail in the landscapes of Ireland (Tara, Newgrange) and the U.S. from Ohio to Mississippi.  These structures have been studied and probed by archaeologists, anthropologists, astronomers, theologians and fortune hunters.  Some Irish mounds proved to have significant importance in the Druidic equinox ceremonies.  Beams of dawn sunlight channeled through strategic openings in the mounds illuminated sacred carvings on interior walls. Myths abound of the heroic Tuatha De Danann relegated to rule the underworld by the victorious, yet merciful Gaelicians.  Oral histories and Irish story tellers have kept tales alive.

Not so in America.  Many of the curious were intellectuals with no scientific credentials, but their literary skills brought them notoriety and misappropriated fame as experts. Most immediately discounted the possibility that the indigenous people here would have the skill to construct the mounds or the intelligence to know their origin or significance.  So they didn't bother to ask.  The imaginative accounts of the source and purpose of the mysterious mounds influenced the many that followed and added their own creative spin to the stories. One such creative author was Joseph Smith, a farm boy born in Vermont  in 1805.  As a man, he incorporated his theory of the mounds into stories of ancient explorations by Jaredites from Jerusalem and subsequent battles between Nephites and Lamanites, who buried their war dead in the mounds.  These stories became a part of the Book of Mormon.
Joseph Smith was lynched in an Illinois jail in 1844.

Throughout the 19th century, white archaeologists were digging up old civilizations in Egypt, Syria, Greece and many other sites, including the United States.  With little input from indigenous populations, and no apparent concern for the sanctity of the sites, using the search for knowledge as their mission, they accommodated their egos by digging and digging and digging.