Thomas’ Moundbuilder Mystery


Since we are going to be studying the Moundbuilders soon, I thought I would do a little research on my own to see what I could come up with for a blog post.  In my explorations, an entomologist named Cyrus Thomas kept popping up.  Thomas was a fascinating man who convinced the world that the Indians really did build the mysterious mounds.  He achieved this feat by addressing five incorrect arguments made by non-believers.

The first question he addressed was if Indian culture was too primitive to have built such incredible mounds.  He answered this question with several indisputable facts.  There were civilized populations in the American Southwest in the sixteenth century.  At least some of these cultures were agricultural and sedentary and had people living in large population centers.  The non-believers thought this was a requirement of the mysterious vanished Moundbuilder race.  Thomas’ conclusion was that the Indians were culturally and practically capable of constructing the mounds.

The second claim he addressed was that mound culture was older than Indian culture.  He refuted this claim by stating that the radiometric dating of the mounds were incorrect due to “tree-ring counts.”  The current accepted theory back when his work was published was that Indians were new arrivals.  He was part of the reason people accepted that Indian culture was older than originally thought.  Though he couldn’t prove it at the time, he theorized that Indians were in America long before other theorists of his time thought they were.

The third argument was that “there were alphabetically inscribed tablets in the mounds.”  Several tablets inscribed with Celtic, Runic, Etruscan, Greek, and Anglo-Saxon writings were found in the same area.  Thomas conducted an explanation and found that the tablets were faked.  They had been recently placed and were inspired by words from the dictionary.  A confession of fraud was made some time later.  No other inscriptions have been found on tablets since.

The fourth claim was that “Indians were never witnessed building mounds and had no knowledge of who had built them.”  Thomas declares that this just isn’t true.  There have been several instances of European explorers mentioning the construction of mounds in their journeys.  De Soto, Bartram, and even French travellers have seen them be built.  Thomas states that there was enough evidence of Indians building and using the mounds to make a conclusion.

The final argument he refutes was that “metal objects found in the mounds were beyond the metallurgical skills of the Indians.”  Thomas examined the artifacts this claim spoke of and found that there was no evidence to back this accusation.  There was native copper in the artifacts, which suggested extensive trade networks.  However, this final claim was simply false.

In conclusion, Thomas was a very important man to the myth of the Moundbuilders.  He actually proved that the Indians were the ones who built them.  His determination and perseverance helped the Indians gain the recognition they deserve for the building of these incredible mounds.  He will forever be remembered as the man who dealt the fatal blow to the myth of the Moundbuilders.  (Feder, 1996)