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Frauds and Myths Chapter 6
The Myth of the Moundbuilders
Undergraduate 1

Additional Anthropology Flashcards




The myth of the moundbuilders
Moundbuilders, a complex American Indian society that evolved in the midwestern and southeast U.S. Cahokia is the largest of the ancient moundbuilders sites. Peaked in the 11th or 12th century with a population as high as 6000. Cahokia was a trading center, a religious center, and predominant political force of the time.
The Myth of a Vanished Race
Most people rejected that the American Indians had produced the moundbuilder culture, and so the myth of an an ancient, vanished American race was born.
Five arguments in favor of a "lost American race"
1. Indians were too primitive to have built the mounds
2. Mounds and mound artifacts are much older than the Indians
3. Stone tablets have been found in the mounds with European, Asian, or African alphabets
4. American Indians weren't building mounds when first contacted explorers
5. Metal artifacts have been found
Who were the Moundbuilders? Identifying the Vanished Race
Originally, a 19th century hoax the Walum Olum, it was said the moundbuilders migrated to the new world and were peaceful people that were wiped out by the indians. The moundbuilders were originally from the lost continent of Atlantis.
Others claimed them to be the "Hindoos" from India.

Ephraim Squier and Edwin Davis arranged the mounds in a taxonomy classifying the different mounds.
The Moundbuilder Mystery solved
1882 Entomologist Cyrus Thomas was hired to investigate the mounds. He found that the mounds were built by the indians by responding to the arguments for the ancient race myth.
1.Indian culture isn't primitive, there is evidence of indians in agricultural and sedentary societies that are capabale of moundbuilding
2. We know that the indians arrived more than 13000 years ago and the mounds are younger than that
3. The tablets are hoaxes
4. Indians have been seen building mounds in explorers' accounts
5. Metal artifacts have been to be made of "native copper," copper found in Michigan.
Rationale for the Myth of a Vanished Race
Myth was politically motivated. "Comforting to the conquerers." Europeans convinced themselves that the indians were the invaders that destroyed a peaceful civilization and that if ancient Europeans were the moundbuilders, than they were just reclaiming what was rightfully theirs. It was an attempt to justify the destruction of American Indian societies.
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