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The Adena Indians "Mound Builders"

CAME to the Kanawha County area around 1000 B.C. and stayed to around 1650. Who were these mysterious people. Some say they came from Mexico, while others agree they crossed into this hemisphere from Europe. Some even say that they were the Lost Tribes of Israel, early Spanish explorers or even Vikings. They left behind several mounds in the South Charleston area. These mounds were excavated by the Smithsonian Institution in the late 1800ís. Their findings were as varied as the sizes of the different mounds. One of the best known of these mounds is the Criel Mound. Located in downtown South Charleston this mound is named after the people who once owned a farm that the mound is located on. The Criel Mound is one hundred seventy-five feet in diameter at the base, and thirty-five feet high. When the mound was examined in 1883 and 1884 the Smithsonian Institution found the following:

  • Removal of a slight covering of earth disclosed a wagon load of large, rough, flat stones below theses stones was a stone vault, seven feet long and four feet deep.
  • In the bottom of this vault was a large decayed human skeleton, headless and accompanied only by a single rough spearhead.
  • When another six feet was dug a second skeleton was found. It looked to be that of an adult of ordinary size and was much decayed.
  • At a depth of nine feet, a mass of loose dry earth was found. This earth was surrounded by the remains of a bark coffin. In this coffin a third skeleton was found, but it was better preserved.
  • After another three or four feet deeper a walnut vault was found. This vault was twelve feet square and eight feet deep. This vault contained five skeletons in different positions. One was lying in the middle of the structure while the others were surrounding it. The others were lying in the corners of the vault and were in such positions and conditions as to indicate that they were the remains of persons who had been buried alive.
  • It was at this depth the mound showed its richest and most informing disclosures. The skeleton in the middle of the vault was of unusual size, measuring seven feet six inches in length and nineteen inches between the shoulder sockets. The skeleton lay upon its back, head pointing east, legs together, and arms by the sides. The skeleton wore six heavy bracelets on each wrist. Four other bracelets were found under the head. Also found encased in a mass of mortar-like substance was a spearhead of black flint, which had evidently been wrapped in fabric. The breast of the skeleton had a copper gorget. In each hand were three spearheads of black flint. Spearheads were found around the head, knees and feet. Near the right hand were two hematite celts, and on the shoulders were three large and thick plates of mica. Around the shoulders, waist, and thighs were numerous perforated shells and shell beads. Some of these relics were not unlike the ornaments worn and tools used by the Cherokee Indians.

Smaller mounds excavated in the same area, at the same time revealed a great variety of content . Most mounds did have in common they were made of solid clay. Most, but not all, mounds contained a strata of ashes and charcoal. Some of the mounds contained human skeletons buried near the top surface, but most of the burials were at the bottom of the mound. The Mound Builders seem to have had no fixed practice on the how to bury their dead. Skeletons lay to all points east, west, north and south. Skeletons rested face down and face up, while others reclined on their sides. Some skeletons had both arms extended at right angles to their bodies, while others had only one arm in this position. Some mounds contained ornaments, implements, and tools, while others contained no such things.

Map of Area Mounds

Picture of the Criel Mound

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