M.E. Cornell on Prehistoric Relics

Date not on publication. From text, I gather this was probably published around 1893. Full publication if found here.

This publication was favorable to the legitimacy of the artifacts found in Michigan. In this article, I simple intend to highlight portions which I found interesting and relevant.


Pages 5-6

About two years since, a wonderful discovery of mound relics, was made in the vicinity of Wyman, Montcalm Co., Michigan.

Mr. J. O. Scotford found some ancient pottery, while digging post-holes for a fence, on the farm of Mr.
Stuart. From this a curiosity was excited to know what could be found in the numerous mounds thereabouts. When Mr. Scotford found the first tablet or casket, he came into the village as wild with excitement as if he had found a gold mine. The excitement spread, and several who had leisure engaged in digging mounds, with more or less success. Several who had noticed mounds in the fields or woods, dug them and found relics.

Many curious things were unearthed, such as caskets, tablets, amulets of slate stone, cups, vases, altars, lamps of burnt clay, copper coins hammered out, and rudely engraved with hieroglyphics. The caskets and tablets are of sun-dried clay, and are covered with picture writing and hieroglyphics. The caskets seem to be intended as receptacles for the tablets of record. They have close-fitting covers, which are cemented on with Assyrian-like cement, and various figures were moulded on the top, the ancient Sphynx, beasts, serpents, human faces with head-dress or crowns, etc.

In several of the caskets were found stone types – a veritable printing outfit used more than three thousand years ago. The characters are uniformly the same, though of different sizes.

Of the four or five hundred mounds opened about Wyman, only about one hundred caskets, tablets, and altars have been found. No two of these are exactly alike, either in form, size, or inscriptions. The figures moulded on the covers are the Sphynx, human face, hand, city wall, serpent, calf, idol, Egyptian wolf, etc. But on each and all the caskets, the Pyramids of Egypt are made prominent. They were experts in clay work, and everything wonderful in their traditions was moulded or pictured on clay. Thus we find on their tablets a picture of the Deluge, walls and towers of Babylon, and the two tables of the law given on Sinai, They had heard the story of Mount Sinai, the Deluge, and the Pyramids, and they desired to perpetuate these traditions by writings and pictures. In one casket nothing was found but the charred bones of a child. These we suppose had been brought with them from the Old World, and then sealed up in the casket and placed in the family burial mound.

The caskets measure from ten to twenty-four inches in length, and from about eight to fourteen inches wide and high. After being cemented so as to be air and water tight, they were hidden away in their burial mounds.

The mounds vary in size from twelve to sixty feet in diameter, and from four to twelve feet high. Charcoal and ashes are found in many of the mounds, supposed to be the result of some ancient idolatrous ceremony of burning sacrifices over their dead. But only in a few instances have skulls or bones of skeletons been found…

No Fraud

Pages 7 – 8

Scores of the citizens of Wyman and Edmore are familiar with all the circumstances of the discovery, and have been eye-witnesses of the excavating and taking out of the relics; and to them the evidence of genuineness is so clear that doubts are never entertained for a moment.

On this point take as a specimen the fact that a casket was found under the roots of a pine tree which by the concentric circles was shown to be about three hundred years old; and that one of the roots of the tree had grown through the corner of the casket. Three caskets have been found pierced by roots of trees growing on the mounds over them. We found one with the cover broken in by the root of a tree, and the casket was filled with sand. The root was coiled up inside the box, but so decayed that it was broken with a touch. Only the decayed stump of the tree, and a few rotten roots were left. Prof. Wessels, the writer, and three others were present, and took part in the digging, and the Professor lifted the casket from its ancient bed with his own hands, exclaiming, “Gentlemen, this is no fraud!”

Indian Legend

Page 8

We learn by these discoveries that this continent was peopled by a race who had a written language. They were not the ancestors of our Indian tribes, for the Indians protest that they never made or buried in mounds, also that they never had a written language.

One of the oldest native Indians now living being interviewed by the writer, stated, that “twice ten thousand
moons ago” his forefathers came from a far country, and around here a white people who had large villages and much cattle. That after some years they engaged in war and the Indians took the country from them.

An Idol

Page 26

The State Historical Society was enriched yesterday by an image of pottery supposed to be an idol of some pre-historic race, probably the Mound Builders, says the Topeka Capital. The idol was found near Aron, Independence county, Ark., and was dug from a mound by relic hunters, together with a number of decayed human bonés, copper arrowheads, and broken domestic utensils. It is the property of G. W. Hume, of Strasburg, Mo. The idol is seven inches in height by five inches in diameter. It is rudely constructed, having evidently been formed by hand, or at best, by very crude tools, from common clay, and afterward hardened by being dried in the sun.

The idol represents a human figure in a kneeling posture, the arms extending at the side. The features are rudely formed, yet notwithstanding this, are not altogether repulsive, the nose being gracefully aquiline and the lips well formed. . .

A Copper Dagger

Page 27

“An interesting product of one of the lost arts has just been discovered in this vicinity. Mr. Robert Hon, while plowing on his farm a few miles south of this village, unearthed a perfectly formed and well preserved copper dagger. The blade is nine and one half inches in length, one and one fourth inches broad at the hilt, double-edged, tapering to a fine point, and bearing unmistakable evidence of great skill and efficiency in its maker. No smith or artist of this or any other period of science can show evidence of higher attainment. It is wrought of pure copper, and is as hard to-day as the finest steel.

“From what people or tribe this wonderful relic came, or at what remote age they inhabited this country, and to what plane of civilization they attained, are but matters of conjecture and speculation, as the art of tempering copper suitable to the manufacture of fine cutlery is so remote that it is lost to this age of science.

“Mr. Dean Hawley, of this village, is the possessor of this interesting souvenir. Hundreds have called to examine it.”