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James H. McCulloh
Researches on America...

Baltimore: Joseph Robinson, 1816
(1817 2nd ed. text used here)

  • Title

  • excerpt 1 (pp. 34-35)
  • excerpt 2 (pp. 208-220)

  • Transcriber's Comments

  • Clavigero's History of Mexico  (1807)  |  Humboldt's Researches Concerning... America  (1814)

    (this web-page is under construction)










    a period in the Hindoo histories, which was characterized by the great earthquakes that took place at that time, which were sufficient to make an yug or age of earthquakes. (See Hist. Hind. vol i. 503.)

    Clavigero in his History of Mexico, relates that the Mexicans, in their descriptions of the different ages of the world, say that the second age lasted from the time of the inundation until the ruin of the giants, and the great earthquakes, which concluded the second sun, which they supposed was destroyed at the end of every age.

    In concluding this chapter, we will only remark, that the number of traditions and geological observations, having a reference to a great convulsion of our earth, must strike the reader as some evidence in our favour; the universality of these traditions, also induces us to believe that a great extent of land has been destroyed. †

    † It is impossible to apply the science of geology at large, to this hypothesis, for the original conformation of the globe is unknown; the arrangement of the mineral substances are unknown; the internal structure of the globe is unknown. In fact, it might be asked, What is known of Geology? Nothing. Formerly, whenever the deluge, or any great revolution or convulsion of nature was mentioned, the writer framed a system of geology for his own use; generally composed of various strata of oil, earth, water, fire, &c. &c. By a dextrous management of these strata any changes were made or modified, according to the will of the theorist. A complete stop to such system framing has taken place of late years, by the ingenious and interesting discovery of the density of our earth; this mathematical problem has thrown all of our geological speculations into confusion and inconsistencies, from which it is not likely they will shortly recover. The great object to be proved by this essay, to wit, a great submersion of land, must therefore derive its support from the consideration of other subjects,



    From the present appearance of the earth, islands, and other circumstances connected with them, we do not think it a hasty or rash declaration to say, that we believe, since the deluge, there was land of great extent in the Pacific, Indian, and Atlantic Oceans; no doubt much shattered and broken, not to such a degree as to hinder men and animals from roaming through the extended parts. During this state of things, or whilst men and animals were traversing the world, this land was generally submerged; and though numbers of men and animals were doubtless destroyed, yet the new formed islands (remnants of this land,) preserved many; and thus eanly severed from the rest of the world, these fragments of the human family have remained through the successive generations, until the spirit of navigation and modern enterprise once more united the links between them and their brother men.

    and which may indirectly lead to conclusions, satisfactory on this head, I therefore trust the defence of my geological theory to the ensuing chapters of this work.

    It may be well, however, to observe, that the old opinion which considered the creation and the deluge as the only events, which comprehend the changes that have taken place on our earth, has been set aside by late geologists, especially by the celebrated Cuvier, who decidedly considers our earth to have suffered under three universal convulsions of nature. "Life," observes the same celebrated philosopher, "has often been disturbed on this earth by terrible events; calamities which at their commencement, have, perhaps, moved and overturned to a great depth, the entire outer crust of the globe; but which since these first commotions, have uniformly acted at a less depth and less generally." (See Cuvier's Geology, 15.)


    On digging in the ground, in the neighbourhood of these monuments, are found pieces of pottery of various shapes; this species of manufacture appears to have been formed out of piunded shells and clay, and then subjected to a strong heat; but there are no appearances of glazing upon any of these vessels. The Indians around are unacquainted with this manufacture, though Dr. Drake thinks it is known to some of the Indians of Louisiana.

    But a detailed proof of civilization superior to our Indians, may be derived from the fact; that among these ruins, are found pieces of copper, beat out into thin sheets, and cut into various shapes; copper beads have been found -- and other metalick figures, whose use and purpose seem to defy conjecture. Had any of our Indians possessed the art of rendering copper malleable, it can hardly be supposed that they would forget, or lay aside an art, which rendered their wars or hunting so efficient; for the tedious preparation, and imperfect substitution of flint. *

    * Great scepticism should be entertained respecting newspaper accounts of antiquities and curiosities, found in America. I have seen relations of coins having been found in Ohio, engraved with unknown characters, and yet having the year expressed by Arabian figures.

    In the same manner much curiosity has been excited by the discovery of glass beads, in certain parts of the United States, and under circumstances which almost preclude the belief of their being European manufactures. Some persons have, from these circumstances, hastily supposed that the ancient inhabitants of America manufactured glass. But it is well known to mineralogists, that glass is a natural production and is not very uncommon. Obsidian, or volcanick glass, known to the Mexicans by the name of Itab, was much used by several American nations; and beads, mirrors and bracelets, formed from it. Baron Humboldt has given a plate of some Mexican ornaments, of Obsidian. Crystallized quartz, also approaches so nearly to glass, that few but mineralogists could distinguish the difference.



    It is much to be regretted, that so little exertion has been made by our countrymen to investigate these curious antiquities. The few specimens that are seen, are only such as chance and accident have thrown in the way; and even when thus brought to light, the ignorance or carelessness of the possessors, either wantonly destroy, or suffer these interesting curiosities to be lost.

    Rude and ungraceful as these ruins are, they nevertheless excite our sympathy, and that concern which arises in every feeling mind, on viewing the overthrow of human labours or institutions.

    When we contemplate the ruins of Illium, or Carthage, or of Palmyra, amid all our regret and concern for their fate, yet there are incidents connected with their histories which we reflect on with enthusiasm. Though they have fallen, their fame yet lives. The genius and talents of antiquity still shine with original splendour, and the triumph of time and desolation, over the labours of man, is incomplete.
    Nee, si quid olim lusit Anacreon Delevit setas. Spiral adhuc amor, Vivuntque commissi calores Ceolia fidibus puelloe.
    But with the mounds and fortifications of America, we have no agreeable, no inspiring associations. We see "The bones of men in some forgotten battle slain," -- we see the labours of their hands desolated,



    -- their rude works overgrown by the trees of the forest; -- whilst the nation that raised these works, together with her patriots and her heroes, had disappeared, and has not left even a name behind. And the last an only remembrance of them which has reached our time, has been only preserved by a recollection of their ruin and extermination, and the terrible effusion of their blood.

    Until very lately, it was believed, that the Indians in the neighbourhood of these remains, were entirely ignorant of the erectors of these works -- and which they almost universally referred to an age anteriour to their earliest traditions. Fortunately, however, some gentlemen of curiosity have attended to this subject -- scarcely in time; but who have preserved some traditions which throw a light upon the dark inquiry; -- and by means of which, we may be able to piece the mysteries which shroud other, and equally interesting subjects.

    These important traditions have been extracted from the PORT FOLIO, of Philadelphia; and were originally taken from some manuscripts in the possession of the editor of that periodical work; -- they are as follows:

    "Mr. Thomas Bodley was informed by Indians of different tribes, north-west of the Ohio, that they had understood from their old men, and that it had been a tradition among their several nations, that Kentucky had been settled by whites, and that they had been exterminated by war. They were of opinion that the old fortifications, now to be seen in Kentucky


    and Ohio, were the productions of those white inhabitants. Wappockanitta, a Shawnee chief, near a hundred and twenty years old, living on the Auglaze river, confirmed the above tradition.

    An old Indian, in conversation with colonel James F. Moore, of Kentucky, informed him that the western country, and particularly Kentucky, had once been inhabited by white people, but that they were exterminated by the Indians. That the last battle was fought at the Falls of Ohio, and that the Indians succeeded in driving the Aborigines into a small island )Sandy Island,) below the rapids, where the whole of them were cut to pieces.

    The Indian chief called Tobacco, told Gen. Clark, of Louisville, that the battle of Sandy Island decided finally the fall of Kentucky, with its ancient inhabitants. General Clarke says that Kentucee, in the language of the Indians, signifies the River of Blood.

    Colonel Joseph Davis, when at St. Louis in 1800, saw the remains of an ancient tribe of the Sacs, who expressed some astonishment that any person should live in Kentucky; -- they said the country had been the scene of much blood, and was filled with the manes of its butchered inhabitants. He stated also that the people who inhabited this country were whites, and possessed such arts as were unknown by the Indians.

    Colonel M'Kee, who commanded on the Kenhawa when Cornstalk was inhumanely murdered, had frequent conversation with that chief, respecting the people who had constructed the ancient forts. He


    stated that it was a current and assured tradition, that Ohio and Kentucky had been once settled by white people, who were possessed of arts which the Indians did not know. That after many sanguinary contests they were exterminated. -- (Port Folio, number for June, 1816.).

    From these traditions, and from the testimony of three South American nations, who ascribe their civilization and religion to three white men, whom we shall presently notice, it appears very reasonable to believe, that a race of white men, imperfectly civilized, were the center from whence the civilization, observable in America, has emanated; -- and to this population must we refer the pyramids and fortifications of the Western country. *

    It can be but little more than guess work to state more of this aboriginal white people -- for the few scattered, unconnected facts and circumstances that remain concerning them, can only serve to give a tolerable plausibility to what we will say on this subject.

    How great, or how extended their populations may have been, is impossible to tell; -- perhaps we may with safety say, that their influence pervaded all that country where we find the fortifications and pyramids,

    * We have already shewn, (in page 52) that white men are found in several parts of America, who have never had any connexion with Europeans. Bearded men may be seen among the ancient Mexican figures and hieroglyphicks -- see Humboldt's Altes Pittoresque Placques, 21, 47, and 48.


    and which I am disposed to believe embraced several of the copper coloured tribes also. *

    A cruel and bloody war appears to have taken place between the rude and barbarian natives, perhaps under some Attilla or Genseric, and their more refined and civilized neighbours, which ended nearly in the total destruction of the latter. The few that survived this catastrophe, fled their country and sought happier and more peaceful climes. The Toltecas and Mexicans, copper coloured people, who appear to owe the knowledge and refinement they possessed to these aboriginal whites, avoided a cruel fate in this manner, though they appear to have also suffered before leaving their original country.

    The arguments supporting the opinion, that the Western States of the Union were the original countries of the Mexicans and Toltecas, may perhaps be plausibly demonstrated † and under the peculiar circumstances of the bloody war which we have just mentioned, may be found the reasons that enforced their migration.

    Referring to the accounts we have given from Clavigero, of the arrival and history of the Mexicans, &c., page 90, we will find these made, assuming, they

    * I am not able to state the exact extent of country over which these remains are found. They appear from a short distance above Pittsburg, to some height up the Missouri, but are found especially on the borders of the Ohio and Mississippi; and only extend a few miles, perhaps not more than 30 or 40 from their banks.

    † This is an old opinion, and has been supported by many writers. Charles Cullen, Esq., Translator of the Abbe Clavigero's history of Mexico, is the first one, I know of, who published the opinion.


    were forced to leave their original country Huchuetapallan, which they said was north from Mexico. They do not state why they were forced, or on what account; they simply say, they were banished. It must strike every one who considers this subject, that the cause which could force so many different tribes or people from their native country, could have been nothing of a very common kind; and nothing that I can see, agrees in so many points as the opinion we have just given, as to this cause.

    It can be also shewn, that the works and labours of the Mexicans, bear striking analogies to the ruins found along the Mississippi and Ohio. The pyramids of Anahuac, and temples of Mexico, are decidedly of the same style, design and arrangement, with the ancient remains, * The Mexicans also raised places of defence similar to the ancient fortifications; this may be seen in Clavigero, ii. 389; and this is also evident by the account given by Cortez, of the conquest of Mexico.

    Clavigero has given a drawing of the defence to the Tlascalan territories, not materially different from the figure of one given in the Columbian Magazine, iii. and fig. 1st. which is situated on the Huron river.

    From some human bodies found in the western country, there appears considerable reason to think the Mexicans once lived there.

    These bodies were found in a copperas cave, near the Cany Fork of Cumberland river, Ten. See Medical

    * Compare Mr. Brackenridge's narration, page 203, with the note at the foot of page 133,


    Repository, vol. iii. Hexade, iii. p. 147. One of these bodies was a male, the other a female; they were buried separately, and according to the Medical Repository, in the following manner: The male had on a fine linen shirt; and then, five dressed deer skins were closely wrapped around the body, then a twilled blanket, and a cane mat sixty feet long. The body of the female lay three feet from the male, and in the same position; she was enveloped in two undressed deer skins, under which, upon the face, was found a small cane mat; then four dressed deer skins were wrapped around, over which was folded a cane mat, long enough to cover the whole; then were five sheets wrapped round, supposed to have been made of nettle lint, wrought very curiously along the edges with feathers, of various kinds and colours; two feather fans were found next, upon the breast: the body, with all the wrappings, was found on what was believed to be a hair trunk or box, with a cane cover; which was wound up in two well dressed deer skins of the largest size ; and the whole girted with straps.

    This account is very loose and undeterminate; and the language of the gentleman who wrote it would lead us to suppose, that the fine linen shirt and twilled blanket were of European manufacture; but this is not the case; what is called a shirt is only something like one, and so also the twilled blankets are totally dissimilar to any thing made in Europe or the United States.

    This correction to the statement given in the Medical Repository, I am entitled to do, from the information


    given me by a gentleman who saw the bodies and their envelops, &c. and who deposited an arm and specimens of the mats, feathers, &c. found with them in Peale's Museum, Philadelphia, where I have seen them. Another important circumstance incorrectly stated in the Medical Repository is, that the legs were cut off and laid upon the belly; the fact is, that they were only bent up, perhaps not more than is done when we ourselves sit on a low seat.

    The manufactured mats, &c. around these bodies, agree very well with those of the Mexicans, &c. thus Clavigero: "The Mexicans made of cotton, large webs, as delicate and fine as those of Holland; they wove these cloths with different figures and colours; they interwove feathers with cotton, &c.; from the leaves of two species of plants they obtained a fine thread, of which they made cloths equal to those made of lint" (flax.) -- (See Clavigero, vol. ii. 425.)

    By this extract, it appears that the wrappings found around these bodies are very similar to the manufactures of the Mexicans and other nations first found in Anahuac. And the singular flexure of the knees over the belly, may be owing to their having been buried in a sitting position, which was a Mexican ceremony.

    The feather fans were a badge of nobility among the people of Mexico and Anahuac generally.

    In a work entitled Nature and Art, edited by Dr. Mease, of Philadelphia, is a circumstance related which perhaps strengthens this opinion, that our western country was once the seat of the Mexicans, Toltecas, &c. A mound in or near the town of Tomlinson,


    in Ohio, was opened, and among many bones and stone tools, was found a kind of stone signet, of an oval shape, two inches in length, with a figure in relievo resembling the note of admiration, (!) surrounded by two raised rims. A captain Wilson, who was present, observed that it was exactly the figure of the brand with which the Mexican horses were marked, &c. (See Nature and Art, vol. xiv. 199.)

    I have also been informed, that our late president, Jefferson, has in his possession many masks, &c. made of baked clay, and which were found in different parts of the western country. This circumstance also coincides with the habit of the Mexicans; see our notice of burial. In the Archaelogia, vol. vi. 107, a Mr. Charles Rogers, mentions a great number of similar masks being found on the Musquito shore. He was told by his Indian guides, that they were likenesses of chiefs.

    We come now to speak of those three extraordinary persons -- Quetzalcoatl, Inca-mancu Capac, and Bochica; men who appeared on a sudden, with white skins, long beards, and flowing garments, From what has been already said of the ancient white aborigines of America, it will be at once perceived, that their origin may be very reasonably referred to that source; and their appearance among the nations, may be described to the ruin of their country, which forced them to emigrate.

    It was between the years 544 and 648 of our era, that the Toltecs emigrated from the North, and arrived in Anahuac. During this time, or as Baron Humboldt


    observes -- perhaps anterior to that age, Quetzalcoatl made his appearance; a white man, bearded, and accompanied by other strangers, who wore black garments, in the form of cassocks. He came a kind of missionary and lawgiver to the Toltecas, and greatly civilized them.

    It appears to me, that there are two personages blended under the name of Quetzalcoatl; one may with great probability, be referred to the god of that name, who we have described in page 120, and whose history affords strong analogies with that of the Patriarch Noah. The other Quetzalcoatl, was, I think, a priest of the white Americans; and who, perhaps, was a priest of the god Quetzalcoatl; he appears to have arrived among the Toltecs about the times we have stated. In a like manner, is the god Woodin or Odin, confounded with a hero or priest Odin; and history, in other places, offers analogous illustrations.

    Bochica, who appeared to the Muyscas, and Mancu Capac, the first Inca, and instructor of the Peruvians, also were white, and bearded men. They appeared on a sudden to these South American people, as ministers from Heaven. It is my opinion, that these two personages, were priests of the white Americans, who were fortunate enough to escape the ruin and desolation of their country, and to reach South America; where, by superior knowledge, and usual artifices, they acquired an influence over the minds of the


    Peruvians and Muyscas; which, perhaps, was beneficial to those nations. *

    I do not know how far we ought to depend upon the traditionary chronologies which are given, as to the appearance of these lawgivers of America. According to the Mexicans, Quetzalcoatl appeared to the Toltecas, either about the five hundred and fiftieth year of the christian era, or in the ages anterior and whilst the Mexicans were living in Huehuetapallan.

    There are no particular accounts given of the time Bochica first made his appearance to the Muyscas.

    I must acknowledge, previous to concluding this inquiry, that I am not satisfied in every point with my conjectures upon these American antiquities. Indeed, the credulity of any one must be uncommonly great, who could believe, he had thoroughly investigated and explained such ancient and mysterious difficulties. We are without records, or traditions, or in fact any other help than a plausible theory; and other theories may perhaps explain and reconcile the difficulties under which the subject lies, just as well; and I am afraid,

    * There are some difficulties involved in the opinion that Mancu Capac, Quetzalcoatl, and Bochica. were of the same nation of whites -- as the religions and policy of these lawgivers, were different. These difficulties, however, may be reconciled, by supposing some sectarian differences to have existed among the white Americans; which may have been further altered by the crafty policy of the priests, to suit the genius of the different nations they afterwards civilized.

    The Scevites and Bhuddists of India, offer a good illustration to the sectarian differences, I have supposed may have existed among the whites of America; and which may be supposed to be exemplified by the religions of Mexico and Peru.


    that all the light which will be ever thrown upon the subject, will be through the uncertain medium of conjecture.

    I am induced to make these observations, among many other reasons, by finding that Garcilazo de la Vega relates -- enormous stone buildings, pyramids, and gigantick stone statues, are found on the frontiers of Peru -- whose founders or builders were unknown.

    Perhaps it would be carrying our theory too far, to attribute these last works to the ancient whites of America, or to the Toltecas; all that can be said, is, that such an opinion is not attended with impossible circumstances. Time, philosophical research and examination, may perhaps give us a knowledge of these remains; but at present we must be silent, and leave them in almost cimerian darkness.



    Transcriber's Comments

    James H. McCulloh's Researches on America

    Title-page of McCulloh's 1829 book

    (from Appletons Encyclopedia

    McCULLOH, James Haines, author, born in Maryland about 1793. He was educated as a physician, receiving his degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1814, but devoted himself mainly to archaeological studies, after serving as garrison surgeon until the close of the war of 1812-'15. He became curator of the Maryland academy of science and vice-president of the Baltimore apprentices' library in 1822. In 1836 he succeeded his father, James H. McCulloh, as collector of the port of Baltimore. He was also president of the National bank of Baltimore, but declined a re-election in 1853.

    He published "Researches on America, being an Attempt to settle some Points relative to the Aborigines of America" (Baltimore, 1816); "Researches, Philosophical and Antiquarian, concerning the Aboriginal History of America" (1829); "Analytical Investigations concerning the Credibility of the Scriptures and of the Religious System Inculcated in them, together with a Historical Exhibition of Human Conduct during the several Dispensations under which Mankind have been placed by their Creator" (1852); "An Important Exposition of the Evidences and Doctrines of the Christian Religion, addressed to the Better Educated Classes of Society" (1856); and "On the Credibility of the Scriptures, a Recast and Enlarged View of a Former Work on the Subject, together with a Copious Analysis of the Systems promulgated during the Patriarchal, Jewish, and Christian Dispensations, and of Human Developments under them" (1867).

    Note: The second, enlarged 1817 edition of Researches on America... printed the author's name for the first time. McCulloh's original material was further expanded for his 1829 book, Researches, Philosophical & Antiquarian, Concerning the Aboriginal History of America.


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