Why aren't Native American historical indicators everywhere?

There would have been a plaster or stucco layer long gone. We know the inner walls od kivas were painted ans repainted many times.

As mentioned near the start, a lot of original Indian art and construction was destroyed, broken up, covered over, or bulldozed over the years. A lot of ,mounds survive because, well, they’ve already “fallen down”. To get rid of them demands more work than it was worth, and eventually people decided to preserve them.

A lot of things no longer survive. There was an impressive painting on a rock along the MMississippi near present-day Alton, Illinois called the Piasa Bird. The original limestone was quarried away. The painting would eventually have washed away, in any case, if no one restored it regularly. A reproduction exists today along the Mississippi:

There are a lot of petroglyphs out in Utah – I’ve been to see them. As noted, they’re notoriously difficult to date, and some are clearly very recent. But some petroglyphs and even paintings appear to be quite old.

As for stone structures, there are lots of stone structures in the Northeast. Local people, not able to believe these were the work of indigenous people, credited them to either early pioneers or to visiting Viking, Irish monks, Phoenicians, or whoever else was handy. The real provenance of these structures is still a matter of dispute. I suspect that a lot of the stuff at “Mystery Hill” in North Salkem, NH is due to the local Indians as well as to settler Pattee.

Out West, there are several “Medicine Wheels” (sort of lying-down Stonehenges) now acknowledged to be of native manufacture

There are stone constructions in the New Jersey-New York area that are of unknown meaning. Some of them resemble European “stone boats”, but are aligned perfectly north anbd south. At one point IO thought these might be nonday analemma figures (which would align perfectly north-south), but when I calculated the shapes of such analemmas, I found that it was impossible to match the observed proportions. I don’t know what these figures are, but they’re artificial, and likely to be made by the local inhabitants. (The Stone Boats in Europe, by the way, are overwhelmingly NOT oriented North-South. Whatever they are, they’re not analemmas, either.)

Native Americans, like all humans, most certainly “modified their environment” in some very serious ways, that we can still see today.

Contrary to popular conception, many Native American groups practiced agriculture, and even groups that did not were often sedentary if the available resources for hunting, gathering, and fishing were dense enough.

Many of the “Plains Indians” tribes, fixed in the public’s mind as horseback riding nomadic raiders, were in fact driven to the plains by encroaching Europeans, and had very different (and much less nomadic) lifestyles before European colonization.

This is a bit of a silly misunderstanding.

The concept of private, individual ownership of land, and of buying and selling it, was foreign to Native Americans. But the idea that a certain group lived in a certain area, and that they could exclude other groups from living in that area, was certainly not a foreign one. Native Americans fought wars for land long before contact with Europeans.

All of them Lenni Lenape.
Conemaugh – Lenape kwënëmuxkw ‘otter’.
Loyalhanna — after the name of a Lenape town, Layalhanning, meaning ‘at the middle of the river’: layel or lawel ‘middle’ + hane ‘river’ + -ink locative suffix.
Kiskiminetas - derived from Lenape kishku manitu ‘make daylight’ (kishku ‘day’ + manitu ‘make’), a command to warriors to break camp and go on maneuvers while it is still night (as though it were daylight).

Hydronyms are generally the best at preserving old names.

Cool, I knew all of that but had forgotten the details. Thank you!

ETA: Plus, you did not misspell Kiskiminetas, like I did.

And unsurprisingly, those sedentary groups tended to build more durable permanent buildings, and to produce immovable artwork. See, for instance, the lodge houses and totem poles of the Pacific Northwest, where seafood was abundant.

Mounds were literally everywhere in the American Southeast.

You’ve got your

And probably more I’m forgetting about. There are thousands of mounds, in hundreds of named sites that have survived and been investigated enough that they at least have a name and a Wikipedia entry. One assumes these are a fraction of the actual total number of significant, permanent settlements. The Eastern Woodlands were full of people making permanent marks. This was a busy, full continent. If you live anywhere from the Great Lakes to the Gulf, where you walk each day was familiar territory to a series of societies that have been all but completely ignored, and so forgotten.

Thank you for all the responses. I meant what I said, I do love history and will check out the links provided to learn more, that’s what I’m doing on the SDMB anyway.

I suspect any sign of past habitation was a smoking gun to the absurd land grab that had just happened. People keep old things around if it makes the current residents feel legitimate or at least happy. Native American remains do none of those things.

Also note that the word “kayak” is itself a Native American word. (And “canoe” as well.)

I too grew up in the Badger State.(now live in SW Ohio) The course I took on local history here tells us that there were numerous very different groups of native Americans over 1000’s of years here in Ohio. The natives that the Ohio settlers came into conflict with had no knowledge of who built the serpent mound or Fort Ancient. I think they referred to them as “The ancient ones” . AS you say they had no written language and no metal working beyond a little copper they traded for. (Sourced from the .U.P. of Michigan) .
When I lived in NW Wisconsin I knew men who found arrowheads, but they would not share where they were found. I assumed this meant they were either #1–Fake or #2 grave goods from burial mounds they secretly destroyed. There is a site in Wood County near Arpin that is sacred to the native people and has recent burials. The native cultures here in SW Ohio and also Wisconsin was really a sort of hand-to -mouth existence,…I do not think that they had the leisure time or wealth to make any sort of monument.

I used to search for reservations and native lands
Before I realized everywhere I stand
There have been tribal feet running wild as fire
Some past life sister of my desire
—Indigo Girls

I’m writing to you from the land of the Manahoac people, who disappeared from history 300 years ago. :cry: Their remnants were absorbed into the Tutelo-Saponi nation. An old man among the Tutelo named Nikonha, who died in Canada in 1871, claimed to be the last of the Manahoac and to be the legal owner of much of Northern Virginia. He was the last speaker of the Siouan language of his people.

Historical indicators from my yard, found while gardening and mowing. Shoebox included in image for scale.

The alleged remnants of a serpent mound lie on a bluff a few miles from my house. Over many decades, the property owners have nearly farmed it flat and built a house on its tail.

Here is a drawing of the site from the 1800’s, along with a LIDAR scan, overhead photo, and a quote of the accompanying article.

Great Serpent Effigy Mound | Western Adams County, IL

This post was submitted by a reader who has done extensive research on this site.

The rich history of the Quincy area extends far beyond that of its founding in 1825. Thousands of years ago, the area was home to a Native American culture that left behind impressive monuments that exist even into today.

On a bluff overlooking the Mississippi River plains located just a few miles north of Quincy, IL, stands one such monument that was incredibly impressive in size and shape.

The great serpent mound was originally documented by Dr. Stephen Peet in the late 1800’s on an expedition to the area. Dr. Peet was an early American Archaeologist and Clergyman. In accompanying his father on missionary tours, Stephen Denison Peet had his interests aroused in Indian life and the relics of the mound builders, an interest which remained with him throughout his long life. Several articles were written about his findings in the Quincy area in the archives of the Quincy Herald Whig.

Peet would also publish a book that documented his explorations throughout the Midwest, The Mound Builders – “Their Works and Relics.” This book contains a sketch of the Serpent Mound in Adams County. Link to Book: https://amzn.to/3CP4fVm

Dr. Peet would unsuccessfully lobby the city of Quincy to preserve the area as a park for future generations. The size of the mound is such that it would be much longer than the famous Serpent Mound located in Ohio. Unfortunately, without the preservation efforts of early Quincy officials, the site has been leveled through many years of agricultural use and no longer exists in it’s once great form.

While aerial images show the area where the mound exists, a different technology would be required to fully appreciate the mound, enter LIDAR. LIDAR technology allows for contours of the land to be exposed underneath tree and vegetation cover as the site exists today. Illinois has extensive LIDAR maps available online, and through the use of LIDAR and applying hill-shading to the area, a form appears on top of the bluff.

The existence of this site proves their skills and ingenuity regarding the landscape was vast. Fortunately, some great examples of Indian Mounds do exist in Quincy. Preservation efforts have maintained a number of burial mounds in Indian Mounds Park.

Important Note: This site is located on Private Property, exact location is withheld.

Cahokia Mounds World Heritage Site Cahokia Archaeological Society

I messaged a boating friend this fact and he responded immediately, telling me that “pontoon” was Lenape for “party barge”.

He had me for a second.

Or they just knew of a good spot and didn’t want competition.

And arrowheads are quite common, without need for resorting to grave-robbing. Remember, they were tools, to be used for a purpose, and when used for that intended purpose, a lot of them would be lost and never found. A spot where a lot of arrowheads are found probably just means that it used to be someplace where people liked to hunt a lot.

That definitely looks likely to have been a human-made mound, but it might or might not have been deliberately intended as a snake effigy. Right along the edge of a bluff like that, it could also have been a fortification, or a safety barrier (“Children, when you play, don’t run up onto the mound, because it’s steep and dangerous on the other side!”). It’s tough to tell the difference between a snake and any other generic long curvy thing.

My guess is that the hill I live on may have been a camp/work site.

  • The creek north of my house is full of glacially transported chunks of non-local stone. The local bedrock is all limestone. The creek has flint for knapping and granite for axes and hammer stones. It has cool, clean spring water flowing year round no matter how hot or cold the weather is. There are also beavers down there occasionally.

  • In my yard and nearby fields, I find lots of chipped fragments that look like the byproducts of flint knapping, along with many crude unfinished and/or broken items. I have not found a single complete, finished arrowhead or spear head.

I did find two pieces that may have been someone’s lost tools. One looks (to me, at least) like a scraper for wood or leather work - it’s an oval, flat on one side, curved so it fits my hand well on the other, and sharp all around the edges. The other tool is a 3/4 grooved granite hatchet head. The interwebs tell me that form was used in the Middle Archaic Period, so it is possibly somewhere in the neighborhood of 4000 to 6000 years old.

I don’t have any great faith that Dr. Peet knew what he was doing, but maybe was more interested in making the claim that he found a bigger serpent mound than the Great Serpent Mound in Ohio.

When I first moved out to Taos, I discovered first hand and in a big way, petroglyphs. I was transfixed and read all I could get my hands on about them. I read how incredibly hard they were to make. You might not think of it at first, but to ‘carve’ them, you need a harder stone than the one you are carving on.

Long story, short - I decided to try my hand at it - as LSLG says, it’s hard. and I was able to drive to get a harder stone. I can only imagine going through all that effort AND having to scrabble out a living.

There are a lot of historical ruins in the desert southwest. Some folks base their YouTube channels on them. There are a lot them.

I’ve found several largish ruins myself. These people with their e-bikes and drones have got it made.

But even in some places where the stone is soft, there still doesn’t seem to be that many petroglyphs. Considering that people lived in the area for thousands of years, I would have expected them to be literally everywhere. It’s not hard to carve into sandstone or cliffs that have that black, organic rock varnish. Modern visitors are extensively desecrating these sites by carving graffiti into these soft and delicate surfaces. With so much graffiti added in the past few decades, it seems curious to me that the ancient people did not have the same proclivity for marking up the area.

I read about them quite a bit when I lived in Utah, and occasionally visited the sites.

One thing that isn’t obvious is that it’s easier to use a “two rock” system. You place one rock where you want to make the mark, and you use the other rock to hammer on the first rock.

You don’t really have to be harder than the rock you’re making the petroglyphs on – you have to be harder than the coating of “desert varnish” that’s covering the rock. This stuff is the hard brown coating on the underlying rock. Break through that and your marks will stand out, as the underlying rock is much whiter than the varnish.

Still, it takes a long time. And for some reason a lot of petroglyphs are carved well up into the rock, so you’d need a platform or ladder to stand on to make the marks. (unless the ground level has sunck since the carving).

In my opinion, they are. If you hike the outback of Canyonlands NP, they are virtually everywhere.