Monday, April 14, 2014

Brakebill Indian Mound

Brakebill Indian Mound at Forks of the River

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Some of the stone implements and shell gorgets in the collection at Harvard were taken out of the mound in September 1869 The following December the mound was opened by its owner Adam Brakebill. At about this time and subsequently Dunning conducted his excavations at the mound the dimensions of which he gave as 20 feet high by 102 feet in diameter. Records giving details of his excavation here and the association of the various objects found are far from complete. Aside from a rusty sword blade of steel found by the side of a human skeleton there is nothing in the Yale collection from the Brakebill mound that would point to European contact.

Bone and Antler Bone and antler were not used extensively for either practical or ornamental purposes. An exceptionally fine spatulate implement of bone fig 14 is in the Harvard collection. It is cut from the central portion of the shaft and is not only well preserved but also is complete. The decoration consisting of series of parallel transverse incised lines is simple and effective. A hole through one wall near the base serves as a means of suspension. In the Yale collection is another of the same type but with fewer incised lines half the blade is missing There are several bone bodkins pointed at both ends. One such was wrapped by a cord that left permanent markings some of which have eaten into the bone fig 15. A pointed implement of deer antler is reproduced in figure 16.

Shell: The most notable objects of shell are the gorgets of which Dunning in one of his letters says six were discovered in various parts of the Brakebill mound at a depth of eight feet and under layers of charcoal and burnt clay several yards square. Some of them were deposited under the head of a human skeleton which was doubled up in the usual manner ie sharply flexed arms and legs. The smallest of the engraved shells was under the skull of a youth another near a male skeleton of mature age and with it a large polished ax of greenstone, some delicately shaped flint arrow points and a carved representation in shell of a human face.

Stone: Stone was employed in ways ornamental as well as practical. The boat amulet seen in figure 17 might have been employed as a sort of button In shape it is not unlike the head of a bird facing two ways. A boat amulet similar in shape was found forty years ago at Silver Lane near Hartford Connecticut.

Pottery: The paste contains so much pulverized shell as to give a pronounced reaction when treated to hydrochloric acid. Moreover the shell component is distinctly visible by contrast with the darker clay Very few of the vessels are whole. A plain vase without handles and one with a pair of handles and shoulder ornament in relief are reproduced in figure 21 Judging from the thickness and curvature of some of the sherds vessels of large size were in use at the Brakebill mound. Among the many sherds one is selected for illustration because of the rim decoration and the curious stamped design on the body of the vessel fig 22 A small potsherd disc is reproduced in figure 23.

Excerpts from Proceedings, edited by Frederick Webb Hodge. Read the whole book here: Link

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