The Wheeling Expedition

Originally Published in 1930

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AT Beech Bottom, near Wheeling, West Virginia, an archaeological party from the Museum excavated a small Indian mound during July and August with interesting results.

The mound was about seventy feet in diameter and twelve feet high at its summit. A complete segment was uncovered layer by layer until the ground level was reached. Toward the centre of the mound at different levels, various stone implements were found. These comprised well-worked flint blades, some coloured red with ochre, and an unusual number of polished tubular pipes, all probably having been thrown upon the mound while it was being built as offerings to the deceased. No trace whatever of pottery was found. About four and one-half feet below the ground level was the burial which the mound was evidently erected to mark. The skeleton, that of a man about five feet eight inches tall, was not well preserved, but was accompanied by a quantity of various ornaments and jewelry, strings of shells, beads of shell and of copper, as well as flint blades and other stone implements.

View of a group excavating a mound
Plate VIII — Excavating an Indian mound, Beech Bottom, West Virginia

There seems little doubt that this burial belonged to the Mound Builder culture, evidences of which have been found at countless sites distributed from Wisconsin to Florida, particularly in Ohio. Despite many popular beliefs, it is now well established that the Mound Builders were not a people preceding the Indians of these regions. The Indians themselves built the mounds, usually to mark the graves of their dead, and in a few there have been found objects of European origin which indicate that some were built after the coming of white men to this continent. One of the interesting features of the Beech Bottom Mound was the presence of the long, polished tubular pipes (probably an early form of tobacco pipe) not usual in typical Mound Builder burials, and never before found in such quantity.

The work of excavating was carried on with the generous cooperation of D. H. Wagner, Esq., of the Wheeling Corrugating Company. A full report will appear in a forthcoming number of the Museum Journal.

An excavated stone pipe in situ
Plate IX — A tubular stone pipe from excavations at Beech Bottom, West Virginia

Cite This Article

"The Wheeling Expedition." Museum Bulletin II, no. 1 (November, 1930): 18-22. Accessed July 23, 2024.

This digitized article is presented here as a historical reference and may not reflect the current views of the Penn Museum.

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