Excavation of an Indian Mound at Beech Bottom

By: Charles Bache and Linton Satterthwaite, Jr.

Originally Published in 1930

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THE period from July 3 to August 4, 1930, was spent in the investigation of a small mound on the Ohio River, fourteen miles north of Wheeling, at Beech Bottom, Brooke County, West Virginia. The site was brought to the attention of the Museum by Mr. Dwight H. Wagner, of Wheeling, who secured permission to excavate from the Wheeling Steel Corporation, owners of the property on which the mound is situated, and of which corporation Mr. Wagner is an officer.

Drawn layout of the Beech Bottom mound from above
Plate I. Bache and Satterthwaite: Excavation at Beech Bottom.

The field party from the Museum consisted of Miss Mary Butler, Mrs. Linton Satterthwaite, Jr., and the writers, Mr. Bache being in charge of the work.

We take this opportunity, on behalf of ourselves and of the University Museum, to express the deepest appreciation for the many kindnesses shown and for the interested cooperation by Mr. Wagner, Mr. Charles Ewing, Mr. J. L. Grimes, Mr. Joseph Cowdan, Jr., all of Wheeling, and to Mr. James Wallace, of Beech Bottom. To Miss Sallie Wagner, an enthusiastic amateur archaeologist, we are particularly grateful for her energetic work on the mound with us. The Wheeling Steel Corporation, besides permitting us to open the mound, generously contributed whatever labour we desired and furnished guards, and for this we cannot express our thanks sufficiently.

We are also very grateful to Dr. H. A. Pilsbry, of the Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia, for his identification of shell specimens; to Dr. A. K. Graham, of the University of Pennsylvania, for chemical analyses; to Dr. Herbert G. Kribs, of the same institution, for zoological identifications; to Drs. Frederick Ehrenfeldt, Frederick M. Oldach and Paul J. Storm, also of the University of Pennsylvania, for mineralogical identifications; and to Mr. Henry V. Shetrone, Director of the Ohio State Museum, for advice and assistance, and for placing the splendid collections of the Ohio State Archaeological and Historical Society freely at our disposal.

The Beech Bottom Mound stands on the level floor of the Ohio River Valley, fifty yards from the banks of the river, and about a quarter mile from the nearest hills to the east, rising out of the valley towards Pennsylvania. The banks of the river are here thickly overgrown with trees and brush, and the valley floor itself has but little vegetation beyond sparse grasses and the usual farm crops. The floor on which the mound stands is about twenty-five feet above the level of the river, which here flows between steep banks.

Drawings of objects
Figure A

The mound is isolated, although about a quarter of a mile to the northeast, on a shoulder of the valley-side, there is a low circular mound about twenty-five feet in diameter and perhaps five feet high. It is nicely hemispherical, but has doubtless been made so by the present or former owners of the house on the lawn of which it stands. So far as we were able to ascertain, it has never been opened. We were informed that in former times there was another mound across the river, slightly downstream from the Beech Bottom mound, but that it has been cultivated and largely obliterated. We did not have time to investigate this report.

The Beech Bottom Mound, speaking broadly, is a cone, with average diameter of twenty-two metres at the base, and greatest height from the general ground level about it of four metres [Plates II and XII]. The top has been considerably disturbed by “pot-hunting,” which gives the effect of a truncated cone. One side, the south, has also been dug into in modern times and the regular contours of the mound are here destroyed.

At one time, there was a number of large trees growing out of the mound, which have been cut down, leaving their stumps on the top and on the sides close to the top. One small tree was alive when the excavation commenced. Other overgrowth was profuse, with an enormous amount of poison ivy.

Erosion was appreciable, the wash down the steep sides of the mound having left a sort of collar around the base, especially noticeable on the west and north slopes, about two metres across and falling, in this distance, about half a metre from the side of the mound to the ground level.

* * *

The first cut was made on the morning of July third. Arbitrarily, before we commenced digging, we selected a point well outside the mound area, on the general ground level, and established it as our 0.00. It is with reference to this point that all elevations will be given in this report. Unless stated as in centimetres or millimetres, all elevations and distances are given in metres or decimal fractions thereof.

Topographical map of Beech Bottom Mound before excavation
Plate II. Bache and Satterthwaite: Excavation at Beech Bottom.

About seven metres from the base of the mound, on the west side, a shallow trench 0.75 metre deep and 1.00 metre wide was dug, running on this level into the side of the mound. As it penetrated the side of the mound, it was stepped up about 0.75 metre and again run into the side of the mound, where the operation was repeated until the top of the mound was reached at the seventh step [Plate XIII and Plate III, Figure 1, A].

At the top of the mound the trench was widened at the west end of the seventh step [Plate HI, Figure 1, B] and the work in levels was commenced. A layer of about twenty centimetres was removed with the shovel, slicing downward in thin peels, the dirt being watched by members of the party. Inasmuch as at this time we did not know whether the entire mound was to be investigated or whether a small portion would be completely done, or whether the work would be abandoned after our preliminary trench, we chose this portion to concentrate upon. It was close to the centre of the mound, but did not actually embrace the centre, and we calculated that from
this area we would learn the general structure of the mound before excavating the centre.

It soon developed that we were in a rich area, for at elevation 2.69 we came upon the pieces of a complete gray pipe-stone tube in direct association with red ochre [Plate XVI, 2]. Somewhat later, at elevations but a trifle lower, were found two stemmed points [Plate XIX, 13 and 16], an unbroken pipe-stone tube [Plate XVI, 9] and a gorget of grey banded slate, all edges concave [Plate XXIII, 2]. As all these objects, besides several others of less significant nature, came from a small restricted area near the eastern end of our pit, and therefore nearest the centre of the mound, we decided that a larger area should be opened, but that we would not yet attempt to dig out the centre of the mound. It seemed to us that it was of importance to learn as much as we could of the construction before we attempted to go to the heart of the tumulus.

Drawings of four stages of excavation on Beech Bottom Mound
Plate III. Bache and Satterthwaite: Excavation at Beech Bottom.

Therefore we extended the scope of the cut so that a pie-shaped sector, here referred to as “main sector,” comprising over a quarter of the mound should be removed [Plate III, Figure 2, C, and Plates XII and XIII]. Using the south wall of our trench for one side and the continuation of the east wall of the pit for the other, we went once more to the top of the mound and resumed our work in levels. All work in the first pit was stopped until the larger area should reach the same level, when the two could be taken down simultaneously as a unit.

The excavation of this larger sector was carried out in the same fashion as the previous smaller pit: in thin levels, in order that the position of objects might be recorded and changes in soil, if any, noted. The two sides of the excavation remained as vertical sections [Plates IV and V].

The same conditions were noted throughout the digging of the main sector: objects were concentrated in a restricted area near the centre of the mound, and were encountered without let as we went deeper. Because of this, and feeling that we were by this time sufficiently familiar with the mound material, we determined to take down the centre itself. The entire top of the mound was removed to a depth of about a half metre from the general top level (that is to level 3.40), and this area observed for intrusions [Plate III, Figure 3, D]. None were observed except pot-hunters’ pits (indicated in section on Plate V).

At this level (3.40) the central area [Plate III, Fig. 3, E] was staked out and digging started. Objects occurred in comparative scarcity, due partially, perhaps, at the higher levels, to the previous digging. This scarcity threw the concentration of objects about two metres northwest of the topographic centre of the mound, in the main sector already excavated.

Drawn diagram of elevation of south wall of excavation at Beech Bottom Mound
Plate IV. Bache and Satterthwaite: Excavation at Beech Bottom.

While work on the central area was going on, the downward progress of the main sector continued. When it had reached level 0.30 there appeared a ridge of yellow sand, the top of which ran under the walls of our main sector. Since its apparently oval shape, convex in section, gave us the impression that it had been thrown out of a pit of some sort, the remainder of which was probably included within the central area, we called a halt in the main sector until the central area should reach the same depth, so that the ridge could be investigated as a unit.

When this had occurred, the entire area under excavation was cleared to the level of the surrounding ground (our 0.00) or, where the sand occurred, to its level, which was, along the top of the ridge, about thirty centimetres above zero. The surface of the sand, yellow but brighter and coarser than any encountered above, was followed with knives, trowels and brushes. It was soon evident that our assumption of a dug pit was the correct one, the pit proving to be somewhat eccentrical and probably the only burial of the mound.

There remained only to clear the grave, which was done by following with small tools a clear cleavage between the yellow sand walls and a dark earth filler. Excavation of the grave was in horizontal levels, as everywhere else.

Objects were encountered in considerable numbers on the sand thrown from the grave, and also in the dark earth which filled it, from the top to the bottom. In both cases the concentration was marked, in contrast with higher levels of the mound, and we noticed a new feature in the large number of broken tubes and fragments, together with a few broken blades and fragments; furthermore, on the sand surrounding the grave, these were nearly all on the side southeast of the latter, and near it; while in the grave, until we reached the bottom, there was a decided predominance of them on that side.

Drawn diagram of elevation of east wall of excavation of Beech Bottom Mound
Plate V. Bache and Satterthwaite: Excavation at Beech Bottom.

The skeleton proved to be richly decorated with shell and copper beads. Here was found the only worked shell and the only copper of the excavation. An attempt was made to clean off all beads and determine their arrangement, a very time-consuming operation. The skeleton was uncovered and removed in sections so that no single photograph of all the remains in place was possible. As the work proceeded the principal bones were located on a scale drawing; sketches showing the positions of associated objects were made and photographs of the uncovered sections taken before removal. We expected to have a complete composite photograph of the skeleton made from our sectional photographs, but were disappointed by the lack of any picture of the region between the elbows and pelvis [see Plate XIV]. The drawing [Plate I] is made from our field drawings carefully checked by photographs (except for the region noted) supplemented by notes locating certain of the specimens with reference to fixed points. The drawing is considered to be accurate within a few centimetres.

The skeleton was in rather poor condition, and much crushed. The cranium had completely disintegrated, but the jaws and facial bones were in fair condition and have been restored. Plate XV shows what there was of the head, with parts of the beads which ran across the face, after cleaning but before the beads shown were moved. With one fragmentary exception, all hand bones were gone and the same applied to most of the foot hones. The skeleton and parts of the bark-covered floor were covered with yellow sand, similar to that forming the walls of the grave, to a depth of a few centimetres. A list of bones recovered appears later under “Skeletal Material.”

Floor of the Mound

Due to the absence of a distinguishable humus beneath the mound or in the soil outside it, and the similarity of the mound material and underlying strata (except toward the centre), we were unable definitely to determine any floor level. There was no prepared floor. We can say that the bottom of the mound was very close to what is today the general level of the surrounding land. This was indicated by the fact that the bottom of the sand thrown from the graves lies on that level (our 0.00) and, where it does not lie on dark earth, could not be distinguished from the underlying undisturbed soil.

The sand lay in part on dark earth which was artificially deposited prior to the digging of the grave [Plates IV, V and VII. The bottom of this layer of dark earth (which extends beyond the limits of the sand) fades out gradually into naturally deposited yellow sand, indistinguishable from that thrown from the grave. The dark colour can be distinguished ten to twenty centimetres below our zero level, which may indicate excavation of a slight depression about ten metres in diameter, surrounding the grave as a centre. However, a natural depression, such as occurs outside the mound, would as well account for the observed facts.

Drawn isometric projection looking northwest at Beech Bottom Mound
Plate VI. Bache and Satterthwaite: Excavation at Beech Bottom.

Mound Material

Three principal sorts of soil were used in the erection of the mound: (1) a light yellow sandy soil with mottled discoloration, containing little vegetable matter, identifiable, except for the mottling, with the superficial layers of the surrounding flood plain; (2) a very dark brown, sometimes almost black, sandy loam, usually soft, which can presumably have been obtained only either from the river bed or from a marsh distant about a half mile from the site; and (3) various mixtures, perhaps intentional, of the two [Plates V and VI]. Flint chips and broken flint or flinty pebbles, together with small isolated bits of charcoal, occurred throughout all three types of material. They also occur in the surrounding surface soil. A fourth type, referred to as “yellow sand” or simply as “sand,” was thrown out from the sub-strata of the flood plain when the grave was dug.

Mound Construction

The mode of construction of the mound will be further considered under the head of “Conclusions.” Reference to Plates IV, V and VI will give a clearer picture than a detailed description in words. The latter plate is of course a reconstruction, showing parts of the reverse sides of the elevations of Plates IV and V, with positions of certain of the objects added. It is to scale and is accurate, except that the southerly elevation is shown at right angles to the northerly (the angle is actually about 114 degrees) ; and the easterly 1.05 metres of that elevation do not appear on our field drawings and are here added to connect the two elevations. Symbolism as to soils, charcoal and the like is identical on this plate with that for Plates IV and V.

Drawn horizontal distribution of objects at Beech Bottom Mound
Plate VII. Bache and Satterthwaite: Excavation at Beech Bottom.

It will be noted that a layer of dark soil underlay part of the sand thrown out from the grave, filled the grave, covered the sand and extended beyond it (within vertical limits above and below it) a considerable distance, rose immediately above the grave a slight distance, and then expanded in every direction as the height rose, forming an inverted cone, the flat top of which is somewhere in the neighborhood of eight metres in diameter, and which at this level (about 2.00) gradually fades out into yellow soil above. To the north, the outer and upper edge of the cone was not carried to its logical completion, nor was it later disturbed. There was here no indication of such disturbance in the yellow soil.

In the centre of the cone, roughly between levels 1.00 and 1.50, was an irregularly shaped mass of yellow soil. This lay in part beneath recently dug pits. From its shape, the fact that it lay partly under a broad expanse of unbroken bark [Plate V], contained a complete tube and the celt shown in Plate XXII, 9, and did not contain charcoal and alternating layers of clay and sand, which were characteristic of the intrusive pits, perhaps the conclusion may be drawn that this yellow mass was intentionally placed in the midst of the dark cone by the builders.

Between the sand from the grave, with its dark covering, and the undersides of the cone (and not elsewhere) the soil was a characteristic mixture of dark and yellow, giving a pebbled effect, interspersed with plainly broad but shallow patches of pure dark, or similar patches of mixed dark and yellow soil. These deposits, perfectly clear, rose from the centre toward the periphery on an angle roughly parallel with the under side of the cone. We have been unable to account for this as merely incidental to the mound construction.


With a few minor exceptions, noted, all objects recovered are shown in the photographs, Plates XVI to XXV. The scale appearing in most of these, and in some of the drawings, indicates centimetres.

Drawings of clay stone tubes
Plate VIII. Bache and Satterthwaite: Excavation at Beech Bottom.

Of all specimens recovered which we believe were intentionally placed by the builders, every one was found either in the grave; upon and in direct contact with the sand thrown from the grave, with the dark earth covering them; in the dark-earth cone; or, in a number of cases, above the cone in dark and yellow mixed soil. Exceptions to the above are two blades, exact position unknown, but probably from the cone; the largest blade found [Plate XXIII, 4] and a celt [Plate XXII, 5] in yellow soil probably disturbed by intrusive digging, perfectly plain on either side; five broken tube fragments; three belonging to one tube [Plate XVI, 3], which were found well above the cone in yellow soil in the disturbed region; and the tube and celt in the central yellow mass, itself surrounded and partly covered by dark soil. Practically all specimens, therefore, were either in or covered by, or at least associated with dark soil. Those considered to have been accidentally included in the mound material are considered later. They were comparatively few in number and differed in type from the above.

It will be noted that the dark portions of the mound are roughly circular in outline when considered in plan, and that they centre about the grave, the centre of which is about two metres northwest of the topographic centre of the mound. The greatest concentration of objects is likewise in and above the grave. The plan shown as Plate I shows the horizontal distribution of all objects except the large number within the earth, filling the grave and upon the skeleton and the grave floor. The comparative scarcity of objects to the east of the grave is perhaps due to intrusive digging which here covered a considerable area and reached down, for the most part, to the 1.60 level.


Drawings of clay tubes
Plate IX. Bache and Satterthwaite: Excavation at Beech Bottom.

The majority of objects were of flint or flinty material. One hundred and sixteen objects of this substance were recovered, of which seventy are thin blades, stemmed or leaf-shaped for the most part, and averaging about ten centimetres in length. All but one, a broad blade, stem broken, seven centimetres point to shoulder, and a small poorly worked stem with shoulders, point missing, are shown in Plates XVIII to XXIII with the one large blade (twenty-two and a half centimetres in length) on Plate XXIII, 4. The remaining thirty-nine, all but three shown on Plate XXI in rows numbered 6, 7, 9, 10, 11, are small points and scrapers and are believed to have been accidentally introduced with the soil in constructing the mound.

Of the seventy characteristic blades, forty-eight were found in thirteen groups, ranging from two to eleven in a group [Plates XII and XIII]. Many of these were smeared with red ochre, others were with red ochre in close proximity, and a few showed no close association with this substance. Six other blades were found smeared with red ochre but were more or less isolated except that one of them was a few centimetres from the smaller of the two hematite celts encountered. A seventh isolated blade was in close association with red ochre, but not smeared with it. The remaining twenty blades occurred singly with no certain association, but all in the dark earth areas. We have classified as in “groups” only blades in actual contact or separated by two or three centimetres of soil. All blades were uncovered in position except two which were discovered in loose earth thrown out by the shovel. Four we believe were intentionally broken.

To the above should be added three broken blade points, small portions but apparently of the same types as the above, and three broken scrapers, of the type shown in Plate XXI, none of which are figured.

The red ochre was applied to several blades on one or more diagonal bands across the blade. In the other cases the smear has no form. It is sometimes on one side only, in others on both.


While the occurrence of these objects was by no means as frequent as was that of the blades, it was as persistent from the top of the cone to the floor of the grave. Their sizes and character are we believe sufficiently indicated by the sectional drawings and photographs [Plates VIII, IX, X, XVI and XVII]. The end which is solid, except for a small hole connecting with the principal and larger bore which runs thence to the open “end,” is here called the “base,” for want of a better term.

Thirty-two tubes are represented, counting one for every base recovered. Of these, seven are complete, of which two are unbroken in any respect. Two more are practically complete and of ten we have a complete transverse and longitudinal section. These are all shown on Plate XVI, 1 to 9, and on Plate XVII, 1. In addition to these, twelve bases, four middle sections and three open ends were found [Plates XVI and XVII]. Two of the middle sections fit two of the bases, and the other two fit two of the three open ends. In addition fifty-one small sherds were recovered, which have not entered into restorations. Sectional and end drawings of all tubes and pieces are shown in Plates VIII and IX and Plate X, 1 to 7. Figures 8 to 13 of the latter are of Ohio specimens shown for comparison. Lengths range from 10.8 centimetres to 31 centimetres, maximum diameters from 2.3 to 3.8 centimetres.

Drawings of clay tubes
Plate X. Bache and Satterthwaite: Excavation at Beech Bottom.

With one exception, all tubes are of grey pipe-stone, of varying shades of grey, some with an inconspicuous speckling of white. The material is known in Ohio as Ohio pipe-stone.

One of the bases [Plate VIII, 7, and Plate XVII, 7] differs from all the others as to material. It is soft grey clay. There is no tempering nor evidence of baking, and from the inside appearance appears to have been drilled like the others. In form it is identical with them. It has hardened appreciably on drying and we are inclined to believe that it was made in exactly the same manner as the others of an inferior clay-stone, which has softened to clay in the damp ground. This piece came from the grave floor, just below the pelvis, and was associated with graphite.

No red ochre was found on any tube or fragment, but one of the longer tubes [Plate XVI, 4], which lay between the legs of the skeleton, was partially coated, especially on the under side, with yellow ochre. Several found on the sand from the grave, and on the grave floor, showed an orange discoloration on one side, almost certainly due to contact with bark, which was much in evidence there.

All of the breaks, which are fairly clear on the photographs, except one on the base shown in Plate XVII, 5, occurred before excavation. The two unbroken tubes [Plate XVI, 1 and 9] occurred in the dark earth cone at levels 1.56 and 1.99 respectively. A third [Plate XVI, 2] occurred in the cone at level 2.69, the two pieces being in line, inclined at the same angle and about one centimetre apart, and may have been broken accidentally after being placed in position. A fourth and fifth [Plate XVI, 4 and 8] lay on the floor of the grave, each in two pieces, but the pieces in perfect contact. These must have been broken by the weight of the dirt or else the ends were carefully fitted together after breakage. The remaining four tubes, more or less complete [Plate XVI, 5 to 7, and Plate XVII, 1] were restored from sections and sherds found at various levels and distances apart, to be more fully discussed under “Conclusions.” Nearly all of the sections and sherds, both those entering and not entering into restorations, occurred on the yellow sand from the grave or in and on the floor of the grave itself. The sherds not forming parts of restorations are not shown on the plates. They are all small, only six of the fifty-one being over five centimetres in length, none showing more than half of a cross-section.


Ten celts were recovered, nine being shown in Plate XXII, and three lay on the floor of the grave, close to the skeleton [Plate I]. Figure 2 was found above the dark-earth cone at the 3.50 level in the disturbed region. Figure 4 was recovered in moving already disturbed earth, but probably came from the cone at a level between 1.20 and 1.00. It is distinguished by half its surface on one side being perfectly flat and highly polished. Figure 5 came from the dark-earth cone, level 2.10. Figure 6 lay on the sand thrown from the grave, with the base of a broken tube. Figure 7 is of hematite and was found in the dark-earth cone at level 1.26, together with a stemmed blade. Figure 8, a larger and beautifully worked hematite specimen, was found in the grave, about thirty-five centimetres above the skeleton. Figure 9, from the yellow mass in the cone, differs from all the rest, being thin, with rounded edge, and the material being a poor quality of slate, flat on the under-side with a ridge down the centre of the side shown. It is well worked only at the cutting end. On the under-side of the other end are remnants of a smoothed surface, as if the tool had been sharpened at either end, and this end later broken. Unlike any other celt, it was smeared with red ochre. A tenth celt, entirely similar to Figure 5, is not figured. It was found in loose earth with no data on its location or level.


The material commonly called Ohio Banded Slate is represented by two exceedingly graceful problematical forms, interesting but by no means unusual. The pendant and gorget [Plate XXIII, 1 and 2 respectively] were found in the cone at levels 2.24 and 2.32 respectively.

A thick piece of poor quality slate [Plate XXIV, 1] such as commonly occurs above the coal deposits in this region, seems to have been worked along two edges and may be part of a digging tool. This was found isolated and well outside any dark-earth area at level 0.70.


This substance, as material for tools or otherwise, was scarce. Three objects were all found with the skeleton. Figure 5 on Plate XXIII lay across the right scapula. The ends are semi-cylindrical [Figure A, 2], one showing possible traces of black pigment, the other possible traces of red, doubtful in each case. Plate XXIII, 3, and Figure A, 1, has a tapering hole at one end, the face of the end showing very plainly the green stain of copper about the hole and extending to the edge. This end rested against the inside of the right humerus and there was no trace of a copper tool for which it may have been a handle. Plate XXIII, 7, is the broken end of a knife or bladelike implement, which came from the region of the ankles. The exact location was not noted and it is therefore not shown in the drawing of the skeleton.


Drawn graph showing number of objects and object types and locations
Plate XI. Bache and Satterthwaite: Excavation at Beech Bottom.

Red Ochre occurred at nearly all levels where the dark earth appeared, and nowhere else. Its vertical distribution both as separate deposits and on blades is indicated in Plate XI. No attempt to locate all deposits was made. Four especially large lumps were noted, one above the cone, at level 2.75, another close to a broken tube both in mixed soil really a part of the cone; an egg-shaped lump in the cone at level 1.48 (longest diameter sixteen centi-metres); and a smaller lump resting on one of a group of blades about twenty-five centimetres distant from the last, at level 1.40 [Plate XII]. The relative positions of the first, third and fourth of these are shown in Plate VI.

Red Ochre occurred only on, close to, or in the general neighborhood of blades, tubes or celts. There were many minute traces of it, as if a lump had been accidentally or purposefully crumbled and scattered about.

While such small traces occurred on the sand from the grave, and in the grave itself, no sizable lumps appeared below the dark-earth cone. On the other hand, three lumps of yellow ochre were placed with the skeleton, and one, perhaps two, occurred some distance above the grave, the locations of which were, unfortunately, not noted.

Red Ochre occurred on no tubes, though often in close association with them. The yellow substance occurred on one tube, but apparently was not smeared on it, as was quite evident in the case of the red on several of the blades.

Although their proper place is under the classification “Miscellaneous Stone,” it is interesting to note here that there were found two small, naturally formed mortars [Plate XXIV, 4 and 5], which were probably employed in preparing the ochre for use. The smallest of these was almost certainly so used, as traces of the ochre were evident on the bottom of the bowl, and also on the small round pebble [Plate XXIV, 6] which was found in the mortar.

Miscellaneous Stone Objects

The bird-stone in Plate XXIV, 3, was not taken from the mound. This was reported as having been found in a field about two hundred yards north of the mound and is figured because of the rarity of bird-stones from West Virginia. The grooved axe fragment [Plate XXIV, 2] was discovered in loose earth which had been removed many yards from the mound with team and scrapper. Figures 1, 4, 5, and 6 of this plate have been already discussed. Figures 7, 8, and 11 are probably naturally shaped stone, but, because of their positions and associations in the dark-earth cone, we believe they were intentionally placed there. Figures 12 and 13, natural cup-like geodes, were found in the cone rather close to (within 1.50 metres) and only slightly lower than four blades. That shown in Figure 13 was smeared with ochre.

Figures 9 and 10 were found on the floor of the grave to the left of the skull, with a tube [Plate XVI, 8] lying across them. Figure 10 is probably a sharpener for bone or other implements. Figure 9 is of fine-grained argillaceous sandstone. Both the larger surfaces are concave, showing irregular striations, especially near the edges. Striations occur all over the rounded end, in various directions, and near one edge of the wedge-shaped sides, which are otherwise smooth.

Five rounded flat blades in a pit
Plate XII. Bache and Satterthwaite: Excavation at Beech Bottom. — Figure 1
Museum Object Numbers: 36-16-40 / 36-16-44
Image Number: 28906
Several rounded flat blades lumped together
Plate XII. Bache and Satterthwaite: Excavation at Beech Bottom. — Figure 2
Image Number: 28903
View of a mound next to a tree with a structure behind or on top
Plate XII. Bache and Satterthwaite: Excavation at Beech Bottom. — Figure 3
Image Numbers: 28808-28810
A mound being excavated, several people digging a huge pit
Plate XII. Bache and Satterthwaite: Excavation at Beech Bottom. — Figure 4
Image Number: 299900


Copper, the only metal discovered, was found only as beads decorating the skeleton. All are cylindrical, manufactured by rolling strips of thin copper of the desired size. No great variety of form existed. Nearly all show a distinct bulge at the centre, varied in size from three and a half millimetres diameter by three millimetres length to eight and a half millimetres diameter by nine millimetres length. They were found in chains, each bead in direct contact with the next. Exceptions to the above are four beads properly described as tubular, with no bulge, and larger, varying from nine millimetres diameter by sixteen millimetres length to ten millimetres diameter by twenty-four millimetres length. Each is of a different size, the next to the longest having the greatest diameter, twelve millimetres. Three of these larger specimens were found below the left wrist, separated from each other as shown in the drawing [Plate I], but they are too small to have been finger rings.

Shell beads in large numbers decorated the skeleton, and did not occur elsewhere. Many disintegrated when brushed, others were easily preserved. No attempt to count them was made, hut their number certainly ran well into the hundreds. The photographs [Plates XIV and XV] and the drawing [Plate I] show the arrangement as far as it was recorded. The drawing shows only those parts of chains actually drawn in position or photographed.

Based on identification of a fair number of samples of all types, all shell beads were of warm-water marine shells, probably from the eastern rather than the western region of the gulf coast. The large tubular beads are from the columella of Fulgar perversum (also called Cusycon perversum) and the discoidal ones from Venus, probably Mortoni; the small shells, unworked except for an occasional perforation, being Olivella mutica and Marginella apicina.

Specimens of all types and sizes of beads found appear in Plate XXV. The long string of discoidal beads was of course assembled by us to show the range in size. On the skeleton these were well matched: see the photograph of the skull with many beads still in place [Plate XV] and the few short sections of strands removed intact [Plate XXV]. Tubular beads were for the most part fairly well matched as to diameter, with considerable latitude as to length. All beads, except the marginella and olivella shells and the four tubular copper ones, were found in strings.

A mound with a man standing atop, a structure on the right
Plate XIII. Bache and Satterthwaite: Excavation at Beech Bottom. — Figure 1
Steps leading up to a top of a mound with several people standing on top
Plate XIII. Bache and Satterthwaite: Excavation at Beech Bottom. — Figure 2
Several objects together on the ground
Plate XIII. Bache and Satterthwaite: Excavation at Beech Bottom. — Figure 3
Image Number: 28910

Small remnants of the cord [Plate XXV] were preserved by the copper at two points. Near the ankle, the cord had been wrapped many times around a copper strand. The fibres suggest hair or sinew rather than vegetable fibre. They are thread-like and regular in diameter and are twisted in strands of two, three or four fibres. The largest cord (two millimetres in diameter) is formed of three such strands twisted about each other.

Two halves of a tiny rodent’s jaw, a beaver tooth and an eagle claw were found below the knee near strings of beads. The eagle claw is figured on Plate XXV. It would seem probable that all were attached to the beads, though they were not perforated.


Graphite was found as raw material, in small grains or pebbles, the largest diameter varying between five and ten millimetres. They were for the most part flat and thin, with rounded edges. This material occurred only in eight distinct patches above the skeleton on the grave floor [Plate I]; in one patch with a broken tube section a few centimetres above the ribs; and in two patches close together on the inside slope of the sand thrown out in excavating the grave, slightly above our zero level, at the southwesterly or head end of the grave.

Bark and Similar Material

A large portion of the yellow sand thrown from the grave was coated with a hard brownish black substance, perhaps the result of percolation through the superincumbent dark soil. To the north of the grave, on the outside slope of the sand, impressions of leaves and twigs were much in evidence, some very clear. One perfect mould of the maple leaf was noticed. These did not occur elsewhere, but undoubtedly ran under the unexcavated portion of the mound at this point.

On the floor of the grave we encountered badly decayed thick bark nearly everywhere, and this extended up the sides of the grave twenty centimetres or so, at least. It was also observed in occasional patches on the sand near the edge of the grave. Wherever on the sand or the sides of the grave we did not find bark, we found the coating above referred to, and the latter may be the last vestiges of the former. A half-cylinder of bark rested on the floor of the grave below the feet [Plate I].

In the cone just above the yellow soil at its center, and under the more northerly intrusive pit was a large piece of bark, bent up at the sides and sloping downward toward the southwest [Plate V]. Lower in the cone, especially at, levels 1.40 to 1.50, were many fragmentary traces of bark, in close association with red ochre and two groups of five blades each. This level and region is shown on Plate VI, but without an attempt to indicate the bark.

An excavated burial
Plate XIV. Bache and Satterthwaite: Excavation at Beech Bottom. — Figure 1
Close up of an excavated burial
Plate XIV. Bache and Satterthwaite: Excavation at Beech Bottom. — Figure 2
Hundreds of beads or small round objects in the ground
Plate XIV. Bache and Satterthwaite: Excavation at Beech Bottom. — Figure 3
Partial remains in the ground
Plate XIV. Bache and Satterthwaite: Excavation at Beech Bottom. — Figure 4


In the grave, about 90 centimetres above the middle of the skeleton (level — 0.50) we encountered irregularly shaped masses of black earth, containing charcoal in small bits but no ash, nor anything else. There was a similar deposit in the dark earth cone above the north end of the grave, extending ten centimetres or so above and below level 0.75 (that is 2.15 metres above the skeleton). In neither instance was there the slightest indication of fires at these points, other than a little charcoal in small bits and a considerable coal-black discoloration of the soil and that not in one continuous mass.

At the southeast edge of the grave, at about level 0.00, there was a large area which had been burned a brick red, with ash, charcoal and a few broken pebbles, the whole perfectly level, about 1.00 metre in diameter, and 1.8 centimetres in thickness at the centre, with a sprinkling of charcoal beyond the burned area, but on the same level. This had been covered with sand thrown from the grave and there can be little doubt that a fire was here maintained for some time, and that it was extinguished before the grave had been completely dug, or before it was begun.

Three metres east of the easterly side of the grave, at level 0.85, was the probable centre of a fire with quantities of broken pebbles, burned and unburned split deer-bones, charcoal and ash. This lay in the mixed soil below the bottom of the easterly side of the cone and above the black soil covering the sand from the grave. One of the black layers, or “patches,” showing as streaks wherever we made a section below the cone, lay between the fire and the cone.

This fireplace lay partly within and partly without our central pit [Plate III, 3, E], and was only partly cleared. Between it and the grave, at slightly lower levels, were scattered other remnants of split deer bone, burned and unburned, and a piece of deer jaw, with several teeth.

There was much charcoal and ash in the pits dug from above near the centre of the mound [Plate V] but these were proved intrusive by finding sheet iron and a piece of green-painted shutter in the deepest. There had also been a fire near the northerly edge of our main sector, at a half metre or so above the surrounding ground level, but it contained nothing aboriginal, and could easily have been made near the base of the mound and later covered by the wash from it.

A skull with beads or small round objects around the maxilla
Plate XV. Bache and Satterthwaite: Excavation at Beech Bottom.

Post Moulds

Evidences of a wooden structure were carefully looked for, and three post holes containing actual rotten wood were found about a metre in from the edge of the mound, the bottoms at levels between 1.67 and 2.34. A fourth very doubtful one was much nearer the centre of the mound. The posts were cut off clean at the bottom, were rectangular in section, and there was nothing aboriginal associated with them. We have no hesitation in assigning them to a fence erected by white men around the mound and about half way up its slope.


Not a sherd of pottery or of burned clay was encountered throughout our excavation, nor in a cursory examination of a nearby field made later just after it had been plowed.


A human skull was found close to the edge and surface of the mound, in our initial trench [Plate III, 1, Al at elevation 1.19. We were forced to leave it in the ground overnight and it was removed by “person or persons unknown.” From its position and from the character of the earth about it we believe it to have been intrusive. Careful excavation showed that no other part of a skeleton had been placed here, the surrounding earth being undisturbed and homogeneous with the rest of the mound at this point.

Badly decayed fragments of two long-bones, presumably animal, were found well above the cone at elevation 3.50 (approximate); several fragments of the skull of a ruminant, presumably deer, occurred at level 0.70 in yellow soil near the north corner of our main sector; a piece of badly decayed bone or antler was found in the cone at level 1.45 and another at level 0.84. The first two were far removed from anything else, the latter two in the general vicinity of blades.

Clay or stone tubes
Plate XVI. Bache and Satterthwaite: Excavation at Beech Bottom.

Four short and heavy bones, in very poor condition, were scattered in irregular fashion in the earth filling the grave, between levels — 0.97 and 1.14. The only one saved has been identified as the left metacarpal of the bison or of the cow. The others were so similar in appearance that we do not hesitate to ascribe them to the same species, nor, since there were so many artifacts without a trace of European influence, do we believe there is much doubt that the bison and not the domestic cow is represented.

A poor quality slate, identical with the material of Figure 1, Plate XXIV, was found in small broken tabular pieces scattered at the lower levels outside the cone or under it. Identical pieces were picked up in the field to the south of the mound.

A small hemisphere of Barite, 3.8 centimetres in diameter, was found in the cone at level 1.32, with no direct association, but in the general vicinity of blades. It lay on its base at a slight angle.

Several small lumps of kalomite (hydrated feldspar) occurred in the cone, but levels and positions were not taken.

One tiny formless chip of black obsidian was found in loose earth which had been moved from the mound.

There were several small deposits of river-muscle shell in the dark-earth cone, the highest at levels 2.24, 2.14 and 2.09 and all roughly above the grave. They had no direct associations, but were found in object-bearing localities, and did not, we believe, occur in the mound outside the dark-earth areas. A few isolated shells appeared at lower levels in the cone. A compact mass of a considerable number lay on the yellow sand near the easterly edge of the grave, close to deposits of blades, tubes and tube fragments obviously placed there.

The occurrence of whole and broken river pebbles, usually about half the size of the fist, was consistent throughout all material excavated. In one case five broken pebbles were in close proximity to a group of two blades (in the next to the highest level shown on Plate VI); and they were closely associated with several other caches of blades. One such pebble rested on the beads near the left ankle of the skeleton. Otherwise their inclusion seems to have been without intent.

Objects Not Intentionally Placed

Clay or stone tubes, sevearl of which are broken or fragmented
Plate XVII. Bache and Satterthwaite: Excavation at Beech Bottom.

Reference has been made to certain finds which we believe were accidentally introduced into the mound with the soil of which it is made. Most of these were found outside the dark-earth areas in yellow soil. They include the questionable digging tool, the grooved axe, broken pieces of slate, un-worked bone outside the dark areas, the stolen human skull, fragments of deer cranium, the chip of obsidian, possibly some of the river-shells, and most of the river pebbles. Our belief is based on the nature of the objects, the fact that none was found in association with blades, tubes, celts or ochre so characteristic of the dark areas, nor with anything else; and in the case of the two artifacts mentioned, only one of each kind was found, and those were only fragments.

There were, however, thirty-nine small points and thumb-scrapers, the majority (but not all) of which were found in yellow soil outside or above the dark-earth areas. All but three are shown on Plate XXI, rows 6, 7, 9, 10, and 11. None of these was found in any obvious association with anything else, though two of the notched points were actually in the grave and two on the sand about it, one close to a celt. Comparison with Figure 11, Plate XXIII, showing points which were picked up in the field to the south of the mound, in a half-hour’s search, suggests an adequate source for these. The first of the group there shown appears to be a broken blade of the mound type.

With the exceptions noted, not an artifact nor other object attributable to the mound-builders occurred except in the dark-earth cone, the grave itself, and on the sand thrown from it. The small points were undoubtedly known to the builders, since two occurred in the grave and two about it, close to the sand levels. They may have been made by them, but they seem not to have paid much attention to them.

Additional Specimens

Nineteen rounded stone blades
Plate XVIII. Bache and Satterthwaite: Excavation at Beech Bottom.

After our return, the owners re-covered our excavation with excavated earth, and shaved off somewhat the rim of our central cut [Plate III, 3, E], entirely in the manner we had approved before leaving. The workmen, however, perhaps not unmoved by curiosity, went a little too deep, and removed the celt, pendant and the platform pipe shown on Plate XXIII, 8, 9 and 10. Mr. Satterthwaite did a little additional excavating, went to Wheeling and interviewed the workmen in question, and is satisfied that all three pieces came from near the rim of this central cut, and if not from the dark-earth cone itself, at least from the mixed earth slightly above it. The celt and pendant might have been expected; the pipe is, of course, entirely different from anything we found.

In the course of checking the remarks of the workmen as to the location of and type of soil surrounding the pipe, the small blade shown in Plate XXIII, 6, was discovered near the top of but within the dark-earth cone very close to the reported position of the pipe. This was found fifty centimetres east of the rim of our cut, and about three and a half metres due east of the northerly end of the grave. It is the smallest stemmed blade recovered. None of these specimens figure in the previous discussion, as their exact locations are uncertain.

Skeletal Material

The bones have not been studied. There seems to be no doubt, however, that the burial was of an adult male of ordinary stature. Length of femur is approximately fifty centimetres. We are indebted to Miss Dorothy Cross, of this Museum, for restorations and a superficial examination and for the following list of material recovered:

Ten rounded stone arrow or or spear heads or blades
Plate XIX. Bache and Satterthwaite: Excavation at Beech Bottom. — Figure 1
Seventeen rounded blades or arrows
Plate XIX. Bache and Satterthwaite: Excavation at Beech Bottom. — Figure 2

Face and maxilla, mandible, thirty-two teeth present.
Cranium absent, except for fragments of frontal, temporal and parietal bones around face, and fragments of occipital bone.

Ribs: Fragmentary, except one complete first rib.

Scapulae: Right scapula, acromion process and most of body missing.

Manubrium-sternum: In fair condition.

Clavicles: Right, acromial end damaged. Left, both acromial and sternal ends absent.

Vertebrae: Five lumbar, eight thoracic, three cervical.

Right pelvis—Edge of ilium fragmentary; crest missing. Edge of
ischium broken. Pubis missing. Sciatic notch present. Aceta-
bulum present. Articular surface for sacrum present.
Left pelvis—Ilium fragmentary, with fragments of crest. Edge of
ischium broken. Pubis present; arch incomplete. Sciatic notch
present. Acetabulum present. Part of articular surface for
sacrum present.

Sacrum: First sacral vertebrum and part of second present.

Long Bones:
Humeri—fragmentary; distal end of one fairly complete.
Radii—one present, fragmentary; distal end missing.
Ulm— one present; fragmentary, distal end missing.
Femuri— Right, complete length present with greater and lesser trochanters missing; head present. Left, complete length; bead present; greater trochanter missing.
Tibiae— Right, complete length. Left, complete length; body thicker
and heavier than right tibia.
Fibulae—body part of one fibula present, head and distal end missing.

Patellae: right present, left missing.

Carpals and Tarsals: Eleven present.

Metacarpals and Metatarsals: Three proximal ends of metatarsals only; metacarpals missing.




We have been able to figure practically all specimens recovered, and a detailed description would be superfluous. Stemmed and leaf shaped forms are about equal in number (thirty-seven and thirty-three), and vary somewhat in size and proportions. Plate XXI, 8, differs from these, being decidedly piano-convex, and Plate XVIII, 11 and 12, being also asymmetrical.

Few blades show any evidence of wear or secondary sharpening and the inference that they were made expressly for deposit in the mound is greatly strengthened by the circumstance that a large proportion show traces of the patinated surface of the original nodule on the tip of point or stem. One blade actually shows this at both ends, indicating that the artisan made as large a blade as his nodule would allow.

We have not attempted a study of the materials. Light blue or brownish blue flint or chert of good quality predominate. The large blade [Plate XXIII] is a beautiful white; the broken blades on Plate XXI are bluish-white, and a few specimens are dark blue. Plate XX, Figure B, 2, 3, 4, and 10, are of a poor quality lustreless and porous dark greyish material.

Representatives of each form were found in the grave on the sand and in the cone, two-thirds of them in thirteen definite groups, many in association with red ochre and some smeared with it., and we conclude that they were all ceremonially placed by the diggers of the grave and builders of the mound, and that most of them were made for the purpose.

Photographs of the tubes, with the sectional drawings, tell their own story. They were drilled from the open end nearly to the base, and with a nearly constant bore. Circular stria: are plain in nearly all cases. Polishing to remove these inside marks is evident on a few, shown by the polish. Supplementary gouging, especially near the open end, has left occasional irregular longitudinal and transverse striations. See Plate XVI, 3 and 10, for most of these features. Some show regular striations on the outside, resulting from longitudinal rubbing [such as Plate XVI, 5 and 6]; in some cases these have been only partially obliterated by subsequent finer polishing [Plate XVII, 3]; and others have been rendered perfectly smooth and glassy [Plate XVI, 2].

Ten rounded blades
Plate XX. Bache and Satterthwaite: Excavation at Beech Bottom. — Figure 1
Ten rounded blades
Plate XX. Bache and Satterthwaite: Excavation at Beech Bottom. — Figure 2

In most cases the small hole through the base, if not drilled from the opposite end, has at least been reamed out from that direction, causing this hole to expand slightly as it enters the tube — a construction not particularly suited to the insertion of a stem [Plate XVI, 11, and Plates VIII, IX and X]. A few bases are slightly beveled around the small hole by secondary reaming from the base end.

All are of the same fundamental type, but four differ in external form, being nicely rounded off at each end. These are more highly polished than most of the others, both inside and out. They were all found in the cone [Plate XVI, 1 to 3; Plate XVII, 11]. The others all expand slightly in outside diameter from open end to base, the base being more or less bell-shaped.

It has been suggested by Dr. Frank G. Speck, of the University of Pennsylvania, in casting about for possible prototypes in other materials, that the bell-shaped tubes theoretically could be duplicated in essential form and size by cutting off a section of bamboo, one end below the joint, the other through the next joint, and then boring a small hole through the solid end of the cylinder thus obtained. This seems to be as good a prototype as could be suggested. Dr. Speck produced a bamboo pipe-stem, slender and with no sign of the joint remaining. At one end two slivers had been removed, giving a mouthpiece effect similar to that found on some Ohio stone tubes [Plate X, 8, 9, 11 and 12].

None of our specimens show this flattening or wedge-like bevelling at the base, with the possible exception of three, shown on Plate XVI, 7 and 8, and Plate XVII, 13. [Sections and views in Plate IX, 4, Plate VIII, 4, and Plate IX, 5, respectively]. This flattening is slight, irregular and rough and probably results from smoothing damaged tubes.

Tubes of this character (that is with semi-closed base and large, nearly constant bore thence to the open end) appear to have been found but rarely; especially specimens of such size as the larger ones, and in such numbers at one site.2 Various uses for them have been suggested; shaman’s blowing or sucking tubes,4 horns or trumpets5 whistles,6 telescopic instruments,7 nasal inhaling devices,8 There has been some disinclination to regard them as smoking pipes,9 and they have been assigned to the problematical class by some.10 They were reported by Squier and Davis in 1848.11

Rounded blades and many arrow heads
Plate XXI. Bache and Satterthwaite: Excavation at Beech Bottom.

Ten of our twenty-two, all occurring in the dark-earth areas from the top of the cone to the bottom of the grave, were more or less discolored by a black deposit on the inside. In two cases this was so thick that on drying, a sufficient quantity for anaylsis could be shaken from them. These samples were from a tube in the cone at level 1.56 to 1.63 [Plate XVI, 1] and from a base coming from the sand, a sherd of which was below in the grave at level — 0.51 [Plate XVII, 8]. In these cases the appearance of the insides was entirely similar to that of a modern clay pipe after it has been smoked for some time.

The sample from the first lost 12.2 per cent volatile combustible matter and changed from black to a red clay color on ignition; that from the second lost 60.3 per cent combustible matter and also changed color on ignition. Dr. A. K. Graham, who made the tests, states that “it would be quite natural to conclude that this material could be the incrustation resulting from smoking tobacco or similar substance.”

Plate XVI, 4 and 7, and Plate XVII, 7, contained respectively a clay and a charcoal pellet, illustrated in plan and elevation on Plate VIII, 1 and 7, respectively. The clay pellet was hard and reddish (71.92 per cent mixed iron and aluminum oxides) and was completely coated with a black deposit. The smaller one “burned not unlike charcoal, was undoubtedly of vegetable origin and lost 75.57 per cent volatile matter upon ignition.” It was charred clear through when found.

The clay pellet came from a tube well blackened on the inside. The base containing the charcoal specimen was so soft and porous that much of the original surface of the stone or clay itself had obviously weathered off, and no certain trace of burning was to be expected.

In connection with tubular pipes it has been suggested that, to prevent the unpleasant liquid mixture always accompanying pipe smoking from entering the mouth, “many tribes are said to have put a pebble or pellet of clay in the bottom of the bowl before filling it.”12 Presence of such a pebble or of a stone plug which “did not often entirely fill the aperture”13 are reported for twelve stone tubes from Swanton, Vermont. These were found in graves with copper and gulf-coast shell, indicating connections with the Mississippi areas. They are not completely described, but appear to be very similar to those under discussion. The writer is informed that tubular pipes (not as yet published) have been excavated at Pueblo sites in the Southwest, with clay plugs bearing grooves in the sides for the passage of the smoke.

The inside form of our tubes at the base, more or less constant in nearly all twenty-two cases, is well suited to the reception of such clay or wood pellets as, in two instances, we discovered in the tubes themselves. If used with such pellets for inhaling or blowing smoke the pellets would obviously tend to keep the mouth clear of tobacco if not of the juice. Undoubted smoking pipes of very large size are by no means uncommon. From all of which we conclude that such a use of these specimens, ceremonial no doubt, was not improbable.14

Additional Specimens

Nine rounded stones
Plate XXII. Bache and Satterthwaite: Excavation at Beech Bottom.

The probable positions of the three objects uncovered after our departure, and the character of the celt and pendant, are what would have been expected from our knowledge of the excavated area. Not so the platform pipe. This is identical in type with pipes reported by Mr. H. C. Shetrone, Director of the Ohio State Museum. as characteristic of a culture which he frequently finds intrusive in Ohio Mounds. Its position, as pointed out by the workmen, was east of the centre of the mound, and in the dark soil of the cone. At this point the top of the cone was about 1.50 metres below the surface of the mound. This was in the area shown as “D” in Plate III, 3, which was excavated to level 3.40 and the surface carefully examined for intrusions.

It seems unlikely that an excavation in the mound large enough to reach down 1.50 metres or so could have been missed at a point where we were especially looking for such a feature. We therefore feel that despite the non-characteristic nature of this pipe, it was probably placed in position by the builders. This is the more likely because the writer later found a characteristic stemmed blade [Plate XXIII, 6] near the supposed level and location of the pipe.


We are puzzled by the presence of fragments of flint found scattered through all parts of the mound excavated. These include most if not all of the materials of which the blades are made, and others. They are all small, including thin flakes, chunky chips, and broken water-worn pebbles or nodules. They are similar in all respects to material gathered on the surrounding surface. So far as those in the yellow soil of the mound are concerned, the inference is obvious that they were dragged in accidentally. Those in the dark earth are not so easily explained. There was never any concentration of flakes to indicate weapon manufacture on the spot.

Ceremonial Breaking of Tubes and Blades

It will have been noted that of twenty-two tubes represented, only five were definitely or possibly placed in position unbroken. We believe that breakage of tubes, and of four of the blades, was intentional, in part at least, for the following reasons:

  1. Every tube and fragment and every blade and fragment (except two, position unknown) was found in or above the dark-earth cone, on the yellow sand, at various levels in the grave filler, or on the grave floor. This is a very restricted area, considering the mound as a whole, and contained nothing else of a refuse character.
  2. Within these areas was a nearly exclusive concentration of broken pieces on the yellow sand and in the grave. Not considering parts of restorations, forty-nine out of fifty-one tube sherds, eleven out of twelve base ends, all four middle sections and all four open-end sections of tubes, together with the nine blade fragments comprised in Figures 1 to 4 on Plate XXI, lay directly upon the sand or in the grave. Those on the grave floor must have been deposited while it was open; those in the filler from time to time as the grave was filled; those on the sand at some time after the beginning of grave digging (presumably after it was completely dug) and before the layer of dark earth was placed over them and the erection of the central part of the mound began. There is still further localization of the above; with one or two exceptions, those fragments on the sand were to the east of the grave, though thearea to the west was completely uncovered; twenty-four of these (all small pipe sherds) were in a closely packed bunch, arranged roughly in parallel rows, each of the twenty-four with its concave side up; in the grave filler there was a noticeable tendency for pipe sherds and sections to turn up on the easterly side; and there was a decided concentration (especially of sections) in the region of the right hip, from the floor up to the 0.80 level.
  3. Broken tube sections and sherds occurred in very close proximity to the largest cache of blades uncovered, that above the head of the skeleton [Plate I], and definitely as part of a group of blades on the sand [Plate XIII]. Three of these blades were broken, the largest piece of each (in each case including the base) being present.
  4. So far, sections and fragments of tubes entering into restorations of four complete or nearly complete tubes have not been considered [Plate XVI, 5 to 7; Plate XVII, 1]. These all come from the same areas— the sand and the grave —more or less widely scattered. If the tubes were not broken on the spot, the pieces must have been intentionally brought there. They consist of three, two, four and seven parts respectively. The same observations apply to the blades shown in Plate XXI, 1 to 4, consisting of two, four, two and two pieces respectively. They are restored from bases on the sand and fragments found on the sand and in the grave. Three bases are from the above mentioned cache, which included broken blades and a broken tube section. They, with Figures 4 and 5, also on the sand, differ from all the others in color (bluish-white).
  5. The floor of the grave is connected with the earth filler and that with the sand above by a number of restorations, complete and incomplete. The tube pictured as Figure 1 on Plate XVII consists of fragments and sections from the floor very close to the blades above the head; from pieces in the filler thirty, forty-six, sixty-two and ninety-five centimetres above the floor, two being in the concentration above the right hip. Plate XVI, 5, includes a butt end fourteen centimetres above the grave floor, an open-end 1.30 above it, and a middle section out on the sand. There are similar connections in the cases of five other tubes, all parts being on the sand to the east of the grave or in the grave east of its longitudinal centre line. It is difficult not to believe that these were broken on the sand to the east of the grave and the parts scattered about on it and thrown into the grave while it was open and from time to time while it was being filled.

Burial, Construction, and Ceremonies

Several stone objects
Plate XXIII. Bache and Satterthwaite: Excavation at Beech Bottom.

We believe that the homogeneity of objects encountered at all levels, their similar manner of placement, and an examination of Plates IV, V, and VI, will have convinced the reader that the mound was built as a unit—if not at one time, at least according to one plan. While not shown by our published drawings, the upper part of the dark-earth cone extends into the unexcavated portions to the east and south, while the sand from the grave is on a decided down-grade wherever it strikes those portions. We cannot say there are no other original burials, but it is reasonably certain that there is not another sub-surface one placed symmetrically to the one uncovered, as might seem likely from a ground plan alone. At any rate, there is little doubt that the mound and contents, so far as we excavated, pertains to the burial which we found.

We believe the sequence of events must have been more or less as follows:

The builders first deposited a layer of dark earth in an irregular ring about the spot intended for a grave, bringing this earth, or muck, at considerable extra labour from the river bed twenty-five feet below or from a marsh some distance away. They then dug the grave, roughly oval in shape, about 3.50 metres long by 1.30 metres wide, to a depth of 1.40 metres, throwing the comparatively coarse and bright-yellow sand on all sides, much of it over the surrounding dark-earth ring. At some time before completion of the digging, perhaps as the very first or an intermediate step, they built a fire near what became the southerly end of the grave, and maintained it for some time. This was on a perfectly smooth surface, very likely levelled off for the purpose, and after the fire, covered over with sand from the grave.

After digging, the bottom and lower sides, perhaps the whole of the sides of the grave and much of the surrounding sand, were covered with bark. Twigs and leaves in one way or another found their way to the sand where it sloped away from the northerly end of the grave.

The body was laid on the bark, on its back, extended, hands at the side, the legs more or less bowed and one ankle above the other, the head a little west of south, the whole body a little to the east of the centre line of the grave, perhaps to give foot-room in decorating the body [Plate II. Three, possibly four, chains of discoidal, and a string of tubular shell beads were laid across the face and neck (originally perhaps all on the neck), and a bone flaking or similar tool across the right shoulder. Near by was found a small, poorly made, stemmed blade, partly beneath the right clavicle and scapula, perhaps the cause of death, more likely worked down from above.

Many stone objects
Plate XXIV. Bache and Satterthwaite: Excavation at Beech Bottom.

Strings of copper and of shell beads of both types, were laid across the chest and down the left side to the hip; copper and discoidal shell down the right side; copper beads across the waist and out over the arms above the wrists on either side. Tubular shell beads ran down from the waist and nut across the left femur. Copper beads were looped from the region of the left wrist down across the femurs and possibly up to the right wrist, accompanied part of the way at least by discoidals. Between the femurs, lower down, two strings of tubular and one of discoidal shell beads, were passed transversely over a large tubular pipe, and over the tip of a stemmed blade, stem broken.

Two, possibly three, strings of copper beads led from the shell beads between the femurs to a mass of beads of all kinds, copper and shell, completely covering the ankles and extending half-way to the knees, and filling the space between the lower leg bones to a depth of about seven centimetres. This mass was made up of strings crossing and recrossing each other, and, principally at the bottom, large numbers of marginella and olivela shells. These appeared rather in sheets than in strings. In close association with the beads was one beaver tooth and one eagle claw, the latter shown in the plate; also two tiny rodent’s jaws, and a broken bone knife or similar tool, exact position unrecorded. A flat sheet of the small shells and strings of discoidal beads covered the bark to the right of the lower tibia.

Complete and broken tubes and blades, a sinew or sharpening stone, a stone of uncertain function (sharpening and anvil stone? — Plate XXIV, 9), small cells, graphite, and yellow ochre were disposed about the body as indicated on Plate I.

Without question the body and all of the above mentioned objects not upon the body itself lay upon bark, with the exception of the broken tubes near the right hip. These form the bottom of a series running up the side of the grave. In many cases objects on and about the skeleton were found with remnants of bark above them, and it is highly probable that a sheet of bark was placed over the body, after it bad been thus adorned. A half-cylinder of bark just beyond the feet may represent a log here placed to keep such a covering in position.

Many small round and cylindrical objects, likely beads
Plate XXV. Bache and Satterthwaite: Excavation at Beech Bottom.

The body, and some of the objects near the sides of the grave, were covered with yellow sand. The grave was then filled with dark earth. In or on this earth were thrown or placed from time to time a beautiful hematite celt, four leaf-shaped and five stemmed blades, two small notched points of the type found also in the peripheral yellow soil of the mound, four broken blade-points and seventeen end, middle, and base sections of broken tubes (including those shown near the right hip), together with numbers of small fragments, and four apparently similar animal bones. One of these was the metacarpal of the buffalo. The presence of bits of charcoal and coal-black earth undoubtedly has some significance, but is hardly sufficient evidence of a fire having been kindled in the grave.

The decided concentration of broken tubes and blades in the easterly part of the grave, and of the other objects to a lesser extent, and the fact that they were found at varying angles and without any order, may indicate that they were broken and thrown from outside the grave, to the east.

In the meantime, or when the grave was filled, a cache of two complete and three broken leaf-shaped blades, all of materials not found in the cone above, and a long section of broken tube, was carefully placed in a hollow of the sand. Twenty-four small tube sherds were placed near by, close together in roughly parallel rows, each with concave side up. Two other tube sections, a leaf-shaped-blade, a broken blade stem and a broken point, a stone celt, some river-muscle shells and a piece of bone (unidentified) were scattered or placed about the sand on the east, and, in the case of one tube section, on the northerly side of the grave. Two of the small notched points occurred at levels indicating that they were found on the sand, but the fact itself was not recorded.

A thick layer of dark earth was now spread over the grave, and over the oval ridge of sand around it, with its objects. The outer portions of this layer which was roughly circular, extended beyond the limits of the sand and so became continuous with the dark material laid down before the digging of the grave. The sand from the grave was therefore completely covered and surrounded by a roughly disk-shaped layer of dark earth, and underlain by it for a greater or less distance in toward the grave [Plates IV and V].

A large ring of yellow surface soil was deposited around the whole. As it was carried higher, its surface naturally sloped down on the outside to the surrounding surface of the ground and its inner surface sloped down and in, toward the grave, from all directions. After the inner side had encroached upon and partially covered the dark colored “disk,” it was thereafter accidentally or intentionally mixed with dark earth, giving a very characteristic “pebbled” appearance to the material when seen in cross section. That there was such a ring of surface soil, and that its inner surface sloped down and in toward the grave, is proved by the presence here of irregular thin patches of pure dark earth, or of mixed earth distinguishable from the rest. These were always tilted at a more or less constant angle, up at the peripheral side and down toward the grave, whatever the direction of a sample cross-section [Plates IV and V]. That these patches and the dark and yellow mixture were intentional features is at least indicated by their position, never more than four metres or so out from the edge of the grave, and always continuous from there to it; and by the fact that the dark patches were never tilted in the opposite direction. Further, while there was considerable mixture immediately above the cone, it never had the striking, pebbled appearance of that below.

Before the eastern and inner part of the enclosing ring had risen very high, a fire was kindled there, and split deer bones indicate a feast. These bones were found on levels sloping from the fire down toward the grave, and so confirm the evidence of cross-sections as to the slope in that direction.

As the circular structure grew, its yellow and dark centre, of course, contracted. Instead of completely closing, however, it finally enclosed a mass of dark soil continuous with the blanket of dark covering the sand, but rising a short distance higher than the rest where it covered the grave.

This marked the completion of the mixed earth or inner portion of the circular structure. The whole presented the aspect of a truncated cone resting on its base, with a large shallow funnel hollowed out of it at the centre, the bottom of the funnel plugged up with dark earth, its sides consisting of mixed earth, especially toward the bottom. This funnel was then filled with pure dark earth, giving rise to what we have here called the dark-earth “cone.”

In the course of filling it, from time to time the builders paused to deposit caches of blades, single blades, celts, tubes, a slate gorget and a slate pendant, and miscellaneous natural stone objects. These were associated at times with bark, and possibly also with wooden implements or weapons (very doubtful traces of the latter). There was at this time a liberal use of red ochre, which was scattered about, deposited in lumps and smeared on many of the blades. It is possible that river-muscle shells were intentionally placed here, and probable that a stone pendant and a stone platform pipe were also so deposited. Toward the bottom of the cone was a deposit of coal-black masses of earth, interspersed with small bits of charcoal, exactly like that in the grave. Nothing was associated with it.

The cone extends upward as pure dark earth to about the 2.60 level (except to the north) and then gradually fades into the yellow soil above as the level rises. In this twilight zone, really the top of the cone, were placed a tube, fourteen blades (singly and in caches) and two lumps of red ochre. Prior investigators dug two large pits deep into the cone, east of its centre, and probably removed some of its contents. Six scattered tube fragments in this disturbed area, close to the outer surface of the mound, indicate breakage by this agency, rather than a resumption of the ceremonial breaking which seems to have preceded the erection of the mound proper.

There seem to have been four distinguishable periods when most of the objects were placed: the arrangement and decoration of the body, with careful placing of objects, yellow ochre and graphite about it, and with some breakage of tubes and blades; the period during which the grave was filled, characterized by much breakage, with but little careful placing of objects; and the periods when the cone bad risen to the 1.25-1.50 level and again when it was about complete, each characterized by the careful placing of many objects and of red ochre, and probably not accompanied by ceremonial breaking.

The contents of the cone are cleanly separated from objects on the sand by the sterile mixed earth between them, and from the contents of the grave by a sterile layer of the dark soil a metre deep (from the 0.75 down to the — 0.25 levels).

The whole structure was now covered with a thick layer of yellow surface soil and the mound was complete. In heaping up this final and presumably protective covering, the builders apparently lost site of the centre of their operations thus far, and the topographical centre of the finished structure was shifted two metres to the east.

View of a rocky cliff face in the distance
Plate XXVI. Bache and Satterthwaite: Excavation at Beech Bottom.

Cultural Affiliations

Absence of any original inclusion of European wares indicates construction of this mound prior to the advent of the white men. Location on the banks of the Ohio, the presence of copper and of gulf-coast shell, the form of the mound, and the forms of tubes and blades place it definitely in the Upper Mississippi Area, as would be expected.

To assign it to one of the specific cultures of that area is not so easy. It can scarcely be Hopewell, without characteristic features such as prepared floors, clay burial platforms, crematory rites, wooden structural remains, elaborate copper, shell and mica arts, effigy and platform pipes,15 beautiful obsidian pieces, and so forth.16 The apparent erection of an entire mound in connection with one carefully laid-out burial, the absence of pottery, of discoidal stones, the lavish use of shell heads, the absence of worked bivalve shells, and of pipes with up-turned bowls seem to rule out the Fort Ancient culture.17

There is a third prehistoric mound culture in the Ohio area now in process of definition, the Adena. Shetrone, on the basis of excavations to date describes it thus: “Their mounds . . . are noted for their symmetry of form and careful construction and often are of great size. Like the Hopewell mounds, those of the Adena occur in close proximity to streams . . the Adena culture is known to have the following characteristics: shapely conical mounds, located singly or in groups; uncremated burials, in log cists, placed either below, above or on the original surface; use of copper, mainly for ornaments; use of mica; admirable artistic ability in sculpturing objects in the round; use of tubular tobacco pipes. Far too little is known of the Adena type of mounds, and further exploration promises to enhance the importance of the Culture.” This culture is linked with the mounds of the Kanawha Valley, West Virginia, and with the great Grave Creek mound, only thirty or forty miles down the Ohio from Beech Bottom.18

By the procese of elimination we should expect the Beech Bottom structure to belong to unidentified culture, or to be Adena or a local variant of Adena. In view of the small number of Adena mounds opened and reported, the last conclusion would seem to be the best working hypothesis. We have a reasonably symmetrical mound, close to a stream, very carefully constructed. We have an uncremated burial, though not in a log cist. We have copper used for ornament only. We have the tubular pipes (if they are pipes), a great rarity at Hopewell and Fort Ancient sites.

The tubes are identical with those from the Adena mound, except for the outside flattening of the latter on two opposite sides at the base [Plate X, 8 and 9]. The beautiful tubular effigy pipe from this mound, so often pictured,19 is of the same type so far as internal design is concerned. Figures 11, 12 and 13 illustrate other Ohio tubes in the Columbus Museum.

The Beech Bottom leaf-shaped blades would be entirely at home in the Adena Mound. Most of the stemmed blades from Adena sites which were examined have a squarish rather than the pointed stem universal at Beech Bottom. However, Mr. Shetrone advises the writer that blades of the latter type are also typical, and one from the Westenhaver (an Adena culture) mound is identical with them.

The latter mound contained a bone tool identical with the “flaker” from Beech Bottom; an effigy bone implement or handle which is essentially identical with that found here, except for the effigy feature; and a broken celtiform tool not unlike that shown in Plate XXII, 9.

Two slate gorgets from the Adena mound are of the same material and general form as the Beech Bottom example.

The structural and presumably ceremonial use of dark earth, brought from some distance, seems to be unique in the eastern part of the Mississippi area,20 and the writer has been unable to find any account of a deposit of earth similar to the inverted “cone” here found, implying as it does, the deposit of a peripheral ring of earth as an early step in construction.

There is a plain statement of the presence of two types of soil at the lower levels on Schooleraft’s early account of the partial excavation of the Grave Creek mound (where large numbers of shell beads were found).21 And in excavating a central shaft in a thirty-three foot conical mound of the Charleston Group, in the Kanawha valley, the Bureau of American Ethnology encountered a seven-foot stratum of softer and darker earth at the bottom. This contained remnants of bark, ashes, animal bones and casts of timbers. The Bureau concluded that this had been a timbered vault, though the excavator was not of the same opinion.22

Our conclusion is that the Beech Bottom mound was built by peoples of Adena or related culture, and, judging from its geographical position, that its closest affinities are to be sought in the little known Kanawha Valley region of West Virginia.

1 For vertical distributions of all characteristic objects, see Plate XI.

2 It was necessary for Mr. Bache to leave for other work before this section of the paper was completely written, and he is not personally responsible for some of the detailed statements of fact here set forth, and, at his suggestion, added after his departure. Both writers are in entire agreement as to the conclusions reached.—EDITOR.

3 Moorehead, Warren K., Stone Ornaments of the North American Indian, page 135, Andover, 1917.

4 Jones, Charles C., Antiquities of the Southern Indians, pages 359-365, New York, 1873; and Rau. Charles, Archaeological Collection in the United States National Museum, Smithsonian Contributions to Knowledge, Volume 22, Article 4, page 44, Washington, 1880.

5 McGuire, Joseph D., Pipes and Smoking Customs of the American Aborigines, Based on the Material in the U. S. National Museum, Annual Report fur 1897, page 383, American National Museum, 1899.

6 Moorehead, Warren K., Stone Ornaments of the North American Indian, page 135, Andover. 1917.

7 Schoolcraft, Henry F., Observations Respecting the Crave Creek Mound, Transaction of the American Ethnological Society, Volume 1, pages 309-420, New York, 1845.

8 Read, M. C., Stone Tubes—Suggestions as to Their Possible Use, American Antiquarian, Volume 2, Number 1, page 53, Chicago, 1879-1880.

9 Abbott, Charles C., Primitive Industry, page 330, Salem, 1881; and Moorehead, Op. Cit., Page 134

10 Moorehead, Op. Cit., page 136; and Hand Book of the American Indian, Part 2, page 830, Bulletin 30, Bureau of American Ethnology, Washington, 1910.

11 Ancient Monuments of the Mississippi Valley, page 224. Smithsonian Contributions to Knowledge, Volume 1, Washington, 1848.

12 Linton. Ralph, Use of Tobacco Among the American Indians, Anthropology Leaflet Number 15, Field Museum of Natural History. Chicago. 1944. and Abbott, Op. Cit., page 329.

13 Perkins, George 11., On an Ancient Burial Ground in Swanton, Vermont, American Association for the Advancement of Science, Proceedings, 22nd Meeting, 1873, Section B, page 86. Salem, 1874.

14 We have not attempted a study of the distribution of this type of tube. There are examples in the National Museum listed as from West Virginia, Virginia, Tennessee and Kentucky. Abbott reported tubes “much like” the Vermont specimens from southern New Jersey (Op. Cit, p. 332); four tubes of apparently identical form were unearthed from graves in eastern New York, along with a grooved piece of “slaty graphite,” red ochre, copper and shell beads, and leaf-shaped (double pointed) blades. (S. L Frey, Were They Mound Builders? American Naturalist, Volume 13, pages 637-649, Philadelphia, 1879.)

15 Three tubes, regarded by Mills as pipes and a “modified tubular pipe,” were found in the famous Tremper mound. One approached the type which is found at Beech Bottom in such quantity. and is shown in section in Plate X, 10. These tubes were not regarded as typical. See Mills, William C., Certain Mounds and Village Sites in Ohio, Volume 9., pages 292-205, Columbus, 1917.

16 Shetrone, Henry C.. The Mound Builders, pages 190-22, New York, 1950. and The Culture Problem in Ohio Archeology, American Anthropologist, N. S. Volume Number 2, Lancaster, 1920.

17 Mills, Op. Cit., Volume 1, Part 2, pages 5-23; Shetrone, The Mound Builders, page 182, and The Culture Problem in Ohio Archeology, cited above.

18 Shetrone, The Mound Builders, pages 167-169.

19 Mills, Op. Cit., Volume 1, pages 28-30. Mills and Shetrone have regarded tubes of this type as pipes. The Adena Mound tube shown as Plate X, 9, and also Figure 11 of the same plate, are blackened on the inside.

20 Shetrone, The Mound Builders, page 44.

21 By the dark and carbonaceous character of certain parts of the earth, which thus exposed contrasted with its yellowish or grayish parts, it was evidently a mixed pile of sand and loam and carbonaceous particles.”—Schoolcraft, Op. Cit., page 382.

22 Thomas, Cyrus, Burial Mounds of the Northern Section of the United States, Fifth Annual Report, Bureau of Ethnology, Washington, 1883-1884.

Cite This Article

Bache, Charles and Jr., Linton Satterthwaite,. "Excavation of an Indian Mound at Beech Bottom." The Museum Journal XXI, no. 3-4 (September, 1930): 132-187. Accessed March 04, 2024. https://www.penn.museum/sites/journal/9281/

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