I’ve always been a fan of crackpot science. There’s something about the unknown and the unknowable that spurs the imagination. I love ley lines, standing stones, the pyramids – be them in Egypt or Central America. I’m frequently asked if I believe in UFOs, to which I always answer yes. After all, there are certainly flying objects that are unidentified. Just what they are I can’t say, otherwise they wouldn’t be unidentified now would they? I’ve made my pilgrimage to Avebury, Glastonbury and even used to brew beer that always included a dash of water from Joseph of Arimathea’s holy well, which might very well have the grail resting at the bottom.
https://www.gothichorrorstories.com/ohio-river-valley/native-americans/angel-mounds/ancient-america-comes-alive-at-angel-mounds-state-historic-site/It was about the time that I discovered John Michell’s New View Over Atlantis, that I learned that some of the greatest mysteries of prehistory existed right under my very nose. Back then you did your research in a library, and the extent of your knowledge depended on what books your library had on hand, or that you could persuade the librarian to order for you. It was there I discovered the moundbuilders of North America, and particularly Cahokia, near St. Louis, and Angel Mounds, closer to home in Evansville, Indiana.
I have no memory of the name of the book I found in the library that brought the moundbuilders to light for me, only that it dated from the first part of the nineteenth century, when the theories for who built these mounds ranged from noble savages, to the lost tribes of Israel, to the same European tribes who had built Stonehenge (who had of course also had contact with those who built the great pyramids), to extra-terrestrials. As I recall, the book in question had put forth a theory quite popular at the time, that it was a northward migration of the same peoples who built the pyramids of Central America.
There’s something magical about walking the grounds of Angel Mounds. Covering over 100 acres, the complex was begun around 1000 CE, and thrived for almost 500 years before mysteriously fading away about the same time Columbus came skipping across the water. There’s a distinct lack of things ancient in this country, and to stand in the midst of an abandoned city a thousand years old is a heady experience. It was almost a hundred years after the discovery of sites like this that the world culture was used to describe the people who built them. But what an amazing culture it must have been, in the middle of the wilderness, to sustain a large enough population to have the free time to build these huge mounds.
The Central Mound at Angel is 644 feet long, over 400 feet wide, and climbs in two levels, with a third conical mound standing in the southeast corner. Angel was a chiefdom, and it’s thought that it was from the top of this conical mound that the chief would address his people. The Temple Mound, which once had a reconstruction of the temple built to the Native American’s sun god at the top, lies on the same axis as the Central Mound. It is believed that the structure that originally stood on top of this mound held the bones of the ancestors of the chief, as well as sacred statues and other ceremonial items. A beautifully carved statue of a deity was found buried in the top of the mound, thought to have been done ceremonially at the end of Angel Mound’s occupation.
The interpretative center at Angel Mounds contains a wealth of information about the settlement, including life-size dioramas and a reconstruction of part of the village. There are other reconstructions scattered around the site, including a section of the wall which once encompassed three sides of the 100 acre site. Yet most of Angel Mounds remains blessedly undeveloped. The trees are kept cleared, the grass short enough to allow you to see the shape of even the smallest of the mounds. In short, it’s a blank natural canvas which lets the mind do its magic.
The exploration of the mounds of North American began when Thomas Jefferson decided to excavate one on his property. Even Benjamin Franklin got in on the act of trying to figure out who built them and why. For a long time, many people believed that there was a golden age on this continent, when advanced civilizations built these amazing cities. The same theories used to be tossed about in Britain over sites like Stonehenge and Avebury. I’ve always believed that it’s a natural inclination to want to believe in golden ages, in part because there’s a certain romance to be found in their decline and disappearance, as you find in the myths about Atlantis, or the realities of the antebellum plantations in the south. Even golden ages of the imagination had their real-life horrors, from the slavery of the old south, to the human sacrifices at Cahokia and Angel.
And yet the magic lives on in these sites. The keys to truly understanding the moundbuilders, and their cities like Angel Mounds, Cahokia Mounds and Kincaid Mounds in southern Illinois, might never be found. Then again, perhaps all it takes is seeing the landscape at the right angle, in the right light, and like Alfred Watkins discovering ley lines stretching across the English countryside, it might all come into focus. The focus might be cracked like an old teacup, but for me, the key to history isn’t just in the facts. It’s also in the imagination, which drives us to look deeper for answers.