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Earthworks in Minnesota

An Extract from

The Aborigines of Minnesota

A Report



 Gustav's Library Vintage Reprint

This material is also included in our full reprint of The Aborigines of Minnesota

What a Minnesota archaeologist once described to me as the holy grail of archaeological titles, The Aborigines of Minnesota is indeed a scarce and expensive reference.  The problem with the original is that it is a heavy ( 8 pounds! ), oversized ( 9-1/2" x 12-/14" ) volume and the binding has typically failed over the last 96 years.  An original in very good condition with intact binding will typically fetch between $750.00 - $1,000.00.

When we looked at reprinting this wonderful book, we decided to keep the original page size of 9-1/2" x 12-/14" but to break it into two parts to alleviate the binding and handling problems.  While working on part one it became clear that an extract could be prepared that would address the need for an archaeological atlas, or earthworks catalog  by county, of the state of Minnesota.  Extracting this 350 pages of the original 900 would also allow us to offer it at a reduced price.  As usual, all of the hand assembled, hand inserted foldouts (24) are present in their original size.   There are hundreds of earthworks described in this book some of which have disappeared as Minnesota became more developed over the years.  One of my favorites is the boulder outline of a buffalo which is pictured and described at the bottom of this page.

Earthwork locations are typically given by township and section descriptions such as the Eagle Lake mounds which are featured on the cover of our reprint.  This simplifies their location with the aid of a modern county atlas or a geological survey map available at public libraries or through the internet. 

Eagle Lake mounds, (a),  S. W. side, N. 1/2 S. W. 1/4, sec. 31, T. 34-27, about 25 ft. to 35 ft. above the lake. Group contains 40 small mounds, all circular except one, and crowded. One is curved and elongated. The largest is 40 ft. by 4 1/2 ft. Surveyed May 6, 1890.

Winchell described this Minnesota county atlas of earthworks as follows:

It has been the purpose of the following records to furnish as complete account of each county as the available data will permit. In the case of a few of the counties nothing is known of their aboriginal earthworks, although it is quite probable that such exist. The reader will be struck with the wide extent of these remains. Nearly every county has them, the only probable exception being in the area north of lake Superior. That area, however, has received the least attention, and it is not warrantable to infer from this lack of knowledge that the mound-builders did not occupy it. That region is rough, sometimes mountainous, and without roads and railroads. When it shall have been settled it may be that scattered evidences of the mound-builders will be found.

In this review of the mounds and embankments of the aborigines of the state, it has been found convenient to follow the order of the county reports in the final report on the Geological and Natural History Survey of the state, beginning in the southeastern corner and taking the counties in order westward across the state in tiers of two, thus:

 1. Houston.
2. Winona.
3. Fillmore.
4. Olmsted.
5. Mower.
6. Dodge.
7. Freeborn.
8. Waseca and Steele.
9. Blue Earth.
10. Faribault.
11. Watonwan and Martin.
12. Cottonwood and Jackson.
13. Murray and Nobles.
14. Pipestone and Rock.
15. Redwood and Brown.
16. Yellow Medicine, Lincoln and Lyon.
17. Big Stone and Lac qui Parle.
18. Le Sueur.
19. Rice.
20. Wabasha.
21. Goodhue.
22. Dakota.
23. Carver and Scott.
24. Sibley and Nicollet.
25. McLeod.
26. Renville.
27. Swift and Chippewa.
28. Kandiyohi and Meeker.
29. Wright.
30. Hennepin.
31. Ramsey.
32. Washington.
33. Isanti, Chisago and Anoka.
34. Benton and Sherburne.
35. Stearns.
36. Douglas and Pope.
37. Grant and Stevens.
38. Wilkin and Traverse.
39. Otter Tail.
40. Wadena and Todd.
41. Crow Wing and Morrison.
42. Mille Lacs and Kanabec.
43. Pine.
44. Carlton.
45. Aitkin.
46. Cass.
47. Hubbard.
48. Becker.
49. Clay.
50. Polk and Norman.
51. Kittson, Roseau and Marshall
52. Beltrami.
53. Itasca.
54. S. Part of St. Louis.
55. N. Part of St. Louis.
56. Lake.
57. Cook.

This 9-1/2"" x 12-1/4",  350 page soft cover book is illustrated with 42 full page plates of engravings and photographs and contains 24 large foldouts    $29.95


This material is also included in our full reprint of The Aborigines of Minnesota

Findlay Mounds, Group 2 Mound Builder Enclosure

Grand Mound, Itasca County

Omaha Earth Lodge Jefferson Peace Medal found at Red Wing

High Island Mounds

Sample  Plates - click on image to enlarge

Boulder Outlines in Minnesota

Boulder Outline of a Buffalo, sec. 16, T. 106-43. The following description was written by Mr. T. H. Lewis, and published in the American Anthropologist, July, 1890: "In the western part of Murray county, Minnesota, there is a series of conspicuous hills, knolls, and ridges, which are irregularly grouped, and the highest points of which rise some 200 feet above the lowest surrounding valleys. That portion of these elevations lying south of the Pipestone branch of the Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis & Omaha railroad was known to the Indians as 'buffalo ridge,' and it still retains the name. The top of this ridge is some two miles in length,* running in a general course from northwest to southeast through sections 16 and 21 of township 106, range 43, and finally terminating on all sides in lower spurs and terraces, the base of the whole ridge covering perhaps three square miles.
"On the highest knoll there is a series of boulder outlines, mostly formed of small stones. The best preserved of these figures apparently represents a buffalo, as shown in the accompanying diagram. It heads to the northeast, and its greatest length is nearly 12 feet. The horns are nicely rounded, and one of them is formed by a double row of stones. Between the outlines of the head there is a large boulder, about two-thirds of which is exposed, and which fills out the head, making it practically solid. Between the outlines of the body there were formerly one large and two small boulders which filled the space. The beds or matrices in which they had lain were plainly visible when I made the survey, on August 1, 1889. These three stones had been removed by some of the settlers, probably for building purposes. This figure can scarcely be called an 'effigy', but it is so nearly like one that it may be considered a connecting link between the effigy mounds proper and the boulder outlines;! yet there is such a radical difference between the two extremes that a separate classification is a necessity, for while the first represents one half of an animate object in bas-relief, as it were, and is built solidly of earth, the other is a mere outline formed of stones or boulders.