Foundations of Stone – Part I : Investigating the Megalithic Aspect of Late Archaic and Woodland Cultures in West Virginia

Foundations of Stone – Part I : Investigating the Megalithic Aspect of Late Archaic and Woodland Cultures in West Virginia

The data for this article regarding the Charleston Earthworks is largely derived from the handwritten manuscript of P.W. Norris. The authors have used this version of the report due to the needless exclusions of data and erroneous measurements inherent in the published version of Cyrus Thomas.

In 1882 and 1883, Col. P.W. Norris of the Smithsonian Institution surveyed and performed excavations of 50 earthen mounds and between eight to 10 sacred enclosures of the Adena culture at Charleston, West Virginia, on behalf of the Eastern Mound Division of the Bureau of Ethnology. Overlooking the Charleston works in the bluffs and high places were around 40 stone mounds, at least one of which featured a burial in a subsurface pit three feet deep, with two steatite pipes, three lance heads, and a gorget. Norris recorded no less than 64 of these stone mounds throughout the Kanawha Valley.

The Ruins of Stone Works

At the Mt Carbon site in Fayette County, the ruins of a vast series of stone works once existed. The Mt Carbon site consisted of six walls made of piled stone, incorporating natural boulders and cliffs, oriented on a north/south axis. As many as 40 cairns and three to five earth mounds, as well as a stone circle six feet (1.8 meters) in diameter and possibly an initiatory cave were features of this extensive mountaintop site. The stone walls and other structures at Mt Carbon were positioned to incorporate two natural springs into the design.

At the foot of Mt Carbon, Col. P.W. Norris described a circular stone wall 100 feet (30 meters) in diameter and three to five feet high (1 to 1.5 meters), enclosing a stone mound 30 feet (nine meters) in diameter and 10 feet (three meters) high. This mound featured a passage from the outside to the inner chamber. Similar stone mounds with literal doorways leading to the central burial vaults were found in the bluffs of the Mt Carbon area.


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