Who Built the Mounds? An Answer?

This will be a rather long narrative from memory based on a book I read more than fifty years ago.

In the mid to late 1940s "Amazing Science Fiction" magazine was astonishing in the amount of material it contained, both as fiction, ("The Shaver Mystery series") and as investigative articles that now seem almost pre-cognitive.

One of the articles was on the Mound Builders and it quoted a source, written by a surveyor named William Pigeon in the 1840s and published in England. As a kid who seemed to resonate to this kind of thing, immediate after reading the article I was able to find the book in the San Francisco Main Public Library and check it out. (The last time it had been checked out, according to the slip, was 1927).

It seems that Mr. Pigeon had decided to do a survey of the land west of the Appalachian Mountains and had encountered the mounds. Fascinated, he began surveying them in detail. After some time spent in this activity, he was called before the head shaman or medicine man for the region.

The shaman told him that he had observed Mr. Pigeon drawing the mounds on the 'talking paper'. Since there was little interest in the things of the past among the young men of the region who were more interested in firearms and firewater than anything else, the old man had decided to share his knowledge of the past and of the mounds with Mr. Pigeon.

It seems that before the white man came, the North American continent had been called Turtle Island and the region between the Appalachians and the Rocky Mountains and mid-Canada and northern Mexico had been under the rule of one man, named the 'Great Dakota' and whose title was the 'Great Tortoise'.

The land was peaceful under his rule, with towns, cities and organized agriculture and all the other attributes of a major civilization similar to others in Central and South America.

As to the mounds, some of them indicated regional boundaries, some of them were figures such as fish or birds that could only be recognized if seen from the air and were like advertising signs, i.e. ‘we’ll trade fish for good things’. But most of them were mounds indicating the history of the dynasty of the rulers. Each mound complex in a capital city indicated the rule of a single dynasty. When that dynasty died off or was overthrown or otherwise replaced, a new mound complex for the new dynasty would be begun. The book explained how to read the mounds and how to determine the age and length of that dynasty.

The old man went on to say that finally there came a time when there was much pressure from the south by invading nations attempting to encroach on the lands of the Great Dakota. They in turn were also being pressured in a similar fashion along their own southern borders and so on.

The Great Dakota was old, but he had two sons and two grown grandsons who had been trained as military leaders. Even though there had been peace, there had been practice for war. (The practice of counting coup was originally a training device and a method of seeing who would have won a mock battle, etc.)

The Great Dakota divided the country into four military regions; two side by side in the south, and two side by side in the north. He placed each of his young and vigorous grandsons in control of one of the two southern regions and did the same with his sons in the north. All went well until the Great Dakota died without leaving clear cut instructions as to who would be his successor. Each of the sons and grandsons believed that he was the best suited to take the place of the Great Dakota. Bickering broke down into bitter argument and then into war, with all four regions fighting each other. Soon it was no longer possible to live in open towns and cities. They were either abandoned or walled.

Eventually, everything broke down. There was no longer any single power or authority but only the conglomeration of tribes that the white man found on his arrival some time later. One wonders what it would have been like if the power and the authority of the nation of the ‘Great Tortoise’ had been in existence when the white man had arrived.


In response to the Shaver stories about Deros living in an underground world of interconnecting tunnels, people started writing in letters stating that "Yep, that was true!" They or some relative had found a cave tunnel that went on far further than they were willing to explore.

Smooth walls and everything. One, I remember, told about finding a cave in the mountains around Death Valley containing the remains of giants wearing ceremonial clothing seated in a circle.

Another told a story of a level floored tunnel with smooth walls somewhere in Mexico where the Federales sent a jeep with equipped with spotlights and a field telephone to explore, winding out telephone line behind them from a big reel as they went. After several miles communications were broken and the cable went slack. When they pulled it in they found the cable neatly snipped. The Mexican government promptly sealed the entrance with a concrete barrier and that was the end of that.

I don't know how hard it would be to find issues of the magazine from the time of the first Shaver story, "I Remember Lemuria", through the next few years to the end of the phenomena but the stories aside, the articles by the gentleman who wrote the story about the mounds, (I believe he called himself 'L. Spencer Lewis' or something similar), are fascinating as are the letters to the editor who I believe was Ray Palmer at that time.