Stone Lined Graves in Mississippi

It is a region possessing much natural beauty, ideally suited to a large native population, such as it undoubtedly sustained during the days before the coming of the French. Many similar groups of graves are scattered along the bluffs bordering the Mississippi and are less numerous inland. The salt springs of Jefferson County, Missouri, a little more than halfway between the mouth of the Saline on the south and the Missouri on the north, served to attract the Indians, as did the springs near the former stream, already mentioned. About a mile inland from the small village of Kimmswick, up the valley of Rock Creek, were discovered several small cemeteries in the vicinity of springs. One occupied a small level area just above the principal spring, and when examined proved of the greatest interest. A plan of this curious group is given in figure 4, and as it included many uncommon features it may be of interest to describe the burials in detail. Pottery on the sides and bottoms of the graves refers to the use of fragments of large earthenware vessels in the place of stones.

  • I. Stone at head, pottery bottom. Contained two skulls and many bones. Length 4 feet 2 inches.
  • II. Stones at ends, pottery sides and bottom. Traces of bones. Length 3 feet, width 1 foot, depth 11 inches.
  • III. Stone sides and ends, pottery bottom. Extended skeleton. Length 6 feet 4 inches, width 1 foot 6 inches.
  • IV. Stone at head, also large stone covering skull. Bones bunched.
  • V. Stone sides and ends, two layers of pottery on bottom. Two skulls rested upon many bones. Earthenware dish between the skulls.
  • VI. Pottery sides, ends, and bottom. Traces of extended skeleton. Length 4 feet 6 inches. VII. Similar to preceding.
  • VIII. Stone sides, ends, and bottom. Contained four radii and four ulnae, no other bones. Also eight bone implements and a perforated disk of wood, discolored by, and showing traces of, a thin sheet of copper. Length 2 feet 6 inches, width 11 inches, depth about 1 foot.
  • IX. Pottery sides, bottom, and ends, with one stone covering the entire grave. One skull and many bones. Length about 3 feet.
  • X. End stones and two on north side remain, others fallen away.
  • XI. Stone sides and ends. Contained two skeletons, one above the other, separated by a layer of slabs of limestone extending from, the shoulders to the feet. Length 6 feet 3 inches, width 1 foot 9 inches, depth 1 foot 8 inches.
  • XII. Stone ends, pottery bottom. Traces of small skeleton extended. Length about 5 feet.
  • XIII. Stone sides and ends. Traces of bones. Length about 5 feet.
  • XIV. Pottery sides, ends, and bottom. Was reduced in size. One skull rested on mass of bones.
  • XV. Pottery sides and ends. Small skeleton extended. Length 4 feet. XVI. Stone sides and ends. Two skulls and scattered bones. Length 2 feet 5 inches, width 1 foot 4 inches.
  • XVII. Pottery top and bottom. Traces of bones. Length about 4 feet.
  • XVIII. Similar to preceding.
  • XIX. Pottery bottom. Traces of small skeleton extended. Length about 4 feet.
  • XX. Stone ends, pottery bottom. No traces of bones. Contained a large piece of galena. Length 3 feet 10 inches.
  • XXI. Stone ends, pottery bottom. Three skulls rested upon many bones. Length 3 feet 4 inches.
  • XXII. Pottery bottom. Traces of small skeleton extended.

Thus it will be seen how great a variety of burials may be found in a single small cemetery. The bodies, when placed in the graves, were probably wrapped in mats or skins, which have long since disappeared, and in some instances bark may have served as a partial lining for the graves.

Bushnell, David I. Native Cemeteries and Forms of Burial East of the Mississippi. Smithsonian Institution, Bureau of American Ethnology, Volume 71. Washington: Government Printing Office. 1920.

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