Twelfth Annual Report of the Bureau of Ethnology to the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, 1890-91, published in 1894. pp. 391-394

The Bat Creek Mounds

Two miles below Morganton, on the west side of the Little Tennessee river, Bat creek joins this stream. Both above and below the mouth of this creek there is a pretty level valley, extending back from the river at some points half a mile to the base of the steep hills which border it. Immediately in the angle wliere the creek joins the river is a comparatively large mound, and on the opposite or west side of the creek are two other mounds (Nos. 2 and 3). The first is on the bottom land, the others on a level terrace some 20 or 30 feet higher than the first bottom or lowest valley level ; the latter are about 100 feet distant from one another, measuring from center to center.

These (No. 14 on Pl. xxv) are on land owned by Mr. M. M. Tipton, but are different from those previouvsly mentioned, which are about 2 miles farther up the river.

Mound 1, measuring 108 feet in diameter and 8 feet in height, was composed wholly of very dark soil, containing a great many small shells; these were in fact so abundant in places as to present the appearance of a shell heap. This condition continued to the depth of 3 1/2 feet to a layer of hard yellow sand; under this the remainder of the mound to the original surface, except a central, circular area 2 feet in diameter, consisted of dark earth similar to that of the top layer. The central, circular core consisted of a series of burned clay beds or hearths, alternating with layers of coals and ashes. These extended downward from the layer of yellow sand to the bottom of the mound. A few charred animal bones occurred in some of the layers of ashes; nothing else of interest was observed.

On the east side of the river, directly opposite this mound, is an ancient village site where the soil is very dark and has scattered through it in abundance specimens of broken pottery, flint chips, and other evidences of occupancy. In several places little circles of burnt stones may be seen lying on beds of ashes.

On mound 2, 44 feet in diameter and 10 feet high, stood a black-oak tree 3 feet in diameter. It was composed throughout of hard red clay. At the depth of 3 1/2 feet was the skeleton of an adult in a horizontal position, with the head east and the arms close by the sides. The earth immediately about the bones was of a dark greenish color and about the breast were two metal buckles, one of them having a fragment of leather or hide still adhering to it. On the leg bones were still to be seen fragments of buckskin and a metal button, the latter sticking fast to the bone.

Whether or not this was an intrusive burial could not be determined, though the uniform composition of the mound and the size of the oak growing above seems to be against this supposition; nevertheless, the further discoveries made show that it was subsequent to the original burials and not in accordance with the original plan.

At a depth of a little over 4 feet, and immediately under this skeleton, the top of a stone wall was reached; this was found by further excavation to be a vault 8 feet square, built up of rough, flat limestone rocks to the height of 5 feet above the original soil on which it rested. On the inside, about halfway down, were seven skeletons, numbered, for convenience, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8. No. 2 was the skeleton of a child, horizontal, with the head to the east; Nos. 3 and 4 lying together with the head north, one of which was a child's skeleton, with small beads about the head; Nos. 5 and 6 were in a sitting posture in the northeast corner, and around the neck of one were many small shells and large shell beads; Nos. 7 and 8 were lying in the center with the heads close together and crushed by large flat stones which lay on them. Nothing more was found in this vault until the bottom was reached, where nine more skeletons were discovered, much decayed, and lying in all directions, seemingly thrown in without any care.

Fig. 272. Horizontal section, Bat creek mound, No, 3, Loudon county, Tennessee.
Fig. 273. Engraved atone from Bat creek mound No. 3, Loudon county, Tennessee.

Mound 3 was of small size, measuring but 28 feet in diameter and 5 feet in height. Some large sassafras trees were standing on it, and the owner, Mr. Tipton, stated that he had cut trees from it forty years ago, and that it had been covered by a cluster of trees and grapevines as long ago as the oldest settler in the locality could recollect. At the time the excavation was made there was an old rotten stump yet on the top, the roots of which ran down to the skeletons. It was composed throughout, except about the skeletons at the bottom, of hard red clay, without any indications of stratification. Nothing of interest was discovered until the bottom was reached, where nine skeletons were found lying on the original surface of the ground, surrounded by dark colored earth. These were disposed as shown in Fig. 272. No. 1 lying at full length with the head south, and close by, parallel with it, but with the head north, was No. 2. On the same level were seven others, all lying close side by side, with heads north and in a line. All were badly decayed. No relics were found with any but No. 1, immediately under the skull and jaw bones of which were two copper bracelets, an engraved stone, a small drilled fossil, a copper bead, a bone implement, and some small pieces of polished wood. The earth about the skeletons was wet and the pieces of wood soft and colored green by contact with the copper bracelets. The bracelets had been rolled in something, probably bark, which crumbled away when they were taken out. The engraved stone lay partially under the back part of the skull and was struck by the steel prod used in probing. This stone is shown in Fig. 273. The engraved characters on it are beyond question letters of the Cherokee alphabet said to have been invented by George Guess (or Sequoyah), a half-breed Cherokee, about 1821.

XXV. Plat of the valley of the Little Tennessee River, Blount and Monroe counties, Tennessee (trimmed)

CybeRose notes:

The stone was printed upside down in the original publication. I have corrected it. The characters are certainly not Cherokee in form, and the burial greatly predates the invention of the Cherokee alphabet.

And like all such "out of place" discoveries, the stone has been denounced as a fraud by people who deny even the possibility of pre-Columbian visits to the new world. I do not judge. However, I find it curious that none of the other objects found in the excavations of other Tennessee mounds, also included in the report, have been called frauds.

Bat Creek Inscription on Wikipedia