Histories: Trempealeau Co. Historical Accounts:
"History of Trempealeau County Wisconsin, 1917":
The Antiquity of Man
(by George H. Squier)
-As transcribed from pages 33 - 34
A find made at Trempealeau Bay during the past season-1917 renders it desirable that something be said on the subject. The find consists of a flat stone, a trifle over three inches long, somewhat under two wide and about one-half inch thick. It is of moderately hard sandstone, unworn, save that at each end there is a carefully-made notch, as though to permit a cord to be fastened about it. The symmetrical position, and the care used in making them, places their formation by any other than human agency quite out of the question. It was taken out of the mud in which it was closely embedded. The mud had been taken from under the west pier of the bridge at a depth somewhere between fifty-four and sixty feet. The mud in which it was embedded was part of an unbroken deposit of similar material containing an abundance of shells and vegetable material, and extending from fifty-four feet to the bottom at sixty-eight feet. From fifty-four feet upward to forty feet the mud alternated to some extent with sand. The deposit gives every evidence of being interglacial. Obviously this would indicate the existence of man anterior at least to the last glacial period. Yet, while the evidence seems clear, and difficult to invalidate, it is best to receive it with caution.
It must be borne in mind that the antiquity of man as a denizen of the world is quite a distinct question from that of the date of his arrival on this continent. In Europe, and adjoining portions of Asia and Africa, evidences have been found indicating his existence practically throughout the Pleistocene period. But in America the evidences are much more scanty and less decisive, and there has come to be a rather sharp division of opinion as to the validity of such evidence as is available.
A few examples will serve to show the nature and limitations of the evidence. Some half century ago a human skull was found in the auriferous gravels of California under a lava bed. This seemed to carry man back into the tertiary, but the opinion finally prevailed that the lava bed was a displaced mass which had slidden to its present position. Some years ago human remains were found along the Missouri River nearly a hundred feet down. But Professor Chamberlin showed that the bed of that stream is extremely unstable, being rapidly cut away and refilled to great depths, with obvious consequences. For a number of years archaeologists have been finding flint chips in the glacial gravels at various places, notably near Trenton, New Jersey, and near Washington. But it is claimed that these might have been produced by natural agencies, and Professor Chamberlin gives cuts of two groups, one from the above sources, the other from a source where human agency is not presumed. I think that no one could pick out, with confidence, the natural from the supposed artificial group. More recently human remains have been discovered in Florida associated with the remains of extinct animals of the Pleistocene. But it appears that they occur in a little valley which had been partly refilled with wash derived from the surrounding Pleistocene, whereby objects not really contemporaneous are brought into apparent relationship. It will be seen, therefore, that the evidence thus far obtained lacks considerable of being conclusive.
In the case of Trempealeau, Professor Chamberlin, in response to my first letter, was disposed to apply the same explanation as in the case on the Missouri, scour and fill; but, the conditions here are such as to definitely exclude that explanation. It may be said that the weak point in the evidence is that the object was not seen in its actual position in the bed. Still, considering that from fifty-four feet downward the material retained substantially the same character, and quite evidently had not been subject to scour and fill, the lack does not seem to seriously invalidate the evidence. It is best, however, to be a little conservative in such matters, and reserve one's opinion until the evidence has been studied from all angles.
In calculating the volume of conical mounds, I have assumed them to be cones of the given diameter and height, making the diameter equal to the furthest limit to which artificial fill can be traced. It is, of course, not strictly accurate, but gives a reasonably close approximation.
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