A GIANT’S TOMB.
Remarkable Discovery Near Maysville, Kentucky – A Party of Hunters Stumble Upon a Mammoth Cave – They Find the Skeleton of a Giant With Copper Helmet and Sword.
Correspondence of the New York Sun.
MAYSVILLE, Ky., March 30. – An exceedingly interesting discovery was made a few days ago by a party of young men while out hunting near the town of Augusta, some fourteen miles south of this city. While beating about for game upon the lands of S. K. Veach, a well-known farmer of the neighborhood, in a dense thicket of young elms upon the side of one of the hills, their dogs suddenly disappeared through an opening some three or four feet in diameter, which proved upon examination to be the entrance to a cavern that promises to rival in magnificence and grandeur the world-renowned Mammoth Cave of Southern Kentucky. The mouth of this cavern appears to have been covered with a large, flat rock that slipped away from the opening, together with a large mass of earth, and this accidentally indicated the existence of the cave. This stone, which evidently answered for a front door to the dwelling of the mysterious people who lived and had their being in the Ohio valley anterior to the advent of the modern Indian, was nearly overgrown with moss and measured five feet or more one way and a little less than four the other. Underneath the moss has been traced a hieroglyphical inscription, which it is not improbable to suppose may have been made for the purpose of signifying to the passerby, as our modern door plates do, the names of the dwellers inside.
The characters occurring most frequently in this symbol writing are a circle divided by a perpendicular line, a representation of a double lodge, and irregular, wavy lines, supposed to indicate water. Some of our local antiquarians have deciphered the circular figure to signify unity or the union of two branches of the same family. The idea appears to be strengthened by the rude drawing of the united lodges. From this interpretation, it is inferred that two families, possibly connected by ties of consanguinity, lived together in this Prehistoric dwelling. The lines that are supposed to represent water are similar to those given by Mr. Schoolcraft in his Antiquities of America as meaning fluids. It is not unlikely that the figure may have some association with the Ohio River, which is distant from the spot not more than half a mile.
The party of hunters pushed their way through a narrow passage for several hundred feet, when they found themselves in a large chamber, the roof of which was nearly fifty feet above them, and from which depended stalactites of enormous size, some of them resembling huge chandeliers. While examining these wonders of nature, one of the party stumbled over an object which proved to be a human skull. A closer inspection showed that the skeleton to which the skull belonged was one of extraordinary size. The bones measured from head to foot over nine feet and were in a fair state of preservation. The skull itself was of enormous size, and such as would have belonged to a man probably eight feet high. The party carried the bones into the village of Augusta and on application, a patent has been taken out on the land and cave by parties representing a scientific institution in the East, and the whole neighborhood is much excited over the matter. The cave had evidently been a place of refuge of these mammoth people, as no weapons of any kind were found, although stone axes were plentiful in other parts of the cave. The attention of eminent scientists has been called to the matter, and it is not improbable that further discoveries may be made.
THE INTERIOR OF THE CAVERN. The young men, who stumbled, as it were, upon a knowledge of the existence of this underground wonder, were too much startled and awestricken to attempt at that time the exploration of the unknown regions, to the brink of which accident had led them. But on the following morning they procured a supply of candles, ropes and other articles used in cave explorations, and headed by an intrepid young fellow named Stephen Wyatt, repaired to the entrance and began the descent. At the beginning the avenue of entrance dropped perpendicularly four feet, when it sloped gradually at an angle of forty-five degrees, varying in width from four to twelve feet, for a distance estimated at about two hundred yards, terminating abruptly in a chamber about eighty feet square and thirty feet or more in height.
The appearance of this room is described as being peculiarly grand and impressive. Immense stalactites drooped from the ceiling, and glistened in the light of the candle like masses of solid silver. The floor was covered with clean, white sand, such as is found on the seashore, to the depth of ten or twelve inches. The young men, who had never witnessed such a sight as the interior of this cavern presented, were lost in wonder and amazement, and were eager to return to the surface, but one more bold than the rest urged a further exploration, to which the others reluctantly consented. An examination of the chamber revealed the fact that there was no mode of continuing the journey except through a small opening near the floor, that required the party to proceed on their hands and knees.
A distance of a hundred feet or more was accomplished in this way when the leader was startled to find himself at the brink of a precipice overlooking a pit of Stygian blackness. He was so shocked by the discovery of his danger that he lost his presence of mind, and would have toppled over into the abyss had he not been seized by one of his own companions and drawn back. The party were again tempted to return, but Wyatt insisted with firmness upon pursuing the journey as far as it could be accomplished with safety. A strong rope was then fastened to a projecting crag, and one by one the young men dropped into the pit, which proved to be about twenty feet in depth. At this point they encountered a slope or incline, composed of a confused mass of roof-rock, down which they scrambled to the bottom, where they found themselves in a large vaulted chamber more than a hundred feet in height, filled with stalactites, stalagmites, and the curious formations that have rendered so attractive the great cave of Edmondson County.
A GIANT SKELETON.
In the center of this room there loomed up out of the darkness an immense square, moss-covered bunch of loose stones, carefully laid one upon the other, after the fashion of the rock fences common in this section of the country. There could be no doubt that this monument or cairn was the result of human labor, expended probably thousands of years ago.
The top of this sarcophagus, for such it proved to be, was covered by slabs of thin rock, evidently transported from the surface. They were carefully removed, disclosing a square vault that had been plastered with mud mixed with small pieces of straw or twigs of trees or bushes. In the center of the vault, in a sitting posture, was found the skeleton of a human figure, entire, and perfectly preserved by the dry atmosphere of the cave.
As there was no appearance of flesh upon the bones, it is probable the body had been prepared in the open air, denuded of flesh, and afterward removed to the cave for burial. The bones were taken out of the vault, and laid upon the floor, and by the rough measurement, the young men were able to make, found to be those of a man over eight feet six inches in height. The skull measured nearly twelve inches in the shortest diameter and had on the left side an indentation, evidently made by a severe blow.
In the vault at the side of the skeleton was found an implement of copper four feet six inches in length that weighs four pounds and appears to have been intended as a weapon of defense. It is roughly made and was probably fashioned from the native copper of the lake regions. The sword is bent and tapers to a point, and has somewhat the appearance of a saw upon its cutting edge. A rude effort at decoration is made upon the handle by irregular lines running entirely around it.
In close proximity to this interesting relic was found what was first taken to be a rude bowl of the same metal but has since been decided that it was a helmet or head covering. A stone ax of elegant workmanship, seven flint arrow points, a stone pipe carved to represent a frog, a piece of buckskin stained red, a pair of sandals woven from vegetable fiber, and a water vessel of sun-baked clay were also found.
Kentucky part 1 Nebraska advertiser. [volume], April 27, 1876, Image 4
Nebraska advertiser. [volume], April 27, 1876, Image 4. GAW