STUDENTS of American archaeology will find in the following pages reproductions of the monuments of a race of primitive Americans, monuments of a people whose existence has hitherto been involved in an obscurity as complete as that which envelops their history. Some of the specimens are of stone, some of copper and others of clay. They have been unearthed for the most part, through the efforts of amateur investigators, and represent the contents of hundreds of mounds scattered over the Lower Peninsula of Michigan. The language inscribed on these tablets has not as yet been interpreted but will doubtless, some day, succumb to the advance of philology, and they will perhaps yield an interesting chapter to the ancient history of this continent.
To Mr. Daniel E. Soper, of 1110 Ford Building, Detroit, Michigan, belongs the credit of having been for several years the moving spirit in the investigation of these prehistoric relics of Michigan.
Mr. Soper's absorbing interest led him to approach men of science. Some who had specially questioned the genuineness of the relics were invited to be upon the ground for special research to determine the facts. None of these latter have responded as yet, though it is hoped they may later on. Mr. Soper found Dr. William C. Mills of Columbus, Ohio, ready to aid in the investigation, and secured his co-operation for two days—June 24 and 25, 1909. A stone tablet, a clay vessel and a copper knife were unearthed and are in the possession of Dr. Mills. The tablet No. 30 appears in this collection. These with all subsequent finds now number thirty-one. Among them are five other tablets, four of stone, very remarkable ones, and one of copper, perhaps as important. Of these thirty-one, seven were found near Detroit, and the remainder near Grayling, two hundred miles north, yet all bear the same general characters and markings, and are similar to all previous finds from various other localities. Such results from the testing or verifying work for the campaign of 1909, are gratifying indeed. Numbers 14, 22, 26, 27, 30, 34 are the principal ones of the thirty-one.
Rev. James Savage, of 116 Porter St., Detroit, Michigan, first came to the aid of Mr. Soper, and assisted him admirably and untiringly. Later the undersigned became interested and joined them in their efforts. The data given is thought to be ample for the present. Some of the finds were made several years ago in the presence of many witnesses, and notwithstanding the passing of relics to other hands and localities, ample evidence is at hand. The thirty-one mentioned above and two found earlier in the year 1909, Nos. 16 and 18, were unearthed in the presence of the owners and others. Later by others, Nos. 32, 36, 38, and still others not published.
The copper specimens in this collection vary in thickness up to about an eighth of an inch. The stone relics are of slate and in color black, brown and green. In thickness they are from about one-fourth to one inch or more. The clay ones are burnt in most cases, and are similar in thickness to the stone pieces. The copper plates seem to be hammered, and engraved with chisel or other tool. The engraving on the stone seems to have also been done with chisel or sharp tool. The characters on the clay pieces were apparently impressed by type or similar device. In size the reproductions vary but little from the originals. No. 14 is reduced from 7 X ll inches; No. 22 from 9 x 12; No. 36 from 9 x 10; No. 40 from 9 x 12; No. 41 from 9 x 12; No. 44 from 10 x 12. No. 24 missed engraver's inspection, being sent to a distant point and not returned in time. Front cover cut from No. 30. Either party named will respond to inquiry from interested workers. They all invite tests on the ground.
If this brochure serves to arouse the interest of students of philology or those engaged in historical and archaeological research, in this investigation, it will not have been compiled in vain.