“American Monuments”: Archaeology, Heritage, and Identity in the Antebellum United States

  • 13 Sep 2012
  • 4:30 PM - 6:30 PM
  • Penn Cultural Heritage Center, Philadelphia, PA
“American Monuments”: Archaeology, Heritage, and Identity in the Antebellum United States
James E. Snead, California State University, Northridge
Thursday, September 13, 2012
4:30pm – Classroom 2, Penn Museum

Abstract: American engagement with indigenous antiquity in the 19th century was a complex process. Ideas about Native American history and related themes emerged from the context of the European enlightenment, often in the absence of material evidence. In contrast, encounters with the physical remains of the indigenous past were a regular feature of life on the western and southern frontiers. Mounds, burials, artifacts, and related features proved to be powerful talismans of Native history, a record subject to interpretations and uses radically different from those pursued by intellectuals in cities along the Eastern seaboard. In the decades prior to the Civil War such new western concepts included the conceptualization of mounds as “American monuments,” features to be treated as a form of heritage linked to the national landscape. These perspectives are preserved in correspondence, local publications, and imagery created by the individuals “on the ground,” collectively representing a vision of American antiquity profoundly different from that usually perceived.

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