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Presented in

The Gordon R. Willey-Society for American Archaeology Symposium on the History of Archaeology: Synthesizing American Archaeology

Society for American Archaeology, 61st Annual Meeting, New Orleans, 1996

Cyrus Thomas,

19th Century Synthesis and Antithesis

Jon Muller, Department of Anthropology

Southern Illinois University at Carbondale 62901-4502

Personal History

Figure 1. Cyrus Thomas, 1825-1910

Cyrus Thomas (Figure 1) was born in Kingsport, Tennessee in 1825 and died in 1910 in Washington, D.C. He was apparently educated in law in east Tennessee, despite his mother's desire that he become a physician. In 1849 he moved to Jackson County, Illinois, where he resided in Murphyboro, and he is listed in the 1850 census as a resident of the Logan House Hotel in that town (Figure 2). In 1850, he married the inn keeper's daughter, Dorothy A. Logan. At that time, the Logan family were prominent Democratic figures in Illinois politics. They had also been instrumental in the founding of Murphysboro as a new county seat as rivals to G. Harmon Brush, a vocal Whig and later the founder of Carbondale, Illinois.

Figure 2. Thomas's residence in his first years in Illinois was in the orginal Logan House hotel indicated by an arrow.

Between 1850 and 1853, Thomas served as Deputy County Clerk while his brother-in-law John A. Logan was County Clerk of Jackson County. In 1854-55, he was Postmaster of Murphysboro, IL and, apparently a general merchant as well. In the context of the 1850 Compromise Measures over slavery and the development of the Popular Sovereignty concept, it seems probable that Thomas, like John A. Logan (see below), was strongly opposed to abolition and political rights even for freed slaves. There seems to be no record of Thomas's activities during the Civil War, but his background would suggest opposition to the war, and his Illinois political comrades and even his in-laws included many Copperheads (e.g., Jones 1995) despite Logan's prominence as a Union Democrat. Thomas's wife was ill during some of this period, and she died in 1864. Following her death, Thomas ceased the practice of law. Biographical essays on his life indicate that he became an Evangelical Lutheran minister between 1864-66. In his obituary in the American Anthropologist, he was said to have abandoned the ministry because of his "intense independence of thought" (Anonymous 1910).

Figure 3. Gettysburg College in the mid-1860s.

Figure 4. Lutheran Seminary at Gettysburg in the mid-1860s.

He is also said to have attended Gettysburg College (Figure 3) during these years, but there is no clear record at Gettysburg of either his attendance or his having completed any degree work. He may have attended the Lutheran Seminary in town instead (Figure 4). However, his 1865 marriage to Viola L. Davis of Youngsville, Pennsylvania, suggests that he did spend some time in that state at that time. The records of Gettysburg College do show that he was given an honorary degree by that college in 1872, presumably the Ph.D. that he began to append to his name after that date. He also published a 2-part review of Darwin's work in the 1872 [Lutheran]Evangelical Quarterly Review published in Gettysburg, but I have not been able to locate a copy of this publication. He returned to Illinois, and was listed in the 1880 census as having five daughters aged 14 to 2.

Before discussing Thomas's professional life in subsequent years, it is important to indicate the nature of his relationships with two powerful and important figures in American history.


General John A. Logan

The first of these was Thomas's first brother-in-law. John A. Logan (Figure 5) was an important figure in Democratic politics in Illinois. Logan's father had been a war Democrat in the Illinois General Assembly in 1846, and Logan volunteered for service in the Mexican War. He was disappointed in his hopes of winning glory in battle in that conflict (Jones 1995:8-9). Later. Logan served as County Clerk in the 1850s. He was elected to Congress in 1858 and again in 1860 as a Douglas "Popular Sovereignty" Democrat, strongly opposed to the abolitionists. On the floor of Congress, Logan stated that despite his differences with the southern Democrats. "God knows that I have differed with the other side since my childhood, and with that side I will never affiliate so long as I have a breath in my body" (cited in Jones 1995:45).

Figure 5. General John A. Logan.

Suspected by his fellow Illinois Democrats of being too pro-Southern, especially in his support for enforcement of the Fugitive Slave Act, Logan's speeches nonetheless "rang with demogogic appeals for preservation of the Union at all costs" (Jones 1995:45). After the collapse of the Charleston Democratic Party convention, Logan backed Douglas for President. Following Lincoln's election, Logan's position was opposed to secession, but equally opposed to the use of force to maintain the Union. He and many of his constituents attempted to remain neutral, even after the firing on Ft. Sumter. During this period, Logan was even accused of being involved with efforts to raise troops for the Confederacy in Southern Illinois (Jones 1995:84-85). Finally, perhaps under the influence of McClernand, Logan spoke out emphatically for the fight to preserve the Union. Later he was present at the Battle of Bull Run as a Congressman, and he was finally offered a commission by Lincoln. Logan's conversion to full support for the Union seems to have had a major effect in Southern Illinois. By most accounts, Logan is considered to have been the most successful of all the Civil War political generals. Logan's movement from pro-slavery to radical Republican is a story told in detail by Jones (1995), but suffice it to note here that this shift in political activity was not sufficient to bring Logan's brother-in-law, Cyrus Thomas into the regiments being raised in Southern Illinois at this time. There seems to be no direct evidence of Thomas's views on these matters, but his close association with Logan, his family, and with the Democratic Party all suggest that he was anti-abolition, at the very least.

We have no direct evidence of what transformations in the relationships between Thomas and Logan might have been following the death of Dorothy Logan Thomas in 1864. However, an 1877 letter to Powell about his chances for funding (in relation to Hayden) mentions a brother-in-law of Senator Logan's as being an influence for Hayden with Logan (see Darrah 1951:241). This was Thomas, so it seems clear that Logan and Thomas were still "family" despite Thomas's remarriage in 1865.

In the years after the Civil War, Logan was a major political power in Washington. He was a founder and 3-time President of the Grand Army of the Republic -- one of the most powerful lobbies in the history of Washington. From 1867 to 1871 Logan was a radical Republican Congressman. From 1871 to 1877, and again from 1880 to 1886, Logan was U.S. Senator from Illinois. Logan's power was at its peak during the years that brought Cyrus Thomas to Washington. Indeed, Logan was not the only powerful friend of Thomas's.

Major John Wesley Powell

Before the Civil War, as noted, Thomas was active in the Illinois Natural History Society. In this period when Thomas was a curator and sometime President of the organization, John Wesley Powell (Figure 6) was Secretary of the organization.

There was no question where Powell's sympathies were in the coming conflict. Powell joined the Illinois volunteers and quickly rose through the ranks. He lost his arm at Battle of Shiloh, but continued to serve as an artillery officer until his resignation from the army in 1865. During this service, he worked with Grant, Sherman, and Logan.

Figure 6. John Wesley Powell

In 1865, he was professor of geology at Illinois Wesleyan College, and in 1866 he moved to the Illinois State Normal Universtiy, also in Bloomington (now Illinois State; Stegner 1954:17). He successfully sought state support for the revitalized Natural History Society and was named Curator. In 1867, he sought Congressional funding for an expedition to the Rockies, but was only able to get rations and support from then Secretary of War Grant (Stegner 1954:18-19). Nonetheless, Powell was able to scratch up private support. Whereas Thomas was entomologist with the more prestigious and better-funded Hayden surveys, Powell's entomologist was his own brother-in-law from Bloomington, Almon Thompson (Stegner 1954:22). The story of Powell's career, including his rise to the Directorship of the U.S. Geological survey and, in 1879, to Director of Bureau of (American) Ethnology-1902 has been often told (e.g., Darrah 1951; Meadows 1952; Stegner 1954, and many more). Here we only need to note that the former junior partner at the Illinois Natural History Society had become a major force. In later years Powell concentrated on philosophy of science and his reworking of the social sciences.

Cyrus Thomas's Professional Activities

Thomas was one of the founders in 1858 of the Illinois Natural History Society. By 1860, He was Curator and Commissioner for Entomology and Ichthyology for that organization. His earliest publications were predominantly on entomology, but ranged widely over many natural history topics. Between 1869 and 1873 he was entomologist for the U.S. Geological and Geographical Survey of the Territories (with Hayden). He became Illinois State Entomologist of Illinois between 1874-76. Thomas already had a respectable publication list and he was the first to describe many new species (see Davis 1913).


Thomas published a number of articles about the codices and Mesoamerican writing systems. These seem today to be mostly of historical interest, and are not much cited. Still, Sabloff and others have mentioned them as significant.


Figure.9. 1880s' SI 'Castle.'

Figure 10. Dignitaries Visit the Construction Site of the US National Museum, 1879.


Circumstances of Thomas's Appointment 1881-82


Thomas began duties in Carbondale area with extensive survey until directed to dig for collections in a letter from Powell by Pilling


Figure 11. U.S. National Museum, Smithsonian Institution

Thomas at the Smithsonian Institution

Figure 12. Curator at Work at the Smithsonian.

5th Annual Report of the B of E, 1888

Figure 13. Title Page of 5th ARBAE

This owes something to de Hass's survey, but presents the results of a wide ranging and systematic approach to the problem. Smith's tables (Smith 1985) indicate the frequency of work and its location over the years after Thomas took over the D o M E at the B(A)E.


12th Annual Report of the B of E, 1894

Figure 14. Title Page of 12th ARBAE.

This was the main work summarizing and classifying the explorations of the Division of Mound Exploration.

Classification of mound types, etc. pretty much what is still used today.

Earlier Synthetic Works

1889 The Problems of the Ohio Mounds. Bureau of Ethnology Bulletin 8. Smithsonian Institution, Washington.

1890 The Cherokees in Prehistoric Times. Fact and Theory Papers 4. N.D.C. Hodges, New York. [also 1980 reprint by AMS Press, New York]

1891a Catalogue of Prehistoric Works East of the Rocky Mountains. Smithsonian Institution, Bureau of Ethnology, Bulletin 12. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C.

1891b The Story of a Mound; or, The Shawnees in Pre-Columbian Times. Judd and Detweiler, Washington, D.C. [reprint from 1891 The story of a mound; or the Shawnees in Pre-Columbian Times. American Anthropologist 4(2 and 3):109-53, 237-275]

Smithsonian Institution and the Bureau of American Ethnology after 1887

During this period, W.J. McGee was essentially de facto director, and his presumption of titles such as "ethnologist in charge" angered the Smithsonian Secretary Langley who quickly moved to stop such usurpation after Powell's death in 1902. McGee's disfavor and later firing, however, did not stop Cyrus Thomas's collaboration with him (see below). It must be understood that both Mooney and McGee were "progressive" forces in the Smithsonian, as opposed to the popular and collections-oriented viewpoint of Langley (see Conaway 1995:Chapter 6).


Introduction to the Study of North American Archaeology


Figure 15. Title Page of SNAA

Dedication to Powell


To whose efficient work as Director of the Bureau of American Ethnology students of ethnology are so largely indebted for the recent additions made to the data relating to North America; and to whose aid and encouragement is mainly due whatever success the writer may have achieved in his special line,

This work is respectfully dedicated




The object, scope and plan of the work 1




Monuments and local antiquities 35

Implements, ornaments, etc. 40

Culture home of the Eskimo 43


Monuments and local antiquities 50

Mounds 51

Burial mounds 61

Vessels, implements and ornaments 79

Pottery 87

Long-necked bottles 94

The gulf province 97

Pipes. 98

Articles of shell 103

Textile fabrics 108

Copper articles 109

Articles of stone 113

Inclosures and pyramidal mounds 117

Prehistoric movements of population 121

Hut-rings and house-sites 132

Antiquity and authors of the mounds 138

Duration of the mound-building age 147

Inclosures and other mural work 152

North Pacific section -- Athapascan region 170

North Pacific coast 176

California section 187

Prehistoric movements of population 200

Intermontane or pueblo section 203

Cave-dwellings 205

Cliff-dwellings 208

Ruins on the plateaus and in the valleys 215

Gila valley and Chihuahua 221

Builders of the cliff-houses 229

Mexican section -- civilization 233

Monuments of southern Mexico 252

Monuments of southern Mexico -- continued 264

Monuments of Central America 276

Chichen-Itsa, Tikal and Copan 296

Migrations of the Mexican and Central American tribes 312

Migrations of certain Mayan tribes 328

Origin and development of Central American civilization 339

Priests, hieroglyphs and calendar 356



Preface (complete)


The little volume herewith presented to the public is a brief resume of the progress which has been made, up to the present time, in the investigation and study of North American archaeology. The increased activity among students devoting attention to the subject, the numerous explorations made, the rapid accumulation of data and the flood of light thrown on the questions relating to prehistoric North America since the publication of the last general work relating thereto, call for a new summary. Whether the work now offered meets this demand must be left for the readers to decide. That some parts of the broad field have been left unnoticed is admitted, the attention being confined chiefly to the more important characteristic features, as those best calculated to form an INTRODUCTION to the subject; and as best calculated to interest the reader and younger students. With such an object in view, pages broken or interrupted by foot-notes are not only out of place, but often serve to break the thread the reader is following, or prove an interruption to his line of thought; reference notes have therefore been entirely omitted.

The opinion held by Maj. J. W. Powell that the Indians found inhabiting the Atlantic division of North America and their ancestors were the builders of the mounds in that region, which the explorations of the Bureau of American Ethnology under his charge have done much to confirm, has been adopted. And, in general, the conclusions reached by the Bureau of American Ethnology in reference to questions relating to language and archaeology, so far as these extend, have been accepted and used as a basis for further steps in the investigation. But the author alone must be held responsible for any views advanced herein which have not been generally accepted, or in regard to which there are different opinions.

I take pleasure in acknowledging here the favors I have received from Maj. J. W. Powell, Director of the Bureau of American Ethnology, and Prof. W. J. McGee, Ethnologist in Charge, in the use of books, pamphlets and other literary aids needed in my work, and the privilege of obtaining numerous electrotypes of the illustrations herein used, favors, however, which have always been willingly extended to all coworkers. I also wish to acknowledge the favors received from Prof. W. II. Holmes, in the privilege of copying illustrations of and profuse borrowing from his late work on the cities of Mexico, published by the Field Colombian Museum; also to Mr. F. W. Hodge, of the Bureau of American Ethnology, for information communicated and papers furnished relating to the Pueblo region. In addition to the illustrations obtained from the Bureau publications, others have been copied from figures in the U. S. Geological Survey, National Museum, etc. Acknowledgment to the various authors from whose works information has been drawn will be found in the text, the authors' names from whose works and papers illustrations have been obtained either directly or indirectly, are added after the numbers in the list of illustrations, the original being referred to where it is possible. The numbers in the list of illustrations not followed by the author's name are either original figures, modifications of other figures, or theoretical restorations by the present writer.

[Cyrus Thomas]

Reviews of Thomas 1898

W.H. Holmes 1898 American Anthropologist

American Anthropologist, n.s. Volume I, 1899, pp. 176-178.

Introduction to the Study of North American Archaeology. by Prof. Cyrus Thomas. Cincinnati. The Robert Clarke Co., 8°, xiv, 1898; 391 pp., 108 illustrations.

It is a bold writer who, in the present stage of the study of American archaeology, ventures to monograph that subject, and it is a fortunate one who proves himself capable of compassing the field in a satisfactory manner. Professor Thomas does not take the full risk, however, since he omits South America from consideration and passes over physical anthropology and the geological features of the subject. There is left the great body of antiquities of North America. which the author proceeds to present in a well condensed and lucid manner well suited to the purposes of an Introduction. Passing attention is given to tradition language folklore, mythology customs, and craniology, since these branches are useful in illumining many of the obscure corners of prehistoric times; but the monuments and minor art remains form the chief bases of the work. Admitting correctly that prehistoric archeology is yet in its infancy he permits himself to say that this branch is not as yet a "true science," an expression that must be considered as unfortunate. The difficulty with archeology as it stands today is not that it is unlike any other field of scientific research in characters but that it has been so often treated in an unscientific manner and by writers having little conception of scientific method. It is a science in so far as its complex and obscure data are correctly observed, treated, and applied to the elucidation of human history

The difficulty of classifying the subject matter of archaeology is pointed out by the author, and proper stress is laid on the shortcomings of European classification and nomenclature as applied to America. In presenting the subject the objective data are arbitrarily but conveniently arranged in three great groups viz: monuments, relics, and paleographic remains. These are not to be grouped or studied as a whole on this plan, but the continent is divided into three parts, called culture areas and in each of these the remains are independently studied and discussed. and so far as necessary comparisons are made with the other areas and with other continents The method, therefore, is primarily geographic and secondarily typologic or ethnic. The three divisions are the Arctic the Atlantic and the Pacific. The separation of the Arctic division is natural enough. and Professor Thomas refers to the separation of the Atlantic and the Pacific as follows:

"One of the first impressions made upon the mind of the student of North American ethnology is the resemblance in a broad and general sense of the features, customs, arts, and archaeological remains of the west coast to those of the islands in and countries bordering on the Pacific ocean, While on the other hand there is no such resemblance between them and those of the Atlantic slope. In other words, the types when classified in the broadest sense appear to arrange themselves in two general divisions -- those belonging to the Pacific slope and those confined to the Atlantic slope" (page 17).

In chapter III a few pages are devoted to the methods of study adopted Though the natural order of presenting the data of human history is to begin with the earliest traces of the race and to proceed in chronologic order to the latest, the author in his special field chooses to begin with the well-known in native American history, and to carry investigation back along various important lines into the remote and obscure realms of prehistoric times. Thirteen pages are given to the very limited archeological phenomena of the Arctic division, and the author then passes to the Atlantic division in which he himself has been a leading investigator. Questions relating to the mound-builders claim first attention, and the matter presented possesses exceptional value, coming as it does from the pen of one so familiar with the field in all its varied aspects. His conclusions are, in brief, that the mound-building peoples were Indians (as the term is commonly accepted); that moundbuilding began in the Mississippi region many centuries ago and continued down to the coming of Europeans, and that the mound-builders are represented in a number of existing tribes, some of which have been fully identified. The subject of the origin and migrations of the North American tribes appears prominently in this chapter. The theory of an Asiatic derivation is favored, and the general trend of the evidence is held to indicate that " the place of dispersion was in the northwest, and that the course of migration has been south and southeast" (page 162).

The Pacific division is reviewed under several headings -- California section Intermontane section, Gila Valley and Chihuahuan section, Mexican section, Southern Mexican section, and Central American section. This field is in general effectively presented, considering the aggravating lack of reliable data, while the discussion of certain features of Central American remains and culture. to which Professor Thomas has given long and careful attention, has special interest and value. The origin of the peoples he traces generally toward the north, and although suspecting intrusion of foreign elements of culture, discusses the archeologic remains from the autogenous point of view, striving with the usual lack of success to account fully for all the remarkable conditions and extraordinary phases of culture development.

In the final chapter the author presents some general considerations regarding migrations in prehistoric times. Assuming that the movement of the peoples was largely from the north toward the south, he discusses the modifications of culture brought about as temperate climes were reached and the reaction of the progress made on the northern areas. For the South American peoples and antiquities he is not able to find a satisfactory origin, as there appear to be no especially well-defined relationships with those of the North American continent.

Within the field considered, this work by Professor Thomas is far more satisfactory than anything yet written, and it must contribute not a little toward building up the science of archeology in America. It will serve admirably the purpose for which it is presented, and at the same time will form a stepping stone by means of which some other student, utilizing the fuller data of his day, may climb to higher levels.



Anonymous (probably S.D. Peet)

American Antiquarian 1898


The American Antiquarian and Oriental Journal Nov. &Dec, 1898, Vol XX, No. 6. pp. 373-374.

Stephen D. Peet, Editor


INTRODUCTION TO THE STUDY OF NORTH AMERICAN ARCHAEOLOGY by Prof. Cyrus Thomas: Cincinnati. The Robert Clarke Co., 1898; 391 pages.

The first impression of this book is a pleasing one, for the publishers have done all that is required to make it attractive in appearance. There has been a need of a book which would give a summary of the results which have been reached by the archæologists of this country and this book meets that demand. But in some respects it fails utterly and will prove disappointing to many. It purports to be an introduction to the study of North American Archaeology; but it is like playing Hamlet with Hamlet left out, for very many of the most prominent archaeologists are not even named, and their books do not seem to have been read. The name of Dr. D. G. Brinton appears several times, of Profs. Mason and F. H. Cushing and Prof. Starr just once. But the names of Prof. F. W Putnam, Gen. Gates P. Thruston, Dr. Thomas Wilson. Prof. J.T. Short and many others do not appear at all, and no reference to their writings can be found. These gentlemen have contributed as much to the advance of archaeology in this country as Dr. Thomas, and even more, and there is no reason why they should be ignored so completely.

If Nadaillac, a French author, and Nordjenskjold, a Swedish explorer and writer, know more more about North American archaeology than North American scholars themselves, it is time some one was waking up. But is this the case. There are books on prehistoric America written by gentlemen who have been familiar with the antiquities of America all their lives and have spent years in preparing them. Prof. Thomas does not seem to have read them, and as a result has fallen into some grievous errors. He says that the Effigy Builders of Wisconsin were composed of hostile tribes -- the stronger occupying the level and choice localities, while the weaker were forced to seek refuge in the rugged regions or amid the swamps and marshes, P If the author had done any exploring in that state among the effigies he would have known better, for the effigies are the clan totems of a tribe of Indians which made their habitat in this state, and who constructed the long mounds for game traps, through which they would drive the large game. He speaks also of the altar mounds of Ohio in the following terms: "These masses are supposed by some leading authorities to have been altars on which sacrifices were made, or some religious act performed"

There is," he says "no valid reason for this supposition or any evidence which seems to justify it. Every one knows that Prof. Putman, E. G. Squiers and all who have explored the altar mounds of Ohio, discovered that the altars were, many of them, filled with relics of various kinds, and even human bones, which had been offered as sacrifices, (probably to the sun) and that the relics, in the mounds themselves were full of an elaborate symbolism. This mistake of Dr. Thomas' comes from not having been long enough in the field to ascertain the facts. Another error is found on page 66. An iron chisel was found near by a skeleton in a layer at the bottom of a mound in Tennessee. The inference is that the mound had been built after the advent of the white man. A diagram given in the book, however, shows a central shaft of "alternate disc-shaped layers of burnt clay and ashes," which extends from the top to the very bottom of the mound, making it very probable that the iron chisel was an " intruded " relic.

Gen. Thruston, who has spent much time and money in exploring mounds and stone graves in Tennessee, finds no such evidence of the modern character of the mounds, but claims that they are pre-Columbian, the same as Prof. Putman does. Dr. Thomas has also his theories about the migrations of the Indian tribes from the north to the southward. Other gentlemen, who are as good authority as he is and have had favorable opportunities for studying the subject, hold an entirely different opinion; but their names are not mentioned. The fact is, that American Archaeology is in just that unsettled condition that no author who covers the whole ground, and advances his theories on all subjects as Dr. Thomas does, can be accepted as authority, and it is a great mistake that he should ignore the opinions of those who differ with him, and never mention their works, This mistake Dr. Thomas has made throughout his Introduction, otherwise than this the book furnishes a good summary of the subject. The author begins at the relics of the Eskimos and passes on southward. making three main divisions -- Arctic. Atlantic, and Pacific -- with sub-divisions. and includes nearly all of the pre-historic works, taking the monuments of Central America as the last to describe. The last part is devoted to the origin of central American civilization (and this is the best part).

He seems to have abandoned the position he once occupied, namely that it may have been introduced by way of the Pacific and Easter Islands from the Eastern Asiatic coast, and has adopted the theory that it was introduced from the northwest. In this he follows the lead of of the Chief of the Bureau, though there are many things to be said on the other side. It is to be hoped that this Introduction to North American archaeology will open the way to others to enter the field and to solve e the problem which are still unsettled. What is now needed is that some system should be adopted according to which the mass of facts which have already been gathered can be classified. and the relics and remains be arranged in such systematic order that one can see that archaeology is a science, and not a mass of unclassified facts.

European archaeologists are in advance of the Americans in this respect, for they have classified their material and have reached conclusions. which are admitted by all. There are advantages for the study of archaeology in America. the chief of which is that the geographical districts are so separate and distinct This is a point which Prof. O. T. Mason has brought out very clearly. He calls them cultural areas. If his classification could have been adopted it would certainly improve the book, but every author has his own plan. We commend this book to the public as the best " Introduction" to North American archaeology which has been written.

[No Author Given]

The Impact of Thomas's Synthesis

In all honesty, references to Thomas's synthesis after its publication are relatively rare. His classic work on the mound exploration continues to be cited and used to the present day. However, Thomas's summary was considered significant enough for a 1973 reprint for the Harvard Peabody Museum (see Sabloff's introduction).

In fact, this book has many useful features as a general introduction in its time. It presented the results of the earlier mound exploration work in a much more readible and accessible form.

The book shows the continuing development of a culture area concept (Arctic, Atlantic, and Pacific -- the latter including all of Mesoamerica as well as the Western United States). Its treatment of Native Americans as a group is no better than one might expect for the times, although the sometimes racist assumptions about intellectual development might be considered surprising from the person widely credited, and correctly so, with restoring the connections between these people and their great prehistoric achievements. At the same time, it is a serious mistake to classify Thomas with those 19th-century historians whose truly monumental racism bent the past. In the context of his times, Thomas was a progressive. His continued close association with W.J. McGee after the latter was forced out of the Smithsonian for his "pro-Indian" positions, among other things, was another indication of his willingness to take positions that must have been considered unfavorably by his superiors at the Smithsonian.

At the same time, there is little in this synthesis that represents new materials or new assessments of the facts already presented elsewhere. It is symptomatic that its illustrations were largely drawn from earlier works, and, indeed, much of the text was also recycled.

Later Books

After publication of the Introduction, Thomas participated in two summary works in collaboration with McGee. Both were in the series, History of North America, from George Barrie and Sons, Philadelphia:


Thomas, Cyrus in Conference with W.J. McGee

1903 The Indians of North America in Historic Times. History of North America series Vol. Two. George Barrie's Sons, Philadelphia.

McGee, W.J. and Cyrus Thomas

1905 Prehistoric North America. History of North America series, volume XIX.George Barrie & Sons, Philadelphia.

The first of these was published in the year that McGee resigned from the Smithsonian, and McGee is listed under as "Chief of the Department of Anthropology." In the second, 1905, work, McGee's affiliation was as Director of the St. Louis Public Museum, with his former titles at the Smithsonian also listed.

Like the earlier Introduction of 1898, much of the archaeological volume was completed by Thomas, within a framework apparently provided by McGee, but still recycling much in the way of old text and illustrations. The earlier volume on Native Americans in the historic period has been eclipsed by the later summaries of Swanton, but is not inferior to the more popular works presented by Swanton later on. As a work, it deserves more recognition than it has received.

Figure 16. National Museum of Natural History under construction

The new National Museum of Natural History was completed during the last years of Thomas's service. Apparently Thomas's long years of service gave him some protection at the Bureau of American Ethnology, where his only title was "Archaeologist." He continued to serve at that institution until his death in 1910.




1910 Cyrus Thomas. American Anthropologist 12:337-343.

Aton, James M., 1949-

1994 John Wesley Powell. Boise State University, Boise, Idaho.

Atwater, Caleb

1820 Description of the Antiquities Discovered in the States of Ohio and Other Western States. Archeologia Americana. Transactions and Collections, Vol. I American Antiquarian Society. Worcester, MA.

Conaway, John

1995 The Smithsonian: 150 Years of Adventure, Discovery, and Wonder. Smithsonian Press, Washington, D.C. [also posted on the Smithsonian home pages on the World Wide Web].

Darrah, William Culp

1951 Powell of the Colorado. Princeton University Press, Princeton.

Davis, John June

1913 The Cyrus Thomas Collection of Aphididae : and a Tabulation of Species Mentioned and Described in his Publications. Bulletin of the Illinois State Laboratory of Natural History (Illinois. Natural History Survey Division) 10: art. 2. Urbana, Ill.

Hallowell, A. I.

1960 The Beginnings of Anthropology in America. In Selected Papers from the American Anthropologist,1888-1920. ed. Frederica de Laguna,1-90. Evanston.

Harris, Marvin

1968 The Rise of Anthropological Theory. Thomas Y. Crowell Company, New York.

Holmes, William H.

1899. Review of Introduction to the Study of North American Archaeology, by Prof. Cyrus Thomas American Anthropologist, vol. 1, pp. 176-178.

Jennings, Jesse D.

1968 Prehistory of North America. McGraw-Hill, New York.

Jennings, J.D. and Edward Norbeck, editors

1964.. Prehistoric Man in the New World. University of Chicago Press, Chicago.

Jeter, Marvin, editor

1990 Edward Palmer's Arkansaw Mounds . The University of Arkansas Press, Fayetteville.

Jones, James Pickett

1995 "Black Jack,"John A. Logan and Southern Illinois in the Civil War Era. Southern Illinois University Press, Carbondale.

Judd, Neil M.

1967 The Bureau of Ethnology. A Partial History. University of Oklahoma Press, Norman.

Keel, Bennie C.

1970 Cyrus Thomas and the Mound Builders. Southern Indian Studies 22: 3-16.

McGee, W. J.

1897 Bureau of American Ethnology. In The Smithsonian Institution 1846-1896, edited by George Brown Goode. The Smithsonian Institution, Washington.

McGee, W.J. and Cyrus Thomas

1905 Prehistoric North America. History of North America series, volume XIX.George Barrie & Sons, Philadelphia.

McKusick, Marshall

1970 The Davenport Conspiracy. State Archaeologist of Iowa, Iowa City.

Martin, Paul S., George 1. Quimby, and Donald Collier.

1947 Indians Before Columbus. University of Chicago Press. Chicago.

Meadows, Paul.

1952 John Wesley Powell: Frontiersman of Science. University of Nebraska Studies, new ser., no. 10. The University of Nebraska, Lincoln, Neb.,

Meggers, Betty J., editor.

1968 Anthropological Archeology in the Americas. The Anthropological Society of Washington. Washington, D.C.

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