By James P. Scherz
Sept 23, 2015
From 8 to 10 Sept., 2015, I accompanied Wayne May, publisher of the Ancient American magazine from Colfax, Wisc., to survey a site across the Mississippi River from Navoo, Illinois. The site was on a flat area on the west bank, overlooking the prominent plain on the other side of the river, where the cit.v. of Navoo had been built and largely abandoned by the early Mormons in the early 1800s. Wayne was primarily interested in an anomaly of pure white sand which he and his colleagues had located and where they had done some exploratory excavation with a backhoe and bulldozer. The holes had been filled in, but the area of excavation was marked with wooden posts, which Wayne wanted to have surveyed with respect to the property comers of the land parcel. In the car, I had loaded my Total Station field survey instrument, along with its accompanying tripods and survey rods.
Figure 1 is an index map showing the location of the survey site. Figure 2 shows the location of the site of interest in Lee County, Iowa, across the Mississippi River from Navoo, Illinois. It also shows the location of a man-made ramp leading to an impressive group of Indian mounds on a ridge north of Navoo which we visited on 9 Sept. At the time, I only recorded the location of the base of the ramp, with my handheld GPS unit. I should have taken readings on all the mounds, but at the time did not realize that they might be important in our study. Figure 2 shows the location of this ramp, along with the GPS location of the area of white sand on the west side of the river. Also shown is the location of the Mormon Temple, which can be clearly seen from the survey site on the west side of the river.
Reportedly, the entire area where the city of Navoo was laid out once had impressive Indian mounds. On higher ground in the center of the largely abandoned city is the Mormon Temple and a large church. This prominent area on the east bank of the Mississippi River, near a natural ancient ford, was obviously important to the native people before the Mormons came to the area in the early 1800s. The Temple and a tall church with a spire (which we used for a precise survey reference point) are both clearly visible from the site west of the Mississippi River, where we surveyed. The topography suggests that the two sites may have once been important as a long-range calendar site, of the type we have been studying in Wisconsin for decades. (See Annex A.)
GPS (Global Positioning System) readings were also taken at the steps of the Temple, as well as where I set up my Total Station on the west bank (Sta. 1). The readings confirmed the suspicion that the anomaly of white sand on the west bank is directly west of the promontory where the Temple is located. The latitude values are, for all practical purposes, the same, and one would expect a person standing at the sand anomaly on the west bank would see the sun rise over the Temple on or near the equinoxes, something that can be easily checked. Furthermore, the crude location of the existing large mounds on the ridge north of Navoo, could also have marked an important sunrise as well as the rise of the moon at Minimum Northern Standstill (which could be used to set eclipse cycles). But the limited GPS data we took on 9 Sept. are insufficient to confirm this possibility. Local people with their own hand-held GPS units can take precise readings on all the mounds in this area for a later check of this possibility.
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