The HOPEWELL TRADITION (also called the HOPEWELL CULTURE) describes
the common aspects of the Native American culture that flourished
along rivers in the northeastern and midwestern
United States from 200
BC to 500 AD , in the
Middle Woodland period . The Hopewell tradition
was not a single culture or society, but a widely dispersed set of
related populations. They were connected by a common network of trade
routes, known as the Hopewell exchange system.
At its greatest extent, the Hopewell exchange system ran from the
United States as far south as the Crystal River Indian
Mounds into the southeastern Canadian shores of
Lake Ontario in the
north. Within this area, societies participated in a high degree of
exchange with the highest amount of activity along waterways. The
Hopewell exchange system received materials from all over what is now
the United States. Most of the items traded were exotic materials and
were received by people living in the major trading and manufacturing
areas. These people then converted the materials into products and
exported them through local and regional exchange networks. The
objects created by the Hopewell exchange system spread far and wide
and have been seen in many burials outside the Midwest.
* 1 Origins
* 2 Politics and hierarchy
* 3 Mounds
* 4 Artwork
* 5 Local expressions of Hopewellian traditions
Crab Orchard culture
* 5.4 Goodall focus
Havana Hopewell culture
Kansas City Hopewell
* 5.7 Laurel complex
* 5.9 Miller culture
* 5.10 Montane Hopewell
Ohio Hopewell culture
* 5.12 Point Peninsula complex
* 5.13 Saugeen complex
Swift Creek culture
* 5.15 Wilhelm culture
* 6 Cultural decline
* 7 See also
* 8 Further reading
* 9 References
* 10 External links
Although the origins of the Hopewell are still under discussion, the
Hopewell culture can also be considered a cultural climax.
Hopewell populations originated in western New York and moved south
Ohio , where they built upon the local Adena mortuary tradition.
Or, Hopewell was said to have originated in western
spread by diffusion ... to southern Ohio. Similarly, the Havana
Hopewell tradition was thought to have spread up the
and into southwestern Michigan, spawning Goodall Hopewell. (Dancey
The name "Hopewell" was applied by
Warren K. Moorehead after his
explorations of the Hopewell Mound Group in Ross County, Ohio, in 1891
and 1892. The mound group itself was named for the family who owned
the earthworks at the time. What any of the various groups now defined
as Hopewellian called themselves is unknown.
POLITICS AND HIERARCHY
The Hopewell inherited from their Adena forebears an incipient social
stratification . This increased social stability and reinforced
sedentism, social stratification, specialized use of resources, and
probably population growth. Hopewell societies cremated most of their
deceased and reserved burial for only the most important people. In
some sites, hunters apparently received a higher status in the
community because their graves were more elaborate and contained more
The Hopewellian peoples had leaders, but they were not like powerful
rulers who could command armies of slaves and soldiers. These
cultures likely accorded certain families a special place of
privilege. Some scholars suggest that these societies were marked by
the emergence of "big-men ". These leaders acquired their position
because of their ability to persuade others to agree with them on
important matters such as trade and religion. They also perhaps were
able to develop influence by the creation of reciprocal obligations
with other important members of the community. Whatever the source of
their status and power, the emergence of "big-men" was another step
toward the development of the highly structured and stratified
sociopolitical organization called the chiefdom .
Hopewell mounds from the
Mound City Group in
Today, the best-surviving features of the
Hopewell tradition era are
mounds built for uncertain purposes. Great geometric earthworks are
one of the most impressive Native American monuments throughout
American prehistory. Eastern Woodlands mounds have various geometric
shapes and rise to impressive heights. The gigantic sculpted
earthworks often took the shape of animals, birds, or writhing
serpents. The function of the mounds is still under debate. Due to
considerable evidence and surveys, plus the good survival condition of
the largest mounds, more information can be obtained.
Several scientists, including Dr. Bradley T. Lepper, Curator of
Ohio Historical Society , hypothesize that the Octagon
earthwork at Newark,
Ohio , was a lunar observatory oriented to the
18.6-year cycle of minimum and maximum lunar risings and settings on
the local horizon. Dr. John Eddy completed an unpublished survey in
1978, and proposed a lunar major alignment for the Octagon. Ray Hively
and Robert Horn of
Earlham College in
Richmond, Indiana , were the
first researchers to analyze numerous lunar sightlines at the Newark
Earthworks (1982) and the High Banks Works (1984) in Chillicothe, Ohio
. Christopher Turner noted that the Fairground Circle in Newark, Ohio
aligns to the sunrise on May 4, i.e. that it marked the May
cross-quarter sunrise. In 1983, Turner demonstrated that the Hopeton
earthworks encode various sunrise and moonrise patterns, including the
winter and summer solstices , the equinoxes , the cross-quarter days ,
the lunar maximum events, and the lunar minimum events.
William F. Romain has written a book on the subject of "astronomers,
geometers, and magicians" at the earthworks.
Many of the mounds also contain various types of burials.
The Hopewell created some of the finest craftwork and artwork of the
Americas. Most of their works had some religious significance, and
their graves were filled with necklaces, ornate carvings made from
bone or wood, decorated ceremonial pottery , ear plugs, and pendants.
Some graves were lined with woven mats, mica (a mineral consisting of
thin glassy sheets), or stones. The Hopewell produced artwork in a
greater variety and with more exotic materials than their predecessors
Grizzly bear teeth, fresh water pearls , sea shells,
sharks' teeth, copper and even small quantities of silver were turned
into beautifully crafted pieces. The Hopewell artisans were expert
carvers of pipestone, and many of the mortuary mounds are full of
exquisitely carved statues and pipes. The Mound of Pipes at Mound
City produced over 200 stone smoking pipes depicting animals and birds
in well-realized three-dimensional form, and the Tremper Site in
Scioto County produced over 130. Some artwork went beyond the
ordinary exotic, as Hopewell artists were expert carvers of human
bone. A rare mask from Mound City was created using a human skull as a
face plate. Hopewell artists created both abstract and realistic
portrayals of the human form. One tubular pipe is so realistically
portrayed that the model was identified as an achondroplastic
(chondrodystropic ) dwarf . Many other figurines give details of
dress, ornamentation, and hairstyles . An example of their abstract
human forms is the "
Mica Hand" from the Hopewell Site in Ross County,
Ohio . Delicately cut from a piece of mica, more than 11 inches long,
and 6 inches wide, the hand piece was likely worn or carried for
Carved mica hand, Hopewell Mounds
Hopewell pipe, points, and earspool on display at
Raven effigy pipe, Mound City
Otter effigy pipe, Mound City
Bird figure, Tremper Mounds
Copper spider(?) from a Ross County mound
Bird head carved on bone, Hopewell Mounds
Repoussé copper falcon, Mound City
Repoussé copper falcon at
American Museum of Natural History
Pot with a bird design, Hopewell site
LOCAL EXPRESSIONS OF HOPEWELLIAN TRADITIONS
Aside from the more famous
Ohio Hopewell, a number of other Middle
Woodland period cultures are known to have been involved in the
Hopewell tradition and participated in the Hopewell exchange network.
Armstrong culture was a Hopewell group in the Big Sandy River
Valley of northeastern Kentucky and western
West Virginia from 1 to
500 AD. They are thought to have been a regional variant of the
Hopewell tradition or a Hopewell-influenced
Middle Woodland group who
had peacefully mingled with the local Adena peoples. Archaeologist
Dr. Edward McMichael characterized them as an intrusive Hopewell-like
trade culture or a vanguard of Hopewellian tradition that had probably
peacefully absorbed the local Adena in the
Kanawha River Valley. Their
culture and very Late Adena (46PU2) is currently thought to have
slowly evolved into the later Buck Garden people.
Copena culture was a Hopewellian culture in northern
Tennessee , as well as in other sections of the
surrounding region including Kentucky. The Copena name is derived from
the first three letters of copper and the last three letters of the
mineral galena .
Copper and galena artifacts are often associated with
CRAB ORCHARD CULTURE
Crab Orchard culture
Middle Woodland period, the Crab Orchard culture
population increased from a dispersed and sparsely settled Early
Woodland pattern to one consisting of small and large base camps.
These were concentrated on terrace and floodplain landforms associated
Ohio River channel in southern
Indiana , southern
and northwestern and western Kentucky. In the far western limits of
Crab Orchard culture is the O\'byams Fort site , a large tuning
fork-shaped earthwork reminiscent of
Ohio Hopewell enclosures.
Examples of a type of pottery decoration found at the Mann site are
also known from Hopewell sites in
Ohio (such as Seip earthworks,
Rockhold, Harness, and Turner ), as well as from Southeastern sites
with Hopewellian assemblages such as the Miner's Creek site, Leake
Mounds , 9HY98, and Mandeville in Georgia, and the Yearwood site in
The Goodall focus occupied Michigan and northern
Indiana from around
200 BCE to 500 CE. The Goodall pattern stretched from the southern tip
Lake Michigan , east across northern Indiana, to the
then northward, covering central Michigan, almost reaching to Saginaw
Bay on the east and
Grand Traverse Bay to the north. The culture is
named for the Goodall site in northwest Indiana.
HAVANA HOPEWELL CULTURE
Havana Hopewell culture was a Hopewellian people in the Illinois
River and Mississippi River valleys in
Iowa , Illinois, and Missouri.
They are ancestral to the groups which eventually became the
Mississippian culture of
Cahokia and its hinterlands.
The Toolesboro site is a group of seven burial mounds on a bluff
Iowa River near where it joins the Mississippi River.
The conical mounds were constructed between 100 BCE and 200 CE. At one
time, as many as 12 mounds may have existed. Mound 2, the largest
remaining, measures 100 feet in diameter and 8 feet in height. This
mound was possibly the largest Hopewell mound in Iowa.
KANSAS CITY HOPEWELL
At the western edge of the Hopewell interaction sphere is the Kansas
City Hopewell . The Renner Village archeological site in Riverside,
Missouri , is one of several sites near the junction of Line Creek and
the Missouri River. The site contains Hopewell and Middle
Mississippian remains. The Trowbridge archeological site near Kansas
City is close to the western limit of the Hopewell, "Hopewell-style"
pottery and stone tools, typical of the
Valleys, are abundant at the Trowbridge site, and decorated
Hopewell-style pottery rarely appears further west. The Cloverdale
site is situated at the mouth of a small valley that opens into the
Missouri River Valley, near
Saint Joseph, Missouri . It is a
multicomponent site with
Kansas City Hopewell (around 100 to 500 CE)
Steed-Kisker (around 1200 CE) occupation.
The Laurel complex was a Native American culture in southern
southern and northwestern
Ontario , and east-central
Canada and northern Michigan , northwestern
Wisconsin and northern
Minnesota in the United States. They were the first pottery-using
Ontario north of the
Trent-Severn Waterway . The complex is
named after the former unincorporated community of Laurel,
Marksville culture was a Hopewellian culture in the Lower
Mississippi valley, Yazoo valley, and Tensas valley areas of Louisiana
, Mississippi, Missouri, and
Arkansas . It evolved into the Baytown
culture and later the Coles Creek and Plum Bayou cultures. It is named
Marksville Prehistoric Indian Site in Marksville,
Miller and Copena cultures
The Miller culture was a Hopewellian culture located in the upper
Tombigbee River drainage areas of southwestern Tennessee, northeastern
Mississippi, and west-central Alabama, best known from excavations at
Pinson Mounds ,
Bynum Mounds , Miller (type site ), and Pharr
Mounds sites. The culture is divided chronologically into two
phases, Miller 1 and Miller 2, with a later Miller 3 belonging to the
Woodland period . Some sites associated with the Miller culture,
Ingomar Mound and
Pinson Mounds on its western periphery,
built large platform mounds . Archaeologist speculate the mounds were
for feasting rituals and that they fundamentally differed from later
Mississippian culture platform mounds which were mortuary and
substructure platforms. By then end of the Late Woodland period,
about 1000, the Miller culture area was absorbed into the succeeding
The Montane Hopewell on the
Tygart Valley area, an upper branch of
Monongahela River , of northern
West Virginia , are similar to
Armstrong. The pottery and cultural characteristics are also similar
Ohio Hopewell. They occurred during the neighboring Watson
through Buck Garden periods to their south and westerly in the state.
Montane Hopwell are of a considerable distance variant from Cole
Culture and Peters Phase or Hopewell central Ohio. However, this
Hopewellian arrival of a particular small, conical mound religion
appears to be also waning to the daily living activities at these
sites according to Dr McMichael. This period begins a rapid fading
away of influence by an elite priest cult burial phase centered
towards the Midwest states.
OHIO HOPEWELL CULTURE
Adena culture OHIO HOPEWELL
200 BCE-500 CE Succeeded by
Map of the Archaeological Cultures of
The greatest concentration of Hopewell ceremonial sites is in the
Scioto River Valley (from Columbus to Portsmouth,
Ohio ) and adjacent
Paint Creek, centered on Chillicothe, Ohio. These cultural centers
typically contain a burial mound and a geometric earthwork complex
that covers ten to hundreds of acres and sparse settlements; evidence
of large resident populations is lacking at the monument complexes.
Hopewell Culture National Historical Park
Hopewell Culture National Historical Park , encompassing mounds
for which the culture is named, is in the Paint Creek Valley just a
few miles from Chillicothe, Ohio. Other earthworks in the Chillicothe
area include Hopeton , Mound City , Seip Earthworks and Dill Mounds
District , High Banks Works , Liberty,
Cedar-Bank Works , Anderson,
Frankfort , Dunlap, Spruce Hill , and Story Mound . When colonial
settlers first crossed the Appalachians, after almost a century and a
half in North America, they were astounded at these monumental
constructions, some reaching as high as 70 feet. The Portsmouth
Earthworks were constructed from 100 BCE to 500 CE. It is a large
ceremonial center located at the confluence of the Scioto and Ohio
Rivers. Part of this earthwork complex extends across the
into Kentucky. The earthworks included a northern section consisting
of a number of circular enclosures, two large, horseshoe-shaped
enclosures, and three sets of parallel-walled roads leading away from
this location. One set of walls went to the southwest and may have
linked to a large square enclosure located on the Kentucky side of the
Ohio River. Another set went to the southeast, where it crossed the
Ohio River and continued to the Biggs site , a complicated circular
enclosure surrounding a conical mound. The third set of walls went to
the northwest for an undetermined distance, in the direction of the
Tremper site .
POINT PENINSULA COMPLEX
The Point Peninsula complex was a Native American culture located in
Ontario and New York during the
Middle Woodland period, thought to
have been influenced by the Hopewell traditions of the
valley. This influence seems to have ended about 250 CE, after which
burial ceremonialism was no longer practiced.
The Saugeen complex was a Native American culture located around the
southeast shores of
Lake Huron and the
Bruce Peninsula , around the
London area, and possibly as far east as the Grand River . Some
evidence exists that the Saugeen complex people of the Bruce Peninsula
may have evolved into the
Odawa people (Ottawa).
SWIFT CREEK CULTURE
Swift Creek culture was a
Middle Woodland period archaeological
culture in Georgia, Alabama, Florida, South Carolina, and Tennessee
dating to around 100-700 CE.
The Wilhelm culture (1 to 500 CE), Hopewellian influenced, appeared
in the northern panhandle of West Virginia. They were contemporaneous
to Armstrong central on the Big Sandy valley nearly 200 miles
downstream on the
Ohio River. They were surrounded by peoples who made
the Watson-styled pottery, with a Z-twist cordage finished surface.
Wilhelm pottery was similar to Armstrong pottery, but not as well
made. Pipe fragments appear to be the platform-base type. Small
mounds were built around individual burials in stone-lined graves
(cists). These were covered over together under a single large mound.
Little studied are their four reported village sites, which appear
to have been abandoned by about 500 CE. Today, new local researchers
are looking at this area period and may provide future insight.
Sinnissippi Mounds , Sinnissippi Park, Sterling,
Around 500 CE, the Hopewell exchange ceased, mound building stopped,
and art forms were no longer produced. War is a possible cause, as
villages dating to the Late
Woodland period shifted to larger
communities; they built defensive fortifications of palisade walls and
ditches. Colder climatic conditions could have also driven game
animals north or west, as weather would have a detrimental effect on
plant life, drastically cutting the subsistence base for these foods.
The introduction of the bow and arrow , by improving hunts, may have
caused stress on already depleted food populations. The breakdown in
societal organization could also have been the result of full-scale
agriculture. Conclusive reasons for the evident dispersal of the
people have not yet been determined. Much more knowledge is needed.
Adena culture HOPEWELL TRADITION
200 BCE-500 CE Succeeded by
List of Hopewell sites
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