Hopewell Culture

.. different raw materials. These raw materials included copper (seemingly the choice metal of the people over gold and silver), stone, bone, and flint-knappers, specialists in mica and highly skilled ceramists. Ceramics underwent a change through time and were traded extensively. Normally they were tempered with gritty sand or pulverized limestone and paddled with a cord paddle or a wrapped stick.

There were squat jars used in burials that were smaller and thicker rimmed and diagonally hatched or crosshatched (1-2% of most finds), and conical or spherically expanding flat-based pots with a flared mouth, used for cooking and storage, generally a utilitarian ware. Rocker stamping done with seashells was a popular design along with geometric patterns. Designs below the neck were, as mentioned, geometric patterns, broad shallow grooves that were made with a dull pointed tool (antler or stone tool). Flamingo, spoonbill and duck were common motifs (possibly noting their importance as a subsistence base) and the design was emphasized by texturing the figure or the background using a rocker-stamp technique with shells in a zigzag fashion. Other than bird motifs, concentric circles, wavelike patterns and geometric designs are incised on the pottery. Vase-like shapes, rounded off square vessels and trapezoidal forms have been found. The pottery was traded throughout the interaction sphere, with particular designs being favored in various regions.

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Uses include storage of foods, cooking vessels, and mortuary objects (broken ritually, perhaps to release the “spirit” of the vessel). Other clay objects found are highly stylized and detailed figurines in human form. They give us an idea of typical dress, custom and hairstyle (mentioned above). Women wore short sleeved robes tied at the waist with a wide sash, animal skin boots as well as wrist and arm bands with patterns on them. Men wore leather bib-like shirts and a type of loincloth (also mentioned above). Figurines discovered depict a woman standing with an object broken in half in her two hands, a woman carrying an infant on her back, a woman sitting with her hand on her lap and one of a woman nursing an infant.

A male figurine depicts him sitting and holding a staff with two hands as if meditating. All of the peoples eyes are closed, evoking reflection and/or deep thought. They are highly lifelike and great attention to detail is paid as one can discern jewelry, headdress or hairstyle, clothing and ornament. The purpose of the figurines could be decoration or trade good evoking cultural values and norms. Pipestone, imported from Missouri was used for a variety of objects such as mortar and pestle, beads and small bowls.

However, its main use was for animal (sometimes human yet that was primarily an Adena feature) effigy platform pipes (sometimes made of clay). They consisted of a flat rectangular base with a hole through the middle and a very lifelike depiction of various animals on top. Effigies included that of birds of prey, beaver, frog (or toad), a cougar or wildcat, bear and heron. Some are just plain old bowls. A large hole was borne into the top and tobacco or other herbs were smoked.

Although I have not come across any speculation of why particular animals were chosen, I feel as though they are representative of particular clans or lineages, perhaps even moieties. Copper was the metal of choice for the Hopewell. It was imported from the Lake Superior region (along with silver). Copper was fashioned into rings, necklaces and bracelets, earspools, beads, panpipes, ax-heads, breast plates, masks and projectile points. Helmets were also made and decorated with antler and other objects.

It was fashioned by cold-working and heating, pounding it into sheets to be cut and shaped into various forms. These objects have been found in Tennessee, New York, Iowa and Missouri. Mica, as described above was used for various ornaments quite possibly even mirrors, was mined in the southern Appalachians. Obsidian, a glassy volcanic mineral obtained from Yellowstone, was professionally worked was made into large ceremonial bifaces as well as knives and other blades. Animal-related objects include turtle shells used for containers and such, sharks teeth, barracuda jaw, conch shells (used as containers and gorgets), and Busycon (giant sea snail, shell used for cups) were from the Gulf of Mexico along with alligator teeth and skulls.

Local freshwater pearls from mussels were used as beads for necklaces, anklets and armlets or were sewn onto clothing. Bear and wolf teeth from the Rocky Mountains were used as pendants or beads, as well as mandibles from these animals. In one burial, the mandible of a wolf was found inserted into a gap in a skeletons teeth. Many of these objects were found in the main Hopewell concentration areas of Illinois and Ohio. Galena, a type of lead ore was used to make face-paint. Recorded findings at a site name 22 different types of exotic materials, 16 of them being minerals, yet only two native to Ohio. Value in terms of manufacture and symbolic meaning went hand in hand, as these objects displayed high prestige among the people.

Several trading centers include Illinois, Scioto (Ohio), Missouri/Kansas, as well as other areas about the region. One researcher states that it was a big festival when the traders arrived home, there were games, dancing, food and music for two or three days, also stating that the Hopewell were less likely to be war-like, being more interested in trade. Reciprocity plays a role in exchange with the theory of the “Big Man.” These individuals were pillars of the community, possessing great wealth and prestige. They would acquire large amounts of goods and then lend them to others in times of need. The lend-ees would then be obligated to the “Big Man,” perhaps having to work harder to pay back the favor. This, along with burial customs is the overall effect of the Hopewell interaction sphere facilitating the so-called “Big Idea.” It was a philosophy, a way of life be it not all encompassing in the lives of distant trade partners, yet affecting them through ritual ceremonialism (in some areas as evidenced by presences of mounds) and trade-good manufacture. This dispersal reached Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, Missouri, New York, the Northeast and eastern Rocky Mountain states and into the deep south.

The best-known aspects of the Hopewell are their ceremonial and burial practices centering on earthworks and burial mounds. Earthworks included animal effigy mounds (coinciding with animal platform pipes. Correlation?), geometric shapes, and a particular recent find, the Great Hopewell Road. Found in Ohio, it runs from Newark to Chillicothe, in a straight line through swamps and streams, thought to be a spiritual or pilgrimage route, rather than one of trading. Burial mounds were usually enclosed by a raised embankment, symbolizing a sacred place. Earthworks were found in conjunction with burial mounds, near burial mounds or even distances away, some taking up hundreds of acres. The great “Serpent Mound” is a good example, yet is thought of as Adena. As for mortuary customs, three quarters of the bodies had been cremated, full fleshed burial was probably a privilege of higher ranked individuals, they were buried in full flexed position.

Structures called Charnel Houses were erected where the dead were de-fleshed and then taken for cremation. First, brush was cleared from the burial area, including trees and topsoil. Clay was then lain down and then an inch of sand that was compacted. A large wooden structure (some with no roofs, possibly to expose flesh to the elements for removal) was built, sometimes with smaller rooms inside to accommodate others or extra grave goods and furniture. Cremations were done in clay lined pits dug into the floor after the bodies had been stripped of flesh and left there or placed inside the log cabin structure. They were then surrounded by high-quality grave goods mentioned above, artisans or craftsmen being interred with large amounts of their medium of specialty or trade including pearls, mica and obsidian.

One mound was found with 12,000 pearls, 35,000 pearl beads, 20,000 shell beads, nuggets of copper, meteoric iron, silver, sheets of hammered gold and copper, and iron beads. These houses were left standing or were burnt down and then covered with a mound taking up to and including one million basket-fulls of earth. This was done periodically, layering burial on top of burial, perhaps indicating lineage, that it was that clans mound. Some of the skeletons had copper noses affixed to their skulls (nasal cavities). The mounds were probably reserved for those in high status positions, sizes ranging from ten to fifty feet high and larger. The number of these earthworks in Ohio alone reaches 10,000, however, many have been lost in this and other areas due to plowing and erosion.

The Hopewell decline is as much a mystery as its origins and practices. The Hopewell exchange systems seem to have deteriorated around AD 500; Moundbuilding ceased, art forms were no longer produced. War and mass murder is unlikely, for there is no evidence for fighting (none even during the era). Perhaps it was the decimation of big-game herds of buffalo, deer and elk due to the technology of the bow and arrow. Support for this theory lies in the disappearance of atl-atl weights around the same time as the collapse. This, in conjunction with colder climatic conditions could have driven the animals north or west, as weather would have a detrimental effect on plant-life, drastically cutting the subsistence base for these foods.

Along with this, food production of maize and other hardier plants would have been more important than trading exotic goods. Another theory suggests that they eventually dispersed for unknown reasons, moving perhaps south, integrating with the Mississippian culture or to the northeast, lending to the ancestral Iroquois theory. Whatever the case may be, the Hopewell have left their indelible mark on Ancient Native North American Culture in a way Archaeologists and Historians have never encountered. Bibliography Fagan, Brian M. Ancient North America 1995 (revised) Thames and Hudson Ltd., London.

Jennings, Jesse D. Prehistory of North America 1968 McGraw-Hill Inc., New York. Spencer, Robert F. / Jesse D. Jennings The Native Americans (second edition) 1977 Harper and Row, Publishers, New York. Ceram, C.W.

The First American 1971 Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc., New York “Recent Fieldwork at Hopewell Culture National Historic Park” www.nps.gov/hocu/recent%20fieldwork.htm Home Page for Jackson, Jennifer M. www.ucsu.colorado.edu/~jacksoj/ Archaeology: Woodland 3: Hopewell www.uiowa.edu/~anthro/webcourse/naarch/hopewell.ht m Research finds Hopewell Indians were in park www.wcinet.com/th/News/010398/Front/90294.htm Woodland Period www.uiowa.edu/~osa/cultural/wood.htm.