Studied since the discovery of the conspicuous mounds in Ross County Ohio, the
Hopewell have been an archaeological enigma to many. The tradition is so named for
the owner of the farm, Captain Hopewell, where over thirty mounds were discovered.
Earlier studies focused more on the exotic grave goods such as precious metals,
freshwater pearls, many of these objects had come from all corners of the continent from
the Rocky Mountains to the Gulf of Mexico, and north to the mid-Atlantic coastline
(some say Hopewellian influence reached Nova Scotia). Earlier scholars of the
Hopewell (1950s through 1960s) were well aware of the influence of the Interaction
Sphere, yet concluded that the Hopewell, in terms of lifestyle were a cult and had no
influence on daily life. Later studies suggest otherwise, as more and more information
surfaces along with new insightful interpretations.
It is widely accepted that the Hopewell are the next generation of the Adena.
That is to say that the Adena gave rise to the Hopewell, who had, as speculated migrated
into the Ohio River Valley from Illinois. The Hopewell have been described as a more
elaborate and flamboyant version of the Adena. Whether the Hopewell overpowered the
Adena or simply mingled with and mixed into the culture, is not certain, yet there has
been no evidence of warfare to support the former. The result was a cultural explosion
encompassing a vast majority of North America east of the Rocky Mountains to the
The Hopewell flourished in the Middle Woodland from 200 B.
C. to AD 500.
The environment was nearly what it is today. Temperate with lakes, streams, wetlands
and flood-plains, the people took advantage of the seasonal weather in the Ohio River
Valley via foraging as well as hunting and gathering. The cultivation of domestic strains
of beans and maize was well on its way as it was implemented in small amounts,
catching on later in the time period. The vegetation was a prairie/forest mix of deciduous
trees, walnut, oak, various grasses and shrub.
The fauna of the region included many
species of waterfowl, turkey and other species in great abundance that are found today
(perhaps in more abundance than found today). Larger fauna included buffalo, bison,
deer, and elk and smaller animals such as rodents, raccoons, beaver and the like. Aquatic
life included freshwater mussels and clams, many fishes (bass, catfish, etc.) and turtles.
As we will see, the people made abundant use of these flora and fauna as food, clothing,
container, ceremonial and ornamental objects. As for changes through time in the
environment, it is theorized (by some) that it did in fact shift to a wetter one, perhaps
driving the people to higher ground or otherwise drier climates.
Core settlement, as noted was along the Ohio River and its estuaries on
flood-plains, as well as on or near wetlands. Major areas of population density include
Newark and Chillicothe as well as Marietta. These areas provided a lush environment of
flora and fauna species that were widely exploited over the centuries by the inhabitants.
Living quarters, although scarcely studied, consist of scatterings of small villages with
larger settlements located near and around major mound complexes. Some of these
smaller villages seem to have been occupied seasonally while settlement was more than
likely permanent in the larger loci surrounding the mounds. Some dwellings have been
found to consist of saplings stuck into the ground in a circle, brought together in the
center and covered with elm bark or mats of woven grasses.
Post molds from various
areas in Ohio and Illinois indicate oval patterns as well as rectangular long-houses with
rounded corners. Larger houses ranged from 18 to 25 feet long and one was as large as
44×48 feet, suggesting a large gathering place, perhaps for trading, council meetings or
The dress of the people reflected their beliefs, trading practices and even wealth.
Ornaments were worn head to foot. Womens hair were pinned back with dowels of
wood or bone in a bun or knot and a long sort of ponytail. When nursing, women wore
their hair braided and tied up in a shorter ponytail that was held together by a mesh or
Typical male hairstyle was a sort of mohawk on top with their hair pulled
back into a bun in the back. As for male dress, a warrior wore a loincloth of dyed
material with patterns on it (resembling a diaper; for .