The Hopewell tradition
(also incorrectly called the "Hopewell culture") is the term used to describe common aspects of the Native American
culture that flourished along rivers in the northeastern and midwestern United States
from 200 BCE to 500 CE. The Hopewell tradition was not a single culture
or society, but a widely dispersed set of related populations, which 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 Southeastern United States
into the southeastern Canadian
shores of Lake Ontario
. 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 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
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.
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 into Ohio where they built upon the local Adena mortuary tradition. Or Hopewell was said to have originated in western Illinois and spread by diffusion, perhaps carried by a religious elite, to southern Ohio. Similarly, the Havana Hopewell tradition was thought to have spread up the Illinois River and into southwestern Michigan, spawning Goodall Hopewell. (Dancey 114)
Politics and heirarchy
The Hopewell inherited from their Adena forbearers an incipient social stratification. A social system for promoting inter-group relationships and adjusting to food shortages. This increases social stability and reinforces 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 it appears that hunters received a higher status in the community because their graves were more elaborate and contained more status goods. The Hopewell culture had leaders, but they were not like powerful rulers who could command armies of slaves and soldiers. It is likely these cultures 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 their positions on important matters such as trade and religion. They also perhaps were able to develop influence by the clever 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
Today, the best-known feature of Hopewell culture is the mounds that they built for religious/ burial purposes. It is known to be one of the most considerable achievements of Native Americans throughout the ancient past. These mounds, especially along the Ohio River valley, could take various geometric shapes and rise to impressive heights. Determining the function of the mounds is still under debate. Due to lack of evidence and poor condition of the mounds, little more information can be obtained. Bradley T. Lepper, Curator of Archaeology, Ohio Historical Society, has argued that the Octagonal mound complex at Newark, Ohio, is actually a lunar observatory which records the 18.6 year cycle of 'moonrises' and 'moonsets'. William F. Romain, Ph.D. has written a book on the subject and several articles. Ray Hively and Robert Horn of Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana were the first researchers to accurately analyze calendrical sightlines at the Newark Octagon (1982) and the High Bank earthworks (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, Christopher Turner demonstrated that the Hopeton Earthworks encode various sunrise and moonrise patterns, including the winter and summer solstices, the equinoxes, the cross quarter dates, the lunar maximum events, and the lunar minimum events.
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 flaky clear mineral), or stones. The Hopewell produced artwork in a greater variety and with more exotic materials then their predecessors, the Adena. 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. Some artwork even 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 wonderfully abstract and realistically realised portrayals of the human form. One tubular pipe is so realistic portrayed, we can tell the model was a achondroplastic (chondrodystropic) dwarf. Many other figurines give us details of dress, ornamentation, and even hairstyles. An example of their abstract human forms is the "Mica Hand" from the Hopewell Site in Ross Co Ohio. Delicately cut from a piece of mica, more than eleven inches long and 6 inches wide, it was more than likely worn, or carried for public viewing.
Local expressions of Hopewellian traditions
Aside from the more famous Ohio Hopewell, a number of other Middle Woodland period
cultures are known to the Hopewell Tradition and participated in the Hopewell Exchange Network.
Ohio Hopewell culture
The most spectacular Hopewell ceremonial sites are in the Scioto River Valley from Columbus, Ohio to Portsmouth, Ohio. These religious and political centers typically contain a burial mound and geometric earthwork complex that covers 10 to hundreds of acres and sparse; evidence of large resident populations is lacking. The Hopewell site, 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 Mound and Earthworks, and Story Mound. The Portsmouth Earthworks were constructed from 100 B.C to 500 A.D. It is a large ceremonial center located at the confluence of the Scioto and Ohio rivers. Part of this earthwork complex extends across the Ohio River 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. The third set of walls went to the northwest for an undetermined distance.
The Marksville culture
was a Hopewellian culture in the Lower Mississippi
valley, and Tensas
valley areas of Louisiana
. It evolved into the Baytown culture
and later the Coles Creek cultures
and Plum Bayou cultures
. It is named for the Marksville Mound Site
in Marksville, Louisiana
Swift Creek culture
The Swift Creek culture
was a Middle Woodland period
archaeological culture in Georgia
, South Carolina
, and Tennessee
dating to around 100-800 AD.
The Copena culture
was a Hopewellian culture in northern Alabama
, Mississippi and Tennessee
as well as in other sections of the surrounding region including Kentucky
. The Copena name is derived from the first three letter of copper and the last three letters of the mineral galena. Copper and galena artifacts are often associated with Copena burials.
Crab Orchard culture
During the Middle Woodland period the Crab Orchard culture
population increased from a dispersed and sparsely Early Woodland settlement pattern to one consisting of small and large base camps concentrated on terrace and floodplain landforms associated with the Ohio River
channel in southern Indiana
, southern Illinois
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 very reminiscent of Ohio Hopewellian enclosures.
A Hopewellian people in the Illinois River
valley and Mississippi River valley in Iowa, Illinois, and Missouri . They are ancestral to the groups which eventually became the Mississippian Culture of Cahokia and it's hinterlands.
The Toolesboro Site
is a group of seven burial mounds on a bluff overlooking the Iowa River
near where it joins the Mississippi River. The conical mounds were constructed between 100 BC and AD 200. At one time, there may have been as many as twelve mounds. 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 are the Kansas City Hopewell. The Renner site in Riverview, Kansas City, 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 site near Kansas City is close to the western limit of the Hopewell, "Hopewell" style pottery and stone tools, typical of the Illinois and Ohio River 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 St.Joseph, Missouri
. It is a multi-component site with Kansas City Hopewell (ca. AD 100 to 500) and Steed Kisker (ca. AD 1200) occupation.
Around AD 500 the Hopewell Exchange system seems to cease, moundbuilding stops, art forms were no longer produced. War is unlikely, and there is no evidence of fighting (even during the era). Colder climatic conditions could have driven animals north or west, as weather would have a detrimental effect on plant-life, drastically cutting the subsistence base for these foods. It's also possible the introduction of the bow and arrow caused stress on already depleted populations. The breakdown in societal organization could have been a result of full-scale agriculture. Scholars Dunnell and Greenlee suggest an idea of waste behavior. "They argue that energy was diverted from biological reproduction during a period when climate irregularities favored small families. As climate became predictable from year to year, energy was turned from waste behavior to food production" (Dancey 131). Still, the true reasoning of their evident dispersal is yet to be discovered, and much more knowledge is needed.