The “Hopewell Culture” Mounds

July 13, 2022

There are, apparently, more than 70 surviving earth mounds in Ohio. That number is impressive, is it not? That’s a lot of mounds! Sadly, there used to be so many more. Unfortunately, the desire for more arable land for the farmers, as well as the relentless encroach of “civilization,” meant the destruction of untold numbers of them.

Generally, there are two types of mounds: effigy mounds (mounds made to look like something, generally an animal of some kind) and other mounds which are often conical in shape (although sometimes elliptical) and are usually burial mounds. The Hopewell Culture National Historical Park includes several sites. The one I visited is called the Mound City Group. At this particular site there are 22 mounds of varying sizes all within an earthen wall that surrounds the site. At one time there were 24 mounds. (They know this both due to the notes of various archaeologists and also because there is now technology–laser and satellite–that allows one to see beneath the earth’s surface where structures once were.)

Interestingly, there is no evidence that a village or town once existed at this site. There was, however, evidence of various burials, including cremated remains. On top of these remains, elaborate mounds were then constructed. Included with some of the buried bodies were artifacts showing a great deal of artistry and made with materials sourced from hundreds or thousands of miles away.

I could go on and on giving details about these mounds and offering commentary, but here is one thing that boggles my mind. Although everyone now agrees that these great mounds and earthworks were created by indigenous Americans, no one really knows which tribe or tribes are responsible. Obviously, having occurred close to 2000 years ago, there was no written record. One thing we do know, however is this: there is no such thing as a Hopewell tribe. This name came about when, in the absence of a certifiable tribe or people, archaeologists named them after the person who happened to own the land at the time of the more recent discovery. Thus, these incredibly impressive creations, which clearly took an enormous amount of manpower, time, and great knowledge to build, were named after a white man who just happened to “own” the land on which these mounds were excavated in the 1800’s! How strange. I think it’s time to come up with a more fitting name, don’t you?

The largest conical mound in the group with a large oblong mound behind it and another conical mound in the background.
These three are the largest and may be connected in some way.
The earthen enclosure can be seen in the foregroud.
A closer view of the three large mounds in Mound City.
At least five of the current 22 mounds can be seen here.
The largest mound with the early morning sun shining brightly overhead.

About the Author

Cynthia Greb

Cynthia Greb is a writer, Nature lover, Dreamer, interfaith minister, and occasional artist. She has a great love for this beautiful planet and a deep connection to the ancient people who once lived so respectfully upon this Earth.
You can find her on Facebook, on YouTube, and occasionally on Instagram.

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