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About the Hopewell

The Hopewells developed a more sophisticated community structure that included different levels of importance/authority in order to enhance their society; implement effective agricultural methods to farm the land (they were the first to do this), and improve hunting capability and results. With centralized forms of community government, they could bring together large numbers of people to work on important construction projects, such as major mounds and fortifications.

Groups within the culture created their own marketable products from local resources, either grown or mined from the earth. These items were then traded or sold to other groups within the Hopewell area of influence. The information we have about the Hopewells has been gleaned from the discovery of many of these artifacts.

Many sites in Ohio have produced treasured artifacts. In Shelby County these finds include points (arrowheads and spearheads) made from flint and chert, tools, pestles (used to grind grains), and jewelry. Rotted wood can tell an archeologist the location of houses or villages while seeds of corn, beans, squash and pumpkins in waste pits illustrate their agricultural practices.

Pottery is one of the most important items for studying prehistoric people because it lasts for thousands of years and can be reassembled after it’s broken. Distinctive decorating can help identify how people from one place traded with another.

The full grooved axes at right range from three inches to those weighing several pounds. Made mostly from granatic stone of glacial origin, some slate or hematite was also used. Various bell pestles are shown below. 

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Mound City is located on the west bank of the Scioto River four miles north of Chillicothe, Ohio. According to Robert Converse, Mound City, along with the Hopewell Farm, are the only sites of their kind. This is a copy of his drawing that appeared in the fall, 1993, issue of "Ohio Archeologist."

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Artifacts, Tools and Mounds

Indian Art
An important piece of Indian art known as a Popeyed birdstone was found in 1935 in Franklin Township of Shelby County, Ohio. It is now in the collection of a Sidney resident and Indian artifact collector, Ron Helman.

Other Ohio sites have produced a multitude of artifacts, including axes, works of art, and stone pendants worn as adornments. An effigy pipe is a pottery handicraft that was used for smoking tobacco and resembled real creatures. They were made from what is called Ohio pipe stone, a clay found in the Scioto River valley that can be easily carved and baked.

The most important tools were made from flint and bones. Large pieces of flint could be used to cut down small trees and strip bark from large ones. Sharp flint pieces were tied to sticks to make arrows or attached to long sticks to make spears for hunting. The Indians had a number of Ohio sites where flint was mined to create points. In Logan County, a stone material known as "chert" was also mined to produce points.

Mound Builders
The average height for Hopewell males in Ohio was 5 feet 9 inches. Both the Adena and the Hopewell (‘Mound Builders’) left us a legacy of Indian mounds that are today considered treasures of the past.

Mounds located near Shelby County, Ohio, include the Miamisburg Mound and a mound located on Johnston Farm in Piqua. The Johnston Farm earthworks are believed to have been constructed by the Adena people about two thousand years ago for ceremonial purposes. It is intact and can be viewed by museum visitors today.

The Miamisburg Mound is the largest conical burial mound in the state of Ohio and possibly in the eastern U. S. Archaeological investigations of the surrounding area suggest that it was constructed by the prehistoric Adena Indians. Built on a 100-foot-high bluff, the mound measures 877 feet in circumference. It was originally more than 70 feet high.

Other important mounds in Ohio include the Serpent Mound, one of the few effigy mounds in the state, it is also the largest and finest serpent effigy in the United States. Nearly a quarter of a mile long, Serpent Mound apparently represents an uncoiling serpent. Moundbuilders State Memorial preserves the Great Circle earthwork built by the Hopewell culture approximately 2,000 years ago. It is one part of the Newark Earthworks which was the largest system of connected geometric earthworks built anywhere in the world.

Fort Ancient features 18,000 feet of earthen walls built 2,000 years ago by Indians who used the shoulder blades of deer, split elk antler, clam shell hoes and digging sticks to dig the dirt. At 3 1/2 miles long, it is the longest prehistoric mound in the United States. The Ohio Historical Society operates a museum at this site which tells the Indian story from prehistoric times to modern day.

Although not a ‘mound’, important excavation work is underway at Dayton’s Sunwatch Village which has thus far uncovered evidence of 23 Indian lodges on its five acres of ground.

Some authentic mounds have been found in Shelby County, while other geologic formations in our county have been inadvertently ascribed as mounds. As the current second millennium A.D. began, the Hopewells gradually disappeared from Ohio, leaving it devoid of habitation; but, in areas throughout much of the eastern United States and the Midwest, they were replaced by the Mississippi Culture. This culture was an even more advanced society that constructed immense mounds requiring the movement of up to one million cubic yards of soil. These mounds took as much as five million man-hours to complete.

'Indian' segment written in December, 1997 by David Lodge


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