National Park Service


Date of this Version



Hopewell Archeology: The Newsletter of Hopewell Archeology in the Ohio River Valley Volume 7, Number 1, December 2006


1. Excavation of the East Embankment Wall, Hopewell Mound Group: A Preliminary Report

There are many famous and well known earthen enclosure sites in southern Ohio, but none has greater name recognition than the Hopewell site itself. With at least 40 mounds, the site is impressive enough, but the presence of more than 4 km of earth and stone embankment walls forming one large enclosure and several smaller ones makes this site clearly worthy of being the type site for this famous epoch in the archaeological record. The site has been greatly modified by nearly two hundred years of cultivation and three major archaeological excavations, but much of the site still has the potential for productive research. This paper summarizes a recent excavation aimed at recording the materials and construction methods of the eastern wall of the main enclosure. Although the embankment walls at the Hopewell Mound Group have fascinated archaeologists for nearly two centuries, this is only the second attempt to document the nature of the earthen wall and ditch.

The first description of the Hopewell Mound Group was provided by Caleb Atwater (1820), who estimated the area within the large enclosure at 110 acres. Atwater observed that it is ”generally twelve feet from the bottom to the summit of the wall, which is of earth. The ditch is about twenty feet wide, and the base of the wall the same. There is no ditch on the side next the river. The small work, on the east side, contains sixteen acres, and the walls are like those of the larger work, but there is no ditch. The largest circular work, which consists of a wall and ditch like those already described, is a sacred enclosure, including within it six mounds, which have been used as cemeteries” (Atwater 1820: 183).

Squier and Davis (1848) described the main enclosure as a parallelogram, 2800 feet by 1800 feet with one rounded corner. They note that the wall along the creek follows the edge of the bank, and contains a lot of water rounded cobbles. The wall along the creek was 4 ft. high in 1846. The north and east walls are 6 feet high and 35 ft. wide at base with an exterior ditch of similar dimensions.

W.K. Moorehead (1922) conducted excavations at the Hopewell Mound Group in 1891 and 1892 for the World’s Columbian Exposition and produced some of the earliest photographs of the site, including this image (Figure 1) of the field camp adjacent to the embankment wall and ditch. Moorehead’s report was not published until 1922, and his published map and description of the mound group rely heavily on the description provided by Squier and Davis (1848).

H.C. Shetrone conducted additional excavations for the Ohio Archaeological and Historical Society from 1922 though 1925. Shetrone described changes in the site since Moorehead’s research, and also discrepancies between what he observed and what previous researchers had reported. Shetrone took note that at the Turner Works near Cincinnati, F.W. Putnam found burials and other features had been incorporated into and under the earthen embankment walls. In addition to excavating mounds, Shetrone conducted exploratory excavations in the walls at the Hopewell Mound Group to determine if similar materials might be present.

2. Archeological Data Recovery Field Investigations at Site 33RO1059

In June and July 2006, a team from the Midwest Archeological Center conducted field investigations for an archeological data recovery project at site 33RO1059. They were assisted by Hopewell Culture National Historical Park (HOCU) personnel and by students from Nebraska, Virginia, Ohio, and Illinois, who participated in the project as part of the University of Nebraska’s archeological field school, directed by Dr. Mark Lynott. Additional expertise was provided to the project by Dr. John Weymouth, Dr. Rinita Dalan, Bruce Bevin, and Dr. Rolfe Mondell; respectively, they conducted gradiometer survey oversight and data analysis; a magnetic soil susceptibility study; additional geophysical survey; and a geomorphological study.

Site 33RO1059 is non-earthwork Hopewell site that is located adjacent to the extensive earthwork complex—the Hopewell site (33RO27). Part of HOCU’s Hopewell Mound Group unit, site 33RO1059 is situated in a formerly cultivated field on an alluvial terrace overlooking the North Fork of Paint Creek to the south. The project was initiated because archeological resources were being threatened by the erosion occurring along the southern edge of the field and the National Park Service determined it was necessary to protect the site from additional damage. Site management alternatives included mitigation of impacts through mechanical stabilization or excavation. The latter was chosen because it would prevent the loss of site resources through data collection, but would not require the extensive amount of ground disturbance necessary for the construction alternative or impact natural stream dynamics.

3. Development of a Protocol to Detect and Classify Colorants in Archaeological Textiles and its Application to Selected Prehistoric Textiles from Seip Mound in Ohio. PhD Dissertation, The Ohio State University, Columbus Ohio, 2005

The goal of this dissertation research was the development of a protocol to study colorants applied to archaeological perishable materials such as textiles even if these colors are no longer visible to the unaided eye. The protocol is composed of a sequence of non-destructive or minimally destructive methods designed to yield a classification of the colorants that were used prehistorically as inorganic or organic and pigment or dye. This protocol was then applied to selected textiles from Hopewellian Seip Mound Group in southern Ohio to test its effectiveness on actual artifacts.

The protocol consists of a succession of analytical methods that have been adapted to be used with very small sample sizes. If these are sequenced properly, the efficacy of the protocol is further optimized, thereby maximizing the acquisition of critical data while minimizing the need for large amounts of sampling material, and thus preserving the integrity of the artifacts.

The methods used were forensic photography using different lighting conditions (simulated daylight, infrared and ultraviolet), optical and scanning electron microscopy with energy dispersive X-ray analysis (EDS), and inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICPMS) for elemental analysis. All methods were first tested on replicated materials thereby establishing suitable parameters for their application to archaeological textiles. During the course of working with the replicas, limitations of the analytical methods were discovered and addressed for their use on archaeological materials, i.e. a limited quantity of material with an unknown chemical composition. These materials have potentially undergone degradation processes and could have been exposed to a variety of contaminants, which all must be considered during the analysis. For example, the digestion of the sampled material for the ICP was refined and a more appropriate instrument was selected based on the results of working with the replicas.