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Hopewell Culture National Historic Park

small state map showing location

Chillicothe, Ohio

GIF-Picture and text about Mound City.

Mound City Map

(1) Visitor Center
Three different self-guiding interpretive trails begin here. The paved path leads you into the enclosure and among the mounds, with numbered stops keyed to the descriptions in this brochure. The interpretive trail to your right has signs along the way with information about how the landscape at Mound City has changed over the years. The trail to your left has numbered stakes corresponding to information about Mound City plant life contained in another brochure available at the information desk.

(2) Mica Grave Mound
When this mound was first excavated in 1921, archaeologists found evidence of a wooden building that contained a shallow clay basin almost six feet square and lined with sheets of mica. Deposits inside this basin included the cremated remains of at least four individuals, as well as obsidian tools, raven and toad effigy pipes, and a copper headpiece of human shape. Additional deposits elsewhere on the floor of this building included elk and bear teeth, copper ornaments, large obsidian points, and a cache of 5,000 shell beads. Two copper headdresses were found, one with three pairs of copper antlers, the other representing a bear, with hinged ears and legs attached with rivets. Sixteen other cremated individuals were also placed on the floor of this building. Eventually, the building that once stood here was dismantled or burned, and the mound of earth you see today was constructed over the site. Hundreds of year later, long after the Hopewell period, another American Indian group buried one of their own dead in this mound. This later group has come to be known as the Intrusive Mound Culture, because they used mounds built by earlier Hopwellian peoples for their own burials.

(3) Mound of the Pipes
Squier and Davis excavated this mound in 1847, reporting that " In the number and value of it relics, this mound far exceeds any hither-to explored...Intermixed with much ashes, were found not far from two hundred pipes, carved in stone...The bowls of the pipes are carved in miniature figures of animals, birds, reptiles, etc. All of them are executed with strict fidelity to nature, and with exquisite skill."

(4) Death Mask Mound
This is the largest of Mound City's 23 known mounds. When this mound was excavated, it was found to cover the remains of two buildings; the earliest building had been dismantled and a second building erected in its place. Thirteen cremated human burials were deposited in these buildings, accompanied by falcon effigies made of copper, and fragments of human skull that had been cut and drilled, perhaps to form part of a ceremonial mask. Finally, the second building was dismantled and earth was heaped to form the mound.

(5) Charnel House
Each mound at Mound City covers the remains of an elaborate wooden building, sometimes called a charnel house. The variety of activities conducted in and around these buildings suggests that these structures served as much more than just repositories for human remains: evidence suggests that these buildings were similar to the "Council Houses" or "Big Houses" used by historic tribes in Ohio for various community functions. The posts at this mound indicate the positions of prehistoric building posts.

(6) Inside a Mound
When Squier and Davis excavated this unusual elliptical mound, it revealed a complex internal structure. At the center was a low, circular, clay platform. In the concave top of the platform were ashes and cremated human remains, many fragments of pottery, stone and copper implements, and a large number of broken spearpoints made of flint, garnet, and obsidian. The platform was covered with a low earth mound which in turn was covered with five alternating layers of sand and earth. The entire mound was capped with a thick layer of gravel and pebbles. Other mounds show equal care in construction, but vary in detail and number of layers. The mounds vary considerably in the number of burials and the kinds of artifacts they contain. One mound within the complex contained a quantity of fossil mammoth or mastodon bones, and another contained finely crafted pottery vessels decorated with images of birds; others contained various ornaments of copper and shell, stone pipes, and other goods. Differences in the way people were buried may reflect differences in the status or role these individuals held during their lifetimes. The variety of images, artifacts and practices evident at Mound City certainly reflects the complexity, richness and sophistication of the Hopewellian peoples who built this place.

(7) Towns on the Scioto?
The river was a major source of food, including fish, shellfish, waterfowl, and water, as well as an important means of transportation. The Hopewell did not live in the earthwork sites but may have lived nearby in small settlements along the river's floodplain. Since very few Hopewellian habitation sites have been located, their number, locations, and general sizes are not fully known.

This resource is based on the following source:
National Park Service.  1995.  Hopewell Culture official map and guide.  National 
     Park Service.  Unpaginated.
This resource should be cited as:
National Park Service.  1995.  Hopewell Culture official map and guide.  National 
     Park Service.  Jamestown, ND: Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center Online.  
     (Version 22MAY98).

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