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21 June 2014

Newark Earthworks

Deer on one of eight barrier mounds at the gap of the Octagonal Mound of the Newark Earthworks
Will post soon!

19 June 2014

Hopewell Culture National Historical Park + Jarrod Burks presentation

Hopewell Mound Group, as mapped by
Ephraim Squier and Edwin Davis, published in 1848
Today we went to the primary site for the Middle Woodland societies known as the Hopewell Tradition: the Hopewell Cultural National National Historic Park in Chillicothe, Ohio. I'm beginning to appreciate the extent that manmade earthworks—mounds, earthen enclosures, and ditches, some lined to hold water—covered the landscape, particularly in Ross County, of Ohio.

In the Ohio River Valley, the Early Woodland society known as the Adena culture flourished from 1000–200 BCE. This culture evolved into the the Middle Woodland cultural tradition known as Hopewell, who flourished from 200 BCE to 500 CE. The trade network of the Hopewellian Exchange, while originating in Ohio, ultimately spanned from Canada to the Gulf Coast.

This little redwing blackbird is one seriously angry bird.
First we visited the Hopewell Mound Group on a tour led by Dr. Brett Ruby, who has also studied Hopewell sites in Indiana and Tennessee. He said that vegetation management is the park's greatest challenge. Ohio is incredibly lush. Since the earthen enclosures of the Hopewell Mound Group are no longer clearly visible, the park mowed a large swath into the foliage to reveal where the earthworks once stood. From north to south, the enclosures run 2,800 feet.

In 1891, three connected mounds were excavated and many of the Hopewell artifacts in museums today came from these burial mounds. All the other mounds at the site were excavated several times in subsequent years.

Copper repoussé, possibly representing a Carolina parakeet
The Hopewell Cultural National Historical Park maintains a number of close but not adjacent sites. We drove to the immense Siep Mound. Mound City is next to the museum includes 23 mounds, enclosed by earthen embankments with openings at regular intervals. The US Army destroyed most of these mounds in WWI, so they have been rebuilt. A walkway leads down to the nearby Scioto River.

The interpretative center has numerous artifacts and reproductions on display, including mica cut-outs, copper repoussé objects, ear spools, shell bead necklaces, and the characteristic effigy platforms pipes for which Hopewellian artists are so famous.

Muskrat (?) swimming in the Scioto River
Jarrod Burks gave a presentation to a packed house about his success mapping ancient earthworks with remote sensing technologies. These include LiDAR, Light Detection and Ranging, which allows earthworks to be seen through forest canopies, and the magnetometer, which through variations in the magnetic fields can sense underground trenches. Through walking carefully over a site with a magnetometer, either handheld or rolled, Burks can create a map of the underground site, which reveals ditches, earthworks, and post holes.

Remote sensing technologies are extremely exciting developments since they allow archaeologists to glean valuable information about sites, without disturbing burials or sacred sites by excavating them. Tribal archaeologists often couple remote sensing with surface collection, since both are non-intrusive, allowing tribes to know about their ancestors without disrespecting them.

Siep Mound

Mound City—these mounds have all been reconstructed

Fort Ancient Earthworks

Sorry, no time to write much but here are images. More later!

Fort Ancient Archaeological Park museum. This site is the largest hilltop earthwork enclosure, located near Oregonia, Ohio. The edges of the hilltop were flanked by earthwork enclosures built by the earlier settlement of Woodland people who were part of the Hopewellian exchange. It was late settled by the Fort Ancient peoples.

Mica bird claw cut out, sometimes considered a peregrine falcon claw
"Stone circles" mean something else here in Ohio. The original stones are buried.
These replicas are carefully marked with coins laid down underneath so no one will mistake them.

Insanely beautiful view. If not covered in vegetation, this would overlook two serpent-shaped
effigy mounds, one marking the summer solstice; one the winter. Apparently the larger sites mark
both solar and lunar calendars.

18 June 2014

Holder-Wright Earthworks, Jeffers Mound, and Kerr Mound

The 40-foot tall conical Jeffers Mound is covered in vegetation,
including approximately 40 trees and ring of poison ivy
Ohio State University’s American Indian Center sponsored Linda and my trip here to observe the prehistoric earthworks. The Newark Earthworks Center co-sponsored our trip, and our hosts are Marti Chaatsmith (Comanche-Choctaw) and Christine Ballengee Morris (Eastern Cherokee). Earthworks are ubiquitous in Ohio, and OSU and NEC are striving to protect them by increasing awareness about them.

Ohio has no federally recognized tribes; however, a number of historical tribes lived here before being relocated to Indian Territory and other regions. These tribes include (but are not limited to):
  • Anishinaabe (Odawa, Ojibwe, Potawatomi)
  • Delaware (Lenape)
  • Eel River people
  • Erie
  • Kaskaskia (enrolled today in the Peoria Tribe of Indians of Oklahoma)
  • Miami
  • Mingo (enrolled today in the Seneca-Cayuga Nation)
  • Piankashaw (enrolled today in the Peoria Tribe of Indians of Oklahoma)
  • Sauk
  • Shawnee
  • Wea (enrolled today in the Peoria Tribe of Indians of Oklahoma)
  • Wyandotte (Wendat).
 What's interesting is that the Miami, Shawnee, and Wyandotte people arrived in Ohio from the East in the 17th century and openly state they did not build the earthworks. Adena earthworks date back 3,000 to 2,200 years, and Hopewell earthworks date back 2,200 to 1,500 years, so in truth, it would be extremely difficult to determine what tribes are connected to the earthworks. It is debated whether or not Fort Ancient culture, which only dates back 1,000 to 250 years, descends from the Hopewell tradition. Did Fort Ancient develop in situ or emigrate from another region into Ohio?

A Miami scholar told Marti Chaatsmith that Miami weren't connected to the earthworks and had no specific language about them. He suggested that verbs would be the place to look—to planning and building major earthworks. What Indigenous language has these terms? Seems like Anishinaabemowin would be an intriguing candidate to study.
During our busy first day we visited the Holder-Wright earthworks in Dublin, Jeffers Mound in Worthington, and the Kerr Mound located between two residential houses in Pickerington.

I’ll share more details when there’s time!

16 June 2014

Ohio Earthworks

Map of precontact sites in Ohio by Heironymous Rowe
Thanks to American Indian Studies Program at the Ohio State University, Linda Lomahaftewa and I are embarking on another precolumbian journey—this time to explore Ohio's Ancient Earthworks!

Ohio is the birthplace of three major civilizations:
  • Adena culture (ca. 1000 - 200 BCE)
  • Hopewell Exchange (ca. 200 BCE - 500 CE)
  • Fort Ancient culture (1000-1750 CE )
Marti Chaatsmith, the Associate Director of the Newark Earthworks Center, and Christine Ballengee Morris, Professor of Arts Administration and Policy at OSU, created an amazing itinerary that includes:
  • The Great Serpent Mound
    Hopewellian copper bird, the Mound City, Ohio
  • Fort Ancient Earthworks
  • Mound City [Hopewell Culture National Historic Park],
  • Newark Earthworks: the Octagon and Great Circle Earthworks
  • Panther Mound
  •  Jeffers Mound
  • Wright-Holder Earthworks
  • Ohio Historical Society
  • Flint Ridge State Park
  • and, for fun, the Longaberger Basket Building.
We'll post our discoveries and adventures here. For more information about Ohio's precontact earthworks, check out:

26 March 2014

End of pop-ad spam!

Thanks so much to Scott Andrews for pointing out the problems with pop-ad spam on this blog. I thought Google had allowed pop-ads on their blogs, so I just abandoned this blog. However, it turns out that the gadget Sociable was too blame and having removed it, I feel like actually blogging again!

24 June 2013

Help First American Art Magazine Print Issue N°1!

FAAM fills a gaping void by promoting critical writing on aboriginal art of the Americas directed at the public and driven by artists. It synthesizes the academic and the public perspectives and promotes artists with little to no support infrastructure outside of their own communities. Without a doubt it is on track to be one of the strongest, highest quality publications of its kind. 
—David Winfield Norman,
art writer, Olso, Norway


Our pilot Issue N°0 was successfully published in April, and now we're almost ready to print Issue N°1, which will be out in early August. To help raise funds for some of the printing costs, we've launched a Kickstarter campaign, asking for a minimum of $4,900, approximately half of our printing costs. After 22 days, we've raised 89% of our requested funds. Now we just have one week left to raise the rest of the funds. With Kickstarter, you have to raise the entire amount to receive any of the pledged funds. So, we're asking your help in printing Issue N°1. No amount is too small, and every bit helps—donate today. And thanks for your interest and support!