Hopewell Culture National Historical Park Overview
The area known today as Mound City, a unit of Hopewell Culture National Historical Park, was an ancient village and burial site for people living along the Scioto River during the first two centuries A.D. Early explorers and settlers noted the numerous mound and earthwork sites in Ohio and speculated on their origin and use. The seeming mystery of the mounds was heightened by the fact that the Shawnee and other tribes did not construct them, and had no knowledge of who had built them or when.
Arguments raged over the age and significance of these ancient sites. President William Henry Harrison suggested that they must be at least several hundred years old, because of the mature forest growth in place on the mounds. Popular speculation held that the mounds had been built by a "lost race" of mysterious origin, which had died out or vanished before the historic tribes came on the scene.
The fledgling Smithsonian Institution was thrust into the middle of the controversy with its 1848 publication of Ancient Monuments of the Mississippi Valley, which was based on studies of various sites by Ephraim G. Squier, a Chillicothe newspaper editor, and Edwin H. Davis, a Chillicothe physician. These men named the place Mound City after its unique concentration of mounds: 23 in spread among 13 acres.
Declining to dignify more farfetched lost race theories by attacking them directly, Squier and Davis instead suggested a strong connection between the prehistoric cultures of Mexico and those of the Mississippi Valley. The lost race notion was laid to rest decades later after further extensive excavations demonstrated that the mounds were built by early American Indians. We now call the overall culture Hopewell, after the 1891 excavation west of Chillicothe, Ohio, during the term of Mordecai Hopewell. The true name was never discovered.
During the exploration and mapping of prehistoric sites that led to their 1848 book, Squier and Davis numbered and partially excavated several of the mounds at Mound City, amassing a large collection of pipes and other artifacts. During World War I, Mound City was covered by part of a training facility, Camp Sherman, and many of the mounds were destroyed. Excavation and restoration work was conducted by the Ohio State Historical Society in 1920-21, and the site was declared a National Monument in 1923. Additional excavations were conducted in the mid-1960's, and future work will include non-destructive investigations by remote sensing techniques.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
Hopewell Culture National Historical Park Travel Q&A
What's your favorite hike? Where's the best campsite? Join the conversation! Ask Your Question
Articles & Advice on Hopewell Culture National Historical Park
- Hopewell Culture National Historical Park
- Exploring Mound City