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The Ohio Hopewell Episode

Paradigm Lost and Paradigm Gained

By A. Martin Byers

Publication Year: 2004

There is a general consensus among the North American archaeologists specializing in the Middle Woodland period (ca 100B.C. to ca A.D. 400) that the Ohio Hopewell was a rather straight forward complex of small-scaled peer polity communities based on simple gardening and extensive foraging practices and occupying dispersed habitation locales loosely clustered around major earthworks. This book challenges this general consensus by presenting a radically alternative view. It argues that the Ohio Hopewell episode can be better and more coherently characterized by treating it as a complex social system based on dual and mutually autonomous social networks of clan alliances and world renewal cults, and that this dual clan-cult social system was, in fact, the culmination of such social systems that were widely dispersed across the Eastern Woodlands. The cults were devoted to treating their deceased members and/or dependants as sacrificial offerings to enhance the sacred powers of nature and the clans were devoted to transforming their deceased into ancestors and the stresses these opposing mortuary practices generated underwrote the dynamics of the Ohio Hopewell and brought about the monumental earthworks as sacred locales of world renewal cults.

Published by: The University of Akron Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. vii-viii


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pp. ix-xi


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pp. xiii-xiv

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pp. xv-xvi

I wish to acknowledge the important role that my archaeology and anthropology students of Vanier College, Montreal, played in the formation of this book. They allowed me to test my ideas and their responses often forced me to revise and modify both the ideas and my expression of them. I have a long-term debt of thanks I wish to make ...

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Prologue: What Counts as the Ohio Hopewell?

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pp. 1-19

A view of the Newark earthworks as they were mapped by the surveyor Charles Whittlesey just prior to the middle of the nineteenth century, is shown in fig. P.1. Newark is a small city in Licking County, Ohio, in the upper Licking drainage and about 50 km east of Columbus, the state capital. It is on the northern margin of the Central Ohio ...

Part One. The World Embodied

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1. The Ohio Hopewell Embankment Earthwork Systematics

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pp. 21-35

The embankment earthworks encountered by Europeans entering the Central Ohio Valley in the late 1700s were magnificent monuments made of locally procured earth (and some stone). For immediate purposes, two major formal types will be addressed, what are often called the “geometricals” and the “fortifications.” The former, ...

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2. The C-R Configuration (Circle-Rectilinear)

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pp. 36-61

The Complex G-Form of the Chillicothe Tradition appears to be underwritten by a basic dual patterning of conjoined circular and rectilinear earthworks. This will be termed here the C-R Configuration (Circle-Rectilinear Configuration). There appear to be two basic modes by which the C and the R components are conjoined. These conjoining ...

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3. Meaning, Symbolic Pragmatics, and Ohio Hopewell Stylistics

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pp. 62-76

Traditionally, in interpreting material artifacts and features, prehistoric archaeologists give priority to the type of physical actions that they probably mediated. The operating assumption is that the properties of material cultural items, whether artifacts, facilities, or features, manifest the action purposes of those who used them. That is, the ...

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4. The Newark World Renewal Ritual Center

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pp. 77-104

A major component of the Newark site is the Newark Circle- Octagon as depicted in the upper left of fig. P.1. This feature displays the central set of attributes of the High Bank C-R Configuration. Except for the larger size of the Octagon, it is almost a mirror image of the High Bank Circle-Octagon. If the Newark Circle-Octagon were to be ...

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5. Critique of the World Renewal Model

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pp. 105-125

The World Renewal Model was presented in the previous chapter to initiate a symbolic pragmatic account of the Newark embankment earthworks and, by extension, of the embankment earthwork traditions of the Early and Middle Woodland periods of the Central Ohio Valley. However, the findings of this model account for the ...

Part 2. An Immanent, Sacred Deontic Ecology

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6. Ecology, Cosmology, and Society

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pp. 127-155

Dee Anne Wymer makes these insightful concluding remarks in her comparative analysis of the botanical contents of several pit features containing the residue of foraged and cultivated edible seeds from two Middle Woodland and two early Late Woodland sites of central Ohio. Her analysis initially addresses the contradictory claims that, on the ...

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7. Subsistence, Settlement, and Ceremony

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pp. 156-176

The Inclusive Territorial/Custodial Domain Paradigm is the broad deontic ecological framework of the Proscriptive/Prescriptive Ecological Strategy Model, and the latter is the global model that applies the basic theoretical premises of this paradigm to the Ohio Hopewell. Under this model it was claimed that Ohio Hopewell can be ...

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8. Woodland World Renewal Mortuary Ceremony

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pp. 177-201

Sketching out the Mourning/World Renewal Mortuary Model necessitates articulating how symbolic pragmatics apply to the mortuary patterning and its variability. In symbolic pragmatic terms, material cultural style constitutes an assemblage as a complex body of action warrants. These warrants, in turn, manifest and constitute the ...

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9. Early/Middle Woodland Deontic Ecological Strategies

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pp. 202-222

Bruce Smith has made probably the most comprehensive comparative analysis of the available data of the prehistoric subsistence and settlement practices of the Middle Woodland of the Eastern Woodlands. He focuses on those regions that have received the most archaeological attention in this regard: west-central Illinois, particularly the lower and ...

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10. Cult, Clan, and Ritual Spheres

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pp. 223-240

The Dual Clan-Cult Model postulates that the earthwork/habitation dichotomy manifests the simultaneous existence of at least two “virtual” and mutually autonomous locale-centric social networks, differentiated in terms of social structural axes. Specifically, it postulates that one network was based on principles of consanguineal and affinal ...

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11. Autonomous World Renewal Cult Systems

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pp. 241-268

The Autonomous Cult Model elucidates the cultic dimension of the Dual Clan-Cult Model with particular reference to the social structure of the postulated world renewal cults of the Central Ohio Valley earthwork traditions: the Mt. Horeb (Adena) Tradition and the two co-traditions of the Ohio Hopewell, the Fort Miami Tradition and the ...

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12. The Seip and Harness Great House CBLs

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pp. 269-295

The Ecclesiastic-Communal Cult Model is an ancillary of the Dual Autonomous Cult Model. It is designed to apply to two of the three Middle Woodland earthwork traditions, the Miami Fort and the Chillicothe Traditions. It claims that these were characterized generally as two separate networks of complex autonomous cults that, as postulated ...

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13. The Ritual Cycle of Generations

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pp. 296-323

The Ecclesiastic-Communal Cult Model of Ohio Hopewell gives an alternative interpretive account of the Great House CBLs and their associated embankment earthworks to that of the Civic-Ceremonial Center Model by claiming that they were the locales of the type of complex autonomous cults I have termed ecclesiastic-communal cults. ...

Part 3. Ohio Hopewell, Sacrifice , And World Renewal

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14. Funerary Crematories or Sacrificial Altars?

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pp. 325-345

The last several chapters have focused on characterizing the social organizational aspect of Ohio Hopewell as a network of autonomous ecclesiastic-communal cults variably distributed primarily within the Miamis, the Scioto, and the Muskingum drainages of the Central Ohio Valley. Critically important to confirm is the ritual nature of the practices ...

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15. World Renewal Post-mortem Sacrifice at Mound City

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pp. 346-369

Mills excavated the residue of those mounds that survived following the serious damage caused to most of them by agricultural modification in the nineteenth century and, in particular, by the construction of Camp Sherman, a First World War U.S. military base.1 At the urging of museum officials, Mound 7 was preserved more or less intact by the ...

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16. The Vaulted Chamber Crypts of Ohio Hopewell

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pp. 370-406

The Hopewell site may be the best source of data currently available to support the set of incremental rites that the Mourning/World Renewal Mortuary Model postulates. This is not to deny that Mound City, Seip, and Liberty Works are important grounds for the model. For example, Mound City Proper certainly is significant since its ...

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17. The Offering Altars of the Hopewell Site

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pp. 407-424

The four major burnt deposits to be examined are the most thoroughly reported. They were discussed fully by Greber and Ruhl, whose description and comments are summarized below.1 Particularly important is the cosmological perspective that Greber and Ruhl claim is supported by both the manner of formation of these deposits and the ...

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18. The Laying-in Crypt and Burial Altars of Turner

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pp. 425-444

The Laying-In Crypt Model of the Hopewell site addressed an issue that was pinpointed by Shetrone, namely, “Cremation of the dead preponderated at Mound City, Tremper, Harness and Seip, while the reverse is true at Hopewell and Turner”.1 This model has given an initial account of this inversion. Given these mortuary parallels ...

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19. The Controlled Fire Reduction Features (CFRs) of Turner

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pp. 445-473

The second line of evidence in support of the Laying-In/World Renewal Crypt Model of the Turner site is based on the contents of the major mounds of this site, sometimes referred to as altar mounds. Mound 1 and the Conjoined Mound will be the focus. What is named here as the Conjoined Mound was numbered by Willoughby and ...

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20. The Turner-Hopewell Ideological Axis

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pp. 474-495

Mound 1 (fig. 19.1) was located “inside” the Great Enclosure at the northeast entry (fig. 2.11). It was a low mound (ca. 1.75 m) and its perimeter covered a low circular wall of flat stones, 0.35 m high and about 0.7 m thick, with a diameter of ca. 19.6 m, enclosing a floor covered with a layer of “concrete” composite of ashes, gravel, and ...

Part 4. Factional Competition, Conflict , and Rupture

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21. The Ideological Imperative

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pp. 497-513

Brumfiel has theorized factions as vertically organized and structurally equivalent groupings within and/or cutting across the formal components of organizations.1 She argues that they are based on face-to-face, personal, patron-client relations, largely motivated by self-interest. A successful faction is marked by its leaders’ occupying the ...

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22. Time and the Material Correlates of Ideological Factionalism

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pp. 514-536

Since any interpretive assessment of the data in terms of the Ideological Faction Cult Model hinges critically on the diachronic dimension, a summary and refinement of the earlier chronological framework proceeds postulating and applying the material correlates of proscriptive/ prescriptive ideoloogical postures. I have commented earlier ...

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23. The Shifting Ideological Postures of Ohio Hopewell

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pp. 537-556

The chronological framework and the material criteria of factional competition can now be used to interpret the historical and regional variation in the Ohio Hopewell in terms of ongoing ideological negotiations between competing factions of given cults as postulated under the Ideological Cult Faction Model. First the Mound ...

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24. A Critique of the Civic-Ceremonial Center View of Ohio Hopewell

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pp. 557-576

N’omi Greber has presented a model postulating the chronological and developmental relations linking Seip, Liberty Works, Works East, Baum, and Frankfort Works. The model sets A.D. 100 as the initial construction date of ceremonial facilities at both Seip and Liberty Works, although it claims that, prior to this period of ceremonial usage, ...

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pp. 577-582

The Autonomous Cult Model argued that the Adena Mt. Horeb and Ohio Hopewell Traditions differed in the ideological aspect of the cosmology that they shared—different symbolic pragmatics—because they differed in social structural terms, these social differences constituting the difference between communal and ecclesiastic-communal ...


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pp. 583-588


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pp. 589-630


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pp. 631-656


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pp. 657-674

E-ISBN-13: 9781935603702
E-ISBN-10: 1935603701
Print-ISBN-13: 9781931968003
Print-ISBN-10: 1931968004

Page Count: 696
Illustrations: 51 line drawings
Publication Year: 2004

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Hopewell culture -- Ohio River Valley.
  • Hopewell architecture -- Ohio River Valley.
  • Earthworks (Archaeology) -- Ohio River Valley.
  • Mounds -- Ohio River Valley.
  • Ohio River Valley -- Antiquities.
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