- Ohio Hopewell Community Organization
Few areas of the United States are as rich in prehistoric remains as the river valleys of southern Ohio. The geometric earthwork complexes of the Middle Woodland Period (ca. 200 BCE–400 CE), called "Hopewell" after the group of mounds on the M.C. Hopewell farm in Ross County, have inspired the imaginations of professional and amateur archaeologists since the early nineteenth century. Although research on the mounds has provided insight into Hopewell mortuary practices and ceremonial architecture, surprisingly little is known about Hopewell community organization and daily life. In part, this is because earlier generations of archaeologists assumed that the magnitude of earthworks such as the Great Circle at Newark, which encompasses fifty acres within its walls, would have required the labor of sizable populations who must have lived in large nucleated villages near the ceremonial centers; evidence of such large settlements has never been found. [End Page 315]
The first well-documented example of an Ohio Hopewell domestic site was reported in 1965 by Olaf H. Prufer in "The McGraw Site: A Study in Hopewellian Dynamics." Instead of supporting the nucleated settlement theory, Prufer discovered a Middle Woodland farmstead in the floodplain of the Scioto River in Ross County that he proposed had been occupied by thirty-five to forty-five individuals for approximately one generation, or thirty years. Based on this site, Prufer characterizes the Ohio Hopewell settlement pattern as a system of small, semipermanent farmsteads based on shifting agriculture, clustered around a series of ceremonial centers and burial grounds with which a number of such farmsteads identified themselves. Inspired by the "Dispersed Settlement– Vacant Ceremonial Center Model" then popular for the Maya, Prufer's conception has come to be known as the "Dispersed Sedentary Community Model," or simply the Prufer Model.
In the thirty years since excavation of McGraw, little had been done to test Prufer's model, even as archaeologists in other regions of the United States advanced themethod, theory, and substantive framework of settlement system studies. In 1992, a group of scholars organized the symposium "Testing the Prufer Model of Ohio Hopewell Settlement Pattern" at the Society for American Archaeology conference in Pittsburgh. Ohio Hopewell Community Organization, edited by William Dancey and Paul Pacheco, is a fifteen-chapter book consisting of papers from the symposium plus others, including two chapters and an appendix by Prufer, by some who did not attend the symposium.
While few published research programs have tested the Prufer model, the editors write that this volume assembles "some of the information on Middle Woodland non-mortuary locations currently scattered in conference papers, master's theses, contract reports, and the like and assess the fit of the data with Prufer's conception" (5). The chapters are concerned primarily with three poorly understood topics: settlement pattern, subsistence, and earthwork function.
Given the extensive area covered—from the Indiana–Ohio border on the west to the Muskingum Valley on the east—and 600 years of Hopewell activity, it is not surprising that the authors report variation in the Hopewell settlement pattern. Research by Pacheco along Raccoon Creek near the Newark Works, by Kozarek at the Jennison Guard Site at the mouth of the Great Miami River in Indiana, by Coughlin and Seeman near the Liberty Works in Ross County, and by Carskadden and Morton in the Muskingum Valley support the Prufer model. The model is challenged by Lepper and Yerkes, who reexamined data from Hale's House Site, discovered in 1977 during a highway survey through a portion of the Newark Works. From these and other data, they conclude that the Hopewell settlement pattern featured some habitation sites that were seasonally occupied and that Prufer's notion of ceremonial centers as vacant, or unoccupied, terrain is incorrect. And Robert Connolly's work at Fort Ancient in Warren County suggests that the area immediately adjacent to this hilltop earthwork contained a domestic site occupied continually over a long period of time. [End Page 316]