- Hopewell Ceremonial Landscapes of Ohio: More than Mounds and Geometric Earthworks by Mark J. Lynott
Mark J. Lynott. 2014. Oxbow Books United Kingdom and Havertown, PA, USA. 271pages. Paperback Edition: ISBN 978-1-78297-754-4, Digital Edition: 978-1-78297-755-1.
In this posthumous publication, Mark Lynott, considered one of the foremost students of Hopewell archaeology in the modern era, provides a rigorous documentation of the history of the archaeological study and the current state of our scientific understanding of Hopewell ceremonial landscapes. The primary audience for the book, in my estimation, is one that is already knowledgeable about the field of archaeology and is interested in learning more about the Hopewell Mound builder landscapes; however, it also offers valuable insights for those landscape architects and educators interested in understanding early Native American contributions to the design of the North American landscape. In his description of the Hopewell ceremonial landscapes, Lynott has provided an excellent primer for those interested in archaeological techniques and methods of investigation. He has done an excellent job of describing the historical archaeological documentation of the major Hopewell sites, as well as offered a description of the many advances in the technology and approaches used to investigate sites and their value in broadening our understanding of the physical nature of these places.
In Chapter 1, “More than mounds and ditches: an introduction to Ohio Hopewell ceremonial landscapes,” Lynott provides the reader with a solid introduction to the history of archaeological study of the Ohio Hopewell landscape. This history dates back to the first Anglo-American documentations via mapping, illustrations, and written reports by such notables as Squier and Davis, as well as Warren K. Moorehead, who conducted many early excavations, advocated for Native American peoples, and was the first Curator of the Ohio Historical Society. Chapter 2, “Current issues in the construction of Ohio Hopewell ceremonial landscapes,” along with parts of Chapters 5 and 6, includes the most relevant reading for those interested in the current thinking about the spatial design aspects [End Page 130] of these landscapes. The author structures Chapter 2 using a series of important topics concerning alignments, geometry, settlement patterns, and physical connections. The chapter also provides insights on our current state of understanding from an archaeological perspective to key questions such as “How many people did it take to build these landscapes?” and “Were ceremonial landscapes planned designs?”
Lynott’s discussion of alignments related to astronomical events at several of the Hopewell ceremonial sites is illuminating. He cites the work of early archaeologists who postulated that certain sites were aligned with one another and provides descriptions of more current research that evinces solar and lunar alignments at several sites. For example, Lynott writes:
The practice of discovering alignments between sites in the Scioto Valley continues and reaches high levels of sophistication among contemporary authors. Warren DeBoer (2010) examined 19 inter-site alignments in the Scioto drainage and observed that some alignments spanned many kilometers and six of the 19 crosscut river drainages. The implication of his study is that these sites are connected by something more than just sightlines . . . The possibility that some of the great Ohio Hopewell earthworks were built to mark celestial events became a point of discussion through the work of Ray Hively and Robert Horn(1982, 1984).
He goes on to discuss further work by Hively and Horn that confirms five alignments at Newark “mark lunar standstills, which are points on the horizon marking the maximum and minimum north and south extremes of lunar rising and setting points every 18.6 years . . . Hively and Horn showed that the builders of the Newark Octagon possessed skills in both geometry and astronomy.” This discovery should not be surprising, as cultures throughout time have used astronomical alignments in the design of some of their most important spaces. Unfortunately, our modern society in general has not recognized the sophistication of Native American designers with regards to their landscape achievements. The findings are also a reminder of the importance of making connections to natural cycles in our own design work much as some of...