One of the amazing aspects of Ohio’s Middle Woodland peoples, who lived here 2,000 years ago, is that the archaeological record indicates their cultural practices could be found throughout middle and eastern North America.
In particular, these commonalities can be found at ceremonial and mortuary sites, and the broad geographical range that includes remains of these practices is referred to as the Hopewell Interaction Sphere, reaching from the East Coast to the Gulf of Mexico to as far west as the Rocky Mountains.
Ohio History Connection archaeologist Brad Lepper blogged last week about a recent discovery at the Garden Creek site in North Carolina. Archaeologists Alice Wright and Erika Loveland discovered the remains of a rectangular earthwork enclosure and craft workshop, much like those we see in the Ohio River Valley. The presence of a Hopewell-style earthwork there suggests the Hopewell Interaction Sphere included North Carolina.
Lepper says he believes that the Hopewell Interaction Sphere comprised a “network of pilgrimage centers,” including the World Heritage Ohio sites Newark Earthworks and Mound City, which attracted people from around North America. These ceremonial centers have been compared to Mecca or Jerusalem. These people would bring gifts of exotic materials like mica, copper, obsidian and shells, like a large community social, and then they could have returned to their home communities full of religious inspiration.
For more information about the Hopewell Interaction Sphere or Wright and Loveland’s discoveries, see Lepper’s blog post on the Ohio History Connection Archaeology Blog.