Mound City digs provide insight into Hopewell

Mound City is a set of at least 25 burial mounds surrounded by a roughly rectangular earthen embankment.

Located in Chillicothe, it is one of the most spectacular sites of the Hopewell culture, circa 100 B.C. to A.D. 400, and is the main attraction of Hopewell Culture National Historical Park.

Mound City was explored by two of Ohio’s first archaeologists. Their results were featured in the first publication of the Smithsonian Institution.Subsequently, a farmer plowed the land for 60 years, reducing the height of the largest mound by more than 60 percent. In 1917, the U.S. Army built a training camp over the site. The plan was to demolish the mounds, but Henry Shetrone, then the curator of archaeology for the Ohio Historical Society, persuaded the Army to preserve the largest mound.After World War I, the army abandoned the camp, and Shetrone directed salvage excavations at the site. He restored 23 of the mounds. In 1923, the site became a national park.

Between 1963 and 1975, James Brown, now a professor at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., and the late Raymond Baby, then curator of archaeology at the Ohio Historical Society, conducted a series of archaeological investigations to see what still could be learned from the site. The results of that work are important to our understanding of Mound City and the Hopewell culture, but contrary to Michael Faraday’s trenchant advice for scientists to “work, finish, publish,” neither Brown nor Baby ever produced a final report — until now.

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