Middle Woodland The middle period or stage of the Woodland tradition in eastern North America. Many trends that began thousands of years earlier in the Archaic reach their climax in the Middle Woodland in some resource rich regions.
Middle Woodland Traits an increasing efficiency in harvesting a wide variety of productive and nutritious wild food resources; an increasing emphasis on the gathering and gardening of seed-bearing plants; an intensification of food procurement; smaller, better defined, and more circumscribed group territories; more sedentary lifeways;
Traits Continued "packing" in resource rich environments caused by increasing population sizes, group fissioning, and inward migration; a sense of corporate, or "ethnic," identity; increasingly conspicuous group boundary markers to legitimize a corporate right to local resources; more elaborate burial rites; more complex intra- and intercommunity social arrangements; and increasingly formal inter-group exchange mechanisms.
Middle Woodland archaeological complexes include: Ohio Hopewell in southern Ohio; Havana Hopewell in the Illinois Valley and adjacent Mississippi Valley; Crab Orchard in southern Illinois; Kansas City Hopewell; Swift Creek, Copena, Deptford, Miller, and Marksville in the Southeast; Laurel in the western Upper Great Lakes; and Point Peninsula in the Northeast. Most of these complexes participated to varying degrees in what has been called the Hopewell Interaction Sphere; some in mostly spatially peripheral areas did not participate at all.
Middle Woodland Dates for the Middle Woodland time period vary widely across the Eastern Woodlands, for archaeologists do not agree on which traits are diagnostic of the period or stage. In addition, some events, such as the appearance of new ceramic forms, occurred at different times in different areas. For some archaeologists, the "Middle Woodland" is that period between 200 B.C. and A.D. 400 when most of the Eastern Woodlands was dominated by the Hopewell culture. For others, it is defined by the presence of "Middle Woodland" ceramic complexes, which, according to some interpretations, ranges from about 300 B.C. to A.D. 300 in the Illinois Valley, ca. A.D. 1- 600 in the Southeast, and ca. A.D. 1--900 in the Northeast.
Middle Woodland In the southeastern Deptford and Swift Creek complexes, pottery was check, complicated, and simple stamped. Classic Ohio Hopewell and Illinois Havana Hopewell decorated pottery had rocker-and dentate stamp and incised designs arranged largely in zonal patterns. In general, Middle Woodland ' ceramic vessels tended to have more complex and sophisticated shapes and designs than Early Woodland pottery. They also had thinner walls that were more resistant to breakage when heated.
Hopewell The most spectacular archaeological evidence of this climax is associated with the Hopewell phenomenon in the heartland of the culture area. The most spectacular Hopewell ceremonial sites are in the Sciota Valley near Chillicothe, Ohio. These religious and political centers typically contain a burial mound and geometric earthwork complex that covers 10 to hundreds of acres and sparse; evidence of large resident populations is lacking. Larger mounds can be up to 12 m high, 150 m long, and 55 m wide. Multiple mortuary structures under the mounds were often log tombs that contained the remains of skeletons that had been cremated, bundled, or interred in some other manner.
Hopewell Artifacts Exotic raw materials and "art" objects, the diagnostic artifacts of the Hopewell Interaction Sphere, accompanied some of the burials. Included were Lake Superior copper, galena, obsidian from Wyoming, Knife River nint from North Dakota, pipestone, silver, meteoric iron, mica, chlorite, quartz crystal, petrified wood, foreign nodular flints, both large and small marine shell (Cassis, Busycon, Farrciolaria, Marginella, Oliva, OliveNa), ocean turtle shells, alligator and shark teeth, barracuda jaws, clay figurines, platform effigy pipes, and two-dimensional representational art cut from sheets of copper or mica, among other items. Small villages where people hunted and gathered wild food resources and tended small gardens presumably surrounded these large centers. However, the intense focus on the larger centers and their exotic contents has detracted until recently from investigations of year-round subsistence-settlement patterns.
Mica artifacts: Source: –southwest North Carolina Mica is a sometimes almost perfectly transparent laminated mineral that can be carefully separated into clear sheets that can then be cut into shapes: –Serpents –Animal claws –Human heads –Human hands –Geometric forms As many as 3,000 sheets of worked mica have been recovered from one mound (at the original Hopewell Site)
Obsidian and Ground Stone artifacts: Source: –appears to be Yellowstone, Wyoming Technology employed: –developed pressure flaking Artifact types: –Knives –Projectile points –Ritual, non-utilitarian forms of the above (too big and too brittle to have been used practically) Ground-stone artifacts: –Probably the most famous Hopewell artifact is the platform pipe –Platform pipes depict a wide range of animals forming the tobacco bowl—often in rather whimsical forms
Flaked and Ground Stone artifacts Ground Stone Shaman
Bone and Wood Artifacts Bone artifacts: –Wolf's upper palette with upper fangs still intact (may have been a mouth mask that was held in the teeth of a shaman) Wooden artifacts: –Preservation of wood is often poor in the Eastern Woodlands, but luckily some of these had been covered with thin sheets of copper Copper acids inhibit biological activity, thus sometimes preserving organic material adjacent to it Copper sometimes remains long after wood has disappeared (requiring careful excavation techniques!)
Other artifacts Freshwater mollusks: –Freshwater clamshell to make beads –Freshwater pearl for beads, etc. Ceramics: –Vessels: Utilitarian Luxury/funerary –Figurines: Distinct from those of the Southwest and Mesoamerica
Hopewell Interaction Sphere Smaller amounts of Hopewell Interaction Sphere items are found in Havana graves in Illinois and in other Hopewellian complexes. Differences in regional burial practices, ceramics, settlement pattern, and other aspects of the archaeological record suggest that these items and presumably their associated ritual practices were grafted onto local cultures.
Hopewell Phenomenon Just what the Hopewell phenomenon represents remains a focus of investigation. Some researchers view the increase in burial mound and earthwork construction, the elaboration of burial ceremonialism, and the presence of "powerful" exotic substances and manufactured items as the archaeologically visible manifestation of a climactic expression of a cosmology whose roots extend deep into the Archaic. According to this view, the spirit world had to be propitiated to ensure an abundance of food, a successful raid on a traditional enemy, and so on, and these items functioned within that process of communication.
Other Interpretations Others regard the florescence as evidence of the emergence of regional social ranking. –In this view, heads of high ranking lineages legitimized their positions in part by obtaining interaction sphere symbols of power from other high ranking lineage heads in distant communities. Still another interpretation considers the aspirations of "Big Men" as responsible for moving interaction sphere items through an extensive intertribal network. –Here, a potential "Big Man" would attempt to build his own reputation and a political blee within the segmented tribal organization by exchanging locally available items for interaction sphere raw materials and ritual items. Presumably, aspects of all three interpretations were important to varying degrees in different Middle Woodland complexes. What seems apparent, however, is the value of viewing the Hopewell phenomenon from a social rather than a strictly material perspective.
Forms of Hopewell Earthworks: Enclosures: –Circular –Rectangular –Octagonal Processionals: –Parallel connecting mounds connecting enclosures Internal moats and borrow pits were also part of such complexes Effigy Mounds: –Not to be confused with the Effigy Mound Culture of Northeastern Iowa, which is late, but which also has Hopewellian affiliations
Functions of Hopewell Earthworks: Many mounds were burial mounds (sometimes containing hundreds of burials) Some mound complexes may reflect archaeoastronomic orientations Definitely not used as temple bases (such as later Mississippian and Mesoamerican forms)
Burial Practices The dead were buried in many different ways, depending upon social status. The majority of the scientifically studied burials are cremations, only the elites being buried intact. Both burial crypts and charnel houses were used. Crypts –Large boxes constructed for the storage of the dead and their grave goods –Simple structures sunk into the ground and covered with heavy roofs –Often built on isolated high-spots clear of the settlement –May have served as lineage and/or clan facilities for a single community –Generally maintenance free
Charnel Houses Structures with thatched roofs and substantial post frames - used both to shelter the dead (cremated and /or entire corpses) and the burial activities associated with them Bodies often subjected to considerable preparation Elites buried in log-lined tombs within the charnel house [and were accompanied by extremely rich grave offerings] Once house had fulfilled its role, was burned to the ground and an earthen mound erected over it A single mound might be used for later burials which were placed immediately adjacent to, or partially into, the exisiting burial mound. Over time a single burial mound would assume gigantic proportions [some as large as 90- 100 feet in diameter and 15 feet tall] and contain as many as 200+ burials. May have served as lineage and /or clan facilities for a single community