Hopewell (1–400 A.D.)

Works of Art


The archaeological site of Hopewell is located on the North Fork of Paint Creek in Ross County, Ohio. Named for Mordecai Hopewell, the farmer upon whose land the site was recognized, it was first mapped in the mid-nineteenth century when more of the ancient constructions were visible than are there today. The main feature of the site is the rectangular earthwork known as the Great Enclosure that covered about ninety-nine acres and followed the terraces of the North Fork. Structures within the Enclosure included one D-shape that in turn enclosed the largest mounds at the site. Mound 25 is one of these, consisting of three parts that when built actually covered earlier constructions. Burials containing elaborate grave goods have been found in Mound 25.

Hopewell is also the name given to the regional developments, of which the Hopewell site itself is part, that characterize the Ohio/Illinois area during the first half of the first millennium A.D. Flourishing centers with enormous earthworks in geometric shapes as varied as octagons, trapezoids, and ellipses were present in the southern Ohio region of Hopewell. One such earthwork site, known today as Mound City, near Chillicothe, Ohio, has a particularly high concentration of burial mounds, leading to the supposition that it was primarily funerary, used for that purpose by adjacent living sites.

An extensive trade network for exotic materials existed during the period, making enormous quantities of precious objects available for use by, and burial with, the powerful people of the communities. Burials in the so-called Mound of Pipes at Mound City produced over 200 stone smoking pipes depicting animals and birds in well-realized three-dimensional form. Objects in other materials, for instance copper from the Great Lakes area and mica from the southern Appalachians, were used to create elaborate plaques, ornaments, and profile cutout images. The copper ornaments included necklaces, bracelets, breastplates, and ear spools. A sophisticated ceramic tradition produced many short, round jars that have been found in burials throughout the Hopewellian trading area.

Department of the Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

October 2002


Department of the Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas. “Hopewell (1–400 A.D.).” In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/hope/hd_hope.htm (October 2002)

Further Reading

Byers, A. Martin. The Ohio Hopewell Episode: Paradigm Lost and Paradigm Gained. Akron, Ohio: University of Akron Press, 2004.

Townsend, Richard F., and Robert V. Sharp, eds. Hero, Hawk, and Open Hand: American Indian Art of the Ancient Midwest and South. Exhibition catalogue. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2004.