The Adena and Hopewell Indians were part of the Woodland culture that lived in Southwestern Ohio. Historically, the Hopewell followed the Adena, and their cultures had much in common. Earthen mounds built for burial and ceremonial purposes were a prominent feature of both cultures. They were part of a larger group known as the Moundbuilders that covered a large area in the Southeast and Midwest.
The Adena were part of the Eastern Woodland culture that flourished from approximately 800 B.C. to A.D. 100 in the central Ohio Valley, as well as in the current states of Indiana, Kentucky, West Virginia and Pennsylvania. Governor Thomas Worthington's Ohio estate, Adena, is the source of the name. The Worthington estate featured a large mound typical of the cultures' burial mounds. Adena refers to dozens of cultures, and isn’t the name of a tribe; no one knows what they called themselves.
The Adena people were primarily hunter-gatherers, but they also farmed. Among other things, they planted squash, gourds, sunflowers and maize. They had a high-functioning society in order to build the extensive earthworks. Cremation was a common form of funerary practice, but they buried notable people in the mounds. The Adena put the deceased in existing mounds and added dirt to cover the bodies, which made the mounds larger over time. They also buried tools, weapons, pottery and other clay items with the dead. Materials from the Southeast, North and South proved the Adena had an extensive trading network. They were skilled potters and sculptors, making pottery and small effigy sculptures out of clay and stone. In addition to clay, they made bowls and other household utensils from wood and stone.
The Hopewell and Adena were similar; however, the Hopewell, who replaced the Adena, was a bigger group. Evidence of their existence turns up at about A.D. 100 but traces of their culture disappear around A.D. 500. Hopewell wasn’t a tribal name and no one knows what they called themselves. The Hopewell mounds were bigger than those of the Adena cultures and their burials involved more ceremony. Hopewell burials included putting ochre and other pigments on the body. Their stone and clay items had a refinement that indicated the Hopewell sculptors and potters were more proficient than the Adena.
Hopewell Culture and Trade
The Hopewell were also hunter-gatherers and farmers. They enlarged the existing Adena trading area, obtaining obsidian from the Rocky Mountain region. Items found in their burials included shells from the Gulf of Mexico and copper from the Great Lakes region. While the reason for their disappearance is unknown, they made large defensive earthworks, indicating the probability of increased outside threats and conflict.