Monday, December 15, 2014

Adena v. Hopewell - Geoffrey Sea

One and the Same: Adena v. Hopewell

(long but necessarily long)

The same old bugaboo continues to plague Ohio archaeology circles, namely the two false categories “Adena” and “Hopewell,” as invented by Warren Moorhead and William Mills under the influence of the Book of Mormon and the fraudulent Walam Olum. It should come as no surprise that the division of a single civilization from Ohio prehistory into two arbitrary and changing taxonomic terms has produced innumerable confusions, both within the profession of archaeology and in public understanding.
Indeed it has become so confusing that it becomes impossible to sort out the empirical reality without first undertaking a cognitive cleansing of both these terms as they have been used, so that we can approach the prehistory of the valley without the initial presumption that there were two separate peoples or cultures or whatever, and all the poisoned fruit that has come of that presumption.
Toward that end of cleansing the taxonomic vocabulary, the most prominent archaeologists of the Ohio Valley collaborated on a volume published in 2005 titled Woodland Period Systematics in the Middle Ohio Valley (here abbreviated as WPS). I strongly advise reading it in its entirety for anyone seriously involved with the subject. But for those not willing to immerse themselves in turgid archaeological jargon, I will here provide a summary of the book with some poignant quotations that can and should be used as ammunition.
Archaeologists justify their wages by employment of a technical vocabulary by which they classify sites and artifacts under the age-old human delusion that if you have named something, you’ve explained it. In reality, the naming process is frequently an enemy of knowledge, and there is no better example than that of Ohio prehistory. The general public now understands the prehistory of the valley less than did the general public of the 19th century, precisely because most people nowadays have been led to the false idea that there were two different competing peoples or cultures in the valley during its “Golden Age.”
Archaeologists have compounded the problem by applying the false category names Adena and Hopewell not only to demographic or cultural units (it’s never been clear which) but also to artifact classifications. So professionals now speak of Adena v. Hopewell styles of ceramics, textiles, jewelry, tools, burials, and earthworks – types that have virtually no correspondence to each other in terms of time and place, but that also do not correspond to the larger “culture” unit names. 
Thus, as recounted in gory detail in WPS, named “Hopewell” jewelry has been found at “Adena” sites, while named “Adena” ceramics have been found at “Hopewell” sites. Yet other sites are full of both “Adena” and “Hopewell” artifact styles but the sites themselves fall outside the range of either “culture” (such as in the Tennessee Valley). And despite terminological salvage efforts to define Adena as “early” and Hopewell as “late,” both Adena and Hopewell style types have been found at various locales spanning exactly the same time period, from 400 BCE to 400 CE. 
Thus, the chronology of “Hopewell” following “Adena” as determined by styles holds only for the “core,” which in this case is limited to the confines of Ross County, Ohio, and perhaps its satellite in Licking County, Ohio.
The PR undertaking to label Chillicothe as the “Epicenter of the Hopewell Golden Age” (with new glossy brochures) is thus a total circularity – “Hopewell” only makes any sense as a category in and around Chillicothe, so of course it is the “epicenter” of that fictional entity. But imagine the disappointment of tourists from Europe or China who travel to Chillicothe to see a real civilization’s epicenter, only to learn the Chillicothe “style” was a late variant of the civilization whose epicenter was located between the Kanawha Valley and Portsmouth.
For other localities throughout the general range that extends from western Pennsylvania to Illinois, and from Michigan to Tennessee, completely different chronologies of styles are observed in the artifact record. This phenomenon should be expected as applying to any diffusion of styles in a large and complex civilization that is decentralized. In the Mayan lands, some styles moved from the highlands to the lowlands, while others moved in the opposite direction. If the two divisions of Mayan territory had been given two different “culture” names attached to some fixed period chart implying that “Lowland” came before “Highland,” it would have produced exactly that kind of confusion now rampant in Ohio Valley archaeology.
The distinction between Adena and Hopewell originally relied on the assumption that there were three distinct types of earthworks in the valley, each with authorship by a different people, assumed to even be racially distinct. Conical burial mounds were called Adena, suspected of being Mayan colonists, while “advanced” geometric enclosures were attributed to the “advanced” Hopewell, long thought to be some offshoot of the “Caucasian” race. Irregular hilltop “fortifications” like Fort Ancient in Warren County, Ohio, were attributed to the “primitive” eponymous “Fort Ancient Culture,” hypothesized to have sought refuge on the hilltops from Hopewell invaders – an account lifted almost verbatim from both the Book of Mormon and its parody, the Walam Olum.
All of this quickly unraveled under the weight of empirical evidence. “Fort Ancient Culture” artifacts were found in the uppermost layers at numerous sites (especially at the Harness Mound in Ross County), meaning that culture could not have been earliest. This required a rejiggering so that the hilltop enclosures were attributed to the Adena, but this was a losing shell-game bet also since radiocarbon dating demonstrated that Fort Ancient and other similar sites were built during the Middle Woodland Period, meaning under the standard definition that they were Hopewell. Since no revision of earthwork purpose was attempted in the absence of any plausible theory, the “Hopewell” people were now presumed to have built fortifications next to their own bottomland astronomical sites in order to protect themselves from themselves. Perhaps they were early Pogo enthusiasts – they had met the enemy and it was them.
Aside from other remarkable traits of the fictional Hopewell, they remain the only “advanced” astronomical culture to have built their so-called “observatories” in the valley bottoms instead of on the nearby hilltops, even though they did build elaborate structures on the hilltops. Why any astronomers would do such a monumentally stupid thing remains not only unexplained by the archaeologists but also unexamined. (The answer is readily apparent but not within the current non-paradigm.)
And perhaps most importantly, genetic testing of remains from sites attributed to all three “cultures” has confirmed that none were Mesoamerican or “Caucasian,” and that the so-called Adena and Hopewell constituted a continuous undifferentiated population ancestral to modern Central Algonquians including the Shawnee, the Miami, and the Ojibwe.
The discovery that the geometric enclosures and adjacent hilltop “fortifications” were built by the same people at about the same time removed the original justification for positing two different groups of earthwork complex builders in the Ohio Valley. At that point, roundabout the 1970s, the explicitly racist and offensive Hopewell name should have been jettisoned in favor of the more established Adena, who traditionally had been accorded a longer tenure, from 1000 BCE to 1 CE.
But this wasn’t done. Instead, archaeologists in the different microregions each devised their own local “culture” chronology and taxonomic system to enable archaeologists to sell locally-justifiable jargon-based reports to paying clients, each one dependent on some different way of mixing “Adena” and “Hopewell.” Thus, the high-status Ohio archaeologists adopted the standard misclassification by which Hopewell neatly follows Adena as a succession of “cultures” implying a succession of different peoples. Meanwhile, in Kentucky, where so-called Adena styles predominated, virtually all sites of the period are labelled Adena, with occasional “Hopewell” styles making guest appearances at those sites. West Virginia archaeologists of the Kanawha Valley, operating with Ohio status envy, took a third track and label everything of the period “Hopewell,” including even the emblematic conical burial mounds that are called Adena everyplace else. The West Virginians south of Charleston have no “Adena” period at all – the “Hopewell” period picks up directly from Archaic cultures around 400 BCE, about three or four centuries before “Hopewell” starts in Ohio, even though Ohio is assumed to be the birthplace and “epicenter” of Hopewell.
What actually happened in the region is very clear, but only if we dispense with the mambo-jumbo of the archaeologists. A continuous transition from the Algonquian Glacial Kame culture from the north penetrated the principal river valleys of the region, including the Scioto, the two Miamis, and the Kanawha, gradually shifting from kame burials to artificial mounds between 1000 BCE and 400 BCE. This same Algonquian civilization expanded throughout the region, building both hilltop and bottomland enclosures (and effigy mounds) between 400 BCE and 400 CE, the two types of enclosures determined by the different functions that they served, not for living people but for the migratory birds believed to carry human souls in Algonquian cosmology. Throughout this period, different artifact styles diffused in different directions from different points of decentralized origin. This grand civilization merits a unitary name, which has nothing to do with archaeology – that naming job should be left to Native Americans and historians.
From an overall Ohio Valley perspective, the current archaeological taxonomies are a total mess of incompatibility, a mess that the WPS book project was intended to address, but the depth of the problem clearly overwhelmed the editors and authors.
Archaeologists classify trait clusters into a variety of different “classes” called cultures, phases, horizons, and traditions. The validity of these classes depends on the associated trait lists and whether or not a given class designation has a trait list that is definitive and exclusive.
The chapters of WPS detail how the standard class names Adena, Hopewell, and Fort Ancient Culture (and a few others) fit none of the technical requirements as either cultures, phases, horizons or traditions, despite numerous attempts to define them as any of the four (or, indeed, as peoples). Attempts to develop coherent and supportable trait lists for Adena and Hopewell have consistently failed, except as those terms are used within small microregions. But the terms as used within one microregion, like Ross County, are incompatible with the way those same terms are used for other microregions, like the Kanawha Valley.
This led the editors, Robert Mainfort and Darlene Applegate, to recommend highly constricted use of the terms Adena and Hopewell (to within microregions) if not their abandonment, a position that should be taken as representing a consensus of Ohio Valley archaeologists. Darlene Applegate concludes her introduction to the volume by saying:
“the concepts of Adena and Hopewell, as currently conceived by most archaeologists, should not be used as part of unit designation when classifying assemblages from non-ceremonial contexts or testing hypothesis about non-ritual behaviors such as settlement.” [page 18]
That is, certain behavior types might be classified as Adena or Hopewell in accord with certain theories about ceremony (I disagree that the terms are even useful there), but should not be used to label material objects such as sites or artifacts.
Mainfort is much more forceful in his concluding chapter:
“The subsequent inclusion of numerous, complex sites within poorly conceived taxonomic units, Adena and Hopewell in particular, created a taxonomic morass that continues to bedevil researchers to this day.” [page 221]
Mainfort then argued that the terminological mistake of Adena and Hopewell does “really influence our conception of the prehistoric archaeological record,” leading even the most highly trained professionals to think that there was really some divergence between two peoples, when there had been only the continuity of one civilization.
Regarding the Ross County aristocracy (I mean of archaeologists, not Indians), Mainfort wrote:
“[N’omi] Greber neatly demonstrates that ‘Adena’ and ‘Hopewell’ are useful taxonomic entities in Ross County, Ohio. Outside this area, their utility diminishes, and new taxonomic units to encompass local expressions of Adena and Hopewell would be more appropriate.” [page 224]
Mainfort repeats the observation of James Brown in the volume that taxonomic terms can be “gerrymandered to fulfill certain cultural-historical expectations,” a process we witness currently with the UNESCO nomination under the “Hopewell” name leading to a concomitant effort to subsume all that was once labelled Adena to Hopewell.
Berle Clay, a Kentucky archaeologist and distant cousin to Henry Clay, makes no bones about the need to ditch these terms (puns intended), even in the title of his chapter: “Adena: Rest in Peace?” He means the name, not the bones, though he would have no objection if the name were repurposed to apply to the entire civilization rather than just one “phase” or “horizon.”
Mainfort is explicit:
“They are not classes, as the members do not share a unique set of traits. Nor or they groups, since the members of a phase cannot be judged to be more similar to each other than to any member of another phase.” [page 227]
And as to the conundrum of the names Adena and Hopewell being attached to both artifact types and site types:
“If artifact types inexplicably linked to Adena by their very names are found at a site, how could the site not be Adena?” [page 228]
But it happens all the time using the current nomenclature. Likewise, the Amburgey and Camargo mound sites in Kentucky and the platform mounds at Marietta, Ohio, were clearly built by the same people responsible for “Adena” and “Hopewell” earthworks, yet they fit the style types of neither Adena nor Hopewell. Portsmouth is now being called Hopewell, but it certainly contains elements built during the early part of the Early Woodland Period, if only by virtue of its location at the most crucial river confluence of the region. No self-respecting Adena would have failed to build at the confluence of the Scioto and the Ohio.
Mainfort concludes:
“If our taxonomic units do not contribute in some way to explaining variability in the archaeological record (the only justifiable reason for creating and retaining such units), they should be abandoned.” [page 229]
Yet, having produced a volume of articles that document the failures of the “Adena-Hopewell” taxonomy, the editors ultimately wimped out and failed to propose a replacement vocabulary. That is probably for the best, however, as the important job of naming the unitary civilization that constructed the major earthworks of the Ohio Valley is not a job that can be entrusted to archaeologists.
Mainfort and Applegate did not envision that a nomination of eight earthwork complexes to the UNESCO World Heritage List would enshrine the lousy vocabulary of Ross County archaeologists for the sake of confusing all of humanity. But now that nomination is upon us, it is essential that the “Hopewell” name not be the one to create global offense.