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Fires at axis mundi: macro- and microbotanical investigations of a Hopewell woodhenge

Author(s): Andrew Weiland ; Laura Crawford ; Bret J. Ruby

Year: 2017

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At Hopewell Mound Group in Ross County Ohio (33RO27), 2013 magnetic gradiometer investigations redefined the long invisible Great Circle, a 120-meter diameter woodhenge. The 2016 excavation of one of four central features within the Great Circle revealed a large thermal feature. Although unusually large for this purpose, the arrangement of fire-cracked rock, clay lining, hot-burning hardwoods and grass seed suggest a classic earth oven common to domestic sites. However, ethnographic analogy indicates that woodhenges, which are ubiquitous in eastern North America during the Middle Woodland period (A.D. 1-500), were used in axis mundi rituals such as the modern Sundance. In the Hopewell cultural context, there exists a dichotomy between sacred sites swept clean, and domestic debris of habitation sites. Thus, archaeobotanical analysis of an earth oven central to a Hopewellian ritual reveals a mixture of domestic and ceremonial symbolism potentially indicative of feasting. Careful archaeobotanical analysis is central to understanding the formation, function, and meaning of this feature – and Hopewell Mound Group as a whole. In this focused study on one large feature, we use seed and wood charcoal identification in conjunction with phytolith extraction to assess stratigraphy and to detect remains of removed or uncarbonized plant use.

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Fires at axis mundi: macro- and microbotanical investigations of a Hopewell woodhenge. Andrew Weiland, Laura Crawford, Bret J. Ruby. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 430363)


Spatial Coverage

min long: -104.634; min lat: 36.739 ; max long: -80.64; max lat: 49.153 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 17570

Arizona State University The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation National Science Foundation National Endowment for the Humanities Society for American Archaeology Archaeological Institute of America