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Who Built the Toolesboro Indian Mounds? April 5, 2010

Posted by Wapello Warbler in History, Louisa County.
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The burial mounds at Toolesboro are approximately 2000 years old. They date to a time archaeologists call the Middle Woodlands period and a trading network of indigenous peoples who have been dubbed the Hopewell cultures.  The Toolesboro mound builders were part of a regional group archaeologists call the Havana Hopewell. They lived along the Mississippi and Illinois rivers from about 100 BCE to about 400 CE.  Some think the Havana Hopewell culture was the root from which the Mississippian culture grew a few centuries later.

The burial bounds at Toolesboro are cone-shaped and vary in size.  They are eight to ten feet high and from 35 to 80 feet in diameter. Most, like the one in the picture below, are in the woods.  The two nearest the visitors’ center have been cleared and are mowed regularly.

Similar mounds have been found as far east as New York, as far south as Florida, and as far west as the Missouri river. You can get a sense of the extent of the Hopewell trading system and the variety of cultures it included from the map at this link.

Since they did not leave any written artifacts, no one knows what the mound builders called themselves, however there are some things that can be learned from the mounds that have been excavated here and elsewhere.

First, the people lived in settlements in wooded areas along the rivers. Their food came from agriculture, hunting, and gathering.

Second, they traded over wide areas.  Many of the goods buried in the mounds were made of materials that had been brought long distances.  Items have been unearthed made from seashells, Rocky Mountain obsidian, copper from Lake Superior, and pipe stone from Illinois.

Third, the articles were made by skilled craftsmen. You can seen photos of artifacts taken more than a century ago from one of the Toolesboro mounds here.  The Ohio historical society also has numerous pictures and videos of artifacts taken from Hopewell mounds. The main article is here. Be sure to check out the links, especially the video of the Wray Figurine, the obsidian blades, and the article on effigy pipes.

Fourth, only selected people were honored by being buried in a mound and each mound contains the remains of only a few people.  The sign at the visitor’s center says:

Archaeological evidence indicates that the mounds frequently contained an individual burial and then subsequent burials. Log tombs were often constructed for the internment.  When the tomb was filled it was covered with small mounds of earth and the wooden structure was burned around it. Then a large mound of earth was piled over the whole area.

For more information, check out the links below or stop in the visitors’ center at the Toolesboro mounds. Click here for the museum hours.

Related Links



1. Havana hopewell | WinthrophallResidence - March 24, 2011

[…] Who Built the Toolesboro Indian Mounds? « Wapello Warbler's Louisa … […]

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