#5 Prehistoric Indian Cultures 500BC – Present

Written by Fred Rydholm

The area of southern Illinois and Indiana is richly endowed with evidence of several different early cultures which archaeologists know all too little about.

The earliest was the Adena culture, which is believed to have developed around 500 BC and to have died out by 200 AD. It was centered just to the east of the location of Burrows’ Cave, along the Ohio River in Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia. Then there was the Hopewell culture, which developed a little later, around 100 BC, and died out about 350 AD. While spread over nearly the whole of the central United States, the main concentration of Hopewell sites is in the Mississippi and Ohio River Valleys and in Indiana and southern Illinois.

A culture known as the Mississippian arose in about 800 AD, and it is thought to have still been in existence when the Spaniards arrived. It, too, covered a huge area of the central U.S., but seems to have had its greatest concentration along the Mississippi, as the name implies. Southern Illinois just abounds with sites that scientists have attributed to the Mississippian culture. The name Hopewell came from a farm in Ross County, Ohio that belonged to a Captain M.C. Hopewell where much evidence of this culture was first found. Adena was the name of the estate in the same county of Ohio, where many log tombs, skeletons and artifacts of that culture were first located.

There are many unanswered questions concerning all three of these cultures, such as where they came from, who these people were, did one culture evolve from the other or were they different people moving in and are these people the direct ancestors of historic American Indians?

Jack Ward had made a thorough study of the rocks that he had found and others that had been brought to his attention: they seemed to turn up annually in the corn fields of the area. The rocks often had markings on them that were attributed to the Indians but some just didn’t seem to fit that explanation.