Skip to comments.New pipestone study overturns a century of assumption
Posted on 12/21/2012 8:34:00 AM PST by Renfield
Archaeologist, William Mills, dug up a treasure-trove of 2000 year old carved stone pipes in the early 1900s and was the first to dig the Native American site, called Tremper Mound, in southern Ohio.
When he inspected the pipes, he made a reasonable, but unverified, assumption. The pipes looked as if they had been carved from local stone, and so he said they were. That assumption, first published in 1916, has been repeated in scientific publications to this day, but according to a new analysis, Mills got it wrong.
In a new study, the first to actually test the stone pipes and pipestone from quarries across the upper Midwest, researchers conclude that those who buried the pipes in Tremper Mound got most of their pipestone and perhaps even the finished, carved pipes from Illinois.
The researchers spent nearly a decade on the new research, first collecting the mineralogical signatures of stone found in traditional pipestone quarries in Illinois, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri and Ohio. Then they compared the material found in those quarries to the mineralogical makeup of the artefacts from the Tremper Mound, including pipes and figurines.
Less than 20 percent of the 111 Tremper Mound pipes they tested were made from local Ohio stone. About 65 percent were carved from flint clay found only in northern Illinois and 18 percent were made of a stone called catlinite from Minnesota.
The researchers are still puzzling over how most of these materials made it to Ohio from Illinois, and are baffled by another new discovery.
Pipes from a site only about 40 miles north of Tremper Mound, an elaborate cluster of immense mounds known as Mound City, were carved almost entirely from local stone. Mound City was inhabited at about the same time or shortly after Tremper Mound, and the pipes found there are stylistically very similar to the Tremper pipes. (See a slideshow of some pipes.)
The researchers describe their findings in a paper in American Antiquity and these results should remind archaeologists that things are never as simple as they sometimes appear, said Thomas Emerson, the principal investigator on the study and the director of the Illinois State Archaeological Survey (ISAS) at the University of Illinois.
The study confirms that the people who produced these pipestone artefacts, known today as members of the Hopewell tradition, were more diverse and varied in their cultural practices than scientists once appreciated, Emerson said.
This is how mythology becomes encased in science, he said.
The Hopewell people, who lived in the region from about 100 B.C. to roughly A.D. 400, have long been the subject of speculation, as the artefacts they left behind and the manner in which these goods were disposed of are not easily understood. Those living in southeastern Ohio, especially, seemed to be conspicuous consumers and connoisseurs of the exotic, Emerson said.
The Hopewell people from that area collected massive assemblages of obsidian from Wyoming, mica from the Appalachians, and caches of elaborately carved pipes, Emerson said. They also collected shells from the Gulf Coast, along with the skulls of exotic animals (an alligator, for instance).
Strange animals, strange minerals, strange things were really a focus, he said.
Most of the carved stone pipes from that era have been found in Ohio, where very large caches often containing more than 100 pipes were ritually broken, burned and buried, Emerson said.
There is evidence of stone carving at the Illinois sources where the stone was gathered, but none at Tremper Mound, suggesting that the Illinois stone was carved into pipes before it was transported to Ohio.
The team used a variety of techniques to analyse the material in the quarries and the artefacts. One method, called X-ray diffraction (XRD), produces a distinct signal that reflects the proportion of minerals in different types of stone. The stone must be pulverized, however, to subject it to XRD. To analyse the intact pipes, the researchers used a non-destructive portable technology, called PIMA, which illuminates a specimen with short-wavelength infrared radiation and records the refracted (unabsorbed) wavelengths, allowing investigators to identify the minerals present. They verified the accuracy of the PIMA by comparing its results to those obtained with XRD on quarry specimens and broken pipes.
The new findings should challenge archaeologists to look more carefully at the evidence left behind by the Hopewell people, Emerson said.
Source: University of Illinois
Another waste of tax dollars. I may be going out on a limb here, but maybe, just maybe the Native Americans put one foot in front of the other and walked to new places. Well, that or it was aliens.
Oh well...It's really all about Grant Money isn't it !!
They really need to go back and study the old maps.
More likely they killed the Illinios indians and took the booty.
my goodness - ancient people in North America moved and migrated around North America, taking their stuff with them (moving their stuff from where they acquired it), and they also traded over very long distances - gee, imagine that!!!
i don’t understand how any of the findings are surprising
from my understanding of ancient people in North America the findings are totally predictable
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Native tribes formed alliamces and confederacies that were pretty far flung. Wars, too. Some were migratory to an extent, with war and alliances playing a role in that. Whole regions were apparently abandoned in some parts of North America, with the earliest European settlers finding deserted villages.
Why is it so difficult to imagine that there was equally far flung trade? They’d travel fifty miles or more for the right stone for arrowheads and spearheads within their own territory.
Thanks. More evidence of some pretty sophisticated trade routes in pre-Columbian America.
My pleasure, ct.