The Prehistoric Treasure In The Fields Of Indiana
Read the entire article: http://www.npr.org/2011/01/03/132412112/the-prehistoric-treasure-in-the-fields-of-indiana
Condensed by Native Village
In 1988, road builders in Mt. Vernon
damaged an ancient burial mound. A treasure trove
of silver and copper poured from the ground.
Archaeologists believed the treasure belonged to the
But there was a unique
difference: figurines discovered there had
faces with slanted eyes, which is not a Hopewell
feature. Many believe these figurines connect Indiana
and Central or South America.
"There's a number of mounds here — probably 20, maybe
even more mounds, earthen architectural features that
were built for different purposes," like ceremonies or
burial, said Michele Greenan, an archaeologist and curator at the
Indiana State Museum. "What you're seeing here is a
complex of earthen structures that were very
purposefully and very specifically built along this
The fields are named the Mann Hopewell Site after the
farmer who once owned the 500 acres.
The Hopewell was not a
tribe, but more a way of life that thrived in the
Eastern and Midwestern U.S. between 100 - 500 A.D.
Two of site's earthen structures are among the biggest
mounds built anywhere by the Hopewell.
"It's like Vegas ... for archaeologists," says Mike
Linderman, who manages historic sites in western
Indiana. He says the Mann
Hopewell Site is bigger
than the famous Hopewell sites in Ohio and is filled
with even more exotic materials, like
grizzly bear incisor teeth and obsidian glass from
"Grizzly bears obviously are not from Indiana, never
have been," Linderman says. "There's a theory out there
now that instead of being trade items, these items
[were] actually being collected by the people from Mann
Site on rite-of-passage trips they [were] taking out to
the West. You know, it's something big if you've killed
a grizzly bear and you can bring its teeth back to
Jaguars and panthers aren't from Indiana, either, but
they show up at the Mann Hopewell Site as beautifully
detailed carvings. When put together with clay figurines
that have slanted eyes, Linderman says it might prove a connection
between Indiana and Central or South America.
And that just scratches the surface. In
2006, Staffan Peterson did the archaeological
version of an MRI scan on 100 acres at Mann. When his equipment detected an archaeological
feature, a dot showed up on a map.
"Every day, we'd download our data and our jaws would
drop," Peterson says. "It was kind of like buckshot,
there were so many. And we were able to map out upwards
of 8,000 archaeological features."
Two of the most notable features are what Peterson calls
"wood henges" -- like Stonehenge, but made of wooden
posts -- which he believes may be one of a kind in the
But an even more remarkable discovery could rewrite
history books: scientists have found
evidence of lead smelting, a practice first seen in
North America when the
French arrived 1,000 years after the Hopewell tradition
Lead smelting is among the many questions
archaeologists hope to answer in upcoming digs.
"It's a sleeping giant," says museum curator Greenan,
"and it's going to take its place as one of the most
important archaeological sites in North America."
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