5a.1 Flint Tools of the Adena People
Like all prehistoric cultures, the Adena people are known best by their flint tools, especially their spear points and knives. Both types of tools may have served various functions. For example, an Adena hunter may have fastened a flint point to a spear shaft to kill a deer, then removed the point to use it as a knife to skin the animal. Round-based knife blades, mounted on wooden handles, were probably used for various cutting tasks. Later, a few blows from a hammerstone could shape the blades into spear points. Sometimes archaeologists can determine how a flint tool was used by looking at its edges under a microscope.
Image Number: FOCase37
5a.2 Types of Adena Tools
By studying tools from many Adena mounds, archaeologists have identified several forms that seem to reflect the preferences of the Adena people. Examples of these forms, found in various parts of the Cresap mound along the Ohio River in West Virginia, suggest that distinct styles were popular at different times. One style, called a Cresap point has a tapered stem and slight shoulders. It was popular during the early stages of the Adena culture, especially in the upper Ohio Valley. A common style throughout the entire Adena period was the Adena point, which is thick and has a stem with rounded edges. About 300-200 B.C., the Adena people developed the Robbins point, which is wide, thin, and has a straight stem. Since Robbins points were often made from colorful flint, they may have been used as trade items as well as tools.
Catalog Number: A 1091/000025
Image Number: AL07316
5a.3 Leaf-Shaped Blades
The Adena culture made two types of leaf-shaped knife blades. One style, which is narrow and thick, is called Adena; most Adena-type spear points probably were made from this blade form. Later Adena people also chipped wide, thin blades, called Robbins, from high-quality flint. As the name implies, some Robbins blades likely were made into Robbins points.
Large numbers of leaf-shaped blades have been found in caches buried in Adena mounds and in areas away from any other Adena site. The caches found in mounds may have been the property of someone buried there. The other caches may have been trading stock buried to remove the blades from circulation and increase their "value". One cache of 356 leaf-shaped blades found in a Portage County, Ohio, bog had been carefully arranged in a bark container and then buried, perhaps as part of a ritual.
Catalog Number: A 3490/000063.001
5a.4 Adena Ground-Stone Tools
Like their Archaic forbearers, the Adena culture of the Ohio Valley was well adapted to a forested environment. Evidence of this is provided by the woodworking and plant preparation tools found at Adena sites. The Adena people ground and polished stone the same way the Archaic cultures had. However, Adena axes were not grooved, probably because the Adena people used a different method for mounting the ax heads into wooden handles. These ungrooved axes are often called celts.
Image Number: FOCase38
5a.5 Adena Celts
Some Adena celts are made from hematite, a form of iron ore found in the Great Lakes region. These celts were made in the same manner and shape as their stone counterparts, but they are often smaller and do not show signs of wear. The Adena people also formed hematite into cone-shaped objects. In addition, they rubbed pieces of the ore on rough-surfaced sandstone to make red ocher powder to paint their bodies or to sprinkle on corpses. Clearly, this mineral had special meaning for the Adena culture, but why their toolmakers sometimes formed it into celts is unclear.
Catalog Number: A 3490/000128.001
Image Number: AL07423
5a.6 Adena Pottery
The Early Woodland cultures of the entire Ohio Valley region made similar pottery. They all produced wide-mouthed jars or bowls with thick walls, flat bases, and sometimes with heavy lug handles. They also all mixed crushed stone, or grit, with the clay to prevent cracking (tempering). The type of stone varied, perhaps depending on what was most available. For example, Adena potters in central Ohio used igneous rock such as granite; those in Kentucky used limestone. Some Early Woodland groups preferred vessels with smooth outside surfaces. Others roughened their pots by rolling a stick covered with a twisted fiber cord across the vessels before firing. This cordmarking process may have helped to bind the coils of clay together or may have made the pots easier to grasp. Most of the Adena pottery of southern Ohio is plain while some of the pottery of northern Ohio is cordmarked.
Image Number: FOCase39
At first glance, most Early Woodland pottery appears crude, the product of unskilled craftswomen. This is especially so when compared with the finer pottery made late in the Early Woodland period. However, some archaeologists feel that the large, coarse, Early Woodland pottery may have been purposely made that way because each pot was used only once for boiling the oil from nuts and seeds. Thus, there was no need to sort out the finer pieces of ground stone temper or to make the walls thin and delicate.
Catalog Number: A 3336/000093_1
5a.8 Adena Pottery
In addition to thick-walled jars and pots, Adena potters began making a thinner ware by about 300 B.C. Archaeologists call this thinner pottery Adena Plain because of its smooth outside surface. In this exhibit are examples of Adena Plain pottery from mounds in Clinton and Pickaway Counties. In some parts of Ohio and Kentucky, the women decorated their pottery by engraving concentric diamonds (Montgomery Incised) or pressing a carved wooden paddle into the moist clay (Paintsville Simple-Stamped). A small cup-like vessel from Licking County was decorated with round depressions in the clay.
Catalog Number: A 3104/000077
Image Number: AL07395
5a.9 Making Pottery
Regardless of the type of vessel produced, the process of making pottery was similar throughout Woodland times and later. The women, fully aware of the sources of clay in their area, chose the amount needed and mixed it with the crushed stone temper. Pinching and molding the clay with their fingers, the women formed the base of a vessel. They then built up the sides by adding rope-like coils of clay.
Next, they smoothed the coils with their hands and perhaps a water-worn stone. After letting the pot dry for several days, they probably dug a shallow hole in the ground, started a fire, then arranged the pots on the hot coals. The women laid more fuel over the pots and set it ablaze to fire the vessels. Depending on the minerals in the clay and the oxygen supply during the firing, the finished pots varied in color from light tan to reddish brown to dark grey. The Adena did not paint or coat their pottery.
Image Number: FOCase40
5a.11 Adena Home Post-hole Pattern
This replica of part of an Adena mortuary structure is based on a post-hole pattern found beneath the Niles-Wolford mound in Pickaway County, Ohio. The building was circular, measuring 16 feet by 18 feet. The materials covering the walls and roof of the replica, plus the activities shown inside are based on archaeological evidence as well as the practices of historic Indians.
Houses such as this one strongly suggest that while Adena groups might split up during parts of the year, life centered more and more on semi-permanent villages. Unfortunately, no Adena village sites have been thoroughly studied to determine how large they might be, how long they existed, or how close the houses were to each other. Also, it is not known if mounds were always built within Adena communities or away from them. Studies of places such as the Buckmeyer site in northeast Perry County, Ohio, are especially important in this regard. Although partially disturbed by a bulldozer, the site did yield the remnants of a Late Adena house. By noting the relationship of Buckmeyer to Adena mounds and other possible living sites in the area, archaeologists can begin to answer some of these questions. Several Early Woodland village sites found in northern Ohio and southern Michigan have also provided useful information.
Image Number: AdenaHomeModel
5a.12 Adena Ornaments
The Adena culture made many ornaments from stone. The stone most often used was banded slate which they probably found in glacial deposits. Archaeologists have classified some stone ornaments as pendants, drilled with one hole, or gorgets, having two or more holes. They believe that fiber cord or thin strips of leather were threaded through the holes so the ornaments could be worn around the neck. The un-drilled expanded center gorgets may have been tied as weights to atlatls.
The names of specific types of stone ornaments usually refer to the shapes of the objects. For example, quadraconcave gorgets have four (quadra) incurving (concave) sides. The careful shaping and smoothing of these objects and the pleasing patterns formed by the natural color bands in the stone suggest that they were made by skilled artisans. Quite likely, the objects were highly prized by their owners.
Catalog Number: A 1200/000022
Image Number: AL07341
5a.13 Other Types of Ornaments
The Adena culture also used marine and fresh-water clam shells, bone, and copper to make ornaments. The use of copper and marine shells indicates that the Adena maintained the trade practices of their Archaic ancestors. Presumably, the bracelets and beads made from these materials continued to be status symbols.
Catalog Number: A 1200/000013.001
Image Number: AL07336
5a.14 Adena Ornaments
The Adena people may have painted or tattooed designs on their bodies just as many historic Indians did. In Ontario, Huron men in the 17th and 18th centuries painted their bodies before going into battle or taking part in public functions. They also endured the pain of using needles or sharp thorns to tattoo detailed serpents, eagles, and other designs into their skin. In the Southeast, the men commonly painted their faces and bodies, while both men and women were tattooed, as can be seen in the drawings by John White. Creek and Cherokee warriors often tattooed images of the sun on their chests and pictures of plants and animals on other parts of their bodies.
Image Number: I-HI-OZ-03-tattoo
5a.15 Adena Stone Tablets
There is no direct proof that the Adena people of the Ohio Valley painted or tattooed their skin. Yet, the engraved stone tablets that they made strongly suggest that they did. Red ocher powder and pieces of rubbed hematite found at Adena sites were likely the raw materials for red paint.
Another apparent form of adornment for the Adena was intentional skull deformation. This was achieved by binding babies to cradleboards. In time, the hard surface of the board flattened the soft bones at the rear of the skull. Sometimes the brows were furrowed by the bindings. No doubt unpleasant, the process was not severe enough to cause brain damage. In the southeastern United States, historic Indians believed that flattening the skull improved eyesight, making men better hunters. They also felt that it improved their looks. In many ways, this practice is similar to some modern cosmetic surgery.
Catalog Number: A 3490/000210
Image Number: AL05310
5a.16 Adena Mounds
The Adena culture built cone-shaped earthen burial mounds throughout southern Ohio and parts of Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Kentucky, and Indiana. For the most part, the mounds were built as lone monuments on terraces or high bluffs above river valleys. However, in the Hocking River valley in Athens County, Ohio, and the Kanawaha River valley near Charleston, West Virginia, the Adena clustered a number of mounds and circular earthworks. The size of the mounds varies greatly. The Auvergne mound in Kentucky was 30 feet across and 3 feet high when it was excavated. The largest Adena mound is the Grave Creek mound, near Moundsville, West Virginia. It stands 70 feet high and is 317 feet across. The Miamisburg mound near Dayton, Ohio, is a close second at 68 feet high and 270 feet across.
The Adena also built circular earthen enclosures. Often, the walls had a ditch along the inside. Excavations at Mt. Horeb, a circular enclosure in Kentucky, showed that wooden posts had been erected along the inside of the walls. Precisely what was built â€“ perhaps a fence around an area 90 feet across â€“ is not clear. Groups of Adena people may have gathered within these enclosures for public events. At times, smaller earthen walls, sometimes with ditches, were built around the bases of conical mounds. The Conus mound, in Marietta, Ohio, is a case in point.
Catalog Number: H 53136
Image Number: AL02905
5a.18 Mound Construction
Archaeologists believe the Adena people built their mounds to show respect for those buried in them. The size of the mound and the elegance of the grave are thought to be indications of the status of the deceased. Single families or clans may have used specific mounds for generations, much like family plots in modern cemeteries. Other mounds were specially built to cover only one burial.
Archaeologists can determine the sequence in which a mound was built by carefully observing soil layers and the relative positions of the burials in it. The Cresap mound, along the Ohio River in West Virginia, is a good example. The ground plans and cross sections shown here illustrate the sequence of events at this site of Adena mortuary ritual. The first burials were on the floor of a circular wooden ritual structure or in shallow graves below it. Later, the wooden structure was torn down and burials were placed in low mounds of earth above the first graves. Periodically, more layers of soil were added to cover later burials until the mound was nearly 17 feet high and 70 feet across.
Image Number: TippetMoundConstruction
5a.19 Coon Mound
In contrast, the Coon mound in Athens County, Ohio, covered only the burial of one male, 25 to 35 years old at the time of death. The grave was 15 feet long and 5 feet deep. The sides of the grave were plastered with gray clay and lined with vertical wooden posts. Poles placed over the grave and on the ground around it formed a platform about 25 feet square. Beyond the platform was a ring of gravelly soil. The entire grave complex was covered with a mound of soil 30 feet high and at least 114 feet wide. The man must have been important for his survivors to have spent so much energy on his burial.
Image Number: OhArchVol41pg379Fig6and301extract
5a.20 Adena Tablets
Among the rarest and most puzzling Adena objects are engraved tablets. Only 13 have been found in Ohio, Kentucky, and West Virginia. The Wright tablet, discovered in a mound in Montgomery County, Kentucky, in 1937, was the only one found by a trained archaeologist under controlled conditions; the rest were found by accident or by relic hunters. Thus, much that might have been learned from the positions of the tablets and their association with other objects in the mounds has been lost. Most of the tablets are made of fine-grained sandstone. One of the two Gaitskill tablets, a cast of which is shown here, is made from clay. The Wright tablet is limestone.
Image Number: FOCase44
5a.21 Tablet Designs
Two of the tablets are engraved with geometric designs. The rest are incised with abstract figures that appear to be birds such as falcons, hawks, or eagles, or combinations of birds and humans. The bird design is most distinct on the Berlin tablet. The same elements appear as mirror images on the Wilmington and Cincinnati tablets. The Kiefer tablet, only a part of the original, may represent a bird's tail. The Lakin, Gaitskill, and Low tablets combine bird elements with human hands or faces. The Wilmington tablet also shows stylized human faces on the bird heads.
Catalog Number: A 0127/000001
Image Number: AL07169
5a.22 Interpreting Adena Tablets
Archaeologists depend on comparisons with historic Indian cultures to interpret the use and meaning of Adena tablets. Early accounts describe shamans (medicine men) or other important persons wearing bird feathers or complete bird skins as a sign of their social status. Members of some clans or family groups believed that birds were their mythological common ancestors.
The Kwakiutl Indians living along the Pacific coast of British Columbia wore large wooden masks to portray ravens in dances that recounted myths of the raven clan. Perhaps the combinations of birds and humans on some of the Adena tablets represent such dancers or shamans.
Catalog Number: A 0340/000001
Image Number: AL07248
Besides being made of sandstone, the Berlin, Wilmington, Keifer, Cincinnati, and Low tablets are grooved on the back side much like whetstones, which were used for sharpening bone needles. This suggests that the tablets could have been used for tattooing. The engraved surface, covered with paint, could be pressed against a person's body, stamping it with the image. Then the design could be tattooed into the skin using fine bone needles sharpened in the grooves on the back side of the tablet. The process may have been part of an initiation into a social group. The person thus would always be identified as a member of the group.
Catalog Number: A 3490/000210
Image Number: AL05310
The two round objects in the display appear to have been worn as gorgets, judging from the holes along their margins. Both are made from parts of human skulls. The upper specimen has been incised with a stylized bird design quite like that on engraved stone tablets. How these gorgets functioned and the significance of using human bone is unknown.
Catalog Number: A 1706/000126
Image Number: AL07351
5a.27 Adena Cones And Pipes
Cone-shaped or hemispherical stone objects and tubular pipes are two types of objects typical of the Adena culture. The use of the pipes as smoking instruments is easy to understand. Yet archaeologists can only guess on what occasions the Adena smoked their pipes.
The function of the cones or hemispheres is much harder to determine. These objects are usually well crafted with flat bases, smooth surfaces, and symmetrical sides. Many are made of hematite, a native iron ore. This has lead some archaeologists to suggest that the bases of the cones were rubbed against a rough stone to make red ocher pigment for paint. This function does not seem to justify the time and effort spent to shape the cones.
Moreover, archaeologists have also found irregular lumps and chunks of hematite that appear more likely to be objects for producing red ocher. The fact that many cones are made of limestone, sandstone, pipestone, barite, and quartzite, as well as hematite, also weakens that theory. Perhaps the significance of these pieces is in their shape rather than the material from which they are made.
Image Number: FOCase46
5a.28 Adena Tubular Pipes
The Adena people generally made their pipes in a tubular form. Tubular pipes were made from Ohio pipestone, sandstone, fired pottery, orÂ¬ limestone. Pipestone, which is also called fireclay, came mostly from quarries in the hills along the Scioto River north of Portsmouth, Ohio. When freshly quarried, pipestone is easy to carve and polish. However, it hardens as it is exposed to the air and to heat.
The mouthpiece ends of Adena pipes vary; some are flared while others are constricted. Sometimes the hole in the mouthpiece end was blocked with a small pebble. This kept smokers from inhaling burning plant materials.
Catalog Number: A 1994/000026
Image Number: AL07365
5a.29 The Toephner Pipe
In a few cases, the Adena experimented with other forms of pipes. One example is the pottery pipe from Toephner mound, Franklin County. This pipe consisted of a bowl sitting on a curved platform. One End (now broken off) apparently was the stem through which the smoke was drawn. The other end was a handle. Handle pipes have been found in one or two other Adena sites.
Catalog Number: A 3369/000126
Image Number: AL07401
5a.30 Effigy Pipe
A variation on the plain tube pipe is the effigy form. Effigy pipes are made in the likeness of an animal. Four Adena mounds â€“ the Welcome mound in West Virginia, the Englewood mound in Dayton, the Saylor Park mound in Cincinnati, and a small mound in Highland County â€“ have yielded effigy tubular pipes. Three of those pipes are effigies of the shoveler duck and the fourth is a bear. In all cases, the animal's mouth (or bill) forms the mouthpiece of the pipe.
An unusual pottery pipe from Saylor Park mound depicts some type of water bird. Presumably, the animals portrayed on these pipes were significant to the Adena culture. The most famous effigy pipe, the Adena Pipe carved in the form of a man, can be seen elsewhere in this exhibit.
Catalog Number: A 4786/000084
5a.31 Adena Trade
The Adena culture of the Ohio Valley maintained contacts with other Early Woodland groups beyond their own territory. Proofs of these contacts are tubular pipes made of Ohio pipestone, and spear points and blades made of Ohio flint that have been found along the East Coast. Many of these objects were found during construction projects or by relicÂ¬ hunters who paid no attention to their context.
Thus, much vital archaeological information has been lost. For a time, many archaeologists believed that Adena people had migrated to the East Coast. More recent research suggests the existence of wide-ranging trade networks. Copper objects, flint blades, slate ornaments, barite cones and atlatl weights from the Ohio Valley were exchanged for marine objects from the East Coast. The adjacent map shows some of the sites where these objects have been found.
Image Number: FOCase47
5a.32 Adena Trade Networks
Late Archaic groups had engaged in trading such items as Lake Superior copper and marine shells for nearly 1000 years before the Adena. Trade continued during Early Woodland times with even more goods. It was not just the Adena of the Ohio Valley who were trading objects. In western New York, the Meadowood culture had access to excellent sources of Onondaga chert. Leaf-shaped blades, often large caches of them made from this chert were traded in New England, New Jersey, eastern Pennsylvania, Ontario, and as far west as Michigan.
How these trade networks worked and their importance to the people involved is difficult to know. Some suggest that as Early Woodland Indians began to live longer in one place, their territories became smaller. Thus, their access to a wide range of raw materials was restricted. In order to maintain supplies of these materials, the people set up trade links with other groups.
Perhaps these links were based on kinship. Or perhaps, in this chicken and egg situation, trade contacts led to intergroup marriages or formal trading partnerships. At any rate, the occasions when objects were exchanged were probably important social events. There may have been feasting, redistribution of food, and ceremonies affirming intergroup ties. These events may have enhanced the status of those who could acquire exotic goods through trade and redistribute the items within their own groups.
Image Number: FOCase48
5a.33 The Adena Pipe
The Adena Pipe is one of the most famous ancient artifacts ever found in Ohio. It was found in 1901 during the excavation of the mound in Chillicothe for which the Adena culture is named. The pipe is typical of that culture in that it is tubular and made of Ohio pipestone. The bowl opening is between the figure's feet. The much smaller mouthpiece opening is on the top of the head.
The Adena Pipe is unique because it is a tubular pipe carved in the image of a person. Whether it is meant to be a portrait of an actual Adena man, of a mythological being, or just an artist's creation cannot be determined. The figure's proportions are not "normal." In fact, the enlarged head and neck in comparison to the torso suggest a type of dwarfism. Alternatively, the relative proportions may simply indicate what the artist chose to emphasize.
Catalog Number: A 1200/000010
Image Number: A 1200 000010_ adena pipe composite
5a.34 The Adena Pipe
The figure is wearing a distinctive loincloth carved with a bustle of feathers similar to the tail feathers on the Berlin tablet. The curving lines on the front of the loincloth may also relate to that bird-of-prey motif. In the figure's pierced ear lobes are large earspools that are typical of the later Hopewell culture. The curving surfaces on the top of the head may represent a roach hairstyle with the head shaved on each side of a band of hair.
While it is easy to describe the Adena Pipe, it is much harder to assess its place in Adena culture. It is clearly the work of a skilled craftsman, yet no other human effigies have been found. In a sense it is symbolic of Ohio's ancient Indian cultures â€“ sophisticated, complex, and difficult to fully comprehend.
Catalog Number: A 1200/000010
Image Number: AL00258