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Sod Blocks in Illinois Hopewell Mounds

  • Julieann Van Nest (a1), Douglas K. Charles (a2), Jane E. Buikstra (a3) and David L. Asch (a4)

Abstract

Explaining prehistoric mound development requires both anthropological and geoarchaeological perspectives. Illinois Hopewell (Middle Woodland) mounds are remarkable for the range of earthen materials used in their construction. Adding to this variety we document the presence of upturned sod blocks in a mound at the Mound House site. There and at other Illinois sites the sods have dark, 3-10-cm-thick A horizons with minimal or no evidence of B horizon development. They required no more than a few decades to form and did so under a grass cover. Humans probably created the conditions that enabled sods to form, but the sod blocks were not cut from soils adjacent to the mounds (unless from another mound surface nearby) or from soils in habitation areas. In some respects, sod blocks would have been a superior earthen building material, appropriately chosen, for instance, to construct stable, near-vertical walls of above-ground tombs. Their selection and use, however, cannot be explained solely according to principles of sound and efficient mound construction. We argue that sod blocks and other kinds of earth for Illinois Hopewell mounds surely had important symbolic dimensions in addition to their structural properties.

Résumé

Explicar el desarrollo de los montículos prehistóricos requiere la perspectiva de conocimiento de antropología y geoarqueología. Los montículos de Illinois Hopewell (Woodland medio) resultan notables por su extraordinario rango de materiales utilizados en su construcción. Sumando a esta diversidad, documentamos la presencia de bloques depasto removido en el sitio de Mound House. En este y otros sitios de Illinois el tepe está caracterizado por suelos oscuros, entre 3 y 10 centímetros de espesor de horizontes A con una mínima presencia o ausencia de desarrollo de horizontes B. Estos tepe no requieren mas allá de algunas décadas para formarse y lo logran bajo una cubierta de hierba. La presencia humana problamente creó las condiciones que permitieron la formación del tepe, pero los bloques de tepe nofueron cortados de suelos adyacentes a los montículos (al menos de otra superficie de un montículo cercano) o de suelos de áreas habitacionales. En algunos aspectos los bloques de tepe debieron ser de un material terroso de construcción superior, apropiado, para construir paredes estables, casi verticales arriba de las tumbas. Esta selección y uso, sin embargo, no pueder ser explicados solamente de acuerdo a los principios de sonido y eficiencia en la construcción de monticulo. Nosotros argumos que los bloques de tepe y otras closes de tierra de los montículos de Illinois Hopewell seguramente poseían importantes dimensiones simbólicas además de sus propiedades estructurales.

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References

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