How did the Mound Builders live and Who were the first and last Mound Builders in North America?

The Adena were the first Mound Builders.

From about 500 B.C. to A.D. 200, they lived in a large area that covered much of present-day Ohio and Pennsylvania and portions of what are now Indiana, Kentucky, West Virginia, and New York State. They built villages of cone-shaped houses made from poles and bark and obtained most of their food from hunting, fishing, and gathering wild plants.

The Adena made simple clay pottery, stone axes and hoes, and beads and jewelry from copper, which they buried in mounds along with their dead.

The next Mound Builders were the Hopewell. Their way of life was similar to the Adena, but their exact relationship to these earlier people is unclear. They may have been the Adena’s descendants or may have attacked the Adena and killed them off.

The Hopewell culture thrived from about 200 B.C. to A.D. 400. It was centered in southern Ohio but spread over a much larger region that included present-day Michigan, Wisconsin, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Pennsylvania, and New York. The Hopewell were great traders who made objects from materials they received from Indians living far from their villages.

Their craftspeople made polished stone pipes carved in the shape of animals and animal figures cut from thin sheets of copper and mica (a shiny mineral).

The last Mound Builders were the Mississippians. These people lived from approximately A.D. 800 to 1500, about the time Christopher Columbus first sailed to North America.

Built along the Mississippi River and its tributaries, their settlements covered much of what is now the central United States. The Mississippians learned to farm many crops, including corn, beans, and squash. With a steady supply of food, their villages were able to grow larger than those of the Adena and the Hopewell. These large villages probably fought one another; images of warriors are often found in stone sculptures made by the Mississippians.

Other objects, such as shells etched with weeping human faces, suggest they had complicated religious beliefs that focused on death and the afterlife.

Stone figurines crafted by a Mississippian artist may have represented the first woman and the first man.

About Karen Hill

Karen Hill is a freelance writer, editor, and columnist. Born in New York, her work has appeared in the Examiner, Yahoo News, Buzzfeed, among others.

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