Indian burial grounds…Native American burial grounds…how about a “prehistoric” burial ground?

Going back further than European settlers and Native Americans, there were the Hopewell. History calls them ‘prehistoric’ but I personally don’t feel that’s an appropriate label. The Hopewell’s burial mounds are dated from 10 B.C. to 400 A.D. To me, those years don’t qualify as ‘prehistoric’…..Biblical times, maybe, but when I think of something ‘prehistoric’ I think of something from 500,000 years ago or more. But hey – that’s me.

The Hopewell men and women buried their dead in giant dirt/leaf/twig mounds all throughout what is now Michigan. Many lived in Michigan’s Mitten and others in Ohio and Illinois.

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Just like the Egyptians who buried their dead with trinkets and valuables, so did the Hopewell. Items found in some of the mounds included jewelry made of copper, mica, pearls, shark teeth, shells, and  volcanic rock. Also found were “household” items like pottery and bowls.

Now where would they get stuff like shark teeth and pearls? They were part of a trading network that went to all parts of the area and into the central part of the country (Kansas, Iowa, Missouri, etc.).

What kind of stuff did they eat? According to MSU’s Geography of Michigan, the Hopewell weren’t necessarily adept at farming and growing their own food, so they ate things found in the woods like berries, nuts, seeds, and wild squash. They also hunted and consumed birds, fish, and various wild animals.

As for dwellings, going by the scant findings, scientists believe the Hopewell made their homes from bark, fur, grass, hides and skins.

Even though their burial mounds are believed to have been created from 10 B.C. to 400 A.D., what happened to them afterward? No one knows. Their story & existence just seemed to stop. However, scientists believe some of Michigan’s current tribes are descendants of the Hopewell.

17 of the Hopewell’s burial mounds are just outside Grand Rapids, called the Norton Mounds. These aren’t the only mounds that were found in the Grand Rapids area; there was another group called the Converse Mounds up until the 1850s. During that particular decade, settlers, farmers, and builders dug up and leveled the mounds and constructed what is now downtown Grand Rapids – with nothing of the mounds left to show.

It is currently closed to the public.

Hopewell (Norton) Burial Mounds

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