The Mound Builders

Notes about the Adena and Hopewell

I will do my best to make this an objective posting rather than a posting that just fits my narative. For years now, I have listened to certain groups claiming the Adena to be the Jaredites and the Hopewell to be the Nephites. This hypothesis might be correct. But to insinuate that the modern archeologists tell the story of the Nephites without using or believing in the Book of Mormon would be a stretch for sure.There is certainly enough in the modern archeological record to say that that these two people may be the Book of Mormon people. But don’t kid yourself into believing that you are going to pick up books on modern archeology and read the story of the Book of Mormon handed to you by academics. These academics have done the best they can to pull everything together and construct a history based on pottery shards, artifacts found in graves, other findings which they pull out of the ground.

One source in putting this article together is the book written by Robert Silverberg called The Mound Builders. I have read other books on North American archeology in the past as well. What I find very interesting about this book is that the author sees so much connection to the Book of Mormon that he dedicates an entire chapter to the concept as to how The Book of Mormon is nothing more than an apologistic book explaining how the mounds got there – as if Joseph Smith knew this when he translated the book. He (Robert Silverberg) as an academic rejects the Book of Mormon.

The Nephites were Mound Builders

If you have read the Book of Mormon, particularly the Book of Alma, then you already know that the Nephites built a lot of defensive fortifications. If they were built to the scale described in the book, one might think that these defensive fortifications may still exists – fact is, many of them do still do, and they are very large.

Alma 48:8

8 Yea, he had been strengthening the armies of the Nephites, and erecting small forts, or places of resort; throwing up banks of earth round about to enclose his armies, and also building walls of stone to encircle them about, round about their cities and the borders of their lands; yea, all round about the land.

Alma 49:3-4

Behold, I said that the city of Ammonihah had been rebuilt. I say unto you, yea, that it was in part rebuilt; and because the Lamanites had destroyed it once because of the iniquity of the people, they supposed that it would again become an easy prey for them.

But behold, how great was their disappointment; for behold, the Nephites had dug up a ridge of earth round about them, which was so high that the Lamanites could not cast their stones and their arrows at them that they might take effect, neither could they come upon them save it was by their place of entrance.

Alma 49:18

18 Now behold, the Lamanites could not get into their forts of security by any other way save by the entrance, because of the highness of the bank which had been thrown up, and the depth of the ditch which had been dug round about, save it were by the entrance.

Alma 50:1-4

And now it came to pass that Moroni did not stop making preparations for war, or to defend his people against the Lamanites; for he caused that his armies should commence in the commencement of the twentieth year of the reign of the judges, that they should commence in digging up heaps of earth round about all the cities, throughout all the land which was possessed by the Nephites.

And upon the top of these ridges of earth he caused that there should be timbers, yea, works of timbers built up to the height of a man, round about the cities.

And he caused that upon those works of timbers there should be a frame of pickets built upon the timbers round about; and they were strong and high.

And he caused towers to be erected that overlooked those works of pickets, and he caused places of security to be built upon those towers, that the stones and the arrows of the Lamanites could not hurt them.

There are more sections in the Book of Mormon on this topic, but this should suffice for now. The Book of Mormon tells us that they built walls of earth and they built walls of stone.

I will include two surveyed maps which are also included in another write up about mounds to show the consistency between the Archeology and the Book of Mormon. To see a much larger sample of images and surveys of the North American mound builders, see this post entitled Archeological Mounds in North America.

Ancient Stone Works in Ross County, OH Surveyed 1847.
There are many more surveys of mounds found in the Ohio Valley. This is just a sample of two of them.

To be fair to all who study archeology and the Book of Mormon, there are some archeologist who believe that the builders of these mounds in the Ohio Valley migrated north from Mexico.[Robert Silverberg, The Mound Builders, page 223] Mexico does have many mounds as well. The fact that mounds exist in both places is probably a primary reason why academics within the church fail to come to a concensus of the location of the Book of Mormon lands.

Periods of Mound Building in North American Archeology

In North America, there are several types of mounds attributed to the early natives. They can be classified as follows:

  1. Burial Mounds – whether this be for one person or a group of persons.
  2. Connical Mounds – These may have served for ceremonial purposes, burial mounds for important people, or just as lookout points. Sometimes these conical mounds were surrounded by a circular berm.
  3. Defensive Berms – These walled fortifications were often 10 feet tall or higher.
  4. Ceremonial Complexes – These were commonly made of berms forming shapes such as circles or squares and sometimes much more complex layouts. Many archeologist estimate that these were mostly built during a 200 year period of peace between 0 A.D. and 200 A.D.
  5. Temple Mounds – These mounds were made after the Book of Mormon times and are like unto Cahokia – built up areas of dirt with a large platform on the top.
  6. There are also platform mounds which many consider as Hebrew mounds which were nearly square with ramps on all four sides matching to the description given in Exodus 20 for alters. These types of mounds are found in both North America and South/Central America locations.

North America Had More that One Group of Mound Builders

While archeologist tore into mounds to see characteristics about the people who built them, they determined that there were two classes of people responsible for the mounds. The earlier group they call the Adena. The latter group they call the Hopewell. It is not clear to the Archeologists if the Adena and Hopewell were mutually exclusive or not. They mostly presume that there was overlap in the existence of these people. Whereas, the Book of Mormon makes the groups -Jaredites and Nephites – nearly mutually exclusive.

Book of Mormon Heartlanders presume the Adena to be the Jaredites. They presume the Hopewell to be the Nephites. This is the theory promoted by Wayne May and also promoted by the Firm Foundation with Rod Meldrum and Rian Nelson. I also believe this theory to be likely correct.

The Archaic Period

The archeological Archaic people predate any of the Mound builder people. A quick look at Wikipedia would show that the scientist date the Archaic people from 8000 BC to 1000 BC. Coming from Wikipedia, you can read the following:

Since the 1990s, secure dating of multiple Middle Archaic sites in northern Louisiana, Mississippi and Florida has challenged traditional models of development. In these areas, hunter-gatherer societies in the Lower Mississippi Valley organized to build monumental earthwork mound complexes as early as 3500 BC, with building continuing over a period of 500 years.

By opinion, I believe the Archaic Period represent society beginning with Adam and ended with the flood of Noah. This opinion bleeds over into my belief that the Kenniwick Man which has the DNA marker of Haplogroup X Type 2 was not an early Native American descendant of Lehi or of the Jaredites, but simply a descendant of Adam and lived among a people who were wiped out at Noah’s flood.

The archaic people including the Kenniwick man predate the Book of Mormon.

The Adena

The Book of Mormon teaches that the Jaredites lived from the time that the people fled from the Tower of Babel and ended probably about 580 B.C. The time period of the Tower of Babel is estimated to be about 2200 B.C.

Robert Silverbell, author of the book The Mound Builders proclaims that the Adena folk are very different from the Archaic people. He says the following:

The first description of an Adena skull was provided by Samuel Morton in his Crania Americana in 1839, though of course the Adena Culture had not been identified. He spoke of its “ponderous bony structure . . . large jaws and broad face,” and mentioned the flattened skull produced by the pressure of a board against the head in infancy.

Silverberg continues by quoting Webb and Snow, 120 years later after Samuel Mortons studies. They described the Adena type as having a large round skull, prominent forehead, heavy brow ridges, jutting chin, and massive bones. The Adena folk were unusually tall; bones of women over six feet in height and men approaching seven feet have been discovered.

Perhaps not all Adena were this large, but it does indicate that a sample of the people were large.

The archeological record demonstrating that the Adena were a very large people brings up a good question. Does this match with the Book of Mormon record or Church History? The Book of Mormon does not say much about the size of the Jaredites. However, The Urim and Thummim which Joseph Smith used in translating the Book of Mormon was originally constructed by the Jaredites (Ether 3:23-24). The spectacles are reported as being very large. In an 1890 interview of J.W. Peterson with William Smith, the brother of Joseph Smith, we learn the following about the unusually large size of the spectacles used as the Urim and Thummin:

“Explaining the expression as to the stones in the Urim and Thummim being set in two rims of a bow he said: A silver bow ran over one stone, under the other, around over that one and under the first in the shape of a horizontal figure 8 much like a pair of spectacles. That they were much too large for Joseph and he could only see through one at a time using sometimes one and sometimes the other. By putting his head in a hat or some dark object it was not necessary to close one eye while looking through the stone with the other. In that way sometimes when his eyes grew tires [tired] he relieved them of the strain. He also said the Urim and Thummim was attached to the breastplate by a rod which was fastened at the outer shoulde[r] edge of the breastplate and to the end of the silver bow. This rod was just the right length so that when the Urim and Thummim was removed from before the eyes it woul<d> reac<h> to a pocked [pocket?] on the left side of the breastplate where the instrument was kept when not in use by the Seer.”,the%20stone%20with%20the%20other.

When it comes to the various reports I can read of the Adena, they may not be the Jaredites. Some reports state them to have been living as early as 1000 BC and living up until 0 AD. Seems that most every report says differently. As a result, I have some reservation in believing the claim that the Adena were the Jaredites as recorded in the Book of Mormon. They may have been, but the evidence is not fully conclusive.

Jonathan Neville in his book Between These Hills puts forth a theory that the Jaredites may have been the off-spring of only one of the several families who crossed the waters in the 8 boats spoken of in the Book of Ether.

The Grave Creek Tablet is believed to be an artifact that came out of an Adena mound.

The Grave Creek Tablet

The Hopewell

The Time Period of the Hopewell.

On page 222 of The Mound Builders, Robert Silverberg states the following:

The origin of Hopewell life is a controversial matter. Ohio Hopewell Carbon-14 dates show the culture taking form about 500 B.C., reaching its peak between 100 B.C. and A.D. 200 and disappearing between A.D. 550 and 750;

The earliest record of the Hopewell.

There appears to be a dual beginning of the Hopewell, somewhat reminiscent of the concepts of two civilizations of the Nephites and the Mulekites. Robert Silverberg reports of the Ohio hopewell beginning about 500 B.C. He also reports of Hopewell in Florida beginning about 537 B.C.

On page 224 of The Mound Builders, Robert Silverberg states the following:

The Crystal River Complex is a prehistoric complex whose sites are found along Florida’s gulf coast from Tampa to the mouth of the Apalachicola River, and are also found inland for some 150 miles. The chief site, at Crystal River, is four miles from the gulf. It includes two large temple mounds with ramps, a small residential mound, two burial mounds, and a plaza. Clarence B. Moore excavated the main burial mound and its surrounding platform in 1903 and 1906 discovering 411 burials and a rich collection of shell ornaments, copper objects and other artifacts. Later, this culture was shown to extend over a broad stretch of Florida. Many of its traits seem fairly akin to late Hopewell. Carbon-14 dates for Crystal River Complex sites range from 537 B.C. to about A.D. 1. (with a possible error of 150 years either direction).

There is no doubt about contact between Hopewell and Crystal River. Flynt knives and Hopewell type have been found in Florida, and pottery from Florida has been found in Ohio; and many objects unearthed in Ohio are almost identical to objects unearthed in Florida. It was long thought that Crystal River was a Hopewell influenced settlement, but McMichael would reverse this, saying that the flow of ideas ran from south to north. He points to the flat topped mounds at Crystal River. Such mounds were unknown to the Adena folk and were not built by the early Hopewells; but they appear at such Hopewell sites as Marietta and Newark.

The Ending of the Hopewell.

On page 227 of The Mound Builders, Robert Silverberg states the following:

The end of Hopewell, like the end of any great culture, holds a special fascination. By A.D. 550 – perhaps even earlier – the Hopewells had ceased to build their ceremonial centers. In another two centuries, their distinctive way of life had disappeared, their territory was almost empty, and the remaining Hopewells had been absorbed into smaller tribes. We do not know what caused the abrupt crumbling of the Hopewell. One authority, James B. Griffin, has suggested that climate caused repeated crop failures and weakened the Hopewell economy. Others have guessed at famine, plague, civil war, and invasion of Hopewell territory by savage tribes. One theory is just about as good as another at this point in our knowledge.