Out-of-this-World Beads Show Native Culture’s Interaction Sphere


Objects unearthed at a Native American burial site are remnants of an ancient space rock. (Nature)

Who were the Hopewell? Use our resources to better understand this ancient Native American tradition.

Teachers, scroll down for a quick list of key resources in our Teachers Toolkit.

The Hopewell Interaction Sphere stretched as far as the Canadian Great Lakes, the eastern Rocky Mountains, the Gulf of Mexico and the Chesapeake Bay.
Map courtesy Voyageur Media Group Inc., The Ohio Historical Society, and Hopewell Culture National Historic Park
The Havana Hopewell culture existed a little west of the Ohio River nexus of the main Hopewell tradition. Map by Taylor H. Thornton, courtesy Wikimedia. CC-BY-SA-3.0

Discussion Ideas


Today, Hopewell Culture National Historic Park, in Chillicothe, Ohio, preserves mounds associated with the Hopewell tradition.
Photograph by Joe Muray, courtesy the National Park Service



  • How did meteorite jewelry get from central-eastern Minnesota to central-western Illinois? Read through our article for some help.
    • Well, nothing “as mundane as trade.” Instead, scientists think the beads “may have been a gift to cement an alliance, or an offering from religious pilgrims. Perhaps a shaman on a quest found it and transported it, by foot or boat, to Havana.”
    • Our own article, using interviews with the same archaeologist quoted in the Nature article, describes two theories about how the Hopewell acquired their far-flung artifacts.
      • “A lot of what people had traditionally called trade is probably direct procurement. It’s people going out from Ohio [or Illinois] and bringing these exotic things back.”
      • “Another thing that could be going on is that these big earthwork centers … were probably widely known. They were built over a period of hundreds of years. They are awesome to see, so people knew about them. It’s also likely people went as pilgrims from distant places … to visit these great religious centers,” bringing the objects with them.




Nature: Beads made from meteorite reveal prehistoric culture’s reach

Nat Geo: Intriguing Interactions: Who were the Hopewell? article

Nat Geo: What are meteorites? reference article

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