Date posted:  April 11, 2016

Hopewell cultural complex is the name given by archaeologists to the cultures of the Middle Woodland period in Illinois. Hopewell local organization consisted of relatively small family-based communities that were located on river terraces that were adjacent to their fields. The Hopewell period is significant for the rise of an integrated system of trade and political authority that unified thousands of such communities throughout the Midwest.  

Hopewell interaction was grounded in common mortuary observances and the movement of exotic raw materials into the rural farmsteads where collective labor was elicited to construct earthen platforms and burial mounds. Materials and finished works recovered form Hopewell sites include sheet mica, copper, marine shell, silver, grizzly bear teeth, obsidian, woven cloth, carved stone pipes and finely decorated ceramic wares.

This effigy pipe was recovered in 1955 by Greg Perino, Gilcrease curator, during an archaeological excavation in central Illinois sponsored by Thomas Gilcrease Foundation. Created from black steatite, the beaver figure incorporated the techniques of engraving, two-dimensional relief carving, and full form sculpting. From the base, or platform, the beaver assumes a fighting stance, evidenced by the tail tucked beneath the body. The beaver’s incisor’s are carved from actual beaver teeth and skillfully inset to complete the defensive posture. Matched freshwater pearls are inset for eyes. This pipe has been called one of the greatest artworks to emerge from the great Hopewell cultural complex of the Americas.