Date of Award

May 2020

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science



First Advisor

Patricia Richards

Committee Members

Dawn Scher Thomae, John Richards


Archaeology, Hopewell, Hopewell Site, Ross County, Ohio, Interpretation, Museum Studies, Object Biography


This thesis investigates and documents sixty-one Ohio Hopewellian objects that form a collection currently housed at the Milwaukee Public Museum (MPM). The objects were excavated from the Hopewell site of Ross County, Ohio which lends its name to a renowned and geographically expansive archaeological cultural horizon. The meaning and interpretation of these MPM objects, and the site itself have evolved over time through decisions made by Native peoples, archaeologists, and museum curators. The MPM’s collection can be used as a conduit enabling discussion of the evolution of interpretations for the entire Hopewell site and the extraordinary number of artifacts which have been removed from it. Further, this collection is a mechanism for understanding decisions and practices in the nineteenth and twentieth century fields of archaeology and museology.

To fill displays at the Chicago World’s Colombian Exposition of 1893, Warren K. Moorehead excavated mounds at the Hopewell Mound Group in Ohio from 1891 to 1892. Thousands of objects removed from the site were transported to Chicago, later becoming one of the founding collections for the Field Museum (FM). Objects from the Hopewell site were used as a representative specimen type collection for identification of other Hopewellian sites throughout the Eastern Woodlands of the United States. On April 6th, 1945, the Milwaukee Public Museum received 61 objects from the Hopewell site in an exchange with the FM.

This thesis contains two components: a review of decisions made by varying constituents which affected and currently affect the objects and a descriptive analysis of the Hopewell collection at the MPM. First, the review focuses on the transition of these Hopewellian objects’ meaning over time though the decisions of Native peoples, archaeologists, and museum professionals. This begins with a history of the Hopewell site and archaeological practices associated with the site. Next, an object biography is presented, following the MPM Hopewell site collection artifacts journey from southern Ohio to Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The final portion of the review discusses the transition of Hopewellian objects’ interpretation over time in museums and National Parks. The second component of this thesis, includes examination and photography of the physical objects, assessment of provenience information, and a comparison to the larger Hopewell collection at the FM.

The goals of this thesis are to gather information and associate a largely unresearched collection at the MPM to an important archaeological site, connect to an expansive archaeological cultural horizon, and explore the related professional practices of the previous era. Data collected for this thesis will be provided to the MPM and submitted to the FM for potential incorporation into their “Ohio Hopewell” digital project. By including this information in the digital project, this small collection at the Milwaukee Public Museum will be linked to other Hopewellian objects now spread throughout the world, and as a result, will be more accessible for future research.