Drums Along the Scioto

April 11, 2017

by Hannah Rea, Social Media Intern

The Mathers Museum of World Cultures Classroom was packed full of people for a lunchtime talk on Tuesday, April 11.

The discussion, entitled “Drums Along the Scioto: losing our marbles but gaining new insights on Hopewell material culture from contemporary Shawnee ceremonial practices,” was a joint presentation of a collaborative research project by Ben Barnes, Second Chief of the Shawnee Tribe, and Dr. Brad Lepper, Senior Curator of Archaeology for the Ohio History Connection.

In the talk, they discussed objects found at the larger Seip Mound in the Hopewell Culture National Historic Park in Ohio.  Specifically, five small stone orbs –Steatite Spheres.  Unearthed in excavations led by Henry Shetrone in the 1920s, they were previously thought to have been marbles used as children’s toys.

Second Chief Barnes and Dr. Lepper described that Shetrone likely arrived at this conclusion by using his current context, as marbles were a popular pastime of American children in the ‘20s; however, Second Chief Barnes pointed out, there is no evidence of such games existing in American Indian culture.

A possible identity can be found in the practice of using water drums, common throughout the centuries in various tribes across America: cylindrical bowls or dishes, sometimes made of wood, which are covered in various types of animal hides, are secured; around the edges, small round stones are pulled tightly and tied in place under the hide.  The stones seem to bear a striking resemblance to those found in the Seip Mound excavation.

Dr. Lepper explained that he hoped this possible identification would open a discussion on new interpretations of the objects, saying it was an “exciting opportunity” moving forward to increase conversation on Hopewell culture.

Video of the talk at the links below:

Part One

Part Two