Indigenous Religion and Monuments of the Land: Ancient Earthworks/Rockworks; Rings and Mounds in Canada:

*Rings, such as medicine wheels

*Mounds, such as burial mounds, temple mounds, platform (like elite housing or ritual ceremonies) mounds, and effigy mounds


Moose Mountain Medicine Wheel 

On top of a wind-swept hill in southeastern Saskatchewan, there’s a cairn of boulders connected to a large circle of rocks surrounding it by five lines of stones resembling spokes in a wheel. The Moose Mountain Medicine Wheel has been a sacred site for Northern Plains Indians for more than 2,000 years. And yet its origins and purpose remain hidden amid the fog of pre-history. Theories, from the scientific to the other-worldly, abound. But one thing is certain: medicine wheels like the one at Moose Mountain are disappearing, one stone at a time.” ref

And First Nations peoples and archaeologists, alike, fear they may be gone by the next generation. The Moose Mountain Medicine Wheel was first noted by Canadians of European ancestry in an 1895 report written by land surveyors. The report described the central cairn of the wheel as being about 14 feet high, says Ian Brace, an archaeologist with the Royal Saskatchewan Museum in Regina. “The central rock cairn is now about a foot-and-a-half high,” says Brace. “There’ve been people from all points on the globe who’ve not only visited the site, but taken a rock home with them.” ref

“Theft, vandalism and agriculture have reduced to about 170 the number of medicine wheels on the Northern Plains of North America. Brace says he can’t even guess how many wheels once graced the plains. But if the destruction of tipi rings is any indication of the degree of desecration besetting medicine wheels, “in my life time, they might just disappear”. Though medicine wheels are sacred to all plains Indian groups, their symbolism and meaning vary from tribe to tribe.” ref

“The oldest wheels date back about 4,000 years, to the time of the Egyptian pyramids and the English megaliths like Stonehenge. (Moose Mountain has been radio-carbon dated to 800 BCE, however, Brace says it’s possible an older boulder alignment exists beneath the exposed one.) The Blackfoot, first of the current Indian groups on the plains of what are now Saskatchewan and Alberta, arrived about 800 CE.” ref

“When the Blackfoot arrived in the new environment it was already populated by two groups of people called the “Tunaxa” and the “Tunaha”, according to Blackfoot oral history. Brace and others believe the three groups assimilated and the Blackfoot carried on the tradition of building medicine wheel monuments. Alberta and Saskatchewan host the majority of known medicine wheels. Others are located in North Dakota, Montana, and Wyoming.” ref

“Like the Blackfoot before them, Indian groups who migrated to the Northern Plains adopted the medicine wheel as a cultural and spiritual icon. Simon Kytwayhat, a Cree elder who lives in Saskatoon, says he learned his Cree perspective on the meaning of the medicine wheel from elders. Kytwayhat’s interpretation associates the four directions represented on the wheel with the four races and their attributes — the circle and the number four are sacred symbols in First Nations’ spirituality.” ref

“South, says Kytwayhat, stands for the color yellow, the Asian people, the Sun, and intellect, while west represents the black race, the color black, the Thunderbird, and emotion. North is associated with the color white, the white man, winter and physicality — “white people sometimes rush into things without considering the consequences” — and east is identified with the color red, the Indian person, spirituality, and the eagle.” ref

“The eagle has great vision, and so do those who follow the spiritual path in life.” Kytwayhat said he used to blame the white man for all the troubles experienced by Indians. “In time, I came to see the real meaning of the medicine wheel is the brotherhood of man. How you treat others comes back to you around the circle.” ref

“If First Nations’ peoples have divergent views on the meaning of the medicine wheel, members of the non-Native community, including scientists, are often poles apart. The Mormon Church believes the wheels were built by the Aztecs, and Swiss author Erich von Daniken contends they’re a link to pre-historic astronauts. New-Agers, meanwhile, embrace them as spiritual symbols and construct their own near existing sites.” ref

“In the 1970s, Colorado astronomer John Eddy proposed wheels like Moose Mountain and Bighorn, in Wyoming, were calendars whose cairns and spokes aligned with celestial markers like Rigel, Aldebaran and Sirius to forecast events like the return of the buffalo. “It’s all over the map,” says Ernie Walker, head of the Department of Anthropology and Archaeology at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon.” ref

“We don’t know whether some have astronomical alignments or not — if some do, they’re very much in the minority. A lot of (archaeologists) doubt it.” Brace says the astronomical theory is easily debunked by simply imagining someone trying to carry out celestial alignments over the 17-foot crest that separates one side of the Moose Mountain wheel from the other. “Even standing on a horse, you can’t see the other side.”

“Archaeologists and Blackfoot elders appear to agree on at least one kind of medicine wheel. Walker says most archaeologists of the Northern Plains recognize eight different classes or styles of medicine wheels. “Lo-and-behold, the Blackfoot elders have routinely referred to one of these eight styles — although they don’t call it that — and they strongly indicate these were monuments to particular people, or events that happened in the past. I think there’s some consensus on that.” ref

“Brace points out the most recent wheel was constructed in Alberta in 1938, as a memorial to a renowned Blackfoot leader. Brace has come up with a medicine wheel definition that allows him to categorize the 12 to 14 Saskatchewan wheels, which range in diameter from 45 to 144 metres (160 yards), into four groups: burial; surrogate burial; fertility symbol; and “medicine hunting.” ref

“Burial and surrogate burial, as the names imply, are grave sites and memorials. The longest line of boulders in such wheels points to the direction of the honoree’s birth, while shorter ones point to places of courageous acts or remarkable deeds. Fertility wheels have the same pattern of radiating lines and circles employed as fertility symbols on the pottery and birch-bark “bitings” of other pre-historic, North American cultures, he says. The fertility wheels contain buried offerings their builders believed would increase the number of buffalo. “Medicine hunting”, meanwhile, may explain the origin of the Moose Mountain Medicine Wheel, says Brace.” ref

“If the people went into a particular place and they were without resources, they’d take the shoulder blade of the animal they wanted to hunt and put it in the fire. As the bone dried out, it would crack, and at the end of the crack you’d get blobs of fat. “They would interpret (the cracks with the blobs of fat) as indicating the directions they’d have to go to find those food resources, or people who had food to share. The cracks where fat did not accumulate would indicate a poor direction to go.” ref

“Brace suspects the medicine hunting wheel was created, and likely amended over time, to serve as a permanent hunting guide to succeeding generations of nomadic Indians. Permanent, that is, until the white culture came into contact with the red. In the 1980s, the land encompassing the Moose Mountain Medicine Wheel came under the jurisdiction of a First Nation band. Because visitors wishing to view it must first get permission from the band council, at least some degree of security is now assured, says Brace.” ref

“But most of Saskatchewan’s medicine wheels are on Crown, public and privately-owned land. Although they’re “protected” under provincial legislation that allows for fines of up to $3,000 for anyone caught desecrating a medicine wheel, enforcement is difficult. Most of the surviving medicine wheels are situated “off the beaten path”, accessible only to those bent on finding them, says Brace. The same remoteness that protects the wheels from the ravages of high foot traffic, however, also protects the unscrupulous from being caught stealing or vandalizing them.” ref

“It’s a problem that has no easy solution, but Brace says there may be hope in the Indian land-claims process. If ownership of the medicine-wheel sites located on public and Crown land could be transferred to Indian bands, and if Indian families could be induced to reside on the sites, security would be greatly enhanced. In the mean time, people wishing to see a medicine wheel might consider a visit to Wanuskewin Heritage Park, near Saskatoon. There’s no better place to learn about the people to whom the circles remain sacred, and the science that seeks to know why. Readers may also be interested in our story about rock carvings at St. Victor, in south-central Saskatchewan, and rock paintings in northern Saskatchewan on the Churchill River.” ref

“Moose Mountain Upland, Moose Mountain Uplands, or commonly Moose Mountain, is a hilly plateau located in the south-east corner of the Canadian province of Saskatchewan, that covers an area of about 13,000 km2 (5,000 sq mi). The upland rises about 200 m (660 ft) above the broad, flat prairie which is about 600 m (2,000 ft) above sea level. The highest peak is “Moose Mountain” at 830 m (2,720 ft) above sea level. The area was named Moose Mountain because of the large number of moose that lived in the area. When it was originally used by fur tradersMétis, and the Indigenous peoples, the plateau was called Montagne a la Bosse, which is French for “The Mountain of The Bump or Knob.” ref

Before the most recent continental glaciation 23,000 years ago, Moose Mountain was capped by Tertiary-age gravels. As the ice began to retreat about 17,000 years ago from southern Saskatchewan, the highest hills formed nunataks in the ice sheet. The protrusion of the Moose Mountain Upland initiated an interlobate area between two glacial lobes, the Weyburn Lobe and the Moose Mountain Lobe. On the southern side of the upland, in the interlobate area, a short lived glacial lake named Lake Arcola formed. The Moose Mountain Creek Spillway drained the area southward into the Souris Spillway. As the ice was melting away, large chunks were left behind forming depressions called kettles or potholes (locally, the depressions are called sloughs) in the ground. The retreating ice also left small shallow lakes, knobs, and moraines dotted all over Moose Mountain and the surrounding prairies.” ref

“This region of North America is referred to as the Prairie Pothole Region.

A large portion of the Canadian prairies is classified as having a knob and kettle topography. It is believed that this topography was formed by glacial movement. As the glaciers advanced, till was pushed into mounds in some locations and in other locations large blocks of the glacier ice were buried. After the glacier retreated these large buried blocks of ice melted leaving a depression that geologists call a kettle. These kettles are the wetlands or sloughs that are prevalent on the prairie landscape.” ref

Indigenous people have lived in the area of southern Saskatchewan for about 11,000 years and were originally nomadic hunters and gatherers. The area provided plenty of big game such as buffalo, deer, and elk as well as a variety of berries such as saskatoons, blueberries, and raspberries and edible plants like wild rice, turnips, and onions. The earliest archaeological evidence of First Nations in the Moose Mountain area is the Moose Mountain Medicine Wheel which carbon dates to about 800 BCE. The Medicine Wheel is located on the plateau’s highest peak and is under jurisdiction of the Pheasant Rump Nations Band.” ref

“From the 1700s a large network of trails were developed that criss-crossed the prairies that the Métis, First Nations, and other fur traders used as a transportation network for furs and other goods. One of the trails, the Fort ElliceWood Mountain Trail ran along the east and to the south of the Moose Mountain Upland. It was mainly a provisions trail transporting pemmican from buffalo hunting grounds near Wood Mountain back to Port Ellice. It operated from 1757 to about the 1850s. Since there are no major waterways near Moose Mountain and since beaver are not native to the area (two breeding pairs were introduced in 1923 and thrived), it did not play a significant role in the fur trade. Also, combined with its unsuitability for agriculture, much of the plateau remained in situ until the late 1800s. Even today much of the area remains undeveloped and in a natural state.” ref

“One of the first major trails to be built was the Christopher Trail. It was built from Kenosee Lake to Cannington Manor in the 1890s by the Christopher family, who were German immigrants that had a homestead 7 miles east of Kenosee Lake, and the Fripp brothers who owned land on the north-east corner of Kenosee Lake (where the village of Kenosee Lake sits today). Fred Christopher and his two sons cut through 6.4 kilometres of bush going from east to west and the Fripp brothers, Harold and Percy, started at Kenosee Lake and cut through 4.8 kilometres of bush to meet near the middle. Along the trail, two human skeletons were found near a lake. That lake was named Skeleton Lake. Today, that trail is a well-travelled gravel road that runs from Kenosee Lake to Cannington Manor.” ref

“The first road to Kenosee Lake was built in 1905 and went from about 3 miles west of Carlyle north into the upland past the lakes of McGurk, Stevenson, and Hewitt to the west side of Kenosee Lake, near where the Bible camps are today. At that time, there was a resort on the west side of the lake called Arcola Resort. The south side of Moose Mountain Upland rises sharply above the flat plains while the north side has a more gradual ascent. Compared to the surrounding landscape, the upland, which appears oval in shape when viewed from above, is quite hilly and heavily wooded.” ref

“Moose Mountain at 830 metres above sea level is the highest peak and is located on the south side of the plateau near the middle. Highway 605 passes to the west of it. In the vicinity there are other unnamed hills over 800 metres. The next highest named hill is Heart Hill on the eastern side of the plateau located on White Bear First Nations. It is 774 metres high. The only other named summit in the region is Lost Horse Hill with a much lower elevation than most of the plateau at just over 660 metres. Lost Horse Hill is part of the Lost Horse Hills, which are a cluster of rolling hills partially on the Ocean Man Indian Reserve. These hills are located on the far west side of the plateau at the point where the plateau tapers off, south of Moose Mountain Lake and just west of the junction of Moose Mountain and Wolf Creeks. Highway 47 traverses the eastern slope of Lost Horse Hill.” ref

Moose Mountain

  • Location: 49°47′0″N, 102°35′2″W
  • 830 meters above sea level
  • Prominence: 216 metres
  • 27th highest named peak in Saskatchewan

Heart Hill

  • Location: 49°45′0″N, 102°12′2″W
  • 774 metres above sea level
  • Prominence: 37 metres
  • 36th highest named peak in Saskatchewan

Lost Horse Hill

  • Location: 49°53′0″N, 103°3′2″W
  • 660 metres above sea level
  • Prominence: 24 metres
  • 71st highest named peak in Saskatchewan” ref

“At the heart of Moose Mountain Upland is Moose Mountain Provincial Park, which features the Moose Mountain Chalet and an 18-hole golf course. The development of the park and the building of the Chalet between 1931 and 1933 were part of an effort by the Saskatchewan Government to get people working during the Great Depression. The chalet and golf course were built in tandem with the idea of bringing wealthy people to the park. The largest lake on the plateau, Kenosee Lake, is found in the park. Kenosee Lake is stocked with fish, has a beach area, docks, miniature golf, and camping. Overlooking the lake is the Kenosee Inn & Cabins which features a conference room, 30 hotel rooms, and 23 cabins. Three Christian camps, Kenosee Lake Bible Camp.” ref

“Clearview Christian Camp, and Kenosee Boys & Girls Camp are located on the western shore of the lake in Christopher Bay at the site of the former Arcola Resort. Also on the lake is the village of Kenosee Lake which has services such as a gas station, restaurant, and convenience store. To the east of the village, just off Highway 9, is Kenosee Superslides. There is also a ball diamond and hiking trails. Red Barn Market is located five kilometres north of Kenosee Lake near, the intersection of highways 9 and 48. In the winter there is ice fishing, a tobogganing hill, and sledding. On the White Bear First Nation, there is the Bear Claw Casino & Hotel, Carlyle Lake Resort, and White Bear Lake Golf Course.” ref

“At the far western end of the upland, there are two other parks. At the south end of Moose Mountain Lake by the dam, there’s Lost Horse Hills Heritage Park. It’s a small park with a picnic area and dock and is accessed off Highway 47. At the north end of Moose Mountain Lake on the north side of Highway 711, is Saint Clair National Wildlife Area. It is one of 28 Prairie National Wildlife Areas in Saskatchewan. In 1974 Saskairie, a Nature Conservancy of Canada property, was established on the southern slope of Moose Mountain Upland. It is three-quarters of a section located along the southern border of Moose Mountain Provincial Park and along the eastern shore of Kippan Lake, about 2 miles west from the south-western most corner of White Bear Indian Reserve.” ref


Thomas F. Kehoe and Alice B. Kehoe Plains Anthropologist Vol. 22, No. 76, Part 1 (May 1977), pp. 85-95 (11 pages) 

“Eleven boulder configurations in Saskatchewan were examined in 1975 for possible astronomical alignments. Three were found to contain alignments to summer solstice phenomena. Ethnographic interviewing failed to discover any tradition of solstice marking in the historic tribes of the Northwestern Plains, but did suggest that the boulder configurations may have been constructed for the private observations of calendar-keeping shamans. Ethnoarchaeological mapping of a 1975 Sun Dance camp revealed that the ceremonial structures were aligned to sunrise, but whether this was deliberate, and if deliberate, traditional, could not be determined.” ref


“A map of known medicine wheels.” ref

Medicine Wheels?

“Medicine wheels have been identified in South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, Alberta, and Saskatchewan. The oldest identified medicine wheel is the 5,500-year-old Majorville Cairn in southern Alberta.” ref

“To some indigenous peoples of North America, the medicine wheel is a metaphor for a variety of spiritual concepts. A medicine wheel may also be a stone monument that illustrates this metaphor. Historically, most medicine wheels follow the basic pattern of having a center of stone, and surrounding that is an outer ring of stones with “spokes” (lines of rocks) radiating from the center to the cardinal directions (east, south, west, and north). These stone structures may be called “medicine wheels” by the nation which built them, or more specific terms in that nation’s language.” ref

“Physical medicine wheels made of stone were constructed by several different indigenous peoples in North America, especially the Plains Indians. They are associated with religious ceremonies. As a metaphor, they may be used in healing work or to illustrate other cultural concepts. The medicine wheel has been adopted as a symbol by a number of pan-Indian groups, or other native groups whose ancestors did not traditionally use it as a symbol or structure. It has also been appropriated by non-indigenous people, usually those associated with New Age communities.” ref

“The Royal Alberta Museum (2005) holds that the term “medicine wheel” was first applied to the Big Horn Medicine Wheel in Wyoming, the southernmost archeological wheel still extant. The term “medicine” was not applied because of any healing that was associated with the medicine wheel, but denotes that the sacred site and rock formations were of central importance and attributed with religious, hallowed, and spiritual significance.” ref

“As a metaphor, the concept of the sacred hoop of life, also used by multiple Nations, is sometimes conflated with that of the medicine wheel. A 2007 Indian Country Today article on the history of the modern Hoop Dance defines the dancer’s hoop this way: The hoop is symbolic of “the never-ending circle of life.” It has no beginning and no end. Intentionally erecting massive stone structures as sacred architecture is a well-documented activity of ancient monolithic and megalithic peoples.” ref

“The Royal Alberta Museum posits the possible point of origin, or parallel tradition, to other round structures such as the tipi lodge, stones used as “foundation stones” or “tent-pegs“:

Scattered across the plains of Alberta are tens of thousands of stone structures. Most of these are simple circles of cobble stones which once held down the edges of the famous tipi of thePlains Indians; these are known as “tipi rings.” Others, however, were of a more esoteric nature. Extremely large stone circles – some greater than 12 meters across – may be the remains of specialceremonial dancestructures. A few cobble arrangements form the outlines of human figures, most of them obviously male. Perhaps the most intriguing cobble constructions, however, are the ones known as medicine wheels.” ref

“Stone medicine wheels are sited throughout the northern United States and southern Canada, specifically South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, Alberta and Saskatchewan. The majority of the approximately 70 documented stone structures still extant are in Alberta, Canada. One of the prototypical medicine wheels is in the Bighorn National Forest in Big Horn County, Wyoming. This 75-foot-diameter (23 m) wheel has 28 spokes, and is part of a vast set of old Native American sites that document 7,000 years of their history in that area. Medicine wheels are also found in Ojibwa territory, the common theory is that they were built by the prehistoric ancestors of the Assiniboine people. Larger astronomical and ceremonial petroforms, and Hopewell mound building sites are also found in North America.” ref

“In defining the commonalities among different stone medicine wheels, the Royal Alberta Museum cites the definition given by John Brumley, an archaeologist from Medicine Hat, that a medicine wheel “consists of at least two of the following three traits: (1) a central stone cairn, (2) one or more concentric stone circles, and/or (3) two or more stone lines radiating outward from a central point.” From the air, a medicine wheel often looks like a wagon wheel lying on its side. The wheels can be large, reaching diameters of 75 feet.” ref

“The most common variation between different wheels are the spokes. There is no set number of spokes for a medicine wheel to have although there are usually 28, the same number of days in a lunar cycle. The spokes within each wheel are rarely evenly spaced, or even all the same length. Some medicine wheels will have one particular spoke that is significantly longer than the rest. The spokes may start from the center cairn and go out only to the outer ring, others go past the outer ring, and some spokes start at the outer ring and go out from there.” ref

“Sometimes there is a passageway, or a doorway, in the circles. The outer ring of stones will be broken, and there will be a stone path leading in to the center of the wheel. Some have additional circles around the outside of the wheel, sometimes attached to spokes or the outer ring, and sometimes floating free of the main structure.” ref 

“While alignment with the cardinal directions is common, some medicine wheels are also aligned with astronomical phenomena involving the sun, moon, some stars, and some planets in relation to the Earth’s horizon at that location. The wheels are generally considered to be sacred sites, connected in various ways to the builders’ particular culture, lore and ceremonial ways. Other North American indigenous peoples have made somewhat-similar petroforms, turtle-shaped stone piles with the legs, head, and tail pointing out the directions and aligned with astronomical events.” ref

“Stone medicine wheels have been built and used for ceremonies for millennia, and each one has enough unique characteristics and qualities that archaeologists have encountered significant challenges in determining with precision what each one was for; similarly, gauging their commonality of function and meaning has also been problematic.” ref

“One of the older wheels, the Majorville medicine wheel located south of Bassano, Alberta, has been dated at 3200 BCE (5200 years ago) by careful stratification of known artifact types. Like Stonehenge, it had been built up by successive generations who would add new features to the circle. Due to that and its long period of use (with a gap in its use between 3000 and 2000 years ago, archaeologists believe that the function of the medicine wheel changed over time.” ref

“Astronomer John Eddy put forth the suggestions that some of the wheels had astronomical significance, where spokes on a wheel could be pointing to certain stars, as well as sunrise or sunset, at a certain time of the year, suggesting that the wheels were a way to mark certain days of the year. In a paper for the Journal for the History of Astronomy Professor Bradley Schaefer stated that the claimed alignments for three wheels studied, the Bighorn medicine wheel, one at Moose Mountain in southeastern Saskatchewan, and one at Fort Smith, Montana, there was no statistical evidence for stellar alignments.” ref

“The Bighorn Medicine Wheel is the best known of those found on the Northern and Northwestern Plains, and was the first structure of its type to be systematically studied by professional anthropologists and archaeologists. The Bighorn Medicine Wheel is located at an elevation of 9,642 feet on a high, alpine plateau near the crest of the Bighorn Mountains of north central Wyoming, about 30 miles east of Lovell. Native Americans regard the Medicine Wheel as an essential but secondary component of a much larger spiritual landscape composed of the surrounding alpine forests and mountain peaks, including Medicine Mountain.” ref

“The most conspicuous feature of the Medicine Wheel is a circular alignment of limestone boulders that measures about 80 feet in diameter and contains 28 rock “spokes” that radiate from a prominent central cairn. Five smaller stone enclosures are connected to the outer circumference of the wheel. A sixth and westernmost enclosure is located outside the Medicine Wheel but is clearly linked to the central cairn by one of the “spokes.” The enclosures are round, oval, or horseshoe-shaped and closely resemble Northern and Northwestern Plains fasting (vision quest) structures described by early researchers. Though obscured by a century of non-native use by loggers, ranchers, miners, and recreationalists, the surrounding 15,000 acres contain numerous historic and prehistoric sites including tipi rings, lithic scatters, buried archaeological sites, and a system of relict prehistoric Indian trails.” ref

“Archaeologists generally believe that the Medicine Wheel was constructed over a period of several hundred years during the Late Prehistoric Period. Ceramic shards recovered from the eastern half of the Medicine Wheel have been associated with the Shoshone and Crow tribes. Early nineteenth century glass beads were found near the central cairn, and a wood sample from one of the cairns was tentatively dated to 1760 by means of dendrochronological techniques. Hearth charcoal and preserved wood fragments recovered from archaeological sites in the area yielded radiocarbon dates ranging from the modern era to nearly 7,000 years ago.” ref

“Diagnostic artifacts and other archaeological materials found in close association with the Medicine Wheel itself tend to date to the latter half of the Late Prehistoric Period, from about 900 to 1800. Although these diagnostic artifacts and radiocarbon dates fail to decisively explain the construction and use of the Medicine Wheel, the evidence indicates that prehistoric Native Americans used the general area for nearly 7,000 years. Whether this prehistoric occupation was oriented towards ceremonial or spiritual use—with the Medicine Wheel/Medicine Mountain as the central focus—is a speculative issue that archaeological data may not be able to resolve. It is clear, however, that the Medicine Mountain area was known to and used by prehistoric Native Americans long before the Medicine Wheel was constructed.” ref

“Archaeological evidence cannot definitively identify which tribes used the Medicine Wheel. However, in addition to the above-referenced ceramics associated with the Shoshone and Crow, researchers have noted substantial archaeological evidence supporting an extensive Crow presence on the western slopes of the Big Horn Mountains beginning in the late sixteenth century (or possibly earlier) as well as evidence of a substantial Shoshone occupation in the nearby western Big Horn Basin. Horseshoe-shaped enclosures like those found at the Medicine Wheel have been associated with the Crow Indian fasting (vision quest) rituals.” ref

“Based on exhaustive ethnohistorical research, anthropologist Karl Schlesier has suggested that the Bighorn Medicine Wheel, as well as the Moose Mountain wheel in Saskatchewan, may represent tribal boundary markers as well as Cheyenne ritual lodges that predate sun dance ceremonies. Archaeoastronomer John Eddy demonstrated that the Medicine Wheel likely served as an ancient astronomical observatory, noting several important star alignments involving the central and circumferential cairns.” ref

“Along with the ceremonial and/or spiritual prehistoric sites, the Medicine Mountain area contains many contemporary Native American traditional use areas and features, including ceremonial staging areas, plant gathering areas, sweat lodge sites, altars, offering locales, and recent fasting (vision quest) enclosures. Ethnographic evidence demonstrates that the Medicine Wheel and the surrounding landscape is and has been a major ceremonial and traditional use area for many regional Indian tribes, including Arapaho, Bannock, Blackfeet, Cheyenne, Crow, Kootenai-Salish, Plains Cree, Shoshone, and Sioux. These tribes generally venerate the Medicine Wheel because it embodies powerful spiritual principles that figure prominently in tribal and family ceremonial traditions.” ref

“Native American oral traditions and ethnohistory are also relevant to the question of the origins and use of the Medicine Wheel. A Crow legend recounts the construction of the Medicine Wheel by Burnt Face, who fasted there in order to heal his disfigurement. According to Blackfeet traditions, Scar Face traveled to the Medicine Wheel in the distant past, where his disfigurement was removed and he was given instructions for building a sweathouse and conducting the sun dance, information, which he carried back to his tribe.” ref

“In the 1910s, the Crow Indian Flat-Dog reported to anthropologist Robert Lowie that the Medicine Wheel was the “Sun’s Lodge,” that many Crow went there to fast, and that the structure was very ancient. When interviewed by George Bird Grinnell in 1921, an elderly Cheyenne Indian named Elk River compared the Medicine Wheel to the Cheyenne sun dance lodge. Anthropologist James Howard cited an ethnohistorical transcription in which John Bull, a Ponca chief, testified the Medicine Wheel “represents a sun dance circle.” ref

“Native American oral traditions also clearly affiliate Medicine Mountain and the Medicine Wheel with several historically prominent Indian chiefs. Plenty Coups was the last hereditary chief of the Mountain Crow tribe, as well as the most prominent Crow statesman during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. According to Crow tribal oral traditions, Plenty Coups fasted at the Medicine Wheel, once with Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce. Chief Joseph is perhaps best known for leading a band of 700 Nez Perce in a desperate, brilliant, and ultimately futile 1877 military campaign to withdraw his tribe to a Canadian sanctuary among the northern Sioux. Chief Joseph twice asked the Crow Chief Spotted Tail to take him to the Wheel to fast and pray—once after he was incarcerated by the military, and later when he became ill with tuberculosis. Chief Washakie, the celebrated head chief of the Eastern Shoshone until his death in 1900, reportedly acquired much of his power at the Medicine Wheel and was sometimes joined in prayer by the Crow.” ref

“To many longtime Euro-American residents of the northern Bighorn Basin, the Medicine Wheel represents a popular area for camping, hunting, fishing, and picnicking. The first documentary reference to the Wheel occurred in 1895, when Paul Francke described his hunting exploits in an article published in Forest and Stream. At the turn of the nineteenth century, miners and loggers exploited the natural resources near the Medicine Wheel, contributing significantly to the local economy. Later, the area served as an important summer range for domestic sheep and cattle. Local residents have always expressed a proprietary interest in the Medicine Wheel. Boy scouts from the nearby town of Lovell built a protective rock wall around the Medicine Wheel sometime in the early 1920s, and prominent local politicians were instrumental in the Wheel’s designation as a National Historic Landmark in 1970. The Landmark documentation was revised in 2011 to include a rapidly expanding body of ethnographic information regarding Native American traditional cultural knowledge of the Medicine Mountain landscape, and the designation was renamed the Medicine Wheel/Medicine Mountain National Historic Landmark. Today, the Medicine Wheel is managed by the U.S. Forest Service. Visiting the site requires a 3-mile round trip walk at more than 9,000-foot elevation. Visitors with impaired mobility are permitted to drive to the Medicine Wheel.” ref

Who built the Great Medicine Wheels?


The Medicine Wheels in North America were built by the ancient Plains Indians, nomadic tribes including the Sioux (Lakota, Dakota, Nakota), Cheyenne, Crow, Blackfoot, Arapaho, Cree, Shoshoni, Comanche, and Pawnee. Because they followed herds of buffalo and deer, they were typically on the move most of the year. At one time the Plains Indians occupied all of central North America, from the North Saskatchewan River, in Canada, to Texas, and from the valleys of the Mississippi and the Missouri to the foot of the Rockies.” ref

“Since they rarely stayed in one place, they did not need to build permanent structures out of stone. Thus architectural evidence of the ancient plains Indians is almost non-existent. Along with the lack of permanent buildings, they did not have a written language. Their lore was passsed down in stories told through generations. Even though they left no books to guide us, much of their story can be gleaned in their art and artifacts. Many of these objects reflect their fascination and respect for the Sun and sky. They looked at the heavens with wonder and awe just as we continue to do today. It appears these ancient Plains Indians were deeply connected to their environment and their mythology is rich with celestial themes.” ref

“Medicine Wheels vary in age by centuries. The current Bighorn Medicine Wheel in Wyoming is thought to be about 200 years old, thus still fairly “new.” However, there is some evidence that the wheel existed for much longer than that, and that the current wheel is only the last example of a wheel at Bighorn. The Moose Mountain wheel in Saskatchewan is thought to be about 2000 years old, thus built around the time of Christ. Moose Mountain is so similar to Bighorn that some believe it was the model for the younger wheel. The oldest wheel known is in Majorville Canada. Archaeologists have set its age at 5000 years, around the time of the Great pyramids of Egypt. There is some evidence that some of the older wheels have been adjusted over the centuries to correct for the shift in alignment of the solstice.” ref


Laurel complex

“The Laurel complex or Laurel tradition is an archaeological culture which was present in what is now southern Quebec, southern and northwestern Ontario, east-central Manitoba in Canada, and northern Michigan, northwestern Wisconsin and northern Minnesota in the United States. They were the first pottery using people of Ontario north of the Trent–Severn Waterway. The complex is named after the former unincorporated community of Laurel, Minnesota. It was first defined by Lloyd Wilford in 1941.” ref

Hopewell Interaction Sphere

“The Hopewell Exchange system began in the Ohio and Illinois River Valleys about 300 BCE. The culture is referred to more as a system of interaction among a variety of societies than as a single society or culture. Hopewell trading networks were quite extensive, with obsidian from the Yellowstone area, copper from Lake Superior, and shells from the Gulf Coast. The construction of ceremonial mounds was an important feature of the Laurel complex, as it was for the Point Peninsula complex and other Hopewell cultures. Sites were usually located at rapids or falls where sturgeon come to spawn, and ceremonies may have coincided with this yearly event. The mounds and the artifacts contained within them indicate contact with the Adena and Hopewell of the Ohio River valley. It is unknown if the contact was direct or indirect.” ref


“The first mound-builders in what is now the Kay-Nah-Chi-Wah-Nung National Historic Site of Canada, Laurel culture (c.2300 – 900 years ago) who lived “in villages and built large round burial mounds along the edge of the river, as monuments to their dead.” These mounds remain visible today. Kay-Nah-Chi-Wah-Nung is considered to be one of the “most significant centers of early habitation and ceremonial burial in Canada,” is located on the north side Rainy River in Northwestern Ontario, Canada. It became part of a continent-wide trading network because of its strategic location at the center of major North American waterways.” ref

Blackduck tradition

“The later Blackduck tradition has been framed as a successor culture in the region, with the archaeologist K. C. A. Dawson positioning the Blackduck as a new, unrelated population which spread northward through northern Minnesota, southern Manitoba, and northwestern Ontario c. CE 500 to CE 900. Blackduck ceramics were notably better-constructed than Woodland period predecessors, with thinner walls and larger size. It was noted by Dawson that at the Wabinosh River site north of Lake Superior, late Laurel ceramics display some traits of the Blackduck and Selkirk traditions. Dawson associates the Laurel with an Archaic period residual population, with an influx of Blackduck people as the climate in the north became milder; he associates the Blackduck with the Ojibwe.” ref


Saugeen complex

“The Saugeen complex was a First Nations culture located around the southeast shores of Lake Huron and the Bruce Peninsula, around the London area, and possibly as far east as the Grand River. They were active in the period 200 BCE to 500 CE. Archeological evidence suggests that Saugeen complex people of the Bruce Peninsula may have evolved into the Odawa people (Ottawa). In mid-20th century archaeology, the Middle Woodland period in Ontario was conceived of as being divided geographically into three regional complexes: the Couture in the far southwest, the Point Peninsula in south-central and eastern Ontario, and the Saugeen in much of the rest of southwestern Ontario.” ref

“David Marvyn Stothers, who originally conceptualized the Princess Point complex as an archeological culture, argued in a 1973 article that it and the Saugeen were unrelated. However, with continued discoveries and understanding of the period, the idea of distinct, separate complexes has been eroded, especially with the discovery of greater local variability in material culture. Therefore, scholars such as Neal Ferris and Michael Spence have proposed abandonment of the framework altogether, or relegation of the terms to purely geographic use, with their replacement by more localized complexes.” ref

“The Hopewell Exchange system began in the Ohio and Illinois River valleys about 200 BCE. The culture is referred to more as a system of interaction among a variety of societies than as a single society or culture. Hopewell trading networks were quite extensive, and their valued commodities included obsidian from the Yellowstone area, copper from Lake Superior, and shells from the Gulf Coast. The Hopewell tradition was not a single culture or society, but a widely dispersed set of related populations. They were connected by a network of trade routes. known as the Hopewell Exchange System. At its greatest extent, the Hopewell exchange system ran from the Southeastern United States into the southeastern Canadian shores of Lake Ontario. Within this area, societies participated in a high degree of exchange with the highest amount of activity along waterways, the easiest transportation routes.” ref

“The burial customs of the Saugeen people were similar to those of the nearby Point Peninsula complex. The evidence from excavations suggests a band size of about 50 individuals. No indications of status differences have been found in excavations, but no mounds in the Saugeen complex have been excavated. The main distinction between the Saugeen complex and the nearby Point Peninsula complex peoples seems to be that Saugeen ceramics were cruder in construction and decoration.” ref


Point Peninsula complex

“The Point Peninsula complex was an indigenous culture located in Ontario and New York from 600 BCE to 700 CE (during the Middle Woodland period). Point Peninsula ceramics were first introduced into Canada around 600 BCE then spread south into parts of New England around 200 BCE. Some time between 300 BCE and 1 CE, Point Peninsula pottery first appeared in Maine, and “over the entire Maritime Peninsula.” Little evidence exists to show that it was derived from the earlier, thicker pottery, known as Vinette I, Adena Thick, etc… Point Peninsula pottery represented a new kind of technology in North America and has also been called Vinette II. Compared to existing ceramics that were thicker and less decorated, this new pottery has been characterized by “superior modeling of the clay with vessels being thinner, better fired and containing finer grit temper.” Where this new pottery technology originated is not known for sure. The origin of this pottery is “somewhat of a problem.” The people are thought to have been influenced by the Hopewell traditions of the Ohio River valley. This influence seems to have ended about 250 CE, after which they no longer practiced burial ceremonialism.” ref

“The Hopewell exchange system began in the Ohio and Illinois River valleys about 300 BCE. The culture is referred to more as a system of interaction among a variety of societies than as a single society or culture. Hopewell trading networks were quite extensive, with obsidian from the Yellowstone area, copper from Lake Superior, and shells from the Gulf Coast. In some areas Point Peninsula people buried some of their dead in mortuary mounds. Interred with the dead were exotic grave goods, including copper and silver pan pipes, marine shell gorgets, and exotic cherts. The exotic goods among the burials may provide evidence for inherited status differentiation among Point Peninsula groups. Pan pipes, which have been found in burial mounds from Florida to Minnesota, considered to be a diagnostic trait within the Hopewell inventory, appear suddenly in North America around 200 BCE, then disappear as do certain other Hopewell traits, around 400 CE. Found mostly in the United States, nine pan pipes curiously appear in the LeVesconte mound, a Point Peninsula site located in Campbellford, Ontario.” ref

“Though the Hopewell interaction sphere generally is confined to the United States, much of the silver found in mound artifacts, such as pan pipes, actually comes from Cobalt, Ontario, far up the Ottawa River. The Point Peninsula people of the Middle Woodland period lived by hunting and gathering, supplemented by agriculture. Around 900 CE, Point Peninsula artifacts in New York were replaced by Owasco culture artifacts. However, a 2011 paper by archaeologist John P. Hart argues there was no definable Owasco culture. Archaeologists believe these indicated the presence of Clemson Island peoples’ spreading northward and intermingling with the Point Peninsula complex through the years of 1300. The Serpent Mounds Park at Rice Lake was occupied during the prehistoric Middle Woodland period. The burial mound was shaped like a giant snake.” ref

“The Owasco peoples practiced different pottery techniques and were more sedentary agriculturalists than the Point Peninsula people. They cultivated a variety of types of maize, squash, and eventually beans, and lived in larger villages of several hundred to a thousand people. Warfare was prevalent, as is shown by archeology. The people built fortified villages, but many still died violently. Gradually, smaller bands and tribes formed into larger groups. The Owasco are thought to have eventually developed into the several Iroquoian-speaking nations of Pennsylvania and New York. The Haudenosaunee, or Iroquois Confederacy, likely formed in an effort to avoid the continual warfare of years past. Some important sites are the Rice Lake/Lower Trent River area, including the Serpent Mounds ParkCameron’s Point, and LeVescounte Mounds in Prince Edward County.” ref



“The Hopewell tradition, also called the Hopewell culture and Hopewellian exchange, describes a network of precontact Native American cultures that flourished in settlements along rivers in the northeastern and midwestern Eastern Woodlands from 100 BCE to 500 CE, in the Middle Woodland period. The Hopewell tradition was not a single culture or society but a widely dispersed set of populations connected by a common network of trade routes. At its greatest extent, the Hopewell exchange system ran from the northern shores of Lake Ontario south to the Crystal River Indian Mounds in modern-day Florida. Within this area, societies exchanged goods and ideas, with the highest amount of activity along waterways, which were the main transportation routes. Peoples within the Hopewell exchange system received materials from all over the territory of what now comprises the mainland United States. Most of the items traded were exotic materials; they were delivered to peoples living in the major trading and manufacturing areas.” ref

“These people converted raw materials into products and exported them through local and regional exchange networks. Hopewell communities traded finished goods, such as steatite platform pipes, far and wide; they have been found among grave goods in many burials outside the Midwest. Although the origins of the Hopewell are still under discussion, the Hopewell culture can also be considered a cultural climax. Hopewell populations originated in western New York and moved south into Ohio, where they built upon the local Adena mortuary tradition. Or, Hopewell was said to have originated in western Illinois and spread by diffusion… to southern Ohio. Similarly, the Havana Hopewell tradition was thought to have spread up the Illinois River and into southwestern Michigan, spawning Goodall Hopewell.” ref

“American archaeologist Warren K. Moorehead popularized the term Hopewell after his 1891 and 1892 explorations of the Hopewell Mound Group in Ross County, Ohio. The mound group was named after Mordecai Hopewell, whose family then owned the property where the earthworks are sited. What any of the various peoples now classified as Hopewellian called themselves is unknown; indeed, what language families they spoke is unknown. Archaeologists applied the term “Hopewell” to a broad range of cultures. Many of the Hopewell communities were temporary settlements of one to three households near rivers. They practiced a mixture of hunting, gathering, and horticulture.” ref

“The Hopewell inherited from their Adena forebears an incipient social stratification. This increased social stability and reinforced sedentism, specialized use of resources, and probably population growth. Hopewell societies cremated most of their deceased and reserved burial for only the most important people. In some sites, hunters apparently were given a higher status in the community: their graves were more elaborate and contained more status goods. The Hopewellian peoples had leaders, but they did not command the kind of centralized power to order armies of slaves or soldiers. These cultures likely accorded certain families a special place of privilege.” ref

“Some scholars suggest that these societies were marked by the emergence of “big-men“, leaders whose influence depended on their skill at persuasion in important matters such as trade and religion. They also perhaps augmented their influence by cultivating reciprocal obligations with other important community members. The emergence of “big-men” was a step toward the development of these societies into highly structured and stratified chiefdoms. The Hopewell settlements were linked by extensive and complex trading routes; these operated also as communication networks, and were a means to bring people together for important ceremonies.” ref

“Today, the best-surviving features of the Hopewell tradition era are earthwork mounds. Researchers have speculated about their purposes, and debate continues. Great geometric earthworks are one of the most impressive Native American monuments throughout American prehistory, and were built by cultures following the Hopewell. Eastern Woodlands mounds typically have various geometric shapes and rise to impressive heights. Some of the gigantic sculpted earthworks, described as effigy mounds, were constructed in the shape of animals, birds, or writhing serpents.” ref

“Several scientists, including Bradley T. Lepper, hypothesize that the Octagon, in the Newark Earthworks at Newark, Ohio, was a lunar observatory. He believes that it is oriented to the 18.6-year cycle of minimum and maximum lunar risings and settings on the local horizon. The Octagon covers more than 50 acres, the size of 100 football pitches. John Eddy completed an unpublished survey in 1978, and proposed a lunar major alignment for the Octagon. Ray Hively and Robert Horn of Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana, were the first researchers to analyze numerous lunar sightlines at the Newark Earthworks (1982) and the High Banks Works (1984) in Chillicothe, Ohio.” ref

“Christopher Turner noted that the Fairground Circle in Newark, Ohio aligns to the sunrise on May 4, i.e. that it marks the May cross-quarter sunrise. In 1983, Turner demonstrated that the Hopeton earthworks encode various sunrise and moonrise patterns, including the winter and summer solstices, the equinoxes, the cross-quarter days, the lunar maximum events, and the lunar minimum events, due to their precise straight and parallel lines. William F. Romain has written a book on the subject of “astronomers, geometers, and magicians” at the earthworks. Many of the mounds also contain various types of human burials, some containing precious grave goods such as ornaments of coppermica and obsidian imported from hundreds of miles away. Stone and ceramics were also fashioned into intricate shapes.” ref

“The Hopewell created some of the finest craftwork and artwork of the Americas. Most of their works had some religious significance, and their graves were filled with necklaces, ornate carvings made from bone or wood, decorated ceremonial pottery, ear plugs, and pendants. Some graves were lined with woven mats, mica (a mineral consisting of thin glassy sheets), or stones. The Hopewell produced artwork in a greater variety and with more exotic materials than their predecessors the Adena. Grizzly bear teeth, fresh water pearls, sea shells, sharks’ teeth, copper, and small quantities of silver were crafted as elegant pieces. The Hopewell artisans were expert carvers of pipestone, and many of the mortuary mounds are full of exquisitely carved statues and pipes.” ref

“Excavation of the Mound of Pipes at Mound City found more than 200 stone smoking pipes; these depicted animals and birds in well-realized three-dimensional form. More than 130 such artifacts were excavated from the Tremper site in Scioto County. Some artwork was made from carved human bones. A rare mask found at Mound City was created using a human skull as a face plate. Hopewell artists created both abstract and realistic portrayals of the human form. One tubular pipe is so accurate in form that the model was identified by researchers as an achondroplastic (chondrodystropicdwarf. Many other figurines are highly detailed in dress, ornamentation, and hairstyles. An example of the abstract human forms is the “Mica Hand” from the Hopewell Site in Ross County, Ohio. Delicately cut from a piece of mica 11 x 6 in, the hand carving was likely worn or carried for public viewing. They also made beaded work. In addition to the noted Ohio Hopewell, a number of other Middle Woodland period cultures are known to have been involved in the Hopewell tradition and participated in the Hopewell exchange network.” ref

“The Laurel complex was a Native American culture in what is now southern Quebec, southern and northwestern Ontario, and east-central Manitoba in Canada; and northern Michigan, northwestern Wisconsin, and northern Minnesota in the United States. They were the first pottery-using people of Ontario north of the Trent-Severn Waterway. The complex is named after the former unincorporated community of Laurel, Minnesota. And the Point Peninsula complex was a Native American culture located in present-day Ontario, Canada and New York, United States, during the Middle Woodland period. It is thought to have been influenced by the Hopewell traditions of the Ohio River valley. This influence seems to have ended about 250 CE, after which burial ceremonialism was no longer practiced. Also, the Saugeen complex was a Native American culture located around the southeast shores of Lake Huron and the Bruce Peninsula, around the London, Ontario area, and possibly as far east as the Grand River in Canada. Some evidence exists that the Saugeen complex people of the Bruce Peninsula may have evolved into the historic Odawa people, also known as the Ottawa.” ref

Mounds in Canada

“Petroform Site: In Manitoba, a large, nine-acre site exists in the Whiteshell Provincial Park that may be North America’s largest, intact petroform site. It includes human-made boulder outlines, effigies, large carved boulders, stone circles, medicine wheels, and rock art. Medicine wheels and petroforms are also found in Manitoba’s Turtle Mountain Provincial Park.” ref

“Ancient Burial Mounds: In both northern Minnesota and northwestern Ontario, there’s the vast network of ancient burial mounds dating back 2000 years, along the Rainy River west of International Falls (all now registered historic sites in both countries). On the Minnesota side of the river is the Grand Mound, the largest burial mound in the upper U.S. Midwest at 325 feet around and 25 feet high, and the McKinstry Mounds (aka Pelland Mounds). Just across the river on the Canadian north side are the 20-25 sacred Manitou Mounds at the Kay-Nay-Chi-Wah-Nung National Historic Site.” ref

Linear Mounds National Historic Site

“Linear Mounds was designated as a national historic site of Canada in 1973 because the site contains some of the most spectacular and best-preserved examples of mortuary mounds belonging to the Devil’s Lake-Sourisford Burial Complex. Located near the Souris River in southern Manitoba, the Linear Mounds burial site is a sophisticated construction consisting of three mounds spread out over a large area of land. These burial mounds, dating from approximately 900 to about 1400 CE, are complex constructions of soil, bone, and other materials. The excellent state of preservation of these mounds has yielded a wealth of information concerning life in the Great Plains at this time, revealing, by the nature of the goods in the burial mounds, that the peoples of this area were part of a continent-wide trading network.” ref 

Kay-Nah-Chi-Wah-Nung Mounds

“The Kay-Nah-Chi-Wah-Nung Historical Centre, or Manitou Mounds, is Canada’s premier concentration of ancient burial mounds. Manitou Mounds National Historic Site, as it was once called, is a vast network of 30 village sites and 15 ancient burial mounds constructed from approximately 5000 years ago during the Archaic Period, to 360 years ago it is one of the “most significant centers of early habitation and ceremonial burial in Canada.” It is located on a river stretch known as Long Sault Rapids on the north side of Rainy River, approximately 54 kilometres (34 mi) east of Fort Frances, in the Rainy River District of Northwestern Ontario, Canada off highway 11. It was designated as a National Historic Site of Canada in 1969.” ref

“The name Kay-Nah-Chi-Wah-Nung, is Ojibway and it means “place of the long rapids”. Kay-Nah-Chi-Wah-Nung is also known as Manitou Mounds National Historic Site of CanadaGENWAAJIWANAANGRainy River Burial Mounds, and Armstrong Mounds. The larger network of mounds extends from Quetico in the east through Rainy River and Lake of the Woods into south-eastern Manitoba. There are approximately 20 archaeological sites. The burial mounds are as tall as 40 feet (12 m). The national historic site of Canada consists of a “500 metres (1,600 ft)-wide strip of lowland stretching 3 kilometres (1.9 mi) along the north bank of the Rainy River in the isolated area midway between Rainy Lake and Lake of the Woods.” ref

“Its strategic location at the centre of major North American waterways, created a vibrant continent-wide trading network. Having direct contact with European fur traders and explorers of the 17th century, Aboriginal people continued to live in the area throughout the period of the fur trade and settlement eras. Kay-Nah-Chi-Wah-Nung permitted easy access to, and interaction with, people from other areas of the continent. It came to be known as a gathering place where people would trade, share, celebrate, and mourn. The Ojibway and their ancestors used the prominent sets of rapids along the Rainy River to fish. Because the rapids never froze, fish were in abundance during every season, thus supporting larger populations. — Parks Canada 2013″ ref

“The south-facing hills overlooking the Rainy River served as an ideal location for growing, harvesting and sharing medicinal plants. Specimens were brought by many First Nations peoples when they came there to trade. The site is considered sacred to the Ojibwa, on whose traditional land it is located: This site has deep cultural and spiritual significance to the Ojibway people as a living link in the continuum of past, present and future. Its location at the centre of a major network of North American waterways also means it has significance to First Nations peoples on other parts of the continent. The heritage value of Kay-Nah-Chi-Wah-Nung National Historic Site of Canada resides in its historical associations with past and present cultures as symbolized by its strong sense of place, the location and natural features of the site, the presence of its ancient burial mounds and habitation sites, and the site’s function as a living link between those who visited, occupied or used it in the past and the lives of the Ojibway people of today. — NHSC Commemorative Integrity Statement 1998″ ref

“The Rainy River, a relatively wide, straight, and peaceful river (with the exception of the fluvial terraces at Long Sault Rapids), was a major North American waterway. With waterways the most important means of transportation, it served as a superhighway for a vibrant continent-wide trading network for thousands of years. Archaeological artifacts and sites dated at approximately 5,000 years ago, provides evidence that the first residents of the area were nomadic hunters, fishers, and gatherers known as Archaic people. They inhabited many parts of North America and traded extensively over large areas. First Nations consider these traditional lands to have been theirs for time immemorial.” ref

“Kay-Nah-Chi-Wah-Nung has the largest concentration of earthwork burial mounds in Canada. The mounds were built on river terraces along the north side of the Long Sault Rapids on Rainy River. The first mound-builders at the site were the Laurel culture (c.2300 – 900 years ago). They lived “in villages and built large round burial mounds along the edge of the river, as monuments to their dead.” Their mounds remain visible today. The Blackduck culture (c.1200 to 400 years ago) also built mounds along the Rainy River. The Blackduck mounds were low and linear.” ref

Interpretive center and museum

“Opened in 1987, the interpretive center showcases 10,000 years of aboriginal history. There is also a reconstructed village and tepee camp. In 1995, Parks Canada provided funds to improve the park, including the construction of the Kay-Nah-Chi-Wah-Nung Historical Centre and traditional Roundhouse for visitors and the local First Nations communities. Along with a conservation lab and collection storage, the center is also used as a meeting place for Elders. It is an educational resource for teaching Ojibway culture, continuing its role as a gathering place that began thousands of years ago.” ref

“According to the Ontario Museum Association, Inhabited continually for over 5,000 years, this national historic site interprets the pre-history and history of the Ojibway people of the Rainy River. Focusing mainly on the huge burial mounds, this site has an interpretive centre and guided tours. Members of the Rainy River First Nations interpret the site along the 3 km-long trail. Opportunities to learn about Ojibway stories and dance, to participate in a rendezvous, an archaeological dig, or an 1800s living village, are also offered. — Ontario Museum Association 2009″ ref

“The museum with a futuristic design is surrounded by wilderness with resident bear and deer. The Ojibway people of the Rainy River First Nation are the present day guardians of Kay-Nah-Chi-Wan-Nung and have built a world-class historical centre on the beautiful 90-hectare site. The centre has five galleries, a conservation lab with more than 10,000 artifacts in storage, a gift shop (specializing in beautiful Ojibway arts and crafts), a first-class restaurant that serves traditional Ojibway cuisine, and is the gateway to the Manitou Mounds. — Mather Department of Natural Resources Minnesota 2008″ ref

“Treaty 3: With the signing of Treaty no. 3 in 1873 to 1916, this site area was homesteaded by the Rainy Lake First Nations. Evidence of cabins and farm buildings have been found from that time on the site.” ref


“Endless sand dunes, the limitless horizon of the water, and a fascinating history have always made it a wonderful spot for adventure. The ancient burial mounds studied by Thomas Wallbridge in 1860. Acquiring a copy of Wallbridge’s 1860 archeological report on his findings of odd stone “mounds” in “The Canadian Journal Of Industry, Science and Art- 1860″, Wallbridge notes that before the native Iroquois that once roamed the region, there were “traces of a more ancient race”. Wallbridge noted that 100 mounds existed in Prince Edward County, and they occurred in groups of two on the shores of water. Upon excavating one of the mounds Wallbridge discovered a limestone box made up of flat stones, where skeletons were found sitting in an upright position with folded arms.” ref

“The mounds are mostly comprised of stone, metamorphic granite that is not typically found in that area. This means the builders would have had to carry the stones from afar to construct these unexplained mounds. Wallbridge concludes his report by saying “Whatever be the origin of these remains, it is clear that the Massassaga Indians were not the builders of the works which they are entombed, since this tribe, it is well known, buried their dead in wrapped birch bark, and laid them at full length a few inches beneath the surface of the soil,” Wallbridge is perplexed at the whole series of mounds, and insists “the skeletons found in the sitting posture belong to some other and far earlier race.” ref

“Now we must remember that archaeology was still a rather new field of study at the time of Wallbridge, so proper knowledge of former occupation and Indigenous history was naively unknown. But what is most interesting is a more recent study of the mounds that throw a new light on an old mystery. A more recent study of the mounds was done by a fellow by the name of Beauchamp in 1905 and reversed what was thought earlier about the ancient mounds being for burial purposes and was inclined to believe that the burials Wallbridge found were “intrusive” (dug into it later, not the original) and of no “high antiquity.” ref

“An article from 2001 in Ontario Archeology (number 72, 2001) by David A. Robertson suggests that studies have “failed to reach a consensus as to their function.” It was observed that the mounds comprised of “burnt rocks” which indicated they were under the influence of fire and heat. Robertson then details similarities of the PEC mounds to burned rock middens in Texas and in Ireland where they are known as fulachata fiadh (“outdoor” or “wild cooking places”). Similar features can be found in ancient mounds in the Orkneys, and regions of Atlantic Europe. These mounds would almost always be found near marshy areas where a hole dug into the ground would quickly fill with water. These stone enclosures were filled with water and heated stones thrown in to create a pool of boiling water in which meat was cooked, or used for bathing, washing and dyeing of cloth, and leather working. The ancient Irish mounds date from Early Bronze Age (2,300-1,700 BCE) with the majority dating to the second millennium BCE with various explanations as to their use ranging from cooking ovens to wool production.” ref

“Robertson outlines the lack of study of the Prince Edward County mounds, and states:

“It is clear that the Quinte and Perch Lake burnt stone mounds bear close similarities with sites found in Texas and Atlantic Europe and undoubtedly elsewhere: namely the massive quantities of shattered, burnt rock enclosing a small area, the presence of hearths, deposits of ash and charcoal-rich soil, and a general dearth of associated artifacts. Some other parallels with the burnt mounds of Ireland and Britain are even more striking, although these must remain only subjective impressions until further research is devoted..” ref

“Both mound structures are situated in marshy areas, and both have slab-stoned chambers in the center. Robertson also mentions that these ancient mounds could have been used as food processing centers for boiling fats and preserving foods. Mapping out where the mounds may be located, I indeed came across some of the unusual mounds and recorded my findings. They are situated in close proximity to the shore of Lake Ontario, facing east in groups of two with a huge marshy area surrounding the area. The mounds are about 20-ft in diameter and are about 8ft in height. The pair of mounds, with their center points connected with a line, aligned with the rising sun in the east.” ref

“If I were to speculate, these mounds were used for a ceremonial purpose, either for a fire ceremony or a celestial event. Other theories for their use include indigenous sweat lodges, houses, and the commonly accepted burial rituals. Only one thing is certain: no one seems to know exactly what these ancient stone mounds were made for, and until we look into it further, their real purpose and the confirmed identity of their builders may never be known.” ref 

“Prince Edward County (PEC) is a county in southern OntarioCanada. Its coastline on Lake Ontario’s northeastern shore is known for Sandbanks Provincial Park, sand beaches, and limestone cliffs. Settled by indigenous peoples, the county has significant archeological sites. These include the LeVescounte Mounds of the Point Peninsula complex people, built about 2000 years ago.” ref

Mound Culture in North America – in Edmonton, Alberta too?

“Government officials worked to eradicate evidence of pre-contact North American peoples in the late 1800s but they could not erase all their structures, in particular the thousands of man-made mounds that can still be seen today. According to one source, John Wesley Powell, the leader of the first trip down the Grand Canyon – and one-armed to boot – and the Director of the Bureau of Ethnology (U.S.) to 1894, directed archeologists, etc. across the U.S. to send him any evidence they had of pre-Contact peoples. More than 100,000 figurines, sketches of rock drawings, etc. were sent to him and promptly destroyed because as he said there was no culture in the U.S. before Contact with Europe so the evidence could not be true. (This accusation is supported in Henriette Mertz’s book The Mystic Symbol, Mark of the Michigan Mound Builders, p. 203.) But many of the more than 30,000 mounds left behind by these peoples in the Mississippi valley, southern Canada, and the west coast survived these efforts.” ref

“An interesting, although now mostly-erased, mound complex left by this culture was at Marietta, Ohio, where I happen to have spent some of my youth. My paper route was across the street from the town cemetery that had been built around a 10-metre-high mound on a bluff in town. Nearby was the Sacra Via Street ([Sacred Way] Street), named thusly because it is built on a paved road alredy bjuilt before the arrival of the first White pioneers. it is hypothesized that the road had no material purpose, as Natives in the Americas did not have wheeled transport (prior to Contact), so such an established road must have been constructed for a ceremonial procession. One local amateur archaeologist/ anthropologist has worked out a scheme whereby the procession ascended to the mound on the bluff then returned to the (Muskingum) river, crossing and after convulations through various mound constructions ascended the hills across the river from Marietta (in present-day West Virginia). No mounds have yet been found in Alberta although they have been found as nearby as Saskatchewan where Moose Mountain has one of the best-known Prairie ones.” ref

“Pilot Mound, Manitoba is named after one in that area. A Quebecois-born interpreter, Jean L’Heureux, who lived in central Alberta in the 1860s and 1870s, observed that the mound civilization of the Mississippian river valley could have extended as far as Alberta (see “Jean L’Heureux: A Life of Adventure”, Alberta History, Autumn, 2012). The book Canada’s Stonehenge by Gordon R. Freeman discusses possibility of a version of Stonehenge in central Alberta. The recent discovery of what some think is a pyramid in the Balkans, hidden inside what had been assumed to be a mountain, leads me at least to wonder if perhaps Edmonton’s Mount Pleasant or Rabbit Hill or Huntington Hills (south of 51 Avenue west of 104th Street) could be man-made features – mounds.” ref

Manitoba History: The Manitoba Mound Builders: The Making of an Archaeological Myth, 1857-1900

“The first recorded excavation of a Native American mound in Manitoba was undertaken in 1857 by Henry Youle Hind. Hind had left his teaching position at the University of Toronto to serve as a geologist in the Canadian government’s expedition to appraise the territory in the northwest. In the process of exploring potential transportation routes and determining the suitability of land for cultivation, Hind examined a conical mound on the bank of the Souris River. His brief account of the excavation he undertook marks the beginning of what eventually became a nineteenth century fascination with the identity of the mysterious creators of Manitoba’s ancient mounds:

Our half-breeds said it was an old Mandan village; the Indians of that tribe having formerly hunted and lived in this part of the Great Prairies. We endeavoured to make an opening into one of the mounds and penetrated six feet without finding anything to indicate that the mounds were the remains of Mandan lodges.” ref 

“The mound Hind described in his journal is part of a group of approximately seventy such mounds in the Melita region, and one of over one hundred mounds scattered throughout what is now southern Manitoba. The majority of these mounds have been assigned by modern scholars to two Late Woodland Period archaeological complexes. These complexes, the Blackduck and the Devil’s Lake-Sourisford, flourished in Manitoba between 900 and 1,400 CE. Many of Manitoba’s mounds contain burials, some appear to be animal effigies, still others have no known purpose. Archaeologists point to the remains of small ceremonial fires on the mounds’ burial surfaces, and to the inclusion of foreign materials such as copper and conch shell to support the theory that these ancient earthworks had a ritual meaning for the Aboriginal cultures that constructed them. They speculate that the cooperative labor which mound building entailed provided important ceremonial opportunities to cement relationships between different Native groups in the region.” ref

“Modern scholars agree that Manitoba’s mounds are the product of ancient North American Aboriginal societies. This opinion was not held by their nineteenth-century counterparts. The European Canadian ‘discoverers’ of Manitoba’s mounds interpreted their findings by turning to an existing body of American theory about comparable structures in the United States. American mound scholarship had been stimulated by a series of ancient earthworks located in the Ohio and Mississippi river valleys. These structures were remarkable for both their great size and their amazing degree of geometric symmetry. While modern archaeologists attribute these earthworks to the ancient Adena, Hopewell, and Mississippian Aboriginal cultures, their imposing and complex nature led earlier European Americans to reject any connection between the mounds’ creators and the ‘savage Indians’ they had encountered during their westward expansion across the continent. Instead, Americans manufactured a mythical Mound Builder race to resolve the mystery.” ref

“The foundation of the Mound Builder myth rested on the adoption of existing historical, classical, and biblical sources to explain evidence associated with America’s pre-contact past. While a few eighteenth and nineteenth-century American scholars used precursors of modern ethnographical and archaeological methods to argue that the mounds had been built by Native Americans, the majority of early mound enthusiasts preferred to engage in armchair speculation. Their application of European classical scholarship to America’s earthworks produced a variety of bizarre theories. The Mound Builders were presented by various mound enthusiasts as either giants, or white men, or Israelites, or Danes, or Toltecs, or at least in one instance, giant white Jewish Toltec Vikings.” ref

“Although the American Mound Builder myth had made its first appearance in the late eighteenth century, it was not fully endorsed by the American scientific community until 1848. In that year, the recently created Smithsonian Institute published E. G. Squire’s and E. H. Davis’ Ancient Monuments of the Mississippi Valley. This publication connected the Mound Builder race with ‘advanced’ pre-conquest civilizations in Peru and Mexico. By 1892, the Smithsonian Institute had revised its initial opinion. A subsequent systematic examination of ancient American mounds resulted in the 1890-1891 Report on the Mound Explorations of the Bureau of Ethnology. This report finally established the builders of the Ohio and Mississippi mounds as the ancestors of America’s contemporary Native peoples.” ref

“The inconclusive nature of the mound excavation undertaken by Henry Youle Hind in 1857 left the door open for further speculation about the creators of Canada’s ancient mounds. It was not, however, until a decade later that the idea of a distinct Mound Builder race was advanced to explain the artificial mounds found in what was then Rupert’s Land. Donald Gunn was responsible for initiating this first step towards a Manitoba Mound Builder myth.” ref

“As an early citizen of the Red River Settlement, Gunn was both a political and intellectual leader within his community. He had been instrumental in agitating against the Hudson’s Bay Company’s monopoly and had been appointed to teach in the Settlement’s parish school. Gunn also regularly contributed meteorological observations and specimens of prairie flora and fauna to the Smithsonian Institute. It was probably through this connection that Gunn had become acquainted with American Mound Builder theories. He may even have had a copy of Squire’s and Davis’ Ancient Monuments of the Mississippi Valley in his extensive collection of natural history books. Certainly, he was aware of the Smithsonian’s interest in ancient earthworks. Consequently, when a burial mound was accidentally discovered near the Red River Settlement in 1867, he excavated it and sent its contents along with a brief report to the Institute.” ref

“Although Gunn referred to the creators of the burial mounds as a red skinned people, he did not believe that the mounds’ builders were related to the area’s current Native populations:

[The] race who reared [the mounds] and whose remains they cover have passed away, or become absorbed in a race of red men; barbarous, possessing less energy and industry; for certainly the present race of red men are in every respect incapable of undergoing the labor necessary to accumulate such heaps of earth.” ref

“Gunn’s separation of the region’s pre-contact peoples into two categories reflected a growing Victorian distinction between ‘static’ Aboriginal societies and ‘progressive’ European civilization. Eighteenth-century cultural evolutionists had classified humanity using an ascending scale of cultural development that began with ‘savagery,’ progressed through ‘barbarism’ and reached its peak in western ‘civilization.’ Eighteenth-century thinkers believed that all peoples would eventually progress to the level of ‘civilized’ societies. Their nineteenth-century counterparts no longer necessarily assumed that everyone was capable of evolving this far. While it is unclear whether Gunn consciously adhered to either of these forms of evolutionism, it is clear that he believed that the Mound Builder race was located higher on this ascending scale of civilization than the area’s Aboriginal peoples.” ref

“Despite Gunn’s interest, further study of the Manitoba Mound Builders was delayed until the Manitoba Historical and Scientific Society was created in 1879. By this time Winnipeg had grown from a fur trading outpost into the capital of a new Canadian province. The modest city was now capable of supporting a small, elite cultural and intellectual community. The Historical and Scientific Society became the focus of this community. Members of the Society were encouraged to prepare and present papers on Manitoba’s political and natural history. The Society also supported the archaeological interests of its members. At least four ancient mounds were excavated under its direction, its museum housed the artifacts that were uncovered, and its meetings and transactions provided a forum in which findings could be presented. The result was a proliferation of literature relating to Manitoba mounds during the 1880s.” ref

“John Christian Schultz was the most prominent member of this group of enthusiasts. His interest in ancient mounds had been stimulated by discussions with Donald Gunn. However, he is best remembered for his political, rather than archaeological work. In the period prior to Manitoba’s entry into confederation, Schultz used his position as editor of The Nor’Wester to promote Canadian interests in Red River. During the Red River uprising, he escaped to Upper Canada, where he was instrumental in generating a military response against the Métis. After the creation of the province of Manitoba, Schultz remained politically active. He eventually ended his career as Manitoba’s Lieutenant Governor.” ref

“Like Gunn, Schultz assumed that a scale of civilization existed. North American Aboriginal peoples were near the bottom of this scale; Europeans of British descent were at the top. Schultz’s study of Manitoba’s mounds sought to determine the Mound Builders’ position in relation to these two extremes. His involvement in the excavation of two burial mounds located near St. Andrew’s rapids on the Red river provided the material needed for his study. Its conclusions were published in a local newspaper before being included in the 1881 edition of Canadian Naturalist and Quarterly Journal of Science.” ref

“Schultz felt that the existence of pottery fragments and the absence of weapons in the excavated mounds supported the hypothesis that the Mound Builders had been a peaceful race of agriculturists who culturally resembled European Canadians more than they did local Native peoples. He went one step further by postulating a physiological difference between Mound Builders and Native Americans. To prove his assertion he described a skull found in one of the Red River mounds:

The skull before me is of average Caucasian size, … The forehead, though somewhat narrow, is neither low nor receding, orbits well rounded, supercilliary ridge low, malar bones only moderately developed, zygomatic arches slight, nasal bones prominent, occiput fairly rounded, and in other peculiarities differing from the typical Indian skull of living races.” ref

“Schultz concluded that the Mound Builder cranium was “superior to that of the average Indian of today.” Underlying this conclusion was the assumption that the distance dividing ‘savage Indians’ from ‘civilized’ Mound Builders and Europeans was biological, as well as cultural. Schultz’s fellow Historical and Scientific Society member, Agieus McCharles, also focused on the supposed physical differences separating Mound Builders and local Natives. His perception of an engraved female figure found in one of the mounds resembled Schultz’s impression of the Mound Builder skull:

The nose is straight, the eyes are large and prominent, the mouth finely cut, and the hair made into a long tapering cone. There is not the slightest resemblancee [sic] between this and the squaw’s face of the present day.” ref

“Although little information is available about McCharles’ non-archaeological interests, his role as chairman of the Historical and Scientific Society’s Archaeology Committee suggests that he came from the same British-Ontarian background as other Society members. His interpretation of the Manitoba mounds’ origins certainly corresponds to those of his fellow enthusiasts. However, his 1887 survey of the Society’s mound excavations contained one interesting innovation. McCharles felt that none of the mounds in Manitoba were particularly remarkable in their construction or design. To explain this deficiency he suggested that Manitoba’s mounds represented outlying colonies of populous settlements in the Ohio and Mississippi river valleys. The Manitoba Mound Builders were presented by him as a struggling colony trying to survive on a distant frontier. The situation he imagined these mythical people to have experienced paralleled that of nineteenth century English Canadian settlers in the same region.” ref

“McCharles’ theories may seem absurd to a modern audience, however, they pale in comparison to George Bryce’s fantastic assertions. The Reverend George Bryce was a prominent nineteenth century Manitoba citizen. He was both the pastor of Winnipeg’s Knox Presbyterian Church and the head of Manitoba College. He was also a tireless promoter of English settlement in western Canada. The book he published in 1882, Manitoba: Its Infancy, Growth, and Present Condition, was a self-proclaimed advertisement for the new province. A chapter devoted to Manitoba’s pre-contact history merely served as an additional weapon in Bryce’s arsenal of Manitoba boosterism.” ref

“Bryce based this chapter, as well as a number of articles about the same subject published in British, American, and Canadian journals, on the evidence he uncovered when excavating a number of mounds in the Red, Rainy, and Souris rivers regions. Like his fellow Historical and Scientific Society mound scholars, Bryce believed that the existence of pottery in these mounds proved that their creators had been agriculturalists. Unlike his fellow scholars, he also asserted that the presence of copper tools and ornaments proved the builders’ knowledge of metallurgy, while the very lack of grave goods confirmed that they possessed “a higher faith than that of the savage of today, who thinks he is but transferred to another hunting ground in the sky.” ref

“Bryce’s optimistic evaluation of the Mound Builder civilization led him to conclude in Manitoba: Its Infancy, Growth, and Present Condition that the Mound Builders had been Europeans:

The tumulus may thus speak of a race now extinct; if this be so, perhaps of a people unconnected with the present Indian population of the continent; perhaps of a people of greater civilization that the present race, who had found their way from the seed-bed of the nations of Europe—its north-west coast.” ref

“Bryce had adopted a popular American Mound Builder theory that identified the Mound Builders as a band of Welshmen. These Welshmen had been exiled from their homeland in the twelfth century and had supposedly sailed from there to North America where they had settled and prospered. Bryce expanded upon this theory by suggesting that a race of ‘half-savages’ had been produced by the gradual interbreeding of Welsh settlers with Native peoples. The Mandans of North Dakota were presented as the resulting racial product. Their pale complexions and sedentary lifestyle constituted the proof of their Caucasian ancestors.” ref

“Two years later, Bryce revised his initial hypothesis. His new theory replaced the Welsh exiles with a band of pale skinned Toltecs. Although these new Mound Builders were viewed by Bryce as physiologically and culturally inferior to Europeans, he still saw them as superior to local native populations. According to Bryce, these Toltecs had migrated from their home in Mexico, northward across the continent. They reached the Red river area during the eleventh century. Sometime during the fifteenth century their civilization had been destroyed by Manitoba’s present Native peoples. Consequently, Bryce felt that it was the duty of European settlers to reestablish civilization in North America by deposing the Natives that wrongfully occupied it:

The white man but arrived upon the scene to succeed the farmer, the metal worker and the potter, who had passed away so disastrously, and to be the avenger of the lost race, in driving before him the savage red man.” ref 

“Bryce’s second version of the Mound Builder myth was popular in late nineteenth and early twentieth century Manitoba. Bryce’s Mound Builder work was published by the Historical and Scientific Society and his interpretation was incorporated into that period’s version of the province’s history. In contrast, the less fanciful approach adopted by Charles N. Bell did not interest Manitobans. His archaeological work found an audience only outside of the province.” ref

“Bell was an anomaly in Manitoba’s nineteenth-century mound scholarship tradition. He had come to the Northwest as a member of the 1870 Wolseley Expedition. After he was discharged, Bell remained in Winnipeg, where he became a prominent businessman. Although he had had little formal education, Bell was interested in natural history. His archaeological thinking was strongly influenced by his cousin, Robert Bell. An employee of the Canadian Geological Survey, Robert Bell introduced Charles Bell to accurate archaeological excavation techniques and to the Smithsonian Institute’s Bureau of Ethnology. The former resulted in an unusual attention to stratigraphy, the latter in a healthy scientific suspicion of his colleagues’ unfounded speculations.” ref

“Bell appears to have been influenced by the Smithsonian’s growing skepticism of a distinct Mound Builder race. By 1887, his excavation of a number of mounds throughout southern Manitoba had led Bell to reject the theories of his fellow Historical and Scientific Society members. Instead, he concluded that the mounds had been constructed by “an uncivilized people who lived on the banks of the Red River and its tributaries before the advent of the present Indian tribes. While the observed customs of local Native peoples had caused Bell to reject them as the builders of the mounds, he was convinced that these structures had been built by another group of Aboriginal people.” ref

“It is important to note that Bell reached this conclusion without contradicting nineteenth century judgements about the Aboriginal peoples of the area. He had not adjusted his views of local Natives and their ancestors, but had rather revised his opinion about the level of civilization the Mound Builder race had obtained. First, Bell questioned the assumption that the creators of the mounds had been agriculturalists. The lack of stone spades and furrowed patches in association with the mounds did not support such a momentous conclusion. Second, he contradicted the wild statements made by Bryce regarding the Mound Builders’ metallurgical skills. His experiments had shown that the copper artifacts found in the mounds were “simply hammered pieces of the native ore.” Finally, Bell declared that there was nothing in the form or finish of the stone tools and pottery fragments obtained from the mounds that was “beyond the skill of the Indians, when they were first encountered by the whites.” ref

“Today, the nineteenth-century enthusiasts who studied Manitoba’s ancient mounds are considered to be merely a footnote in the history of the development of Canadian archaeology. Modern archaeologists, embarrassed by the racist hodgepodge of Victorian cultural and biological evolutionism that underlies Mound Builder theories, have disassociated themselves from the group’s work. But, while the impact of these early scholars on the development of the modern profession of archaeology may be negligible, their work should not be ignored. The creation of a Manitoba version of the Mound Builder myth illuminates the attitudes underpinning the society that produced it. The period during which this myth flourished in Manitoba was also the period in which Winnipeg was transformed from a Métis settlement to a British-Ontarian community. The makers of this myth belonged to this latter group. Consequently, their Mound Builder theories fitted this community’s vision for the region’s present and future development.” ref

“Members of the Manitoba Historical and Scientific Society were already engaged in writing the new province’s history. Their work emphasized the role of Europeans in the region’s past and presented the 1812 arrival of the Selkirk Settlers in Red River as a particularly significant event. This tradition in Manitoban historiography was initiated by Donald Gunn and Charles R. Tuttle in their book, History of Manitoba: From the Earliest Settlement to the Admission of the Province into the Dominion. George Bryce and other Manitoba Historical and Scientific Society members quickly expanded on Gunn’s and Tuttle’s work by portraying the Settlers as heroes and the colony they founded as an idyllic paradise. Even Charles N. Bell wrote a brief essay titled The Selkirk Settlement and the Settlers.” ref

“The tale of the Selkirk Settlers’ initial hardships and their eventual success soon approached the level of myth. The resulting legend served two purposes. First, since the Red River Settlement pre-dated eastern Canada’s interest in the region, the legend reduced the validity of the East’s right to control Manitoba’s future. Second, the ‘founding father’ status which the legend assigned to the Selkirk Settlers allowed the recently arrived British-Ontarian immigrants to establish a cultural claim to an area which they were increasingly coming to dominate politically and economically.” ref

“Not surprisingly, many of the same Historical and Scientific Society members involved in constructing the legend of the Selkirk Settlers were also responsible for creating a Manitoba version of the Mound Builder myth. The Mound Builder myth, like its Selkirk Settler counterpart, supported growing demands for greater western autonomy. It provided the British-Ontarian community in Manitoba with a noble and civilized antiquity upon which its own settlements could be founded. For, if Manitoba had sup-ported a great civilization in the past, it could support a great civilization in the future. The interest this exalted antiquity generated in Ontario was of course an added bonus.” ref

“More importantly, the Manitoba Mound Builder myth provided a ‘scientific’ justification for the British-Ontarian community’s perception, and ultimately their treatment, of Manitoba’s Native peoples. Nineteenth century Manitoba historians had excluded Natives from the province’s short official history by creating a ‘founding father’ legend out of the experiences of the Selkirk Settlers. The Mound Builder myth excluded contemporary Natives from Manitoba’s pre-contact history as well. The period of Native dominance over the Canadian West was reduced by these two myths to a static, historically insignificant interval between a Mound Builder civilization and a European civilization. By excluding Natives from a significant role in Manitoba’s past, the Mound Builder myth also justified their exclusion from a significant role in its creators’ vision of Manitoba’s future.” ref

Effigy Mounds

“An effigy mound is a raised pile of earth built in the shape of a stylized animal, symbol, religious figure, human, or other figure. The Effigy Moundbuilder culture is primarily associated with the years 550–1200 CE during the Late Woodland Period, although radiocarbon dating has placed the origin of certain mounds as far back as 320 BCE. Effigy mounds were constructed in many Native American cultures. Scholars believe they were primarily for religious purposes, although some also fulfilled a burial mound function. The builders of the effigy mounds are usually referred to as the Mound Builders. Over 3200 animal-shaped effigy mounds have been identified by the Wisconsin Historical Society in the upper midwest. Native North American effigy mounds have been compared to the large-scale geoglyphs such as the Nazca Lines of Peru. Effigy mounds are limited to the Northern and Eastern United States, and most likely the French were the first Europeans to see them in their expeditions southward from Canada after 1673. Early surveyors and settlers noticed and mapped many effigy mounds, but farming and other development erased numerous sites despite efforts to preserve them.” ref

After the “discovery” of effigy mounds, and other mounds all over the country, wild theories began to be developed as to how and by whom they were built. The first theories were the most accurate; people in the late 17th century assumed that the mounds had been built by the Native American people who still lived in the vicinity. These logical assumptions lost popularity as more fantastic theories were developed. The most popular of these theories in the 19th century was that an extinct race of Mound Builder people had built the mounds and then vanished. These theories were generally made to support nationalist sentiment and a romantic European connection to the New World. This theory was laid to rest by archaeologists at the Smithsonian Institution in the 1880s.” ref

“The Ho-Chunk suggest that effigy mounds were used as places of refuge as well as burial. Some archaeologists today believe that the mounds were built by particular clans or groups to honor their representative animal. Some believe that the animal shape is the clan or extended family of the person or person’s buried in the mound. Others believe that the mounds were burial sites for everyday people, while still others believe that the depicted animal might be somehow responsible for transitioning the deceased into the next world. The mounds may also indicate hunting and gathering territories of different groups. Other evidence suggests that effigy mounds were used for all manner of rites and ceremonies, from birth ceremonies to funeral rites.” ref

“Common shapes for effigy mounds include birds, bear, deer, bison, lynx, panther, turtles, and water spirits. These are somewhat arbitrary names given to the mound shapes by archaeologists who were simply looking for words that would help them classify the mounds. These shapes were most likely chosen for their particular religious or spiritual significance. The earliest mounds are ‘conical’; they are essentially bumps of earth – the simplest and arguably the most intuitive kind of burial. Successive conicals likely evolved into linear mounds. Bird mounds likely came next as modifying a linear mound to make a bird mound required only the addition of a head and a tail. From there many different animal forms emerged. These often expressed a kind of abstract elongation.” ref

“In addition to the obvious elongation of tails and the abstracted nature of many of the shapes, colored silts and sand were often used to decorate the mounds. The land was often scraped or raked to move earth from surface soils towards a new mound and in doing so, artful colored sand and silt patterning was sometimes employed as adornment. In terms of positioning, some mounds may have had celestial alignments although with certainty bird mounds were placed in such a way as to suggest that they were flying up or down a hillside, and animal mounds were often placed so as to suggest animals walking along natural landform as well such as a ridge or hillside. It is possible that predominant wind patterns may have been taken into consideration when choosing locations and orientations for bird mounds. In addition bird mounds sometimes appear in different conformations where the wings of the bird may be folded or unfolded to different degrees, suggesting various postures in flying. There are some instances where these different poses may suggest a freeze frame view of a bird flying – wings outstretched, wings partially folded, and wings outstretched again.” ref

“Hochunk ancestors naturally buried their dead next to lakes and rivers, and on hillsides. These locations would later become valued as some of the best places to live by settlers. This is one factor that contributed to high rates of mound destruction. Many mounds were destroyed by people grading earth surrounding their houses or what would become the foundations of houses. In some cases linear mounds were used as foundational fill for new house construction. Looting of mounds by settlers was common and this also contributed to the destruction and defacement of many.” ref

“According to the National Park Service, the area in which effigy mounds are found “extends from Dubuque, Iowa, north into southeast Minnesota, across southern Wisconsin from the Mississippi to Lake Michigan, and along the Wisconsin–Illinois boundary.” The mounds of the Mississippi river regions in Wisconsin and Iowa most commonly feature imagery of the bear and the bird, while the mounds of the Lake Michigan and Winnebago areas most commonly feature water spirits, such as turtle and panther mounds.” ref

“The Effigy Mound Builders buried one, two, or three people in a single mound. These burials were most often done singly – one atop the other in successive years. The effigy mound builders did not include with their dead the wealth of material the Ohio Hopewellians did. This almost complete lack of artifacts accompanying the dead clearly indicates a culture distinct from the Hopewellian, even though mounds with Hopewell-type grave goods have been excavated in the same area, and apparently were constructed at roughly the same time as the effigy mounds. Some have speculated that due to the lack of burial goods, that the effigy mound builders were egalitarian peoples.” ref

“Hundreds of effigy mounds have been lost due to plowing, farming, and other development. Many of the remaining effigy mound sites are parts of national, state, county, or municipal parks. After many archeological excavations in the 1950s and 1960s, archeologists began discussing the wisdom and the ethics behind such excavations. The U.S. National Park Service explains, “when a mound is excavated, its value as a scientific object of study is greatly reduced or destroyed.” All effigy mounds are currently protected under state laws that prohibit disturbance to burial sites or, if on federal or tribal land, the Archaeological Resources Protection Act, the Antiquities Act, and the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act.” ref

Serpent Mounds National Historic Site of Canada

Otonabee-South Monaghan, Ontario

Existing plaque:  Hiawatha First Nation Territory, Keene, Ontario

“Two thousand years ago, Aboriginal people gathered nearby in large settlements in spring and summer to hunt, fish, and collect freshwater mussels. Here, for over three centuries, these people built mounds to bury and revere their dead. These nine mounds and other closely related sites provide an exceptionally complete record of life at that time. The mound shaped like a serpent, the only one of its kind in Canada, is over 60 meters long and almost eight meters wide. Mississauga people of this area are now the proud stewards of these ancient sites.” ref

Description of Historic Place

“Serpent Mounds National Historic Site of Canada is located in an open oak savannah setting on Roach’s Point and East Sugar Island in Rice Lake, Peterborough County, Ontario. A burial site dating from 50 BCE to 300 CE, it is a grouping of six separate burial locations forming a serpentine shape that is approximately 60 metres long and almost 8 metres wide and 1.5 to 1.8 metres high. The site is presented to the public within the grounds of Serpent Mounds Park on the banks of Rice Lake. Official recognition refers to the burial sites and their associated landscapes located on Roach’s Point and East Sugar Island.” ref

Heritage Value

“Serpent Mounds was designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 1982 because: it provides an exceptionally complete record of life for a period of 350 years ending about CE. 300; the burial mound shaped like a serpent is the only one of its kind in Canada. Serpent Mounds incorporates a 4.4-hectare area on Roach’s Point, as well as a 49-hectare area on East Sugar Island. The designated site comprises six distinct areas of archaeological interest, including the Serpent Mounds site, the Alderville site, the Island Centre site, the East Sugar Island site, the Corral site, and an unnamed Site BbG m-22. The Serpent Mounds National Historic Site of Canada is the most completely investigated archaeological site in Canada associated with the Point Peninsula culture and contains information on both the daily and the ritual life of this culture, which dates from 50 BCE to 300 CE. The complex also incorporates evidence of Pickering or Early Ontario Iroquois, Late Iroquoian Huron, and some Archaic cultures. These sites have been systematically investigated in 1897, 1910, 1955, 1960, and 1968.” ref

Character-Defining Elements

“Key elements that contribute to the heritage character of the site include: the integrity of the cultural landscape with its raised mounds in the shape of a serpent; the archaeological resources in their found form, extent and materials; the Serpent Mounds site as a group of nine earthen mounds and a shell midden on Roach’s Point, specifically: Serpent Mound, the largest mound with a winding outline; Mounds A to I respectively (E and F are known as the Serpent and the Egg); five similar mounds on East Sugar Island (these are the Alderville site, the Island Centre site, the East Sugar Island site, Coral site and unnamed site BbGm-22); the integrity and broad range of the Point Peninsula vestiges these sites contain, including: pottery of varying designs and decorative styles, clay pipes of at least four separate designs, lithic assemblages (i.e. projectile points), most commonly of corner-notched and pentagonal forms, including bone and antler artifacts, shells and food refuse remnants in the shell midden, and burial artifacts including combs and jewelry; the integrity of vestiges of other cultures found in these mounds, namely three ossuaries of the early Ontario Iroquois stage and some pottery shards of late Iroquoian origin; the found arrangement of artifacts in these mounds; the spatial relationships between the mounds; the continued association of the artifacts and knowledge gained from investigation with the site; the setting of the Serpent Mounds group on a high point of land along the edge of a grassy and nearly flat-topped drumlin hill that drops away on three sides to Rice Lake some 15 metres below; the natural setting of the other mounds on East Sugar Island; the proximity of all mounds to water.” ref

Serpent Mounds Park

“Serpent Mounds Park is a historical place located near Keene, Ontario, Canada. Serpent Mounds operated as a provincial park, established in 1955 through a lease with the Hiawatha First Nation, of the Michi Saagiig (Mississauga Anishinaabeg). In 1982, while operating as a provincial park the mounds were designated a National Historic Site, including East Sugar Island. From 1995 to 2009, Hiawatha First Nation operated the park privately, offering camping facilities, beach access on Rice Lake, a cultural center, and interpretive walks among the historic serpent and nearby mounds. The park was closed to the public in 2009, due to the decline in the tourism and deteriorating infrastructure.” ref

Archaeological field work revealed that the construction and early occupation of the serpent mounds area occurred about 2000 years ago during the prehistoric Middle Woodland Period. The first prehistoric peoples to occupy the site were classified by archaeologists as the Point Peninsula complex, based on their artifacts. The people gathered in areas of what are now the jurisdictions of central and southeastern Ontario and southwestern Quebec in Canada, and northern parts of New York state in the United States, to camp, hunt, fish, collect fresh water mussels, and to harvest manoomin back to 58 BCE.” ref

“The nine earthen mounds located on Roach’s Point were disclosed as places to bury the dead and revere the ancestors providing an exceptionally complete record of life for a period of 350 years ending about C.E.. 300; the burial mound shaped like a serpent is the only one of its kind in Canada. Serpent Mounds incorporates a 4.4-hectare area, as well as a 49-hectare area on East Sugar Island. The designated site comprises six distinct areas of archaeological interest, including the Serpent Mounds site, the Alderville site, the Island Centre site, the East Sugar Island site, the Corral site and an unnamed Site.” ref

“The largest mound, known as “the serpent” for its winding outline, is 194 ft (59.1 m) long, 25 ft (7.6 m) wide, 5 to 6 ft (1.5 to 1.8 m) high, and is the only one in Canada. The eight oval/round mounds known as “the serpents eggs” range between 23 and 48 ft (7.0 to 14.6 m) long, 1 to 4.5 ft (0.4 to 1.6 m) high. Significant items found inside the mounds, in addition to human remains, were shell disc beads, fossilized coralfish bone hook, flint chips, copper foil beads, carved limestoneadze, and numerous types of animal bones.” ref

Serpent Mounds

“The principal mound of this group is the only known example in Canada of a mound of serpentine shape. The earliest archaeological excavation on the site was carried out by David Boyle in 1896. Artifacts and skeletal remains were discovered, but the first comprehensive investigation was not started until 1955. The mounds, somewhat similar to those of the Ohio Valley, appear to have been built while the region was occupied by Indians of the Point Peninsula culture, and are thought to have been religious or ceremonial in nature. Numerous burials have been found in the mounds, which are estimated to have been constructed about the second century CE.” ref 

Serpent Mounds, situated on a bluff overlooking Rice Lake near Peterborough, Ont, is the only known effigy mound in Canada.

“Serpent Mounds, situated on a bluff overlooking Rice Lake near Peterborough, Ont, is the only known effigy mound in Canada. It is a sinuous earthen structure composed of six separate burial locations and measuring about 60 m long, 8 m wide, and 1.5-1.8 m high. Excavation indicated that the mounds forming the effigy were gradually built up between 50 BCE and 300 CE. This would suggest that Serpent Mounds was a sacred place, visited periodically for religious ceremonies. Although pieces of grave furniture were not plentiful, their distribution shows they were restricted largely to individuals of higher status within the community. Those individuals were buried either at the base of the mounds or in shallow, submound pits. The commoners were randomly scattered throughout the mounds’ fill.” ref 

“Serpent mounds are part of a larger class of effigy mounds found mainly in the Midwestern and Eastern US. They are shaped like animals and were built by indigenous communities between about 3000 and 700 years ago, although dating is often uncertain, and at least some mounds, like The Great Serpent Mound of Ohio, represent several construction episodes over about 1000 years (See Herrmann et al 2014). There is a well-known serpent mound in Ontario, Canada, which is approximately 2000 years old. The group of mounds at Effigy Mounds National Monument in Iowa are between 1400 and 800 years old. Finding a serpent mound on Oak Island in Nova Scotia would be very interesting, but definitely not shocking. I am not aware that there are other effigy mounds in the Maritimes, but there is a local tradition of monumental construction, including mounds, known as the Maritime Archaic Tradition, although these tend to be older than the Midwestern effigy mounds.” ref

Augustine Mound National Historic Site of Canada

“Augustine Mound National Historic Site is an archaeological site located within the reserve land of the Metepenagiag Mi’kmaq Nation, New Brunswick, on the north side of the Little Southwest Miramichi River across from the present Mi’kmaq community. It includes a circular ritual site surrounding a slightly elevated burial mound that sits on a low terrace near the junction of the Northwest and Little Southwest Miramichi Rivers. Augustine Mound National Historic Site of Canada is located 700 meters east of the Oxbow National Historic Site of Canada.” ref

“Augustine Mound was designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 1975 because – this site is an exceptional and enduring expression of Mi’kmaw spirituality, exhibiting burial rituals and artifacts directly connected to Adena traditions in eastern North America 2500 years ago. The heritage value of Augustine Mound NHSC lies in its longstanding connection to a distinctive religious phenomenon rarely seen in eastern Canada, and in its longstanding connection with spiritual and community life in Mi’kmaq culture as illustrated by its setting, site, form, and composition, the nature of the archaeological evidence its mound contains, and in its long term role as a sacred site.ref

“Augustine Mound National Historic Site is a ceremonial burial mound created around 2,500 years ago. It is an eastern manifestation of the Adena burial tradition centered in the Ohio Valley. The site consists of a circular area approximately 30 m. in diameter centered on a low mound, surrounded by a circular ceremonial area. It contains human remains and archaeological artifacts. Originally excavated in 1975-76, only part of the mound remains undisturbed. This is in the form of two perpendicular ridges (balks) in the form of a cross centered on the mound. Oriented to the cardinal directions, each balk is approximately 1 meter wide and 10-11 meters long and rises from ground level to a height of 0.5 meters in the center. The center portion of the mound was disturbed just prior to the archaeological work. The site retains a spiritual significance and ritual place in the life of the Mi’kmaq community.ref


“Key elements contributing to the heritage value of this site include:
– evidence of its association with a significant burial tradition from the Ohio Valley, including materials from that area placed in the burial mound;
– the range of rare, perishable artifacts preserved in the mound which relate to Aboriginal culture 2500 years ago;
– its proximity to Oxbow National Historic Site of Canada;
– its continued use as a ritual site by the Mi’kmaq people;
– the mound’s circular footprint and low, gradually rising profile;
– the presence of a longstanding defined ritual area surrounding the mound;
– the form, extent, and material of the baulk cross;
– the original fabric of the mound’s construction;
– the temporal, spatial, material, functional, and cultural links between evidence removed from the mound and the lowest layers of evidence on the adjacent Oxbow site;
– the continued relationship of artifacts removed during the investigation of the site.ref

Ancient Mounds Reveal Powerful Presence of History

“To many, there is something surreal and spiritual about being in a sacred place where the past connects with the present. And some of the most dramatic of those historic places are at ancient sacred mounds found in the Northern Wilds of Minnesota and Northwestern Ontario. A chain of mounds runs along the Rainy River on both the Canadian-U.S. shores for 90 miles. They include Ontario’s famous Manitou Mounds, considered to be Canada’s largest pre-European structures.” ref

“Part of that chain are the five mounds at the Grand Mound Historical Site located at the juncture of the Big Fork and Rainy Rivers, about 20 miles west of International Falls. At the center of the site is the Grand Mound, considered to be the largest surviving prehistoric structure in Minnesota and the upper Midwest, dating back to 200 BCE (about the same time the Great Wall of China was completed). Believed to have been built by the Laurel people who predominated in the area until 100 CE, the Grand Mound measures 140 feet long, 100 feet wide, 25 feet high, and has a 200-foot low tail. Though the site has been permanently closed to the public since 2007, it is still preserved, owned, administered, and maintained by the Minnesota Historical Society (MHS operated a visitor center here between 1975 and 2003).” ref

“On the Canadian side of Rainy River about 34 miles west of Fort Frances and International Falls is the Kay-Nah-Chi-Wan-Nung (Ojibway for Place of the Long Rapids), with a history dating back 8,000-9,500 years. The place was already at the center of a vibrant North America-wide trading network, as far back as 5,000-6,000 years. Today, it is best-known for its 23 ancient burial mounds—the largest concentration of mounds in Canada–and village sites built on river terraces edging the Rainy River and Long Sault Rapids. Called the Manitou Mounds, the first ones were built about 2,500 years ago, and the area has now been declared a National Historical Site. The guardians of this rich heritage are the Rainy River First Nations who have built a historical centre on the 90-hectare site that encompasses more than three kilometres of the shoreline.” ref

“Walking among these ancient beehive-shaped mounds (only some are accessible to the public), I could feel the powerful presence of history. The mounds, varying in size, are located in a beautiful setting of river terraces edging the Rainy River, surrounded by prairie oak savannah. The sense of history was particularly strong while standing beside the mound that had inspired W. A. Kenyon to write, “The most spectacular prehistoric native monument in all of Canada is a burial mound on Rainy River. Overlooking the long Sault Rapids, it is about 113 feet in diameter and 24 feet high.” Standing and absorbing the scenery, one could almost hear the sounds of these ancient people as they gathered here and along the Rainy River each summer by the thousands. They fished with spears and hooks for lake sturgeon that could weigh up to 400 pounds and reach 13 feet in length. They planted summer gardens, leaving a rich diversity of plant life in a prairie oak savannah. And they traded, bringing in items like marine shells from Florida, volcanic glass from Mt. St. Helen’s in Washington State, stone from Hudson Bay, obsidian from Wyoming, flint from the Dakotas.” ref

“The mounds here were constructed by digging a shallow pit, placing in the bones (either bundled in birchbark or hides), and covering the remains with earth. The following year, the burial ceremony would be continued until, as more individuals were buried and more earth placed on top, the mounds grew in size to what we see today. Mounds elsewhere have contained grave offerings like shells, copper ornaments, and, in some cases, clay funerary masks. Notable earthworks further south in Minnesota include the six Hopewellian burial mounds featured in Indian Mounds Park, a public park overlooking the Mississippi River in St. Paul. Originally, there were more than 30 mounds, but most were destroyed in the 19th century.” ref

“The first mounds were built 2,200 years ago by people of the Hopewell culture, who had arrived in the upper Midwest from Illinois circa 500 BCE and stayed for about 1,000 years before they disappeared; later the site was used by the Dakota for burials. In case you wondered, the largest man-made earthen mound north of Mexico is Monks Mound at the 2,200-acre Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site on the Mississippi River in southern Illinois. The four-terrace platform mound is 1,000 feet long, 800 feet wide, and was built between 900-1,200 CE using an estimated 22 million cubic feet of earth. In the 1200s, Cahokia was among the world’s largest cities with a population of 100,000.” ref

Mound Builder Cultures

“Many pre-Columbian cultures in North America were collectively termed “Mound Builders,” but the term has no formal meaning. It does not refer to specific people or archaeological culture but refers to the characteristic mound earthworks that indigenous peoples erected for an extended period of more than 5,000 years. The “Mound Builder” cultures span the period of roughly 3500 BCE (the construction of Watson Brake) to the 16th century CE, including the Archaic period (Horr’s Island), Woodland period (Caloosahatchee, Adena, and Hopewell cultures), and Mississippian period. Geographically, the cultures were present in the region of the Great Lakes, the Ohio River Valley, Florida, and the Mississippi River Valley and its tributary waters.ref

“The first mound building was an early marker of political and social complexity among the cultures in the Eastern United States. Watson Brake in Louisiana, constructed about 3500 BCE during the Middle Archaic period, is the oldest known and dated mound complex in North America. It is one of 11 mound complexes from this period found in the Lower Mississippi Valley. These cultures generally had developed hierarchical societies that had an elite. These commanded hundreds or even thousands of workers to dig up tons of earth with the hand tools available, move the soil long distances, and finally, workers to create the shape with layers of soil as directed by the builders. However, early mounds found in Louisiana preceded such cultures and were products of hunter-gatherer cultures.ref

“From about 800 CE, the mound-building cultures were dominated by the Mississippian culture, a large archaeological horizon, whose youngest descendants, the Plaquemine culture and the Fort Ancient culture, were still active at the time of European contact in the 16th century. One tribe of the Fort Ancient culture has been identified as the Mosopelea, presumably of southeast Ohio, who spoke an Ohio Valley Siouan language. The bearers of the Plaquemine culture were presumably speakers of the Natchez language isolate. The first written description of these cultures were made by members of Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto‘s expedition, between 1540 and 1542.ref

“The namesake cultural trait of the Mound Builders was the building of mounds and other earthworks. These burial and ceremonial structures were typically flat-topped pyramids or platform mounds, flat-topped or rounded cones, elongated ridges, and sometimes a variety of other forms. They were generally built as part of complex villages. The early earthworks built in Louisiana around 3500 BCE are the only ones known to have been built by a hunter-gatherer culture, rather than a more settled culture based on agricultural surpluses.ref

“The best-known flat-topped pyramidal structure is Monks Mound at Cahokia, near present-day Collinsville, Illinois. This community was the center of the Mississippian culture. This mound appears to have been the main ceremonial and residential mound for the religious and political leaders; it is more than 100 feet (30 m) tall and is the largest pre-Columbian earthwork north of Mexico. This site had numerous mounds, some with conical or ridge tops, as well as palisaded stockades protecting the large settlement and elite quarter. At its maximum about 1150 CE, Cahokia was an urban settlement with 20,000–30,000 people. This population was not exceeded by North American European settlements until after 1800.ref

“Some effigy mounds were constructed in the shapes or outlines of culturally significant animals. The most famous effigy mound, Serpent Mound in southern Ohio, ranges from 1 foot (0.30 m) to just over 3 feet (0.91 m) tall, 20 feet (6.1 m) wide, more than 1,330 feet (410 m) long, and shaped as an undulating serpent. There are other animals like bears in America.ref

“Between 1540 and 1542, Hernando de Soto, the Spanish conquistador, traversed what became the southeastern United States. There he encountered many different mound-builder peoples who were perhaps descendants of the great Mississippian culture. De Soto observed people living in fortified towns with lofty mounds and plazas and surmised that many of the mounds served as foundations for priestly temples. Near present-day Augusta, Georgia, de Soto encountered a group ruled by a queen, Cofitachequi. She told him that the mounds within her territory served as burial places for nobles.ref

The artist Jacques le Moyne, who had accompanied French settlers to northeastern Florida during the 1560s, likewise noted Native American groups using existing mounds and constructing others. He produced a series of watercolor paintings depicting scenes of native life. Although most of his paintings have been lost, some engravings were copied from the originals and published in 1591 by a Flemish company. Among these is a depiction of the burial of an aboriginal Floridian tribal chief, an occasion of great mourning and ceremony. The original caption reads:

Sometimes the deceased king of this province is buried with great solemnity, and his great cup from which he was accustomed to drink is placed on a tumulus with many arrows set about it. — Jacques le Moyne, 1560sref

Maturin Le Petit, a Jesuit priest, met the Natchez people, as did Le Page du Pratz (1758), a French explorer. Both observed them in the area that today is known as Mississippi. The Natchez were devout worshippers of the sun. Having a population of some 4,000, they occupied at least nine villages and were presided over by a paramount chief, known as the Great Sun, who wielded absolute power. Both observers noted the high temple mounds that the Natchez had built so that the Great Sun could commune with God, the sun. His large residence was built atop the highest mound, from “which, every morning, he greeted the rising sun, invoking thanks and blowing tobacco smoke to the four cardinal directions.ref

Mound Chronology

Archaic era

Main article: Archaic period in the Americas

Radiocarbon dating has established the age of the earliest Archaic mound complex in southeastern Louisiana. One of the two Monte Sano Site mounds, excavated in 1967 before being destroyed for new construction at Baton Rouge, was dated at 6220 years ago (plus or minus 140 years). Researchers at the time thought that such hunter-gatherer societies were not organizationally capable of this type of construction. It has since been dated as about 6500 years ago, or 4500 BCE, although not all agree.ref

Watson Brake is located in the floodplain of the Ouachita River near Monroe in northern Louisiana. Securely dated to about 5,400 years ago (around 3500 BCE), in the Middle Archaic period, it consists of a formation of 11 mounds from 3 feet (0.91 m) to 25 feet (7.6 m) tall, connected by ridges to form an oval nearly 900 feet (270 m) across. In the Americas, the building of complex earthwork mounds started at an early date, well before the pyramids of Egypt were constructed. Watson Brake was being constructed nearly 2,000 years before the better-known Poverty Point, and the building continued for 500 years. Middle Archaic mound construction seems to have ceased about 2800 BCE. Scholars have not ascertained the reason, but it may have been because of changes in river patterns or other environmental factors.ref

“With the 1990s dating of Watson Brake and similar complexes, scholars established that pre-agricultural, pre-ceramic American societies could organize to accomplish complex construction during extended periods, invalidating scholars’ traditional ideas of Archaic society. Watson Brake was built by a hunter-gatherer society, the people of which occupied this area only on a seasonal basis. Successive generations organized to build the complex mounds over 500 years. Their food consisted mostly of fish and deer, as well as available plants.ref

“Poverty Point, built about 1500 BCE in what is now Louisiana, is a prominent example of Late Archaic mound-builder construction (around 2500 BCE – 1000 BCE). It is a striking complex of more than 1 square mile (2.6 km2), where six earthwork crescent ridges were built in concentric arrangement, interrupted by radial aisles. Three mounds are also part of the main complex, and evidence of residences extends for about 3 miles (4.8 km) along the bank of Bayou Macon. It is the major site among 100 associated with the Poverty Point culture and is one of the best-known early examples of earthwork monumental architecture. Unlike the localized societies during the Middle Archaic, this culture showed evidence of a wide trading network outside its area, which is one of its distinguishing characteristics.ref

Horr’s Island, Florida, now a gated community next to Marco Island, was excavated by Michael Russo in 1980. He found an Archaic Indian village site. Mound A was a burial mound that dated to 3400 BCE, making it the oldest known burial mound in North America.ref

Woodland period

Mississippian Cultures

“Around 900–1450 CE, the Mississippian culture developed and spread through the Eastern United States, primarily along the river valleys. The largest regional center where the Mississippian culture was first definitely developed is located in Illinois along a tributary of the Mississippi and is referred to as Cahokia. It had several regional variants including the Middle Mississippian culture of Cahokia, the South Appalachian Mississippian variant at Moundville and Etowah, the Plaquemine Mississippian variant in south Louisiana and Mississippi, and the Caddoan Mississippian culture of northwestern Louisiana, eastern Texas, and southwestern Arkansas. Like the mound builders of the Ohio, these peoples built gigantic mounds as burial and ceremonial places.” ref

“Fort Ancient is the name for a Native American culture that flourished from 1000 to 1650 CE among a people who predominantly inhabited land along the Ohio River in areas of modern-day southern Ohio, northern Kentucky, and western West Virginia.ref

“A continuation of the Coles Creek culture in the lower Mississippi River Valley in western Mississippi and eastern Louisiana. Examples include the Medora site in West Baton Rouge Parish, Louisiana; and the Anna and Emerald Mound sites in Mississippi. Sites inhabited by Plaquemine peoples continued to be used as vacant ceremonial centers without large village areas much as their Coles Creek ancestors had done, although their layout began to show influences from Middle Mississippian peoples to the north. The Winterville and Holly Bluff (Lake George) sites in western Mississippi are good examples that exemplify this change of layout, but a continuation of site usage.ref 

“During the Terminal Coles Creek period (1150 to 1250 CE), contact increased with Mississippian cultures centered upriver near the future St. Louis, Missouri. This resulted in the adaption of new pottery techniques, as well as new ceremonial objects and possibly new social patterns during the Plaquemine period. As more Mississippian cultural influences were absorbed, the Plaquemine area as a distinct culture began to shrink after CE 1350. Eventually, the last enclave of purely Plaquemine culture was the Natchez Bluffs area, while the Yazoo Basin and adjacent areas of Louisiana became a hybrid Plaquemine-Mississippi culture. This division was recorded by Europeans when they first arrived in the area. In the Natchez Bluffs area, the Taensa and Natchez people had held out against Mississippian influence and continued to use the same sites as their ancestors. The Plaquemine culture is considered directly ancestral to these historic period groups encountered by Europeans. Groups who appear to have absorbed more Mississippian influence were identified as those tribes speaking the Tunican, Chitimachan, and Muskogean languages.ref


“Following the description by Jacques le Moyne in 1560, the mound-building cultures seem to have disappeared within the next century. However, there were also other European accounts, earlier than 1560, that give a first-hand description of the enormous earth-built mounds being constructed by Native Americans. One of them was Garcilaso de la Vega (c.1539–1616), a Spanish chronicler also known as “El Inca” because of his Incan mother. He was the record-keeper of the noted De Soto expedition that landed in present-day Florida on May 31, 1538. Garcilaso gave a first-hand description in his Historia de la Florida (published in 1605, Lisbon, as La Florida del Inca) describing how the Indians had built mounds and how the Native American mound cultures practiced their traditional way of life. De la Vega’s accounts also include vital details about the Native American tribes’ systems of government present in the southeast, tribal territories, and the construction of mounds and temples. A few French expeditions in the 1560s reported staying with Indian societies who had built mounds.ref


“Later explorers to the same regions, only a few decades after mound-building settlements had been reported, found the regions largely depopulated with its residents vanished and the mounds untended. Conflicts with Europeans were dismissed by historians as the major cause of population reduction since few clashes had occurred between the natives and the Europeans in the area during the same period. The most widely accepted explanation today is that new infectious diseases brought from the Old World, such as smallpox and influenza, had decimated most of the Native Americans from the last mound-builder civilization, as they had no immunity to such diseases.ref

“The Fort Ancient culture of the Ohio River valley is considered a “sister culture” of the Mississippian horizon, or one of the “Mississippianised” cultures adjacent to the main area of the mound building cultures. This culture was also mostly extinct in the 17th century, but remnants may have survived into the first half of the 18th century. While this culture shows strong Mississippian influences, its bearers were most likely ethnolinguistically distinct from the Mississippians, possibly belonging to the Siouan phylum. The only tribal name associated with the Fort Ancient culture in the historical record is the Mosopelea, recorded by Jean-Baptiste-Louis Franquelin in 1684 as inhabiting eight villages north of the Ohio River.ref

“The Mosopelea is most likely identical to the Ofo (Oufé, Offogoula) recorded in the same area in the 18th century. The Ofo language was formerly classified as Muskogean but is now recognized as an eccentric member of the Western Siouan phylum. The late survival of the Fort Ancient culture is suggested by the remarkable amount of European-made goods in the archaeological record. Such artifacts would have been acquired by trade even before direct European contact. These artifacts include brass and steel items, glassware, and melted down or broken goods reforged into new items. The Fort Ancient peoples are known to have been severely affected by disease in the 17th century (Beaver Wars period). Carbon dating seems to indicate that they were wiped out by successive waves of disease.ref

Massacre and Revolt

“Because of the disappearance of the cultures by the end of the 17th century, the identification of the bearers of these cultures was an open question in 19th-century ethnography. Modern stratigraphic dating has established that the “Mound builders” have spanned an extended period of more than five millennia so that any ethnolinguistic continuity is unlikely. The spread of the Mississippian culture from the late 1st millennium CE most likely involved cultural assimilation, in archaeological terminology called “Mississippianised” cultures. 19th-century ethnography assumed that the Mound-builders were an ancient prehistoric race with no direct connection to the Southeastern Woodland peoples of the historical period who were encountered by Europeans. A reference to this idea appears in the poem “The Prairies” (1832) by William Cullen Bryant.ref

“The cultural stage of the Southeastern Woodland natives encountered in the 18th and 19th centuries by British colonists was deemed incompatible with the comparatively advanced stone, metal, and clay artifacts of the archaeological record. The age of the earthworks was also partly over-estimated. Caleb Atwater‘s misunderstanding of stratigraphy caused him to significantly overestimate the age of the earthworks. In his book, Antiquities Discovered in the Western States (1820), Atwater claimed that “Indian remains” were always found right beneath the surface of the earth, while artifacts associated with the Mound Builders were found fairly deep in the ground. Atwater argued that they must be from a different group of people. The discovery of metal artifacts further convinced people that the Mound Builders were not identical to the Southeast Woodland Native Americans of the 18th century.ref

“It is now thought that the most likely bearers of the Plaquemine culture, a late variant of the Mississippian culture, were ancestral to the related Natchez and Taensa peoples. The Natchez language is a language isolate. The Natchez are known to have historically occupied the Lower Mississippi Valley. They are first mentioned in French sources of around 1700, when they were centered around the Grand Village close to present-day Natchez, Mississippi. In 1729 the Natchez revolted and massacred the French colony of Fort Rosalie. The French retaliated by destroying all the Natchez villages. The remaining Natchez fled in scattered bands to live among the Chickasaw, Creek, and Cherokee people. They traveled with them on the trail of tears when federal Indian removal policies after 1830 forced the Native Americans out of the Southeast and west of the Mississippi River to Indian Territory (admitted in the early 20th century as the state of Oklahoma. The Natchez language became extinct in the 20th century, with the death in 1957 of the last known native speaker, Nancy Raven.ref

Paramount Chief?

A paramount chief is the English-language designation for a King/Queen or the highest-level political leader in a regional or local polity or country administered politically with a chief-based system. This term is used occasionally in anthropological and archaeological theory to refer to the rulers of multiple chiefdoms or the rulers of exceptionally powerful chiefdoms that have subordinated others. Paramount chiefs were identified by English-speakers as existing in Native American confederacies and regional chiefdoms, such as the Powhatan Confederacy and Piscataway Native Americans encountered by European colonists in the Chesapeake Bay region of North America. During the Victoria era, paramount chief was a formal title created by British colonial administrators in the British Empire and applied in Britain’s colonies in Asia and Africa. They used it as a substitute for the word “king” to ensure that only the British monarch held that title. Since the title “chief” was already used in terms of district and town administrators, the addition of “paramount” was made so as to distinguish between the ruling monarch and the local aristocracy.” ref

Bands, Tribes, Chiefdoms

“Another means of identifying the boundaries between modern and traditional societies was the categorization of the differences between the manner of their social organization and their driving mechanism. Based on the multi-criteria approach the American Elman Service was the first anthropologist to define the division of society into four groups, while his typology also reflected its evolutionary aspect. The division into bands, tribes, chieftain units, and states is still in current use today, though not without certain reservations. Critics point in particular to the problems that are associated with attempts to apply a typology that was created in relation to recent pre-industrial populations to societies that are identified only in historical or archaeological sources.” ref

“Smaller groups of hunter-gatherers are referred to as bands. In general, their members were related either by blood or by marriage. The bands lacked any formal chieftains, nor were there any striking differences in regard to the ownership of property or of social status between the members. The fact that the bands were both quite small and mobile was also reflected in the size and structure of their settlements. Modern examples of bands of this nature are the Bushmen of southern Africa and the Hadza in Tanzania.” ref

“According to Elman Service, generally the tribes were more significant than the bands, but only rarely did the number of their members attain several thousand people. Their diet usually comprised domestic resources. They were both sedentarised farmers and migrant herders. The tribe comprised a collection of individual communities (families, villages, etc.) that were mutually linked by family ties, either real or declared (i.e. claimed). Tribes usually lacked both official representatives and a “Capital City” because there was no need for an economic base in order to create power structures. The settlements took the form of homesteads or of villages. According to Service, this grouping was supposed to represent some sort of transitional form, somewhere between a band and a chiefdom.” ref

“As social organizations, chiefdoms were made up of several branches of various kinship groups or conical clans. Their members were internally differentiated in them on the basis of their kinship with a real or a mythological ancestor who was viewed as being the founder. The political representative of a society of this nature was a chieftain who inherited his position from within a specific defined circle of relatives. Prestige and status in the society were derived from how close the relationship between the individual and the chieftain was. This was also reflected in the funeral rites. The centralization of power was manifested primarily in the area of spiritual ceremonies and rituals. The authority of the chieftain largely coincided with his priestly functions. Another feature, therefore, was also the existence of a permanent sacred place.  It must be admitted that there could be a large number of chieftain systems with different mechanisms of functioning that could co-exist. Historical traces of this can be found on the northwest coast of North America, for example.” ref

“The last category is that of the early states. They gave rise to a complexity that characterizes the more intricate social formations. Though the early states retained a number of the features of the chieftain groups, unlike them, these were societies of a non-relational type (i.e., status was acquired based on qualities, not on origin) stratified into different social classes. This gave rise to an elite that included officials, soldiers, and priests. The top level of this imaginary pyramid was occupied by the King. He had explicitly been given the power to implement laws and to enforce them, even by violent means. The institution of donation also ended in the early stages and was replaced by the levying of taxes.” ref

“Usually, the early states were small in terms of the size of their territory, often consisting of a single dominant city together with its economic hinterland. Because the state-building process was also regionally contagious, so to speak, several states coexisted in the area more or less on a regular basis. Inevitably, together, they formed an interactive network that dynamically transformed its goals from peacekeeping to war. The King had become the King of Kings by conquering the neighboring rulers, and inevitably, his empires ceased to meet the requisite criteria for being an early stage.” ref

“All cultures have one element in common: they somehow exercise social control over their own members. Like the “invisible hand” of the market to which Adam Smith refers in analyzing the workings of capitalism, two forces govern the workings of politics: power—the ability to induce behavior of others in specified ways by means of coercion or use or threat of physical force—and authority—the ability to induce behavior of others by persuasion. Extreme examples of the exercise of power are the gulags (prison camps) in Stalinist Russia, the death camps in Nazi-ruled Germany and Eastern Europe, and so-called Supermax prisons such as Pelican Bay in California and the prison for “enemy combatants” in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, by the United States. In all of these settings, prisoners comply or are punished or executed. At the other extreme are most forager societies, which typically exercise authority more often than power. Groups in those societies comply with the wishes of their most persuasive members.” ref

“In actuality, power and authority are points on a continuum, and both are present in every society to some degree. Even Hitler, who exercised absolute power in many ways, had to hold the Nuremberg rallies to generate popular support for his regime and persuade the German population that his leadership was the way to national salvation. In the Soviet Union, leaders had a great deal of coercive and physical power but still felt the need to hold parades and mass rallies on May Day every year to persuade people to remain attached to their vision of a communal society. At the other end of the political spectrum, societies that tend to use persuasion through authority also have some forms of coercive power. Among the Inuit, for example, individuals who flagrantly violated group norms could be punished, including by homicide.” ref

A related concept in both politics and law is legitimacy: the perception that an individual has a valid right to leadership. Legitimacy is particularly applicable to complex societies that require centralized decision-making. Historically, the right to rule has been based on various principles. In agricultural states such as ancient Mesopotamia, the Aztec, and the Inca, justification for the rule of particular individuals was based on hereditary succession and typically granted to the eldest son of the ruler. Even this principle could be uncertain at times, as was the case when the Inca emperor Atahualpa had just defeated his rival and brother Huascar when the Spaniards arrived in Peru in 1533.” ref

“In many cases, supernatural beliefs were invoked to establish legitimacy and justify rule by an elite. Incan emperors derived their right to rule from the Sun God and Aztec rulers from Huitzilopochtli (Hummingbird-to-the-Left). European monarchs invoked a divine right to rule that was reinforced by the Church of England in Britain and by the Roman Catholic Church in other countries prior to the Reformation. In India, the dominance of the Brahmin elite over the other castes is justified by karma, cumulative forces created by good and evil deeds in past lives. Secular equivalents also serve to justify rule by elites; examples include the promise of a worker’s paradise in the former Soviet Union and racial purity of Aryans in Nazi Germany. In the United States and other democratic forms of government, legitimacy rests on the consent of the governed in periodic elections (though in the United States, the incoming president is sworn in using a Christian Bible despite the alleged separation of church and state).” ref

“In some societies, dominance by an individual or group is viewed as unacceptable. Christopher Boehm (1999) developed the concept of reverse dominance to describe societies in which people rejected attempts by any individual to exercise power. They achieved this aim using ridicule, criticism, disobedience, and strong disapproval and could banish extreme offenders. Richard Lee encountered this phenomenon when he presented the !Kung with whom he had worked over the preceding year with a fattened ox. Rather than praising or thanking him, his hosts ridiculed the beast as scrawny, ill fed, and probably sick. This behavior is consistent with reverse dominance.” ref

“Even in societies that emphasize equality between people, decisions still have to be made. Sometimes, particularly persuasive figures such as headmen make them, but persuasive figures who lack formal power are not free to make decisions without coming to a consensus with their fellows. To reach such a consensus, there must be general agreement. Essentially, then, even if in a backhanded way, legitimacy characterizes societies that lack institutionalized leadership. Another set of concepts refers to the reinforcements or consequences for compliance with the directives and laws of a society. Positive reinforcements are the rewards for compliance; examples include medals, financial incentives, and other forms of public recognition. Negative reinforcements punish noncompliance through fines, imprisonment, and death sentences. These reinforcements can be identified in every human society, even among foragers or others who have no written system of law. Reverse dominance is one form of negative reinforcement.” ref

“If cultures of various sizes and configurations are to be compared, there must be some common basis for defining political organization. In many small communities, the family functions as a political unit. As Julian Steward wrote about the Shoshone, a Native American group in the Nevada basin, “all features of the relatively simple culture were integrated and functioned on a family level. The family was the reproductive, economic, educational, political, and religious unit.” In larger more complex societies, however, the functions of the family are taken over by larger social institutions. The resources of the economy, for example, are managed by authority figures outside the family who demand taxes or other tribute. The educational function of the family may be taken over by schools constituted under the authority of a government, and the authority structure in the family is likely to be subsumed under the greater power of the state. Therefore, anthropologists need methods for assessing political organizations that can be applied to many different kinds of communities. This concept is called levels of socio-cultural integration.” ref

“Elman Service developed an influential scheme for categorizing the political character of societies that recognized four levels of socio-cultural integration: band, tribe, chiefdom, and state. A band is the smallest unit of political organization, consisting of only a few families and no formal leadership positions. Tribes have larger populations but are organized around family ties and have fluid or shifting systems of temporary leadership. Chiefdoms are large political units in which the chief, who usually is determined by heredity, holds a formal position of power. States are the most complex form of political organization and are characterized by a central government that has a monopoly over legitimate uses of physical force, a sizeable bureaucracy, a system of formal laws, and a standing military force.” ref

“Each type of political integration can be further categorized as egalitarian, ranked, or stratified. Band societies and tribal societies generally are considered egalitarian—there is no great difference in status or power between individuals and there are as many valued status positions in the societies as there are persons able to fill them. Chiefdoms are ranked societies; there are substantial differences in the wealth and social status of individuals based on how closely related they are to the chief. In ranked societies, there are a limited number of positions of power or status, and only a few can occupy them. State societies are stratified. There are large differences in the wealth, status, and power of individuals based on unequal access to resources and positions of power. Socio-economic classes, for instance, are forms of stratification in many state societies.” ref

In a complex society, it may seem that social classes—differences in wealth and status—are, like death and taxes, inevitable: that one is born into wealth, poverty, or somewhere in between and has no say in the matter, at least at the start of life, and that social class is an involuntary position in society. However, is social class universal? As they say, let’s look at the record, in this case, ethnographies. We find that among foragers, there is no advantage to hoarding food; in most climates, it will rot before one’s eyes. Nor is there much personal property, and leadership, where it exists, is informal. In forager societies, the basic ingredients for social class do not exist. Foragers such as the !Kung, Inuit, and aboriginal Australians, are egalitarian societies in which there are few differences between members in wealth, status, and power. Highly skilled and less skilled hunters do not belong to different strata in the way that the captains of industry do from you and me. The less skilled hunters in egalitarian societies receive a share of the meat and have the right to be heard on important decisions. Egalitarian societies also lack a government or centralized leadership. Their leaders, known as headmen or big men, emerge by consensus of the group. Foraging societies are always egalitarian, but so are many societies that practice horticulture or pastoralism. In terms of political organization, egalitarian societies can be either bands or tribes.” ref


“Societies organized as a band typically comprise foragers who rely on hunting and gathering and are therefore nomadic, are few in number (rarely exceeding 100 persons), and form small groups consisting of a few families and a shifting population. Bands lack formal leadership. Richard Lee went so far as to say that the Dobe! Kung had no leaders. To quote one of his informants, “Of course, we have headmen. Each one of us is headman over himself.” At most, a band’s leader is primus inter pares or “first among equals” assuming anyone is first at all. Modesty is a valued trait; arrogance and competitiveness are not acceptable in societies characterized by reverse dominance. What leadership there is in band societies tends to be transient and subject to shifting circumstances. For example, among the Paiute in North America, “rabbit bosses” coordinated rabbit drives during the hunting season but played no leadership role otherwise. Some “leaders” are excellent mediators who are called on when individuals are involved in disputes, while others are perceived as skilled shamans or future-seers who are consulted periodically. There are no formal offices or rules of succession.” ref

“Bands were probably the first political unit to come into existence outside the family itself. There is some debate in anthropology about how the earliest bands were organized. Elman Service argued that patrilocal bands organized around groups of related men served as the prototype, reasoning that groups centered on male family relationships made sense because male cooperation was essential to hunting. M. Kay Martin and Barbara Voorhies pointed out in rebuttal that gathering vegetable foods, which typically was viewed as women’s work, actually contributed a greater number of calories in most cultures and thus that matrilocal bands organized around groups of related women would be closer to the norm..Indeed, in societies in which hunting is the primary source of food, such as the Inuit, women tend to be subordinate to men while men and women tend to have roughly equal status in societies that mainly gather plants for food.” ref

Law in Band Societies

“Within bands of people, disputes are typically resolved informally. There are no formal mediators or any organizational equivalent of a court of law. A good mediator may emerge—or may not. In some cultures, duels are employed. Among the Inuit, for example, disputants engage in a duel using songs in which, drum in hand, they chant insults at each other before an audience. The audience selects the better chanter and thereby the winner in the dispute. The Mbuti of the African Congo use ridicule; even children berate adults for laziness, quarreling, or selfishness. If ridicule fails, the Mbuti elders evaluate the dispute carefully, determine the cause, and, in extreme cases, walk to the center of the camp and criticize the individuals by name, using humor to soften their criticism—the group, after all, must get along.” ref

Warfare in Band Societies

“Nevertheless, conflict does sometimes break out into war between bands and, sometimes, within them. Such warfare is usually sporadic and short-lived since bands do not have formal leadership structures or enough warriors to sustain conflict for long. Most of the conflict arises from interpersonal arguments. Among the Tiwi of Australia, for example, failure of one band to reciprocate another band’s wife-giving with one of its own female relative led to abduction of women by the aggrieved band, precipitating a “war” that involved some spear-throwing (many did not shoot straight and even some of the onlookers were wounded) but mostly violent talk and verbal abuse. For the Dobe !Kung, Lee found 22 cases of homicide by males and other periodic episodes of violence, mostly in disputes over women—not quite the gentle souls Elizabeth Marshall Thomas depicted in her Harmless People.” ref


“Whereas bands involve small populations without structure, tribal societies involve at least two well-defined groups linked together in some way and range in population from about 100 to as many as 5,000 people. Though their social institutions can be fairly complex, there are no centralized political structures or offices in the strict sense of those terms. There may be headmen, but there are no rules of succession, and sons do not necessarily succeed their fathers as is the case with chiefdoms. Tribal leadership roles are open to anyone—in practice, usually men, especially elder men who acquire leadership positions because of their personal abilities and qualities. Leaders in tribes do not have a means of coercing others or formal powers associated with their positions. Instead, they must persuade others to take actions they feel are needed. A Yanomami headsman, for instance, said that he would never issue an order unless he knew it would be obeyed. The headman Kaobawä exercised influence by example and by making suggestions and warning of consequences of taking or not taking an action.” ref

“Like bands, tribes are egalitarian societies. Some individuals in a tribe do sometimes accumulate personal property but not to the extent that other tribe members are deprived. And every (almost always male) person has the opportunity to become a headman or leader and, like bands, one’s leadership position can be situational. One man may be a good mediator, another an exemplary warrior, and a third capable of leading a hunt or finding a more ideal area for cultivation or grazing herds. An example illustrating this kind of leadership is the big man of New Guinea; the term is derived from the languages of New Guinean tribes (literally meaning “man of influence”). The big man is one who has acquired followers by doing favors they cannot possibly repay, such as settling their debts or providing bride-wealth. He might also acquire as many wives as possible to create alliances with his wives’ families. His wives could work to care for as many pigs as possible, for example, and in due course, he could sponsor a pig feast that would serve to put more tribe members in his debt and shame his rivals. It is worth noting that the followers, incapable of repaying the Big Man’s gifts, stand metaphorically as beggars to him.” ref

“Still, a big man does not have the power of a monarch. His role is not hereditary. His son must demonstrate his worth and acquire his own following—he must become a big man in his own right. Furthermore, there usually are other big men in the village who are his potential rivals. Another man who proves himself capable of acquiring a following can displace the existing big man. The big man also has no power to coerce—no army or police force. He cannot prevent a follower from joining another big man, nor can he force the follower to pay any debt owed. There is no New Guinean equivalent of a U.S. marshal. Therefore, he can have his way only by diplomacy and persuasion—which do not always work.” ref

Tribal Systems of Social Integration

Tribal societies have much larger populations than bands and thus must have mechanisms for creating and maintaining connections between tribe members. The family ties that unite members of a band are not sufficient to maintain solidarity and cohesion in the larger population of a tribe. Some of the systems that knit tribes together are based on family (kin) relationships, including various kinds of marriage and family lineage systems, but there are also ways to foster tribal solidarity outside of family arrangements through systems that unite members of a tribe by age or gender.” ref

Integration through Age Grades and Age Sets

Tribes use various systems to encourage solidarity or feelings of connectedness between people who are not related by family ties. These systems, sometimes known as sodalities, unite people across family groups. In one sense, all societies are divided into age categories. In the U.S. educational system, for instance, children are matched to grades in school according to their age—six-year-olds in first grade and thirteen-year-olds in eighth grade. Other cultures, however, have established complex age-based social structures. Many pastoralists in East Africa, for example, have age grades and age sets. Age sets are named categories to which men of a certain age are assigned at birth. Age grades are groups of men who are close to one another in age and share similar duties or responsibilities. All men cycle through each age grade over the course of their lifetimes. As the age sets advance, the men assume the duties associated with each age grade.” ref

“An example of this kind of tribal society is the Tiriki of Kenya. From birth to about fifteen years of age, boys become members of one of seven named age sets. When the last boy is recruited, that age set closes, and a new one opens. For example, young and adult males who belonged to the “Juma” age set in 1939 became warriors by 1954. The “Mayima” were already warriors in 1939 and became elder warriors during that period. In precolonial times, men of the warrior age grade defended the herds of the Tiriki and conducted raids on other tribes while the elder warriors acquired cattle and houses and took on wives. There were recurring reports of husbands who were much older than their wives, who had married early in life, often as young as fifteen or sixteen. As solid citizens of the Tiriki, the elder warriors also handled decision-making functions of the tribe as a whole; their legislation affected the entire village while also representing their own kin groups. The other age sets also moved up through age grades in the fifteen-year period.” ref

“The elder warriors in 1939, “Nyonje,” became the judicial elders by 1954. Their function was to resolve disputes that arose between individuals, families, and kin groups, of which some elders were a part. The “Jiminigayi,” judicial elders in 1939, became ritual elders in 1954, handling supernatural functions that involved the entire Tiriki community. During this period, the open age set was “Kabalach.” Its prior members had all grown old or died by 1939 and new boys joined it between 1939 and 1954. Thus, the Tiriki age sets moved in continuous 105-year cycles. This age grade and age set system encourages bonds between men of similar ages. Their loyalty to their families is tempered by their responsibilities to their fellows of the same age.” ref

“Among most, if not all, tribes of New Guinea, the existence of men’s houses serves to cut across family lineage groups in a village. Perhaps the most fastidious case of male association in New Guinea is the bachelor association of the Mae-Enga, who live in the northern highlands. In their culture, a boy becomes conscious of the distance between males and females before he leaves home at age five to live in the men’s house. Women are regarded as potentially unclean, and strict codes that minimize male-female relations are enforced. Sanggai festivals reinforce this division. During the festival, every youth of age 15 or 16 goes into seclusion in the forest and observes additional restrictions, such as avoiding pigs (which are cared for by women) and avoiding gazing at the ground lest he see female footprints or pig feces. One can see, therefore, that every boy commits his loyalty to the men’s house early in life even though he remains a member of his birth family. Men’s houses are the center of male activities. There, they draw up strategies for warfare, conduct ritual activities involving magic and honoring of ancestral spirits, and plan and rehearse periodic pig feasts.” ref

“Exchanges and the informal obligations associated with them are primary devices by which bands and tribes maintain a degree of order and forestall armed conflict, which was viewed as the “state of nature” for tribal societies by Locke and Hobbes, in the absence of exercises of force by police or an army. Marcel Mauss, nephew and student of eminent French sociologist Emile Durkheim, attempted in 1925 to explain gift giving and its attendant obligations cross-culturally in his book, The Gift: Forms and Functions of Exchange in Archaic Societies. He started with the assumption that two groups have an imperative to establish a relationship of some kind. There are three options when they meet for the first time. They could pass each other by and never see each other again. They may resort to arms with an uncertain outcome. One could wipe the other out or, more likely, win at great cost of men and property or fight to a draw. The third option is to “come to terms” with each other by establishing a more or less permanent relationship. Exchanging gifts is one way for groups to establish this relationship.” ref

“These gift exchanges are quite different from Western ideas about gifts. In societies that lack a central government, formal law enforcement powers, and collection agents, the gift exchanges are obligatory and have the force of law in the absence of law. Mauss referred to them as “total prestations.” Though no Dun and Bradstreet agents would come to collect, the potential for conflict that could break out at any time reinforced the obligations. According to Mauss, the first obligation is to give; it must be met if a group is to extend social ties to others. The second obligation is to receive; refusal of a gift constitutes rejection of the offer of friendship as well. Conflicts can arise from the perceived insult of a rejected offer. The third obligation is to repay. One who fails to make a gift in return will be seen as in debt—in essence, a beggar. Mauss offered several ethnographic cases that illustrated these obligations. Every gift conferred power to the giver, expressed by the Polynesian terms mana (an intangible supernatural force) and hau (among the Maori, the “spirit of the gift,” which must be returned to its owner). Marriage and its associated obligations also can be viewed as a form of gift-giving as one family “gives” a bride or groom to the other.” ref

“Understanding social solidarity in tribal societies requires knowledge of family structures, which are also known as kinship systems. The romantic view of marriage in today’s mass media is largely a product of Hollywood movies and romance novels from mass-market publishers such as Harlequin. In most cultures around the world, marriage is largely a device that links two families together; this is why arranged marriage is so common from a cross-cultural perspective. And, as Voltaire admonished, if we are to discuss anything, we need to define our terms. Marriage is defined in numerous ways, usually (but not always) involving a tie between a woman and a man. Same-sex marriage is also common in many cultures. Nuclear families consist of parents and their children. Extended families consist of three generations or more of relatives connected by marriage and descent.” ref

“Bilateral descent (commonly used in the United States) recognizes both the mother’s and the father’s “sides” of the family while unilineal descent recognizes only one sex-based “side” of the family. Unilineal descent can be patrilineal, recognizing only relatives through a line of male ancestors, or matrilineal, recognizing only relatives through a line of female ancestors. Groups made up of two or more extended families can be connected as larger groups linked by kinship ties. A lineage consists of individuals who can trace or demonstrate their descent through a line of males or females to the founding ancestor. Most tribal societies’ political organizations involve marriage, which is a logical vehicle for creating alliances between groups. One of the most well-documented types of marriage alliance is bilateral cross-cousin marriage in which a man marries his cross-cousin—one he is related to through two links, his father’s sister and his mother’s brother.” ref

“These marriages have been documented among the Yanomami, an indigenous group living in Venezuela and Brazil. Yanomami villages are typically populated by two or more extended family groups also known as lineages. Disputes and disagreements are bound to occur, and these tensions can potentially escalate to open conflict or even physical violence. Bilateral cross-cousin marriage provides a means of linking lineage groups together over time through the exchange of brides. Because cross-cousin marriage links people together by both marriage and blood ties (kinship), these unions can reduce tension between the groups or at least provide an incentive for members of rival lineages to work together.” ref

“Another type of kin-based integrative mechanism is a segmentary lineage. As previously noted, a lineage is a group of people who can trace or demonstrate their descent from a founding ancestor through a line of males or a line of females. A segmentary lineage is a hierarchy of lineages that contains both close and relatively distant family members. At the base are several minimal lineages whose members trace their descent from their founder back two or three generations. At the top is the founder of all of the lineages, and two or more maximal lineages can derive from the founder’s lineage. Between the maximal and the minimal lineages are several intermediate lineages.” ref 

“The classic examples of segmentary lineages were described by E. E. Evans-Pritchard (1940) in his discussion of the Nuer, pastoralists who lived in southern Sudan. Paul Bohannan also described this system among the Tiv, who were West African pastoralists, and Robert Murphy and Leonard Kasdan analyzed the importance of these lineages among the Bedouin of the Middle East. Segmentary lineages often develop in environments in which a tribal society is surrounded by several other tribal societies. Hostility between the tribes induces their members to retain ties with their kin and to mobilize them when external conflicts arise. An example of this is ties maintained between the Nuer and the Dinka. Once a conflict is over, segmentary lineages typically dissolve into their constituent units. Another attribute of segmentary lineages is local genealogical segmentation, meaning close lineages dwell near each other, providing a physical reminder of their genealogy.” ref

Law in Tribal Societies

“Tribal societies generally lack systems of codified law whereby damages, crimes, remedies, and punishments are specified. Only state-level political systems can determine, usually by writing formal laws, which behaviors are permissible and which are not (discussed later in this chapter). In tribes, there are no systems of law enforcement whereby an agency such as the police, the sheriff, or an army can enforce laws enacted by an appropriate authority. And, as already noted, headman and big men cannot force their will on others.” ref

In tribal societies, as in all societies, conflicts arise between individuals. Sometimes the issues are equivalent to crimes—taking of property or commitment of violence—that are not considered legitimate in a given society. Other issues are civil disagreements—questions of ownership, damage to property, an accidental death. In tribal societies, the aim is not so much to determine guilt or innocence or to assign criminal or civil responsibility as it is to resolve conflict, which can be accomplished in various ways. The parties might choose to avoid each other. Bands, tribes, and kin groups often move away from each other geographically, which is much easier for them to do than for people living in complex societies.” ref

One issue in tribal societies, as in all societies, is guilt or innocence. When no one witnesses an offense or an account is deemed unreliable, tribal societies sometimes rely on the supernatural. Oaths, for example, involve calling on a deity to bear witness to the truth of what one says; the oath given in court is a holdover from this practice. An ordeal is used to determine guilt or innocence by submitting the accused to dangerous, painful, or risky tests believed to be controlled by supernatural forces. The poison oracle used by the Azande of the Sudan and the Congo is an ordeal based on their belief that most misfortunes are induced by witchcraft (in this case, witchcraft refers to ill feeling of one person toward another). A chicken is force fed a strychnine concoction known as benge just as the name of the suspect is called out. If the chicken dies, the suspect is deemed guilty and is punished or goes through reconciliation.” ref

“A more commonly exercised option is to find ways to resolve the dispute. In small groups, an unresolved question can quickly escalate to violence and disrupt the group. The first step is often negotiation; the parties attempt to resolve the conflict by direct discussion in hope of arriving at an agreement. Offenders sometimes make a ritual apology, particularly if they are sensitive to community opinion. In Fiji, for example, offenders make ceremonial apologies called i soro, one of the meanings of which is “I surrender.” An intermediary speaks, offers a token gift to the offended party, and asks for forgiveness, and the request is rarely rejected.” ref

“When negotiation or a ritual apology fails, often the next step is to recruit a third party to mediate a settlement as there is no official who has the power to enforce a settlement. A classic example in the anthropological literature is the Leopard Skin Chief among the Nuer, who is identified by a leopard skin wrap around his shoulders. He is not a chief but is a mediator. The position is hereditary, has religious overtones, and is responsible for the social well-being of the tribal segment. He typically is called on for serious matters such as murder. The culprit immediately goes to the residence of the Leopard Skin Chief, who cuts the culprit’s arm until blood flows. If the culprit fears vengeance by the dead man’s family, he remains at the residence, which is considered a sanctuary, and the Leopard Skin Chief then acts as a go-between for the families of the perpetrator and the dead man.” ref

“The Leopard Skin Chief cannot force the parties to settle and cannot enforce any settlement they reach. The source of his influence is the desire for the parties to avoid a feud that could escalate into an ever-widening conflict involving kin descended from different ancestors. He urges the aggrieved family to accept compensation, usually in the form of cattle. When such an agreement is reached, the chief collects the 40 to 50 head of cattle and takes them to the dead man’s home, where he performs various sacrifices of cleansing and atonement. This discussion demonstrates the preference most tribal societies have for mediation given the potentially serious consequences of a long-term feud. Even in societies organized as states, mediation is often preferred. In the agrarian town of Talea, Mexico, for example, even serious crimes are mediated in the interest of preserving a degree of local harmony. The national authorities often tolerate local settlements if they maintain the peace.” ref

Warfare in Tribal Societies

“What happens if mediation fails and the Leopard Skin Chief cannot convince the aggrieved clan to accept cattle in place of their loved one? War. In tribal societies, wars vary in cause, intensity, and duration, but they tend to be less deadly than those run by states because of tribes’ relatively small populations and limited technologies. Tribes engage in warfare more often than bands, both internally and externally. Among pastoralists, both successful and attempted thefts of cattle frequently spark conflict. Among pre-state societies, pastoralists have a reputation for being the most prone to warfare.” ref

“However, horticulturalists also engage in warfare, as the film Dead Birds, which describes warfare among the highland Dani of west New Guinea (Irian Jaya), attests. Among anthropologists, there is a “protein debate” regarding causes of warfare. Marvin Harris in a 1974 study of the Yanomami claimed that warfare arose there because of a protein deficiency associated with a scarcity of game, and Kenneth Good supported that thesis in finding that the game a Yanomami villager brought in barely supported the village. He could not link this variable to warfare, however. In rebuttal, Napoleon Chagnon linked warfare among the Yanomami with abduction of women rather than disagreements over hunting territory, and findings from other cultures have tended to agree with Chagnon’s theory.” ref

“Tribal wars vary in duration. Raids are short-term uses of physical force that are organized and planned to achieve a limited objective such as acquisition of cattle (pastoralists) or other forms of wealth and, often, abduction of women, usually from neighboring communities. Feuds are longer in duration and represent a state of recurring hostilities between families, lineages, or other kin groups. In a feud, the responsibility to avenge rests with the entire group, and the murder of any kin member is considered appropriate because the kin group as a whole is considered responsible for the transgression. Among the Dani, for example, vengeance is an obligation; spirits are said to dog the victim’s clan until its members murder someone from the perpetrator’s clan.” ref


“Unlike egalitarian societies, ranked societies (sometimes called “rank societies”) involve greater differentiation between individuals and the kin groups to which they belong. These differences can be, and often are, inherited, but there are no significant restrictions in these societies on access to basic resources. All individuals can meet their basic needs. The most important differences between people of different ranks are based on sumptuary rulesnorms that permit persons of higher rank to enjoy greater social status by wearing distinctive clothing, jewelry, and/or decorations denied those of lower rank. Every family group or lineage in the community is ranked in a hierarchy of prestige and power. Furthermore, within families, siblings are ranked by birth order, and villages can also be ranked.” ref

“The concept of a ranked society leads us directly to the characteristics of chiefdoms. Unlike the position of headman in a band, the position of chief is an office—a permanent political status that demands a successor when the current chief dies. There are, therefore, two concepts of chief: the man (women rarely, if ever, occupy these posts) and the office. Thus the expression “The king is dead, long live the king.” With the New Guinean big man, there is no formal succession. Other big men will be recognized and eventually take the place of one who dies, but there is no rule stipulating that his eldest son or any son must succeed him. For chiefs, there must be a successor, and there are rules of succession.” ref

“Political chiefdoms usually are accompanied by an economic exchange system known as redistribution in which goods and services flow from the population at large to the central authority represented by the chief. It then becomes the task of the chief to return the flow of goods in another form. The chapter on economics provides additional information about redistribution economies. These political and economic principles are exemplified by the potlatch custom of the Kwakwaka’wakw and other indigenous groups who lived in chiefdom societies along the northwest coast of North America from the extreme northwest tip of California through the coasts of Oregon, Washington, British Columbia, and southern Alaska. Potlatch ceremonies observed major events such as births, deaths, marriages of important persons, and installment of a new chief.” ref

“Families prepared for the event by collecting food and other valuables such as fish, berries, blankets, animal skins, carved boxes, and copper. At the potlatch, several ceremonies were held, dances were performed by their “owners,” and speeches delivered. The new chief was watched very carefully. Members of the society noted the eloquence of his speech, the grace of his presence, and any mistakes he made, however egregious or trivial. Next came the distribution of gifts, and again the chief was observed. Was he generous with his gifts? Was the value of his gifts appropriate to the rank of the recipient or did he give valuable presents to individuals of relatively low rank? Did his wealth allow him to offer valuable objects?” ref

“The next phase of the potlatch was critical to the chief’s validation of his position. Visitor after visitor would arise and give long speeches evaluating the worthiness of this successor to the chieftainship of his father. If his performance had so far met their expectations, if his gifts were appropriate, the guests’ speeches praised him accordingly. They were less than adulatory if the chief had not performed to their expectations and they deemed the formal eligibility of the successor insufficient. He had to perform. If he did, then the guests’ praise not only legitimized the new chief in his role, but also it ensured some measure of peace between villages. Thus, in addition to being a festive event, the potlatch determined the successor’s legitimacy and served as a form of diplomacy between groups.” ref

“Much has been made among anthropologists of rivalry potlatches in which competitive gifts were given by rival pretenders to the chieftainship. Philip Drucker argued that competitive potlatches were a product of sudden demographic changes among the indigenous groups on the northwest coast. When smallpox and other diseases decimated hundreds, many potential successors to the chieftainship died, leading to situations in which several potential successors might be eligible for the chieftainship. Thus, competition in potlatch ceremonies became extreme with blankets or copper repaid with ever-larger piles and competitors who destroyed their own valuables to demonstrate their wealth. The events became so raucous that the Canadian government outlawed the displays in the early part of the twentieth century. Prior to that time, it had been sufficient for a successor who was chosen beforehand to present appropriate gifts.” ref

Kin-Based Integrative Mechanisms: Conical Clans

“With the centralization of society, kinship is most likely to continue playing a role, albeit a new one. Among Northwest Coast Indians, for example, the ranking model has every lineage ranked, one above the other, siblings ranked in order of birth, and even villages in a ranking scale. Drucker points out that the further north one goes, the more rigid the ranking scheme is. The most northerly of these coastal peoples trace their descent matrilineally; indeed, the Haida consist of four clans. Those further south tend to be patrilineal, and some show characteristics of an ambilineal descent group. It is still unclear, for example, whether the Kwakiutl numaym are patrilineal clans or ambilineal descent groups.” ref

“Because chiefdoms cannot enforce their power by controlling resources or by having a monopoly on the use of force, they rely on integrative mechanisms that cut across kinship groups. As with tribal societies, marriage provides chiefdoms with a framework for encouraging social cohesion. However, since chiefdoms have more-elaborate status hierarchies than tribes, marriages tend to reinforce ranks. The patrilineal cross-cousin marriage system also operates in a complex society in highland Burma known as the Kachin. In that system, the wife-giving lineage is known as mayu and the wife-receiving lineage as dama to the lineage that gave it a wifeThus, in addition to other mechanisms of dominance, higher-ranked lineages maintain their superiority by giving daughters to lower-ranked lineages and reinforce the relations between social classes through the mayu-dama relationship.” ref

The Kachin are not alone in using interclass marriage to reinforce dominance. The Natchez peoples, a matrilineal society of the Mississippi region of North America, were divided into four classes: Great Sun chiefs, noble lineages, honored lineages, and inferior “stinkards.” Unlike the Kachin, however, their marriage system was a way to upward mobility. The child of a woman who married a man of lower status assumed his/her mother’s status. Thus, if a Great Sun woman married a stinkard, the child would become a Great Sun. If a stinkard man were to marry a Great Sun woman, the child would become a stinkard. The same relationship obtained between women of noble lineage and honored lineage and men of lower status. Only two stinkard partners would maintain that stratum, which was continuously replenished with people in warfare.” ref

“Other societies maintained status in different ways. Brother-sister marriages, for example, were common in the royal lineages of the Inca, the Ancient Egyptians, and the Hawaiians, which sought to keep their lineages “pure.” Another, more-common type was patrilateral parallel-cousin marriage in which men married their fathers’ brothers’ daughters. This marriage system, which operated among many Middle Eastern nomadic societies, including the Rwala Bedouin chiefdoms, consolidated their herds, an important consideration for lineages wishing to maintain their wealth.” ref

Poro and sande secret societies for men and women, respectively, are found in the Mande-speaking peoples of West Africa, particularly in Liberia, Sierra Leone, the Ivory Coast, and Guinea. The societies are illegal under Guinea’s national laws. Elsewhere, they are legal and membership is universally mandatory under local laws. They function in both political and religious sectors of society. So how can such societies be secret if all men and women must join? According to Beryl Bellman, who is a member of a poro association, the standard among the Kpelle of Liberia is an ability to keep secrets. Members of the community are entrusted with the political and religious responsibilities associated with the society only after they learn to keep secrets. There are two political structures in poros and sandes: the “secular” and the “sacred.” ref

“The secular structure consists of the town chief, neighborhood and kin group headmen, and elders. The sacred structure (the zo) is composed of a hierarchy of “priests” of the poro and the sande in the neighborhood, and among the Kpelle the poro and sande zo take turns dealing with in-town fighting, rapes, homicides, incest, and land disputes. They, like leopard skin chiefs, play an important role in mediation. The zo of both the poro and sande are held in great respect and even feared. Some authors have suggested that sacred structure strengthens the secular political authority because chiefs and landowners occupy the most powerful positions in the zo. Consequently, these chiefdoms seem to have developed formative elements of a stratified society and a state, as we see in the next section.” ref


“Opposite from egalitarian societies in the spectrum of social classes is the stratified society, which is defined as one in which elites who are a numerical minority control the strategic resources that sustain life. Strategic resources include water for states that depend on irrigation agriculture, land in agricultural societies, and oil in industrial societies. Capital and products and resources used for further production are modes of production that rely on oil and other fossil fuels such as natural gas in industrial societies. (Current political movements call for the substitution of solar and wind power for fossil fuels.)” ref

“Operationally, stratification is, as the term implies, a social structure that involves two or more largely mutually exclusive populations. An extreme example is the caste system of traditional Indian society, which draws its legitimacy from Hinduism. In caste systems, membership is determined by birth and remains fixed for life, and social mobility—moving from one social class to another—is not an option. Nor can persons of different castes marry; that is, they are endogamous. Although efforts have been made to abolish castes since India achieved independence in 1947, they still predominate in rural areas.” ref

“India’s caste system consists of four varna, pure castes, and one collectively known as Dalit and sometimes as Harijan—in English, “untouchables,” reflecting the notion that for any varna caste member to touch or even see a Dalit pollutes them. The topmost varna caste is the Brahmin or priestly caste. It is composed of priests, governmental officials and bureaucrats at all levels, and other professionals. The next highest is the Kshatriya, the warrior caste, which includes soldiers and other military personnel and the police and their equivalents. Next are the Vaishyas, who are craftsmen and merchants, followed by the Sudras (pronounced “shudra”), who are peasants and menial workers. Metaphorically, they represent the parts of Manu, who is said to have given rise to the human race through dismemberment. The head corresponds to Brahmin, the arms to Kshatriya, the thighs to Vaishya, and the feet to the Sudra.” ref

“There are also a variety of subcastes in India. The most important are the hundreds, if not thousands, of occupational subcastes known as jatis. Wheelwrights, ironworkers, landed peasants, landless farmworkers, tailors of various types, and barbers all belong to different jatis. Like the broader castes, jatis are endogamous, and one is born into them. They form the basis of the jajmani relationship, which involves the provider of a particular service, the jajman, and the recipient of the service, the kamin. Training is involved in these occupations but one cannot change vocations. Furthermore, the relationship between the jajman and the kamin is determined by previous generations. If I were to provide you, my kamin, with haircutting services, it would be because my father cut your father’s hair. In other words, you would be stuck with me regardless of how poor a barber I might be. This system represents another example of an economy as an instituted process, an economy embedded in society.” ref

“Similar restrictions apply to those excluded from the varna castes, the “untouchables” or Dalit. Under the worst restrictions, Dalits were thought to pollute other castes. If the shadow of a Dalit fell on a Brahmin, the Brahmin immediately went home to bathe. Thus, at various times and locations, the untouchables were also unseeable, able to come out only at night. Dalits were born into jobs considered polluting to other castes, particularly work involving dead animals, such as butchering (Hinduism discourages consumption of meat so the clients were Muslims, Christians, and believers of other religions), skinning, tanning, and shoemaking with leather. Contact between an upper caste person and a person of any lower caste, even if “pure,” was also considered polluting and was strictly forbidden.” ref

“The theological basis of caste relations is karma—the belief that one’s caste in this life is the cumulative product of one’s acts in past lives, which extends to all beings, from minerals to animals to gods. Therefore, though soul class mobility is nonexistent during a lifetime, it is possible between lifetimes. Brahmins justified their station by claiming that they must have done good in their past lives. However, there are indications that the untouchable Dalits and other lower castes are not convinced of their legitimation.” ref

“Although India’s system is the most extreme, it not the only caste system. In Japan, a caste known as Burakumin is similar in status to Dalits. Though they are no different in physical appearance from other Japanese people, the Burakumin people have been forced to live in ghettos for centuries. They descend from people who worked in the leather tanning industry, a low-status occupation, and still work in leather industries such as shoemaking. Marriage between Burakumin and other Japanese people is restricted, and their children are excluded from public schools.” ref

“Some degree of social mobility characterizes all societies, but even so-called open-class societies are not as mobile as one might think. In the United States, for example, actual movement up the social latter is rare despite Horatio Alger and rags-to-riches myths. Stories of individuals “making it” through hard work ignore the majority of individuals whose hard work does not pay off or who actually experience downward mobility. Indeed, the Occupy Movement, which began in 2011, recognizes a dichotomy in American society of the 1 percent (millionaires and billionaires) versus the 99 percent (everyone else), and self-styled socialist Bernie Sanders made this the catch phrase of his campaign for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination. In India (a closed-class society), on the other hand, there are exceptions to the caste system. In Rajasthan, for example, those who own or control most of the land are not of the warrior caste as one might expect; they are of the lowest caste and their tenants and laborers are Brahmins.” ref


“The state is the most formal of the four levels of political organization under study here. In states, political power is centralized in a government that exercises a monopoly over the legitimate use of force. It is important to understand that the exercise of force constitutes a last resort; one hallmark of a weak state is frequent use of physical force to maintain order. States develop in societies with large, often ethnically diverse populations—hundreds of thousands or more—and are characterized by complex economies that can be driven by command or by the market, social stratification, and an intensive agricultural or industrial base.” ref

“Several characteristics accompany a monopoly over use of legitimate force in a state. First, like tribes and chiefdoms, states occupy a more or less clearly defined territory or land defined by boundaries that separate it from other political entities that may or not be states (exceptions are associated with the Islamic State and are addressed later). Ancient Egypt was a state bounded on the west by desert and possibly forager or tribal nomadic peoples. Mesopotamia was a series of city-states competing for territory with other city-states.” ref

“Heads of state can be individuals designated as kings, emperors, or monarchs under other names or can be democratically elected, in fact or in name—military dictators, for example, are often called presidents. Usually, states establish some board or group of councilors (e.g., the cabinet in the United States and the politburo in the former Soviet Union.) Often, such councils are supplemented with one or two legislative assemblies. The Roman Empire had a senate (which originated as a body of councilors) and as many as four assemblies that combined patrician (elite) and plebian (general population) influences. Today, nearly all of the world’s countries have some sort of an assembly, but many rubber-stamp the executive’s decisions (or play an obstructionist role, as in the U.S. Congress during the Obama administration).” ref

“States also have an administrative bureaucracy that handles public functions provided for by executive orders and/or legislation. Formally, the administrative offices are typically arranged in a hierarchy, and the top offices delegate specific functions to lower ones. Similar hierarchies are established for the personnel in a branch. In general, agricultural societies tend to rely on inter-personal relations in the administrative structure while industrial states rely on rational hierarchical structures. An additional state power is taxation—a system of redistribution in which all citizens are required to participate. This power is exercised in various ways. Examples include the mitá or labor tax of the Inca, the tributary systems of Mesopotamia, and monetary taxes familiar to us today and to numerous subjects throughout the history of the state. Control over others’ resources is an influential mechanism undergirding the power of the state.” ref

“A less tangible but no less powerful characteristic of states is their ideologies, which are designed to reinforce the right of powerholders to rule. Ideologies can manifest in philosophical forms, such as the divine right of kings in pre-industrial Europe, karma and the caste system in India, consent of the governed in the United States, and the metaphorical family in Imperial China. More often, ideologies are less indirect and less perceptible as propaganda. We might watch the Super Bowl or follow the latest antics of the Kardashians, oblivious to the notion that both are diversions from the reality of power in this society. Young Americans, for example, may be drawn to military service to fight in Iraq by patriotic ideologies just as their parents or grandparents were drawn to service during the Vietnam War. In a multitude of ways across many cultures, Plato’s parable of the shadows in the cave—that watchers misperceive shadows as reality—has served to reinforce political ideologies.” ref

“Finally, there is delegation of the state’s coercive power. The state’s need to use coercive power betrays an important weakness—subjects and citizens often refuse to recognize the powerholders’ right to rule. Even when the legitimacy of power is not questioned, the use and/or threat of force serves to maintain the state, and that function is delegated to agencies such as the police to maintain internal order and to the military to defend the state against real and perceived enemies and, in many cases, to expand the state’s territory. Current examples include a lack of accountability for the killing of black men and women by police officers; the killing of Michael Brown by Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri, is a defining example.” ref

State and Nation

“Though state and nation are often used interchangeably, they are not the same thing. A state is a coercive political institution; a nation is an ethnic population. There currently are about 200 states in the world, and many of them did not exist before World War II. Meanwhile, there are around 5,000 nations identified by their language, territorial base, history, and political organization. Few states are conterminous with a nation (a nation that wholly comprises the state). Even in Japan, where millions of the country’s people are of a single ethnicity, there is a significant indigenous minority known as the Ainu who at one time were a distinct biological population as well as an ethnic group. Only recently has Japanese society opened its doors to immigrants, mostly from Korea and Taiwan. The vast majority of states in the world, including the United States, are multi-national.” ref

Some ethnicities/nations have no state of their own. The Kurds, who reside in adjacent areas of Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and Iran, are one such nation. In the colonial era, the Mande-speaking peoples ranged across at least four West African countries, and borders between the countries were drawn without respect to the tribal identities of the people living there. Diasporas, the scattering of a people of one ethnicity across the globe, are another classic example. The diaspora of Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews is well-known. Many others, such as the Chinese, have more recently been forced to flee their homelands. The current ongoing mass migration of Syrians induced by formation of the Islamic State and the war in Syria is but the most recent example.” ref

Formation of States

“How do states form? One precondition is the presence of a stratified society in which an elite minority controls life-sustaining strategic resources. Another is increased agricultural productivity that provides support for a larger population. Neither, however, is a sufficient cause for development of a state. A group of people who are dissatisfied with conditions in their home region has a motive to move elsewhere—unless there is nowhere else to go and they are circumscribed. Circumscription can arise when a region is hemmed in by a geographic feature such as mountain ranges or desert and when migrants would have to change their subsistence strategies, perhaps having to move from agriculture back to foraging, herding, or horticulture or to adapt to an urban industrialized environment. The Inca Empire did not colonize on a massive scale beyond northern Chile to the south or into the Amazon because indigenous people there could simply pick up and move elsewhere. Still, the majority of the Inca population did not have that option. Circumscription also results when a desirable adjacent region is taken by other states or chiefdoms.” ref

“Who, then, were the original subjects of these states? One short answer is peasants, a term derived from the French paysan, which means “countryman.” Peasantry entered the anthropological literature relatively late. In his 800-page tome Anthropology published in 1948, Alfred L. Kroeber defined peasantry in less than a sentence: “part societies with part cultures.” Robert Redfield defined peasantry as a “little tradition” set against a “great tradition” of national state society. Louis Fallers argued in 1961 against calling African cultivators “peasants” because they had not lived in the context of a state-based civilization long enough.” ref

“Thus, peasants had been defined in reference to some larger society, usually an empire, a state, or a civilization. In light of this, Wolf sought to place the definition of peasant on a structural footing. Using a funding metaphor, he compared peasants with what he called “primitive cultivators.” Both primitive cultivators and peasants have to provide for a “caloric fund” by growing food and, by extension, provide for clothing, shelter, and all other necessities of life. Second, both must provide for a “replacement fund”—not only reserving seeds for next year’s crop but also repairing their houses, replacing broken pots, and rebuilding fences. And both primitive cultivators and peasants must provide a “ceremonial fund” for rites of passage and fiestas. They differ in that peasants live in states, and primitive cultivators do not. The state exercises domain over peasants’ resources, requiring peasants to provide a “fund of rent.” That fund appears in many guises, including tribute in kind, monetary taxes, and forced labor to an empire or lord. In Wolf’s conception, primitive cultivators are free of these obligations to the state.” ref

Subjects of states are not necessarily landed; there is a long history of landless populations. Slavery has long coexisted with the state, and forced labor without compensation goes back to chiefdoms such as Kwakwaka’wakw. Long before Portuguese, Spanish, and English seafarers began trading slaves from the west coast of Africa, Arab groups enslaved people from Africa and Europe. For peasants, proletarianization— loss of land—has been a continuous process. One example is landed gentry in eighteenth century England who found that sheepherding was more profitable than tribute from peasants and removed the peasants from the land. A similar process occurred when Guatemala’s liberal president privatized the land of Mayan peasants that, until 1877, had been held communally.” ref

Law and Order in States

“At the level of the state, the law becomes an increasingly formal process. Procedures are more and more regularly defined, and categories of breaches in civil and criminal law emerge, together with remedies for those breaches. Early agricultural states formalized legal rules and punishments through codes, formal courts, police forces, and legal specialists such as lawyers and judges. Mediation could still be practiced, but it often was supplanted by adjudication in which a judge’s decision was binding on all parties. Decisions could be appealed to a higher authority, but any final decision must be accepted by all concerned. The first known system of codified law was enacted under the warrior king Hammurabi in Babylon (present day Iraq). This law was based on standardized procedures for dealing with civil and criminal offenses, and subsequent decisions were based on precedents (previous decisions).” ref

“Crimes became offenses not only against other parties but also against the state. Other states developed similar codes of law, including China, Southeast Asia, and state-level Aztec and Inca societies. Two interpretations, which are not necessarily mutually exclusive, have arisen about the political function of codified systems of law. Fried (1978) argued, based on his analysis of the Hammurabi codes, that such laws reinforced a system of inequality by protecting the rights of an elite class and keeping peasants subordinates. This is consistent with the theory of a stratified society as already defined. Another interpretation is that maintenance of social and political order is crucial for agricultural states since any disruption in the state would lead to neglect of agricultural production that would be deleterious to all members of the state regardless of their social status. Civil laws ensure, at least in theory, that all disputing parties receive a hearing—so long as high legal expenses and bureaucratic logjams do not cancel out the process. Criminal laws, again in theory, ensure the protection of all citizens from offenses ranging from theft to homicide.” ref

“Inevitably, laws fail to achieve their aims. The United States, for example, has one of the highest crime rates in the industrial world despite having an extensive criminal legal system. The number of homicides in New York City in 1990 exceeded the number of deaths from colon and breast cancer and all accidents combined. Although the rate of violent crime in the United States declined during the mid-1990s, it occurred thanks more to the construction of more prisons per capita (in California) than of schools. Nationwide, there currently are more than one million prisoners in state and federal correctional institutions, one of the highest national rates in the industrial world. Since the 1990s, little has changed in terms of imprisonment in the United States. Funds continue to go to prisons rather than schools, affecting the education of minority communities and expanding “slave labor” in prisons, according to Michelle Alexander who, in 2012, called the current system the school-to-prison pipeline.” ref

Warfare in States

“Warfare occurs in all human societies but at no other level of political organization is it as widespread as in states. Indeed, warfare was integral to the formation of the agricultural state. As governing elites accumulated more resources, warfare became a major means of increasing their surpluses. And as the wealth of states became a target of nomadic pastoralists, the primary motivation for warfare shifted from control of resources to control of neighboring populations.” ref

“A further shift came with the advent of industrial society when industrial technologies driven by fossil fuels allowed states to invade distant countries. A primary motivation for these wars was to establish economic and political hegemony over foreign populations. World War I, World War II, and lesser wars of the past century have driven various countries to develop ever more sophisticated and deadly technologies, including wireless communication devices for remote warfare, tanks, stealth aircraft, nuclear weapons, and unmanned aircraft called drones, which have been used in conflicts in the Middle East and Afghanistan. Competition among nations has led to the emergence of the United States as the most militarily powerful nation in the world.” ref

“The expansion of warfare by societies organized as states has not come without cost. Every nation-state has involved civilians in its military adventures, and almost everyone has been involved in those wars in some way—if not as militarily, then as member of the civilian workforce in military industries. World War II created an unprecedented armament industry in the United States, Britain, Germany, and Japan, among others, and the aerospace industry underwent expansion in the so-called Cold War that followed. Today, one can scarcely overlook the role of the process of globalization to explain how the United States, for now an empire, has influenced the peoples of other countries in the world.” ref

Stability and Duration of States

“It should be noted that states have a clear tendency toward instability despite trappings designed to induce awe in the wider population. Few states have lasted a thousand years. The American state is more than 240 years old but increases in extreme wealth and poverty, escalating budget and trade deficits, a war initiated under false pretenses, escalating social problems, and a highly controversial presidential election suggest growing instability. Jared Diamond’s book Collapse compared the decline and fall of Easter Island, Chaco Canyon, and the Maya with contemporary societies such as the United States, and he found that overtaxing the environment caused the collapse of those three societies. Chalmers Johnson (2004) similarly argued that a state of perpetual war, loss of democratic institutions, systematic deception by the state, and financial overextension contributed to the decline of the Roman Empire and will likely contribute to the demise of the United States “with the speed of FedEx.” ref

“Why states decline is not difficult to fathom. Extreme disparities in wealth, use of force to keep populations in line, the stripping of people’s resources (such as the enclosures in England that removed peasants from their land), and the harshness of many laws all should create a general animosity toward the elite in a state. Yet, until recently (following the election of Donald Trump), no one in the United States was taking to the streets calling for the president to resign or decrying the government as illegitimate. In something of a paradox, widespread animosity does not necessarily lead to dissolution of a state or to an overthrow of the elite. Thomas Frank addressed this issue in What’s the Matter with Kansas? (2004). Despite the fact that jobs have been shipped abroad, that once-vibrant cities like Wichita are virtual ghost towns, and that both congress and the state legislature have voted against social programs time and again, Kansans continue to vote the Republicans whose policies are responsible for these conditions into office.” ref

“Nor is this confined to Kansas or the United States. That slaves tolerated slavery for hundreds of years (despite periodic revolts such as the one under Nat Turner in 1831), that workers tolerated extreme conditions in factories and mines long before unionization, that there was no peasant revolt strong enough to reverse the enclosures in England—all demand an explanation. Frank discusses reinforcing variables, such as propaganda by televangelists and Rush Limbaugh but offers little explanation beside them. However, recent works have provided new explanations. Days before Donald Trump won the presidential election on November 8, 2016, sociologist Arlie Russell Hochschild released a book that partially explains how Trump appealed to the most marginalized populations of the United States, residents around Lake Charles in southwestern Louisiana.” ref

“In the book, Strangers in Their Own Land (2016), Hochschild contends that the predominantly white residents there saw the federal government providing preferential treatment for blacks, women, and other marginalized populations under affirmative action programs while putting white working-class individuals further back in line for governmental assistance. The people Hochschild interviewed were fully aware that a corporate petroleum company had polluted Lake Charles and hired nonlocal technicians and Filipino workers to staff local positions, but they nonetheless expressed their intent to vote for a billionaire for president based on his promise to bring outsourced jobs back to “America” and to make the country “great again.” Other books, including Thomas Frank’s Listen Liberal (2016), Nancy Isenberg’s White Trash (2016), and Matt Wray’s Not Quite White: White Trash and the Boundaries of Whiteness (2006), address the decline of the United States’ political power domestically and worldwide. These books all link Trump’s successful election to the marginalization of lower-class whites and raise questions about how dissatisfaction with the state finds expression in political processes.” ref

Stratification and the State: Recent Developments

“States elsewhere and the stratified societies that sustain them have undergone significant changes and, in some instances, dramatic transformations in recent years. Consider ISIS, formed in reaction to the ill-advised U.S. intervention in Iraq in 2003, which will be discussed in greater detail below. Other states have failed; Somalia has all but dissolved and is beset by piracy, Yemen is highly unstable due in part to the Saudi invasion, and Syria is being decimated by conflict between the Bashar Assad government and a variety of rebel groups from moderate reform movements to extremist jihadi groups, al-Nusra and ISIS. Despite Myanmar’s (formerly Burma) partial transition from a militarized government to an elective one, the Muslim minority there, known as Rohingya, has been subjected to discrimination and many have been forced to flee to neighboring Bangladesh. Meanwhile, Bangladesh has been unable to enforce safety regulations to foreign investors as witnessed by the collapse of a clothing factory in 2013 that took the lives of more than 1,100 workers.” ref

Chiefdom Structure of Influence

“The chiefdom structure of influence is modeled using status characteristics theory as supplemented by network formulations. Influence relations organized by that status structure solves problems of social organization, including collective action problems such as inter-polity conflict, while maintaining the system of privilege.” ref

“All chiefdoms that have been anthropologically identified were based on horticulture or intensive agriculture with one notable exception. In the Pacific Northwest of North America, chiefdoms emerged based on foraging.” ref

“GENDER DIFFERENCES IN COMPETITION: EVIDENCE FROM A MATRILINEAL AND A PATRIARCHAL SOCIETY Women are less competitive than men in patriarchal societies, but this result reverses in matrilineal societies, where women are more competitive than men.” ref

Woman Chief

“Bíawacheeitchish, in English Woman Chief (c. 1806 – 1858), was a bacheeítche (chief) and warrior of the Crow people. Interested in traditionally male pursuits from an early age, she became one of the Crows’ most significant leaders, joining the Council of Chiefs as the third ranking member. However, unlike other Two-Spirits, she wore typical female clothing rather than adopting men’s garments.” ref

“Tlingit clans: Each clan has its own history, songs, and totems, and each forms a social network of extended families which functions as a political unit in Tlingit society. Clan allegiance is governed through a matrilineal system; children are born to the mother’s clan and gain their status within her family, including what was traditionally hereditary leadership positions.” ref

Tlingit tribes, clans and clan houses

Tlingit & Haida

“The Haida Nation and the Tlingit Nation have existed as two separate and distinct people since time immemorial. This great land (Aani) known as Southeast Alaska is the ancestral home of the Tlingit and Haida people. Tlingit people and Haida people are born into their identity through a matrilineal clan system: One’s identity is established through the mother’s clan. All Haida and Tlingit clans are organized into two major moieties: Eagle and Raven. In Tlingit, Yeil is Raven and Ch’aak is Eagle (Wolf is sometimes used interchangeably with Eagle). Each clan is made up of clan houses.” ref

Differences between male and female height in Early Neolithic Europe are likely to have been driven by culture.

Clan Systems

“The Iroquois clans were developed at a time in our history when there were a lot less people than there are today. It was a time when the people were not sure who they were related to. The elders were worried that the young people were getting together with their closely related family members. There was much apprehension about how to relate with each other. The elders began to meet about how this was going to be addressed.” ref

“After a few meetings had failed to bring any ideas to address this, a young man stood up and asked if it would be ok to address them. He was the kind of man that was usually very quiet and reserved. He told the Council about his idea to alleviate the problems that people were having. He said the animal world all have their own ways of doing things. The birds all have their own ways, each species. The trees have their own ways also, each family. He suggested that each family have their eldest woman intently pay attention to what she sees in the next morning. Each woman seen a different animal in the morning. This animal is to represent the clan for each of the women’s families.” ref


“In the Iroquois Creation Story, the earth was created on the back of a turtle. It was there that life began to grow. The Turtle Clan represents the shifting of the earth and the cycles of the moon. The people of the Turtle Clan are considered the well of information and the keepers of the land. The responsibility of the Turtle Clan is everything that has to do with the environment.” ref


“The Bear Clan people are known as Medicine People, the healers. There are stories passed down about how the Bear Clan people were given the gift of medicine from an elder woman who had the knowledge of all the medicine plants here on earth. The Great Law speaks of how all members of each clan have a relationship to each other. The laws of clanship are quite rigid. For instance, since you have a family relationship with everyone in your clan it is forbidden to marry a person of the same clan, even if one is Mohawk and their partner is Oneida. Additionally, the clans have a relationship to each other. The Wolf Clan is considered a cousin to the Turtle Clan and an uncle to the Bear Clan. The Turtle Clan is the older brother to the Bear Clan.” ref

“Symbols of the clans can be seen everywhere throughout the Oneida Nation Reservation; on the tribal logo, the Human Resources Department orientation folder, and throughout the Oneida Tribal School. Each wing of the Elder Complex on Overland Drive is named for one of the clans. The Oneida Nation Elementary School was designed in the shape of a turtle and is recognized as a point of interest to incoming and outgoing airline passengers who travel through Austin Straubel Airport. Even the Oneida tribal license plates bear symbols of the clans.” ref


“The Wolf Clan represents the path finders. Their responsibility is to guide the people in living their lives in the way the Creator intended.” ref


“The Iroquois people are a matrilineal society, which means they follow the mother’s side of the family when it comes to identity and family. If a man would marry a woman, then he would move in with her family. The woman’s family would include her mother, father, brothers and sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandmothers, and grandfathers. The women in the household took care of everyone’s children. Any and all children in the house were considered a son or daughter. All aunties were looked at as mother. Uncles were looked at as father figures, and grandparents were of highest graces to all. The grandmothers and grandfathers had small duties but major roles in helping to raise the children. As the children grew older, the young men would go with the men and learn how to hunt, fish, gather wood, and they would learn how to fight if it were ever necessary. The young women would stay home with the women and grandparents and learn household chores like cooking, cleaning, sewing, and gathering foods to be prepared later.” ref

“All the children would listen to the elders’ stories of the old times and they would learn from them. Their stories would explain a life lesson and they would be able to apply it to their everyday life. As the young men became men, they would start to travel to find a wife. They would find a good woman and court her in the proper way. He would go home and tell his mother who she was and who her family is. Then they would prepare a basket for that family and the parents would negotiate a deal as to weather he is good enough for their daughter to marry their son. Sometimes there were arranged marriages. One thing that occurred during these negotiations was the man’s brother would also come and live in the same village as the son, so he doesn’t get to lonely for his family. Sometimes even if the man finds a woman it is still up to the mothers to make an agreement. When a girl is ready to become a mother, the grandmothers let her know when it is her time. She then waits for the right man and finds out what her life is going to be. She could find a man and bring him to her mother and then her mother and his mother go through the process of getting married.” ref


“The clan mothers are responsible for appointing the chiefs on the peoples’ behalf. The clan mothers watch young boys and see how they act and how they mature over time. They look at the progress the child into young adulthood and determine which young man could be a potential chief. The clan mothers are the leaders when it came to voicing opinions of the people. They have the first and last say as to what the Chiefs do to help the people. They meet and tell the chief what the people want to be done. The clan mothers are also responsible for informing and listening to the men, women and children in their respective clan families. They are counselors for the people. If the people have a problem they can always go to the clan mothers for advice or knowledge. The clan mothers are the backbone of the Iroquois people.” ref

Clan Mothers in the Onondaga Nation, The Clan Mother is very important in the role of Haudenosaunee culture. When the Peacemaker came to the warring people, it was a woman who first accepted Peacemaker’s vision of peace. The Clan Mother holds much weight in the Haudenosaunee.  The Clan Mother is a leader not only of her clan, but of the nation as well.  The Clan Mother selects their spokesman (Hoyane or Chief) to represent them in council.  If their Hoyane doesn’t represent their clan, the Clan Mother has the authority to remove their leader as well after warnings.  The Hoyane and the Clan Mother work together to best represent the people of her clan. Not only is the Clan Mother working with the chiefs in making decisions for the people, they also have the duty to ensure that our way of life continues. The Clan Mothers gather and sit to decide when the ceremonies will begin.” ref

“Then the Clan Mothers supervise the procedures of the ceremony, the food, and soups that are needed. The Clan Mothers are so integral, that the ceremonies cannot begin without the Clan Mothers present. Children are the future of any community and the Clan Mothers are important in raising the children. When a new baby is born, it is the Clan Mother who provides the name of the baby of her clan. It is said that the Clan Mother has a bag of names at the ready. When a person passes away from her clan, she takes back that name to be used again for future member of the clan. The Clan Mothers also make sure that the children are raised in the ways and customs of the Longhouse. They are often teaching the young and old of the ways of the Haudenosaunee. Often when people have questions or there is a dispute among families, often it is the Clan Mother who is sought after for guidance. Their words hold great weight in the community. The Clan Mother holds an important role in both the political and social world of the Onondaga.” ref


“The chiefs are responsible for making the right decision in the community’s best interests. The chiefs listen to what the clan mothers say and they then become the voice of the people. The chiefs are the advisors for the people. They are there as support for the community. They also act as counselors for the people. If the people have problems or needed advice they can go to the chief and ask him. The chief also helps conduct the ceremonies a long side of the faithkeepers. Most times he will be the one to conduct the traditional ceremonies. The chiefs are there for the people and the advisors at chiefs meetings. They bring back what they talked about in Grand Council and tell the clan mothers what went on. They then let the people know, and if there were a problem or a decision that had to be made by the community they all would have a chance to speak. Then the chiefs would take it back to the clan mothers and figure out the best decisions for the people are. The chief would then go back and let the rest of the chiefs know what his community wants to do. The chief is the voice, ears, and advocate for his people.” ref


“The faithkeepers are the operatives of the actions that the clan mothers, chiefs, and community’s decide. They get the longhouse ready for anything that may be happening on the grounds, whether it be a ceremony, a social gathering or anything like that. They make sure the ceremonies are ran as they are supposed at the right times of the year. They are also responsible for bringing the people together. The faithkeepers let the people know when there is something going on. They organize the longhouse and keep everything running smoothly. They are also the ones who find helpers around the community. They are responsible for the wellbeing of the people. The faithkeepers act as spiritual advisors for the people. The faithkeepers are the ones who carryout what the chiefs and clan mothers say. Their primary responsibility is to insure that the four sacred ceremonies are being conducted. The four sacred ceremonies are The Great Feather Dance, Mens Chant, Water Drum Dance, and the Peachstone Game. They see to it that these four ceremonies stay active within the longhouse.” ref

A man’s world? Not according to biology or history.

“For proof, we can look to the many matrilineal societies dotted all over the world. In some regions, these traditions may date back thousands of years.” ref

Matrilineality and Matrilineal society 

Matrilineality is the tracing of kinship through the female line. It may also correlate with a social system in which each person is identified with their matriline, their mother’s lineage, and which can involve the inheritance of property and titles. A matriline is a line of descent from a female ancestor to a descendant of either gender in which the individuals in all intervening generations are mothers. In a matrilineal descent system, an individual is considered to belong to the same descent group as their mother. This ancient matrilineal descent pattern is in contrast to the currently more popular pattern of patrilineal descent from which a family name is usually derived. The matriline of historical nobility was also called their enatic or uterine ancestry, corresponding to the patrilineal or “agnatic” ancestry.” ref

Matrilineal surnames are names transmitted from mother to daughter, in contrast to the more familiar patrilineal surnames transmitted from father to son, the pattern most common among family names today. For clarity and for brevity, the scientific terms patrilineal surname and matrilineal surname are usually abbreviated as patriname and matrinameThere appears to be some evidence for the presence of matrilineality in Pre-Islamic Arabia, in a very limited number of the Arabian peoples (first of all among the Amorites of Yemen, and among some strata of Nabateans in Northern Arabia); A modern example from South Africa is the order of succession to the position of the Rain Queen in a culture of matrilineal primogeniture: not only is dynastic descent reckoned through the female line, but only females are eligible to inherit.” ref

“In some traditional societies and cultures, membership in their groups was – and, in the following list, still is if shown in italics – inherited matrilineally. Examples include the Cherokee, Choctaw, Gitksan, Haida, Hopi, Iroquois, Lenape, Navajo and Tlingit of North America; the Cabécar and Bribri of Costa Rica; the Naso and Kuna people of Panama; the Kogi, Wayuu and Carib of South America; the Minangkabau people of West Sumatra, Indonesia and Negeri Sembilan, Malaysia; the Trobrianders, Dobu and Nagovisi of Melanesia; the Nairs, some Thiyyas & Muslims of Kerala and the Mogaveeras, Billavas & the Bunts of Karnataka in south India; the Khasi, Jaintia and Garo of Meghalaya in northeast India and Bangladesh; the Ngalops and Sharchops of Bhutan; the Mosuo of China; the Kayah of Southeast Asia, the Picti of Scotland, the Basques of Spain and France; the Ainu of Japan, the Akan including the Ashanti, Bono, Akwamu, Fante of Ghana; most groups across the so-called “matrilineal belt” of south-central Africa; the Nubians of Southern Egypt & Sudan and the Tuareg of west and north Africa; the Serer of Senegal, The Gambia and Mauritania.” ref

Clan names vs. surnames

“Most of the example cultures in this article are based on (matrilineal) clans. Any clan might possibly contain from one to several or many descent groups or family groups – i.e., any matrilineal clan might be descended from one or several or many unrelated female ancestors. Also, each such descent group might have its own family name or surname, as one possible cultural pattern. Note well that if a culture did include one’s clan name in one’s name and routinely handed it down to all children in the descent group then it would automatically be the family name or surname for one’s descent group (as well as for all other descent groups in one’s clan).” ref

“The following two example cultures each follow a different pattern, however:

Example 1. Members of the (matrilineal) clan culture Minangkabau do not even have a surname or family name, see this culture’s own section below. In contrast, members do have a clan name, which is important in their lives although not included in the member’s name. Instead, one’s name is just one’s given name.

Example 2. Members of the (matrilineal) clan culture Akan, see its own section below, also do not have matrilineal surnames and likewise their important clan name is not included in their name. However, members’ names do commonly include second names which are called surnames but which are not routinely passed down from either father or mother to all their children as a family name.” ref

Care of children

“While a mother normally takes care of her own children in all cultures, in some matrilineal cultures an “uncle-father” will take care of his nieces and nephews instead: in other words social fathers here are uncles. There is not a necessary connection between the role of father and genitor. In many such matrilineal cultures, especially where residence is also matrilocal, a man will exercise guardianship rights not over the children he fathers but over his sisters’ children, who are viewed as ‘his own flesh’. These children’s biological father – unlike an uncle who is their mother’s brother and thus their caregiver – is in some sense a ‘stranger’ to them, even when affectionate and emotionally close. According to Steven Pinker, attributing to Kristen Hawkes, among foraging groups matrilocal societies are less likely to commit female infanticide than are patrilocal societies.” ref

“In the Americas, the Bororo people of Brazil and Bolivia live in matrilineal clans, with husbands moving to live with their wives’ extended families. The clan system of the Bribri people of Costa Rica and Panama is matrilineal; that is, a child’s clan is determined by the clan his or her mother belongs to. Only women can inherit land. The social organization of the Cabécar people of Costa Rica is predicated on matrilineal clans in which the mother is the head of household. Each matrilineal clan controls marriage possibilities, regulates land tenure, and determines property inheritance for its members. In the traditional culture of the Guna people of Panama and Colombia, families are matrilinear and matrilocal, with the groom moving to become part of the bride’s family. The groom also takes the last name of the bride.” ref

“The Hopi (in what is now the Hopi Reservation in northeastern Arizona), according to Alice Schlegel, had as its “gender ideology … one of female superiority, and it operated within a social actuality of sexual equality.” According to LeBow (based on Schlegel’s work), in the Hopi, “gender roles … are egalitarian …. [and] [n]either sex is inferior.” LeBow concluded that Hopi women “participate fully in … political decision-making.” According to Schlegel, “the Hopi no longer live as they are described here” and “the attitude of female superiority is fading”. Schlegel said the Hopi “were and still are matrilinial” and “the household … was matrilocal.” ref

“Schlegel explains why there was female superiority as that the Hopi believed in “life as the highest good … [with] the female principle … activated in women and in Mother Earth … as its source” and that the Hopi “were not in a state of continual war with equally matched neighbors” and “had no standing army” so that “the Hopi lacked the spur to masculine superiority” and, within that, as that women were central to institutions of clan and household and predominated “within the economic and social systems (in contrast to male predominance within the political and ceremonial systems)”, the Clan Mother, for example, being empowered to overturn land distribution by men if she felt it was unfair, since there was no “countervailing … strongly centralized, male-centered political structure.” ref

“The Iroquois Confederacy or League, combining five to six Native American Haudenosaunee nations or tribes before the U.S. became a nation, operated by The Great Binding Law of Peace, a constitution by which women retained matrilineal-rights and participated in the League’s political decision-making, including deciding whether to proceed to war, through what may have been a matriarchy or “gyneocracy.” The dates of this constitution’s operation are unknown: the League was formed in approximately 1000–1450, but the constitution was oral until written in about 1880. The League still exists. Other Iroquoian-speaking peoples such as the Wyandot and the Meherrin, that were never part of the Iroquois League, nevertheless have traditionally possessed a matrilineal family structure.” ref

“The Kogi people of northern Colombia practice bilateral inheritance, with certain rights, names or associations descending matrilineally. Occupied for 10,000 years by Native Americans, the land that is present-day New Jersey was overseen by clans of the Lenape, who farmed, fished, and hunted upon it. The pattern of their culture was that of a matrilineal agricultural and mobile hunting society that was sustained with fixed, but not permanent, settlements in their matrilineal clan territories. Leadership by men was inherited through the maternal line, and the women elders held the power to remove leaders of whom they disapproved.” ref

“Villages were established and relocated as the clans farmed new sections of the land when soil fertility lessened and when they moved among their fishing and hunting grounds by seasons. The area was claimed as a part of the Dutch New Netherland province dating from 1614, where active trading in furs took advantage of the natural pass west, but the Lenape prevented permanent settlement beyond what is now Jersey City. “Early Europeans who first wrote about these Indians found matrilineal social organization to be unfamiliar and perplexing. As a result, the early records are full of ‘clues’ about early Lenape society, but were usually written by observers who did not fully understand what they were seeing.” ref

“The Mandan people of the northern Great Plains of the United States historically lived in matrilineal extended family lodges. The Naso (Teribe or Térraba) people of Panama and Costa Rica describe themselves as a matriarchal community, although their monarchy has traditionally been inherited in the male line. The Navajo people of the American southwest are a matrilineal society in which kinship, children, livestock and family histories are passed down through the female. In marriage the groom moved to live with the brides family. Children also came from their mother’s clan living in hogans of the females family. The Tanana Athabaskan people, the original inhabitants of the Tanana River basin in Alaska and Canada, traditionally lived in matrilineal semi-nomadic bands.” ref

“The Powhatan and other tribes of the Tsenacommacah, also known as the Powhatan Confederacy, practiced a version of male-preference matrilineal seniority, favoring brothers over sisters in the current generation (but allowing sisters to inherit if no brothers remained), but passing to the next generation through the eldest female line. In A Map of Virginia John Smith of Jamestown explains: His [Chief Powhatan‘s] kingdome descendeth not to his sonnes nor children: but first to his brethren, whereof he hath 3 namely Opitchapan, Opechancanough, and Catataugh; and after their decease to his sisters. First to the eldest sister, then to the rest: and after them to the heires male and female of the eldest sister; but never to the heires of the males.” ref

“The Upper Kuskokwim people are the original inhabitants of the Upper Kuskokwim River basin. They speak an Athabaskan language more closely related to Tanana than to the language of the Lower Kuskokkwim River basin. They were traditionally hunter-gatherers who lived in matrilineal semi-nomadic bands. The Wayuu people of Colombia and Venezuela live in matrilineal clans, with paternal relationships in the background.” ref

Originally, Chinese surnames were derived matrilineally, although by the time of the Shang dynasty (1600 to 1046 BCE) they had become patrilineal. Archaeological data supports the theory that during the Neolithic period (7000 to 2000 BCE) in China, Chinese matrilineal clans evolved into the usual patrilineal families by passing through a transitional patrilineal clan phase. Evidence includes some “richly furnished” tombs for young women in the early Neolithic Yangshao culture, whose multiple other collective burials imply a matrilineal clan culture. Toward the late Neolithic period, when burials were apparently of couples, “a reflection of patriarchy,” an increasing elaboration of presumed chiefs’ burials is reported. Relatively isolated ethnic minorities such as the Mosuo (Na) in southwestern China are highly matrilineal.” ref

While men held positions of religious and political power, the Spartan constitution mandated that inheritance and proprietorship pass from mother to daughter. In Pictish society, succession in leadership (later kingship) was matrilineal (through the mother’s side), with the reigning chief succeeded by either his brother or perhaps a nephew but not through patrilineal succession of father to son.” ref

Matrilineality in Judaism or matrilineal descent in Judaism is the tracing of Jewish descent through the maternal line. Close to all Jewish communities have followed matrilineal descent from at least early Tannaitic (c. 10–70 CE) times through modern times. The origins and date-of-origin of matrilineal descent in Judaism are uncertain. Orthodox Judaism maintains that matrilineal descent is an Oral Law from at least the time of the Receiving of the Torah on Mount Sinai (c. 1310 BCE). According to some modern academic opinions, it was likely instituted in either the early Tannaitic period (c. 10–70 CE) or the time of Ezra (c. 460 BCE).” ref

“In practice, Jewish denominations define “Who is a Jew?” via descent in different ways. All denominations of Judaism have protocols for conversion for those who are not Jewish by descent. Orthodox Judaism and Conservative Judaism still practice matrilineal descent. Karaite Judaism, which rejects the Oral Law, generally practices patrilineal descent. Reconstructionist Judaism has recognized Jews of patrilineal descent since 1968.” ref

“In 1983, the Central Conference of American Rabbis of Reform Judaism passed a resolution waiving the need for formal conversion for anyone with at least one Jewish parent, provided that either (a) one is raised as a Jew, by Reform standards, or (b) one engages in an appropriate act of public identification, formalizing a practice that had been common in Reform synagogues for at least a generation. This 1983 resolution departed from the Reform Movement’s previous position requiring formal conversion to Judaism for children without a Jewish mother. However, the closely associated Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism has rejected this resolution and requires formal conversion for anyone without a Jewish mother.” ref

Family ties: Examining ideas of kinship in the early Bronze Age

New analysis of two Bronze Age burials discovered more than a century – and over 300 miles – apart has raised intriguing questions about prehistoric ideas of family relationships, highlighting cross-Channel cultural links stretching back 5,000 years. Carly Hilts reports. Excavations on Bedfordshire’s Dunstable Downs revealed a poignant prehistoric scene. Within the remains of a Bronze Age bowl barrow, the skeletons of a young woman and a child lay face to face, their arms entwined as if in a protective embrace. Such a carefully curated grave must have been full of symbolic or emotional significance for the people who had laid this pair to rest. Now new light has been shed on the possible motivations behind this arrangement, following the discovery of a strikingly similar grave hundreds of miles away in Luxembourg.” ref

“The Bedfordshire burial formed part of a dispersed cemetery, and while most of its neighbors had been heavily disturbed by looters as well as by agricultural activity, ‘Barrow 8’ still had secrets to reveal. Within the mound, a large central grave had been cut into the underlying chalk, with seven less substantial graves scattered around it. Although most had been rifled and their contents lost to scrutiny, one was more intact: that of the woman and child. They were accompanied by grave goods including pots, animal bones, a white pebble, and a handful of stone tools, also reportedly an arrowhead.” ref

“Rather more unexpected, however, was the presence of dozens of small stone spheres, each marked with a five-pointed star: fossilized sea urchins. Twelve were found arranged around the paired skeletons, but more than 200 in total were claimed to have been recovered from the wider area of the grave and the disturbed barrow material. It is not known why these items had been selected for inclusion alongside the more conventional grave goods, but fossils appear to have attracted attention throughout prehistory (and into more recent centuries; see box opposite).” ref

“The double-burial dates to the early Bronze Age, a transformative time when the Beaker ‘cultural package’ crossed the Channel to bring dramatic technological changes and significant genetic turnover to Britain c.2500 BCE. This movement also brought distinctive new burial traditions to these shores – and we can now understand the Bedfordshire grave in the context of this cultural shift and Continental connections, thanks to research that was recently published in Scientific Reports. Key to these new insights was the discovery of another Beaker-period burial in Luxembourg, which was uncovered in 2000 during highway construction works at Altwies near the French border. Like the Bedfordshire burial, it contained the skeletons of a woman and a child, and these individuals had also been laid on their sides, facing each other, with the adult’s hand tucked beneath the child’s head.” ref

“Strikingly, they were surrounded by a ring of stones, too, possibly fossilized shells. This aspect invites intriguing comparisons with the Bedfordshire pair, as a drawing showed, with them nestled within an oval of urchins. Given that only 12 were said to have been found around the skeletons themselves, however, the suspiciously even, thick line of fossils might reflect the artist’s desire for a decorative border to frame his drawing more than any archaeological reality. Other Bronze Age burials where nodules of flint and chalk have been carefully placed around bodies are known from sites in Yorkshire and Wessex, however.” ref

Different Graves in Different areas, yet have Striking Similarities

“The striking similarities between both burials were noted during a recent wider project investigating Luxembourg’s prehistory, and a team was quickly put together to analyze the skeletal remains and associated objects from each in order to investigate whether there were any other links between them. Although over a century has passed since the Bedfordshire remains were excavated, the two skeletons were still well-preserved in the collections of The Culture Trust Luton, enabling the team (led by researchers from the universities of Mainz and Ferrara) to carry out genetic analysis of both individuals, as well as the adult and child from Altwies. This revealed that, while the pairs were buried far apart, they all drew most of their ancestry from Steppe pastoralists who migrated from Eastern and Central Europe in the 3rd millennium BCE. It was also possible to establish the biological relationships between each pairing, providing the first genetic evidence that Bell Beaker communities in north-western Europe buried children with their close relatives.” ref

“The Altwies pair, it was revealed, were mother and son (the child being around 3 years old), while the young woman (aged 18-25) and girl (c.6 years old) from Bedfordshire were paternal aunt and niece. Now that we know the individuals’ biological sex, interesting insights are provided by the way that they were arranged in their respective graves. In Beaker-period Continental Europe, the researchers note, women and girls were strictly laid to rest on their right side with their head pointing to the south, while men and boys were placed on their left side, with their head to the north (this rule seems to have been loosened by the time Beaker people reached Britain). In the mixed-sex burial from Altwies, however, alignment has defaulted to reflect the male child, not the adult woman, with both individuals lying with their head to the north. Might this reflect the existence of a patrilineal society at this time, the researchers wonder – something that might have also influenced the choice of a paternal aunt to accompany the Bedfordshire child?” ref

“In neither case was there any sign of what had caused the pair’s death. Although Smith darkly speculates on themes of human sacrifice, suggesting that the Bedfordshire child may have been buried alive with its deceased mother, the pair’s peaceful posture belies such a traumatic death – and the fact that Smith’s report forms part of a book that he titled Man, the Primeval Savage rather hints at prejudices about ‘primitive’ prehistoric practices. With no indication of violence on any of the skeletons, disease may be a more likely explanation. The turn of the 3rd millennium BCE marks a watershed in later prehistoric European burial practices, moving away from communal burials to individual graves. Exceptions continued to be made for adult–child pairings, however, and the team went on to study 131 more burials of this kind, from 88 sites, all dating to the 3rd and 2nd millennium BCE, scattered across Eurasia.” ref

“It is thought that these graves might reflect the spread of burial practices linked to Steppe pastoralists and their descendants, perhaps hinting at evolving ideas of family identity or kinship. It could be that child burials became more archaeologically prominent at this time because children were becoming more culturally or socially important, the researchers suggest, with their pairing with an adult perhaps representing an individual or their community’s fertility or status, or links between or within social groups, perhaps even between the past and the present. Where children are buried with people who are not their biological parents, could the exchange of foster children have helped to create or strengthen social/political networks?” ref

“The aunt-niece pairing could represent the child’s primary caregiver in life, or the woman might have been chosen as a ‘substitute parent’ to ensure the girl’s safe passage into death. Whatever their precise meaning, though, these rites seem to have been sufficiently formalized and sufficiently important to have been transmitted across the Channel with the Beaker migration. As the research paper concludes: ‘the body of a woman, lying as though sleeping, clasping a child in her arms, obviously had a specific meaning to early Bronze Age peoples, a meaning retained across thousands of miles and amongst many diverse and fluid contemporary funerary practices. Whatever it was, it represented something powerful and emotive.” ref

(List of matrilineal or matrilocal societies) “Matrilineal means kinship is passed down through the maternal line, the mother’s lineage, which can involve the inheritance of property and titles.” ref, ref

Chiefdoms are powers that are often believed to mobilize due to surplus labor, food, and prestige items. However, I see it as a cultural package that started with hunter-gather/fisher-foragers in west Siberia with the switch from a Matrilineal society to a patrilineal society from 8,000 to 7,000 years ago and from there spread this new war and powerful male thinking, but some Matrilineal societies changed to the war and power modal as well but kept being female-centered. I often talk as if they were completely wiped out by male clans, but not all were, and some became as horrible as male clans. One such major transfer of such ideas, which I think relates to the Tlingit (Matrilineal Na-Dene language connected to patrilineal Yeniseian languages such as the Ket People of  Siberia with mostly to Y-DNA haplogroup Q-M242 linking Tlingit and South America) of the Pacific Northwest Coast of North America, were a Slaveholding, matrilineal clan chiefdom. And like 90% of South America shares their DNA and also, to me, likely somewhat influenced all Mesoamerican cultures and Moundbuilding cultures that had “Big Men/Big Women” pre/proto-chiefdoms, chiefdoms, and then clan monarchs: Kings/Empresses.

Damien Marie AtHope’s Art

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The earliest centers of pottery origin in the Russian Far East and Siberia: Review of chronology for the oldest Neolithic cultures

“Abstract: The earliest pottery from the Russian Far East, Osipovka and Gromatukha cultural complexes, was radiocarbon-dated to c. 13,300-12,300 years ago. In Siberia, the earliest pottery is known from the Ust-Karenga complex, dated to c. 11,200-10,800 years ago. The Osipovka and Gromatukha complexes belong to the Initial Neolithic, and they are contemporaneous with the earliest Neolithic cultures in southern China and Japan. In spite of the very early emergence of pottery in the Russian Far East, there is no evidence of agriculture at the beginning of the Neolithic, and subsistence remains based on hunting and fishing, including anadromous salmonids in the Amur River and its tributaries.” ref

The earliest Neolithic complex in Siberia: the Ust-Karenga 12 site and its significance for the Neolithisation process in Eurasia

“Abstract: The discovery of Neolithic (i.e. pottery-containing) components at the Ust-Karenga 12 site in northern Transbaikal brought to light new data on the appearance of pottery in Siberia. Excavations and geoarchaeological studies identified the pottery complex in layer 7, 14C-dated to c. 12,180–10,750 years ago (charcoal dates) and c. 11,070–10,600 years ago (pottery organics dates). The pottery is thin and plant fibre-tempered; vessels are round-bottomed and with a comb-pattern design. Ust-Karenga 12 thus preserves by far the earliest Neolithic assemblage in Siberia, and is only slightly younger than the Initial Neolithic complexes of the Amur River basin, Russian Far East (c. 13,300–12,400 years ago).” ref

I think the “kurgan Origin” is found in “Stratified Ritual Mounds”

“From the later seventh-millennium cal BCE, in west Siberia, a new site type emerged in this period, the large, stratified mound (Russian kholm), with examples reaching 50m in diameter and up to 6m in height. These Mounds are characterized by unusual features such as groups of human skulls, clay figurines, bone and antler, hearths, and post-row structures, and are interpreted as ritual or sacrificial sites.”  ref

“A kurgan is a type of tumulus constructed over a grave, often characterized by containing a single human body along with grave vessels, weapons, and horses. Some scepter graves could have been covered with a tumulus, placing the first kurgans as early as the 5th millennium BCE in Eastern Europe. Within the burial chamber at the heart of the kurgan, elite individuals were buried with grave goods and sacrificial offerings, sometimes including horses and chariots. These structures are of the earlier Neolithic period from the 4th to the 3rd millenniums BCE.” ref

I think the “kurgan Origin” is found in “Stratified Ritual Mounds”

“From the later seventh-millennium cal BCE, in west Siberia, a new site type emerged in this period, the large, stratified mound (Russian kholm), with examples reaching 50m in diameter and up to 6m in height. These Mounds are characterized by unusual features such as groups of human skulls, clay figurines, bone and antler, hearths, and post-row structures, and are interpreted as ritual or sacrificial sites.” ref

“A kurgan is a type of tumulus constructed over a grave, often characterized by containing a single human body along with grave vessels, weapons, and horses. Some scepter graves could have been covered with a tumulus, placing the first kurgans as early as the 5th millennium BCE in Eastern Europe. Within the burial chamber at the heart of the kurgan, elite individuals were buried with grave goods and sacrificial offerings, sometimes including horses and chariots. These structures are of the earlier Neolithic period from the 4th to the 3rd millenniums BCE.” ref

My art and when as well as who may have brought in the new elitism and compulsory authority to the Americas.

“For the Tlingit (branch of the Na-Dené language family), hereditary slavery was practiced extensively until it was outlawed by the United States. Wealth and economic power are important indicators of rank. Scientists suggest that the main ancestor of the Ainu and of the Tlingit can be traced back to Paleolithic groups in Southern Siberia.” ref

Gene flow across linguistic boundaries in Native North American populations

“Geneticists and anthropologists often expect that human language groups and gene pools will share a common structure. It is noted that both language and genes are passed from parents to children, mating tends to be endogamous with respect to linguistic groups, and splits in linguistic communities usually occur with splits in breeding populations. Cavalli-Sforza et al. have reported that genetic trees of major geographic populations correlate well with language families. They argue that a process consisting of population fissions, expansion into new territories, and isolation between ancestral and descendant groups will produced a tree-like structure common to both genes and languages. Linguists agree that population fissions and range expansions play an important role in the generation of linguistic diversity.” ref

“The potential correspondence between gene pools and language groups in Native North American populations is particularly interesting for several reasons. Early investigations of the correspondence between genetic groups and linguistic groups in Native North Americans produced equivocal results. On the one hand, average genetic distances between populations in different language families were greater than average genetic distances between populations within language families. On the other hand, genetic distances were not significantly correlated with glottochronological distances. In the three language families, the average nucleotide diversity within populations is low in Eskimo-Aleut populations and high in Amerind populations. However, nucleotide diversity varies considerably among the populations classified as Na-Dene-speaking. The Alaskan Athabascan and Haida populations, who reside in the North, have low nucleotide diversities, in the range of nucleotide diversities in the Eskimo-Aleut-speaking populations. The Navajo and Apache, who reside in the Southwest, have high nucleotide diversities, in the range of nucleotide diversities in populations classified as Amerind speaking.” ref 

“Several patterns that depart from the tree structure are apparent upon close examination. For example, the GLC expected distances consistently overestimate the realized genetic distances for several populations, including the Navajo, Aleut, and Siberian Yupik populations. This relationship means that these populations are genetically similar to populations with distantly related languages. Similarly, the GLC tree consistently underestimates the genetic distance between three Eskimo populations (Central Yupik, Canadian Inuit, and Inupaiq) and all other populations. First, none of Greenberg’s major language groups (Eskimo-Aleut, Na-Dene, or Amerind) forms a unique cluster. The most exclusive cluster that contains all Eskimo-Aleut populations (defined by branch a) also includes all four Na-Dene-speaking populations and the Amerind-speaking Cheyenne, Bella Coola, and Nuu Chah Nulth populations.” ref

“The most exclusive cluster with all Na-Dene-speaking populations (defined by branch b) also includes six Eskimo-Aleut-speaking populations (Siberian Yupik, Greenland Inuit, Central Yupik, Canadian Inuit, and Inupiaq) and the Amerind-speaking Bella Coola. The most exclusive cluster with all Amerind-speaking populations (defined by branch c) includes the Eskimo-Aleut-speaking Aleuts and the Na-Dene-speaking Navajo. Second, there is a strong North-South geographic pattern to the clustering pattern. An Arctic-Pacific Northwest cluster that includes all Aleut-Eskimo populations, all Na-Dene populations, and the Amerind Nuu Chah Nulth and Bella Coola populations originates on one side of branch a, whereas a more Southern group includes the Pima, Cherokee, Sioux, and Chippewa Amerind-speaking population forms to the other side of branch a. The Southwestern Athabascan-speaking populations, Navajo and Apache, defy the geographic groupings, but this result is consistent with the archaeological record.” ref

“Anthropologists agree that circa anno Domini 1400 the ancestors of Navajos and Apaches migrated from the Mackenzie Basin of Canada to the Southwest region, where they came into contact with Amerind-speaking populations who had been living there for thousands of years. The occurrence of haplogroup A differs markedly between the far Northern and the Southwestern samples. With only few exceptions, mtDNA lineages observed in the northern Na-Dene classified populations (Haida and Alaskan Athabascans) belong to haplogroup A. Haplogroup A is also common in Eskimos and Aleuts. Outside of the far North, the only samples in which haplogroup A appears commonly are the Southwestern Athabascan-speaking populations (Navajo and Apache). mtDNA sequences belonging to haplogroups B and C are frequent primarily in the Amerind-classified populations, including the Bella Coola, and Nuu Chah Nulth populations on the Northwest Coast. The Navajo and Apache are the only Na-Dene-classified populations with substantial frequencies of B- and C-group haplotypes, although haplogroup C is observed in the Haida and Alaskan Athabascan samples.” ref 

I think god beliefs (great spirit/shy father god) came into the Americas from North Asia from 7,000 to 5,000 years ago. I think it likely relates to the Na-Dene languages migrations as all of the Na-Dene languages have “great spirit” beliefs and some have shy father god/creator beliefs as well.

I think Na-Dene speakers brought into the Americas a kind/several kinds of Shamanism-Paganism with Totemism and Animism. Especially a daytime blue sky-god/sun-god but also an earth/moon goddess and bird mythology beliefs. Similar to the Hemudu culture (5500 – 3300 BCE or around 7,500 to 5,300 years ago) from China.

Hemudu’s inhabitants worshiped a sun spirit as well as a fertility spirit. They also enacted shamanistic rituals to the sun and believed in bird totems. A belief in an afterlife and ghosts is thought to have been widespread as well. People were buried with their heads facing east or northeast and most had no burial objects. Infants were buried in urn-casket style burials, while children and adults received earth level burials. They did not have a definite communal burial ground, for the most part, but a clan communal burial ground has been found from the later period. Two groups in separate parts of this burial ground are thought to be two intermarrying clans. There were noticeably more burial goods in this communal burial ground.” ref

“The Great Spirit is the concept of a life force, a supreme being or god, present in many, but not all, indigenous cultures in Canada and the United States. Interpretations of the Great Spirit also vary between cultures. It is known as Wakan Tanka in Lakota, Gitche Manitou in Algonquian, and by other, specific names in a number of First Nations and Native American cultures. According to Lakota activist Russell Means, a more semantically accurate translation of Wakan Tanka is the Great Mystery.” ref

“The Great Spirit has at times been conceptualized as an “anthropomorphic celestial deity,” a god of creation, history, and eternity, who also takes a personal interest in world affairs and might regularly intervene in the lives of human beings. Numerous individuals are held to have been “speakers” for the Great Spirit; persons believed to serve as an earthly mediator responsible for facilitating communication between humans and the supernatural more generally. Such a speaker is generally considered to have an obligation to preserve the spiritual traditions of their respective lineage. The Great Spirit is looked to by spiritual leaders for guidance by individuals as well as communities at large.” ref

“While belief in an entity or entities known as the Great Spirit exists across numerous indigenous American peoples, individual tribes often demonstrate varying degrees of cultural divergence. As such, a variety of stories, parables, fables, and messages exhibiting different, sometimes contradictory themes and plot elements have been attributed to the same figure by otherwise disparate cultures. Wakan Tanka (Wakȟáŋ Tȟáŋka) can be interpreted as the power or the sacredness that resides in everything, resembling some animistic and pantheistic beliefs. This term describes every creature and object as wakan (“holy”) or having aspects that are wakan; tanka corresponds to “great” or “large.” ref

“The Lakota used Wakan Tanka to refer to an organization or group of sacred entities whose ways were considered mysterious and beyond human understanding. It was the elaboration on these beliefs that prompted scholarly debate suggesting that the term “Great Mystery” could be a more accurate translation of such a concept than “Great Spirit”. Activist Russell Means also promoted the translation “Great Mystery” and the view that Lakota spirituality is not originally monotheistic.” ref

“Chief Luther Standing Bear (1868–1939) of the Lakota Nation put it thus:

From Wakan Tanka, the Great Spirit, there came a great unifying life force that flowed in and through all things – the flowers of the plains, blowing winds, rocks, trees, birds, animals – and was the same force that had been breathed into the first man. Thus all things were kindred, and were brought together by the same Great Mystery.” ref

Manitou, akin to the Haudenosaunee concept of orenda, is perceived as the spiritual and fundamental life force by Algonquian peoples. It is believed by practitioners to be omnipresent; manifesting in all things, including organisms, the environment, and events both human-induced and otherwise. Manifestations of Manitou are also believed to be dualistic, and such contrasting instances are known as aashaa monetoo (“good spirit”) and otshee monetoo (“bad spirit”) respectively. According to legend, when the world was created, the Great Spirit, Aasha Monetoo, gave the land to the indigenous peoples, the Shawnee in particular.” ref

“The Anishinaabe culture, descended from the Algonquian-speaking Abenaki and Cree, inherited the Great Spirit tradition of their predecessors. Gitche Manitou (also transliterated as Gichi-manidoo) is an Anishinaabe language word typically interpreted as Great Spirit, the Creator of all things and the Giver of Life, and is sometimes translated as the “Great Mystery”. Historically, Anishinaabe people believed in a variety of spirits, whose images were placed near doorways for protection. According to Anishinaabe tradition, Michilimackinac, later named by European settlers as Mackinac Island, in Michigan, was the home of Gitche Manitou, and some Anishinaabeg tribes would make pilgrimages there for rituals devoted to the spirit.” ref

“Other Anishinaabe names for such a figure, incorporated through the process of syncretism, are Gizhe-manidoo (“venerable Manidoo“), Wenizhishid-manidoo (“Fair Manidoo“) and Gichi-ojichaag (“Great Spirit”). While Gichi-manidoo and Gichi-ojichaag both mean “Great Spirit”, Gichi-manidoo carried the idea of the greater spiritual connectivity while Gichi-ojichaag carried the idea of individual soul’s connection to the Gichi-manidoo. Consequently, Christian missionaries often used the term Gichi-ojichaag to refer to the Christian idea of a Holy SpiritThe contemporary belief in the great spirit is generally associated with the Native American Church. The doctrine regarding the great spirit within this modern tradition is quite varied and generally takes on Christian ideas of a monotheistic God alongside animistic conceptions. The number of adherents to these contemporary beliefs in the great spirit are unknown, but it is likely they number over a quarter million people.” ref

“Early European explorers describe individual Native American tribes and even small bands as each having their own religious practices. Theology may be monotheisticpolytheistichenotheisticanimisticshamanisticpantheistic or any combination thereof, among others. Traditional beliefs are usually passed down in the forms of oral histories, stories, allegories, and principles.” ref

“The sun dance is a religious ceremony practiced by a number of Native American and First Nations peoples, primarily those of the Plains Nations. Each tribe that has some type of sun dance ceremony that has their own distinct practices and ceremonial protocols. In many cases, the ceremony is held in private and is not open to the public. Most details of the ceremony are kept from public knowledge out of great respect for, and the desire for protection of, the traditional ways. Many of the ceremonies have features in common, such as specific dances and songs passed down through many generations, the use of traditional drums, the sacred pipe, praying, fasting and, in some cases, the piercing of the skin. In Canada, the Plains Cree call this ceremony the Thirst Dance; the Saulteaux (Plains Ojibwe) call it the Rain Dance; and the Blackfoot (Siksika, Kainai, and Piikani) call it the Medicine Dance. It is also practiced by the Canadian Dakota and Nakoda, and the Dene.” ref

Damien Marie AtHope’s Art

People don’t commonly teach religious history, even that of their own claimed religion. No, rather they teach a limited “pro their religion” history of their religion from a religious perspective favorable to the religion of choice. 

Damien Marie AtHope’s Art

Do you truly think “Religious Belief” is only a matter of some personal choice?

Do you not see how coercive one’s world of choice is limited to the obvious hereditary belief, in most religious choices available to the child of religious parents or caregivers? Religion is more commonly like a family, culture, society, etc. available belief that limits the belief choices of the child and that is when “Religious Belief” is not only a matter of some personal choice and when it becomes hereditary faith, not because of the quality of its alleged facts or proposed truths but because everyone else important to the child believes similarly so they do as well simply mimicking authority beliefs handed to them. Because children are raised in religion rather than being presented all possible choices but rather one limited dogmatic brand of “Religious Belief” where children only have a choice of following the belief as instructed, and then personally claim the faith hereditary belief seen in the confirming to the belief they have held themselves all their lives. This is obvious in statements asked and answered by children claiming a faith they barely understand but they do understand that their family believes “this or that” faith, so they feel obligated to believe it too. While I do agree that “Religious Belief” should only be a matter of some personal choice, it rarely is… End Hereditary Religion!

Opposition to Imposed Hereditary Religion

Damien Marie AtHope’s Art


Animism: Respecting the Living World by Graham Harvey 

“How have human cultures engaged with and thought about animals, plants, rocks, clouds, and other elements in their natural surroundings? Do animals and other natural objects have a spirit or soul? What is their relationship to humans? In this new study, Graham Harvey explores current and past animistic beliefs and practices of Native Americans, Maori, Aboriginal Australians, and eco-pagans. He considers the varieties of animism found in these cultures as well as their shared desire to live respectfully within larger natural communities. Drawing on his extensive casework, Harvey also considers the linguistic, performative, ecological, and activist implications of these different animisms.” ref


Damien Marie AtHope’s Art

We are like believing machines we vacuum up ideas, like Velcro sticks to almost everything. We accumulate beliefs that we allow to negatively influence our lives, often without realizing it. Our willingness must be to alter skewed beliefs that impend our balance or reason, which allows us to achieve new positive thinking and accurate outcomes.


My thoughts on Religion Evolution with external links for more info:

“Religion is an Evolved Product” and Yes, Religion is Like Fear Given Wings…

Atheists talk about gods and religions for the same reason doctors talk about cancer, they are looking for a cure, or a firefighter talks about fires because they burn people and they care to stop them. We atheists too often feel a need to help the victims of mental slavery, held in the bondage that is the false beliefs of gods and the conspiracy theories of reality found in religions.

“Understanding Religion Evolution: Animism, Totemism, Shamanism, Paganism & Progressed organized religion”

Understanding Religion Evolution:

“An Archaeological/Anthropological Understanding of Religion Evolution”

It seems ancient peoples had to survived amazing threats in a “dangerous universe (by superstition perceived as good and evil),” and human “immorality or imperfection of the soul” which was thought to affect the still living, leading to ancestor worship. This ancestor worship presumably led to the belief in supernatural beings, and then some of these were turned into the belief in gods. This feeble myth called gods were just a human conceived “made from nothing into something over and over, changing, again and again, taking on more as they evolve, all the while they are thought to be special,” but it is just supernatural animistic spirit-belief perceived as sacred. 

Quick Evolution of Religion?

Pre-Animism (at least 300,000 years ago) pre-religion is a beginning that evolves into later Animism. So, Religion as we think of it, to me, all starts in a general way with Animism (Africa: 100,000 years ago) (theoretical belief in supernatural powers/spirits), then this is physically expressed in or with Totemism (Europe: 50,000 years ago) (theoretical belief in mythical relationship with powers/spirits through a totem item), which then enlists a full-time specific person to do this worship and believed interacting Shamanism (Siberia/Russia: 30,000 years ago) (theoretical belief in access and influence with spirits through ritual), and then there is the further employment of myths and gods added to all the above giving you Paganism (Turkey: 12,000 years ago) (often a lot more nature-based than most current top world religions, thus hinting to their close link to more ancient religious thinking it stems from). My hypothesis is expressed with an explanation of the building of a theatrical house (modern religions development). Progressed organized religion (Egypt: 5,000 years ago)  with CURRENT “World” RELIGIONS (after 4,000 years ago).

Historically, in large city-state societies (such as Egypt or Iraq) starting around 5,000 years ago culminated to make religion something kind of new, a sociocultural-governmental-religious monarchy, where all or at least many of the people of such large city-state societies seem familiar with and committed to the existence of “religion” as the integrated life identity package of control dynamics with a fixed closed magical doctrine, but this juggernaut integrated religion identity package of Dogmatic-Propaganda certainly did not exist or if developed to an extent it was highly limited in most smaller prehistoric societies as they seem to lack most of the strong control dynamics with a fixed closed magical doctrine (magical beliefs could be at times be added or removed). Many people just want to see developed religious dynamics everywhere even if it is not. Instead, all that is found is largely fragments until the domestication of religion.

Religions, as we think of them today, are a new fad, even if they go back to around 6,000 years in the timeline of human existence, this amounts to almost nothing when seen in the long slow evolution of religion at least around 70,000 years ago with one of the oldest ritual worship. Stone Snake of South Africa: “first human worship” 70,000 years ago. This message of how religion and gods among them are clearly a man-made thing that was developed slowly as it was invented and then implemented peace by peace discrediting them all. Which seems to be a simple point some are just not grasping how devastating to any claims of truth when we can see the lie clearly in the archeological sites.

I wish people fought as hard for the actual values as they fight for the group/clan names political or otherwise they think support values. Every amount spent on war is theft to children in need of food or the homeless kept from shelter.

Here are several of my blog posts on history:

I am not an academic. I am a revolutionary that teaches in public, in places like social media, and in the streets. I am not a leader by some title given but from my commanding leadership style of simply to start teaching everywhere to everyone, all manner of positive education. 


Damien Marie AtHope’s Art

To me, Animism starts in Southern Africa, then to West Europe, and becomes Totemism. Another split goes near the Russia and Siberia border becoming Shamanism, which heads into Central Europe meeting up with Totemism, which also had moved there, mixing the two which then heads to Lake Baikal in Siberia. From there this Shamanism-Totemism heads to Turkey where it becomes Paganism.

Damien Marie AtHope’s Art


Not all “Religions” or “Religious Persuasions” have a god(s) but

All can be said to believe in some imaginary beings or imaginary things like spirits, afterlives, etc.

Damien Marie AtHope’s Art

ref, ref, ref, ref, ref, ref, ref, ref, ref, ref, ref, ref, ref, ref, ref, ref, ref, ref, ref, ref, ref

Low Gods “Earth” or Tutelary deity and High Gods “Sky” or Supreme deity

“An Earth goddess is a deification of the Earth. Earth goddesses are often associated with the “chthonic” deities of the underworldKi and Ninhursag are Mesopotamian earth goddesses. In Greek mythology, the Earth is personified as Gaia, corresponding to Roman Terra, Indic Prithvi/Bhūmi, etc. traced to an “Earth Mother” complementary to the “Sky Father” in Proto-Indo-European religionEgyptian mythology exceptionally has a sky goddess and an Earth god.” ref

“A mother goddess is a goddess who represents or is a personification of naturemotherhoodfertilitycreationdestruction or who embodies the bounty of the Earth. When equated with the Earth or the natural world, such goddesses are sometimes referred to as Mother Earth or as the Earth Mother. In some religious traditions or movements, Heavenly Mother (also referred to as Mother in Heaven or Sky Mother) is the wife or feminine counterpart of the Sky father or God the Father.” ref

Any masculine sky god is often also king of the gods, taking the position of patriarch within a pantheon. Such king gods are collectively categorized as “sky father” deities, with a polarity between sky and earth often being expressed by pairing a “sky father” god with an “earth mother” goddess (pairings of a sky mother with an earth father are less frequent). A main sky goddess is often the queen of the gods and may be an air/sky goddess in her own right, though she usually has other functions as well with “sky” not being her main. In antiquity, several sky goddesses in ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, and the Near East were called Queen of Heaven. Neopagans often apply it with impunity to sky goddesses from other regions who were never associated with the term historically. The sky often has important religious significance. Many religions, both polytheistic and monotheistic, have deities associated with the sky.” ref

“In comparative mythology, sky father is a term for a recurring concept in polytheistic religions of a sky god who is addressed as a “father”, often the father of a pantheon and is often either a reigning or former King of the Gods. The concept of “sky father” may also be taken to include Sun gods with similar characteristics, such as Ra. The concept is complementary to an “earth mother“. “Sky Father” is a direct translation of the Vedic Dyaus Pita, etymologically descended from the same Proto-Indo-European deity name as the Greek Zeûs Pater and Roman Jupiter and Germanic Týr, Tir or Tiwaz, all of which are reflexes of the same Proto-Indo-European deity’s name, *Dyēus Ph₂tḗr. While there are numerous parallels adduced from outside of Indo-European mythology, there are exceptions (e.g. In Egyptian mythology, Nut is the sky mother and Geb is the earth father).” ref

Tutelary deity

“A tutelary (also tutelar) is a deity or spirit who is a guardian, patron, or protector of a particular place, geographic feature, person, lineage, nation, culture, or occupation. The etymology of “tutelary” expresses the concept of safety and thus of guardianship. In late Greek and Roman religion, one type of tutelary deity, the genius, functions as the personal deity or daimon of an individual from birth to death. Another form of personal tutelary spirit is the familiar spirit of European folklore.” ref

“A tutelary (also tutelar) iKorean shamanismjangseung and sotdae were placed at the edge of villages to frighten off demons. They were also worshiped as deities. Seonangshin is the patron deity of the village in Korean tradition and was believed to embody the SeonangdangIn Philippine animism, Diwata or Lambana are deities or spirits that inhabit sacred places like mountains and mounds and serve as guardians. Such as: Maria Makiling is the deity who guards Mt. Makiling and Maria Cacao and Maria Sinukuan. In Shinto, the spirits, or kami, which give life to human bodies come from nature and return to it after death. Ancestors are therefore themselves tutelaries to be worshiped. And similarly, Native American beliefs such as Tonás, tutelary animal spirit among the Zapotec and Totems, familial or clan spirits among the Ojibwe, can be animals.” ref

“A tutelary (also tutelar) in Austronesian beliefs such as: Atua (gods and spirits of the Polynesian peoples such as the Māori or the Hawaiians), Hanitu (Bunun of Taiwan‘s term for spirit), Hyang (KawiSundaneseJavanese, and Balinese Supreme Being, in ancient Java and Bali mythology and this spiritual entity, can be either divine or ancestral), Kaitiaki (New Zealand Māori term used for the concept of guardianship, for the sky, the sea, and the land), Kawas (mythology) (divided into 6 groups: gods, ancestors, souls of the living, spirits of living things, spirits of lifeless objects, and ghosts), Tiki (Māori mythologyTiki is the first man created by either Tūmatauenga or Tāne and represents deified ancestors found in most Polynesian cultures). ” ref, ref, ref, ref, ref, ref, ref

Mesopotamian Tutelary Deities can be seen as ones related to City-States 

“Historical city-states included Sumerian cities such as Uruk and UrAncient Egyptian city-states, such as Thebes and Memphis; the Phoenician cities (such as Tyre and Sidon); the five Philistine city-states; the Berber city-states of the Garamantes; the city-states of ancient Greece (the poleis such as AthensSpartaThebes, and Corinth); the Roman Republic (which grew from a city-state into a vast empire); the Italian city-states from the Middle Ages to the early modern period, such as FlorenceSienaFerraraMilan (which as they grew in power began to dominate neighboring cities) and Genoa and Venice, which became powerful thalassocracies; the Mayan and other cultures of pre-Columbian Mesoamerica (including cities such as Chichen ItzaTikalCopán and Monte Albán); the central Asian cities along the Silk Road; the city-states of the Swahili coastRagusa; states of the medieval Russian lands such as Novgorod and Pskov; and many others.” ref

“The Uruk period (ca. 4000 to 3100 BCE; also known as Protoliterate period) of Mesopotamia, named after the Sumerian city of Uruk, this period saw the emergence of urban life in Mesopotamia and the Sumerian civilization. City-States like Uruk and others had a patron tutelary City Deity along with a Priest-King.” ref

Chinese folk religion, both past, and present, includes myriad tutelary deities. Exceptional individuals, highly cultivated sages, and prominent ancestors can be deified and honored after death. Lord Guan is the patron of military personnel and police, while Mazu is the patron of fishermen and sailors. Such as Tu Di Gong (Earth Deity) is the tutelary deity of a locality, and each individual locality has its own Earth Deity and Cheng Huang Gong (City God) is the guardian deity of an individual city, worshipped by local officials and locals since imperial times.” ref

“A tutelary (also tutelar) in Hinduism, personal tutelary deities are known as ishta-devata, while family tutelary deities are known as Kuladevata. Gramadevata are guardian deities of villages. Devas can also be seen as tutelary. Shiva is the patron of yogis and renunciants. City goddesses include: Mumbadevi (Mumbai), Sachchika (Osian); Kuladevis include: Ambika (Porwad), and Mahalakshmi. In NorthEast India Meitei mythology and religion (Sanamahism) of Manipur, there are various types of tutelary deities, among which Lam Lais are the most predominant ones. Tibetan Buddhism has Yidam as a tutelary deity. Dakini is the patron of those who seek knowledge.” ref

“A tutelary (also tutelar) The Greeks also thought deities guarded specific places: for instance, Athena was the patron goddess of the city of Athens. Socrates spoke of hearing the voice of his personal spirit or daimonion:

You have often heard me speak of an oracle or sign which comes to me … . This sign I have had ever since I was a child. The sign is a voice which comes to me and always forbids me to do something which I am going to do, but never commands me to do anything, and this is what stands in the way of my being a politician.” ref

“Tutelary deities who guard and preserve a place or a person are fundamental to ancient Roman religion. The tutelary deity of a man was his Genius, that of a woman her Juno. In the Imperial era, the Genius of the Emperor was a focus of Imperial cult. An emperor might also adopt a major deity as his personal patron or tutelary, as Augustus did Apollo. Precedents for claiming the personal protection of a deity were established in the Republican era, when for instance the Roman dictator Sulla advertised the goddess Victory as his tutelary by holding public games (ludi) in her honor.” ref

“Each town or city had one or more tutelary deities, whose protection was considered particularly vital in time of war and siege. Rome itself was protected by a goddess whose name was to be kept ritually secret on pain of death (for a supposed case, see Quintus Valerius Soranus). The Capitoline Triad of Juno, Jupiter, and Minerva were also tutelaries of Rome. The Italic towns had their own tutelary deities. Juno often had this function, as at the Latin town of Lanuvium and the Etruscan city of Veii, and was often housed in an especially grand temple on the arx (citadel) or other prominent or central location. The tutelary deity of Praeneste was Fortuna, whose oracle was renowned.” ref

“The Roman ritual of evocatio was premised on the belief that a town could be made vulnerable to military defeat if the power of its tutelary deity were diverted outside the city, perhaps by the offer of superior cult at Rome. The depiction of some goddesses such as the Magna Mater (Great Mother, or Cybele) as “tower-crowned” represents their capacity to preserve the city. A town in the provinces might adopt a deity from within the Roman religious sphere to serve as its guardian, or syncretize its own tutelary with such; for instance, a community within the civitas of the Remi in Gaul adopted Apollo as its tutelary, and at the capital of the Remi (present-day Rheims), the tutelary was Mars Camulus.” ref 

Household deity (a kind of or related to a Tutelary deity)

“A household deity is a deity or spirit that protects the home, looking after the entire household or certain key members. It has been a common belief in paganism as well as in folklore across many parts of the world. Household deities fit into two types; firstly, a specific deity – typically a goddess – often referred to as a hearth goddess or domestic goddess who is associated with the home and hearth, such as the ancient Greek Hestia.” ref

“The second type of household deities are those that are not one singular deity, but a type, or species of animistic deity, who usually have lesser powers than major deities. This type was common in the religions of antiquity, such as the Lares of ancient Roman religion, the Gashin of Korean shamanism, and Cofgodas of Anglo-Saxon paganism. These survived Christianisation as fairy-like creatures existing in folklore, such as the Anglo-Scottish Brownie and Slavic Domovoy.” ref

“Household deities were usually worshipped not in temples but in the home, where they would be represented by small idols (such as the teraphim of the Bible, often translated as “household gods” in Genesis 31:19 for example), amulets, paintings, or reliefs. They could also be found on domestic objects, such as cosmetic articles in the case of Tawaret. The more prosperous houses might have a small shrine to the household god(s); the lararium served this purpose in the case of the Romans. The gods would be treated as members of the family and invited to join in meals, or be given offerings of food and drink.” ref

“In many religions, both ancient and modern, a god would preside over the home. Certain species, or types, of household deities, existed. An example of this was the Roman Lares. Many European cultures retained house spirits into the modern period. Some examples of these include:

“Although the cosmic status of household deities was not as lofty as that of the Twelve Olympians or the Aesir, they were also jealous of their dignity and also had to be appeased with shrines and offerings, however humble. Because of their immediacy they had arguably more influence on the day-to-day affairs of men than the remote gods did. Vestiges of their worship persisted long after Christianity and other major religions extirpated nearly every trace of the major pagan pantheons. Elements of the practice can be seen even today, with Christian accretions, where statues to various saints (such as St. Francis) protect gardens and grottos. Even the gargoyles found on older churches, could be viewed as guardians partitioning a sacred space.” ref

“For centuries, Christianity fought a mop-up war against these lingering minor pagan deities, but they proved tenacious. For example, Martin Luther‘s Tischreden have numerous – quite serious – references to dealing with kobolds. Eventually, rationalism and the Industrial Revolution threatened to erase most of these minor deities, until the advent of romantic nationalism rehabilitated them and embellished them into objects of literary curiosity in the 19th century. Since the 20th century this literature has been mined for characters for role-playing games, video games, and other fantasy personae, not infrequently invested with invented traits and hierarchies somewhat different from their mythological and folkloric roots.” ref

“In contradistinction to both Herbert Spencer and Edward Burnett Tylor, who defended theories of animistic origins of ancestor worship, Émile Durkheim saw its origin in totemism. In reality, this distinction is somewhat academic, since totemism may be regarded as a particularized manifestation of animism, and something of a synthesis of the two positions was attempted by Sigmund Freud. In Freud’s Totem and Taboo, both totem and taboo are outward expressions or manifestations of the same psychological tendency, a concept which is complementary to, or which rather reconciles, the apparent conflict. Freud preferred to emphasize the psychoanalytic implications of the reification of metaphysical forces, but with particular emphasis on its familial nature. This emphasis underscores, rather than weakens, the ancestral component.” ref

William Edward Hearn, a noted classicist, and jurist, traced the origin of domestic deities from the earliest stages as an expression of animism, a belief system thought to have existed also in the neolithic, and the forerunner of Indo-European religion. In his analysis of the Indo-European household, in Chapter II “The House Spirit”, Section 1, he states:

The belief which guided the conduct of our forefathers was … the spirit rule of dead ancestors.” ref

“In Section 2 he proceeds to elaborate:

It is thus certain that the worship of deceased ancestors is a vera causa, and not a mere hypothesis. …

In the other European nations, the Slavs, the Teutons, and the Kelts, the House Spirit appears with no less distinctness. … [T]he existence of that worship does not admit of doubt. … The House Spirits had a multitude of other names which it is needless here to enumerate, but all of which are more or less expressive of their friendly relations with man. … In [England] … [h]e is the Brownie. … In Scotland this same Brownie is well known. He is usually described as attached to particular families, with whom he has been known to reside for centuries, threshing the corn, cleaning the house, and performing similar household tasks. His favorite gratification was milk and honey.” ref


Damien Marie AtHope’s Art


“These ideas are my speculations from the evidence.”

I am still researching the “god‘s origins” all over the world. So you know, it is very complicated but I am smart and willing to look, DEEP, if necessary, which going very deep does seem to be needed here, when trying to actually understand the evolution of gods and goddesses. I am sure of a few things and less sure of others, but even in stuff I am not fully grasping I still am slowly figuring it out, to explain it to others. But as I research more I am understanding things a little better, though I am still working on understanding it all or something close and thus always figuring out more. 

Sky Father/Sky God?

“Egyptian: (Nut) Sky Mother and (Geb) Earth Father” (Egypt is different but similar)

Turkic/Mongolic: (Tengri/Tenger Etseg) Sky Father and (Eje/Gazar Eej) Earth Mother *Transeurasian*

Hawaiian: (Wākea) Sky Father and (Papahānaumoku) Earth Mother *Austronesian*

New Zealand/ Māori: (Ranginui) Sky Father and (Papatūānuku) Earth Mother *Austronesian*

Proto-Indo-European: (Dyus/Dyus phtr) Sky Father and (Dʰéǵʰōm/Plethwih) Earth Mother

Indo-Aryan: (Dyaus Pita) Sky Father and (Prithvi Mata) Earth Mother *Indo-European*

Italic: (Jupiter) Sky Father and (Juno) Sky Mother *Indo-European*

Etruscan: (Tinia) Sky Father and (Uni) Sky Mother *Tyrsenian/Italy Pre–Indo-European*

Hellenic/Greek: (Zeus) Sky Father and (Hera) Sky Mother who started as an “Earth Goddess” *Indo-European*

Nordic: (Dagr) Sky Father and (Nótt) Sky Mother *Indo-European*

Slavic: (Perun) Sky Father and (Mokosh) Earth Mother *Indo-European*

Illyrian: (Deipaturos) Sky Father and (Messapic Damatura’s “earth-mother” maybe) Earth Mother *Indo-European*

Albanian: (Zojz) Sky Father and (?) *Indo-European*

Baltic: (Perkūnas) Sky Father and (Saulė) Sky Mother *Indo-European*

Germanic: (Týr) Sky Father and (?) *Indo-European*

Colombian-Muisca: (Bochica) Sky Father and (Huythaca) Sky Mother *Chibchan*

Aztec: (Quetzalcoatl) Sky Father and (Xochiquetzal) Sky Mother *Uto-Aztecan*

Incan: (Viracocha) Sky Father and (Mama Runtucaya) Sky Mother *Quechuan*

China: (Tian/Shangdi) Sky Father and (Dì) Earth Mother *Sino-Tibetan*

Sumerian, Assyrian and Babylonian: (An/Anu) Sky Father and (Ki) Earth Mother

Finnish: (Ukko) Sky Father and (Akka) Earth Mother *Finno-Ugric*

Sami: (Horagalles) Sky Father and (Ravdna) Earth Mother *Finno-Ugric*

Puebloan-Zuni: (Ápoyan Ta’chu) Sky Father and (Áwitelin Tsíta) Earth Mother

Puebloan-Hopi: (Tawa) Sky Father and (Kokyangwuti/Spider Woman/Grandmother) Earth Mother *Uto-Aztecan*

Puebloan-Navajo: (Tsohanoai) Sky Father and (Estsanatlehi) Earth Mother *Na-Dene*


Sky Father/Sky Mother “High Gods” or similar gods/goddesses of the sky more loosely connected, seeming arcane mythology across the earth seen in Siberia, China, Europe, Native Americans/First Nations People and Mesopotamia, etc.

Damien Marie AtHope’s Art

ref, ref

Hinduism around 3,700 to 3,500 years old. ref

 Judaism around 3,450 or 3,250 years old. (The first writing in the bible was “Paleo-Hebrew” dated to around 3,000 years ago Khirbet Qeiyafa is the site of an ancient fortress city overlooking the Elah Valley. And many believe the religious Jewish texts were completed around 2,500) ref, ref

Judaism is around 3,450 or 3,250 years old. (“Paleo-Hebrew” 3,000 years ago and Torah 2,500 years ago)

“Judaism is an Abrahamic, its roots as an organized religion in the Middle East during the Bronze Age. Some scholars argue that modern Judaism evolved from Yahwism, the religion of ancient Israel and Judah, by the late 6th century BCE, and is thus considered to be one of the oldest monotheistic religions.” ref

“Yahwism is the name given by modern scholars to the religion of ancient Israel, essentially polytheistic, with a plethora of gods and goddesses. Heading the pantheon was Yahweh, the national god of the Israelite kingdoms of Israel and Judah, with his consort, the goddess Asherah; below them were second-tier gods and goddesses such as Baal, Shamash, Yarikh, Mot, and Astarte, all of whom had their own priests and prophets and numbered royalty among their devotees, and a third and fourth tier of minor divine beings, including the mal’ak, the messengers of the higher gods, who in later times became the angels of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Yahweh, however, was not the ‘original’ god of Israel “Isra-El”; it is El, the head of the Canaanite pantheon, whose name forms the basis of the name “Israel”, and none of the Old Testament patriarchs, the tribes of Israel, the Judges, or the earliest monarchs, have a Yahwistic theophoric name (i.e., one incorporating the name of Yahweh).” ref

“El is a Northwest Semitic word meaning “god” or “deity“, or referring (as a proper name) to any one of multiple major ancient Near Eastern deities. A rarer form, ‘ila, represents the predicate form in Old Akkadian and in Amorite. The word is derived from the Proto-Semitic *ʔil-, meaning “god”. Specific deities known as ‘El or ‘Il include the supreme god of the ancient Canaanite religion and the supreme god of East Semitic speakers in Mesopotamia’s Early Dynastic Period. ʼĒl is listed at the head of many pantheons. In some Canaanite and Ugaritic sources, ʼĒl played a role as father of the gods, of creation, or both. For example, in the Ugaritic texts, ʾil mlk is understood to mean “ʼĒl the King” but ʾil hd as “the god Hadad“. The Semitic root ʾlh (Arabic ʾilāh, Aramaic ʾAlāh, ʾElāh, Hebrew ʾelōah) may be ʾl with a parasitic h, and ʾl may be an abbreviated form of ʾlh. In Ugaritic the plural form meaning “gods” is ʾilhm, equivalent to Hebrew ʾelōhîm “powers”. In the Hebrew texts this word is interpreted as being semantically singular for “god” by biblical commentators. However the documentary hypothesis for the Old Testament (corresponds to the Jewish Torah) developed originally in the 1870s, identifies these that different authors – the Jahwist, Elohist, Deuteronomist, and the Priestly source – were responsible for editing stories from a polytheistic religion into those of a monotheistic religion. Inconsistencies that arise between monotheism and polytheism in the texts are reflective of this hypothesis.” ref

Jainism around 2,599 – 2,527 years old. ref

Confucianism around 2,600 – 2,551 years old. ref

Buddhism around 2,563/2,480 – 2,483/2,400 years old. ref

Christianity around 2,o00 years old. ref

Shinto around 1,305 years old. ref

Islam around 1407–1385 years old. ref

Sikhism around 548–478 years old. ref

Bahá’í around 200–125 years old. ref


Knowledge to Ponder: 


  • Possibly, around 30,000 years ago (in simpler form) to 6,000 years ago, Stars/Astrology are connected to Ancestors, Spirit Animals, and Deities.
  • The star also seems to be a possible proto-star for Star of Ishtar, Star of Inanna, or Star of Venus.
  • Around 7,000 to 6,000 years ago, Star Constellations/Astrology have connections to the “Kurgan phenomenon” of below-ground “mound” stone/wood burial structures and “Dolmen phenomenon” of above-ground stone burial structures.
  • Around 6,500–5,800 years ago, The Northern Levant migrations into Jordon and Israel in the Southern Levant brought new cultural and religious transfer from Turkey and Iran.
  • “The Ghassulian Star,” a mysterious 6,000-year-old mural from Jordan may have connections to the European paganstic kurgan/dolmens phenomenon.

“Astrology is a range of divinatory practices, recognized as pseudoscientific since the 18th century, that claim to discern information about human affairs and terrestrial events by studying the apparent positions of celestial objects. Different cultures have employed forms of astrology since at least the 2nd millennium BCE, these practices having originated in calendrical systems used to predict seasonal shifts and to interpret celestial cycles as signs of divine communications. Most, if not all, cultures have attached importance to what they observed in the sky, and some—such as the HindusChinese, and the Maya—developed elaborate systems for predicting terrestrial events from celestial observations. Western astrology, one of the oldest astrological systems still in use, can trace its roots to 19th–17th century BCE Mesopotamia, from where it spread to Ancient GreeceRome, the Islamicate world and eventually Central and Western Europe. Contemporary Western astrology is often associated with systems of horoscopes that purport to explain aspects of a person’s personality and predict significant events in their lives based on the positions of celestial objects; the majority of professional astrologers rely on such systems.” ref 

Around 5,500 years ago, Science evolves, The first evidence of science was 5,500 years ago and was demonstrated by a body of empirical, theoretical, and practical knowledge about the natural world. ref

Around 5,000 years ago, Origin of Logics is a Naturalistic Observation (principles of valid reasoning, inference, & demonstration) ref

Around 4,150 to 4,000 years ago: The earliest surviving versions of the Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh, which was originally titled “He who Saw the Deep” (Sha naqba īmuru) or “Surpassing All Other Kings” (Shūtur eli sharrī) were written. ref


  • 3,700 years ago or so, the oldest of the Hindu Vedas (scriptures), the Rig Veda was composed.
  • 3,500 years ago or so, the Vedic Age began in India after the collapse of the Indus Valley Civilization.


  • around 3,000 years ago, the first writing in the bible was “Paleo-Hebrew”
  • around 2,500 years ago, many believe the religious Jewish texts were completed

Myths: The bible inspired religion is not just one religion or one myth but a grouping of several religions and myths

  • Around 3,450 or 3,250 years ago, according to legend, is the traditionally accepted period in which the Israelite lawgiver, Moses, provided the Ten Commandments.
  • Around 2,500 to 2,400 years ago, a collection of ancient religious writings by the Israelites based primarily upon the Hebrew Bible, Tanakh, or Old Testament is the first part of Christianity’s bible.
  • Around 2,400 years ago, the most accepted hypothesis is that the canon was formed in stages, first the Pentateuch (Torah).
  • Around 2,140 to 2,116 years ago, the Prophets was written during the Hasmonean dynasty, and finally the remaining books.
  • Christians traditionally divide the Old Testament into four sections:
  • The first five books or Pentateuch (Torah).
  • The proposed history books telling the history of the Israelites from their conquest of Canaan to their defeat and exile in Babylon.
  • The poetic and proposed “Wisdom books” dealing, in various forms, with questions of good and evil in the world.
  • The books of the biblical prophets, warning of the consequences of turning away from God:
  • Henotheism:
  • Exodus 20:23 “You shall not make other gods besides Me (not saying there are no other gods just not to worship them); gods of silver or gods of gold, you shall not make for yourselves.”
  • Polytheism:
  • Judges 10:6 “Then the sons of Israel again did evil in the sight of the LORD, served the Baals and the Ashtaroth, the gods of Aram, the gods of Sidon, the gods of Moab, the gods of the sons of Ammon, and the gods of the Philistines; thus they forsook the LORD and did not serve Him.”
  • 1 Corinthians 8:5 “For even if there are so-called gods whether in heaven or on earth, as indeed there are many gods and many lords.”
  • Monotheism:
  • Isaiah 43:10 “You are my witnesses,” declares the LORD, “and my servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor will there be one after me.

Around 2,570 to 2,270 Years Ago, there is a confirmation of atheistic doubting as well as atheistic thinking, mainly by Greek philosophers. However, doubting gods is likely as old as the invention of gods and should destroy the thinking that belief in god(s) is the “default belief”. The Greek word is apistos (a “not” and pistos “faithful,”), thus not faithful or faithless because one is unpersuaded and unconvinced by a god(s) claim. Short Definition: unbelieving, unbeliever, or unbelief.


Damien Marie AtHope’s Art

Expressions of Atheistic Thinking:

  • Around 2,600 years ago, Ajita Kesakambali, ancient Indian philosopher, who is the first known proponent of Indian materialism. ref
  • Around 2,535 to 2,475 years ago, Heraclitus, Greek pre-Socratic philosopher, a native of the Greek city Ephesus, Ionia, on the coast of Anatolia, also known as Asia Minor or modern Turkey. ref
  • Around 2,500 to 2,400 years ago, according to The Story of Civilization book series certain African pygmy tribes have no identifiable gods, spirits, or religious beliefs or rituals, and even what burials accrue are without ceremony. ref
  • Around 2,490 to 2,430 years ago, Empedocles, Greek pre-Socratic philosopher and a citizen of Agrigentum, a Greek city in Sicily. ref
  • Around 2,460 to 2,370 years ago, Democritus, Greek pre-Socratic philosopher considered to be the “father of modern science” possibly had some disbelief amounting to atheism. ref
  • Around 2,399 years ago or so, Socrates, a famous Greek philosopher was tried for sinfulness by teaching doubt of state gods. ref
  • Around 2,341 to 2,270 years ago, Epicurus, a Greek philosopher known for composing atheistic critics and famously stated, “Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him god?” ref

This last expression by Epicurus, seems to be an expression of Axiological Atheism. To understand and utilize value or actually possess “Value Conscious/Consciousness” to both give a strong moral “axiological” argument (the problem of evil) as well as use it to fortify humanism and positive ethical persuasion of human helping and care responsibilities. Because value-blindness gives rise to sociopathic/psychopathic evil.


“Theists, there has to be a god, as something can not come from nothing.”

Well, thus something (unknown) happened and then there was something. This does not tell us what the something that may have been involved with something coming from nothing. A supposed first cause, thus something (unknown) happened and then there was something is not an open invitation to claim it as known, neither is it justified to call or label such an unknown as anything, especially an unsubstantiated magical thinking belief born of mythology and religious storytelling.

How do they even know if there was nothing as a start outside our universe, could there not be other universes outside our own?
For all, we know there may have always been something past the supposed Big Bang we can’t see beyond, like our universe as one part of a mega system.

Damien Marie AtHope’s Art

While hallucinogens are associated with shamanism, it is alcohol that is associated with paganism.

The Atheist-Humanist-Leftist Revolutionaries Shows in the prehistory series:

Show one: Prehistory: related to “Anarchism and Socialism” the division of labor, power, rights, and recourses.

Show two: Pre-animism 300,000 years old and animism 100,000 years old: related to “Anarchism and Socialism”

Show tree: Totemism 50,000 years old: related to “Anarchism and Socialism”

Show four: Shamanism 30,000 years old: related to “Anarchism and Socialism”

Show five: Paganism 12,000 years old: related to “Anarchism and Socialism”

Show six: Emergence of hierarchy, sexism, slavery, and the new male god dominance: Paganism 7,000-5,000 years old: related to “Anarchism and Socialism” (Capitalism) (World War 0) Elite and their slaves!

Show seven: Paganism 5,000 years old: progressed organized religion and the state: related to “Anarchism and Socialism” (Kings and the Rise of the State)

Show eight: Paganism 4,000 years old: Moralistic gods after the rise of Statism and often support Statism/Kings: related to “Anarchism and Socialism” (First Moralistic gods, then the Origin time of Monotheism)

Prehistory: related to “Anarchism and Socialism” the division of labor, power, rights, and recourses: VIDEO

Pre-animism 300,000 years old and animism 100,000 years old: related to “Anarchism and Socialism”: VIDEO

Totemism 50,000 years old: related to “Anarchism and Socialism”: VIDEO

Shamanism 30,000 years old: related to “Anarchism and Socialism”: VIDEO

Paganism 12,000 years old: related to “Anarchism and Socialism” (Pre-Capitalism): VIDEO

Paganism 7,000-5,000 years old: related to “Anarchism and Socialism” (Capitalism) (World War 0) Elite and their slaves: VIEDO

Paganism 5,000 years old: progressed organized religion and the state: related to “Anarchism and Socialism” (Kings and the Rise of the State): VIEDO

Paganism 4,000 years old: related to “Anarchism and Socialism” (First Moralistic gods, then the Origin time of Monotheism): VIEDO

I do not hate simply because I challenge and expose myths or lies any more than others being thought of as loving simply because of the protection and hiding from challenge their favored myths or lies.

The truth is best championed in the sunlight of challenge.

An archaeologist once said to me “Damien religion and culture are very different”

My response, So are you saying that was always that way, such as would you say Native Americans’ cultures are separate from their religions? And do you think it always was the way you believe?

I had said that religion was a cultural product. That is still how I see it and there are other archaeologists that think close to me as well. Gods too are the myths of cultures that did not understand science or the world around them, seeing magic/supernatural everywhere.

I personally think there is a goddess and not enough evidence to support a male god at Çatalhöyük but if there was both a male and female god and goddess then I know the kind of gods they were like Proto-Indo-European mythology.

This series idea was addressed in, Anarchist Teaching as Free Public Education or Free Education in the Public: VIDEO

Our 12 video series: Organized Oppression: Mesopotamian State Force and the Politics of power (9,000-4,000 years ago), is adapted from: The Complete and Concise History of the Sumerians and Early Bronze Age Mesopotamia (7000-2000 BC): by “History with Cy

Show #1: Mesopotamian State Force and the Politics of Power (Samarra, Halaf, Ubaid)

Show #2: Mesopotamian State Force and the Politics of Power (Eridu: First City of Power)

Show #3: Mesopotamian State Force and the Politics of Power (Uruk and the First Cities)

Show #4: Mesopotamian State Force and the Politics of Power (First Kings)

Show #5: Mesopotamian State Force and the Politics of Power (Early Dynastic Period)

Show #6: Mesopotamian State Force and the Politics of Power (King Lugalzagesi and the First Empire)

Show #7: Mesopotamian State Force and the Politics of Power (Sargon and Akkadian Rule)

Show #8: Mesopotamian State Force and the Politics of Power (Naram-Sin, Post-Akkadian Rule, and the Gutians)

Show #9: Mesopotamian State Force and the Politics of Power (Gudea of Lagash and Utu-hegal)

Show #10: Mesopotamian State Force and the Politics of Power (Third Dynasty of Ur / Neo-Sumerian Empire)

Show #11: Mesopotamian State Force and the Politics of Power (Amorites, Elamites, and the End of an Era)

Show #12: Mesopotamian State Force and the Politics of Power (Aftermath and Legacy of Sumer)

Damien Marie AtHope’s Art

The “Atheist-Humanist-Leftist Revolutionaries”

Cory Johnston ☭ Ⓐ Atheist Leftist @Skepticallefty & I (Damien Marie AtHope) @AthopeMarie (my YouTube & related blog) are working jointly in atheist, antitheist, antireligionist, antifascist, anarchist, socialist, and humanist endeavors in our videos together, generally, every other Saturday.

Why Does Power Bring Responsibility?

Think, how often is it the powerless that start wars, oppress others, or commit genocide? So, I guess the question is to us all, to ask, how can power not carry responsibility in a humanity concept? I know I see the deep ethical responsibility that if there is power their must be a humanistic responsibility of ethical and empathic stewardship of that power. Will I be brave enough to be kind? Will I possess enough courage to be compassionate? Will my valor reach its height of empathy? I as everyone, earns our justified respect by our actions, that are good, ethical, just, protecting, and kind. Do I have enough self-respect to put my love for humanity’s flushing, over being brought down by some of its bad actors? May we all be the ones doing good actions in the world, to help human flourishing.

I create the world I want to live in, striving for flourishing. Which is not a place but a positive potential involvement and promotion; a life of humanist goal precision. To master oneself, also means mastering positive prosocial behaviors needed for human flourishing. I may have lost a god myth as an atheist, but I am happy to tell you, my friend, it is exactly because of that, leaving the mental terrorizer, god belief, that I truly regained my connected ethical as well as kind humanity.

Cory and I will talk about prehistory and theism, addressing the relevance to atheism, anarchism, and socialism.

At the same time as the rise of the male god, 7,000 years ago, there was also the very time there was the rise of violence, war, and clans to kingdoms, then empires, then states. It is all connected back to 7,000 years ago, and it moved across the world.

Cory Johnston:  

The Mind of a Skeptical Leftist (YouTube)

Cory Johnston: Mind of a Skeptical Leftist @Skepticallefty

The Mind of a Skeptical Leftist By Cory Johnston: “Promoting critical thinking, social justice, and left-wing politics by covering current events and talking to a variety of people. Cory Johnston has been thoughtfully talking to people and attempting to promote critical thinking, social justice, and left-wing politics.”

Cory needs our support. We rise by helping each other.

Cory Johnston ☭ Ⓐ @Skepticallefty Evidence-based atheist leftist (he/him) Producer, host, and co-host of 4 podcasts @skeptarchy @skpoliticspod and @AthopeMarie

Damien Marie AtHope (“At Hope”) Axiological Atheist, Anti-theist, Anti-religionist, Secular Humanist. Rationalist, Writer, Artist, Poet, Philosopher, Advocate, Activist, Psychology, and Armchair Archaeology/Anthropology/Historian.

Damien is interested in: Freedom, Liberty, Justice, Equality, Ethics, Humanism, Science, Atheism, Antiteism, Antireligionism, Ignosticism, Left-Libertarianism, Anarchism, Socialism, Mutualism, Axiology, Metaphysics, LGBTQI, Philosophy, Advocacy, Activism, Mental Health, Psychology, Archaeology, Social Work, Sexual Rights, Marriage Rights, Woman’s Rights, Gender Rights, Child Rights, Secular Rights, Race Equality, Ageism/Disability Equality, Etc. And a far-leftist, “Anarcho-Humanist.”

I am not a good fit in the atheist movement that is mostly pro-capitalist, I am anti-capitalist. Mostly pro-skeptic, I am a rationalist not valuing skepticism. Mostly pro-agnostic, I am anti-agnostic. Mostly limited to anti-Abrahamic religions, I am an anti-religionist.

To me, the “male god” seems to have either emerged or become prominent around 7,000 years ago, whereas the now favored monotheism “male god” is more like 4,000 years ago or so. To me, the “female goddess” seems to have either emerged or become prominent around 11,000-10,000 years ago or so, losing the majority of its once prominence around 2,000 years ago due largely to the now favored monotheism “male god” that grow in prominence after 4,000 years ago or so.

My Thought on the Evolution of Gods?

Animal protector deities from old totems/spirit animal beliefs come first to me, 13,000/12,000 years ago, then women as deities 11,000/10,000 years ago, then male gods around 7,000/8,000 years ago. Moralistic gods around 5,000/4,000 years ago, and monotheistic gods around 4,000/3,000 years ago. 

To me, animal gods were likely first related to totemism animals around 13,000 to 12,000 years ago or older. Female as goddesses was next to me, 11,000 to 10,000 years ago or so with the emergence of agriculture. Then male gods come about 8,000 to 7,000 years ago with clan wars. Many monotheism-themed religions started in henotheism, emerging out of polytheism/paganism.

“Animism” is needed to begin supernatural thinking.
“Totemism” is needed for supernatural thinking connecting human actions & related to clan/tribe.
“Shamanism” is needed for supernatural thinking to be controllable/changeable by special persons.
Together = Gods/paganism

Damien Marie AtHope’s Art

Damien Marie AtHope (Said as “At” “Hope”)/(Autodidact Polymath but not good at math):

Axiological Atheist, Anti-theist, Anti-religionist, Secular Humanist, Rationalist, Writer, Artist, Jeweler, Poet, “autodidact” Philosopher, schooled in Psychology, and “autodidact” Armchair Archaeology/Anthropology/Pre-Historian (Knowledgeable in the range of: 1 million to 5,000/4,000 years ago). I am an anarchist socialist politically. Reasons for or Types of Atheism

My Website, My Blog, & Short-writing or QuotesMy YouTube, Twitter: @AthopeMarie, and My Email:

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