By: Kevin C. Nolan, Mark A. Hill, Mark F. Seeman, Eric C. Olson, Emily N. Butcher, Sneha Chavali and Nora Hillard
Principal Investigators: Kevin C. Nolan, Mark A. Hill, and Mark F. Seeman
Reports of Investigation 96 Volume 1, Applied Anthropology Laboratories, Ball State University


Social scientists need to better understand the processes through which social interactions at multiple scales lead to the emergence and integration of larger social groups such as communities and societies. These processes are not limited to modern societies, and studying them in prehistoric contexts adds a deeper understanding of these processes. Drs. Mark A. Hill, Kevin C. Nolan, and Mark F. Seeman seek to understand the social world of prehistoric groups commonly referred to as "Ohio Hopewell." Hopewell (ca. 50 AD-350 AD) has captivated scholars and the public alike for over a century. This study applies Social Network Analysis (SNA) to discover the differing scales and nature of interaction that will allow a reconstruction of the texture of variable group membership in Ohio Hopewell. This will not only help to understand the broad sweep of prehistory and the specific social realities that molded the past, but will also provide a better understanding of the integration of human social groups in general.


There is no one "Hopewell"; the many Hopewell-linked groups are characterized by variable participation in a variety of information and goods exchange networks. Until explicit and robust methods of classification and analysis are applied to understanding social interaction and integration, researchers will be unable to grasp the complexity, detail, and meaning of each overlying network. SNA has been successfully used in ethnographic and archaeological research around the world, and is now the most appropriate tool for beginning to disentangle the complex web that forms Ohio Hopewell. SNA offers a robust and objective set of quantitative methods for reconstructing connections among groups and its application here will be the first in the region, and among the first in eastern North America. This study, assumes that what falls under the "Ohio Hopewell" rubric is a series of dispersed family clusters choosing to participate variably in networks at a number of related, but distinct scales. Many divisions of Ohio Hopewell have been proposed; however, there has been no consistent or replicated method or conclusion of network classification. As a first step, the research focuses on Ohio Hopewell communities within the Scioto River watershed of southcentral Ohio. The project analyzes three explicit spatial scales of interaction through a combination of micro- and macro-stylistic attributes, and raw material source analysis. (1) The local/community level is targeted by a series of ceramic production traits which would be learned through enculturation and apprenticeships but not readily visible to outsiders (micro-style). (2) The regional/intercommunity level is targeted by analyzing the distribution of lithic raw material proportions and ceramic vessel elements that are externally observable (macro-style) and can be transmitted among communities. (3) The extra-regional scale of interaction is targeted by the sourcing of rare exotic materials (copper, silver) via Laser Ablation Inductively Couple Plasma Mass Spectrometry.


There will be patterns (and potentially many) at each scale. With this multi-scalar approach, the project will build a detailed picture of how the larger Ohio Hopewell networks are constructed from the bottom up, by families and communities.