Monday, 6 February 2012

THE MOUND BUILDERS

THE LAUREL INDIANS : THE MOUND BUILDERS


Though most of the mounds are over by Lake of The Woods -
 Rainy River area of Northwestern Ontario
the Laurel Culture spread right around the lake Superior


From: The Archaeology of Northwestern Ontario : The Prehistoric and Fur Trade Periods  Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Sport  Historical Planning and Research Branch 1980

About 100 BC, a flourishing culture that rivalled the Mayan Civilization of Mexico in splendour developed in the Ohio and Mississippi valleys. The Hopewell culture produced huge geometric earthworks, gigantic burial mounds, ceremonial centres, and opulent art work made of freshwater pearls, mica, shell, copper, and stone. It influenced the Indian groups surrounding it, who traded goods with the Hopewellian people and imitated their ceremonies. The northernmost group in this "Hopewellian Interaction Sphere" was the Laurel Culture that flourished in Northwestern Ontario and Northern Manitoba from about 200 BC to about AD 900.

The most visible "Hopewellian" trait in our region is the series of huge burial mounds along the shores of the Rainy River. The Grand Mound in Minnesota is the largest, 14 metres high and 30 metres in diameter. The Manitou Mounds on the Ontario side of the river are the largest group of burial mounds in Canada with 17 known structures, the largest seven metres high and 35 metres in diameter. The large mound may contain several burials, placed there over a number of years.

Most Laurel sites in the region are small encampments with the remains of probably no more than two lodges for one or two extended families - about 25 people. our excavations have brought to light the remains of these Laurel structures - oval lines of stones surrounding the remnants of cooking hearths. These stones may have weighed down the lodge coverings against on-shore winds.

The Laurel people probably spent much of the year in small family groups relying on large and small game and fish for subsistence. However, the huge burial mounds indicate that they also came together in larger groups of 200 - 400 people for communal events such as a ceremony for the dead. It is possible that the family groups brought their deceased relatives with them to the ceremonial centres after ice-break up in the spring to inter them with others of the same band in the mounds.

It is illegal under the Ontario Cemeteries Act to excavate a burial in Ontario.

Excavations of the mounds in Minnesota revealed the majority of the remains are "bundle" burials, remains that were dismembered and decomposed elsewhere before interment in the mounds. A few of the skulls show intentional breakage before burial presumably for removal of the brain for some ritualistic purpose. Many of the burials are covered with red ochre (the mineral haemetite) possibly to indicate the blood of life.




Archaeologists continue to debate the origin of the Laurel people. Their continued use of some Archaic spear point shapes may imply the Laurel people descended from the local Archaic population and adopted the use of mounds, pottery vessels, and possibly the bark-covered lodges, as they received influences from the Hopewell culture to the south. In any case they likely spoke a proto-Algonkian language, a forerunner of modern Cree, Ojibway, Algonkin , etc.

page 8 - 11


Palaeo point






Very easy to tell the difference between the Palaeo and Laurel points.

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