Many people believe, and we at Joseph Knew share the belief, that the North American people known as the Hopewell were the Nephites of the Book of Mormon.
Because many of our future articles will talk about these people and their connection to the Book of Mormon, we want to share information about them now. It’s important to understand who they were, where they lived, how they lived and what became of them.
Who Were the Hopewell?
The Hopewell people were one of the most influential cultures in North America. They were artists, architects, astronomers, scholars and theologians. They are most commonly known as mound builders. They built mounds for religious reasons, as burials sites, for protection, and as effigies.
The name Hopewell comes from Mordecai Hopewell, a landowner in Chillicothe, Illinois. It was on his property the first mounds were excavated in the 1800’s.
This was a Native American culture that developed and spread throughout the Midwest. It is not associated with any specific tribe, but rather is a way of life that was common throughout the heartland of North America, Indiana, Minnesota, Nebraska, Mississippi, and the Ohio Valley. The main concentration was found in these areas, but evidence of them can be found in other areas as well.
They built their cities mainly near waterways such as rivers and lakes that could support their trade system.
They created large enclosures of earthen walls 2 -3 meters high. These walls outlined shapes such as squares, circles and octagons. They created entire cities using geometry and astronomy. Their sacred enclosures often occupied spaces of over 100 acres and were laid out in distinctive patterns aligned with the sun, moon and stars.
They planted and harvested crops. They hunted and fished. They used tools of not only stone and flint, but of metals. Through a sophisticated trade system, they acquired shells from the Gulf Coast, obsidian from the Rocky Mountains, and copper from the Great Lakes region. They worked in copper, lead, gold, and silver creating not only tools and weapons, but also works of art.
“They possessed a decided system of religion, and a mythological connection with astronomy, which with its sister science geometry, was in the hands of the priesthood.” (Alexander W. Bradford, American Antiquities and Research into the Origin and History of the Red Race, 1843, pages 69-71)
They built roads of cement. They built their houses, temples and sanctuaries out of timber and cement. They had a definite system of religion and the priesthood was influential in their government. God, religion, family, peace and freedom were extremely important.
The influential Hopewell culture flourished for approximately 700 years, beginning about 300 BC, and died out suddenly about 400 AD. Although historians cannot explain their sudden disappearance, if they were, as we believe, the Nephites, the Book of Mormon explains their demise at the hand of their enemies the Lamanites. Moroni, in about 420 AD writes:
“Now I, Moroni, after having made an end of abridging the account of the people of Jared, I had supposed not to have written more, but I have not as yet perished; and I make not myself known to the Lamanites lest they should destroy me.
“For behold, their wars are exceedingly fierce among themselves; and because of their hatred they put to death every Nephite that will not deny the Christ.
“And I, Moroni, will not deny the Christ; wherefore, I wander whithersoever I can for the safety of mine own life.” — Moroni 1:1-3
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Hopewell artifact images by: World Heritage Ohio. Visit their website here.
Background photo of mounds in the mist by: National Parks Service/Hopewell Culture (HOCU-NPS). Visit their website here.
Timber and concrete wall photo by: Mormon Media Network