New Hopewell Earthworks Discovered at the Hamilton County, Indiana Henge Site



Hopewell Oto Sioux Earthworks Photographed in Hamilton County, Indiana

Historic map showing the locations of burial mounds and Earthworks in Hamilton County, Indiana

Indiana Department of Geology and Natural History (Fourteenth Annual Report), 1884
       But Strawtown has an antiquity evidently higher than the days of the Delaware Indians. The mound builders have left their footprints in this vicinity by the numerous relics of the Stone Age that have been picked up by the present inhabitants. A little west of the present village there is a burial mound about six feet high; it has been plowed over for a number of years, so that not only its height has been reduced, but its base rendered so indistinct that its diameter can not be accurately measures; it is, however, between seventy and eighty feet. It was opened in 1882 by Judge Overman, of Tipton, and four skeletons were found lying on the original surface of the ground, with their heads together and their feet directed to the cardinal points of the compass.

This type of burial was symbolic of the mound builders Sun god.  This type of burial occurs frequently with the Adena and proto Iroquois and Sioux of the Ohio Valley, whom archaeologists call the Hopewell.  This is consistent with reports from the excavations of this site by IPFW archaeologists who assigned this work to the Oto Sioux.

      At a distance of 150 yards southeast of this mound is a circular embankment, now about three feet high, and twelve feet on the base. It has a ditch on the outside, which evidently furnished a portion of the earth for the embankment. The diameter of the circle, measured from the bottom of the ditch on each side, is 315 feet. There is a doubt as to what period this work should be referred. A tradition among the “old settlers” claims that the remains of palisades that once formed a stockade, were standing on the embankment when the early immigrants settled here. This tradition is strengthened by the fact that in 1810 a stockade was built by the Delaware Indians somewhere near this spot, as a protection against their Miami neighbors north of White River. Moreover, it was not the custom of the mound builders to make a ditch on the outside of their embankments. On the other hand, the regularity of the work, and the perfect form of the circle, is hardly compatible with the idea that this is the work of modern savages. It is possible that the circle dates back to the period of the mound builders, and that the Delawares took advantage of it to build their stockade on, and made the ditch to strengthen their palisades. The ditch was been filled, and the embankment reduced much by cultivation.


Map showing the location of the henge at Strawtown. IPFW university determined that this site was constructed by the Early Native American Oto Sioux who were the Hopewell Indian mound builders


History of Hamilton County Indiana, 1915

The Fort and Mound


The work of the Mound Builders found in Hamilton county is not as extensive or varied in character as in other counties in our state, but nevertheless the Strawtown Mound is very interesting tot he residents of Hamilton county and in some ways is distinctive and different from mounds in general. The Strawtown Mound is situated on the Roy Castor farm in White River township in the southeast part of the northwest quarter of section 3, township 19 north, range 5 east, near the center of the section. In 1875 the state geologist, Professor E.T. Cox, made a visit to the mounds and gave the following description of his trip: “Through the kindness of General Moss and William M. Locke, I obtained the skull and ornaments for the state collection. I was taken by General Moss and Mr. Locke to Strawtown, seven miles from Noblesville, to see some prehistoric earth works. They are now in a cultivated field owned by J.R. Parker. The corn and weeds were so thick it was impossible to make an accurate or even satisfactory examination of the works. The main work is a circle about three hundred feet in diameter, thrown up in the center, but apparently level and surrounded by a ditch that Mr. Parker says was about six feet deep when he first saw it. Fifty yards to the south of the large circle is a lesser circle about fifty feet in diameter and now almost obliterated. The site of these works is on the second bottom of White River about a quarter of a mile from the bank and thirty feet above the overflow. Between the earth enclosures and the river there is a mound which commands an extensive view up and down White River. The large enclosure is one of the very few in the Mississippi Valley that has the ditch on the outside, and it therefore is worthy of more careful study.”

The earthwork at Strawtown is best described as a 'Henge' that is defined as a circular earthwork with a outer wall and interior ditch with a gateway that is aligned to a solar event. The gateway is slightly visible on the southeast side that may have aligned to the winter solstice sunrise.

     Later, accurate measurements were made of the mound. It was found that the principle enclosure is situated about seven hundred feet west of the river on an elevated point of land extending in a northwesterly direction into the bend of White River. This elevated point of land overlooks a strip of low bottom land varying in width from four hundred feet on the east to three thousand feet on the west, with a similar view north and south. The principal mound is a circle with a diameter measuring two hundred eighty feet from side to side. From this point the outer slope to the middle of the ditch surrounding it is about twenty feet, the ditch originally having been about thirty feet wide and nine feet deep, the earth and gravel therefrom forming the mound in the center. Inside the enclosure the middle area was originally, no doubt, of equal elevation with the surface outside. There is very little doubt that the purpose of this mound was for defense, the ditch outside being designed to resist assault. From time to time various specimens of bones, pottery, flint, arrowheads, etc., have been found, though no thorough and systematic search has ever been made of the contents of the mound. In the spring of 1914 some men were plowing over that part of the field included in the ancient mound and they unearthed about two bushel baskets full of human bones. At various times in the past such discoveries had been made but this was the first disclosure of this sort for several years. The ditch surrounding the fort is becoming less and less distinct as the years go by, and though it still be plainly seen, in the course of a few more years the hand of Father Time probably will completely obliterate it.


Additional embankments can still be seen to the south of the earthwork that were not reported in the previous histories, nor found by university archaeologists.