Abstract

Archaeological contextual analyses of four artifacts that depicted composite creatures and that were recovered from the Turner earthwork in southwestern Ohio are integrated here with a biological identification of the creatures’ component animals and a survey of historic Woodland–Plains Indian knowledge about their roles in Woodland–Plains life (previously reported in this journal). Together, the three studies reveal that the creatures were likely employed in a ritual drama concerned with the welfare of recently deceased persons on their journey to an afterlife through underwater–underground realm(s), where they encountered the creatures. The location of the journey to an afterlife through Below realm(s) differs from that of nearly all historic Woodland–Plains Indians, who knew the journey to take place on the earth-disk or to occur by ascension. Implications of the ritual drama at Turner for some recent interpretive trends in Woodland archaeology are explored, including an overemphasis on “world renewal” as the primary motivation behind Ohio Hopewell ceremonialism, the scarce attention given to eschatological matters, and the misleading notion that all agentive behaviors, including mortuary rites, are political.

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