You are on the top of the Ogden Mound, part of the Ogden-Fettie site complex. The Ogden-Fettie site is one of a number of regional centers of the Middle Woodland, Havana Hopewell tradition that occupied the Central Illinois River Valley between 300 B.C. and A.D. 300. This large burial mound once contained human remains as well as a log tomb, ceramics, and jewelry.
The Woodland Period of Native American culture took place in Eastern North America between 500 B.C. and 1000 A.D. These people hunted and gathered food, but also began to experiment with the cultivation of plants, including lambsquarters and marsh elder. These were the first Indians in Native America to produce large quantities of pottery and to bury their dead in log tombs enclosed within earthen mounds such as the Ogden Mound. Woodland Indians also had extensive trade routes that reached as far as the Gulf of Mexico to the South and to the upper Great Lakes in the North.
Evidence shows that the Hopewell culture began to develop in the Ohio and Illinois River Valleys around 300 B.C. The Havana Hopewell tradition is particular to the Illinois River Valley, identified by its distinct pottery style, lithic technologies, and bone tools.
The Ogden-Fettie site is comprised of a primary habitation area, smaller scattered areas of occupation, and at least 30 mounds organized in a crescent shape over an approximate 65 hectare area. Many of the mounds have been plowed or excavated to the point where they are all but obliterated today.
Over the years there have been a number of amateur excavations at the Ogden-Fettie Site. One of the first occurred in 1884 when laymen discovered burials during the construction of a basement for a house on the Ogden Mound (this house was later demolished in 1975). During the late 1920s, Wilbur Bowman, a cousin of the Dicksons, was employed by the Dickson family to excavate eight mounds in the group. Don F. Dickson (namesake of the museum) made rough plan maps of the skeleton and artifact positions at that time. In 1928, the Ogden Mound was tunneled from the northeast by Marion and Ernest Dickson, who exposed the burials of the central tomb for commercial viewing. Later, in 1938, Clyde and Eldon Ogden completed a second tunnel through the northwest edge of Ogden Mound. The tunnels into the interior of the mound remained open to the public until 1941.
Several professional excavations also took place between the 1920s and the present day including investigations by University of Chicago's "dream team" of now famous archaeologists between 1929 - 1931. These excavations firmly established the Ogden-Fettie site in the developing framework of archaeological theory and have since continued to influence Middle Woodland studies. They have also raised interesting questions about the mound and the site in general. For instance, archaeologists noted a depressed circular feature around the primary mound and village area, which might represent a man-made enclosure. There is also the question of whether the Ogden Mound is a truncated pyramidal platform - a mound type common in many Hopewellian sites but rare in Illinois.
As you stand on top of the Ogden Mound, take a moment to imagine the lives of the people that built it, more than two thousand years ago.