Black and white portrait of a man in a suit
Portrait of Caleb Atwater, date unknown

History of Ohio: the Rise and Progress of an American State

Quick Facts

Significance:
Anthropologist
Place of Birth:
North Adams, Massachusettes
Date of Birth:
December 25, 1778
Place of Death:
Circleville, Ohio
Date of Death:
March 13, 1867
Place of Burial:
Circleville, Ohio
Cemetery Name:
Forest Cemetery

Caleb Atwater was one of the first Anthropoligists to document ancient earthworks throughout the Ohio Valley. His professional career included that as a teacher, a minister, a State Representative, a Postmaster and a lawyer.

Atwater was born in North Adams, Massachusettes on Christmas Day in 1778.  In his early life, he established himself as a Minister after receiving his Master's degree. Not long after the death of his first wife, he would relocate to Ohio to establish a new life with a new wife and pursue a profession in the legal field.  

After he established himself in Circleville, Ohio in 1815, he would work to develop a public education system in the state where he is now known as the "Father of Ohio's Common Schools."  Atwater continued to practice law, but he also became intrigued by the prehistoric earthworks of the Adena and the Hopewell cultures. In 1820's, he authored "Description of the Antiquities Discovered in the State of Ohio and Other Western States." This groundbreaking publication described earthworks throughout the Ohio Valley and contained some of the earliest descriptions and illustrations of Hopewell Mound Group, Seip Earthworks and Spruce Hill Works. Atwater was skeptical that these precise and enormous earthworks were constructed by Indians as he, and many other Americans at the time, deemed Native Americans did not posess the knowledge or ability to construct such monumental works. Archeology and science have since proven that Native Americans were the builders of these monumental earthworks.

View a copy of Atwater's original plate illustration that included Seip Earthworks and Spruce Hill.