William C. Mills

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Mills, William C. at the Mound City Excavation.jpg
William C. Mills at the Mound City Excavation

William Corless Mills was born and raised on a farm in Montgomery County, Ohio in 1860. His interest in archaeology began as a boy while collecting Indian artifacts from local farm fields. He attended the Ohio State University and the Cincinnati School of Pharmacy from which he graduated in 1885. He then worked as a pharmacist in several Ohio towns while continuing his education at the Ohio State University. He graduated with a B.S. degree in 1898 and received the M.S. degree in 1902.

Mills became the Ohio Historical Society's Curator of Archaeology in 1898. His many contributions to archaeology include major excavations at the Adena Mound, Harness Mound, Mound City Group, Seip Mound (the Seip Conjoined Mound), Tremper Mound, and the Baum Village site. Mills faithfully published the results of these excavations in the Ohio Archaeological and Historical Society Quarterly setting a high standard for promptness and professionalism. He continued the work of documenting archaeological sites initiated by Moorehead and Loveberry publishing the Archaeological Atlas of Ohio in 1914. (Unfortunately, he gave his predecessors little credit for their contributions.)

Mills defined and named the Hopewell, Fort Ancient, and "Intrusive Mound" cultures. He mistakenly believed the Fort Ancient culture preceded the Hopewell culture, because it seemed to him to be more "primitive." In the years before radiocarbon dating, many archaeologists based their interpretations on, what has proven to be, an overly simplistic assumption that cultures always evolved from simple, or primitive, to more complex levels of organization. For Mills, the Hopewell culture represented the highest cultural development in the Ohio Valley. The "Intrusive Mound culture" is now recognized as but one aspect of the Late Woodland cultures.

Mills became the first director of the Ohio Historical Society in 1921. He served in that capacity until his death in 1928.

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