The Hopewell Exchange system began in the Ohio and Illinois River Valleys about 300 BCE. The culture is referred to more as a system of interaction among a variety of societies than as a single society or culture. Hopewell trading networks were quite extensive, with obsidian from the Yellowstone area, copper from Lake Superior, and shells from the Gulf Coast.
The construction of ceremonial mounds was an important feature of the Laurel Complex, as it was for the Point Peninsula Complex and other Hopewell cultures. Sites were usually located at rapids or falls where sturgeon come to spawn and ceremonies may have coincided with this yearly event. The mounds and the artifacts contained within them indicate contact with the Adena and Hopewell of the Ohio River valley. It is unknown if the contact was direct or indirect.