Mound Builders

Heath Travel Blog

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With a week off for spring break this year, I didn't want to spend the whole time in my town.  My original plans involving flying fell through so I decided to take an overnight trip down to the central and south central part of the state.  My first stop was the Newark Earthworks.  I started at the Great Circle which also has a tiny visitor's center.

The Hopewell culture was a Native American culture that flourished in the Ohio area especially along the Scioto River and its tributaries about 2000 years ago.  I didn't realize that the Hopewell name actually came from a farmer whose land held one of the mound sites.  We don't know the name that these people called themselves; they left no written records.  I also had no idea how extensive and numerous their mound building was until I started researching this trip and then actually visited.

me next to an outside wall

The Great Circle in Newark is part of three remaining pieces of the original earthworks in this area.  It is a large circle (obviously) with walls higher than me and an opening facing where the visitor center has been built.  The inside of the walls are bordered by a ditch that drops probably about eight to ten feet lower than ground level.  While visitors are not to walk on the earthworks, they are free to walk across the grass inside the circle.

I started my journey with a quick stop in the Visitor's Center where I learned some background on the Hopewell culture.  Then I backtracked to the parking lot and made a trek around the outside of the circle.  After some time walking, I came across the other parking lot and a short flight of steps that took visitors up over the walls.

entering the Great Circle from the stairs
 This was a cool introduction to the inside of the circle.  I could look across the grassy infield with its tall, old trees reaching up.  I could see the walls and the sloping ditches and feel the full impact of the height of the walls.  I could also see a few low mounds ahead of me, another tree growing from the near the middle of them.

I struck across the grass towards these smaller mounds.  They were arranged to vaguely resemble an eagle and excavations and other research has shown that at one time, there was a wooden structure in the area that was then covered over with the earth.  As I walked closer, I noticed little white flowers growing everywhere.  I'm sure they were just a random wildflower but knowing that this land was considered sacred to the Native Americans who lived here, I found something extra beautiful and special about the blossoms (and tried my best to avoid stepping on the delicate buds).

a ditch
 The mounds themselves were not too exciting so after a few minutes in the middle of the circle, I trekked back out toward the Visitor Center.

From here I veered to the right of the circle to get a closer look at one of the remaining outer walls.  This straight wall used to be part of a pair that traveled over a mile east towards another earthwork.  The wall is low but definitely still visible (unlike many other walls that succumbed to farmers' plows over the years).

Returning to my car, I traveled a few blocks to where one corner of a wall remains nestled next to a factory.  This earthwork had been on private property and managed to survive destruction and now has been deeded over to the same organization that takes care of the Great Circle.

white flowers
 There is an informational sign which helps you see where this part fits in the overall design of the Newark Earthworks, but the whole stop is only worth a few minutes, definitely no more than five.  (There is a picnic table there but it's not a prime lunch setting).

I continued on to the Ocatagon.  This earthwork has very limited public access because most of it is on a golf course.  Yes, that's right, there is a private golf course all around it.  I find this a bit odd--it belongs to the preservation society but the country club continues to rent the land.  I guess it helped protect the earthworks but is still a bit strange to see putting greens next to ancient walls.

I climbed up the short observation tower, a dozen or so steps and could look onto a corner of the octagon and one of the mounds that appeared at periodic points in the ocatagon.

The Eagle mounds
 After that I followed the public trail behind the clubhouse that followed the outer edge of the circle to the Observatory, a rounded mound at the far end of the circle at this site.  Although nothing can be known for certain since the Observatory lines up with the moon at important parts of its cycle, researchers believe this part of the earthwork was used to watch the moon.  I got as close as allowed by the signs, snapped a few more photos, and then headed back to drive on to Columbus.

rotorhead85 says:
Interesting !
Posted on: Apr 02, 2016
vances says:
Nice review - I also find these fascinating. There are several around Dayton and I think I wrote up the most noteworthy example (Miamisburg Mound) several years back. I'll have to check, lol...
Posted on: Mar 31, 2016
diisha392 says:
I knew about the Great Serpent Mound years ago but had no idea how many of these earthworks actually existed in the area. One of the ones I visited next day is called Woodhenge by some of the workers because in the ancient days there were wooden posts sticking up in the circle.
Posted on: Mar 31, 2016
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me next to an outside wall
me next to an outside wall
entering the Great Circle from the…
entering the Great Circle from th…
a ditch
a ditch
white flowers
white flowers
The Eagle mounds
The Eagle mounds
Eagle mounds again
Eagle mounds again
ditch (Visitor Center in backgroun…
ditch (Visitor Center in backgrou…
Great Circle
Great Circle
the corner on its own
the corner on its own
what is left of the square
what is left of the square
Octagon
Octagon
Octagon
Octagon
mound at the Octagon
mound at the Octagon
putting green
putting green
Observatory
Observatory
Observatory framed by trees
Observatory framed by trees
climbing walls with city behind
climbing walls with city behind
me on top of the little rock
me on top of the little rock
Heath
photo by: diisha392