Heath Travel Blog› entry 21 of 26 › view all entries
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.