I am fortunate to have these mounds here in my hometown in Newark, OH. There have been debates and articles about these mounds since I can remember. I’ve played on them as a kid (before they put up the “keep off the mounds” signs) and most of the time I just drive by them without giving them a second glance now. They are here, but I rarely visit them anymore. I decided to remedy that today.
The Newark Earthworks is a series of mounds built by the Hopewell Indians about 2000 years ago. It’s strange to walk around something that was being built about the time that Jesus walked on the Earth, but it gives me a significant feeling of connection to something so historic when I walk there. There are a lot of conjecture as to the reasoning behind the mounds. It had something to do with the alignment of the moon and stars is all I know, but why these were built in geometric shapes is another debate. This is our Stonehenge.
Wikipedia even had a section on Earthworks as art, but it’s pretty small. The entire content of that article is listed here below.
Earthworks is a form of art created in nature that uses natural materials such as stones, leaves, or soil.
The most well-known example is probably the enormous four-mile-long human figure in northern South Australia known as Marree Man which is both the largest example and also unique because it was created with apparently no witnesses whatsoever to the, presumably extensive, creative activity involved, and no artist or artists have ever come forward to claim it or been identified!
Paths have now been made throughout the park. It is maintained by the Ohio Historical Society. Another section of the mounds is now part of Moundbuilders Golf Course. By many this is seen as the trampling on of Native American culture. The fact that it is a park and a golf course now though now ensure that the mounds will exist for many more years to come.
Under the Wikipedia entry for Newark, OH history we also have another section of information regarding these particular mounds.
During the prehistoric period, Newark was an important center of cultural activity. From 100 BC to 500 AD the Newark area was transformed by the Hopewell culture. They built many earthen mounds, creating the single, largest earthwork complex in the Ohio River Valley. The earthworks covered several square miles. Observatory Mound, Observatory Circle, and the interconnected Octagon span nearly 3,000 feet in length. The Octagon alone is large enough to contain four Roman Colesiums. The Great Pyramid fits inside Observatory Circle precisely. The even larger 1180-foot-wide Newark Great Circle is the largestcircular earthwork in the Americas, at least in construction effort. The 8 feet high walls surround a 5 feet deep moat, except at the entrance where the dimensions are even greater and more impressive. Archaeogeodesy and archaeoastronomy research has demonstrated advanced scientific understandings by the prehistoric cultures in the area by analyzing the placements, alignments, dimensions, and site-to-site interrelationships of the earthworks.
The land that the earthworks sit on is currently leased to Moundbuilders Country Club and are in use as a golf course.
I managed to actually capture the snow that was falling today on camera while I walked around the mounds when I took the picture of the “keep off” sign. It’s the first real snowfall of the season here in central Ohio, and rather cold.
In the summer this is a great place for a picnic and to take the kids to play. Wide open fields surrounded by gentle mounds makes for a great summer day. There is often a prevailing feeling of peace and serenity in these wide open spaces that lasts long after your visit.
I was not able to catch the museum open today but I will probably call in the future to inquire more about these. I thought this table-like map outside of the museum was kinda cool though as it showed me the proportions of the artwork itself. To do all of this without the aid of large machinery or even the hand tools we have at our disposal today is really phenomenal. The work entailed in building the mounds must have taken decades to complete. A feat that the Hopewell culture accomplishedmagnificently in that it has survived 2000 years of neglect and abuse.
Granted, I am not a so-called expert on this ancient civilization, but I can recognize the passion and work ethic of this people who would go to such extraordinary lengths to create something that would last the test of time in this way.