presidents (eight in all), Indians, a Revolutionary War
fort, a War of 1812 naval battle on Lake Erie, the
National Road and the Ohio & Erie Canal.
are figures from Annie Oakley and Gen. George Armstrong
Custer to the Wright Brothers and Thomas A. Edison. There
are three top Union Civil War generals: Ulysses S. Grant,
William T. Sherman and Phillip Sheridan. There is moon
walker Neil Armstrong. There are industrial giants like
John D. Rockefeller.
for me, there are two sites in Ohio that offer the best
history in the Buckeye state.
are the mysterious earthworks built by prehistoric
American Indians: the Serpent Mound State Memorial near
Peebles in Adams County and the Newark Earthworks State
Memorial in Newark in Licking County in east-central Ohio.
mentions go to three other Hopewell sites: Fort Ancient
State Memorial in Warren County; Hopewell Culture National
Historic Park in Chillicothe; and little-known Fort Hill
State Memorial in Highland County. A great source on Ohio’s
Hopewell sites is www.ancientohiotrail.org.
start your visit to Ohio’s past at the Serpent Mound,
Ohio’s biggest mystery and what is likely an elaborate
1,348-foot-long earthwork appears to be in the shape of an
undulating snake with seven curves and a spiral-coiled
tail. It sits on a bluff 90 feet above Ohio Brush Creek.
The site is owned by the Ohio Historical Society and
managed by the nonprofit Arc of Appalachia Preserve.
one knows who built the serpent or why it was constructed,
but it obviously was a major religious or mythical symbol
to its makers.
grass-covered mound is 2 to 6 feet high and 20 to 25 feet
in width as it stretches and rolls for nearly a quarter
mile. The bottom of the mound is yellow clay from nearby
pits and rock covered with soil.
is the largest and most outstanding serpent effigy in the
United States (others have been found in Ontario and
Scotland) and one of Ohio’s only effigy mounds. It is a
National Historic Landmark and on the National Register of
head of the snake is aligned with the summer solstice
sunset and the coils may point to the winter solstice
sunrise and the equinox sunrise.
earthworks may have been built atop where a meteor or
asteroid crashed into the Earth. Some rocks rose 1,000
feet and others sank 400 feet for reasons that befuddle
geologists. Whatever happened — a meteor, a volcanic
eruption — occurred 200 million years ago. It affected
15 square miles around where the Serpent Mound is now.
is no evidence that the Indians who built the serpent
mound buried any dead in it. They were buried in other
site was first surveyed by Ephraim Squire and Edwin Davis
of Chillicothe, Ohio, in 1846. Harvard University
archaeologist Frederic Ward Putnam visited in 1885 and
purchased the site to protect it. He spent three years
excavating the effigy and nearby conical mounds. He
suspected the mounds were built by Adena Indians (800 B.C.
to A.D. 100).
recent radiocarbon testing of charcoal from the Serpent
Mound dates it to the Fort Ancient Indians in the 11th
turned the site over to the Ohio Historical Society in
1900. The 54-acre site is off state Route 73 about 10
miles north of Peebles in Bratton Township, about four
hours from Akron. Admission is free but there is a $7
is a small museum, and an observation tower offers an
up-high look at the earthworks.
are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekends in April and May, 10 a.m.
to 5 p.m. daily June through October, and 10 a.m. to 4
p.m. weekends November through Dec. 18. It is also open
for the winter solstice.
information, call 937-587-2796 or 800-752-2757 or check
www.arcofappalachia.org or www.serpentmound.org.
Newark, you can see remnants of the world-class earthworks
built between 100 B.C. and 500 A.D. by the ancient
Hopewell Indians between the South Fork of the Licking
River and Raccoon Creek.
mounds and walls once covered more than four square miles
and were connected by embankment-lined avenues.
complex may have been a ceremonial center and an ancient
astronomical site to track the moon. It has been described
as part temple, part cemetery, part observatory.
best place to start your visit to the Newark Earthworks
State Memorial is at the Octagon Earthworks, the most
impressive of three surviving features here.
Octagon covers 138 acres off North 33rd Street, with
mounds 5 to 6 feet high. There are mounds built inside the
50-acre octagon near the openings between the
adjoining circle covers an additional 20 acres. The circle
is 1,054 feet in diameter and nearly perfectly round.
have found that the Octagon Earthworks track eight lunar
alignments that cover the moon’s 18.6-year cycle.
Octagon Earthworks were part of the largest system of
connected geometric earthworks built anywhere in the
world. At one time, there were two circles, a giant oval,
a square and an octagon with connecting walls. There were
also a number of burial mounds within the complex. The
complex required the excavation of an estimated 7 million
cubic feet of soil.
portions of the walls and many of the mounds have been
obliterated by development. Perhaps one-third survive.
Moundbuilders Country Club is laid out atop part of the
Octagon mounds. The club offers limited public access to
the earthworks for self-guided tours on Mondays in the
winter, on Monday mornings the rest of the year and on
four no-golf days.
can visit the site at other times but you will be
restricted to standing on a wooden viewing platform
overlooking the golf course.
two other surviving earthworks in Newark are the Great
Circle Earthworks with its small museum and the Wright
Great Circle is a 66-acre parcel containing a large grassy
circle with mounds nearly 1,200 feet in diameter off state
Route 79 between Parkview Drive and Cooper Street.
mounds range from 5 to 14 feet in height and are covered
with trees. The inner part of the circle covers 26 acres.
There is a small mound at the center. The circle is big
enough to hold four football fields laid end to end. It
has the feel of a park and a cemetery.
Wright Earthworks covers two city blocks off Grant Street
and features an L-shaped embankment that is 200 feet long.
That was once part of a square that was 950 feet on each
side and covered 20 acres.
can be viewed from James Street, a short distance from the
intersection of Grant Street and state Route 79.
is a move to get the Newark Earthworks designated as a
UNESCO World Heritage site. The nomination, advanced by
the U.S. Department of the Interior, also includes three
other Ohio sites: the Chillicothe mounds, the Serpent
Mound and Fort Ancient. A decision will not be made until
Great Circle and the Wright site are both open daily from
dawn to dusk.
archaeologists believe that there may have been an ancient
roadway that stretched 60 miles from Newark to
Chillicothe, where there are more Hopewell mounds.
more information, contact Newark Earthworks State Memorial
at 455 Hebron Road (state Route 79), Heath 43056,
740-345-8224 or 800-589-8224.
museum is open from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays, 10 a.m.
to 5 p.m. Saturdays and 1 to 5 p.m. Sundays. There are no
weekend hours between Labor Day and Memorial Day. The
Internet site is www.ohiohistory.org or
is 30 miles east of Columbus.