Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks
Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks is part of the Tentative list of United States of America in order to qualify for inclusion in the World Heritage List.
Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks is a series of monumental earthworks constructed by the Ohio Hopewell culture during the Woodland Period in North America (1-1000 CE). The earth walls of these enclosures are among the largest earthworks in the world that are not fortifications or defensive structures. Artifacts identified at these earthworks indicate the sites were important ceremonial centers that interacted with communities in much of eastern North America.
Map of Hopewell Ceremonial EarthworksLoad map
The coordinates shown for all tentative sites were produced as a community effort. They are not official and may change on inscription.
I've been to seven of these eight sites, and I've been to four of them (Mound City, Fort Ancient, Seip Mound and Newark Earthworks) more than once. They never cease to fill me with a sense of awe. They are immense and at the same time remarkably precise; the circular earthworks are almost perfectly round, while several of the earthworks have almost perfect astronomical alignments. I particularly like that the people who constructed the earthworks lived in tiny hamlets in a society that was, so far as anyone can tell, remarkably egalitarian. These sites are a sixteen hundred year old testimony to the skill, passion, knowledge and ability to cooperate of the Native Americans who made them. I'm glad that they have been nominated and I believe that they deserve to be inscribed.
I visited Hopewell Culture National Historical Park - Mound City (early evening) and Newark Earthworks - Great Circle (just after sunrise). Besides what I explored, Seip Earthworks is considered and often recommended as the other key remnant of "Hopewell Culture". The other components, while important archaeological sites are perhaps more for completists.
As Mound City is managed by the National Park Service the interpretation is quite good and as I arrived just before a major storm, I had a personal guide for a full hour before the downpour began. We began at the short nature trail, highlighting the native plants, including what would and would not have been present a millenia ago. As you approach the Scioto River, there are interpretive panels worth reading. An exceptional fact of "Hopewell" is that in Ancient North America, the rivers were the "highways" of their time. Scioto River connects to the Ohio River, the Ohio River connects to the Mississippi River, the Mississippi River connects to the Missouri River, and the Missouri River connects to Yellowstone River. There is a place called "Obsidian Cliff" in Yellowstone National Park (a National Historic Landmark), which includes panels about its importance to indigenous people (most visitors drive right by which is understandable). Obsidian from this cliff in Yellowstone has been found in archeological digs at Hopewell. The "Great Circle" at Newark is impressive, yet doesn't have the same amount of interpretation as the National Historic Park, which these sites really benefit from. Arriving just after sunrise added to the atmosphere, yet from the ground, the scale of these circle mounds are difficult to fully appreciate.
For logistical reasons Columbus, Ohio is the best place to access these earthworks. Hopewell National Historic Park (Mound City & Visitor Center) is about 50 minutes drive South from Columbus and Newark Earthworks are about 40 minutes drive East. Seip Earthworks would require another 20 minutes of driving past the Hopewell Culture Visitor Center.
Read more from Kyle Magnuson here.
Having had the privilege of leading group tours and school groups around the Newark Earthworks for years, I never fail to be delighted and amazed by how these mounds and enclosures affect those who visit. Some come from far away with long considered intent, and their knowledge and passion are always inspiring, but I really enjoy the reaction from people who have been driving past the mounds for their whole lives, and then "come to visit," and you see them open up to the site and the stories within. There's a look on their faces as they start to take in what they've long seen but not noticed -- World Heritage status will enhance & increase that experience.
Christine Ballengee Morris
The Newark Earthworks are incredible. The Octagon structure, at night, illustrates the lunar calendar constructs. The Great Circle is smaller in size but easy to access and includes a small museum. I have enjoyed many earth structure in the United States, Brazil, Ireland, and Portugal and the Hopewell structures are worth visiting.
The Great Octagon - the finest example of an ancient lunar observatory. This site represents a milestone in human understanding of the solar system. No other lunar site in the world is so sophisticated or well preserved. It is one of the easiest earthworks to access and so present a prime opportunity to bring this little known chapter in human development to the public eye.
I have visited the Newark Earthworks in Newark, Ohio and they truly are a wonder of the ancient world. The enormity of the Great Circle and Octagon astounded me and I will never forget the feeling I had when I first walked within the walls of these two sites.
I encourage everyone to visit!
2008 Added to Tentative List
The site has 8 locations