On Friday, instead of a roundtable, we will visit the Newark Earthworks. The schedule for Friday will be:
8:30 board bus
9:30-11:30 in Newark
11:30 return to Columbus
12:30-2 lunch and wrap up
Ohio Native American history is paradoxical. Today, there are no federally recognized tribes in the state, the result of removal policies that forced tribes such as the Miami, the Shawnee, the Delaware, and the Wyandot to relocate to modern-day Kansas and Oklahoma. At the same time, the state is home to some of the most important ancient indigenous sites on the American continent. The Ohio River valley was the center of a great civilization now remembered as the Hopewell Culture that existed from 200 B.C. to 700 A.D. and extended from its core in the Ohio and Illinois River valleys throughout much of Midwestern and eastern North America. The Hopewell Culture had one of its most significant ceremonial centers in Newark, Ohio. The site, the largest geometric earthwork complex in the world, is a critical part of a global indigenous past and is currently being nominated for designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. These centers likely served as pilgrimage sites for diverse indigenous nations across North America, a place where people from different cultures came together to gather, to honor the sacred, and to learn and share knowledge across cultural borders.
The geometric earthen enclosures connected by walled roadways of the Newark earthworks site cover more than four square miles. The Great Circle is in the town of Heath, south of Newark, and consists of a massive circular enclosure, the size of four football fields. To the northwest, in Newark, lies the Octagon Earthworks. The Great Circle and the Octagon sites were once linked by ancient walled roads. The Octagon earthworks is also connected to a smaller circle, called the Observatory circle, because it is possible to chart the lunar alignment at its northernmost point, which occurs every 18.6 years, by standing on a long low mound at one end of the circle, This discovery was made two decades ago, and we now believe that these earthworks and the other Hopewell Culture sites like it that spread throughout central and southern Ohio were large, important centers, meant for spiritual ceremony and cultural interaction. If we look at the orientation of the earthworks site, and in particular the walled roads that led from one section of it to another, we can see that they link the ceremonial center with Raccoon Creek, and thereby with the Ohio River waterway and the larger Mississippi watershed, providing access to these sites for a vast area. In addition, we have found material evidence of these connections and the movement of people between them in the mounds themselves; copper from the Upper Great Lakes, Mica from the Carolinas, shells from the Gulf of Mexico, and Obsidian from the Rocky Mountains have all been found in the mounds of the Hopewell region.