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November 2015 – Moonrise at the Octagon Earthworks in Newark, Ohio

You are invited to see the moon rise in alignment with the Octagon Earthworks. You have the opportunity to be one of few people who have experienced this event in many centuries.

Join us on either of two evenings: Friday, November 27 or Saturday, November 28. Bring you family and friends. You will be the guest of The Ohio State University’s Newark Earthworks Center and the Ohio History Connection.

Moonrise at the Octagon Earthworks in Newark, Ohio, Thursday, Nov. 26, 2015. Moon images were taken at three-minute intervals beginning at 6:25 p.m. (Photo by Timothy E. Black)

We will see a northern minimum moonrise at this amazing site built by ancestors of American Indians two thousand years ago. Here is what it looked like earlier this fall:

Plan to arrive at the Octagon at 6:15 pm on Friday, November 27 and to leave by 7:45 — or on Saturday, November 28 to arrive at 7:15 and leave by 8:45.The Octagon is at 125 N. 33rd Street in Newark, Ohio. Park in the parking lot and gather at the large sign  next to the parking lot. Bring a flashlight. If the weather seems to threaten the event, call  740-364-0584 on either of these days for an update.The moon follows an 18.6 year cycle.  The Newark Octagon, built two thousand years ago by ancestors of today’s American Indians, aligns with eight “standstill points” in the cycle of the moon.

Those who built the Octagon understood that every month the place on the horizon where the moon first rises moves south for roughly 14 nights and then returns again. Further, the distance it moves between the first and 14th night grows greater every month for 9.3 years and then shrinks again until it is the same distance it had been at the beginning.

These ancient America Indians identified four “standstills” points  where the rising moon seemed to stop going in one direction and began going in the other: the northernmost rising of the moon and the southern-most,  the northern minimum and the southern minimum. They also observed another four times when the setting moon did the same:  the northernmost and southernmost moonset, the northern minimum and southern minimum  moonset.

Although the moon arrives at each of these standstill points only once every 18.6 years, it is very close to each of them on several nights. November 27 and 28 are the last dates on which we are likely to see the northern minimum moonrise for the next 18.6 years.

Earthworks Open House in Newark focused on fall moon rises

Get ready. It’s the moon again. The moon is doing what it has always done, and the Newark Earthworks are doing what their builders intended 2,000 years ago.

The Newark Octagon, built by ancestors of today’s American Indians, aligns with the 18.6 year cycle of the moon. The entire figure (an octagon with two parallel walls that connect it to a circle) points to the northernmost rising of the moon.

I saw the moon rise in alignment with the central axis of the octagon several times in 2005 and 2006, and so did several hundred of us. There is only one northernmost moonrise every 18.6 years, but there are several times when it is very close.

Clearly, the creators of the Newark Earthworks understood the lunar cycle. They must have considered the northernmost rising to be a very important event. It must have been important to be there when the moon was in just the right place.

Archaeologists believe it is likely that people came from great distances for those occasions. We can imagine important events: ceremonies and/or games, reunions, celebrations of life and death, family and community.

The alignment of these earthen walls with the northernmost rising of the moon was very likely known to many people two millennia ago. At some point it may have been forgotten, however, or at least it was no longer widely known.

Two Earlham College professors, Ray Hively and Robert Horn, rediscovered it about 1980. Brad Lepper, an archaeologist at the Ohio History Connection, and a group of us associated with the Ohio State University at Newark (Marti Chaatsmith, Jeff Gill, Lucy Murphy and others) have been teaching about this phenomenon for the past twenty years.

In 2005 and 2006, several hundred of us witnessed the northernmost moonrise at the octagon, including former Gov. Bob Taft and his wife, Hope. Quite literally, heaven and earth were aligned.

We do not have to wait to 2023 for the next alignment.

The northernmost rising of the moon is only one of eight “standstill points” in the 18.6 lunar cycle. Ancient people knew that every month the moonrise moves south for roughly 14 nights and then returns again. Further, the distance it moves between the first and 14th night grows greater every month for 9.3 years and then shrinks again until it is once again what it had been at the beginning. Ancient people could identify not only the northernmost moonrise but also the southernmost, the northern minimum and the southern minimum.

Further, they identified another four “standstill points” when they observed the moonsets: the northern and southernmost, the northern and southern minimum. The octagon built 2000 years ago in what is today Newark and the octagon built in Chillicothe about the same time both align with all eight of these lunar standstills.

This fall, the moon is at roughly the halfway point of the 18.6 year cycle. The northern and southern maximum alignments occurred at the beginning of the cycle, in 2005 and 2006. The minimums are occurring this fall.

The Ohio History Connection and Ohio State’s Newark Earthworks Center are partnering once again to teach the public about these amazing earthworks and the brilliance of the ancient ancestors of American Indians who built them.

We invite you to the Octagon Open House on the afternoon of Oct. 11, when we will provide information and guided tours about the alignments that will occur over the next two months. We will provide tours and a variety of family activities from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. for free.

Note: This article was originally posted on the Newark Advocate’s website here.

Watch the WHO luncheon online!

Interested in the World Heritage opportunities for Ohio but weren’t able to attend the April 14 luncheon with George Papagiannis of UNESCO? You can check it out online on the Ohio History Connection’s YouTube channel.

UNESCO rep visits Ohio, discusses World Heritage opportunities

On Wednesday, April 14, the Ohio History Connection played host to a moving conversation about the World Heritage challenges and opportunities for Ohio, as stakeholders met to discuss World Heritage during a public luncheon.

Patrick Terrien of the Columbus Council on World Affairs moderated a panel discussion including Dr. Brad Lepper, Archaeology Curator for the Ohio History Connection, and George Papagiannis, the US spokesman for UNESCO who visited Ohio last week.

The men discussed how the United States was the first signatory to the UNESCO World Heritage program in 1972 and has since gained 22 spots on the list, including Cahokia Mounds near St. Louis (1982), Yellowstone National Park (1978), and the Statue of Liberty (1984). These sites are considered to have “outstanding universal value,” which Papagiannis commented was “a very high bar.” If the three World Heritage Ohio nominations go through, Ohio may have the greatest number of World Heritage Sites of any state in the country.

Most of the conversation was about the most prominent World Heritage Ohio nomination: the Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks. Papagiannis said when he toured them during 2014, he considered them transcendental and said he had a “Wow!” moment.

“These people weren’t satisfied by the treetops,” he said, speaking of the scale and cosmological accuracy of the geometry of the sites. “They wanted to see the stars. No matter who you are, these sites can speak to us today about where we come from and where we are going.”

“These sites are evidence of the monumental connection these people were making between themselves and the cosmos,” Lepper added. “They’re comparable to any major architectural site in any culture in the ancient world.”

Papagiannis and Lepper discussed the process for World Heritage nominations, explaining that the Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks are currently on the U.S. Tentative List, which is managed internally by the U.S. Department of the Interior. The U.S. government presents one nomination each year to the UNESCO World Heritage Committee, who then reviews the nomination and votes on it.

“At this point, it’s not a question of if but when,” Lepper commented of the Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks’ nomination.

In response to an audience question about how to get Ohioans invested in this nomination, Papagiannis reflected on his own childhood in Greece, telling about how he would climb on the ancient ruins to chase lizards. For him, that was his connection to the history and the buildings.

“Go make these sites your sites!” he encouraged, suggesting people go for picnics or play Frisbee at Fort Ancient, for example.

The conversation then turned to ISIS and the destruction and looting of artifacts in the Middle East. Papagiannis called for everyone around the world to take action against these attacks, as they are violence against our combined cultural heritage and history.

“It’s like ripping our souls out of our chests,” he said, “and it’s a war crime perpetrated on people and their cultural heritage. We need these sites – these waypoints of history – to understand where we are and where we’re going.”

UNESCO is doing its best to protect these sites, he explained, focusing on the problem of looting. ISIS gains a significant part of its income by selling off ancient artifacts looted from historic sites, and preventing the sale of those artifacts will discourage looting.

However, Papagiannis continued, UNESCO is working on a smaller budget than it used to, because the U.S. withdrew its dues – a significant portion of UNESCO’s budget – several years ago as a result of a law about recognition of Palestine. That withdrawal did nothing to hurt Palestine, as the law had been written to do, but has instead harmed both the U.S. and UNESCO. The U.S. lost its voting rights at UNESCO in 2013, which jeopardizes the status of Ohio’s World Heritage nominations.

Having World Heritage sites in Ohio, Papagiannis and Lepper discussed, would be a boon to the state, as such a designation has been demonstrated to have significant effects on tourism to those sites. Cahokia, for example, experienced roughly 30,000 visitors each year before its designation, and now it experiences between 300,000 and 400,000. This creates jobs and a flowing economy in the area.

Papagiannis called for Ohioans to contact their representatives and senators to appeal for a waiver of the law regarding U.S. payment of dues. This, he said, would benefit UNESCO, the U.S., and Ohio.

Support of World Heritage Ohio can be done through this democratic channel or through financial nominations to the nomination process.

The event was also discussed on Twitter as #Unite4Heritage.

The World Heritage Challenges and Opportunities for Ohio

World Heritage Luncheon invite - April 15 2015-page-001