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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.

Executive committee aims for 2017 nomination

On Friday, March 6, members of the World Heritage Ohio Executive Committee met to discuss developments in the nomination process for the Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks and Serpent Mound.

The meeting included representatives from the Ohio History Connection, the University of Cincinnati’s CERHAS, the US National Park Service, and the Newark Earthworks Center at the Ohio State University.

John Hancock of CERHAS explained that he has begun working on a timeline for the remainder of the work for the Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks nomination to the UNESCO World Heritage List, using 2017 as the target for completion.

Additional stages in the nomination process include implementing recommendations made by the US National Park Service’s Office of International Affairs in terms of the preservation of the sites. For example, Dean Alexander, Superintendent of the Hopewell Culture National Historical Park, and George Kane, Director of Facilities for the Ohio History Connection, are working with the State Historic Preservation Office to remove a power line over the Hopewell Mound Group that interferes with the authenticity and preservation of the site.

Representatives from the Ohio History Connection are meeting with tribes in Oklahoma this month to discuss a plan for Serpent Mound’s nomination, which will be further developed in the near future.

The Friends of the Ancient Ohio Earthworks group is organizing a fundraiser for the Cleveland area to be held on April 14 as a way to reach out to the northern parts of the state.