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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.

Lunar alignments at the Octagon

The southern least (or southern minimum) moonset over the north wall of the Newark Octagon, October 18, 2015.

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 Indians identified four times over 18.6 years when 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-mostthe northernleast and the southern least. They also observed another four times when the setting moon did the same:  the northernmost and southernmost moonset, the northern least and southern least moonset.

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.

Steering Committee celebrates successful UNESCO visit

The World Heritage Ohio Steering Committee met for its quarterly meeting on April 25, 2015 to discuss progress on Ohio’s three World Heritage nominations, specifically its Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks nomination.

The committee celebrated a successful visit by George Papagiannis of UNESCO, who visited Cleveland and Columbus in mid-April.

However, Papagiannis alerted the committee to a resolution that will be considered by UNESCO this summer. If approved, UNESCO would set a quota of 25 nominations to be considered in any year and require that nominations from nations that are not paying dues be moved to the end of the list of those being considered. We have been reassured, though, that this might not be approved.

Dean Alexander, Superintendent of the NPS’s Hopewell Culture National Historical Park, reported on a recent meeting with personnel at American Electric Power (AEP), during which they worked on a solution for the power lines at Hopewell Cultural Park in Chillicothe. These power lines impact the viewscape at the park – a problem that falls under both the integrity and authenticity of the site and our nomination’s protection and management measures. They discussed three possible solutions: moving the power lines off the property, moving them to the edge of the property, or burying them. WHO will consult with ICOMOS as to which plan is most appropriate for our nomination.

George Kane, Director of Facilities for the Ohio History Connection, is working with the Moundbuilders’ Country Club in Newark on a similar issue. The country club and its golf course occupy the space of the Newark Earthworks.

Steering Committee members reported that the Management and Interpretive Plans for the eight sites of the Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks are moving closer to completion, and Serpent Mound’s is already finished. This document is required as part of the ICOMOS advisory process, after which a nomination may be pushed forward to the World Heritage Committee for final consideration.

Drafts of the Foundation Document for Hopewell Culture Park, as well as its Cultural Landscape Plan, its Environmental Assessments, and its Visitor Experience plan will be available to the public this fall.

Kathy Wyatt of the Friends of the Ancient Ohio Earthworks reported that about $2000 in donations was received at the Friends group’s fundraising event in Cleveland during Papagiannis’ visit.

Previous meeting of the WHO Steering Committee.

Newark students, city council support WHO

Fifth grade students from Ms. Mary Borgia’s class at William H. McGuffey Elementary in Newark, Ohio, spoke to their city council on April 27 about the UNESCO World Heritage process and what inscription would mean for Newark and Ohio as a whole. The council then voted unanimously to support the Newark Earthworks’ nomination to UNESCO World Heritage. (Minutes 19:00 through 47:50)

Video courtesy Newark City Council.

Spend your weekend exploring Ohio’s ancient earthworks

This weekend, two of the sites included in our nomination for Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks are holding events for individuals and families to enjoy the beauty of Ohio’s ancient heritage.

The Ancient Octagon Earthworks at Newark Ceremonial Earthworks east of Columbus will be holding an open house for the public to explore the earthworks grounds and enjoy activities. The event is free and will run Sunday, April 12, from noon to 4 p.m. and Monday, April 13 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on the grounds of Moundbuilders Country Club, 125 N. 33rd Street, Newark.

The Fort Ancient Earthworks north of Cincinnati will have a Wildflower Walk this weekend, where the public can tour and observe the natural beauty of the flora and fauna of southern Ohio in the spring. The event is free and is on Saturday, April 11 at 2 p.m.