Category : Yearly Updates

New Clarity about our Next Steps

April 26, 2016:  During the week of November 16 to 20, 2015, the World Heritage Ohio Steering Committee hosted an “ICOMOS Advisory Mission” – a visit by Margaret Gowen, an archaeologist from Ireland and expert on the UNESCO World Heritage inscription process.  She toured all the earthworks that are part of our prospective nomination, joined by Stephen Morris and Phyllis Ellin of the US National Park Service’s Office of International Affairs.  The Mission was arranged at the request of ICOMOS officials, in order to provide us with clear direction on how best to position our efforts on site integrity, visitor experience, modern uses and preservation, and related issues.

The report from this visit affirmed strongly the world-heritage-worthiness of the earthwork sites, and advised specifically on what would likely be acceptable solutions to some of the management, protection, and visitor-experience problems we are dealing with. Following this report, we are now in discussions with the NPS-OIA about creating a specific, step-by-step process plan for solving these issues, and for completing the nomination dossier at the highest possible standard of quality. This plan (in the form of an MOU) is scheduled for completion by the end of 2016.

2014-15 What Comes Next

The Steering Committee is currently at work on the next major component of the nomination, documents about the future on-going management of the sites – both individual site Management Plans, and a coordinated approach to the broader planning and development issues in the local communities that ICOMOS and UNESCO will expect to see, and that will be impacted by the anticipated increased tourist visitation at the sites.

2013 Authenticity and Integrity (Draft)

A key element of the final nomination is a description of the sites’ preservation status, related to their “outstanding universal value” as archaeological resources or as visitor experiences, or both. With sites in varying states of ruin, like our 1,800-year-old Hopewell earthworks, this means detailed documentation of the history and condition of the monuments. Drafts by the lead archaeologists on our Steering Committee, Bret Ruby (of Hopewell Culture National Historical Park), and Brad Lepper (of the Ohio History Connection), are here: Mound City, and Hopewell Mound Group.

2013 Comparative Analysis (Draft)

Another essential section of the final nomination document requires a comparison of our sites with others from around the world that are similar to them in any way. The case must be made that our Hopewell sites have a greater significance, and embody and portray their “outstanding universal value” more effectively than these comparable sites. Ruby and Lepper have created our current draft version, which you can read here.

2013 Outstanding Universal Value (Draft)

Another key section of the final nomination document requires the justification that our sites meet at least one of the criteria set forth by UNESCO for World Heritage inscription, and that they clearly portray their “outstanding universal value” to all of humanity, justifying their permanent preservation. Ruby and Lepper have created our current draft version, which you can read here.

2013 Experts Workshop

In August of 2013, the Steering Committee hosted another Expert Workshop, with a more detailed, dual focus: to seek expert opinions on the “authenticity and integrity” of the Hopewell sites related to the inscription criteria, and to promote involvement among county and state officials, and Indian tribal leaders. Besides most of those experts on the first tour, we also welcomed Gustavo Araoz, President of the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), Glenna Wallace, Chief of the Eastern Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma, Billy Friend, Chief of the Wyandotte Nation, Willem Willems, Co-President of the International Committee on Archaeological Heritage Management (ICAHM), and Patricia O’Donnell, US/ICOMOS Board of Trustees. For more on this event, read the summaries at the Ohio History Connection Website, or at Friends of ICAHM.

2012 Steering Committee Formation

In June of 2012, based on extensive research into the scope and best practices in the World Heritage nomination process, this group was formed into a Steering Committee with representation by all the owners, managers, and main interpreters of the Hopewell Ceremonial Earthwork sites. Individual Work Groups began the main tasks in getting the sites, documents, and support ready for the full nomination process. The Friends of Ancient Ohio Earthworks group was also formed, and assumed the tasks of fund-raising and publicity.


2011 Conference Tour

In November of 2011, we organized a Conference Tour with several of the leading national and international experts in UNESCO World Heritage issues, including: Jack Brink, who has prepared successful Canadian nominations, Douglas Comer, Co-President of the International Committee on Archaeological Heritage Management (ICAHM), Helaine Silverman from the Department of Anthropology at the University of Illinois, Gerard Baker, of Mandan-Hidatsa Heritage and a retired NPS Site Superintendent, and Phyllis Ellin from the National Park Service’s Office of International Affairs. The earthworks impressed all with their “outstanding universal value,” and a consensus was reached that the Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks should be advanced first, with Serpent Mound in the wings for later.


After their initial inclusion on the US Tentative List, focused efforts to advance either the Serpent Mound or the Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks nomination, or both, got seriously underway via a series of meetings with key stakeholders beginning in 2009. An early step was to bring the sites to the attention of international leaders and experts in UNESCO, ICOMOS, and NPS-OIA, and to seek their advice about how to proceed.