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Steering Committee Expansion

April 2016: Nine new members have been added to the World Heritage Ohio Steering Committee this winter and spring: Stacey Halfmoon, Director of American Indian Relations, Ohio History Connection; Jamison Pack, Chief Marketing Officer, Ohio History Connection; Christine Ballengee-Morris, Director of Native American Studies, The Ohio State University; Tim Jordan, Site Manager, Flint Ridge Ancient Quarries and Nature Preserve; Amir Eylon, President, Longwoods International USA; Hope Taft, Former First Lady of Ohio and Volunteer, Friends of Ancient Ohio Earthworks; W. Kevin Pape, President, Gray & Pape Heritage Management and Board Chair, Heritage Ohio; Jake Williams, Senior Associate, ATA Beilharz Architects; and Franklin B. Conaway, Principal, Franklin B. Conaway Associates.

Newark senator communicates support of Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks in new resolution

On February 23rd, Senator Jay Hottinger of Newark introduced Senate Concurrent Resolution 16 expressing the Ohio General Assembly’s support of the Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks nomination. Sen. Bob Peterson, whose district includes Ross County, is a co-sponsor. The Resolution has been assigned to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on which Sen. Hottinger serves. Please note that Sen. Shannon Jones who represents Fort Ancient is also on the Committee. Extra special thanks to Bill Weaver and Dick Shiels for encouraging Sen. Hottinger to take this up. We’ll be actively advocating for SCR 16 this Tuesday at the annual Statehood Day event.

Meanwhile, State Rep. Gary Scherer (R-Circleville) plans to introduce a concurrent resolution in the House sometime soon.

Senate Concurrent Resolution 16 can be read here.

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.

San Antonio Missions becomes 23rd World Heritage site in US

The former Mission Valero church is one of the five missions that are part of the San Antonio Missions World Heritage Site. (Credit: Robert Howen, National Park Service. http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1466/gallery/)

We at World Heritage Ohio congratulate the San Antonio Missions, which made history on Sunday, July 5 by becoming the 23rd UNESCO World Heritage Site in the United States and the first in Texas.

According to the UNESCO website, the San Antonio Missions “illustrate the Spanish Crown’s efforts to colonize, evangelize and defend the northern frontier of New Spain” and are “an example of the interweaving of Spanish and Coahuiltecan cultures.”

The most well-known of these missions is the Alamo, the site of the infamous 1836 battle between Mexican forces led by General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna and 200 Texan volunteer soldiers.

This inscription comes at a precarious time in the relationship between the UNESCO and the United States, which hasn’t paid its dues since 2011 and lost its voting privileges in 2013. This places World Heritage nominations from the United States at a disadvantage in the consideration process relative to those from countries that are still paying dues. Read more about that controversy – and how you can help – here.

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.

How long did it take to build earthworks? 2/3

This is a continuation of “How long did it take to build earthworks?”, the first part of which was published earlier this week. Using the method of architectural energetics, we calculated that Seip Earthworks is a total of roughly 57,726 m3. We will use that number to calculate how long it would take to build Seip.

A group tours Seip Earthworks in 2011. See how small each individual is in comparison to the size of the earthwork.

Now we know how much earth is in the mounds. People would have had to dig those thousands of cubic meters of earth and then carry baskets of it to the construction site. Based on replicative experiments, Bernardini uses figures of 1.9 person-hours to dig a cubic meter of earth and 0.32 person hours to move that cubic meter 10 meters away.

He concludes that it would have taken 148,700 person-hours to build the large circle, 15,300 person-hours for the small circle, and 330,700 person-hours for the square. This means it would have taken almost 500,000 person-hours to build the Seip Earthworks!

Person-hours refer to one hour of labor for one person, so it doesn’t necessarily mean that one person is working for that long. Multiple people would work together when they gathered at these sites at certain times of the year. If 50 people from around the region worked at once, that would mean that each individual would contribute 10,000 hours.

And that wouldn’t be all at once either: archaeologists can tell by the layers left in the earth that the earthworks were built in stages over many years by successive generations. If 50 people worked together each year for 150 years, for example, each year an individual would work for 67 or so hours, or 11 days at 6 hours a day. After those two weeks of ritual, they would head home from the earthwork to resume normal life.

On an individual, yearly scale, the amount of work seems like a lot, and viewed in the context of dozens of people working for more than a century, the amount of labor put into each earthwork is incredibly impressive. There must have been some very compelling reason for people of the Hopewellian period to work so hard year after year; this is one of the reasons why archaeologists believe the ceremonial value of earthworks was in their construction.

Check back next week for another interpretation of how the earthworks were used!

For more information on this topic, see:

Abrams, Elliot and Mary Le Rouge. 2008. “Political Complexity and Mound Construction among the Early and Late Adena of the Hocking Valley, Ohio.” Transitions: Archaic and Early Woodland Research in the Ohio Country, edited by M. Otto and B. Redmond. Athens, OH: Ohio University Press.

Bernardini, Wesley. 2004. “Hopewell geometric earthworks: a case study in the referential and experiential meaning of monuments.” Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 23: 331-356.

How long did it take to build earthworks? 1/3

Because the Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks contain the remains of individuals, we might be tempted to think that they were like our modern-day cemeteries for the pre-contact American Indians who built them.

However, archaeologists have shown that the value of these massive monuments may have been more in their construction rather than experiencing the sites after construction; this means that building the earthworks meant more to those people than visiting them once they were complete, as we do with our modern-day cemeteries.

We can infer this from a series of archaeological observations, like by calculating how much time and labor it took to create these geometrically precise mounds.

Hopewell earthworks vary greatly in size and shape, but several of those included in the Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks nomination follow what appears to be a standardized series of symbols. A combination of circle and octagon-shaped earthen enclosures (like walls) can be found at Seip Earthworks, Hopeton Earthworks, High Bank Earthworks, and Newark Earthworks.

Seip Earthworks was one of five complex geometric enclosures in the area, its “tripartite” design reflecting the most advanced and sophisticated period of Hopewell architecture. A large mound covered the remains of a precisely-gridded, timber ceremonial building.

Using a method called “architectural energetics,” we can figure out how long it would have taken to build Seip Earthworks, for example.

This earthwork has what is known as a “tripartite” design, which means it is comprised of a large circle (1535 meter perimeter), a small circle (945 meter perimeter), and a square (1250 meter perimeter). That’s 14, 8.6, and 11.3 football fields long!

If we use the formula to calculate the volume of a trapezoidal prism (which looks roughly like a long, low wall with a flat top, like the earthworks are), we can take these lengths and the average heights of each part of the earthwork to calculate the overall volume.

Wesley Bernardini, an archaeologist, has already done this. He determined the volume of the large circle is 22,600 m3, the small circle is 2126 m3, and the square is 3,000 m3. A cubic meter is about the size of an end table. That’s a total of 57,726 m3.

Check back later in the week for the calculation of how long it took to build Seip!

For more information on this topic, see:

Abrams, Elliot and Mary Le Rouge. 2008. “Political Complexity and Mound Construction among the Early and Late Adena of the Hocking Valley, Ohio.” Transitions: Archaic and Early Woodland Research in the Ohio Country, edited by M. Otto and B. Redmond. Athens, OH: Ohio University Press.

Bernardini, Wesley. 2004. “Hopewell geometric earthworks: a case study in the referential and experiential meaning of monuments.” Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 23: 331-356.

Not all North American earthworks are alike

You may have seen our recent blog post encouraging the world traveler known as “Mr. UNESCO” to come to Ohio. In that post, we compared Ohio’s Serpent Mound and the Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks to the Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site near St. Louis, noting how these sites are more than “some dirt hills” but are rather the ceremonial centers of vast and developed pre-contact American Indian civilizations.

That’s certainly true from a broad perspective, but actually, the sites and the cultures that constructed these various earthworks are distinctly different from one another.

In addition to Ohio’s own Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks and Serpent Mound, the US boasts two UNESCO World Heritage Sites relating to the genius of pre-contact American Indians: Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site near St. Louis and the recently inscribed Monumental Earthworks of Poverty Point in Louisiana.

To the untrained eye, all four of these sets of sites look like the “dirt hills” described by Mr. UNESCO. Through archaeological survey methods, however, archaeologists have been able to piece together the significance of each site and the specific groups of people who once lived, worked, prayed, and thrived there.

Poverty Point was at its peak 3,000 years ago, constructed by the Poverty Point culture (4,000-2,500 years ago in the Lower Mississippi Valley. Notably, it was built by nomadic hunter-fisher-gatherers and is of a scale unsurpassed for the next 2,000 years. The site comprises an integrated complex of earthworks, including large mounds, semi-elliptical ridges, and a central flat plaza.

Cahokia was the center of a city-state that reached across the Midwest roughly 1,000 years ago during the Mississippian period. The archaeological remnants of that city today show that the city itself was nearly 4,000 acres in size and comprised homes and public works, including ceremonial “woodhenges.”

In 1848, Squier and Davis were the first to map Serpent Mound, which is the largest effigy mound in the world.

The Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks here in Ohio were the focal points of Woodland culture communities 1,500 years ago. Large numbers of people may have traveled from as far away as the Rocky Mountains with exotic gifts to offer in ritual at these sites during distinct times for gathering. The archaeological evidence shows that these sites acted as ceremonial sites, including for mortuary use, but there is no evidence that people lived near the sites for extended periods of time. Additionally, the sites exhibit precise alignments to astronomical events, like the far reaches of the moon’s position over an 18.6 year cycle, which would have taken years of study in preparation.

Serpent Mound, another one of our World Heritage Ohio sites, is a more than 1,200-foot-long earthen effigy of a serpent winding across the top of a hillside. This earthwork also mirrors astronomical alignments and therefore embodies the fundamental cosmological principles of the people who built it. The best dating estimates place its construction roughly 1,000 years ago by the Fort Ancient culture of the Ohio River Valley, although more recent work suggests it may be more than 2,000 years old. iI is the largest effigy mound in the world.

Even though all four of these sites do have in common that they were constructed out of earth by pre-contact American Indians, in reality their particular social and ceremonial functions may have varied widely.

We can liken it to comparing Stonehenge and Westminster Abbey in the United Kingdom, for example. Although the sites are close together and both are made of stone, the time differences between them make it so we say they had different social functions and therefore different “outstanding universal value” from one another.

We can branch out even more: the Ohio River Valley (where Serpent Mound and the Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks are) is farther from Louisiana, for example, than Stonehenge is from London. Not only are we dealing with time and culture but also with space. Stonehenge and Westminster Abbey also differ from the Great Pyramids of Giza, despite their common material base.

Similarly, Poverty Point, Cahokia, the Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks, and Serpent Mound all originated in the minds of people in particular cultures at particular historical moments in North America. Rather than building upward with stone, they built outward with earth.

The cultures of indigenous North America vary as much in time and space as do the cultures of any other continent. Even though we can’t know everything about the people of prehistoric times, archaeology provides persuasive evidence that these cultures were very different from one another. The four sites discussed here – two current and two hopeful UNESCO World Heritage sites – represent four distinct cultures and distinct ways of thinking within pre-contact North America.