Circleville Earthworks

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Circleville, 1836.jpg
Color print with the caption "Bird's-eye view of Circleville in 1836, looking south." Circleville, located along the Scioto River, was founded in 1810 and became the county seat for Pickaway County

The Circleville Earthworks were constructed by the Hopewell culture (100 B.C. to 500 A.D.) -- an archaeological designation indicating a cultural moment for pre-contact American Indian people living in the region of what is now Circleville, Ohio. The circular earthwork consisted of an outer circular wall 1,140 feet in diameter and an inner circular wall with a ditch between them. This double-circle was connected to a square enclosure 908 feet long on each side. In 1820, the walls were five to six feet in height and the ditch was around 15 feet deep. The square had eight openings and each opening was partially blocked by a mound. These mounds were about 40 feet in diameter and four feet in height. At the center of the concentric circles there was a mound, which was about 15 feet in height and about 60 feet in diameter. When excavated, this mound was found to contain a number of burials and artifacts.

Originally, local residents began building the community of Circleville in 1810 around the large circles. They built the county courthouse on the site of the large central mound and Circle Street surrounded the earthworks. Beginning in 1837, however, Circleville "squared its circle". It removed the circular street along with the last vestiges of the ancient earthworks. Today, the city's name preserves the memory of the ancient Hopewell culture.

Learn more about our effort to inscript several Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks sites (in Ross County, Licking County, and Warren County) to the UNESCO World Heritage List.

See Also


  1. Byers, A. Martin. The Ohio Hopewell Episode: Paradigm Lost and Paradigm Gained. Akron, OH: University of Akron Press, 2004.
  2. Carr, Christopher, and D. Troy Case, eds. Gathering Hopewell: Society, Ritual, and Ritual Interaction. New York, NY: Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers, 2005.
  3. CERHAS. EarthWorks, Virtual Explorations of the Ancient Ohio Valley. The Center for the Electronic Reconstruction of Historical and Archaeological Sites (CERHAS). Cincinnati, OH, 2006.
  4. Case, D. Troy and Christopher Carr, eds. The Scioto Hopewell and their Neighbors: Bioarchaeological Documentation and Cultural Understanding. New York, NY: Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers, 2008.
  5. Pangea Productions. Searching for the Great Hopewell Road. N.p.: Pangea Productions, 1998.
  6. Earthworks Virtual Explorations of Ancient Newark, Ohio. The Center for the Electronic Reconstruction of Historical and Archaeological Sites. Cincinnati, OH: Center for the Electronic Reconstruction of Historical and Archaeological Sites, 2005.
  7. Warriner, Gray, producer. Legacy of the Mound Builders. Seattle, WA: Camera One for the National Park Service and the Hopewell Culture National Historical Park, 1994.
  8. Woodward, Susan L., and Jerry N. McDonald. Indian Mounds of the Middle Ohio Valley: A Guide to Mounds and Earthworks of the Adena, Hopewell, Cole, and Fort Ancient People. Lincoln: The University of Nebraska Press, 2002. 
  9. Lepper, Bradley T. Ohio Archaeology: An Illustrated Chronicle of Ohio's Ancient American Indian Cultures. Wilmington, Ohio, Orange Frazer Press, 2005.