Newark Earthworks

No change in size, 14:18, 24 March 2015
Text replacement - "Ohio Historical Society" to "Ohio History Connection"
<p><strong>Archaeological investigations</strong>:</p>
<p><u>Great Circle excavations</u></p>
<p>In 1992, Dee Anne Wymer, archaeologist with Bloomsburg University in Pennsylvania, joined with Ohio Historical Society History Connection archaeologist Bradley Lepper, to excavate a trench through the Great Circle. The project had two main goals:&nbsp; 1)&nbsp; to learn how the Hopewell culture built the embankment, and 2)&nbsp; to find samples of charcoal to use for radiocarbon dating in order to determine the precise age of the earthwork.</p>
<p>The archaeologists discovered different layers within the earthwork that showed the different stages in the construction of the enclosure wall. The deepest level was a dark brown soil layer representing the original ground surface on which the ancient people walked. A number of clues proved the land, at the time the Hopewell culture built their earthworks here, was a prairie. This would have made it easier to design and build the complicated earthworks. A sample from this soil layer returned a radiocarbon date of 160 B.C. (plus or minus 80 years), or about 2,100 years ago. This means that people of the Hopewell culture began to build the Great Circle sometime after 160 B.C., but exactly how long after is not known.</p>
<p>The first stage of construction was the building of a circle of small mounds. The single mound cut through by the 1992 excavations was made of tan-colored silt.</p>
<p><u>Eagle Mound</u></p>
<p>&quot;Eagle Mound&quot; is a group of connected mounds located at the center of the Great Circle Earthwork that some believe is an effigy mound built in the shape of a bird in flight. During the 1800s, some unknown persons dug into Eagle Mound probably looking for treasure. The only information we have on what they found is a few references to a stone &quot;altar&quot; with charcoal, ash, and burned bones found six feet beneath the center of the mound. The bones may have been human, in which case the &quot;altar&quot; may have been a crematory basin. Alternatively, they might have been animal bones and represent an offering or the remains of a celebratory feast.</p>
<p>Emerson Greenman excavated Eagle Mound for the Ohio State Museum (now the Ohio Historical SocietyHistory Connection) in 1928. He discovered the remains of some sort of large structure beneath the mound. The evidence for the structure was a rectangular pattern of postmolds (stains in the soil showing where a prehistoric post had been set into the ground). The structure would have been nearly 100 feet long by 23 feet wide. Greenman also found a clay basin about ten feet long by five feet wide and about five inches deep built into the floor near the center of the structure. Greenman did not find any bones or ashes in the basin, but it might have been another “altar” where the ancient people cremated the bodies of their loved ones.</p>
<p>The structure beneath Eagle Mound was likely a special house where Hopewell shamans or spiritual leaders conducted ceremonies. Some of the ceremonies probably involved preparing the honored dead for burial. When the ceremonies were over, the people took the wooden structure apart and built a mound over the remains of the place.</p>
<p><u>Excavations at the Octagon Earthworks</u></p>
<p>If you stand on Observatory Mound and look straight down the set of parallel walls that connect the circle with the octagon, you are looking at the point on the horizon where the moon rises at its most northerly position. This alignment happens during a short span of time every 18.6 years.</p>
<p>Some early antiquarians thought that the Observatory Mound once had formed an archway opening into the circle, which had collapsed over the ages. One of the earliest documented archaeological excavations conducted at the Newark Earthworks was undertaken to test this hypothesis. On July 4, 1836, the Calliopean Society of the Granville Literary and Theological Institution (now Denison University) celebrated Independence Day by digging into the southwest side of the Observatory. They discovered no evidence of a collapsed arch, but the Calliopean Society excavators found that the outer surface of the Observatory originally was faced with limestone slabs.</p>
<p>In 1994, Moundbuilders County Club, which has leased the Octagon Earthworks since 1910, decided to renovate and enlarge the maintenance building located inside the Octagonal enclosure. Ohio Historical Society History Connection archaeologists investigated the area prior to this work. They discovered the remains of a large pit, six feet long by more than two feet wide, filled with large pebbles of limestone. There was a postmold at the center of the pit.</p>
<p>Radiocarbon dates on soil from both the gravel-filled pit and the postmold indicate this feature was dug and used between about AD 250 to 390. The post may have been part of a series of posts used to lay out the earthworks so they would be properly aligned to the rising and setting of the moon. Alternatively, since it was located at one of the gateways of the Octagon, it simply might have been a signpost on which some important symbol could be hung.</p>
==See Also==