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Newark Earthworks

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<p><em>In the vicinity of Newark, mile after mile of embankments, circles, and other geometric figures, parallels, lodge-sites, and mounds, covering an area of more than four square miles, amaze the archaeologist and curiosity seeker alike as they spend hours and days in traversing the ground in every direction, constantly finding something worthy of investigation and description. </em></p>
<p><em>Archaeologist Gerard Fowke 1902 </em></p>
<p>The Newark Earthworks were the largest set of geometric earthworks ever built in Ohio. They were constructed by the Hopewell culture (100 B.C. to 500 A.D.) of prehistoric Native pre-contact American Indian people-- a designation sometimes referred to, by archaeologists, as &quot;pre-historic&quot;, though pre-contact American Indian groups certainly *did* possess a history. Originally it , the earthworks included a great circular enclosure (the Great Circle Earthworks), another slightly smaller circle that was linked to an octagon (Octagon Earthworks), and a large, nearly perfect square enclosure (Wright Earthworks). In addition an oval earthwork surrounded a dozen conical and loaf-shaped mounds. &nbsp;All of these structures were connected by a series of parallel walls. There were many smaller circular enclosures and a scattering of other mounds and pits. On the opposite bank of the Licking River's South Fork, another square enclosure and an oval earthwork encircled the top of a hill that overlooked the vast maze of geometric enclosures. The complicated array of monumental earthworks caused 19th century archaeologists Ephraim Squier and Edwin Davis to despair that it was &quot;impossible to give anything like a comprehensible description of them.&quot; </p>
<p>Over the years, the growth of the city of Newark destroyed many of the Newark Earthworks, but the Great Circle and the Octagon earthworks are major elements preserved by the efforts of interested local citizens. The surviving parts of the Newark Earthworks are recognized as a National Historic Landmark. In 2006, the State of Ohio designated the Newark Earthworks as &quot;the official prehistoric monument of the state.&quot;</p>
<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 the then-Ohio Historical Society (now Ohio 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>