Great Circle Earthworks

From Ohio History Central

The Great Circle is a large earthen enclosure that formed one part of the Newark Earthworks. The Newark site is the largest set of geometric earthworks built by the Hopewell culture (100 B.C. to 500 A.D.) of pre-contact North American Indian people. The enclosure is 1,200 feet across and the circular wall varies in height from five to 14 feet. There is a ditch or moat at the base of the wall inside the enclosure that varies in depth from eight to 13 feet.

Archaeological excavations conducted in 1992 revealed that the Great Circle is composed of different colored soils. The outer portion of the wall is made of dark brown earth, while the inner portion is made from bright, yellow-brown earth. These different colors may have had special symbolic meanings to the people who built the walls.

Eagle Mound is a low mound located at the center of the Great Circle. It consists of three lobes that some people have seen to be a bird's body with two outstretched wings. Its resemblance to an eagle is questionable. It was excavated in 1928 by archaeologists with the Ohio Historical Society (as of 2014, the Ohio History Connection). They discovered the remains of a wooden structure at the base of the mound that was likely a council house or ceremonial structure. The archaeologists restored the mound at the completion of their studies.

The people of Licking County saved the Great Circle from destruction by building the county fairgrounds on the site in 1854. In 1932, the fairgrounds closed and the land was transferred to the Ohio Historical Society. The site is open to visitation by the public as an Ohio History Connection site.

The Great Circle Earthworks, as part of the Newark Earthworks, is a National Historic Landmark. It is near the communities of Newark and Heath, in Licking County, on State Route 79.

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. Dancey, William S., and Paul J. Pacheco. Ohio Hopewell Community Organization. Kent State University Press, 1997.

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  1. Pangea Productions. Searching for the Great Hopewell Road. N.p.: Pangea Productions, 1998.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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. 
  6. Lepper, Bradley T. "The Newark Earthworks: Monumental Geometry and Astronomy at a Hopewellian Pilgrimage Center", in Hero, Hawk, and Open Hand: American Indian Art of the Ancient Midwest and South, edited by Richard V. Townsend and Robert V. Sharp. Art Institute of Chicago and Yale University Press, 2004.
  7. Lepper, Bradley T. Ohio Archaeology: An Illustrated Chronicle of Ohio's Ancient American Indian Cultures. Wilmington, Ohio, Orange Frazer Press, 2005.