THE NEWARK EARTHWORKS
It is not known precisely when the Hopewell Indians created the Earthworks, so we can only surmise they were constructed between 100 B.C and 400 A.D.
I’ve already mentioned their impressive size; however it’s only from the air that you can really begin to grasp how big this complex really was.
There are three main features, known as the Great Circle Earthworks
, the Octagon Earthworks
and the Wright Earthworks
Earthwork complex was used for the burial of Hopwell dead, ceremonial purposes, and most interestingly the Octagon Earthworks was an elaborate
, which I’ll be covering in more detail further on in the thread.
I’m going to overlay an 1862 map of the earthworks by Newark residents James H. and Charles B. Salisbury, this will give you an idea of their size.
They surveyed the site before the area was settled and ravaged by modern construction and infrastructure development. At this point I'll say that the
images below detail an area around 3.5 km by 2.5km, I told you this complex was HUGE!
Aerial View of the site, can you make out any of the
Aerial view with a partial overlay of the 1892 map
Just the map on it’s own
The Great Circle
The Great Circle is a huge earthwork with a diameter of 360 meters, its walls are an impressive 2.4 meters high and they lay in front of a moat that
is 1.5 meters deep! It is widely believed that this was the ceremonial centre of the site.
Archaeologists excavated the Great Circle in 1992 in an attempt to discover how the Hopewell built this amazing monument.
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.
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
In the second stage of construction, the builders dug a ditch inside the circle of mounds and piled up the dark brown topsoil on top of, and in the
gaps between, the mounds. This buried the circle of mounds under a dark brown circular enclosure.
In the final stage of construction, the builders dug deep pits nearby and used the yellowish-brown earth from deep underground to cover the inside of
the circular enclosure. At the end of this stage, the outer surface of the Great Circle would have been dark brown, but the inside surface of the
circle would have been bright yellowish-brown
One can only wonder what significance these colours held for the Hopewell.
Photo showing a segment of the Great Circle’s wall and moat
The Eagle Mound
In the centre of the Great Circle there is a low mound called Eagle Mound. Perhaps it once was a effigy mound resembling an eagle but today, it
just appears to be a cluster of low mounds.
As explained by Bradley T Lepper, in 1996:
Eagle Mound, at the centre of the Great Circle, covers the remains of a structure which may have served as a charnel house (Lepper 1989).
Although no human remains were encountered in Greenman's 1928 excavations, Smucker (1881) refers to earlier excavations which did encounter "...an
altar built of stone, upon which were found ashes, charcoal, and calcined bones..." (Smucker 1881:266).
In 1928, Emerson Greenman excavated the Eagle Mound and discovered evidence of postholes and a wooden structure, suggesting a large covered ceremonial
The postmold pattern Greenman uncovered is the remains of a large rectangular structure almost 100 feet long by about 23 feet wide with walls
like wings extending outward on each side at a forty-degree angle from the main axis.
Although highly similar to Hopewell mortuary areas, the dig gave up no human remains, so the exact purpose of the Eagle Mound is a mystery.
The entrance/exit walls to the outer feature are in fact larger than in other parts which would have made approaching the Great Circle an awe
inspiring experience for the Hopewell. On exiting the Circle 2,000 years ago, a Hopewell Indian would have found himself walking on a walled path
leading to the next monument in this complex.
The Wright Earthwork
Connected to the Great Circle by a walled pathway, this monument has been mostly destroyed by modern construction. All that remains is a 15 meter
section, a sorry remnant of a near perfect square, detailed below in the 1862 survey.
Map and image detailing portion of Square Monument still in
Using the 1862 map as a guide, we can see that the Wright Earthwork Square had sides 290 meters in length, very impressive in my opinion. It is just
immensely sad that more of this Earthwork hasn’t survived.
The Cherry Valley Mounds
The Cherry Valley Mounds is the name given to about a dozen mounds in the middle of an oval enclosure, about 550 meters across. The mounds
themselves contained several human burials with deluxe grave goods, including sheets of mica between one-half and one inch in thickness.
Unfortunately, the Cherry Valley Mounds, located at the east edge of the earthworks have been largely destroyed by the urban expansion of the city of
Finally I can talk to you about the main attraction at The Newark Earthworks, as if the Great Circle wasn’t “Great” enough! Anyone who is
interested in Ancient Astronomy will enjoy the next part of the thread.
[edit on 14-2-2010 by kiwifoot]