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The size of these earthworks is impressive. The Great Circle is nearly 1,200 feet in diameter, and the Octagon Earthworks enclose 50 acres (its linked circle encloses 20 acres). The entire complex was about 3,000 acres in extent.
100 B.C. to A.D. 500
The Hopewell culture is an ancient American Indian civilization that arose in Ohio and other parts of eastern North America during the Middle Woodland Period, perhaps as early as 100 BC. It is characterized by gigantic mounds and earthen enclosures in a variety of shapes, magnificent works of art crafted from raw materials brought to Ohio from great distances, and particular styles of stone tools and pottery unique to this time and region.
The Hopewell people lived in small villages, or hamlets, scattered throughout the river valleys of southern Ohio where they grew a variety of crops, including sunflower, squash, goosefoot, maygrass, and other plants with oily or starchy seeds. They also gathered wild plants, hunted for deer and other large and small game, and fished. The earthworks also must have served as places for these dispersed groups to gather periodically to renew friendships and socialize.
The Hopewell created some of the finest craftwork and artwork of the Americas. Most of their works had some religious significance, and their graves were filled with necklaces, ornate carvings made from bone or wood, decorated ceremonial pottery, ear plugs, and pendants.
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 tan-colored silt.
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
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.
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).
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.
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 Newark.
The Octagon Earthworks include a large circular enclosure 1,054 feet in diameter connected by a set of parallel walls to an octagonal enclosure that encompasses nearly fifty acres. The walls of the octagon vary from five to six feet in height and are each about 550 feet long. There is a platform, or loaf-shaped, mound at each opening to the octagon. The circular earthwork encloses an area of about 20 acres. A large platform mound, referred to as Observatory Mound, is located along the southwestern perimeter of the circle opposite the gateway to the octagon. The form of Observatory Mound suggests it was built across a former entrance to the circular earthwork.
This was perplexing, until it dawned on them that there were no solar alignments because the walls were aligned to something else – the moon. They found that the architecture of the Octagon Earthworks incorporated alignments to all of the eight major moonrises and moonsets that define a repeating 18.6-year lunar cycle.
The Octagon Earthworks are a remarkable testament to the architectural and engineering genius of the Hopewell culture, but astronomers recently have come to realize that the Hopewell culture builders aligned these earthworks to the cyclical dance of the earth and moon. If you stand atop the Observatory Mound and look across the circle through the parallel-walled passage leading into the octagon and out through the octagon's northeastern gateway, the point on the horizon at which you are sighting is where the moon rises at its most northerly extreme. The intricate 18.6 year-long cycle of the moon can be encompassed by four points on the eastern horizon marking a maximum northern moonrise, a minimum northern moonrise, a maximum and minimum southern moonrise and four points on the western horizon marking the corresponding moonsets. The Hopewell culture builders encoded all of these astronomical landmarks into the architecture of the Octagon.
or it’s an immensely boring topic for ATS members!
Originally posted by havok
Beautiful presentation, kiwifoot!
I am astonished about how huge this area is, and love the fact that its almost in my backyard! Well, not really. But, close!
I have visited the Serpent Mound and loved every second of it. Also visited Seven Caves and definitely wondered if the Hopewell lived there!
Its amazing how the people of this area lived here, and flourished!
You have to wonder how advanced these people were...
All the different civilizations across the globe that had the same ideas and similar styles. Almost seems like the entire globe branched off of one major group of beliefs and after time, built their own monuments.
What really sickens me is the fact that this entire observatory has been built upon! Ruined, in a sense that man should of never built homes there.
Mankind sickens me.
Originally posted by jimmyx
great presentation!! amazing what is still out there for all to see. our ancestors intellect cannot be dismissed.
Originally posted by iMacFanatic
Well you have certainly done your homework.
I first heard about these...gawd maybe as a teen and I am 54 now. I was really into studying history, archeology and anthropology at the time as well as oddities.
I forget where I learned of them though...perhaps Ripley's or Charles Fort or a book on the antiquities of North America.
Regardless they are fascinating and what is even more fascinating is that these sites you are talking about are not isolated. They exist all up and down the Mississippi river valley and its tributaries.
In fact as I understand it at the same time these earthworks were in use larger sites existed in and around St.Louis...which have been obscured by the sprawl of the current cities...
Also in the same St. Louis region existed a city that would rival the present one in size and for awhile was the largest known in either North or South America.
Originally posted by baddmove
WoW! Not boring at all, in fact i thought it was a great read and presented very well. Thank you for your time and effort! I actually lived in Ohio for a few years and had never heard of this place or these people, so..thank you !
Originally posted by Kandinsky
reply to post by kiwifoot
Nice thread again.
I usually prepare for new threads on A&LCs by rolling up my sleeves and taking a deep breath. Other times the title is just depressingly predictable. Compliments for posting OPs without the woo-factor...keep 'em coming...
Originally posted by whattheh
Great thread! Thanks for the hard work.
What do you think of this theory?
With walled pathways to the other mounds, the structure in the middle, the lowered sections, sound like this was battle trenches. The structure in the middle was to feed the fighters during long battles, hence the ashes (they don’t say if the bones are human or animal). You can go from mound to mound protected from the walled pathways. Fighting with bows and arrows from mounds of dirt would create a good defensive position.
From the map sowing the other tribes it appears they were surrounded on all sides and this may have been a very well fortified position to fight them all off. They were able to carry the dead to the burial mound protected from the walled pathways. They would also be able to deliver food and more arrows using these walled trenches. The moonlight would help you see your enemy approaching and would help with aiming.
Maybe the larger area with no structure was for briefing the troops prior to battle like we still do before a major offensive. Maybe it was where they made the arrows to fight with.
Just some thoughts from reading the information presented.
I don’t know why all archeologists automatically assume every culture had some form of worship and religious ceremonies. It seems like they do not examine all possibilities.