The burial mounds and geometric earthworks erected by Adena and Hopewell peoples of Ohio have intrigued onlookers, antiquarians, and scholars since their discoveries in the 18th Century.
The Adena peoples (ca. 1000 B.C. to 100 B.C.) and their Hopewell descendents (ca.100 B.C. to A.D. 400) created a landscape resplendent with mounds and gargantuan geometric earthworks of circles, squares, rectangles and octagons, and earthen embankments marking the sacred spaces for themselves and posterity.
Some Hopewell earthworks have been preserved and others reconstructed following excavation. The spectacular Newark Works in Licking County, covering an area of four square miles, are nominated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In the Scioto River Valley’s Hopewell “heartland,” the Hopewell Culture National Historical Park (which includes the Mound City Group) is under stewardship of the National Park Service, which also conducts scientific excavations to extend our knowledge of these monumental wonders of yore.
During the 1970s, I conducted archaeological investigations of Ohio Hopewell communities with methods quite “primitive” by today’s standards. Surveys designed to discover Hopewell settlement patterns and remnants of mounds and earthworks shaved invisible by centuries of plowing were done by walking fields and mapping surface finds with the aid of U.S. Geological Survey topographic maps and orienteering compass.
Yesteryear’s eyeball, map-and-compass surveys have been superceded by technologies I could not have imagined 40 years ago. Dr. Jerrod Burks, President of the Ohio-based Heartland Earthworks Conservancy (HEC), uses nondestructive geophysical technologies to reveal Hopewell earthworks invisible to the naked eye. Using the 1848 Squier and Davis masterwork (Ancient Monuments of the Mississippi Valley) as his guide, Burks has rediscovered earthworks mapped by the pioneering duo but whose surface visibility has been obliterated by the plow.
Using these technologies along with images revealed by LiDar, Google Earth, and drone imagery, Burks and his colleagues have located and mapped important sites such as Milford Earthworks in the Little Miami River drainage, the Steel and Junction Works in Ross County (see attached Google Earth image of the Junction Works). The HEC works with agencies such as Arc of Appalachia to locate, purchase and preserve these endangered cultural resources.
Because of the diligence and dedication of these organizations working alongside professional and avocational archaeologists, and private citizens who contribute to the stewardship of Ohio’s cultural resources, Ohio archaeology today is preserving past splendors that future generations may also gaze upon with wonder and awe.
To learn more about, and contribute to, the efforts of the Heartland Earthworks Conservancy, go to http://www.earthworksconservancy.org/
Jack Bernhardt, Hillsborough, NC . June 12, 2016