DISCOVERING AND UNCOVERING THE SPLENDOR OF OHIO HOPEWELL

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Yesteryear’s eyeball, map-and-compass surveys have been superceded by technologies I could not have imagined 40 years ago.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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Memorial Day Tribute

Monday, May 30th, we celebrate another Memorial Day. Well, those of us who have served in the United States Armed Forces understand that “celebrate” is not an  appropriate way to mark this day of reflection and thanks for those who have given their lives in the service of our country.

Memorial Day originated as in 1868 as “Decoration Day,” a solemn occasion for placing flowers on the graves of Union soldiers killed in the War Between the States. The name was later changed to Memorial Day, held each year on the last Monday of May.

For many Americans, Memorial Day is simply enjoyed as a day away from work, a day for burgers and hotdogs or other culinary fare prepared in the backyard or in picnic grounds. Still, the solemnity of the occasion remains, with the goal of honoring the sacrifices of those who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces.

When most Americans think of Memorial Day, it is those who died in combat who are remembered. Yet, lives are also lost in non-combat roles. These men and women, too, should be remembered and honored for their sacrifice.

I enlisted in the United States Navy in 1962. As an Aviation Electrician’s Mate, I was assigned to VA-81, an air squadron assigned to the aircraft carrier USS Forrestal. During my years with the squadron, we deployed for two 9-month Mediterranean cruises, two or three Caribbean cruises, and shorter “carrier qualification” cruises designed to for pilots to practice take-offs and landings on the pitching deck of the carrier.

My responsibilities necessitated long hours working on the flight deck during take-offs and landings. Often, this was done at night with illumination only from red – not white – lights. During my time in the Navy, it was recognized that aircraft carrier flight deck duty was the second most dangerous job in the world; the most dangerous job was steeplejack, those brave souls who climbe to the top of skyscrapers, flagpoles, and other altitudinal structures for painting or maintenance.

The Forrestal lost men on each of my 9-month cruises. Pilots went down with their planes; men were blown or otherwise fell overboard; and others were victims of accidents resulting from carelessness or indifference of their shipmates.

During one day-time operation, one of our pilots lost his life. He was a promising 26-year-old lieutentant. He was also extremely popular with his fellow officers and with enlisted men. He and I had played together on the squadron basketball team, and I developed a special fondness for him.

Planes were preparing to launch. As he throttled his plane toward the catapult, his rolled through a patch of fuel spilled on the flight deck. His plane began to skid sideways toward the ship’s port (left) side, and began its plunge toward the water below. Following his training, he pulled the ejection lever and with his seat still attached, was propelled away from the ship. Sadly, his angle of ejection was too low, and he and his seat hit the water with tremendous impact. He likely died instantly. A young man whose contributions to the Navy and beyondwere never to be realized.

A pilot from a different squadron taxied toward the forward elevator, which had just lowered a plane down to the hangar bay. This pilot’s plane began to fall into the elevator shaft; he, too, ejected. But as he rocketed skyward, his legs struck a crossbar of “Tilly,” the industrial crane used to lift cargo and aircraft onto the ship. He, too, was lost.

I worked the night shift on my second and last Mediterranean Cruise in 1965-66. One afternoon, the Forrestal was taking on fuel from a tanker alongside. This work party required several sailors, many wrestling heavy fuel hoses while standing on the elevator which was lowered to hangar deck level.

Standing at the edge of the elevator on the flight deck, I watched in horror and sadness as the flight surgeon, the medical doctor assigned to the ship, stooped to pick up fragments of bone and flesh from a sailor who, an hour earlier, was doing his duty in service to his country. The victim had been crushed by a hydraulic jenny, one ton or so in weight, that had broken loose from from its mooring on the flight deck. As the ship pitched and rolled with the waves of the northern Atlantic, the jenny gained momentum as it rolled and plunged downward, ultimately ending the life of the young man serving his country.

I share the stories of these men and their sacrifices to remind readers that Memorial Day is, to our nation, a time to reflect upon and honor those whose lives were lost in military service.

On this and every Memorial Day, please hold in your hearts and minds the lives of all who made the ultimate sacrifice while serving in our armed forces.  Our nation perseveres because of these men and women to whom we owe a heartfelt and humble “Thank you.”

Jack Bernhardt, Hillsborough, NC, May 27,2016