In the search for interesting historical sights, sometimes you stumble upon them in your own back yard.
If you are near central OH and get the chance, you really need to stop by Newark to see the Newark Earthworks, as we did this past weekend. I remember taking class trips way-back-when to some of the earth mounds that are sprinkled throughout the state, but I admit I had never visited the ones in Newark and I’m glad I finally did!
The Newark Earthworks are enormous geometric mounds of earth created probably between 100 BC and 500 AD by what we now call the Hopewell people. Used to mark centers of culture, business, and worship, the earthworks precisely align with the moon, not unlike England’s Stonehenge, which was built much earlier. The entire complex near Newark once covered about 3,000 acres, and the Great Circle, pictured in part above, once contained the whole Licking County Fairgrounds in the 19th century, if that gives you an idea of its scale. Scientists believe people traveled to this center from perhaps thousands of miles away.
What grabs your attention is the scale, precision, complexity, and careful astronomical alignment with which these earthworks were built. Furthermore, material that ls not and was not native to Ohio has been found as components used in their construction, indicating that these structures held particular importance for the culture and were planned with the utmost care. Unfortunately, only a portion of the original complex remains after more than a thousand years, but what remains is still amazing.
So if you find yourself in the area, stop by the biggest earth circle in the Americas. Walk, look, learn, and enjoy. Imagine how prehistoric people carved out mammoth earthen structures that remain to this day. And if you can’t make the trip, you can always take a virtual tour – a YouTube “tour” of the earthworks can be found online here.