About Ancient Earthworks in Ohio

A remarkable profusion of mysterious earthen enclosures built in geometric patterns are clustered in southern Ohio. The most impressive were built about two thousand years ago when southern Ohio appears to have been the ceremonial center of an impressive civilization that archaeologists call the Hopewell Culture. For hundreds of years, loosely-structured communities of these Native Americans came together to build enormous ceremonial sites to inspire awe of the cosmos and celebrate the passages of life together.

For nearly two thousand years, these elaborately planned and carefully constructed complexes stood as ancient monuments to sacred places of the past, even as the primeval forest slowly covered them.

Map of Newark Earthworks by Squier and Davis 1848.

Unfortunately, in the last two hundred years, many of these ancient architectural monuments have been nearly erased from the landscape at the hands of modern development and agricultural activities. Though their embankment walls may have stood over ten feet high and extended for miles, many are now only barely visible to the unaided eye.

However, these sites are still valuable archaeological resources that can provide science with crucial clues to the nature of the mysterious ancient cultures who built them. Modern archaeological technology can detect the foundations of these structures under ground. The positions of walls and mounds can be precisely located with such instruments as magnetometers, electrical resistance meters,  ground-penetrating radar, and LiDAR, without any excavation whatsoever.

Modern no-till farming practices do no further harm to the structure of degraded earthwork sites. However, development and construction can destroy even the last vestiges of these architectural treasures.

Our endangered earthworks are globally significant cultural resources that  have real potential as heritage tourism assets. They are also still considered sacred sites by many Americans. The mission of Heartland Earthworks Conservancy is to encourage the preservation of these ancient wonders.