An Ancient Fascination with Geometry

It surprises many people today to learn that American Indians of the Hopewell Culture designed so much geometry into their earthworks.

The Hopewell were the first Native Americans to incorporate polygons into their earthwork architecture. What these geometric shapes symbolized to the Hopewell people remains a mystery, but they built over 500 small circular or square earthworks in Ohio.  In addition to these, the Hopewell designed and built dozens of enormous geometrical complexes containing more than one geometric space enclosed by earthen embankment walls.

Hopewell earthworks can contain:

  • Circles
  • Squares
  • “Squircles” (squares with rounded corners)
  • Octagons and other polygons
  • Parallel walls that appear to serve as passageways between enclosures or entrances into ceremonial complexes. They may also have marked alignments to astronomical events

Most impressive, however, are the designs of the Hopewell’s giant earthwork complexes. The architecture of these great earthworks can be surprisingly complex.