Thursday, January 3, 2013

Archaeoastronomy: The Hopewell Mounds - Newark Earthworks

Google Map of Mound Builders Country Club
Newark Earthworks (circle and octogon)
I love to play golf!  It seems like I’ve been playing golf my whole life, but I was probably eight or nine when I actually started.  Now that I’m over sixty, I still enjoy the game especially playing exceptionally beautiful or unusual courses.  Well, I’ve run across a golf course that certainly fits that description!  Yet, I have mixed feelings about playing the course. 
Map of Newark Earthworks 1848
The name of the course is “Mound Builders Country Club” in Newark, Ohio.  Because it is a private course, I probably couldn’t ever play it anyway, but what gives me pause is the course’s location.  It was built right on top of one of the premier Native American earthworks.  Sometimes called the “Newark Earthworks” since it was so designated in a drawing by Squier and Davis in 1848, it is more popularly known by the names of three preserved sections “Octogon Earthworks ”, “Great Circle Earthworks”, and the “Wright Earthworks”.
What are they?  They are THE largest earthen enclosures in the world occupying over 3,000 acres.  Today, about 206 acres remain of the site and is preserved as a state park by the Ohio Historical Society.   It was built by the Hopewell Culture between 250 AD and 500 AD and was a sacred place of ceremony, social gathering, trade, worship, and was  an enormous lunar observatory used to track the moon’s orbit during its 18.6-year cycle.  The Circle and Octogon were used to determine events throughout the 18.6 year lunar cycle through exacting alignments.  Watch this very interesting video on the alignment.
Newark Earthworks today
The “Great Circle Earthworks” is 1,054 feet wide, which is the largest circular earthwork in the Amercas (in construction effort).  Eight-foot walls encircle a five-foot moat-like ditch that grows deeper and the walls grow higher at the entrance.
The “Octagon Earthworks” which includes a large octagon and connected circle mounds is twice as precise as the famous Stonehenge in England.
The site has had an interesting history.  From 1892 to 1908, it was an Ohio State militia encampment.  Then it was owned by the Newark Board of Trade until 1918.  In 1910, they leased the property to Mound Builder Country Club which developed the site as a golf course.  In 1918, the court appointed a trustee to manage the property until 1933.  In 1997, the Ohio Historical Society signed a lease with the Country Club to maintain, secure and provide limited public access to the site.
In the Squier and Davis drawing, note that the site originally contained a geometrically near-perfect square enclosure that enclosed about 20 acres.  Farming, construction of the Ohio Canal, and residential building has consumed all but a 200-foot segment of one wall.
Below is a diagram of lunar alignments.

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