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Newark Earthworks

newark earthworks, newark earthworks center
The Newark Earthworks in Newark and Heath, Ohio, consist of three sections of preserved earthworks: the Great Circle Earthworks, the Octagon Earthworks, and the Wright Earthworks This complex, built by the Hopewell culture between 100 AD and 500 AD, contains the largest earthen enclosures in the world, being about 3,000 acres in extent Today, the preserved site covers 206 acres 83 ha, and is operated as a state park by the Ohio History Connection A designated National Historic Landmark, in 2006, the Newark Earthworks was also designated as the "official prehistoric monument of the State of Ohio"2

This is part of the Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks, one of 14 sites nominated in January 2008 by the US Department of the Interior for potential submission by the US to the UNESCO World Heritage List3


  • 1 History
  • 2 Great Circle Earthworks
  • 3 Octagon Earthworks
  • 4 Wright Earthworks
  • 5 See also
  • 6 References
  • 7 External links


Built by the pre-European contact Hopewell culture between 100 AD and 500 AD,4 the earthworks were used as places of ceremony, social gathering, trade, worship, and honoring the dead15 However, the primary purpose of the Octagon earthwork itself was believed to have been scientific The Newark Earthwork site is the largest surviving Hopewell earthwork complex in North America The culture built many earthen mounds Over decades, they built the single largest earthwork enclosure complex in the Ohio River Valley The earthworks cover several square miles5 Scholars have demonstrated that the Octagon Earthworks comprise a lunar observatory for tracking the moon's orbit during its 186-year cycle6

Great Circle Earthworksedit

Panoramic view from within the Great Circle, the wall of which can be seen in the background

The 1,054-foot 321 m wide Newark Great Circle is one of the largest circular earthwork in the Americas, at least in construction effort A 5-foot 15 m deep moat is encompassed by walls that are 8 feet 24 m high; at the entrance, the dimensions are even more grand5

One end of the Great Circle Earthworks, part of the Newark Earthworks

Researchers have used archaeogeodesy and archaeoastronomy to analyze the placements, alignments, dimensions, and site-to-site interrelationships of the earthworks This research has revealed that the prehistoric cultures in the area had advanced scientific understanding as the basis of their complex construction

Today, the Great Circle Earthworks are preserved in a public park in Heath

Octagon Earthworksedit

Fifty acres total, the Octagon Earthworks consists of an Observatory Mound, Observatory Circle, and the interconnected Octagon span nearly 3,000 feet 910 m in length It has eight 550-foot 170 m-long walls, from 5 feet 15 m to 6 feet 18 m high The Octagon Earthworks are joined by parallel walls to a circular embankment enclosing 20 acres 81 ha5

In 1982 researchers from Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana concluded that the complex was a lunar observatory, designed to track motions of the moon, including the northernmost point of the 186-year cycle of the lunar orbit When viewed from the observatory mound the moon rises at that time within one-half of a degree of the octagon's exact center The earthwork is twice as precise as the complex at Stonehenge assuming Stonehenge is an observatory, which is a disputed theory6

19th-century plan of the Works

From 1892 to 1908, the state of Ohio used the Octagon Earthworks as a militia encampment Immediately after this, the Newark Board of Trade owned the property, until 1918 In 1910, they leased the property to Mound Builders Country Club MBCC, which developed the site as a golf course As a result of a Licking County Common Pleas Court case, a trustee was named to manage the property from 1918 to 19336

In 1997 the Ohio Historical Society now the Ohio History Connection signed a lease until 2078 with the country club MBCC maintains, secures, and provides some public access to the land Some citizens believe the country club is an inappropriate use of the sacred site7 There has been increasing public interest in the earthworks Activists have pressed for more public access to the site to witness the moonrise, which observance was planned in the design and construction by the original native builders6

Wright Earthworksedit

The Wright Earthworks consist of a fragment of a geometrically near-perfect square enclosure and part of one wall that originally formed a set of parallel embankments, which travelled from the enclosure to a large oval yard The Newark square's sides formerly ranged from about 940 feet 290 m to 940 feet 290 m in length, enclosing a total area of about 20 acres 81 ha5 Farming and construction, associated with building the Ohio Canal and the streets and houses of the city of Newark, destroyed much of the square enclosure and its associated mounds The remaining segment of one wall of the square is less than 200 feet 61 m long2

The Wright Earthworks are named in honor of Mrs Frances Rees Wright, who donated the site to the Ohio Historical Society in 19342

See alsoedit

  • Earthwork archaeology
  • Fort Ancient
  • Hopewell Culture National Historical Park
  • List of Hopewell sites
  • Mound builder people


  1. ^ a b c d "National Register of Historical Places – Ohio OH, Licking County" National Register of Historic Places National Park Service 2008-01-13 
  2. ^ a b c "Wright Earthworks – Ohio History Central – A product of the Ohio Historical Society" Ohio History Central 2006-11-14 Retrieved 2012-01-26 
  3. ^ "Newark Earthworks Day" Octagonmoonriseorg Retrieved 2012-11-14 
  4. ^ Woodward, Susan L and Jerry N McDonald, Indian Mounds of the Ohio Valley: A Guide to Adena and Hopewell Sites, The McDonald & Woodward Publishing Company, Blacksburg, Virginia, 1986 p16-23
  5. ^ a b c d e "History" Ohio History Connection 2016 Retrieved 9 September 2016 
  6. ^ a b c d Maag, Christopher 2005-11-28 "Ohio Indian Mounds: Hallowed Ground and a Nice Par 3" New York Times 
  7. ^ "Visit" Ohio History Connection 2016 Retrieved 9 September 2016 

External linksedit

  • Newark Earthworks, The Ancient Ohio Trail
  • Official website from the Ohio Historical Society
  • The Newark Earthworks Center, The Ohio State University
  • Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks UNESCO World Heritage Nomination
  • The Great Circle Earthwork, Newark, Ohio
  • The Octagon Earthworks: A Neolithic Lunar Observatory

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