View along the main wall and the moat from the outside of the Great Circle. The break in the wall - the traditional entrance - is visible in the far distance.
|Location||Roughly bounded by Union, 30th, James, and Waldo Sts., and OH 16,Newark, Ohio|
|Area||190 acres (77 ha) (landmarked area)|
|Architectural style||Hopewell culture|
|NRHP reference #||66000614|
|Added to NRHP||October 10, 1966|
|Designated NHL||July 19, 1964|
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."
This is part of the Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks, one of 14 sites nominated in January 2008 by the U.S. Department of the Interior for potential submission by the US to the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Built by the pre-European contact Hopewell culture between 100 AD and 500 AD, the earthworks were used as places of ceremony, social gathering, trade, worship, and honoring the dead. 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 miles. Scholars have demonstrated that the Octagon Earthworks comprise a lunar observatory for tracking the moon's orbit during its 18.6-year cycle.
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 (1.5 m) deep moat is encompassed by walls that are 8 feet (2.4 m) high; at the entrance, the dimensions are even more grand.
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.
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 (1.5 m) to 6 feet (1.8 m) high. The Octagon Earthworks are joined by parallel walls to a circular embankment enclosing 20 acres (8.1 ha).
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 18.6-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 theory).
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 1933.
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 site. 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 builders.
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 (8.1 ha). 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) long.
The Wright Earthworks are named in honor of Mrs. Frances Rees Wright, who donated the site to the Ohio Historical Society in 1934.