Fw: Project seeks to spark new interest in ancient monuments
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From: I.C.A.R.E. [mailto:i.c.a.r.e@...]
Project seeks to spark new interest in ancient monuments
By GREG WRIGHT
Gannett News Service
WASHINGTON -- According to a Cherokee legend, prophets long ago led the
And the prophets would dream and ask the people to build monuments to make
their visions reality.
That is how as many as 10,000, massive American Indian earthworks that once
dotted the Eastern and Southern United States and Midwest came to be, said
Barbara Crandell, 74, Thornville.
"Some were built for the sun and some for the moon," said Crandell, who is
of Cherokee descent and heard the story from her mother and grandfather.
"And some were for ceremony and for different things they did -- to bring
good luck to them and to bring the blessings of the gods."
The long-abandoned earthworks or mounds have fallen to encroaching cities
and farms -- probably fewer than a dozen remain complete, researchers say.
Millions of modern-day Americans live or work near earthworks in more than
20 states from Florida to Wisconsin but do not know they exist.
A University of Cincinnati project is trying to rebuild the earthworks -- at
least on the Internet. In July, the university announced that its project --
to visually reconstruct about two dozen earthworks in Ohio, Indiana and
Kentucky -- is 80 percent complete.
The Web project will teach the public something most people don't learn in
school or from watching Westerns on television, said John Hancock, an
architecture historian at the university who led the work.
More than 2,000 years ago American Indians were building sophisticated,
large-scale projects -- including the Great Circle 1,200 feet across and 15
feet high in Newark, Ohio, and a giant, 1,360-foot-long Serpent Mound near
Brush Creek in Adams County.
Many of the structures are absolutely level and precise and are aligned with
the cycles of the moon, Hancock said.
Some 19th-century historians said American Indians, who then were considered
savages, could not have built the structures. Vikings, Egyptians, lost
sailors from Wales and even the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel were credited
instead, Hancock said.
Historians who reviewed the University of Cincinnati project say giving
American Indians recognition for the work is long overdue. However, some
American Indians say the public needs more access to actual sites,
especially Octagon Mound that is also in Newark.
"I'm for justice generally, and historic justice is one kind of justice,"
said Roger Kennedy, a former National Park Service director and author of
"Hidden Cities: The Discovery and Loss of Ancient North American
"So my interest, according to my Indian brothers and sisters, is credit for
the wonderful thing their ancestors did," he said.
The Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky earthworks depicted on the University of
Cincinnati Web site were built between 600 B.C. and 1200 A.D., researchers
said. Little is known about the builders, who now are referred to as the
Adena, Fort Ancient and Hopewell cultures.
These early Americans probably lived in extended family groups in small
villages throughout the Ohio River Valley, Hancock said. For some reason
they came together to build the earthworks, which likely were used for
religious or civic ceremonies such as feasts and marriages.
The earthworks also may have been used as calendars -- several sites in
Ohio, including Serpent Mound, mark the rising and setting of the moon in
18.6-year cycles, researchers said. And burial sites often are nearby.
Building giant shapes by piling up earth may sound easy, but it took much
ingenuity from people who probably used deer antlers and woven baskets to
dig and carry millions of cubic feet of soil, said Bradley Lepper, an
archaeologist at the Ohio Historical Society in Columbus.
The builders also had to be organized. The mounds were built over several
generations, Hancock said.
Builders paid close attention to soil texture and color and knew what type
of clay and soil to use so the earthworks would not collapse, historians
said. For instance, a 1992 archaeological dig at the Great Circle in Newark
found that the outside was made with dark earth while the inside was lined
with brighter, yellow-brown clay.
"In Native American societies, different colors have different associations
and mean different directions," said Lepper, explaining that the different
soil colors probably had symbolic meaning.
The University of Cincinnati assembled a team of artists, designers,
archaeologists, American Indians and scholars to do illustrations of
earthwork sites, Hancock said. Some of the information was gleaned from
illustrations and maps drawn more than a century ago.
The drawings were then converted into digital images using 3D Studio MAX
software and put on the Web site, which offers still shots and movie
sequences, Hancock said. Touches were added to make the images more
realistic, including vegetation and wisps of fog that still rise from the
"I have seen the portrayals he (Hancock) has done," said Jean McCoard,
secretary of the Native American Alliance of Ohio in Lucasville. "I believe
they've approached it from a very sensitive point of view. The architectural
point of view."
McCoard said she appreciates the effort.
Native American history is not taught extensively in Ohio public schools.
And the Ohio Historical Society, which owns several of the earthworks sites,
could do a better job portraying the earthworks in museums and making them
more widely known among state residents, said McCoard, who is of Cherokee
But Crandell said the University of Cincinnati Web site is sterile. The
images show aerial shots of the earthworks and thatched huts that were near
the sites but few try to depict the people who made them.
"I think it's kind of flat," she said. "I mean, this is a living thing. They
have spirit. They have character."
Crandell said she was arrested, charged with criminal trespassing, and
ordered to pay $800 in fines and court costs when she tried to enter the
Octagon earthworks on June 26, 2002. Thanks to contributions from the
public, she was able to pay the fines.
The Ohio Historical Society owns the earthworks but rents the space to
Moundbuilders Country Club for $28,000 a year, which helps pay for site
upkeep, said George Kane, director of facilities management at the Ohio
The Ohio Historical Society soon will release a new site use plan that will
commit them to making the site more open, Kane said. The site now is open to
the public only four days a year, including all day Aug. 11.
McCoard said she is glad the Ohio Historical Society invited American
Indians' input on the plan. But in the end, the new plan will not let
American Indians and the rest of the public roam around the earthworks more
One issue is safety, Lepper said. Flying golf balls could hit tourists, and
the club has a lease for the site until 2078.
Ironically, having a golf course near Octagon Mound for almost a century has
helped preserve it, archaeologists said.
But Kennedy said he wished the Newark site had more focus on history than
"The golf carts should go," he said.
Originally published Monday, July 28, 2003
Advocacy, Resources, and Education
Cultural Awareness in Recovery and Education
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- this was a nice contribution.
the situation at the Newark Ohio Octagon is disgusting.
a private golf course has been built on the site and has existed for years.
As noted the place is hardly ever open to the public.
this is one of the most amazing mound sites in the US.
the state could suspend the the country club's lease any time.
but then they would have the cost of maintaining the site.
overall awareness of mound culture is relatively high in Ohio.
maybe a change is coming soon.
At 11:37 AM 11/29/2003 -0600, you wrote:
>From: I.C.A.R.E. [mailto:i.c.a.r.e@...]
>Project seeks to spark new interest in ancient monuments
>By GREG WRIGHT
>Gannett News Service
>WASHINGTON -- According to a Cherokee legend, prophets long ago led the
>And the prophets would dream and ask the people to build monuments to make
>their visions reality.
>That is how as many as 10,000, massive American Indian earthworks that once
>dotted the Eastern and Southern United States and Midwest came to be, said
>Barbara Crandell, 74, Thornville.