Fort Ancient recognition may increase Warren County visibility, historical awareness

Jack Blosser, one of the unsung heroes of a local state memorial being added as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, retired as the park’s superintendent two years ago. But he is thrilled that Fort Ancient and other Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks in Ohio received the international recognition on par with the Taj Mahal, the Grand Canyon, Stonehenge, Mammoth Cave, the Redwoods National Park, the Eiffel Tower, the Great Pyramid of Giza, Machu Picchu, and the Great Wall of China.

The Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks were nominated to the UNESCO World Heritage List in January 2022 by the U.S. Department of the Interior, but the process to get to that point has been over a decade in the making.

Public celebrations are planned next month at the ancient earthworks.

The UNESCO World Heritage List includes sites that are considered to be of outstanding value to humanity and the world.

The World Heritage Site inscription brings recognition to places of exceptional interest and value. There are only about 1,000 World Heritage sites around the globe. The eight Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks sites are in Licking, Ross and Warren counties.

The Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks, which include five locations managed by the National Park Service and three managed by the Ohio History Connection, were built by Native Americans between 1,600 and 2,000 years ago. They are complex masterpieces of landscape architecture and are exceptional among ancient monuments worldwide in their enormous scale, geometric precision and astronomical alignments.

Collectively, these special and sacred places constitute Ohio’s first World Heritage Site. It is also the 25th site in the United States on the World Heritage List.

Blosser, who served 32 years as Fort Ancient Earthworks and Nature Preserve site director, remembers when the effort to seek the World Heritage Site designation began some 12 to 14 years ago. He said the group reached out to get the support of local government and businesses for the designation by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

When the announcement was made Sept. 19 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Blosser said his first reaction was, “We finally did it.”

“I still feel very involved with it and there were so many people involved,” Blosser said. “I’m glad the Ohio History Connection and the National Park Service continued the effort.”

Blosser said the effort also saw the creation of a friendship with the Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma.

He said the ancient earthworks site will see an increase in visitors in the coming years now that Fort Ancient and its sister ceremonial earthworks have been recognized. Blosser said Warren County has made preliminary considerations for future development near Fort Ancient now that it has its new designation.

“We’re really excited about this,” said Phil Smith, president and CEO of the Warren County Convention and Visitors Bureau. “We expect a spike in the number of visitors there (at Fort Ancient).”

Martin Russell, Warren County’s deputy administrator, said the new designation “puts us on the map to be on the same list as the Taj Mahal. This adds to the diversity of experiences that attract people to visit Warren County as there is something for everyone.”

Jennifer Aultman, chief historic sites officer for the Ohio History Connection, spent the last seven years as the project director to get Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks listed as a World Heritage Site.

Aultman said receiving the designation was a team effort.

“No one person could have done this alone,” she said. “It was a huge undertaking that took a whole team that included working with local stakeholders, representatives of various American Indian tribes, and the National Park Service Office of International Affairs. The application was a very prescriptive process.”

Aultman said one of the challenges was to create a true reflection of the sites to help Americans and Ohioans understand why Fort Ancient received this world designation. She also encourages Ohioans to visit all of the sites to gain a better understanding and context of how these early American Indian tribes are connected.

“We want to build experiences through preservation and education,” she said. “We need to manage tourism to help people understand these areas.”

While Fort Ancient is now a World Heritage Site, Aultman said UNESCO is not taking over the site or managing it in the future. Five of the earthworks sites are managed by the National Park Service, and three are managed by the Ohio History Connection.

Ohio has two more historical sites in the nomination process and are on the tentative list to be recognized as a World Heritage Site. They are the Dayton Aviation Sites, which was listed in 2008; and the Serpent Mound, which was also listed in 2008. The two Ohio sites are among 18 sites on the tentative list by the United States.

Celebrate Ohio historic Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks

The commemoration events for the Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks will be held Oct. 7, 8, 14 and 15 at the sites in Licking, Ross and Warren counties:

• Fort Ancient Earthworks & Nature Preserve, 6123 Ohio 350 in Oregonia, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 7, and Sunday, Oct. 8. The main program will be at 11 a.m. Oct. 7 in the South Fort picnic shelter, and programs and tours will be scheduled throughout both days. The Ohio History Connection manages Fort Ancient.

• Hopewell Culture National Historical Park, 16062 Ohio 104 in Chillicothe, from noon to 4 p.m. Oct. 14. An official commemoration ceremony with several speakers, including Chief Glenna Wallace of the Eastern Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma, begins at 1 p.m. For details, visit The National Park Service manages Hopewell Culture National Historical Park.

• The Newark Earthworks, including the Great Circle Earthworks, 455 Hebron Road in Heath, and the Octagon Earthworks, 125 N. 33rd St. in Newark, from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Oct. 15. A commemoration program will begin at 1 p.m. at the Octagon, and regular tours and speakers will be scheduled at both sites throughout the day. The Ohio History Connection manages the Newark Earthworks.

Admission and parking are free; signs directing visitors to designated parking lots and shuttles will be posted at each location, and more details about the events will be available at

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