10 things to know about some of Ohio’s ancient Indian mounds

The Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks in south central Ohio is a group of 2,000-year-old American Indian mounds that will be considered in a few years by the UN for the prestigious World Heritage List.

Here are 10 things to know about the mounds:

1. THE NAME: The Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks were built by ancient American Indians. We don't know what they called themselves because they left no written record. The name "Hopewell" comes from Capt. Mordecai Hopewell, who owned the land in the 1890s that is now the Hopewell Mound Group outside Chillicothe, which is one of the nine sites that comprise the Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks.

2. THE SIZE: These earthworks were HUMONGOUS. About 100 football fields would fit in the Hopewell Mound Group complex.

3. GOOD AT MATH: The ancient Hopewells were mathematicians, and possessed an appreciation for geometry. Their ceremonial complexes consist of perfect circles, squares and octagons.

4. ANCIENT STARGAZERS: Astronomical alignments were built into the design of the Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks. The Octagon Earthworks in Newark, for example, is in alignment with the 18.6-year-old lunar cycle.

5. SKILLED ARTISTS: The Hopewells made jewelry beads out of shells and freshwater pearls. They also made beautiful ornaments out of copper and mica.

6. WHAT ELSE MAKES THE SITES SPECIAL?: South central Ohio was the cultural epicenter for the eastern half of the North American continent 2,000 years ago. Archaeologists believe artifacts like obsidian from Yellowstone National Park, mica from North Carolina, shells from the Gulf of Mexico and copper from Lake Superior indicate that people came from great distances to visit the Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks.

7. ARE INDIANS BURIED IN THE MOUNDS?: Yes, in some of them. A good example is at Siep Earthworks outside Chillicothe. The cremated remains of about 100 individuals were found at that site.

8. WHAT ABOUT SERPENT MOUND?: People in Ohio are familiar with Serpent Mound in Adams County. It's the largest snake effigy in the world. The snake's coils are aligned to various moonrises and moonsets. The head of the serpent is aligned with the setting sun on the summer solstice. But Serpent Mound was not built by the Hopewells. Instead, it was built around 1,000 years ago by some of the Hopewells' descendents who are called the Fort Ancient people.

9. WHAT ABOUT SUNWATCH VILLAGE?: Unique in the United States is SunWatch Indian Village/Archaeological Park in the city of Dayton. It, like Serpent Mound, was built by the Fort Ancient people about 700 years ago.

10. HOW TO VISIT THE SITES: The public sites are open every day during daylight hours. The Fort Ancient Museum (800-283-8904) is open Tuesday - Saturday, 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.; Sunday, noon - 5 p.m. April through November; admission, $6 adults, $5 seniors and students, free for children under 6. The Mound City Group Visitors Center (740-774-1126) is open 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day; donations accepted. The Great Circle Museum (800-589-8224) is open Monday -Friday, 8:30 a.m. - 5 p.m.; Saturday, noon - 5 p.m. and Sunday, 1 - 5 p.m, except on and around major holidays; donations accepted.

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