Stonehenge, the Acropolis, and Newark, Ohio

After reading the headline to this post, you might be thinking, “One of these things is not like the others.” However, Stonehenge, the Acropolis and Newark, Ohio may all have something in common very soon — United Nations World Heritage sites.

The United Nations maintains a list of “the properties forming part of the cultural and natural heritage which the World Heritage Committee considers as having outstanding universal value.” Stonehenge and the Acropolis (and 849 other sites) are currently listed.

How does Newark, Ohio fit into this? The Newark Earthworks — an impressive earthworks built by the Hopewell culture approximately 2,000 years ago. It lines up with the northernmost moonrise, which occurs only once every 18.6 years. (Galileo reportedly said that calculating the moon’s orbit was the only mathmatical problem that gave him a headache.) Ray Hively and Robert Horn of Earlham College calcuated that the chance of the Newark Earthworks having this alignment just by coincidence is astronomically small (yes, my pun was intended.) You can read more about the alignment at http://www.octagonmoonrise.org/Astronomy.html

The Newark Earthworks has been nominated to be added to the United Nations list. Also up for nomination are Seip Mound (Ross County), Fort Ancient (Warren County), Serpent Mound (Adams County) and the Dayton Aviation Sites.

You can help! You can write letters supporting the addition of the Newark Earthworks to the World Heritage List to:

Jonathan Putnam, Office of International Affairs, NPS, 1201 Eye Street NW, (0050), Washington, DC 20005; or by email at jonathan_putnam@nps.gov; by phone (202) 354-1809; or by fax at (202) 371-1446.

Deadline for public comment is November 30!

You can find more information about the World Heritage List, the Ohio nominees, and a sample letter at http://www.ohiohistory.org/sn/103107.html

You can find additional information about the Newark Earthworks at www.octagonmoonrise.org

History? Genealogy? Why not both?

In August 2005, the Indiana Historical Society and the Indiana Genealogical Society sponsored the Midwestern Roots conference in Indianapolis. The evening before the conference officially began, IHS hosted a panel discussion titled “History? Genealogy? Why not both?” which featured Curt Witcher and Elizabeth Shown Mills (with the genealogy point of view) and James Madison and Marianne Wokeck (with the history point of view). M. Teresa Baer’s opening comments and papers by Curt Witcher and Elizabeth Mills are available at http://www.iub.edu/%7Eimaghist/online_content/online_June_2007.html.

I attended the session and found all four participants interesting. What I took away from the discussion was the lack of animosity between the two fields. Contrary to what is sometimes “popular notion,” academic historians do not necessarily automatically scoff at anything smacking of genealogy.

My recent experiences also bear this out. I recently returned to school to finish my history degree and was a bit nervous about “admitting” to my professors that I am a genealogist. So far, I am 2 for 2 in having professors who did not see anything wrong with that. In fact, both professors were quite receptive. In a discussion with one, he expressed gratitude to genealogists. “Without them, we likely wouldn’t have as many wonderful resources available online.” The first assignment in my class this quarter was to read and analyze Tamara Miller’s chapter from “Midwestern Women” (Indiana University Press, 1997) titled “Those with Whom I Feel Most Nearly Connected.” In it, Miller analyzes family structure of early settlers in Marietta, Ohio. She uses sources and methods common to genealogists — and makes no apologies for it.

There is certainly a lot that each field can learn and use from the other. Further, I think that each field is increasingly aware of that.