No Need to Duck — It’s a Golf-free Day at the Octagon

Sunday, October 19 from 1:00-5:00 is Open House at the Octagon at the Newark Earthworks. This is one of only four (count ’em: four) days per year when the public has full access to these incredible structures. The golfers will not be on the course, so no need to listen for calls of “Fore!” 

The weather should be great, so come on out and see this fantastic monument and observatory built by the Hopewell culture.

Octagon Mound, Newark, Ohio

Newark Earthworks Day, 2008

Yesterday, May 3, 2008, was Newark Earthworks Day. This annual event has been been in existence for several years, and this one was quite special.

The day started at the Reese Center at the Ohio State University – Newark campus with several panel discussions. I was a volunteer at the event, and worked the registration table most of the day. I was fortunate to be able to attend the second session of the day: “Cosmology of the Builders: Solar and Lunar Alignments.” On the panel were John Hancock (discussing the Octagon and Circle Mounds in Newark), Lionel Sims (discussing Stonehenge) and David Carrasco (discussing Teotihuacan.) It was an incredible session. My only regret is that they didn’t have more time. I wish, especially, that Lionel Sims would have had more time, as his proposal for what Stonehenge really marks was fascinating.

Mary Borgia’s 4th grade class from Miller Elementary School had displays featuring pre-historic sites from around the world. You could tell that the children put a lot of effort into their research and displays. Mary should be commended for her work with her classes over the years in helping the youth of Newark realize what an incredible treasure they have right in their backyard.

In the evening, the event moved to the museum at the Great Circle Mound. The museum was re-opened after having closed several years ago due to budget cuts. The Greater Licking County Convention and Visitors Bureau is now sharing the space with the museum. It appears to be a win-win for both the CVB and the Ohio Historical Society (which operates the museum and the Newark Earthworks.)

The end of the day was nothing short of spectacular. The Palabra del Niño Dios Teopi-Itzintecuhitl dancers performed Aztec prayer dances in the Great Circle Mound. There were several hundred people in attendance. (The picture at left gives you just a small idea of how many people were there.)

The dancers led us into the Great Circle, where they then went to the top of the mound in the center of the circle. The crowd formed a semi-circle around flowers that had been placed in front of the mound.

It started raining shortly after the dancers began. Many stayed for awhile, but as the rain came down harder and harder with no end in sight, many in crowd left. Finally, the sun did come back out — rewarding those of us who stayed with an incredible experience that we are not soon to forget.

The dancers braved the rain, never stopping or taking shelter. At one point, during an especially heavy downpour, the woman shown above did remove her headdress and put the feathers under a blanket for protection. She retrieved them after the sun came out.

It was an honor when the dancers invited the audience to join them. Many of us formed a circle around the dancers and tried our best to do the dances. It was incredible, though many of us (myself included) discovered just how out of shape we really are!

The Newark Earthworks is on the “short list” of sites to be added to the United Nations’ list of World Heritage Sites. It is expected to be added within the next seven years. When that happens, I expect not only many more events like the one yesterday, but also a fundamental change in how the Earthworks are managed.

Much more information about the Earthworks can be found at I’ve posted more pictures from Newark Earthworks Day 2008 on Flickr.

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

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; 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

You can find additional information about the Newark Earthworks at