February 16, 2012 § 11 Comments
Readers of The Quiet Way are familiar with my interest in time and the less obvious dimensions of the world we live in. Two weeks ago on Wednesday afternoon I decided to take advantage of the mild winter weather and take a drive down into central Ohio to visit some of the state’s fine prehistoric sites.
In Ohio, one doesn’t have to go very far on the modern landscape to find vestiges of prehistoric time. Thousands of prehistoric “Indian Mounds” dot our landscape. A small mound is located in the center of the Oak Hill Cemetery in Millersburg less than two miles from our farm. There is a larger mound in Paint Valley six or seven miles west of town. Our farm lies roughly on the terminus of the Wisconsinan glaciation, the last of the great ice sheets that covered North America during the Pleistocene era. Many of the landscape features around us are a direct result of that glaciation. Remnants of that ice may have still been here when people of the PaleoIndian culture butchered a mastodon roughly 10,000 years ago in the Martins Creek valley less than five miles to our northeast. None of these local sites are marked. You have to do a little research to find out where they are.
On this day, though, I was looking for mounds. Several mound building cultures have flourished and vanished from the Ohio landscape in the last three thousand years or so. I picked out a handful of places to visit from the book “Indian Mounds of the Middle Ohio Valley” and headed south. My first stop was the Porteus Mound south of the city of Coshocton. The size and shape of the Porteus mound suggest that it is a product of the Adena culture but no other identifying artifacts have been found to confirm its origin. This mound is not a public access site unless you consider the county road that cuts through the west side of it between the mound and the Muskingum River. The farmer who owns the land plows around the mound and there is a small marker at its base.
I continued down Route 16 to the Newark Earthworks which together form one of the largest geometric earthworks in the world and is on the United States tentative list of places to be nominated as a United Nations World Heritage Site. These are the work of the people of the Hopewell culture. Our family visited the Great Circle mound in Heath fifteen or twenty years ago when our sons were younger but we hadn’t driven over to the Octagon. The Great Circle Mound encloses nearly 26 acres and is roughly 1200 feet in diameter. Many of the features, particularly the connecting mounds, of the Newark Earthworks have been destroyed by virtue of the fact that Newark and Heath are built on top of them. A golf course/country club occupies the grounds of the Octagon and its associated features, a plus and a minus in that the grounds are well cared for and secure but of course at the expense of placing it off limits to those of us who are non-members and don’t wear spikes in our shoes. There is a small observation platform and pathway from the parking lot to it that is accessible during daylight hours. It is from the Octagon earthworks that early historical drawings show an avenue leaving the area toward the south, then southwest. Speculation has it that this was a road connecting the great Hopewell ceremonial centers in Newark to those in Chillicothe and perhaps beyond…The Great Hopewell Road.
My last destination before heading north for home was the Alligator mound in Granville. This mound is located in the middle of a cul-de-sac on top of a hill east of Granville in an upscale housing development. It is not a comfortable place to visit. My reference book emphasized that walking on the property was not permitted…I didn’t get out of my car but in retrospect now wish that I had. Contrary to what the book says you cannot see the mound well from the road.
By now the sun was setting and I headed for home. There are a number of other mound sites in southwestern Ohio that I want to visit this year but those will entail an overnight stay. As nice as the weather was on Wednesday, I think I will wait until warmer spring weather to make that trip.