The Ancient Earthworks of Central Ohio
Some of the best travel happens right outside your door. We lived nearly on top of the Newark Earthworks for 7 years, yet never really fully explored them. When some nice November weather hit us, I realized that NOW was the time to visit.
The Newark Earthworks are the largest set of geometric earthen enclosures IN THE WORLD. The earthworks were built by the Hopewell culture between 100 B.C. and 500 A.D. Over the years, the growth of Newark (sadly) destroyed many of the earthworks, but three major pieces still survive. We visited 2 of the 3 sites managed by the Ohio History Connection.
The Octagon Earthwork
The Octagon Earthwork is on the grounds of the Moundbuilders Country Club. While this is a private golf course, visitors to the earthworks can access this overlook any time of the year (just watch for flying golf balls). The entire grounds are only open to the public four times per year (see the above link for details).
The earthworks are not considered burial mounds, researchers have concluded that they have some significance in aligning with the rising and setting of the moon. Covering over 50 acres, the earthworks are mostly 5-6 feet high.
The Great Circle Earthwork
The Great Circle Earthwork is nearly 12,000 feet in diameter. Taking up a vast area, it’s hard to see one side of the circle from the other! Not only are the mounds almost 8 feet high but there is also an interior moat that’s over 5 feet deep. It’s believed that this large circle was used for ceremonial purposes.
A small, on-site museum shows the timeline of the Newark Earthworks to other great milestones in history. There are a few Native American artifacts like arrowheads and ceremonial pieces.
In more recent times, the Great Circle mounds were used as a fairground until 1932. This use of the land is what saved the earthworks from destruction.
I would set aside 2 hours for visiting the earthworks with your children. The Newark Earthworks are located 2.5 miles apart. This is a fantastic outdoor attraction because the kids are able to run off energy while still learning about Ohio’s Native American history.
UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE STATUS
The UNESCO World Heritage Committee, meeting in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on Tuesday, September 19, 2023, voted to recognize the Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks as part of the World Heritage List. This list also includes well-known places like the Pyramids of Giza and the Great Wall of China!
What an amazing opportunity for Ohioans to visit and experience something that is considered equivalent in cultural or natural significance to that of the Taj Mahal or the Great Barrier Reef!
Visiting the Newark Earthworks in Newark, Ohio
Where: Newark, Ohio – 45 minutes east of downtown Columbus
When: Best times to visit are May- October mostly for programming. Check the Ohio History Connection for dates of historian-led tours.
Where to stay in Newark
The Doubletree by Hilton in Newark has fresh cookies on arrival, an indoor pool, and an on-site restaurant. Plus, enjoy walking to Newark’s new Canal Market District. It’s a great hotel for a small city. Buckeye Lake is also just down the road and we thoroughly enjoyed our stay at Sky Hi Buckeye Lake. This is a great property for families!
Have you visited the Newark Earthworks?? Maybe there is another attraction that is in your backyard that you forget to visit? I’d love to hear!
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