The Ohio State University at Newark


Newark Earthworks Center Promotes Ohio’s Ancient Earthworks

March 25, 2019

Octagon Earthworks open April 7 and 8

Newark’s world-renowned Octagon Earthworks will be open for free public tours and programs on Sunday and Monday, April 7 and 8, and Marti Chaatsmith, interim director of The Ohio State University’s Newark Earthworks Center (NEC), is hoping that many across the state and beyond will take advantage of the opportunity to visit and learn about this extraordinary component of the Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks.

“I am continually inspired by the Newark Earthworks,” said Chaatsmith. “Built 2,000 years ago as a place of reverence, gathering, trade and learning, I hope that others will visit with reverence and be inspired by the monumental achievements of this ancient American Indian culture.”

Members of the public are invited to experience the expansive Octagon Earthworks from 7 a.m-8 p.m. during the weekend. Special programs will be held noon-4 p.m. The Octagon is located at 125 North 33rd Street, on grounds of Moundbuilders Country Club, Newark, Ohio 43055.

• Take a guided tour
• Try ancient technologies
• See Hopewell Culture artifacts
• Discover nearby ancient earthworks
• Learn about World Heritage Ohio

Octagon Earthworks is part of Newark Earthworks, remnants of a 2,000 year-old complex that is the largest set of geometric earthworks ever known. Enclosing 50 acres, the Octagon Earthworks has eight walls, each measuring about 550 feet long and from five to six feet in height. This is a National Historic Landmark and Ohio’s official prehistoric monument. The Newark Earthworks served social, ceremonial and astronomical functions for their builders, people of the Hopewell Culture.

The largest complex of geometric mounds in the world, the Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks encompassed about 3,000 acres when built more than 2,000 years ago by people of the Hopewell culture. Their significance in both size and history have made them a proposed World Heritage serial nomination that includes nine archeological sites in south-central Ohio constructed during the Woodland Period (1-1000 CE). At present the Octagon Earthworks is also the site of the Moundbuilders Country Club golf course; the entire grounds are open to the public four times a year. Newark’s Octagon and Great Circle Earthworks are managed by the Ohio History Connection.

It’s been the mission of the NEC, the first Ohio State center located at Ohio State Newark, to study and preserve these ancient mounds since 2006.

The NEC is an interdisciplinary university center that disseminates knowledge and promotes inquiry about Ohio's ancient earthworks throughout the university, the state and the nation. The NEC develops projects and research about the American Indian cultures that produced monumental Midwestern earthen architecture in order to advance understanding of the cultural and scientific achievements of American Indians to the world. The NEC values oral, written, artistic and archaeological sources of knowledge and are dedicated to recovering and preserving this knowledge with an open forum for dialogue and action. The NEC's projects emphasize American Indian knowledge of the earthworks landscape in the Ohio River Valley, from human settlement until the present.

University budget cuts in 2015 put the fate of the NEC in question just as the earthworks were on the brink of international fame. Announced in July 2018, the NEC will continue at Ohio State Newark, becoming the regional campus’s only university center. The decision was reached unanimously by Ohio State’s Council of Academic Affairs. The leadership of Chaatsmith was a key factor in this outcome.

“Marti thoughtfully worked with many different units and individuals to assess the evolution of the center,” said Ohio State Newark Dean/Director William L. MacDonald. “In promoting World Heritage for the Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks, she has contributed to the understanding and importance of the Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks here in our community.”

Chaatsmith is quick to acknowledge the work of NEC staff member Sheila Carpenter and research consultant Megan Cromwell, whom she notes were instrumental in helping secure the NEC’s continuation as a university center.

Additionally, led by Chaatsmith, the NEC is currently developing a strategic plan to address the center’s overall sustainability. Chaatsmith is developing the plan in consultation with a faculty oversight committee comprised of Ohio State faculty members Professor Christine Ballengee-Morris, Ph.D.; Associate Professor Robert Cook, Ph.D.; Associate Professor John Low, Ph.D.; Associate Professor Kenneth Madsen, Ph.D.; Professor Lucy Murphy, Ph.D. and Associate Professor Christine Warner, Ph.D.

“The faculty activism around the Newark Earthworks before the NEC was established, the focus on the Octagon Earthworks' moonrise cycle, and our proximity to the Newark Earthworks directed much of our attention early on,” said Chaatsmith. “But beginning around 2007 it became clear to all of us that the Newark site was not a singular event but part of a much wider cultural phenomenon. This broader approach was seen within the first five years of the NEC's existence and especially so since the NEC's engagement with tribal governments began to take shape and become reciprocal in 2010.”

The NEC will continue to provide leadership within the World Heritage nomination process for the Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks with continuing leadership after designation occurs. Critical to the NEC’s continuing missions is securing access to the sites for Ohio State and NEC research, with a special emphasis on research in relation to existing land uses.

To learn more about the NEC, contact Marti Chaatsmith at 740.364.9575, chaatsmith.1@osu.edu.

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