Dr. Bradley Lepper, Ohio Historical Society

The search for the Great Hopewell Road continues. As opportunities arise, I continue to sift through the archives of museums and historical societies for references to earthen walls and ancient roads. In addition, Iím still finding and studying new (and old) aerial photographs of the landscape between Newark and Chillicothe. It is clear that the plow-flattened walls show up best under particular soil conditions, for photographs of the same area taken at different times of the year sometimes reveal traces of the walls and sometimes do not. In 1931, Warren Weiant, Jr. noted the lines in the soil could be seen only during a short period of time in the spring -- apparently the grass grew more slowly on the soils comprised of the earthwork remnants.

New technology may offer additional insights. Photographs taken from super-sensitive cameras on satellites or radar images taken by the special cameras aboard Americaís Space Shuttle have the potential to locate traces of ancient roads. Obtaining these images is expensive and there is no guarantee of success. No matter how many aerial photographs I manage to find showing tantalizing parallel lines etched across the projected path of the Great Hopewell Road, I will not be able to firmly establish the extent of the road until I (or someone else) excavates test units at these sites and establishes that they are, indeed, earthwork remnants and not filled-in drainage ditches or some other unrelated disturbance of the soil. Excavation requires time, money, and the permission of the people who own the land on which these traces have been observed. Sadly, not everyone appreciates the importance of the ancient heritage lying beneath our feet and permission is sometimes denied.

The search will continue. And it must not be limited to the land between Newark and Chillicothe. If the Hopewell built one great road, they may have built others. Scholars should search the archives of aerial photographs and historic documents relating to other Hopewell earthwork sites. For example, I have located a report that some local farmers in the nineteenth century, knew about several "parallel banks" that had once led from Fort Ancient, in Warren County, Ohio, to unknown destinations for a distance of "several miles."

The search for the Great Hopewell Road has captivated the imaginations of more people than any other project with which I have been involved. It is not hard to understand why this should be so. The monumental architecture of the Hopewell is a mysterious and a remarkable legacy. The idea that their earthen geometry also included parallel lines embossed across Ohioís landscape for nearly sixty miles only adds to the majesty and mystery.

Thank you for your interest in Ohioís ancient heritage and my search for the Great Hopewell Road!

"As scientists, our first responsibility is to squeeze the last drop of information out of every bit of evidence we have in hand. But we must also be willing to take the next step, and build from that information theories that will be ready when the next discovery comes along to test their strength. Thatís what doing science means...
The point is not to be right. The point is to make progress. And you cannot make progress if you are afraid to be wrong."
Donald Johanson and James Shreeve, Lucyís Child (1989)

For more information about the Great Hopewell Road refer to the following articles:

Lepper, B. T.

1996  The Newark Earthworks and the geometric enclosures of the Scioto valley:  connections and conjectures. In A View from the Core: A Synthesis of Ohio Hopewell Archaeology, Ohio Archaeological Council, Columbus,Ohio. (see below)

1998  Ancient astronomers of the Ohio Valley. Timeline 15(1):2-11.


by Bradley T. Lepper

Reprinted, by permission, from A View from the Core: A Synthesis of Ohio Hopewell Archaeology, published by the Ohio Archaeological Council (OAC).  Copies of the entire volume may be ordered from the OAC at the following address:

Ohio Archaeological Council 
P.O. Box 82012 
Columbus, OH 43202

There are many similarities between elements of the Newark Earthworks and particular sites in the Scioto Valley. Moreover, there is evidence for a direct connection - a formal roadway - between Hopewellian Newark and Chillicothe. The Great Hopewell Road consisted of parallel walls of earth nearly 1 m high and nearly 60 m apart. It may have extended, in a perfectly straight line over a distance of 90 km, from Newark to Chillicothe. Such a connection implies a previously unrecognized degree of interaction between the groups living in the Raccoon Creek and Scioto River drainages. The paper will explore the nature of these connections.

The Newark Earthworks are extraordinary. This complex of geometric earthen enclosures is the largest in the Hopewell world (Figures 13:1, 13.2, 13.3, 13:4). The Scioto River and Paint Creek valleys around Chillicothe hold a greater number of earthworks of more diverse form, but these are dispersed widely up and down the valleys (Figure 13:5). In addition to being the largest complex of geometric enclosures, the Newark Works also are the northernmost of the great Hopewellian ceremonial centers.

Despite the exceptional nature of the Newark Earthworks, or, perhaps, because of it, they have been regarded as somewhat peripheral, in a geographic as well as cultural sense, to the mounds and earthworks of the Scioto drainage. Indeed, Chillicothe usually is regarded as the core area of Ohio Hopewell (hence the name and venue of this conference). But little archaeological research has been undertaken at the Newark Works and the little that has been done has not been comprehensively reported. Therefore, it is premature, at best, to relegate Newark's earthen flamboyance to the status of a footnote to Hopewell archaeology in the Scioto drainage.

The hugeness of the Newark Earthworks and their situation at an archaeological, if not a prehistoric, frontier are factors which make it impossible to consider them as "typical" constructions of the Hopewell. Nevertheless, their preeminence makes them an interesting lens through which to view the entire Hopewellian achievement. And although it is true that relatively little is known about prehistoric Newark, thus making comparisons with Chillicothe problematic, enough has been learned to establish that Newark is not peripheral to the so-called Hopewell core area; although spatially separate, it is integrally connected to that core. One purpose of this paper is to consider the nature of that connection. A broader purpose is to discuss what is known about the form and function of Hopewell geometric earthworks using the Newark Earthworks as the preeminent exemplar of that class of phenomena.

For the purposes of this paper I intend to confine the discussion to geometric earthworks. That is, only the earthen walls built in the shapes of circles, squares, octagons, parallel lines, and other simple geometric designs will be considered. Burial mounds, when they occur within a geometric enclosure, or are otherwise in clear association with a geometric earthwork, are included; but the phenomenon of hilltop enclosures, shaped to conform with the contour of the hill on which they are situated, will be reserved for others to consider (see, especially, Connolly and Riordan, both in this volume). Although this follows the general distinction drawn by Squier and Davis (1848:47-49) between "works of defense" and "sacred enclosures," I do not mean to suggest any necessary dichotomy in site function between these two classes of earthwork.

There have been many attempts to unravel the meaning of the Hopewellian geometric earthworks. Interpretations have ranged from the arcane and romantic to the practical. A popular view among the earliest Euro-American observers was that the great earthen walls were ancient fortifications. For example, Atwater, foremost among the earliest investigators of the mounds, conjectured that "the larger works" of the Moundbuilders, such as the Newark group,

"were really military ones of defense; that their authors lived within the walls; that the parallel walls were intended for...protecting persons in times of danger, from being assaulted while passing from one work to another..."[Atwater 1820:129].
Atwater's commitment to the interpretation of the Newark Earthworks as defensive fortifications colored his graphical presentation of the site (Figure 13:1). Militaristic aspects of the works are exaggerated on his map, whereas features unrelated to defense, such as burial mounds, are not depicted.

This martial theme dominated scholarly interpretations for many years, but, whereas Atwater was not apparently bothered by the positioning of the ditch inside Newark's Great Circle, other more astute authors perceived a dilemma. Matthews (1839:6) conceded at least that structures such as the Great Circle were "constructed on principles of military science now lost or inexplicable." But not all early investigators were so obtusely committed to a military interpretation. Park (1870) wrote that

" call such works military fortifications, is not only absurd, but supremely ridiculous, I care not what principle of warfare, you may assign to these mound builders" [1870:47].
Park quipped that "Col. Cognac, or Capt. Bourbon, had more to do in arriving at this conclusion, than either Napoleon, Scott, or Hardee" (1870:45, emphasis in original).

Brown and Baby (1966) investigated the embankments at Mound City and considered the possibility that they might have served a defensive purpose. Inferring the original dimensions of the surrounding enclosure as "approximately 4 ft [1.2 m] high by 15 ft [4.6 m] wide" Brown and Baby concluded that "...the embankment is not designed to keep men either from getting out or getting inside" (1966:13).

In a more speculative vein, Brown and Baby noted that the shape of the Mound City embankment "resembles the outline of the ground plan of at least some of the structures in the mound group... the gaps or gateways occur in the same relative positions as the structures themselves" (1966:13). Therefore, "shape and position is [sic] highly charged with symbolic value" (1966:13). Coincidentally or not, the shape of the Mound City enclosure does have an apparent analog in a separate sphere of Hopewellian activity. It may symbolize some type of house structure. But the more abstract and precise geometrical forms are not so readily interpretable.

Byers (1987) conducted a structural analysis of early and middle Woodland earthwork enclosures in order to understand something about the symbolic meaning of these structures for their builders. The Newark Earthworks figures prominently in his research. In fact, Byers refers to Newark's Observatory Circle and Octagon as "the 'rosetta stone' of the enclosure traditions of the Central Ohio Valley" (Byers 1987:285). Byers (1987) suggests that the Observatory Mound was constructed to block off the original entrance to the Observatory Circle when the design of the complex changed. Since the gateway was not simply re-excavated and filled in, Byers infers that there must have been some ritual prohibition against moving earth that had been excavated and deposited artificially as part of an earthwork. Byers calls this "the sacred earth principle" (1987:296) and concludes that the construction process, from the first basket-load of earth until the completion of the enclosure, was a "sacred enterprise" (Byers 1987:293).

Byers' arguments are complicated and farfetched, but he has developed an intriguing and internally consistent model for the construction of the Newark Earthworks. Some aspects of the model can be tested by empirical observations. For example, Byers infers that the Observatory Circle was constructed with earth scraped from the surrounding surface of the ground whereas the Octagon was built with earth removed from deep borrow pits (1987:311). Byers bases this inference on the fact that Squier and Davis' (1848) map of the Newark Works shows borrow pits associated with the Octagon, but not with the Observatory Circle. Unfortunately, for Byers' model, other, more detailed surveys of the Newark complex do indicate that extensive borrow pits also were associated with the circle (compare Figure 13:2 with Figures 13:3 and 13:4). Therefore, Byers' initial inference, and the intricate web of speculation he spins from it, are without foundation. But, regardless of where the Hopewell obtained the material with which to build the circle and the octagon, Byers' more extravagant claim that "the Octagon represents the underworld" (1987:332), goes beyond the present limits of our ability to interpret objectively the remains of preliterate societies. Nevertheless, Byers' research represents a brave attempt to increase our understanding of the earthwork enclosures of the central Ohio Valley.

Hively and Horn (1982) added a significant dimension to our appreciation of the Hopewellian achievement when they determined that the major rising and setting points of the moon, encompassing an 18.6 year cycle, are incorporated into the architecture of the Newark Earthworks. They speculate that this astronomical information is not just symbolically encoded into the site plan, but that the substantial earthen walls, with their long sight lines and a height that corresponds, more or less, to eye level, are massive (and therefore long-lived and tamper proof) fixed instruments for making astronomical observations. In a second paper Hively and Horn (1984) demonstrate that High Bank Works in Chillicothe, the only other circle and octagon combination built by the Hopewell, also is aligned to the lunar cycle, but in a complementary fashion. The main axis of High Bank Works is aligned at 90° to the main axis of the Newark circle and octagon.

In spite of the great intellectual efforts expended to interpret the form of the earthworks, there has been surprisingly little work directed at disclosing the internal structure of these embankments. Mills excavated a portion of the enclosure surrounding Harness Mound, but only to determine that

"...the earth used in the construction of the ... earthworks was taken from the surface in close proximity to the earthworks."[Mills 1907:113].
Shetrone (1926:112) examined the embankment surrounding the Hopewell site, but he had little interest in the internal structure. He was searching for "burials or occupational evidence within or beneath the walls of the enclosures" and he found "nothing" (1926:112). He did note the occurrence of "several unimportant and not well defined fire-beds" on the original surface, but concluded that these were "only incidental to occupation previous to the erection of the wall" (Shetrone 1926:112).

Baby (1954) directed the excavation of the William Reynolds earthwork, one of two circular enclosures in the valley below Fort Hill. The embankment covered the remains of two concentric rings of postmolds, 3 m apart, which Baby interpreted as the remains of an arbor, 53 m in diameter. "Flint chips and pottery and mica fragments were found on the floor of the structure..." (Baby 1954:86).

Brown and Baby (1966) investigated the remnants of the enclosure at Mound City. They observed that, in some areas, Hopewell borrow pits had intruded upon midden deposits and that some of this material was incidentally incorporated into the fill of the embankment (1966:12). They also sought, and did not find, evidence for "deep, load-bearing posts" (1966:13) which the Hopewell may have used in the construction of the earthworks.

Shane directed excavations at High Bank Works and concluded that the circle was constructed in four stages. First, the area was cleared and a narrow, circular trench was excavated. Posts were set into the ground and earth was piled up against the outside of the ring of posts. A stone facing was added onto the outside edge of the circular wall and a final episode of construction covered this facing and raised the height of the embankment to approximately two meters. In contrast to the High Bank Works Circle, Shane determined that the Octagon was a series of simple earthen embankments with no evidence for multiple construction stages (Shane 1992, personal correspondence).

Brose (1976) investigated the Hopeton Works and reported the results of avocational surveys as well as his own fieldwork. Observations made by Stanhope, while the walls of the square enclosure were being graded, indicate that the eastern and western walls "were composed of distinctly different soils" (1976:59). She also noted that large postmolds (35-40 cm in diameter) occurred within the western wall at intervals of 1.5 meters (1976:59). Within several of the gateways she observed small pits which contained "charcoal, ash, and unburned limestone boulders" (1976:59).

Quite recently, Greber and Pickard (1993, personal communication) undertook salvage excavations at a remnant of the Anderson Works square enclosure. Their investigations revealed that the preserved portion of the embankment was composed of a distinctive reddish clayey silt and that substantial postmolds occurred beneath the earthwork.

Wymer, Lepper, and Pickard conducted a detailed investigation of the internal structure of the Great Circle at the Newark Earthworks (Wymer, Lepper, and Pickard 1992). We infer three phases of construction for the Great Circle. There was no evidence of any surface preparation prior to the beginning of construction. Pollen and phytoliths recovered from the buried A horizon indicate that the environment, at the time of construction, was a mesic prairie (Linda Scott Cummings, personal communication, 1993). Initially, a series of small mounds were built in a circle (cf. McLean, quoted in Fowke 1902:160-161). Secondly, a ditch was excavated well inside this circle of mounds and the dark brown silt loam removed from the ditch was piled on top of the mounds forming a low circular embankment. Finally, bright, yellow-brown silty clay loam and gravel was excavated from nearby deep borrow pits and added to the top and the inside of the embankment filling in the gap left between the wall and the interior ditch.

Fowke asserted, in his 1902 Archaeological History of Ohio, that "there are no surface indications of occupation within" any of Ohio's geometric enclosures (1902:154). Moorehead (1922:116) noted habitation remains surrounding the enclosure at the Hopewell site, but Shetrone (1926:112) claimed that there also was evidence for "limited occupancy" at two locations within the enclosure.

Baby directed investigations at Seip Mound which uncovered the presence of structures within the enclosure. Although Baby and Langlois (1979) interpret these as specialized craft houses, considerable "village debris" was recorded in the fields surrounding the walls as well as from within the enclosure (Griffin, in Brose and Greber 1979:64).

Baby (1954) also directed the excavation of the remains of a large, 37 by 18 m, rectangular structure a short distance south of the William Reynolds circular earthwork below Fort Hill. Based on the size of this structure, the great quantity of artifacts recovered, and the presence of subsurface features, Baby (1954:87) speculated that it, also, was some sort of specialized craft house. However, the above mentioned criteria are either insufficient or insufficiently reported to substantiate this interpretation. It is not likely that such a large building would have served principally as a domicile, but the designation "craft house" does not exhaust the range of possible uses for this structure. Prufer (1965:126) identified the area below Fort Hill as a possible exception to the claim that no substantial Hopewell village sites were known.

Shane (1971) conducted an intensive survey of a .8 km wide strip from the bluff to the edge of the Scioto River below High Bank Works. He identified "21 small circular ... areas of refuse" recovering bladelets, Hopewell points, and pottery (Shane 1971:145). Repeated surveys of the interior of the High Bank Works Octagon yielded virtually no remains (Shane 1992, personal correspondence).

Brose (1976) explored the area in and around the Hopeton Works and identified numerous domestic loci just outside the walls and "on the terrace immediately below the bluff" on which the enclosures are located (Brose and Greber 1979:65; see also Brose 1976). Within the square enclosure, near the site where a series of interior mounds once stood, Brose recovered artifacts of obvious ritual significance, such as "cut and polished wolf canines" and a "copper-covered wooden button" (1976:52-54). On a low rise "in the southwest corner of the square" he found a variety of more utilitarian items, such as broken projectile points and bits of pottery (1976:52). This low rise also yielded "abnormally high relative phosphate and calcium concentrations" (1976:52).

Converse (1994) reported on extensive surface collections made by Robert Harness at two locations in the vicinity of the Harness Earthworks. Harness has collected large quantities of diagnostic Hopewell artifacts, including projectile points, bladelets, and ceramics from the terrace west of the earthworks. Converse (1994:5) interprets these sites as large villages and suggests that they are part of a larger pattern of concentrated settlement around ceremonial centers.

During archaeological investigations associated with the construction of S. R. 79, Hale identified a small Hopewell habitation site which would have been located just outside the walls of the Newark Earthworks (Hale 1980; Lepper and Yerkes 1993). Hale's House site consists of the remains of a structure and several features. Yerkes' microwear analysis of the stone tools from the site, especially the bladelets, indicates that a variety of tasks were performed at the site; it was not a specialized activity area (Lepper and Yerkes 1993).

Bernhardt (1976) investigated the DiGiondomenico site at the confluence of the South Fork of the Licking River and Ramp Creek. Bernhardt claimed that this habitation site was situated strategically to control access into the Newark Works from the southern "sacred way" (Bernhardt 1976:49). But, since this "sacred way" intersects Ramp Creek at a point nearly two kilometers west of the DiGiondomenico site it is difficult to imagine how the occupants could have served as gatekeepers.

James and Charles Salisbury uncovered other indications of habitation at the Newark Earthworks. In 1862 they reported to the American Antiquarian Society on their investigations which included excavations within several of the small circular enclosures east of the octagon. They found

"plates of mica generally much decayed, burnt stone, some arrow points and chips of flint, and many large fragments of pottery, marked on the outer surface as if the vessel was moulded in a sack of very coarse cloth of peculiar make" [Salisbury and Salisbury 1862:18].
Evidence from this meager handful of archaeological investigations suggests that geometric earthworks are quite variable. They can appear similar in form, but differ greatly in the details of construction and use. The selection of different colored sediment for different earthworks, or differing components of the same earthwork, is as pregnant with significance as Byers' (1987) structural analysis of earthwork form would suggest. Unfortunately, the meaning behind this variability may not be fully recoverable.

Finally, there seems to be little justification for the notion that geometric earthworks were vacant ceremonial centers. Although these structures clearly are not the walls of large urban centers and the interiors of the earthworks sometimes appear to be vacant, when sought, domestic debris commonly is found both outside and inside the embankments. There is no evidence to support the claim that all of these domestic loci are merely ephemeral camp sites occupied either by laborers during the construction of the earthworks or ritual specialists during periodic visits to prepare the honored dead for burial. Since such sites are all that Prufer posits for the environs of earthworks (1964b:70-71), his "Vacant Ceremonial Center-Dispersed Agricultural Hamlet" model (Prufer 1965:127) may offer an incomplete view of Hopewell settlement.

Mortuary ceremonialism, in the form of burial mounds, often is regarded as the sine qua non of Hopewellian monumental architecture. And yet, actual burial mounds at the Newark Earthworks are restricted primarily to only one of the principal enclosures. Indeed, the lack of intact burial mounds to explore may, in part, account for the relative neglect of this gigantic earthwork complex by late nineteenth and twentieth century archaeologists.

Nevertheless, mortuary ceremonialism played a significant role in the Hopewellian occupation of the Newark Earthworks. Eagle Mound, at the center of the Great Circle, covers the remains of a structure which may have served as a charnel house (Lepper 1989). Although no human remains were encountered in Greenman's 1928 excavations, Smucker (1881) refers to earlier excavations which did encounter " altar built of stone, upon which were found ashes, charcoal, and calcined bones..." (Smucker 1881:266).

There were true burial mounds at Newark which entombed the honored dead of the Hopewell and cultural treasures every bit as spectacular as those recovered from Tremper, Seip, Harness, and the many mounds at Mound City, but the Newark mounds were largely obliterated by 1868 when a local resident wrote

"The group of ancient mounds that used to attract the attention and wonder of our early pioneers, when they visited the 'Old Fort' have at last been demolished, these beautiful monuments of antiquity that have been gazed upon and admired by thousands, have been at last destroyed by the iron shovel" [Wilson 1868:69].
The destruction of the mounds in the Cherry Valley Cluster (Lepper 1989) began as early as 1827 when the Ohio canal was dug across this area and through at least one burial mound. Laborers digging the pit for Lock No. 2 went through a mound containing "ten or fifteen" burials covered by "eight or ten bushels" of mica plates "of various sizes and shapes, tho' generally triangular" (Newark Advocate, 29 March 1827).

The largest of the mounds in this cluster was a curiously shaped series of three or four conjoined mounds, comparable in size to Tremper or Harness. James and Charles Salisbury, in their unpublished descriptions of the Newark Works, claim that the outlines of this mound suggest,

"with a little imagination...the idea and form of a priest, clothed in a long gown, girded about the waist with head and arms extended forward towards the east, in the attitude and act of worshiping, perhaps the Sun" [Salisbury and Salisbury (1862:11-12)].
Actually, this description entails rather more than a "little" imagination, but it does convey something of the complexity of this conjoined group of mounds. Much of this group was destroyed by the construction of the Central Ohio Railroad between 1852 and 1855, but the largest and northernmost segment survived until it "was leveled to form the site of a rolling mill" (Wilson 1868:69). Wilson (1868) recorded that the upper eight feet of the mound was composed of layers of "black loam" and included several "fine sheets of mica" although no skeletal remains were observed (Wilson 1868:69). The lower portion of the mound was composed of "layers of blue clay, then sand, and one layer of cobble stone, which was laid immediately over a very strong burning" (Wilson 1868:69). The base of the mound consisted of "disturbed earth four or more feet below the surrounding surface" (Wilson 1868:69).

According to the brothers Salisbury, near the base of this mound there was a "tier of skeletons" placed with their heads to the center and their "feet radiating towards the outside" (Salisbury and Salisbury 1862:12). Wilson noted numerous postmolds of varying sizes, some filled with sand, at least one filled with charcoal and ashes (Wilson 1868:69). No plan of the postmolds survives, but it is plausible to suggest the pattern might have revealed a structure similar to the "Great House" at Harness (Greber 1983:26-29). A partial list of the artifacts found with the human remains includes a copper "hatchet" and "quivers," mica sheets, a large shell, "beads and other trinkets" (Wilson 1868:69).

Charles Wittlesey (1868) viewed Wilson's artifact collection in 1868 and described several additional artifacts from the "mound at rolling mill."  Whittlesey sketched a "copper axe," one of "3 copper fluted ornaments," and a drilled bear canine (1868:41-42). In addition, he referred to "numerous copper studs...copper beads...and whelks" (1868:43).  He mentioned that the beads were "strung on hemp or nettles" (1868:43).

In 1881, the rolling mill was torn down and subsequent excavations revealed yet another burial four feet below the surface. A remarkable representation of a Hopewell shaman was found with the burial (Dragoo and Wray 1964). (see Figure 13:6)

Perhaps one of the most extraordinary aspects of the Newark Earthworks is the series of parallel walls which connects the enclosures in an intricate pattern. Note, for example, that each circle is a cul de sac, whereas the square and octagon have multiple openings and are intersections for several roads defined by parallel walls (Figure 13:4). And that, if one is prohibited from climbing over walls, there are only three routes of ingress into the Newark Earthworks complex:  from the valley of Raccoon Creek, from the valley of the South Fork of the Licking River, and from the southwest along the road which extends beyond the border of every nineteenth century map of the Newark Works.

Atwater (1820:129) speculated that these walls extended more than thirty miles to another complex of earthworks along the Hocking River. Squier and Davis (1848) made no reference to Atwater's claim and stated that the walls were only two and a half miles (4 km) long (Figure 13:2). James and Charles Salisbury (1862) traced this roadway the two and a half miles to Ramp Creek. But, unlike Whittlesey, Squier and Davis, the Salisburys crossed Ramp Creek, found that the walls continued, and followed them for about six miles (9.7 km) before turning back. They claimed that the walls continued beyond that an unknown distance, and likely went all the way to Chillicothe. If the Salisburys are correct, then the Hopewell built a roadway similar, in many respects, to the Anasazi roads of Chaco Canyon (Nials et al. 1987) and the Mayan sacbeob (Folan et al. 1983:81-87). It is difficult to test this idea since the land between Newark and Chillicothe has been cultivated since the early nineteenth century. Indeed, in 1870 Samuel Park attempted to trace the extent of these walls based on the testimony of early settlers. Park was unable to locate any traces of such a roadway and doubted that, given the "improved" state of the country in 1870, any extant traces could be found (Park 1870). In blithe disregard of Park's pessimism, I have, for the last three years, sought evidence for this roadway.

Extrapolating from the lines visible in 1930s aerial photographs (e.g., Reeves 1936; Shetrone 1937; Woolson 1931) and from the Salisbury data, I have projected the course of the Great Hopewell Road along the direct bearing of 31° west of south. This bearing points directly to the heart of Chillicothe (Figure 13:5).

I have searched along this corridor for traces of road remnants using aerial reconnaissance and archival photography (both conventional and infrared). I have identified traces of parallel lineations in fields, at the expected locations, in two places. The first, and most convincing segment, is 26 km south of Newark (Figure 13:7). Another is located at the projected terminus of the Great Hopewell Road at Chillicothe.

Based on several interwoven lines of evidence, including the above mentioned data, paleoenvironmental reconstructions, archaeoastronomy, and ethnographic as well as archaeological analogy, I conclude that the Great Hopewell Road was a virtually straight set of parallel walls 40 m apart and extending from the Newark Earthworks to the cluster of earthworks in the Scioto Valley centered at modern Chillicothe, a distance of 90 km. Near its terminus at Newark, the walls were nearly one meter in height. They may have been somewhat reduced in size, and hence more ephemeral, at increasing distances from the termini. This roadway was designed and laid out with great care and with intimate familiarity of the intervening landscape. The function of the Great Hopewell Road is unknown, but similar structures built by the Maya were monumental expressions of politico-religious connections between centers (e.g., Schele and Freidel 1990:353).

What has this review of the Newark Earthworks contributed to our understanding of the Hopewellian achievement? First, since the Newark Works are the largest and most imposing example of Middle Woodland monumental architecture, it provides an indication of the upper limits of what the Hopewell could achieve in this sphere. It long has been recognized that the giant geometric enclosures built by the Hopewell, especially the Newark Earthworks, represent an unusual florescence of monumental architecture by a people without other obvious indications of a complex social system. This review has only exacerbated this paradox. When I began my investigation of the Great Hopewell Road one prominent Midwestern archaeologist advised me that the Hopewell simply could not have built such a structure because they lacked the population, the subsistence base, and the political organization requisite for undertaking such long term public works projects. The high civilizations of Peru and Mesoamerica, and even the architecturally sophisticated Anasazi of the North American Southwest, might impose such marvels of engineering across the landscape, but not the humble Moundbuilders of the Eastern Woodlands. I submit that this touches on the fundamental mystery of the Hopewell:  how were they able to achieve what, our theories suggest, was beyond their capabilities? I further submit that our theories are inadequate if they do not take into account the possibility that the Hopewell were building great roadways connecting widely separated centers of social and religious activity more than five centuries before the Anasazi erected their first pueblo.

In conclusion, although much of the Newark Earthworks complex has been destroyed, much remains (Lepper and Yerkes 1993). Moreover, in spite of the pitifully small number of archaeological investigations undertaken at Newark, a surprising amount of information exists about what has been lost. In this short review I have been able only to outline the tip of this historical iceberg. I expect few readers of this work realized just how much data on the Newark Works are recoverable from archival sources. There is a critical lesson here for those engaged in research at other "lost" Hopewell sites.

I extend my sincere thanks to Terry Cameron, Robert Fletcher, Jeff Gill, N'omi Greber, Paul Hooge, Roger Kennedy, Martha Potter Otto, William Pickard, Orrin Shane, III, and Dee Anne Wymer for their help in understanding what the Hopewell were able to achieve in ancient America.

I thank the Ohio Archaeological Council for funding used to obtain infrared aerial photographs of the projected route of the Great Hopewell Road. In addition, many private individuals and institutions contributed funds to the Great Hopewell Road project. I thank the American Antiquarian Society, Worcester, Massachusetts, for permission to publish the Salisbury map of the Newark Earthworks.

Finally, I thank my family, Karen, Benjamin, and Peter Lepper for their support and understanding.


Atwater, C.
1820  Descriptions of the Antiquities Discovered in the State of Ohio and Other Western States. Archaeologia Americana 1:105-267.

Baby, R. S.
1954  Archaeological Explorations at Fort Hill. Museum Echoes 27(11):86-87.

Baby, R. S. and S. M. Langlois
1979  Seip Mound State Memorial: Nonmortuary Aspects of Hopewell. In Hopewell Archaeology: the Chillicothe Conference, edited by D. S. Brose and N. Greber, pp.16-18. Kent State University, Kent, Ohio.

Bernhardt, J. E.
1976  A Preliminary Survey of Middle Woodland Prehistory in Licking County, Ohio. Pennsylvania Archaeologist 46(1-2):39-54.

Brose, D. S.
1976  An Historical and Archaeological Evaluation of the Hopeton Works, Ross County, Ohio. Report on file, Mound City Group National Monument, Chillicothe, Ohio.

Brose, D. S. and N. Greber, editors
1979  Hopewell Archaeology: the Chillicothe Conference. Kent State University Press, Kent, Ohio.

Brown, J. A. and R. S. Baby
1966  Mound City Revisited. Unpublished manuscript on file, Department of Archaeology, Ohio Historical Society, Columbus.

Byers, A. M.
1987  The Earthwork Enclosures of the Central Ohio Valley:  A Temporal and Structural Analysis of Woodland Society and Culture. PhD dissertation, State University of New York at Albany.

Converse, R. N.
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Bradley T. Lepper, Ohio Historical Society, 1982 Velma Avenue, Columbus, Ohio  43211-2497;  (614) 297-2642;  e-mail: