Monday, May 08, 2006

Newark Earthworks Moonrise Observance 2006

By Geophile

A map of the Newark Earthwork complex with the octagon mounds at the bottom right. Impressive as it is, this map is now thought to be incomplete.
(For scale, consider that the circle at top center is large enough for the pyramid of Cheops to fit inside)

While early Europeans in North America mentioned in their writings how well the native people knew the landscape, the living things here, and every object in the heavens, the unfortunate image of them as savages gets in the way of a full understanding of the subtle, intelligent and capable cultures that preceded ours on this continent.

For that reason, discoveries about mound complexes and sites are relevant in a way to the topic of rock piles. People raised in our culture need to be reminded that ancient people were closer to and more knowledgeable of the relationships between celestial objects and the earth than we are. When there's no TV and nothing to read, and all your food and goods come not from stores but from the land around you, the nature of the attention you give to your surroundings is necessarily of a different order.

At the Newark earthworks in Newark, Ohio, a professor and his students stumbled on the realization that the octagon section of the site was aligned with risings of the moon at crucial points of the calendar. (How they learned it is interesting. See here.) While the mounds were probably not built by the same culture that built most of the rock piles, these cultures were likely contemporaries and trading partners (For an article of mine that includes information on the wide trading network the people of the Newark Earthworks took part in, see here.), and it is likely that technology such as knowledge of moon, sun, and star positions at certain times of year was shared.

For further relevance, the Newark site included a large rock pile until it was dismantled by white settlers. At any rate, I received this press release today, and am sharing it here for those who might be interested. I would love to be there that day myself. It's great to see native people being honored and respected by the archaeological community.


For immediate release: May 8, 2006
COLUMBUS, Ohio - The Ohio Historical Society announced today that it is working with the Moundbuilders Country Club in Newark to present a moonrise observance at the Octagon Earthworks on Wednesday, Oct. 11, when the moon will rise nearly at its northernmost point in a virtually perfect alignment with the central axis of the Octagon.
Educational programs organized by the Ohio Historical Society on Oct. 11 will include events in the clubhouse and also on the patio. In addition, the public is invited to the grounds of the site.
"We are delighted to collaborate with the Moundbuilders Country Club to share with the public the moonrise event that will occur on Oct. 11," said William K. Laidlaw Jr., OHS executive director. "This is a great opportunity for people in Licking County and many other parts of Ohio, North America and beyond to witness this exciting astronomical event and to marvel at the knowledge and engineering skill of people who built the site thousands of years ago."
Built 2,000 years ago by American Indian people, the Octagon is part of the Newark Earthworks, a complex recognized by scholars as the largest geometric earthworks ever created. In 1982, astronomer Ray Hively and philosopher Robert Horn of Earlham College in Indiana determined that the earthworks were built as a lunar observatory, similar in sophistication to Stonehenge. They found that the Octagon's layout is aligned perfectly to the points on the eastern and western horizons defined by an 18.6-year-long lunar cycle.
The Ohio Historical Society owns the major remaining portions of what was once four square miles of ancient structures. In addition to the Octagon, OHS operates the Great Circle Earthworks and a portion of the Wright Earthworks. Moundbuilders has leased the Octagon as a golf course since 1910, and the Ohio Historical Society has owned the site since 1933.
Laidlaw and leaders of the country club said plans for the event are proceeding with a spirit of cooperation and desire for a community educational experience.
"Although many details remain to be worked out in the coming weeks, Moundbuilders Country Club has offered to assist in this event," Laidlaw said. "We appreciate the club's collaborative spirit and believe this will be a win-win event for everyone."
Mark Walters, president of the Moundbuilders Country Club, said the club hopes to spur interest in the earthworks and some local economic activity from visitors who will stay in area lodging, eat in local restaurants and shop at local stores.
"We see this event as beneficial for the Licking County community," Walters said. "We welcome visitors to Moundbuilders Country Club on the evening of Oct. 11 to participate in the Ohio Historical Society's educational programs about these amazing earthworks that help make Newark a truly special place."
Last year, the Moonrise Committee of the Newark Earthworks Initiative at Ohio State University-Newark had hoped to stage a similar moonrise event at the Octagon on Oct. 22, but rainy weather led to a postponement and then a cancellation of the event. "I am pleased that OHS and MCC will invite the public to view the moonrise that Wednesday evening," said Prof. Richard Shiels, who leads the initiative at OSU-Newark. "The Newark Earthworks represent a world-class archaeological site that is also considered sacred by many Native Americans. It is important for us to be educating the public and celebrating our heritage together."

For more information about the Newark Earthworks, see the following website:


pwax said...

That is a really cool picture in every way.

Geophile said...

Thanks. That's just how the map looked on that snowy but sunny day in March.

In case anyone should be able to attend the event in October, by the way, this exhibit will be showing in nearby Columbus at that time, and would seem to be worth the short extra trip: