Description of the Site
“The Newark Earthworks are the largest set of geometric earthen enclosures in the world. Already a National Historic Landmark, in 2006, the State of Ohio designated the Newark Earthworks as “the official prehistoric monument of the state.”
Excerpt from the Ohio History Website
360° Interactive Photos
We took these 360° photos on our trip in August 2018. You can click/tap and drag to change the view. Click/tap the circles to change viewpoints.
Unfortunately, the Great Octagon and attached circle are generally unavailable to the public, or at least where when we attended. More on that in a bit. Much of the Newark Earthworks outside of those two remnants and the Great Circle has been destroyed by modern development. Artistic sketches from early explorers and modern imaging techniques have done a great deal to show us what it would have looked like but like so many of these historical treasures much is lost.
This review will focus largely on the Great Circle which is publically available and largely intact in its original form. The Great Circle is preserved as part of a Park with a picnic and playground just outside the circle to the north with a nice set of stairs and bridge leading over the mound and ditch from the park to the inside of the mound. The place is definitely family friendly. But don’t expect much from the visitors center. Presumably, there was staff there, we heard voices in the back, but the entire time we walked around the visitors center no a single person showed them selfs. The visitors center has a lot of information in the form of posters, wall hangings, and a video to watch but lacks any archeological displays and there is no gift shop for those looking to bring home a memento of their visit.
When Scott and I visited this site there was a high chance of bad weather (we did end up getting rained on on our way out) so much of the area was clear of people. This brought a great sense of peace, quiet, and calmness. The encircling mound does an amazing job blocking the noise and bustle of the city all around. We took some time to just sit on the grass on the eagle mound in the center and just appreciate the peace and quiet.
Archeologists believe that the Newark Earthworks were used for religious or ceremonial purposes. After all who would build a ditch on the inside if you were trying to defend from outsiders. Several of the aspects of the Great Octagon have solar and lunar, equinox and solstice alignments. And visiting the earthworks definitely imparts a sense of religious purpose.
The day before we visited the Newark Earthworks the Ohio History Connection put out a press release announcing their intention to acquire the lease that the Mound Builders Country Club currently holds on the Great Octagon and attached circle. The Ohio History Connection has owned the land for a long time but unable to maintain and keep up with it in the past choose the lease the land under the conditions that the earthworks would be preserved. The Newark Earthworks along with Fort Ancient and the Mound City Group received the last approvals needed to begin the process of becoming a World Heritage Site. A 20-year renovation and upgrades project will begin soon and on all 3 sites to offer more information, greater access, and necessary staff to effectively run and manage these sites.
In short, the Great Circle at the Newark Earthworks is an amazing site and definitely worth a visit. Don’t expect too much from the visitors center and, for now at least, prepare to be a bit disappointed at the level of access available at the Great Octagon and attached circle. Once the Ohio History Connection has control of that land again I know we will be making another trip to visit.