Help save unique Hopewell earthworks in Ohio

The Junction Group earthworks complex in Chillicothe, Ohio, is one of very few remaining ancient Native American ceremonial sites that hasn’t been sliced and diced by roads or train tracks or development. Situated on the south edge of the city at the confluence of the Paint Creek and its tributary North Fork Paint Creek, the earthworks take up about 25 acres of a 90-acre plot that is going up for auction on Tuesday, March 18th. The field belongs to the Stark family who have farmed it for generations but are now reluctantly selling the entire farm, including the earthworks.

The land has road frontage and is close to city water and sewer lines, which makes it a very attractive parcel for a housing development. There’s already a subdivision kitty corner with the property. Any such construction would destroy the foundations of the earthworks of the Hopewell Culture which we know are still there just underneath the surface. The Junction Group was built 1800-2000 years ago as nine earthworks enclosures: four circular mounds, three crescents, one large square and a quatrefoil. The latter is the only known example of that shape ever discovered in Ohio.

To keep this irreplaceable historical treasure from falling into uncaring hands, the Heartland Earthworks Conservancy, the Arc of Appalachia and other non-profit organizations are working together to raise $500,000 to buy not just the earthworks parcel but the entire farm which is being sold in six lots. If they are successful in acquiring the land, the long-term plan is to turn it over to the Hopewell Culture National Historical Park which is just six miles northwest of the Junction Group. The national park already administers five Hopewell sites in the Paint Creek Valley, and although the process of transferring a sixth site to national park stewardship requires legislative action that can take years, the Arc of Appalachia has already begun the process for another Hopewell earthwork and are confident they can pull it off in the end. They have the full support of the park service in their endeavours.

The Hopewell culture, also known as the Hopewell tradition because it describes a range of different tribes who developed an extensive trade network along the rivers of the northeast and midwest, flourished from around 200 B.C. to 500 A.D. They were the inheritors of the Adena culture who inhabited the same area in the Scioto River Valley in the first millennium B.C. There are two dozen Hopewell ceremonial sites in Ross County alone, most of them consisting of at least one burial mound and several earthwork structures. There is little evidence of settlement on these sites; their purpose appears to have been almost entirely religious.

The Junction Group was first named and documented by Ephraim George Squier and Edwin Hamilton Davis in their seminal 1848 work Ancient Monuments of the Mississippi Valley. It was the first major work on the archaeology of ancient mounds in the United States and the first publication of the Smithsonian Institution. When Squier and Davis recorded the Junction Group in 1845, the largest mound was seven feet high and some earthenwork walls were at least three feet high with deep ditches on either side.

Since then, farming has worn down the mounds and earthworks so they are no longer visible to the naked eye. It was a magnetic imaging survey in 2005 which revealed that the foundations of the complex are still crystal clear under the plough line. The survey also was the first to recognize that what Squier and Davis thought was a smaller square was actually the unique quatrefoil.

If you’d like to donate to save this irreplaceable resource, you can make a pledge on the Arc of Appalachia website here or pledge or donate on the Heartland Earthworks Conservancy page here. Pledges are very important to this project because the organizations are applying for grants that will match pledged funds and for loans that will be easier to secure with proof of financial backing.

Please spread the word! There are only a few days to go before the auction. So many of these mounds and earthworks are gone forever in Ohio. Let’s stop the Junction Group from succumbing to this tragic fate.

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14 Comments »

Comment by The Old Salt
2014-03-16 10:40:35

OK – pledged.

Comment by livius drusus
2014-03-19 16:02:48

Well done! :hattip:

 
 
Comment by Countess
2014-03-16 21:05:02

Arc of Applacia also owns or manages Great Srepent http://www.ohiohistory.org/museums-and-historic-sites/museum–historic-sites-by-name/serpent-mound Hope they also get this one.it’s a shame so many of these were ploughed under by farmers.But tearing them up for shopping malls is just… well :blankstare: sickening.

Comment by livius drusus
2014-03-19 16:01:41

Nobody even goes to malls anymore anyway. The preserved earthworks incalculably more valuable historically and even financially, thanks to park visitors.

 
 
Comment by D. B. Cooper
2014-03-17 00:59:44

This is where I grew up! I’m contributing to save this so it won’t disappear under a Wal-Mart or some scummy trailer park. We know very little about the Hopewell and Adena cultures and it’s a damn shame this can even be a possibility of happening.

Comment by livius drusus
2014-03-19 15:59:31

Congratulations, you just helped save your homeland’s historical patrimony. :notworthy:

 
 
Comment by Virginia Burton
2014-03-17 12:08:11

Done! Please post when you find out if the group won the auction.

Comment by livius drusus
2014-03-19 15:57:51

They won! :boogie:

 
 
Comment by JohnOostenryk
2014-03-17 20:40:14

Pledged!~
Absolutely please update this topic when the auction completes!
Will pass on links to story via IA archaeology listserve and others!
This would be a sad sad sick thing to see bulldozed… seen enough already:(

Thanks for the ‘heads up’!
~JO:)

 
Comment by Eric
2014-03-19 01:02:52

This went up on the Ghost Train Games – Alternative Civil War twitter feed. As one of their supporters, I’m interested to hear a follow-up about how this concludes.

Comment by livius drusus
2014-03-19 15:51:07

It concluded awesomely. Thank you for spreading the word!

 
 
Comment by john oostenryk
2014-03-19 15:26:08

The organization was able to win at bidding and secure a down payment on all but one of the tracts available at auction.
Now they must continue fundraising to complete purchase.
Only one lot went to another bidder but it was without an earthwork and thus lowest priority.
Pretty cool story and save!
Go here for post auction news release: http://arcofappalachia.org/junction-group-earthworks.html

Comment by livius drusus
2014-03-19 15:50:16

I just posted an update with the good news. I couldn’t be more thrilled by their audacity in aiming so high and donors’ generosity in making it possible.

 
 
Comment by Anonymous
2014-03-19 17:13:35

:skull:

 
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