Built By Ancient People
Almost 2,000 years ago, American Indians in what is now Ohio built structures out of earth that experts call the Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks. In September 2023, the earthworks were named a UNESCO World Heritage site.
UNESCO stands for the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization. It’s made up of representatives from more than 190 countries. UNESCO World Heritage sites are recognized for their historical, cultural, or scientific importance.
The earthworks, which are in eight locations around southern Ohio, were built by a group of people known as the Hopewell culture. These people came from different American Indian groups but shared similar religious beliefs. As part of their shared culture, they carefully planned, measured, and designed the earthworks. In some locations, they built earth walls in the shape of circles, squares, octagons, and straight lines. In others, they built enclosures, or walls that surround a piece of land. Many of the enclosures contain human-made ponds.
The earthworks aren’t just beautiful to look at. They show that the Hopewell people had some understanding of astronomy, the science that has to do with objects in space. Many of the earthworks line up with the locations of the Sun and the Moon over the horizon.
Experts say the earthworks had many uses. Feasts, dances, funerals, and religious gatherings all took place at the earthworks. The Hopewell people left behind beautiful works of art, such as sculpture and pottery, which they made from copper, silver, minerals, and even shark teeth. Some of these materials were gathered many miles away, which means Hopewell people traveled far and wide to come to the earthworks.
The Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks are part of American Indian history and culture. Now that the earthworks are a World Heritage site, they will receive special protection.