By Abbey Roy
Posted On: Oct 31, 2020
The word "Ohio" takes its name from the Iroquois word 'ohiːyo', which means "the great river." Our state's Native American heritage is deep, from the hunter-gatherers who explored its fertile grounds thousands of years ago to the moundbuilders whose earthen monuments remain today as a quiet testament to times past. Though life has sped up since the days of the Iroquois, many sites throughout the state still stand as an invitation for visitors to stop by, learn about ancient culture and experience – if only in part – life as it was in Ohio’s early days.
NOTE: Please check directly with places before your visit to stay up to date on all safety precautions and learn more about the guidelines surrounding COVID-19. Face coverings are required throughout the Ohio History Connection's historic site and museum system across Ohio.
Serpent Mound Historical Site in Peebles
The Serpent Mound Historical Site, located in Peebles, is the world’s largest effigy mound – a mound constructed in the shape of an animal. At this site, visitors can stroll past the delicate curvature of these ancient mounds and climb an observation tower for an aerial view. The on-site museum contains an array of displays with information about Ohio’s ancient earthworks.
The Newark Earthworks, located in Newark and Heath, are a National Historic Landmark consisting of the Great Circle Earthworks, Octagon Earthworks and Wright Earthworks. The lesser-known Wright Earthworks are tucked into a now-residential area of the city; a portion of one wall that was once a square-shaped mound can be viewed from Newark’s James Street (for GPS directions: input 101 James St., Newark).
Fort Ancient Earthworks and Nature Preserve in Oregonia
Located just outside Lebanon, is North America's largest ancient hilltop enclosure. It's believed this site, constructed over 2,000 years ago, was once a social and ceremonial gathering place. It's now also home to a (recreated) garden and hiking trails.
Note: The museum is closed until further notice. The grounds are closed from Nov-Feb., but will reopen in the Spring.
SunWatch IndianVillage / Archeological Park in Dayton
Step back in time when you visit SunWatch in Dayton. This recreated village takes you back to 13th century Ohio and life along the Great Miami River. Several hundred years ago, wild turkeys also roamed the area -- and if might be able to spot a few this year!
Fun Fact: the village gets its name from a giant pole at the center, which turned the whole area into a giant sundial!
Hopewell Culture National Historical Park (Mound City Group) in Chillicothe
Home to the largest group of Hopewell burial mounds in eastern North America, Mound City is a site to see! The estimated 23 burial mounds can be seen throughout the 13-acre park. There's even evidence of a ceremonial road connecting the Chillicothe site to Newark.
Bonus: Seip Earthworks, located just west of Chillicothe, is a must-see too!
Fort Hill Earthworks & Nature Preserve in Hillsboro
Take a hike on one of Fort Hill's many trails, and be sure to check out the stone and earthen-walled Hopewell enclosure at the top of Fort Hill. It's one of the most well-preserved ancient hilltop enclosures and is in one of southern Ohio's largest mature forests. And while it's hard to spot, the site also has a second Hopewell earthwork -- Circle Earthwork (which you can access through the Buckeye Trail).
One of the largest conical mounds in eastern North American, the Miamisburg Mound is 65 feet tall (and 800 feet in circumference). You'll be able to spot the mound from several miles away -- it's on a 100 foot ridge above the Great Miami River -- but it's the view from the top that's really breath taking.
The Marietta Earthworks
Showcasing examples of platform mounds, the Marietta Earthworks are preserved as parts of public parks today. The earthworks are made up of three structures: a burial mound (Conus), flat-topped earthen pyramid (Quadranaou) and a larger pyramid mound (Capitolium).
Shrum Mound in Columbus
One of the only remaining Native American sites in Columbus, Shrum Mound is a large cone burial mound. It stands 20 feet tall with a 100-foot diameter. Located in the one-acre Campbell Park, this structure was built by the people of the Adena culture (800 B.C.–A.D. 100).
Flint Ridge Ancient Quarries and Nature Preserve in Glenford
Nearby in Glenford, the Flint Ridge Ancient Quarries and Nature Preserve offer a scenic and informative way to experience the state's heritage. Take a stroll along the flint-laden path through the adjacent forest and marvel about how ancient cultures used this stone in their everyday life.
With so many sites and historical spots throughout all of Ohio, what are some of your favorites places to explore and learn?