Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Newark Earthworks FAQ

What are the Newark Earthworks?

The largest complex of geometric earthworks ever built anywhere in the world.
Ancestors of today’s Native Americans built these earthworks covering more than four square miles two thousand years ago. Two huge features remain today: a Great Circle 1200 feet in diameter with walls 14 feet high and an Octagon (enclosing 50 acres) connected to another circle (enclosing 20acres ) with walls that are five to six feet high.

Recent research has uncovered a high level of both geometric and astronomical understanding encoded in these walls. The perimeter of the Great Square is equal to the circumference of one circle, for instance; the area of the square is equal to the area of another circle. Further, all eight stand-still points in the 18.6 year cycle of the moon are encoded in the structure of the Octagon and surrounding features.

How did they function in the ancient world of Native Americans?

Shells from the Carolinas, copper from upper Michigan and obsidian from the Grand Canyon have been found here which demonstrate that ancient people came here from hundreds, even thousands of miles away. The breadth of passageways defined by the earthworks suggest that people came here in very large numbers. One portion of the complex which was separated from the Octagon and the Great Circle and was defined by an earthen elipse was used for burial. Other portions were probably used for ceremony. Tens of thousands could have gathered within either the Octagon or the Great Circle. It must have been important to come here; it must have been important to be here when the moon was in a certain place. Very likely people came here for important seasons or events; very likely people came here on pilgrimage for spiritual ceremonies.

How important are they today?

Many Native Americans consider the Newark Earthworks a sacred place. Archaeologists consider them a world-class site. An international team of archaeologists selected the Newark Earthworks and only two other sites in the entire United States to be included in The Seventy Wonders of the Ancient World, Chris Scarre, ed. (London: 1999.) The United States Department of the Interior announced in January, 2008, that the Newark Earthworks are on a short list of sites our government intends to nominate for UNESCO World Heritage status.

Why Newark Earthworks day?

Newark Earthworks Day is intended to educate the public about the site. A broad-based committee including archaeologists, educators, Native Americans and community residents planned the first Newark Earthworks Day to coincide with lunar alignments in the autumns of 2005 and 2006. The committee functions today under the auspices of the Newark Earthworks Center, an interdisciplinary academic center of the Oho State University which works to support research and education about the site.

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