Archive for January 22, 2016

The Reconstruction and Archaeoastronomy of a Hopewell Geometric Earthwork in Ohio


by Richard D. Moats


The Salisbury brothers authored a paper in 1862 describing several archaeological sites in Ohio. One was an “Ancient Symbolic Earth Works” in Northern Perry County. The paper included a narrative and plot map of a hill top earthwork and three associated features. They recorded linear measurements, angles of intersection, and mound elevations. They described five structures with flat tops which they termed “platforms” and another as an open “C” shaped structure (Salisbury and Salisbury 1862). State Archaeologist Warren K. Moorehead published a short article in 1896 describing the site naming it “Frank Yost’s Mounds” after the landowner. The only significant information he added to the Salisbury paper was finding ash in what he termed the “bird effigy” located inside a large circular enclosure. (Moorehead 1896).

Moorhead’s report did not contain the detail or descriptions of the entire structure as described in the Salisbury document. This indicates erosion and intentional agricultural destruction began in the latter half of the 19th century. Until recently, the large circle with an internal crescent and a small nearby mound are the only features known to exist into modern times. It is obvious the site was a large geometric earthwork similar to other Hopewell sites in Ohio. However, some features and therefore functions are unlike any other known Hopewell site, making this a very unique and important site.

This paper encompasses the rediscovery of lost features, digital reconstruction of the site, and investigation into its functions. I will show how the site integrates distant terrestrial features and offer my research into the purpose of this three dimensional geometric earthwork. I will demonstrate how precise construction and spatial orientation of the structure provided alignments with celestial body rise and set points. I will describe the visual illusions created by celestial body rises and settings in relation to the earthwork and a distant terrestrial feature. I will also suggest hypothesizes for the cognitive precursors for these Native Americans to construct such an elaborate structure.

Site Reconstruction:
The geographic center of the site, 33Pe5 in the Ohio Site Registry, known today as the “Yost Works”, is located on a hill top at coordinates 35°54’02”N x 82°20’31”W in Northern Perry County, Ohio. To the south of site center is an intact large circular enclosure and a small nearby mound both covered by trees and brush. Inside the enclosure on the south interior perimeter is an earthen crescent with a central “bulge” which, when viewed from above resembles an effigy of a spread wing bird. Until recently, these are the only features of the geometric structure known to have survived. Construction of an accurate site plot map began with entering the linear measurements generated by the Salisbury’s into a Computer Aided Design Program, (CAD). Scale and orientation needed to be verified before an accurate reconstruction could be completed. Dr. William F. Romain provided aerial LiDAR, images of the site. LiDAR is an acronym for Light Detection and Ranging. By filtering the digital LiDAR data in bare earth mode, foliage was eliminated and subtle terrain elevations were delineated. (2008a, 2008b. Romain and Burks).


Figure 1 LiDAR image revealing earthwork features. Image by W. F. Romain, Interpretation, R. Moats

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Not always the male

By Carl Bjork

At a crime scene, the investigator will always ask the question, “who” perpetrated the offense. And, to answer the question you must discover the “why.” What is the motivation; is it cultural or survival, or perhaps the dictates of the mores of the people? When we discover a crime scene; is there a “crime” committed, what or who has decided that an offense or violation took place? Was the evil deed the results of an action by a male or a female? Have we forgotten in our patriarchal world of today that there are females? Did females carve and paint petroglyphs and pictographs? The answer is, yes!

To understand the role of the female or the male and their “authority” to carve the rocks and paint the symbols in the caves, we will have to discover their role in the society that they live. Do “all” members of the society share equal authority; can each person regardless of social status carve the rocks? The answer is, no!

History as we know it, or more correctly, how a history has been taught to us and what we believe history to be because of our life education, we will never know the real answer. It is problematic to know the truth, so-called “rock art” is not a written language using an alphabet or any other system of symbols to create words that are orally and verbally spoken. There are no tomes of written knowledge; hieroglyphs may come close because we find it carved and painted on walls in ancient temples and tombs, not that far distance from what we find in many locations throughout the world. Many petroglyphs in the State of Nevada easily match carvings found on ancient walls along the Nile River.

Where do we find the answer, do we trust the archeologist even though we can use science to date the site where the rock art is located, is there a valid connection between the dating of the organics in the soil and the carvings? Did the carvings come first from an ancient time and the use of the site at a later date, or did the site activity come first and the carvings were a part of the use of the site? Both answers are no doubt correct. That is the answer that I received over the past forty or so years that I have asked the question, “who and why” at the site and location of the rock-art. What was the motivation, the same question an investigator asks at the scene of a crime?

You will discover the answer regarding the debate for what gender was carving and painting the petroglyphs and paintings within the indigenous community. Even today petroglyphs are carved by those given the authority and taught by the elders. Within the Northern Paiute community of the Great Basin area of the western United States there are members of the tribal group that have been selected and given the “authority.” Many given the authority are female. It is a special honor to be selected for the authority, and the teachings of the sacred medicine knowledge.

Cupules, the small round-shaped dimpled petroglyphs (25-38 mm in diameter) are only created by females. When cupules are in spatial relationship with a rock art site, the site location is “female” and usually the males within the indigenous community are forbidden from visiting the site or knowing of the sacred female knowledge. At “male” sites it is also forbidden for females to visit; even on death if those without the authority enter a site. Most rock art sites are off-limits to those without the authority in the community. Even today, sacredness and knowledge are closely guarded by those in position of power and leadership. Many societies throughout the world are considered “matriarchal” as are the Hopi and Dine’ (Navajo) Tribes. The grandmother elders are highly respected and honored…the keepers of the traditional knowledge.

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