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Serpent Mound Of Ohio is a National Historic Landmark that is a reminder of the sophistication and elegance of the cultures that came before present day Americans.

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Mysterious Origins Of The Great Serpent Mound

This National Historic Landmark Has Been Shrouded By Mystery Ever Since Being Discovered &  Is A Reminder Of The Elegance Of Ancient Cultures

Bird's Eye View Of The Great Serpent Mound Along The River [Courtesy: Serpent Mound]

Perspective has always played an important and decisive role in American history.  For example, many elementary history books teach that North America was discovered in 1492 when Columbus sailed the ocean blue.  However, researchers and scientists have long since concluded that America was discovered and intimately known by cultures that were here well before Christopher got here, which shifts perspective dramatically.  The pueblos of the Southwest, the Totem Poles in the Northwest, and the great mounds of the Midwest attest to this fact. One of the greatest, and certainly the largest, mounds is known as the Great Serpent Mound in Ohio.  It is over 1300 feet long on a 100-foot bluff in the south-central countryside of Ohio.  A National Historic Landmark, it has been shrouded in mystery since being "discovered" (Columbus-style) in the 19th century. 

"It was first found in 1837," Tim Goodwin, park manager for Serpent Mound, says, "and then written about in 1848 when it became internationally famous."  Goodwin goes on to explain that Harvard University bought it in 1880s and later it was given to the Historical Society of Ohio, whose present day descendants now own it and it is managed by the Arc of Appalachia.  

Replica Of The Adena People Burial Mounds Found Near The Serpent Mound [Courtesy/vasenkaphotography]
Man Excited To See The Great Serpent Mound In Ohio [Courtesy: Serpent Mound]

"It is one of the most important archaeological sites in the country," Goodwin says.  Its origins are extremely mysterious with dating ranging from 1000 BC to about 1500 AD.  "We just don't know who built it," Goodwin says.  Originally it was thought to be built by the Adena culture.  Adena people were around the area from about 1000 BC - 200 AD.  They are known for their pottery and artistic works, as well as their mounds.  Supporting this theory is two Adena burial mounds near the Serpent.  However, from the over 100 years of study, there hasn't been any artifacts from any culture found in the Serpent itself.  In 1995, carbon dating placed charcoal found inside the mound at about 1000AD.  This convinced scientists that the Fort Ancient culture built the Serpent. The Fort Ancients were native people found in Ohio that subsisted on farming, mainly maize, and led a sedentary lifestyle. 

However, in 2014, "new tests were done and, surprise surprise, it dated back to Adena times," Goodwin says.  Goodwin also mentions that in 2013, a geophysical survey was done that discovered a 4th bend in the serpent. "At some point either the designed change or there was damage to the hill," Goodwin explains.  He says that from July-October in 2016 a new survey was done that hopes to further understanding of the Serpent in which "we are anxiously awaiting the results." 

There are some really interesting things that are known about the Serpent and some that are speculation.  First, Goodwin says, "the summer solstice sunset shines directly into the Serpents mouth."  This supports a theory that the Serpent has astronomical significance.  It has been suggested that the serpent is modeled after a constellation, perhaps the Little Dipper or Draco.  It is also said that the tail aligns to the winter solstice sunrise.  Depending on when the serpent was built, it could have been built as homage to major events in the heavens.  According to an article by Khan Academy, if it was built by the Fort Ancient culture in the 1000s, "Halley's Comet appeared in 1066" and there is evidence of a "supernova explosion" that was visible even during the day in the Crab Nebula around the same time. 

Tim Goodwin, Park Manager For Serpent Mound & Arc of Appalachia [Courtesy: Serpent Mound]
Close Shot Showing An Accurate Side-By-Side Size Up Of The Mound [Courtesy/Don Sniegowski-CC]
Historic Site Resembles A Snake Slithering Underground [Courtesy/vasenkaphotography]

These theories add to the intrigue of this ancient place in rural Ohio.  “We are pretty far out here,” Goodwin laughs, “the nearest town has 2500 people and it is 7 miles away.”  Goodwin explains that the mound has a visitor center, as well as some other buildings, though he says, “these are also ancient.”  They were built in the 1920s and the buildings are small in size.  “We were excited to get running water and flush toilets 6 years ago,” Goodwin chuckles,” it was a big deal!” 

In the middle west of America, land of farms and rolling hills, there are many effigies built by the ancient Mound Builders.  All of them obviously had some sort of significance to these people and they still carry influence on Americans and the rest of the world.  Whether the original reason for building ones like the Serpent Mound was an ode to the earth or to the heavens, now it is a reminder of the sophistication and elegance of the cultures that came before present day Americans.  A reminder that people can put their own touch of beauty on the environment they inhabit.


Andrew Malo

A graduate of Northeastern Illinois University in Education, Andrew has taught for the past decade in Chicago, New Mexico, and Japan.  He  enjoys tinkering with trucks and motorcycles, woodworking, reading and computer programming. 

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