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30 November 2008
Research sheds light on Ohio's ancient earthworks

High Bank Works is an ancient earthwork built along the Scioto River Valley in Ross County (USA) nearly 2,000 years ago by the Ohio Hopewell culture. It consists of an enormous 20-acre circle connected to an octagonal enclosure that is nearly as large. Originally, the walls of the earthwork were 12 feet tall, but after decades of plowing, they have been reduced to a few bumps in a cornfield. The remnants of the earthwork are preserved as part of Hopewell Culture National Historical Park.
     High Bank Works was featured in two presentations given this month at the fall meeting of the Ohio Archaeological Council. N'omi Greber, of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, described her recent investigation of the earthwork using archives, geophysical remote sensing and test excavations.
     William Romain, a research affiliate with the Ohio State University's Newark Earthworks Center, included High Bank Works in a survey of Ohio earthworks using lidar, a remote sensing technology somewhat like radar that gives us startlingly accurate images even when the earthworks have been plowed to apparent oblivion. The complementary conclusions of these studies demonstrate the complexity of the earthworks and how the ancient architects incorporated a remarkable knowledge of geometry, astronomy and local topography. These monumental compositions give us insight into the spiritual beliefs of these too-often underappreciated people. These studies add to our understanding of the ancient earthworks and affirm the wisdom of preserving such sites, even when there might not appear to be much left to save.
     In anticipation of the increase in tourism that will follow from the nomination of several Ohio mound sites, including High Bank Works, to the World Heritage List, the Center for the Electronic Reconstruction of Historical and Archaeological Sites at the University of Cincinnati is working with several partners to develop the Ancient Ohio Trail.

Source: The Columbus Dispatch (25 November 2008)

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