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11 October 2009
Walk with the ancients in Ohio

Following nearly the same route that might have been taken thousands of years ago by American Indians, about 30 people set out to trek nearly 70 miles from Chillicothe to Newark (Ohio, USA). Their journey will take about a week and echo a journey thought to have been repeatedly made by the Hopewell Indians nearly 2,000 years ago. "The basic idea is pilgrimage," said Richard Shiels, director of the Newark Earthworks Center. "The idea that people came here from great distances." Although it is thought ancient people traveled to what now is Newark from much greater distances than Chillicothe, the route between the two cities is distinctive.
     Some archeologists, including Brad Lepper at the Ohio Historical Society, believe there might have been a Great Hopewell Road characterized by two parallel mounds that ran in a straight line between the two ceremonial sites. No remnants of the road remain today, but in the 1920s Warren Weiant Jr. noted he could see the parallel lines when he flew over the area in an airplane. Although the heavy agricultural use of the area might have destroyed the mounds, soil stains could have remained. Lepper said in other areas of the world, similar roads were built by the Anasazi and Mayan cultures.
     Even if a road didn't exist or didn't span the entire distance, there is little doubt that ancient American Indians traveled between the two locations.  Not only is the site in Chillicothe the only other site aside from Newark that features an octagon connected to a circle, but the two circles are the same size. Carol Welsh, the executive director of the Native American Indian Center of Central Ohio, is one of the people making the entire walk. "I think for me personally it is a chance to really own that part of my ancestry in a really contemporary way," Welsh said. "It really makes me proud to be Native American, and in our mainstream culture there are few things that do."
     Shiels said he hopes the walk is not just meaningful for the walkers, but that it will bring attention to the Earthworks and create renewed awareness about what these sites meant to the ancient people. Both Shiels and Welsh said particularly in past years, the interest has been growing and they hope it will continue to build. "The sites are so amazing," Welsh said. "The rest of the world is kind of waking up. I wish and hope the local residents can embrace this cultural richness that is our shared history. Its such a part of who we are."

Source: Newark Advocate (7 October 2009)

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