Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

What's Lost Is Found Again: 'Virtually' Rebuilding Native American Monuments

Date:
March 7, 2003
Source:
University Of Cincinnati
Summary:
For five years now, a University of Cincinnati team has been piecing together the fragments of three little-known, prehistoric Native American cultures that left behind immense earthworks that rival Stonehenge in their astronomical accuracy.

For five years now, a University of Cincinnati team has been piecing together the fragments of three little-known, prehistoric Native American cultures that left behind immense earthworks that rival Stonehenge in their astronomical accuracy.

Related Articles


Most of these sites – an extant example being Serpent Mound in Adams County, Ohio – survived close to two millennia before they were gouged out or cultivated in the 19th century or paved over for development in the 20th century. And that's where the extensive, national team, led by architect John Hancock of the Center for the Reconstruction of Historic Sites at UC, comes in.

Using archaeological data gleaned from such modern technology as sensing devices and infrared photography as well as frontier maps and other aids provided by archaeologists, they've re-established the location and appearance of many of the region's earthworks constructed by the Adena, Hopewell and Fort Ancient cultures from as early as 600 BC. Now, using architectural software and high-resolution computer modeling and animation, this team is "virtually" rebuilding these massive earthworks that stretched over miles and rose to heights of about 15 feet. They call their computer/museum project, EarthWorks.

A portion of EarthWorks officially opens today, March 6, as a permanent display at the Hopewell Culture National Historic Park in Chillicothe, Ohio, on March 6. Another portion will open for permanent display this summer at The Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal on June 21. That opening is part of Ohio Archaeology Week events. As the project nears completion, later exhibits are being planned across the country.

Thus far, EarthWorks has received about $1.5 million in funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Ohio Board of Regents, the Ohio Humanities Council, the Ohio Arts Council, the George Gund Foundation, and in-kind donations from the University of Cincinnati.

Additional background:

UC reconstructions of Native Americans' ancient monuments allow us to peer back 24 centuries

Before the Maya of Central America built their arrow-straight roadways, the creative Hopewell culture (contemporaries with the Caesars in Rome) flourished in North America's Midwest to raise up monuments of earth that rivaled England's Stonehenge in their astronomical accuracy.

In the area that comprises Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana and Illinois, the Adena, Hopewell and Fort Ancient peoples erected hundreds of astronomical circles, octagons, rectangles (and later animal effigies) stretching thousands of feet in length and reaching 15 feet in height. The works served as incredibly precise in plotting and marking the moon's subtle rhythms.

The remarkable technical capacity and culture of the Adena (who built cones and rings starting from 600 BC), the Hopewell (who specialized in geometric enclosures from 100 BC to AD 400), and later the Fort Ancient (building animal shapes from 700-1200 AD) peoples are, at best, overlooked even within the region where they concentrated their efforts, erecting earthworks of astonishing size and precision.

EarthWorks

But an already five years' long project at the University of Cincinnati is poised to change that. Begun in 1997, the EarthWorks project is using architectural software, high-resolution computer modeling and animation to virtually rebuild the long-lost and nearly forgotten achievements of the early Native Americans. Architecture Professor John Hancock of the Center for the Reconstruction of Historic Sites at UC is now set to exhibit the first fruits of his EarthWorks research in a series of museum installations that bring home the visual immensity of the earthworks. Thus, Hancock is using technology to change how historical and ancient sites can be viewed.

The massive earthworks are a phenomena, but remain mostly unknown even though estimates of their one-time numbers range from a few hundred to 10,000. They survived intact up to the 19th century, but, now, it's estimated that 80 percent of the once-extant "mounds" have been destroyed due to farming, looting, highways and sprawl. Made of earth, they were easy to alter or erase. And so, the extent, scope and power of these works – which may have included an ancient 60-mile highway stretching between Newark and Chillicothe in Ohio – has remained hidden.

Destruction of the mounds:

In the early 19th century, the existence of these mammoth works birthed American archaeology and was the subject of the first volume published by America's newly founded Smithsonian Institution, the Ancient Monuments of the Mississippi Valley of 1848 which recorded the abundance of Hopewell earthworks across the region.

Even the earliest archaeologists contributed to the destruction of these prehistoric monuments. Nineteenth-century archaeologists gouged out earthworks, seeking the burial remains and artifacts (pottery, stone smoking pipes shaped like otters and ravens, headdresses with copper antlers and engraved tablets, as well as ornaments worked from copper, silver, translucent mica and stone) placed inside nearly two millennia before. In fact, Hopewell obsidian came all the way from what is, today, Yellowstone Valley in the Rocky Mountains.

The mounds and their function:

Even though some are so large that they rival the buildings of Mexico's empires, the "mounds" were a subtle form of architecture, according to Hancock. They first took shape as cones and ridges (the simplest forms) and evolved to more complicated structures: giant geometric outlines, symmetrical octagons, perfect squares and, eventually, snakes and possums.

It's thought that the earthworks were landscape markers and ceremonial centers tied to festivals (including marriage, death and burial), social and cosmological ideas of order, astronomical events and territorial agreements (likely tied to the emergence of planting and agriculture). In the case of hilltop enclosures, fortification may have been part of –but by no means all of – the picture.

The promises and pay-offs from the "virtual" rebuilding project:Given the challenge that most of the earthworks have been destroyed, how did Hancock and the team of UC students and faculty, scholars from around the country, archaeologists, graphic designers, artists, videographers and others piece the fragments together in order to rebuild these works? How could they begin even knowing where to site them, since most have been paved, trampled, plundered, cultivated or overgrown? First, there are the 19th-century historical records and maps. They also made use of aerial photographs and satellite images. Also, some ground-level remains enable them to mark and chart and make newly visible the till-now hidden ancient culture.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University Of Cincinnati. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University Of Cincinnati. "What's Lost Is Found Again: 'Virtually' Rebuilding Native American Monuments." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 7 March 2003. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2003/03/030307071415.htm>.
University Of Cincinnati. (2003, March 7). What's Lost Is Found Again: 'Virtually' Rebuilding Native American Monuments. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2003/03/030307071415.htm
University Of Cincinnati. "What's Lost Is Found Again: 'Virtually' Rebuilding Native American Monuments." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2003/03/030307071415.htm (accessed December 20, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Fossils & Ruins News

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Researchers Bring Player Pianos Back to Life

Researchers Bring Player Pianos Back to Life

AP (Dec. 17, 2014) Stanford University wants to unlock the secrets of the player piano. Researchers are restoring and studying self-playing pianos and the music rolls that recorded major composers performing their own work. (Dec. 17) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Domestication Might've Been Bad For Horses

Domestication Might've Been Bad For Horses

Newsy (Dec. 16, 2014) A group of scientists looked at the genetics behind the domestication of the horse and showed how human manipulation changed horses' DNA. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Mozart, Beethoven, Shubert and Bizet Manuscripts to Go on Sale

Mozart, Beethoven, Shubert and Bizet Manuscripts to Go on Sale

AFP (Dec. 16, 2014) A collection of rare manuscripts by composers Mozart, Beethoven, Shubert and Bizet are due to go on sale at auction on December 17. Duration: 00:57 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Old Ship Records to Shed Light on Arctic Ice Loss

Old Ship Records to Shed Light on Arctic Ice Loss

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Dec. 15, 2014) Researchers are looking to the past to gain a clearer picture of what the future holds for ice in the Arctic. A project to analyse and digitize ship logs dating back to the 1850's aims to lengthen the timeline of recorded ice data. Ben Gruber reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins