Earthworks of Eastern North America
THE HOPETOWN WORKS
Description from Mills, William
C. 1914 includes quotes from Squier and Davis 1848 (S & D).
" They consist of a rectangle, with an attached circle, the
into the former, instead of being connected with it in the usual
manner, The rectangle measures nine hundred and fifty by nine hundred
feet, and the circle is ten hundred and fifty feet in diameter, ...
The chord of that part of the circle interior to the rectangle
is five hundred
and thirty feet. ... The walls of the rectangular works are composed
of a clayey loam, twelve feet high by fifty feet base, ... "
Roos County, Ohio,
of the great circle ... although much reduced of late years by the
plough, is still about five feet in average height. ... It is
clay, which differs strikingly in respect of color from the surrounding
soil. ... In the bank of the table land
" ... are several
excavations, ... from which large quantities of the earth
have been taken, though much less, apparently, than enters
into the composition of the embankments, From the height and
solidity of the walls, it might be inferred that this was a work
of defence, But its position, in respect to the third terrace
which commancls it, strongly opposes that conclusion Still, this
objection would not be insuperable, could we suppose that the,
walls were palisaded." -
S & D" 51. "
GPS readings: Google Earth placemark
Site Description from Mills, William
commenting on Squier and Davis' surveys:
"As usual, there are various errors in these measurements
... Instead of being connected by parallel lines as is usual
in this class of enclosures, the two are coincident for a considerable
distance, the circle forming most of the north side of the square,
It will be observed that in the so-called" square" no
side is straight. Among the thirteen angles, not including the
broken part of the circle at the north, there is not one within
three degrees of a right angle, measuring in straight lines between
the intersections forming the corners of the "square," the
lengths of the sides are 957, 791, 962 and 825 feet."
"The circle was surveyed by 100-foot chords on the middle line
of the embankment; the angles varied from 159 degrees 20 minutes,
to 178 degrees 4 minutes; only two were identical (172 degrees
12 minutes), and these were four stations apart. The polygon
thus described had thirty sides of 100 feet each and one side
of 98 feet ... east and west diameter is 1,018 feet; that north
and south 960 feet."
"The included area is a little less than 18 acres,
or about the same as that of a regular circle with the mean
diameter of 989 feet, The circle, at least, could not be defensive
... the walls are made of-the material near by -sand, clay,
loam, and gravel, mixed; probably much of it was taken from
the terrace bluff just above. Had clay been wanted, it could
have been procured in abundance."
"In the "Portfolio," Vol. II, No, 5, November,
1809, opposite page 419, there is a cut of the Hopetown works,
The parallel walls are represented as being connected with
the circle on each side of a gateway in a line with the west
side of the square. At the other end, the walls are similarly
connected with another circle, about the size of that at the
southeast corner of the square. The smaller circle has no other
opening than Hopetown, that leading out between the parallels.
This small circle had evidently been destroyed by the river
between 1809 and 1845 ... "
Located across the Scioto river
from Mound City,
Hopeton Earthworks is
another of the geometric earthworks that the Hopewell Culture is
so noted for.
It consists of a square and attached circle
still discernable after a century of plowing. In the following
photo, several excavation trenches transect the west embankment
of the square, visible as a low
rise in the field. While many of the works are now invisible or
nearly so due to agricultural plowing or town plotting, Hopeton's
major works remain discernable in most places.
Early aerial photography, from the 1930s, shows most of the
features surveyed by Squier and Davis.
By the 1970s, the minor earthworks were full eroded due to modern
farming equipment. Originally, the square walls were 12 feet tall
and fifty feet wide.
The square extends out of this image
on the right. The south embankment is visible, though difficult
to discern in this view. Parallel embankments extended from the work,
herein the far right corner of the square, southeast towards the
Scioto river and Mound City. The large circle is located off to the
right, and encroaches on the north square wall. A smaller circle
encroached on the square east wall in the foreground.
Note the gravel
plant near the river, and the water tower across the river near
Although Hopeton Earthworks was an officially-listed national historical landmark,
part of the designated area was stripped by the former
Chief Cornstalk Sand and Gravel Company. In 1992, Public
Law designated Hopewell Culture National Historical Park,
authorized expansion of the lands
at Hopeton and acquisitions protecting the Hopewell, High Bank,
and Seip Earthworks from further similar destruction. Other
major earthworks in the Scioto and nearby Paint Valleys near
Chillicothe remain unprotected.
Download the Google Earth Placemark File with
overlay maps: hopeton.kmz