The Great Circle Earthwork, Newark, Ohio

Great Circle, Newark Earthworks, survey plan detail

"This is the large circle situated in the southern extremity of the group ... undoubtedly one of the best preserved ancient monuments of our country; it is uninjured by the plow and trees of the original forest are still standing on it."

Cyrus Thomas, Report on the Mound Explorations, 1894.

with photo links:


By the time Thomas wrote these words, much of "Newark Works" as drawn earlier by Whittlesey, Squier, and Davis had been obliterated by agricultural activity and the development of Newark. The very scale of the two largest works made them less subject to destruction than other sections of Newark, and other earthworks generally. The Great Circle Earthwork, formerly Moundbuilders State Memorial, survived destruction as the Licking County Fairgrounds before park status. The Octagon, another Ohio Historical Society property, is leased to Moundbuilders Country Club and used as a golf course. The Octagon remained nearly intact when Thomas surveyed in the 1890s; albeit a portion was cleared and reportedly impacted by plowing.

Click images for larger views.
Great Circle.  View of the Newark Great Circle embankment and inner ditch from atop the northwestern section.

Left. View of the Newark Great Circle embankment and inner ditch from atop the northwestern section. This open, less-wooded section of the circle affords a good view of the Great Circle's monumental scale. The Great Circle is actually an ellipse measuring from 1163 to 1189 feet in width.

Below. A section of the northeast portion of the circle. Everywhere around the circle, large trees enhance the site's grandeur.

Fortunately E. G. Squier and E. H. Davis (1847), Cyrus Thomas (1894), and others undertook original surveys and explorations prior to the destruction of many sites. The Squier and Davis survey results, published by the Smithsonian Institution, include detailed illustrations of the sites. About Newark Earthworks, Squier and Davis stated, "These works are so complicated, that it is impossible to give anything like a comprehensive description of them." The Newark array of circles, a square, an octagon, parallel embankments and circular and elliptical mounds was the most diverse, extensive and complex of earthen monument sites.

Survey plan detail, entrance of Newark Great Circle, embankment and inner ditch.

The Great Circle has the highest of the embankments at Newark. Based on survey, in this section of the "Newark Works," Whittlesey, Squier, and Davis (1837-47) reported nine feet high and 45 feet wide at their base embankments surrounding the seven feet deep and 35 feet wide ditch. They reported the entrance is emphasized with 16 foot high embankments above a 13 foot ditch.
  Survey plan detail, embankment of Newark Great Circle.

Newark Circle Fall colors.

Newark Circle view of E$agle Mound from Graet Circle embankment.

With summer vegetation, the views across the full breadth of the Great Circle are fleeting few. From the northern arc's embankment, the group of four co-joined mounds at the center of the circle (Eagle Mound) are discernible as small rises of earth. The mound form, variously described as an arrow, or a bird, or just co-joined mounds, covers the remains of a large ancient structure, as do some other mounds in the region. The arrow-form layout of the four distinct hummocks pointing to the entrance is noteworthy.

Newark Earthworks drawing based on
Newark Earthworks (drawing based on map in Squier and Davis, 1847)
includes two of the most impressive of all earthworks, part of
a group that covered "an extent of about two square miles" ...

On Eagle Mound, the GPS receiver (right) was reading slow early in the day with morning cloud cover.

From Eagle Mound, the central mounds (below), the monument entrance frames a lunar alignment—the northerly minimum lunar rise azimuth. The museum entrance arch is also framed by Great Circle's gateway.

The entrance is km/6 from Eagle Mound, bearing North 67.12° E. of N.

Eagle Mound

Eagle Mound inside the Newark Great Circle
The panorama of views below continues clockwise, left-to-right around the circle interior from the gateway.
The last GPS reading was from the center of the gateway along the embankment arc. The position where the Great Circle impresses the most is between the 100 foot long parallel embankments framing the singular entranceway. The embankment readings were made beginning and ending with the embankment gateway corners, and circulating ENWS twelve readings (from nca to ncl, table of readings below).

Great Circle entrance viewing outward to museum.

Newark Great Circle entrance.

Above. On the right, the ditch, like the parallels, extends outward in the entranceway.

Left. The corners of the circle and the gateway parallels are the highest points of the embankment, at 16 feet. The largest tree in this image forms the edge of the image below. A view of the gateway below, last of the panorama series, is taken from the embankment corner on the left, atop the 16 foot bank looking across the gateway.

Looking southwest into the Great Circle from the entrance, towards the south of Eagle Mound.

Looking southwest into the Great Circle from the entranc

Eagle Mound behind a massive maple.

Eagle Mound behind a massive maple.

nccm - thors 53.6409 - 1.99999 S22

nccm - huaso 48.2771 - 1.8000 S22



Another grand maple northwest of the entrance on the edge of an old growth grove.

Great Circle entranceway view towards the northeast interior area.

Newark Circle entranceway viewing north ftom south embankment corner.

Left. Looking across the entranceway.

Below. Looking out the entranceway to the northeast.

Great Circle entrance wall on north side, viewing outward from entranceway.

Newark Square survey map details
Of all these earthworks northeast of the Great Circle, today only a small remnant of the square survives.

MORE: Newark Archaeogeodesy
Assessing Evidence of Geospatial Intelligence in the Americas

Octagon Earthworks State Memorial

Site Coordinates
Code Location Latitude Longitude Source
ncgc Newark Circle Gateway 40.04161111 -82.42908333 GPS 2m
ncmnw Newark Circle Mound NW 40.04122220 -82.43119444 GPS 5m
ncmsw Newark Circle Mound SW 40.04083333 -82.43102178 GPS 5m
ncmw Newark Circle Mound W 40.04105556 -82.43119444 GPS 6m
nccm Newark Circle Mound Center 40.04102778 -82.43088889 GPS 6m
ncec Newark Circle Center 40.04103679 -82.43106901 GPS mean
nca Newark Circle Embankment 40.04183333 -82.42919444 GPS 3m
ncb Newark Circle Embankment 40.04244444 -82.43000000 GPS 5m
ncc Newark Circle Embankment 40.04266667 -82.43111111 GPS 6m
ncd Newark Circle Embankment 40.04241667 -82.43219444 GPS 6m
nce Newark Circle Embankment 40.04175000 -82.43291667 GPS 5m
ncf Newark Circle Embankment 40.04086111 -82.43322222 GPS 5m
ncg Newark Circle Embankment 40.04002778 -82.43280556 GPS 5m
nch Newark Circle Embankment 40.03947222 -82.43191667 GPS 5m
nci Newark Circle Embankment 40.03941667 -82.43077778 GPS 7m
ncj Newark Circle Embankment 40.03983333 -82.42975000 GPS 6m
nck Newark Circle Embankment 40.04052778 -82.42916667 GPS 5m
ncl Newark Circle Embankment 40.04136111 -82.42897222 GPS 5m

Ancient Earthworks of Eastern North America
The Great Circle Earthwork, Newark, Ohio

Sources, Bibliography, and Readings

Knapp, Joe July 19, 1998. Hopewell Lunar Astronomy: The Octagon Earthworks

Lepper, Bradley T. Feb. 13, 2007. Octagon Earthworks' alignment with moon likely is no accident.

Lepper, B. T. 1996. The Newark Earthworks and the Geometrical Enclosures of the Scioto Valley: Connections and Conjectures in A View from the Core: A Synthesis of Ohio Hopewell Archaeology, edited by Paul J. Pacheco, Ohio Archaeological Council.

Mills, William C. 1914 Archaeological Atlas of Ohio. The Ohio State Achaeological and Historical Society.

Salisbury, James A. and Charles Salisbury 1862  Accurate Surveys & Descriptions of the Ancient Earthworks at Newark, Ohio. Manuscript, American Antiquarian Society, Worcester, Massachusetts.

Squier, Ephriam G. and Edwin H. Davis 1847 Ancient Monuments of the Mississippi Valley. Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D. C.

Thomas, Cyrus 1894 Report on the Mound Explorations of the Bureau of Ethnology. Twelft Annual Report of the Bureau of Ethnology. Washington.

Woodward, Susan L. and Jerry N. McDonald 1986 Indian Mounds of the Middle Ohio Valley. McDonald and Woodward, Blacksburg Virginia.

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