Friday, July 29, 2011

Ohio Wonder - The Great Serpent Mound

Ohio is a Midwestern State in the United States which is also known as the Buckeye State due to the presence of the Ohio Buckeye Tree. The Anglicized term Ohio comes from the Iroquois word "Ohi-Yo" which implies a great river.

The state is a pot pourri of many activities and places. It is truly a melting pot in every sense. The landscape in the state is the perfect lure for tourists from all parts of the globe. Ohio has Lake Erie which lends a coastal feel to the place on the one hand and on the other, the Hocking Hills region offers the best opportunity for rock climbing and trekking for the nature enthusiasts.

Ohio also has a mix of many cultures and ethnicities which gives it a richness which can be experienced in the variety of cuisines and the authentic art in the area.

There are many places of tourist significance in the state. But one of the most unique pieces of ancient culture is the Great Serpent Mound. It is a 1330 foot long, three feet high pre-historic effigy mound which is located on the plateau of the Serpent Mound Crater. It is one of those landmarks which were on the verge of getting destroyed. It is now contained within a park and is cared for by the Ohio Historical Society. The mound has been designated as a National Historic Landmark by the United States Department of Interior.

The Great Serpent Mound was first reported in the historic volume Ancient Monuments of Mississippi Valley which was written by Ephraim Squire and Edwin Davis and published by the newly founded Smithsonian Museum in 1848.

According to E.H. Roseboom & F. P. Wiesenberger in their work "A History of Ohio", "The most famous of all such (effigy) mounds is the Great Serpent Mound in Adams County, 1,330 feet in length along its coils and averaging three feet in height."

The Great Serpent Mound is a man made mound of earth soil which is in the shape of a long uncoiling serpent stretching up to nearly a quarter of a mile. The shape of the uncoiling snake also seems to depict as it is about to swallow an egg-shaped oval in its open mouth. The origins of this mound are said to be between 1000 and 1500 AD.

It is generally believed that two cultures were responsible for the Serpent Mound. The first is the Adena People who lived in this area from about the 6th century BC to the early 1st century AD. The Adena had built two conical burial mounds near the Serpent. But the presence of a third elliptical shaped burial mound at the Park and a village site near the serpent's tail indicate towards the Fort Ancient culture which existed from 1000-1550 AD.

A recent excavation of the Serpent Mound in 1995 points out that it was constructed in 1070 AD which is the time when the Fort Ancient culture was in existence. It was first surveyed and sketched in the 1840s and excavated by the Harvard archeologist F.W.Putnam in the late 19th century.

The purpose of building such a mound is still a mystery. As is apparent from the excavations, it was never used for burials. There is a school of thought that it might be an offering to the Gods, as it is obviously higher than the ground level and is meant to be seen from above.

The coil of the Serpent is a common sacred symbol throughout the ancient cultures and often depicts the sacred forces of earth. This can also mean that the people who built the mound worshiped the Earth as Divine Mother.

The Great Serpent Mound has been protected and preserved in a public park for more than a century now and it attracts a lot of visitors who enjoy the pleasures of walking on the wooded footpath surrounding the serpent. They can also visit an on-site museum which has exhibits on the effigy and also the geology of the surrounding area.

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