Serpent Mound

Information provided by:
Ohio Historical Society

Atop a plateau overlooking the Brush Creek Valley, Serpent Mound is the largest and finest serpent effigy in the United States. Nearly a quarter of a mile long, Serpent Mound apparently represents an uncoiling serpent.

In the late nineteenth-century Harvard University archaeologist Frederic Ward Putnam excavated Serpent Mound and attributed the creation of the effigy to the builders of the two nearby burial mounds, which he also excavated. We now refer to this culture as the Adena (800 BC-AD 100). A third burial mound at the park and a village site near the effigy's tail belong to the Fort Ancient culture (AD 1000-1550).

A more recent excavation of Serpent Mound revealed wood charcoal that could be radiocarbon dated. Test results show that the charcoal dates to the Fort Ancient culture. This new evidence of the serpent's creators links the effigy to the elliptical mound and the village rather than the conical burial mounds.

The head of the serpent is aligned to the summer solstice sunset and the coils also may point to the winter solstice sunrise and the equinox sunrise. Today, visitors may walk along a footpath surrounding the serpent and experience the mystery and power of this monumental effigy. A public park for more than a century, Serpent Mound attracts visitors from all over the world. The museum contains exhibits on the effigy mound and the geology of the surrounding area.

Story originally published by:.
Arizona Republic / AZ | Bob Downing Knight Ridder News Service - Aug 22.04

PEEBLES, Ohio - The 1,348-foot-long Serpent Mound remains Ohio's biggest mystery.

No one knows who built the ancient earthwork in southern Ohio or when it was constructed, but it's believed to have been a religious or mythical symbol to its makers.

The mound is the largest serpent effigy in America and one of Ohio's only effigy mounds. It is a National Historic Landmark and on the National Register of Historic Places.

The crescent-shaped mound - it appears to be in the shape of an undulating snake with a spiral-coiled tail - sits atop a plateau 90 feet above wooded Ohio Brush Creek.

Some claim the shape of the mound is of a snake with its mouth open, swallowing an egg or chasing a frog. Others say it represents a horned snake of Indian culture. The head of the snake is aligned to the summer solstice sunset and the coils may point to the winter solstice sunrise and the equinox sunrise.

Some claim the Indians may have built it in the wake of Halley's Comet appearing in 1066.

The mound has gained a reputation for being a spiritual place where strange things occasionally happen. It is a New Age power center, believers say.

The mound is managed by the Ohio Historical Society. Serpent Mound State Memorial is off state Route 73, about 10 miles north of Peebles in Adams County.

You walk on a paved path that is up to 3 feet high around the mound. You can climb a 25-foot tower to get an aerial look at what may be an ancient sky calendar. There is a small museum at the 54-acre park.

The grass-covered mound is from 2 to 6 feet in height and from 20 to 25 feet in width. The serpent's head and tail both lie along cliffs on the southwest. The serpent mound was built atop a unique geological feature: an underground explosion. Some rock formations rose 1,000 feet above ground and others sank 400 feet.

Whatever happened - a meteor or asteroid or volcano or underground explosions - occurred about 200 million years ago and affected a 15-square-mile area.

Similar underground phenomena have been recorded elsewhere with no mound-building activities, but there are similar serpent effigies in Ontario and Scotland.

The Ohio site was first surveyed in 1846 by Ephraim Squire and Edwin Davis of Chillicothe. Harvard University archaeologist Frederic Ward Putnam visited the site in 1885 and was so worried that it would be destroyed by vandals and erosion that he purchased it in the name of the university's Peabody Museum.

From 1887 to 1889 he excavated the effigy and nearby conical mounds. He found no human bones or artifacts in the serpent mound. He concluded that the builders of the effigy, along with two nearby burial mounds, were from the mound-building Adena culture (800 B.C. to A.D. 100). More recent radiocarbon dating of charcoal from the serpent mound dates to the Fort Ancients in the 11th century.

Harvard turned the site over to the Ohio Archaeological and Historical Society in 1900.