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

Plowed or paved over, the region's prehistory was all but squandered. But a long-term UC project uses modern technology to rebuild ancient Native American monuments. Part of this ambitious effort opens as a permanent exhibit June 21 at the The Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal.

Date: 6/9/2003 12:00:00 AM
By: Mary Reilly
Phone: (513) 556-1824

UC ingot  

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.  

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 will officially opened as a permanent display at the Hopewell Culture National Historic Park in Chillicothe, Ohio, on March 6.  Another portion will open for permanent display on June 21 in the Musuem of Natural History at Union Terminal's Cincinnati Museum Center.  That opening caps Ohio Archaeology Week.  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.

Learn more about the project with:

• A detailed explanation of EarthWorks and the Native American cultural achievements it targets

• An inventory of rebuilt sites as well as other Adena, Hopewell and Fort Ancient cultural sites pictured in EarthWorks

• An inventory of the individual components that comprise EarthWorks

• Previous recognition awarded to EarthWorks

• A few comments from EarthWorks’ team members from across the country