Great Wonder of the Ancient World - The Great Serpent Mound

Great Wonder of the Ancient World - The Great Serpent Mound

We are searching data for your request:

Forums and discussions:
Manuals and reference books:
Data from registers:
Wait the end of the search in all databases.
Upon completion, a link will appear to access the found materials.


The Great Serpent Mound is a 1,348-foot (411 m)-long,[2] three-foot-high prehistoric effigy mound on a plateau of the Serpent Mound crater along Ohio Brush Creek in Adams County, Ohio. Maintained within a park by the Ohio History Connection, it has been designated a National Historic Landmark by the United States Department of Interior. The Serpent Mound of Ohio was first reported from surveys by Ephraim Squire and Edwin Davis in their historic volume Ancient Monuments of the Mississippi Valley, published in 1848 by the newly founded Smithsonian Museum.


Near Hopewell, Ohio, an early group of Indians, called Mound Builders, constructed an earthworks that looks like a huge snake when viewed from the sky. The Great Serpent Mound is one-quarter mile (just under one-half kilometer) long and was built by the Fort Ancient group. These Indians were descendants of the Hopewell, an earlier culture that dominated the Ohio River Valley until about a.d. 500. The ruins of the Fort Ancient people indicate that they were hunters and gatherers like the Mississippian people to their south and west, but they also fished and cultivated some crops including beans, corn, and squash. The Fort Ancient people lived in stockaded villages like that found in southwest Ohio, overlooking the Miami River. The site is called Fort Ancient (after its name the
prehistoric Indian group was named), and it is a fortification surrounded by an earth wall, ranging from six to ten feet (two to three meters) in height and it is over 3.5 miles (5.6 kilometers) long.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

Interpretations of the Serpent Mound

The most predominant theory is that the Serpent Mound represents a giant snake, which is slowly uncoiling itself and about to seize a huge egg within its extended jaws. However many theories abound suggesting various interpretations. For instance, some think it may represent an eclipse, or the phases of the moon. Others have speculated that it represents the myth of the horned serpent found in many Native American cultures. In 1909, local German Baptist minister Landon West proposed another unusual theory: the serpent was writhing in its death throes as punishment for tempting Adam and Eve in what West believed was the original Garden of Eden.

There are serious suggestions that the serpent is intimately connected with the heavens. Several writers have suggested that the serpent is a model of the constellation we call the Little Dipper, its tail coiled about the North Star.

Various alignments of the serpent correspond to astronomical features, such as alignments of the sun and moon. In 1987 Clark and Marjorie Hardman published their finding that the oval-to-head area of the serpent is aligned to the summer solstice sunset, suggesting that one of the effigy’s purposes was to mark the turning of the year so that planting and gathering and hunting could be planned.

William F. Romain has suggested an array of six lunar alignments corresponding to the curves in the effigy's body. If the Serpent Mound were designed to sight both solar and lunar arrays, it would be reflect the consolidation of astronomical knowledge into a single symbol.

Generations of researchers agree with the theory that the Serpent Mound holds astronomical significance, but the intent of those who built the serpent, and how it was used still remains a mystery.

Many scholars believe the Serpent Mound was used in religious ceremonies. When settlers first discovered the mound, there was a fire-scorched stone monument in the egg-shaped head, which has led some to suggest it was used as an altar of some sort – possibly sacrificial, based on the ceremonial knives unearthed among the blackened stones and a number of headless skeletons discovered in gravesites nearby.

Whatever its true purpose, the Serpent Mound attests to the ingenuity of its creators. As the Ancient Ohio Trail website so aptly states: “The genius of its designers remains apparent: this blend of beauty, familiarity, abstraction, power, precision, and mystery, make Ohio’s Serpent Mound one of the great, iconic images for all of human antiquity.”

Mysteries and Giants at the Serpent Mound of Ohio

Lying out in rural Adams County, Ohio, in the United States, upon a plateau overlooking Brush Creek, is a curious mound of earth jutting out of the land, winding about in the unmistakable image of a snake for a full 1348 feet and averaging 3.9 to 4.9 feet in height, and it comes complete with an open-mouthed head and coiled tail, earning it its nickname “The Serpent Mound.” It is what is called an “effigy mound,” a type of earthen mound created in the shape of an animal, and it is the largest known such mound in the world, made all the more mysterious in that it curiously lies along the impact crater of some ancient meteor strike. First excavated in the late 1800s, we know no more about it now than we did then, its origins and purpose unclear, and so the Serpent Mound has managed to attract many mysterious stories to it, one of these being all of the giant skeletons that have apparently been found there.

While the exact origins and age of the mound are somewhat shrouded in mystery, the Serpent Mound is generally accepted to have been built by what is now called the Early Woodland Adena culture, which existed in the area from between 500 B.C. to 200 A.D., with the structure most likely dating to about 300 B.C., but the reasons for its existence have been debated. One idea is that it was created for some sort of mortuary purposes, as although the mound itself does not contain any remains, there are numerous smaller burial mounds peppering the area around it. It is thought that the serpent might have been constructed as a sort of protector of the graves or a beacon to guide lost spirits. This makes sense, as serpents and snakes were often depicted by the Native peoples as having magical or supernatural powers, and were seen as revered animals. Another idea is that it was for some sort of cosmological or astrological use, supported by the fact that the head and the tail of the serpent just happen to align very well with the summer solstice sunset and the winter solstice sunrise, as well as to yearly equinoxes. Another idea put forward by researcher Ross Hamilton in his book Star Mounds: Legacy of a Native American Mystery is that the Serpent Mound is merely one part of a larger “terrestrial zodiac,” linking together with other mounds across the country. However, no one is sure, and the mound remains quite a mystery.

Adding to this is that the location on an impact crater has turned up various gravitational and magnetic anomalies in the area, leading to speculation that the construction was intentionally made here for this reason, and there have long been stories of freak weather patterns and anomalous lights in the area. The Serpent Mound has gone on to be known for UFO sightings and other weirdness, but perhaps the strangest thing here are the instances in which the remains of what appear to be actual giants, individuals allegedly measuring between 7 and 9 feet tall. One such report appears in 1872 in Historical Collections of Noble County Ohio, in which there were stumbled across some strange remains, which would be described:

The remains of three skeletons whose size would indicate they measured in life at least eight feet in height. The remarkable feature of these remains was they had double teeth in front, as well as in back of the mouth and in both upper and lower jaws. Upon exposure to the atmosphere the skeletons crumbled back to mother earth.

This is far from the only such report made from the vicinity of the Serpent Mound, and another was given in 1891 by American anthropologist and professor Frederic Ward Putnam, who was doing a study and excavation of one of the outlying burial mounds when he came across a skeleton of a relatively smaller size, standing at only 6 feet, but this would have been towering in ancient times, and it was also remarkable for its bizarre dental structure, which seems to have featured a double row of teeth. Putnam would write:

Several peculiarities of this skeleton are worthy of notice. It was that of a well-developed man…and probably about 25 or 30 years of age, he never had any wisdom teeth, and a search in the maxillary bone of one side showed that there was no wisdom tooth forming in the jaw. With this exception, he had a fine set of teeth, and still embedded in the premaxillary bone is a partly formed left incisor tooth. No corresponding formation can be seen on the opposite side of the suture, and this is probably a super-numerary tooth, although the small size of the lateral incisors is suggestive of their being persistent first teeth. As is often the case in skulls of this race, the crowns of the incisors are distinctly folded.

Putnam would surmise that this had been merely an adolescent, and that it would have achieved far greater size if it had not died. Putnam would allegedly discover several other skeletons in the area measuring 7 feet tall or taller, and with skulls that were “twice the usual thickness.” In 1894 a local farmer by the name of Warren Cowen also happened across some unusual graves, and an article at the time in The New York Times says of this:

Farmer Warren Cowen of Hilsborough, Ohio, while fox hunting recently discovered several ancient graves. They were situated upon a high point of land in Highland County, Ohio, about a mile from the famous Serpent Mound, where Prof. Putnam of Harvard made interesting discoveries. As soon as the weather permitted, Cowen excavated several of these graves. The graves were made of large limestone slabs, two and a half to three feet in length and a foot wide. These were set on edge about a foot apart. Similar slabs covered the graves. A single one somewhat larger was at the head and another at the foot. The top of the grave was two feet below the present surface.

Upon opening one of the graves a skeleton of upwards of six feet was brought to light. There were a number of stone hatchets, beads, and ornaments of peculiar workmanship near the right arm. Several large flint spear and arrow heads among the ribs gave evidence that the warrior had died in battle. In another grave was the skeleton of a man equally large… Several pipes and pendants were near the shoulders. In other graves, Cowen made equally interesting finds. It seems that the region was populated by a fairly intelligent people, and that the serpent mound was an object of worship. Near the graves is a large field in which broken implements, fragments of pottery, and burned stones give evidence of a prehistoric village.

There would apparently be made at least 17 reports listed in Smithsonian ethnology reports of outsized remains of 7 feet and over found in mounds surrounding Serpent Mound, and it has led to speculation that some race of giant individuals may have called this place at home and been closely in league with the Natives of the area. What are we to think of all of this? It is all certainly a mysterious place, but are there mysteries here that are even stranger than most? What are are we to make of the reports of giant-sized people living here, and is there anything to such reports at all? The mystery remains, and the Serpent Mound of Ohio is certainly an inscrutable feature of the landscape here.

The Great Serpent Mound

The Great Serpent Mound in rural, southwestern Ohio is the largest serpent effigy in the world. Numerous mounds were made by the ancient Native American cultures that flourished along the fertile valleys of the Mississippi, Ohio, Illinois, and Missouri Rivers a thousand years ago, though many were destroyed as farms spread across this region during the modern era. They invite us to contemplate the rich spiritual beliefs of the ancient Native American cultures that created them.

The Great Serpent Mound measures approximately 1,300 feet in length and ranges from one to three feet in height. The complex mound is both architectural and sculptural and was erected by settled peoples who cultivated maize, beans and squash and who maintained a stratified society with an organized labor force, but left no written records. Let’s take a look at both aerial and close-up views that can help us understand the mound in relationship to its site and the possible intentions of its makers.

Ephraim George Squier and E. H. Davis, “The Serpent” entry 1014, Adams County Ohio. Pl. XXXV, Ancient monuments of the Mississippi Valley: comprising the results of extensive original surveys and explorations, Washington: Smithsonian institution, 1848

Supernatural powers?

​ The serpent is slightly crescent-shaped and oriented such that the head is at the east and the tail at the west, with seven winding coils in between. The shape of the head perhaps invites the most speculation. Whereas some scholars read the oval shape as an enlarged eye, others see a hollow egg or even a frog about to be swallowed by wide, open jaws. But perhaps that lower jaw is an indication of appendages, such as small arms that might imply the creature is a lizard rather than a snake. Many native cultures in both North and Central America attributed supernatural powers to snakes or reptiles and included them in their spiritual practices. The native peoples of the Middle Ohio Valley in particular frequently created snake-shapes out of copper sheets.

Aerial view of the Great Serpent Mound, c. 1070, Adams County, Ohio

The mound conforms to the natural topography of the site, which is a high plateau overlooking Ohio Brush Creek. In fact, the head of the creature approaches a steep, natural cliff above the creek. The unique geologic formations suggest that a meteor struck the site approximately 250-300 million years ago, causing folded bedrock underneath the mound.

Celestial hypotheses

Aspects of both the zoomorphic form and the unusual site have associations with astronomy worthy of our consideration. The head of the serpent aligns with the summer solstice sunset, and the tail points to the winter solstice sunrise. Could this mound have been used to mark time or seasons, perhaps indicating when to plant or harvest? Likewise, it has been suggested that the curves in the body of the snake parallel lunar phases, or alternatively align with the two solstices and two equinoxes.

View of tail, Fort Ancient Culture(?), Great Serpent Mound, c. 1070, Adams County, Ohio (photo: The Last Cookie, CC BY 2.0)

Some have interpreted the egg or eye shape at the head to be a representation of the sun. Perhaps even the swallowing of the sun shape could document a solar eclipse. Another theory is that the shape of the serpent imitates the constellation Draco, with the Pole Star matching the placement of the first curve in the snake’s torso from the head. An alignment with the Pole Star may indicate that the mound was used to determine true north and thus served as a kind of compass.

Of note also is the fact that Halley’s Comet appeared in 1066, although the tail of the comet is characteristically straight rather than curved. Perhaps the mound served in part to mark this astronomical event or a similar phenomenon, such as light from a supernova. In a more comprehensive view, the serpent mount may represent a conglomerate of all celestial knowledge known by these native peoples in a single image.

Who built it?

Determining exactly which culture designed and built the effigy mound, and when, is a matter of ongoing inquiry. A broad answer may lie in viewing the work as being designed, built, and/or refurbished over an extended period of time by several indigenous groups. The leading theory is that the Fort Ancient Culture (1000-1650 C.E.) is principally responsible for the mound, having erected it in c. 1070 C.E. This mound-building society lived in the Ohio Valley and was influenced by the contemporary Mississippian culture (700-1550), whose urban center was located at Cahokia in Illinois. The rattlesnake was a common theme among the Mississippian culture, and thus it is possible that the Fort Ancient Culture appropriated this symbol from them (although there is no clear reference to a rattle to identify the species as such).

View of the Great Serpent Mound, 1070(?), Adams County, Ohio (photo: Katherine T. Brown)

An alternative theory is that the Fort Ancient Culture refurbished the site c. 1070, reworking a preexisting mound built by the Adena Culture (c.1100 B.C.E.-200 C.E.) and/or the Hopewell Culture (c. 100 B.C.E.-550 C.E.). Whether the site was built by the Fort Ancient peoples, or by the earlier Adena or Hopewell Cultures, the mound is atypical. The mound contains no artifacts, and both the Fort Ancient and Adena groups typically buried objects inside their mounds. Although there are no graves found inside the Great Serpent Mound, there are burials found nearby, but none of them are the kinds of burials typical for the Fort Ancient culture and are more closely associated with Adena burial practices. Archaeological evidence does not support a burial purpose for the Great Serpent Mound.

Debate continues

Whether this impressive monument was used as a way to mark time, document a celestial event, act as a compass, serve as a guide to astrological patterns, or provide a place of worship to a supernatural snake god or goddess, we may never know with certainty. One scholar has recently suggested that the mound was a platform or base for totems or other architectural structures that are no longer extant, perhaps removed by subsequent cultures. All to say, scholarly debate continues, based on on-going archaeological evidence and geological research. But without a doubt, the mound is singular and significant in its ability to provide tangible insights into the cosmology and rituals of the ancient Americas.

Go deeper

Natural World Site Amazing Science News

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.

The most ancient of Ohio’s forgotten mysteries , Adams County’s Serpent Mound, is not haunted in the classical sense. No vengeful ghost walks there at midnight (as far as anyone can tell) no axe murders are reenacted when the moon is full. But to the ancient Indians who built it, the great effigy mound definitely was a spiritual place.
Human beings have lived in North America since the Wisconsin glacier retreated in about 15,000 BCE. The first cultures-the Fluted Point, the Plano, the Archaic-left behind little more than carved stone tools and, occasionally, human remains. It wasn’t until the advent of the Adena Culture around 1000 BCE that the earliest residents of North America began building burial and effigy mounds. The Adena are best known for the former, and because of the number of burial mounds they left behind a lot has been learned about who they were. It’s known that they hunted and farmed in the Ohio Valley for several thousand years. The men grew to an average height of about 5”6’, the women to 5”2’. Adena Indians modified their bodies in some extreme ways. One common practice was head deformation. A board would be fastened tightly across a baby’s head for weeks, flattening his skull as it developed.
The Great Serpent Mound was treated with great reverence by the Adena, who buried their dead beneath dozens of small mounds in the vicinity, but never inside the mound itself. It was built on a point overlooking the Brush Creek Valley, from yellow clay taken from three pits in the area, and is more than 1300 feet long. The body, which curves back and forth from a spiral-shaped tail, ranges in width from three to twenty feet. The head of the snake is represented by a large oval shape, which may be an egg it’s eating, or might also be the snake’s open mouth as it strikes.

The Mysterious Great Serpent Mound

The rolling hills of Southern Ohio surround me in all directions. My husband and I travel along the secluded wilderness below the Great Serpent Mound. From head to tail the Serpent measures 1,330 feet in length and three feet in width. It dwells high above a 100 foot bluff overlooking Brush Creek commanding reverence and respect. Our car journeys up the back country road into the park. My heart beats faster. I can’t wait to stand beside this wondrous creature.

Delaware and Iroquois legends speak of the Allegheny people, who lived in the Ohio wilderness before the mounds, built the Serpent Mound. Yet academics disagree. The Serpent Mound withstood the test of time since the Fort Ancient people completed the magnificent creature in 1070A.D. The Fort Ancient culture connected their lives to the land and the sky above them.

In winter of 1053 A.D, a severe weather came upon the Southern Ohio wilderness. The storm reduced the abundant nut crop. Hordes of starving red, black and grey squirrels ran north the following spring. They caused havoc upon village crops. Fort Ancient farmers experienced devastation and starvation. April of 1054, light from the supernova that created the Crab Nebula erupted over the skyline. Visible night and day for two weeks, the Fort Ancient took notice. Autumn came, the local population burned trees and tobacco. Upon the cleared land they began construction of the mound, believing the light in the sky saved them from the spooked squirrels. Eleven years later, the brightest view of Halley’s Comet ever witnessed followed a path over the sight of Serpent Mound. The Fort Ancient placed a pile of burnt rocks by the serpent’s mouth to honor the flying serpent with rays of fire.

My husband and I walk out of the parking lot towards the visitor’s center on our left and enter the museum. We wind our way through the small museum. The exhibits introduce us to the people who called the area their home. We learn about the famous archaeologists who worked on the mound. The information gleaned from their expeditions tells the story of a time once lost and leaves us with wonder.

Out the door of the museum we follow the asphalt trail around the perimeter of the mound. Soon we approach the tall, black, metal, observation tower overlooking the Serpent Mound. Like an energetic child, my husband ascends the stairs. He beckons for me to follow him. I hesitate. What if I fall over? I place my fears aside and ascend to the second landing. My eyes peer up and down the serpents coils. Curiosity fills me. I anxiously climb the stairs higher until I reach the top. The serpents’ body coils seven times before me. Each coil perfectly aligned to a specific yearly astronomical event the head to the setting sun of the summer solstice and the twisting coils to the sunrises of both solstices and the equinoxes. I marvel at the astronomical knowledge the Fort Ancient people possessed. Surely this site held spiritual significance.

I descend the stairs, traverse down the winding path, then pause in front of the serpents head. I try to catch a glimpse of the whole serpent lengthwise. Its quarter mile long body winds along the hill. The cliff behind me offers a view of the wilderness below my feet. Brush Creek sits in the tree covered valley. I can hear the gentle wind blow through the green trees. Wildlife roams towards the water. A half mile trail makes it way down the cliff I stand upon to Brush Creek. Closed due to weather, my heart breaks. My walk takes me to the end of the Serpent Mound. Three stone steps invite me to gaze into the interior circle of the tail. I marvel at the conical structure then leave the Serpent behind me.

Farther I walk through the park, past a few Adena burial mounds. The low hilltop, grass covered ground engages my thoughts. I wonder how many times, people walk over a mound and never know it’s there. Stories from early Kentucky and Ohio explorers speak of mounds differing in shapes and sizes. Settlers and farmers destroyed the mounds in effort to clear the lands. A rich history gone forever. These preserved Adena mounds capture a history we know so little about.

I continue my walk across the large field. To might left sits the recreation of a Woodland Period home. I step back in time. My feet carry me inside the wood and bark oval house. Ceramic corn, squash, and gourds hand from the wooden beams. Wooden cots cling to the side serving both bed and table. Doors on both sides, covered with hides in the winter, welcome family and visitors. I step outside the house and turn right. A fireplace lies on the ground by my feet with a wooden shelter behind it. Burnt wood and charcoal lie in the fireplace. In my mind I see the wife cooking, her children run free around the garden and home while her husband sits under the shelter making tools. I gaze to my right. The wife’s simple garden sits off to the side. Everything the family needs, nature provides. Her garden grants the family squash, corn and gourds. Her husband hunts deer and other mammals for meat. The surrounding wilderness provides wood for fuel and building. Brush Creek provides drinking water, fish, and waterfowl. Her husband uses the rocks from the creek to make his weapons. Her children learn from an early age how to survive.

A hard and simple life drastically different from modern day America, yet our nation knew this life long before Europeans came. I take in my visit to past with greater appreciation. Our ancestors walked these lands with their lives connected to the world around them. Their beliefs shaped their lands. The land forever shaped their lives. Late in the day it’s time to leave this place. I say goodbye to my new discoveries.

The Loch Nell Serpent Mound Continued

Collins, drawing from the works of Phene and Cumming, goes on to report on the remnants of what may have originally been a ceremonial altar , which seems to have been deliberately aligned with three, nearby mountain peaks.

“The mound was built in such a manner that the worshipper, standing at the altar, 'would naturally look eastward, directly along the whole length of the great reptile, and across the dark lake, to the triple peaks of Ben Cruachan. This position must have been carefully selected, as from no other point are the three peaks visible.' The Ben Cruachan are sacred mountains associated in legend with the Cailleach Bheur, the old hag of the mountains, while the serpent mound itself was once said to be the burial place of the Scottish folk-hero Ossian, son of Fingal. The Cailleach Bheur is considered the dark half of the Irish and British goddess Brigid, whose principal zoomorphic symbols are the serpent and swan, reflecting the root of Loch Nell's name and the presence on its shores of the serpent mound.”

The Great Serpent Mound

View all photos

The “mound builders” of early North America lived throughout what are now the Ohio Valley and Mississippi regions. The earliest group was probably the Adena people, who flourished from 1000 BCE to 200 BCE. They built mounds throughout North America, from Wisconsin to Mississippi.

The Great Serpent Mound—a 1,330-foot-long, three-foot-high prehistoric effigy mound in southern Ohio—is one of the few surviving relics from the mound builders. The earliest records say it depicts a serpent swallowing an egg, though another interesting theory suggests that the snake is swallowing the moon. In 1909, local German Baptist minister Landon West proposed another possibility: The serpent, he said, is writhing in its death throes as punishment for tempting Adam and Eve, in what West believed was the original Garden of Eden.

It is unclear who built the Great Serpent Mound. Though the Adena people built structures like it, as well as burial grounds near the mound, charcoal from the mound has been dated to later in history, to around 1000 CE. So the mound may have been built by the Fort Ancient peoples, who lived in the Ohio Valley from 1000 CE to 1550 CE.

The effigy is located within the Serpent Mound State Memorial and has been designated a National Historic Landmark. A nonprofit organization called Arc of Appalachia maintains a museum near the mound.

The Mystery of Ohio's Massive Serpent Mound

Over three hundred million years ago, a meteor crashed into what would become Adams County, southwestern Ohio. This created a 5-mile-wide crater, upon which, about 900 years ago, ancient Native Americans built a massive mound in the shape of a serpent.

Semi-nomadic descendants of the Hopewell culture, known as the Fort Ancient peoples, settled in this part of Ohio between AD 1000 and AD 1650. They had an acute interest in and understanding of both solar and lunar alignments. Though the serpent-shaped mound was originally attributed to the Adena peoples, this has now been accepted as false, based on radiocarbon dating tests completed in the mid-1990s, which suggest the mound was built by the Fort Ancient peoples:

"Two samples of wood charcoal were obtained from undisturbed parts of Serpent Mound. Both yielded a date of ca. A.D.1070, suggesting that the effigy was actually built by people of the Fort Ancient culture (A.D. 900-1600), a Mississippian group that lived in the central Ohio Valley."
- Jessica E. Saraceni, Archaeology Magazine, Volume 49 Number 6, November/December 1996

The purpose of the serpent mound is still considered quite mysterious. Though there are nearby burial grounds, there have been no human remains discovered in or directly by the mound itself. The National Park Service states that it is a structure of "undetermined origin exposed by differential erosion."

"The most singular sensation of awe and admiration overwhelmed me at this sudden realization of my long-cherished desire, for here before me was the mysterious work of an unknown people. I mused on the probabilities of the past and there seemed to come to me a picture as of a distant time."
- F.W. Putnam at the Serpent Mound, 1883

Many anthropologists believe that the shape of the Serpent Mound is actually a massive lunar calendar, built to align with solstices and equinoxes. Animal mounds are widely considered to be effigies reflective of cosmic alignments. In fact, the towns and surviving structures also reflect this interest in the cosmos. However, who exactly built it is still open to conjecture. (It's attributed to three different prehistoric indigenous cultures, but its actual purpose is still heavily debated.)

  • Discovered in 1847 by Ephraim Squier and Edwin Davis.
  • Measures 1,348 feet long, 1 to 5 feet high.
  • 120-foot-long snake head, with an open mouth.
  • Serpent's head is aligned with the summer solstice sunset.
  • Serpent's body curve (closet to the tail) is aligned with the winter solstice sunrise.
  • Currently the Ohio History Connection maintains the mound.
  • Radiocarbon dating places the creation of the mound to AD 1070, some years after Halley's Comet.
  • Some historians believe it was a ceremonial site.

According to Strange History, over the years, the Great Serpent Mound has been attacked by New Age vandals who believe it's an "intergalactic portal" and a site brimming with metaphysical energy. In 1987, these New Age a$holes held a "Harmonic Convergence" ceremony, in which they chanted, meditated, and damaged the mound by burying crystals in it.

Then in 2012, another New Age group, the "Light Warriors" allegedly buried hundreds of amulets (AKA Orgonites: homemade objects composed of resin and bits of metal and crystal) in the ground. It also doesn't help that the History Channel, that paragon of peer-reviewed, scholarly research, has pseudo-intellectuals on their "Ancient Aliens" series claiming the mound was the site for aliens to mine for spaceship fuel. Ugh.

Today you can visit the Serpent Mound every day from dawn to dusk. And during the equinoxes the mound is open even longer.

Serpent Mound is managed by Ohio History Connection and Arc of Appalachia Preserve System. It is located in Adams County, Ohio (3850 State Route 73, Peebles, Ohio).

This article appears courtesy of Roadtrippers.

"What's Roadtrippers," you ask?

Why, only the fastest-growing travel app in the country! With its website and app, this Cincy-based organization is connecting travelers with an ever-expanding database of trip-specific info. Next time you're hitting the trail (or just planning a regular ol' trip), start off with a little Roadtrippers and experience the journey in a whole new way.

To learn more about Roadtrippers, swing by the organization's website and Facebook page.

Sign up for our newsletter and event updates

Want all the latest on dining, fashion, travel, events, and more delivered straight to your inbox? Subscribe to receive exclusive newsletters and special offers from Cincinnati Refined! Enter your email address below to receive the latest updates.

Watch the video: Great Wonder of the Ancient World - The Great Serpent Mound