In March of 2014, a coalition of non-profits worked together to save Junction Earthworks, a 2000 year old Hopewell Culture ancient ceremonial site, by buying it off the auction block. The property included nine ancient earthwork enclosures, the foundations of which were completely intact below the ground, and over a mile of river corridor along historic Paint Creek in Chillicothe, Ohio.
The group of non-profits succeeded in saving Junction, and since that time the long-term owner, the Arc of Appalachia, alongside many volunteers, has been working to develop the 200 acre land base into a public park. Junction’s Grand Opening will be held this Saturday, July 23, at 1:00 pm, composed of a short ceremony followed by a time to chat with archaeologists and historians, and participate in educational children’s activities held at each of the nine earthworks. After Saturday, the park will be open daily with three hiking trails and an information kiosk which interprets the national significance of Junction’s history and natural history.
Because the earthwork foundations are no longer visible to the eye, the Arc has been working with Heartland Earthworks Conservancy to reveal their original locations by selectively mowing ordinary grass on the 20 acre earthworks complex. The result is so dramatic it can be seen from the air. The group has also removed invasive plants from 100 acres of the park’s woodlands and planted showy prairie wildflowers on what was previously a 70 acre soy bean field. The prairie will be in full bloom by this weekend.
Nancy Stranahan, Arc Director, shared “Even more notable than the Grand Opening is the news that the earthworks right next to Junction – Steel Earthworks – is now for sale.”
Initially spearheading the attempt to save Steel Earthworks was The Archaeological Conservancy (TAC), a national non-profit organization that was also a pivotal force in the earlier Junction save. TAC has negotiated the contract to buy Steel from its private owners, and is investing heavily in the site’s preservation. “The Arc’s role,” according to Jean Farkas, Board President, “is to now raise the majority of the acquisition funds through an already-awarded Clean Ohio grant, as well as the grant’s required match from the private sector.”
The plan is to connect Steel Earthworks to Junction with a one mile walking path following an abandoned railroad corridor, a property that is also for sale. If the Coalition succeeds, this will be the first time in Ohio that two immediately adjacent earthwork sites will be protected and connected.
The Hopewell Culture built only around three dozen large earthwork complexes in total, all of them in southern Ohio. Perhaps the best known of these internationally is Newark Earthworks. Two thirds of the Hopewell’s large ancient ceremonial sites lie further south, all of them within the boundaries of modern day Chillicothe. The fact that roughly eight of Ohio’s ancient complexes have been destroyed beyond any possible restoration plan, makes saving two of these sites – Junction and Steel – hopeful news to anyone who cares about Ohio’s history and its Native American legacies.
For more information on the Steel expansion, the Grand Opening, and directions to Junction, see junctionearthworks.org.
Earthwork aerial courtesy of Tim Anderson.