The Great Highway Mystery
By Ross Hamilton
Patricia Mason

If someone told you that a prehistoric road 60 miles in length defined by earthen mound walls, replete with ceremonial circles like rest stops, existed in Ohio, you might dismiss the poor fool as having an overactive imagination. But such is not the product of anyone's imagination save perhaps the ancient mind that originally brought about the Great Hopewell Road's existence. Stretching over 90 kilometers is no simple feat, and would have required a massive organizational effort, especially in light of the fact that the walls may have been a full meter in height much of the distance. The road runs between present-day Newark and Chillicothe, Ohio, being just to the west of Lancaster halfway along its length. It is generally a broad 200 feet (over 60 meters) in width.
This map of Ohio shows the projected Great Hopewell Road extending from present day Newark to Chillicothe. (Note - earthworks not to scale.) Along the way are relatively short possible segments of the ancient highway discovered by the efforts of Brad Lepper, main spokesman for the project of the road,s rediscovery. While the hypothetically extended road does not directly align the Newark earthworks with the High Bank, there is apparently a special connection between the two.
In the Yucatan, the Mayan sacbeob, roads connecting various ceremonial and sacred sites, are well known. By the final time of the Toltec domination, such roads were virtually second nature to the people. Similarly, the southwestern Anasazi constructed sacred roads and pathways between their most important places of pilgrimage. In Europe, the Celtic Islands, Greece, India and China, sacred pathways may stretch for miles, connecting various ancient sites. They are called lung mei, ley lines, Shangri-La marg, shaman trails, fairy paths, spirit paths, divining lines, ect. Often these roads are so antique that the sites they connect have been built over by succeeding cultures twice or three times. The Ohio road has a very special meaning to Western archaeologists however, for it is pre-Anasazi and pre-Mayan in conception. The implications of this to the mainstream school of archaeological thought are signaling a paradigm change regarding Amerindian prehistory. The Great Hopewell Road (as it is called) is a breathtaking phenomenon of engineering skill that may well have been the very source of inspiration for both the Mayan and Anasazi planners. The classical Hopewell mysteriously disappeared between the beginning time of the classical Maya and the Anasazi. Is this a coincidence?
Dr. Bradley T. Lepper is a curator of archaeology and archaeological coordinator for the Ohio Historical Society in Columbus. He has been involved in the project of discovering the road for quite some time now. His work in the field has been, shall we say, extensive. It includes airplane reconnaissance over areas projected to contain remnants of the parallel walls. He has taken every advantage possible technologically. In his video shown all over the country, Dr. Lepper's enthusiasm is inspirational and infectious. He reminds one of a combination of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, dignified, tall and lanky. Representing the Ohio Historical Society, his efforts have begun the long overdue process of bringing the priceless antiquities of the Ohio Territory into proper perspective with the rest of the world. In fact, his work has become an exemplary focus already dispelling many misconceptions concerning the timeline between the heavily touted post-Olmec civilizations and the explosive genius of prehistoric Ohio.
Lepper's Great Hopewell Road is a linear beam of highly organized attention stretching from the Newark Earthworks (east and slightly north of Columbus) south and slightly west to Chillicothe--due south of Columbus. The straightness of the road has not been explained, although there are a few interesting speculations. Near Chillicothe is another earthwork-now barely visible due to over-farming-yet properly recognized and measured. It is named Highbank due to its situation on the high bank of a small river contributing to the Scioto. The Scioto meanders nicely southward, connecting Columbus to Chillicothe. It is very tempting to connect these two earthworks as well (in a ceremonial sense) by this arrow straight, 66.6 yard wide road, for they are both circle and octagon works. The latter Highbank has a circle that is very close to the size of the Newark circle, while the High Bank octagonal structure is obviously smaller and shaped differently, more like a ceremonial turtle shell.
The great turtle is a computer-enhanced version of a ceremonial turtle found in Cresap Mound (see Mounds for the Dead by Dragoo). Here it is superimposed over High Banks. According myth, the dome of its shell was bright and shining to the young warriors. When they climbed on its back, they became stuck tight, remaining there forever. Then there are the axe-heads, the spear-points and the moccasins strung about the braves, necks. Later, their remains became skeletal. There are approximately 50 stars of the brighter magnitude in the northern dome of the horizon-viewable sky at any given time. It may be unfortunate that we have little knowledge of the Amerindian mythological star or constellation patterns, these being the versions familiar to the modern world. Note the mound to the right of the head, believed to represent the elder chief who was wise not to ride the back of the giant. (Turtle after Dragoo)
Philosopher Robert Horn and astronomer Ray Hively, both associated with Earlham College (Indiana), began to take a serious look at these two earthworks in the early 1980's. Spurred on by findings in Great Britain and its celebrated Stonehenge, these gentlemen tested the possibility that astronomical alignments might have been captured in these ancient American architectures. They were, by current accounts, stunningly successful. In both earthworks combined they found over a dozen alignments seamlessly fitting into the geometries. Sometimes the alignments followed the earthen banks, and sometimes they were match-ups between an angle and an opening in the earthwork, or some combination of either. These men observed in conclusion that with the infinite possibilities of octagonal shapes available, these peculiar two seemed the most effective and efficient for demonstrating the crucial alignments of the sun and moon. The circle-octagons' computer-like design structures were obviously the result of a tremendous amount of information gathered over a very long period. How long is only a guess, but these ancient astronomers were also geometricians, a fact now strongly suspected through Hively and Horn's well received investigations.
Dr. Lepper writes: "An observer standing within the avenue of parallel walls at the entrance to the (Newark) octagon and sighting along the octagon's south-southeastern wall is looking at the point on the horizon where the moon rises at its southernmost extent. The walls of the octagon are like huge gun barrels aimed at astronomical targets."
The ancient architects apparently had a complete or rounded knowledge of cyclical astronomy, as the exquisite 18.6 year lunar cycle is expertly represented-almost to a fault in excellence. Lepper also notes that the earthworks are so massive in size that the great observatory was virtually vandal-proof should the place have been left unguarded.
The Myth of Grandmother Spider
Among the pre-Columbian nations, the Algonquin (Algonkin) relate of the mythology of Grandmother Spider, a broadly celebrated divinity who always brought great wisdom to the people. She is very close to Grandmother Earth herself and possibly represents an oracle for the Earth-which is to say an intermediary for the people. Her mythology is widespread, and the eastern tribes, in spite of their being pushed farther and farther west by the White invaders, maintained her story.
She lived in the grass. The Newark earthwork is on an ancient prairie, with great visibility. She helped the people to "see" the light of night and day, and she guided them up from the Underworld, helping their eyes to become gradually accustomed to the light. One of her first stories is about the animals complaining about living in darkness, desiring the light. The Sun was somewhere on the surface of the Earth, according to the myth. The Sun People kept it and maintained it, sending it on it's daily round. The animals talked among themselves and plotted to get some of the light for their dark world. Interestingly, central to the Ohio earthworks and effigies is the Serpent Mound, believed to hold the Sun in its jaws. Native American myth also relates of a Great Serpent (the Uktena) being associated with a powerful light source-a jewel of its eye that "sullied the meridian beams of the sun." The Great Serpent, like Chillicothe, is to the south and west of the Newark circle-octagon. The legends aver that Grandmother Spider created a large web-like a network.
First the 'possum went, fetched a piece of the Sun, and placed it on his tail. When he came back to the dark world of his brethren, the heat of it had burned off his fur (so today the opossum is bald). Then the buzzard went and, swooping down stole a piece of the Sun from the Sun People and placed it on his head. Though he fared a little better than the 'possum he ultimately failed as well, and now the buzzard is baldheaded from the burning.
Then Grandmother Spider told the animals she would go. She fastened a clay bowl, and placing it on her back, quietly got past the Sun People and fetched back a piece of the Sun, enlightening her animal companions. Interestingly, she exuded a long thread of her silk straight on the way so she could find her way back by the quickest route. The Native American story-telling tradition is filled with beautiful metaphor. This story may be very telling, for in an examination of the geometric formula of the Newark earthworks, an uncanny simile to the myth of Grandmother Spider may be construed.

The spider figure situated beneath a geometric version of the Newark earthworks may reveal the fact of the myth cited above regarding Grandmother Spider. Note how the cryptogeometric circles become as a web supporting her frame, which is itself based upon the earthworks (heavy line). Note also the central axis and it,s possibly becoming a thread off her spinneret, taking the enchanting form of a possible beam of moonlight.
Chillicothe, Ohio was once (and yet is on a lesser scale) a concentrated treasure trove of prehistoric earth and stone works. Most archaeologists agree that the area in and around the present day city was a thriving metropolis of a people so long forgotten even to the Native Americans of the Colonial period, that we don't even know what they called themselves. Could Chillicothe have once been a mighty hub or solar center for this most antique and well-organized culture? Was Newark an oracle of heavenly knowledge so accurate that we have only now been able to begin to reclaim it? Did 'she' indeed perform a pilgrimage to this and other sites on the web of her secret and most sacred mystical landscape? What was the ultimate expression of the Newark circle-and-octagon?
The Great Pyramid of Cheops is used in scale with the Newark circle-octagon to demonstrate an almost eerie commonality of area, measurement and angularity between the two sites. With Newark's earthen walls at full thickness, the pyramid is wholly contained by the great circle. The angle of true north off the central axis is very close, if not the same as, the slope of the Great Pyramid, i.e. between 51.5 and 52 degrees. (North indicated in blue.)
Marshall's Law
The discoveries of Hively and Horn as well as archaeologist William F. Romain and others in Ohio Valley archaeoastronomy have advanced the long-lost knowledge of the purpose of some of the massive geometric earthworks. For a long time however, the advancement of archaeoastronomy was inhibited due to the outdated maps, most of which were well over 100 years old and done with inferior equipment. For their time however, the maps were so well created and presented that their application outlived their practicality. This is where James A. Marshall has come to greater appreciation.
Marshall began in the 1960s to survey and map multiple hundreds of ancient sites all over the eastern United States. His maps are extraordinarily accurate, reflecting his professional skills as a registered civil engineer. Realizing that some of the archaeoastronomy advocates were going by these outdated and flawed maps in efforts to produce the scientifically accurate data required for their research, Marshall began to write and lecture in an endeavor to reform the problem.
Astronomical Alignments of the Newark Octagon: The achievements of Hively and Horn in the field of archaeoastronomy have effectively opened a new chapter in the unpublished book of these prehistoric people. Using the 19th century map of Squier and Davis and that of the modern surveyor Marshall, the openings in the abutting angles of the octagonal walls of the earthwork were sealed in order to present the pure geometry, thereby restating the accuracy of the astronomy. Starting with the general reference of the centrally located Great Serpent Mound,s alignments and using William Romain's Serpent Mound Map (with lunar alignments, 1987) and the alignments of Hively and Horn for specific site reference, this computer generated image attempts to temporarily lift the earthwork to the understanding of pure theoretical concept.
This author requested and secured maps from Chicago resident Marshall, who supplied them at a reasonable price. I've studied his work in the field for a couple of years now, and am quite satisfied that the man is competent to create the best maps that can be had for this kind of work. However, my interests were only in part astronomical.
The Newark, Highbank and other prehistoric earthworks of the Ohio Valley are now being brought into the light of proper comprehension by our best administrative, scientific and philosophical endeavors. Because they are simple works of earth, their true value has been overlooked by archaeological concerns placing greater emphasis on stone architecture. Stone may be constructed to sharper angularity and greater heights, and thus the achievements of the prehistoric Ohio cultures, though viewed as magnificent and interesting, have not been considered in the same class as the Egyptian, Celtic and Mexican stone works. In this conceptual misevaluation, having its roots in the Jeffersonian era, we have inadvertently withheld the priceless antiquities of the eastern U.S. from a proper perspective with the rest of the ancient world. Moreover, it is only through the tireless efforts of people like Lepper and Marshall that the situation is being amended and improved.
Two of the illustrations provided are computer-generated facsimiles of the Newark and Highbank works. They are based upon the surveys of Squier and Davis, the Smithsonian and Hively and Horn (to name but three), but corrected for error by the precise maps of James A. Marshall. Their purpose is to demonstrate that the ancients did not merely create their earthworks in the sole effort of incorporating astronomical events, but simultaneously produced classical geometric axioms. In the current vernacular, this is termed a fusion of the sciences in order to create a seamless expression of unity. Admittedly, this concept is difficult to comprehend. Never the less, it is a fact of these absolutely remarkable constructions that deserves serious consideration as we progress toward a better comparison of the works of prehistoric eastern North America with the rest of the world.
Additionally I would like to thank archaeologist William F. Romain for his permission to use the Serpent Mound Map, even as the Great Serpent is made to ride on the shoulders of Grandmother Spider. Very possibly a general astronomical and geometric indicator, the Serpent Mound may one day prove to be the precision-jeweled pocket watch or touchstone of the ancient geomantic science giving meaning and life to a number of the grand and mysterious monuments of the ancient Ohio Valley-perhaps even the world. There are other ancient pathways rumored to exist in the Ohio Valley, and efforts are underway to identify them. Grandmother Spider or not, the Great Hopewell Road is the first of its kind to be so thoroughly illuminated and identified by modern science. Let us hope that it is, like the Great Serpent, itself an indicator of the genius of a people now long disappeared.
Copyright 1999 Ross Hamilton
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Copyright 1999 Patricia Mason <>
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Coming soon from North Atlantic Books <>:
Gitche Manitou The Mystery of the Serpent Mound: In Search of the Alphabet of the Gods
By Ross Hamilton
Some highlights in this illustrated mystery include:
· the ten astronomical alignments explaining the mound's orientation
· a never before suspected direct pattern correspondence to the constellation Draco in the northern heavens
· sacred geometry derived of scriptural sources showing the design of the Serpent mound as antecedent to the Christian era
· a Pythagorean connection to the sacred serpent illustrating a correlation between it and the classical mythology of the Python
· a strong Egyptian connection to the serpent image indicating its precedence to important Egyptian symbolic geometry and measurement
· compelling subjective evidence sustaining the Native American belief that man and woman of spiritual origin came forth from their country
· the hidden meaning of the Great Seal and its connection to a past and future destiny
· a detailed analysis explaining how and why the alphabet was created