Ohio Indian Mounds: Hallowed Ground and a Nice Par 3

Until recently, few in Newark, Ohio, thought it strange that golfers whacked little white balls across ground once hallowed to an ancient community.

The Hopewell Indians used sharp sticks and clamshells here 2,000 years ago to sculpture seven million cubic feet of dirt into a sprawling lunar observatory and the spiritual center of their far-flung empire.

Today it is an easy Par 3 flanked by sand traps shaped like kidney beans.

But now there is an eagerness among many people to see moonrises from the mounds the way the Indians did, a desire that has caused a conflict with the golf club.

The Newark Earthworks, which make up the world's largest ancient mound site, lingered in obscurity 30 miles east of Columbus until five years ago, when the country club announced plans for a new clubhouse. The design included a foundation that would have dug into the mounds.

Not only did the club not win permission for a new building, but its request led to an organized protest campaign, organized by local professors and American Indians. Some residents, newly aware of the landmark in their backyards, began to question whether the country club should exist at all.

"Playing golf on a Native American spiritual site is a fundamental desecration," said Richard Shiels, a history professor at Ohio State University's Newark campus who is leading the fight to expand public access.

The earthworks range in height from 3 to 14 feet and once sprawled over four square miles. They include an octagon large enough to hold four Roman Colosseums; two parallel mounds connect it to a circle that encloses 20 acres. Their construction required decades of labor.

comments powered by Disqus
History News Network