Expanding Junction  – Saving Steel



A SECOND ancient earthworks complex right next to

Junction, has now been SAVED – 

the first time EVER two earthwork sites are reunited!


The Junction Miracle Continues. In 2014, the Arc and its nonprofit partners saved Junction Earthworks off the auction block, bidding against developers in a dramatic last-minute save. Everyone said it was a miracle and if that is so, then the miracle of Junction continues on.

Just up upstream from Junction on Paint Creek, another ancient earthwork site came up for sale – Steel Earthworks. Steel was once part of the Hopewell Culture’s sacred ceremonial landscape and was likely contemporaneous with Junction.

Imagine following a one mile walking trail from Junction and coming upon a SECOND assemblage earthworks! Also for sale was the abandoned railroad corridor, which could provide the connection between the two earthworks.

Steel Earthworks has 24 separate features. Steel is in even better archaeological condition than Junction, with one of its circular enclosures still visible to our eyes.

The Arc of Appalachia is pleased to announce that, with recent contributions, an immense recent gift of $50,000 from an anonymous donor, and a $5000 gift from the Heartland Earthworks Conservancy, fundraising for Steel Earthworks has officially been brought to a close!

The one-mile long hiking trail along the abandoned railroad corridor to connect Steel with Junction is now open. The trail leads to the Steel Earthworks prairie loop trail which goes right by the intact circular mound, many hundreds of feet in diameter, and out to the views of the Paint Creek. The grand opening of Steel Earthworks is planned for 2019. In the meantime, you are welcome to visit! Click here for directions.

Photograph courtesy of RP Gough

From a worldly perspective, why is Saving Steel Earthworks

so important?

  • Only a few were ever built. Steel is one of only roughly three dozen earthwork complexes ever built by the Hopewell Culture, nearly all of them in southern Ohio, which served as the ceremonial and spiritual epicenter of their far-flung Culture.
  • Most of them have already been destroyed. A third of the Hopewell earthwork complexes have already been essentially destroyed.by modern civilization. No laws protect the ones that remain in private ownership.
  • Of those that remain, most are partially destroyed. Most of the earthwork complexes that still remain have already been partially destroyed by highways, building construction, parking lots, and railroads. Most have have been subdivided among multiple land owners, making preservation even more challenging. Many earthworks now lie beneath cities, with fragments now surrounded by dense urban housing or other development.
  • Steel and Junction have fully intact foundations. Steel and Junction both are unusual in that they are rural, possessing foundations that are completely intact, They were never owned by more than one land holder, and they have never been disturbed by any activity other than agriculture and light archaeological investigation.
  • Steel has a visible circular enclosure. The vast majority of rural earthwork complexes have been flattened smooth by over a hundred years of plowing. Miraculously, one of Steel’s eleven earthworks, a circular earthworks, is still quite visible to the eye. A trail is planned so that it can be appreciated by the general public.
  • Steel and Junction are in a class of their own. Compared to other Hopewell earthwork complexes, both Steel and Junction are in a class of their own – being smaller and more simple in design than the mega complexes. Only a few such earthwork complexes exist today. It is theorized that they represent an early Hopewell design, perhaps showing a cultural transition from Adena architecture to later Hopewell.
  • Outstanding beauty.  Junction and Steel’s are located on the shorelines of historic Paint Creek and its major tributary, the North Fork, both waterways ranked as exceptional warm-water habitats and bordered by tree-cloaked Appalachian hills. Junction and Steel arguably boast the most beautiful landscapes of all Ohio’s preserved earthworks. They would be worthy of preserve status even without the assets of their ancient earthworks.
  • The first time two sites will be joined together. Joining Steel and Junction into one park will be the first time that two separate earthwork complexes in Ohio have been preserved and united under a single umbrella! And united with a single trail system.
  • World significant design. Ohio’s greatest earthwork complexes are some of largest known earth-built ceremonial grounds in the entire world.
  • Ohio’s greatest and most singular legacy. Archaeologically, Ohio’s ancient American Indian monuments are of immeense world significance, so much so that several Ross County earthworks of comparable value to Junction and Steel – ones owned and managed by the National Park Service – are currently being reviewed for World Heritage Status. As citizens of Ohio, we owe the monuments and the rest of the world, our careful stewardship.
  • Once gone, these earthworks are gone forever.

1980 Aerial Photo of Steel Earthworks

Note visible circular earthwork enclosure as well as other visible features. Photo taken by Jack Eley and shared by Jarrel Witty. All rights reserved.

Modern Day Aerial Photo of Steel Earthworks

Note the still quite visible circular earthwork enclosure. Photo taken by Tim Anderson, Jr.

Magnetic survey data from the Steel Earthworks site. Research data shared courtesy of Archaeologist Jarrod Burks

Magnetic survey data from the Steel Earthworks site. Research data shared courtesy of Archaeologist Jarrod Burks