From a worldly perspective, why is Saving Earthworks

so important?

  • Only a few were ever built. Junction and Steel are two 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 was 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 immense 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