The State of Ohio has more than 70 Indian mounds, burial sites of the Adena and Hopewell tribes--the "mound builders"--who inhabited central and southern Ohio from roughly 3,000 BCE until the 16th century.
Many of these sites are open to the public, including the dramatic and fascinating Serpent Mound. Some even have museums and visitors centers accompanying them. Visiting Ohio's Indian mounds makes an interesting and educational weekend side trip from Cleveland.
Serpent Mound Near Chillicothe (Adams County)
The Serpent Mound is the most dramatic of the Ohio Indian Mounds. It is also the largest effigy earthwork in the world. Located in Adams County in Southern Ohio near the Ohio River, the 1,370-foot long site is shaped like a curved snake with its mouth open and an egg at its mouth. The site, believed to be built by the Adena people, was discovered by Chillicothe surveyors, Ephraim Squier and Edwin Davis in 1846.
Today, the site is administered by the Ohio Historical Society and includes a museum about the Adena people. The site is open year round. The museum is open from March through December. Hours vary by season. Admission is free.
Hopewell Cultural National Historic Site (Ross County)
The Hopewell Cultural National Historic Site is actually five separate sites, all located in Ross County, not far from Chillicothe. The sites, which include the Mound City Group and the Seip Mound, include a variety of conical and loaf-shaped burial mounds dating from the Hopewell Civilization (200 to 500 AD). There is also a visitors center with information on the Hopewells and artifacts from the mound excavations.
The Hopewell Cultural National Historic Site is open daily. There is no admission fee.
Miamisburg Mound (Montgomery County)
The Miamisburg Mound is a 100-foot-high burial mound believed to have been built by the Adena culture. The earthwork is located in Miamisburg, Ohio in southwestern Ohio, near Dayton. Visitors can climb to the top via a 116-step concrete stairway. The mound is surrounded by a 37-acre park with picnic facilities and a playground.
The Miamisburg Mound is open from dawn to dusk daily and admission is free.
Fort Ancient (Warren County)
Fort Ancient is located in Warren County along the Little Miami River in southwest Ohio. The site, now a state park, features a series of Indian mounds, including the largest prehistoric hilltop enclosure in the United State (with 3 1/2 miles of walls and 60 gateways). The mounds are attributed to the Hopewell tribe.
Today, the site is surrounded by a park with hiking and biking trails and includes a museum that illustrates more than 15,000 years of American Indian history. Adjacent to the park is Fort Ancient village, an early 19th-century settlement that includes the historic Cross Key Tavern.
From April to November, Fort Ancient is open Tuesday-Saturday and on Sunday. From December through March, Fort Ancient is open on Saturday and Sunday. There is an admission fee and children age 5 and younger are free.
Newark Earthworks (Licking County)
The Newark Earthworks are located around Newark, Ohio, about an hour east of Columbus. The earthworks are actually three distinct sites, all attributed to the Hopewell culture: The Great Circle Earthworks, the largest circular earthworks in North America; the Octagon Earthworks; and the Wright Earthworks. There is also a museum in nearby Heath, Ohio with artifacts from excavations done at the sites.
The Great Circle Earthworks is open Monday to Friday year round. From Memorial Day to Labor Day, the site is also open on Saturday and Sunday. The other two sites are open from dawn to dusk. Admission to all three sites is free.