Possible “Woodhenge” Discovered at Hopewell Excavation

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Hopewell woodhenge Chillicothe Ohio
National Park Service employee, Patrick Zingerella, wets the earth with water to expose color variations in dirt at the Hopewell Mound Group in Chillicothe, Ohio. Photo: Tom Dodge | Columbus Dispatch

National Park Service archaeologists believe they have found evidence of a “woodhenge” – a circular enclosure of wooden posts – at a Hopewell earthworks site near Chillicothe, Ohio.

To be certain, the researchers will continue with further testing and analysis. The evidence presented itself as stains of darker soil in regular intervals several feet below the surface. The darker stains could represent the presence of wood, long since rotted into the earth.

“I am very confident,” said park archaeologist Bret Ruby, who is leading the team excavating an area known as the Great Circle, “that those represent wooden posts.”

Ruby leads a team that has been working since May 19 to excavate the Great Circle at the Hopewell Mound Group west of Chillicothe.

The Hopewell Mound Group is among five earthwork parks that make up the Hopewell Culture National Historical Park.

The Great Circle, which measures 375 feet in diameter, was identified as an area of archaeological interest by magnetic testing conducted several years ago. The testing showed “anomalies,” or soil disturbances, that Ruby suspects are the remains of wooden posts. The dig is the next step in determining whether they are.

“Nobody has ever sought to figure out what this Great Circle was used for, when it was built. We knew it was here, but no one had done any excavation,” Ruby said. “We are trying to tell a broader story about the Hopewell, what they might have been engaged in here and their daily life.”

Woodhenges are not common but not unheard of in Ohio.

Read More: Hopewell excavation near Chillicothe seeks evidence of a ‘woodhenge’

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