The Adena and Hopewell

Alligator Mound as Storm Approaches
Alligator Mound as Storm Approaches

Long before the early Granville settlers surveyed the land, it was populated by the prehistoric Adena and Hopewell Native American groups. We know of their presence primarily from the distinctive and massive mounds they left in this part of the world. Granville and the surrounding area contain the world’s most significant structures made by prehistorical peoples.

Between ca. 100 B.C. and 400 A.D., the Ohio Hopewell occupied the area and constructed many large embankment structures. A few of the structures were efigy mounds in the shapes of various animals.

One of those mounds, popularly known as “Alligator” mound was constructed just east of the historical village district. This mound overlooks a good part of the Raccoon Creek valley and the village of Granville. It is likely that the mound is actually patterned after an animal other than an alligator, as alligators would not have been found in this area. Speculation has been made of mountain lion or other origin. While the exact purpose of the mound is unknown to modern humans, it has been speculated that the animal involved may have been overlooking and guarding a sacred place; perhaps the mound that was once on Mt. Parnassus halfway across the valley.

Other works of the Hopewell include the “Newark works” of the Octagon and Circle earthworks located several miles from Alligator Mound.

Fairly recently the Octagon earthwork has been shown by Ray Hively and Robert Horn of Earlham College to be an ancient astronomical observatory which reliably indicates the northernmost and southernmost risings and settings of the moon. The moon’s risings and settings have a complex 18.5 year cycle, which the Hopewell documented in the Octagon earthworks.

University of Delaware Research Team
University of Delaware Research Team Measuring Alligator Mound

Flint Ridge, an important site for the prehistorical mining of flint for tools and weaponry, also is located a short distance from Granville. A short distance to the east of the Allegator mound is the site of a large prehistoric “manufacturing center” of sorts where the flint was processed into tools, arrowheads and the like. It has been said that this area might have been a special area where battles would not be fought so that the flint, so essential for survival, could be processed by all without fear of attack.

The mounds continue to be a subject of study. In May, 2006, the Alligator Mound was being studied by a small group from the University of Delaware. Their work included develioping a computer model of the mound accurate to a millimeter or so at any given point. This will allow prediction of how the mound will change over time as weathering of the mound occurs as well as a benchline for understanding such future changes. The group also made similar observations at the Octagon mound.

Sources for this article include Hidden Cities – The Discovery and Loss of Ancient North American Civilization by Roger G. Kennedy; The Ohio Hopewell Episode by A. Martin Byers; and The Mound Builders by Robert Silverberg.