The moonrise was cancelled. It has been raining like crazy and the ground is too soggy for lots of people. They did have the lectures and tours this morning though. I went because I didn’t understand what the whole thing was about and I learned alot.
I started by taking a shuttle bus to a local planetarium. This talk totally strained my brain. Lots of high math about angles of the moon rising and setting. I started to get an inkling about what it was all about though.
Then I took a driving tour around the mounds. Not that interesting for me because I drive past them on my way to and from work. But there were a lot of nonlocals on the tour so I watched them. The tour guide was also informative about the history. He covered not just the ancient history but how the grounds were used up until it was deeded over to the historical society in the 1930s.
Here’s a painting of how the site looked at the time of the Hopewell cultures.
The octogon is in the foreground. The circle connected to it is called Observatory Circle. These are now part of the golf course. To the upper right you can see the Great Circle. This is now a park. It is large enough that the Empire State Building can be laid down inside it. There are several small circles outside the octogon that you can’t see on the painting. The small circles are each larger than Stonehenge. There is also a square near the Great Circle. It could contain the footprint of the Great Pyramid at Giza. The whole complex is 4.5 square miles. It is thought to have once been connected by a walled road to another circle and octogon structure 60 miles to the south.
The octogon is the part that lines up with the lunar cycle. This was discovered in the 1970s when two professors decided to disprove the theory that Stonehenge was purposely aligned with the sun. They decided that they could take any ancient structure (the more primitive the better) and draw lines on it to correspond to the sun rising on the solistices. They picked the Newark earthworks. They didn’t find a solar connection. In fact it was so far off the sun that it was suspicious so they started looking at the lunar cycles and found the alignment.
This site has lots of info on how it lines up. I learned today about maximum and minimum extremes of the moon. If you watch the moon rise and set it goes through a cycle every month. It starts rising way in the north and each day rises a bit further south. In two weeks it hits the southern extreme and starts rising a bit to the north every day. In two weeks it hits the northern extreme and bounces back south sort of like a pendulum. But if you watch this over many years (18.6 to be precise) you’ll see that the northern and southern extreme points also move. There is a Maximum extreme and a Minimum extreme in both the north and the south. Starting this fall the moon is at the northern max. extreme. In 9.3 years the farthest north on the horizon it will rise will be the minimum extreme and then it will start back towards the maximum. The octogon is aligned to show all this off.
I went to a lecture by the guys who figured all this out. After they did all this measurements and math it occured to them that they were looking at the site from arial views on maps. The people who built it could have never seen it that way. They started looking for viewing points – big hills that people could have looked down on it from. They extrapolated the lunar lines backwards until they found a hill. That’s not hard. Pick any two points on earth and draw a line from them and you will eventually cross a hill.
But they realized that the 4 hills they found had something else in common. There is one on each side of the complex. They are several miles away. If you stand on the south one the sun rises over the north one on the summer soltice. If you stand on the north one the sun sets over the south one on the winter soltice. The east and west hills mark the equinoxes.
Then they looked at the highest point around here. If you stand on that and look at the maximum and minimum extremes of the moon on the horizon you see them clearly because there are two river valleys that are in a direct line between the high point and the points on the horizon. It is like you look right up the rivers and see the extremes of the moon. If you draw a line on a map from the highest point to those river valleys the lines cross the outer boundaries of the earthworks complex.
It is obviously purposely built by people who were highly observant. They may have also had a bit too much time on their hands to figure all that out and build it. The site contains over 7 million cubic feet of dirt that has been moved to build it. It must have taken forever.
I don’t know if all that makes sense but I wanted to write it down before it all fell out of my brain.
I had the weirdest thought today. It actually shocked me senseless. I thought, “Too bad the evil mother-in-law isn’t here.”
There is a reason for this. It was not longing for the bad old days. She is very into Native American culture and there will be a celebration of the Moonrise on Saturday.
I live near Hopewell tribe earthworks. These are earthen mounds. The biggest ones are about 10 feet tall and formed in huge shapes that enclose many acres. One center near here is thought to be built to be a huge moon calendar. Every 18.6 years the moon will rise in alignment over the structure. That is happening at 10:18 pm this Saturday.
There is a large octogon and a circle in this structure. The circle is part of a park. The octogon has a golf course built on top of it. The city planners weren’t too keen on preserving big mounds of earth. Very rarely the golf course allows the public access to the octogon. They are going to allow it on Saturday.
I don’t really understand what all is supposed to happen. I imagine it to be like an Indiana Jones thing where the light comes through the mounds and illuminates the spot on the other wall that opens the trap door. Anything else will disappoint me. LOL. There are lectures all day at several local colleges. Then at 7:30 pm you can get a bus to the site. There will be a movie there explaining what is going to happen. At 9:30 pm there will be some type of Native American spiritual ceremony in the octogon that the public is invited to attend. Then at 10:18 there is the actual moonrise. The advertisements say that this is the first time there will be an official public gathering for the event since 2000 years ago. I’m not sure how they know that.
There is lots of information on the link above that I haven’t had time to read yet. No one around here seems to pay much attention to the site. In fact when I was explaining this to people I work with they looked at me blankly when I mentioned the earthworks. I had to explain, “You know, just up the road. On the left there’s that park. Across from the Ford Dealership,” before they understood what I was talking about.
I did read W. Michael Gear and Kathleen O’Neal Gear’s People of the River which is a novel that takes place at this exact site when it was a thriving community. I highly recommend this whole series of books because it bases each story around some major Native archeological sites.