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Of tumuli, moonrises, and a nice Par 3
Newark Earthworks

“The Hopewell Indians,” The New York Times reports, “used sharp sticks and clamshells here 2,000 years ago to sculpture seven million cubic feet of dirt into a sprawling lunar observatory and the spiritual center of their far-flung empire.”

Newark Earthworks

“The mounds' purpose remained a mystery until 1982, when professors from Earlham College in Richmond, Ind., discovered that they aligned perfectly with part of the lunar cycle. Once every 18.6 years, the moon rises at the northernmost point in its orbit. Pregnant and huge, its light framed by rounded earth, the moon hovers within one-half of a degree of the octagon's exact center. This makes the Newark Earthworks twice as precise as the lunar observatory at Stonehenge.”

But unlike any other ancient sacred earthworks, a golf course has been inscribed atop the great circle and the octagon.

Newark Earthworks

An atrocious act of desecration or a masterful, dizzying collage of seemingly dissimilar but truly related landforms? An experiment to combine two popular subfields of landscape architecture, i.e. historic presevation and golf course design, gone phenomenally great or monstrously awry? Admittedly, we are having a hard time forming an unambiguous, unambivalent opinion.

One thing is clear, however: we can't wait for yet another landscape to get grafted onto the site. A subdivision, perhaps? A park? A cemetery? A military proving ground? In 2,000 years, it will be as archaeologically dense as Jerusalem.

Newark Earthworks

There are controversies as one would expect. Between archaeologists who question the existence of a golf course and the club's general manager: “We have a lease, and we have rights.”

And between the public who would like to gain more access to the site, to experience the carefully staged astrological events and the club who fears “its greens would be destroyed” but nevertheless allows “a few dozen golf club members attending a charity event [walk] onto the mounds and [watch] the moonrise.”

Stay tuned, apparently.

Newark Earthworks

Christopher Maag, “Ohio Indian Mounds: Hallowed Ground and a Nice Par 3.” The New York Times (28 November 2005)
The Octagon Earthworks: A Neolithic Lunar Observatory
  • Anonymous
  • November 20, 2007 at 11:55:00 PM CST
  • These places will get Spic and Spanned for their original intention (the astronomy is only part of the story) with the rest of the landscape and we will all breath a sigh of relief and be one with this place, these places. We will upgrade the system and build even more transcendental places. The whole Place will be Transcendental. Thanks for the heads up and links.

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