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Open letter to science editors



The ISCBM Newark Earthworks Conference
Newark, Ohio. September, 1985
David Griffard

[*!* Image]

On September 19, 20, and 21 of this year, the Institute for the Study of Collective Behavior and Memory held its first conference in Newark, Ohio. The focus of the conference was the subject of ancient moundworks in the U.S.A. and evidence related to the question of pre-Columbian contacts with the Old World.

Newark is the site of an impressive array of earthworks which unfortunately are all that remains of a formerly extensive complex in the region. Further to the South, near Chillicothe are other examples of the vast Mound-Builder civilization which one dominated the river valleys and fertile fields of North America.

Long attributed to the American Indian, though the Indians themselves lay no claim to the achievement, these moundworks and artifacts found within them have characteristics suggesting that there may be far more to the story. The earthworks at Newark bear remarkable resemblance to those found in Northern Europe. The Great Circle Mound forming part of the Octagon Mound complex is very similar to the shape and orientation of the earthworks which surrounded Stonehenge. Research in the field of archaeoastronomy [cf. R. Hively & R. Horn, "Geometry and Astronomy in Prehistoric Ohio," Archaeoastronomy, no.4, (JHA, xiii, 1982)] has established that the orientation of the axis of the Great Circle Mound aligns with the northernmost rising point of the Moon in the 19-year solar-lunar, a fact which readers of Alban Wall's research on Stonehenge [in this and earlier issues of HORUS as well as in KRONOS] will find intriguing.

[*!* Image: Comparison of the Great Circle Mound at the Octagon Mound complex in Newark, Ohio, with the earthwork rampart around Stonehenge in England. LABELS: Great Circle Mound, Newark; Earthworks at Stonehenge]

A few miles to the South, a large conical burial mound, originally covered with stone, housed a burial tomb lined with extremely fine clay. In the clay pit was a wooden coffin made by hollowing out and shaping a large tree trunk to contain the body. Examples of this type of burial are distributed extensively in the U.S. and are strikingly similar to the practices of mound burial known from ancient Northern Europe, particularly the "Mound People" of Denmark. This type of burial was very effective in sealing the remains and, in some cases, corpses were found with brains still preserved.

[*!* Image: Sketch of an ancient burial mound with clay pit, excavated in Prarie du Chien, Wisconsin]

[*!* Image: Head of a 1900+ year-old corpse found in Denmark]

[*!* Image: Sketch of a boat-shaped burial pit found in a mound excavated at Roane County, Tennessee]

[*!* Image: A boat-burial in Northern Europe dating from the beginning of the Viking period]

Another type of interment in the U.S., that of placing the body in a boat-shaped burial pit, is also known from ancient practices in Northern Europe.

Other fascinating finds involved artifacts inscribed in ancient Old World languages, foreign to the American Indian, and some of which were tongues long dead before the time of Columbus. Just how these and other "impossible" examples of pre-Columbian diffusion arrived on this continent has no satisfactory answer within the framework of traditional academic thought [see "A Conversation with Barry Fell," HORUS, II:1, 1985]. Aside from the grudging acceptance of relatively late visits by the Vikings and the faint glimmer that Irish monks may once have made landfall, the evidence that New and Old World contacts may reach back well into pre-Christian times generally is ignored. The established archaeological and anthropological community remains steadfastly committed to crusty doctrine that the pre-Columbian inhabitants of this land arrived in dim prehistory by way of an imaginary land bridge across the Bering Straits, and evolved in cultural isolation until Columbus made his epic voyage. Yet, from the multi-ton dolmens of New England, to the Ogham inscriptions from West Virginia to Oklahoma, the Newark "Holy Stones" and the discovery of Phoenician beads in a sealed context in Bolivia, the range and quantity of evidence for an alternative to the traditional view demands serious scientific attention.

At the Newark conference, three invited researchers addressed this problem directly. Alban Wall detailed the use of Stonehenge as an astronomical calendar and drew comparisons with the earthwork complex at Newark. His discussion of the 19-year solar-lunar cycle and its measurement at Stonehenge appears in this issue. Dr. Robert Alrutz of Denison University presented a fascinating overview of the problem of the Newark "Holy Stones" and other early archaeological discoveries in the Newark area which bear particularly on the question at hand. His conference presentation appears in this issue as well. A third guest, archaeologist Robert Pyle of West Virginia summarized his years of research in the West Virginia and surrounding area. Articles dealing with his discoveries and their contribution to the question of pre-Columbian Old World contacts will appear in future issues of HORUS. -Ed.

The Institute for the Study of Collective Behavior and Memory wishes to note a special vote of thanks to the people of Newark, Ohio who helped to make the Earthworks Conference the fully enjoyable experience that it was. Particularly we want to thank Richard Martz and Charles Patterson of the Holiday Inn at Newark for providing the good services of the motel and who made every effort to guarantee satisfaction with the conference room and other details required for the successful conduct of the occasion. Their cooperation and, especially, their desire to see creative attention be given to the importance of the archaeological treasure with which their community has been entrusted was not only admirable but most helpful. Thanks again from all of us!

David Griffard, ISCBM

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