Thursday, July 28, 2016

Nature Geek Vacation Destination - Great Serpent Mound (Peebles, OH)

Okay, this is really more of a history or archaeology geek destination than a nature geek destination, but it was my favorite thing about my recent vacation so I am including it here.

As a kid, I remember seeing an aerial photograph of Great Serpent Mound in a book and being amazed.  Finally, the opportunity came up to visit the site.

Great Serpent Mound is located in southern Ohio near the village of Peebles.  It is approximately 6.5 hours away from Mid-Michigan by car.  The site is maintained by the Ohio History Connection (formerly the Ohio Historical Society). The Arc of Appalachia (a local land trust/preserve system) operates a gift shop and small museum on the site.  There is a short, but excellent video showing on a loop at the museum; make sure to take the time to watch it.  There is an $8 parking fee for visiting the site.

Great Serpent Mound - looking south from near the head of the mound

Great Serpent Mound is what is known as an effigy mound - this means it is an earthen mound created in the shape of a person, animal, or symbol.  It is not a burial mound.  There are three burial mound located on the property, but Great Serpent Mound was probably never a burial.  Instead it was probably used for ceremonial purposes.  Various archaeological excavations on the site date the Great Serpent Mound to somewhere between 400 and 1400 years old.  It may have been torn down and rebuild several times.

The largest of three burial mounds located on the site

What makes Great Serpent Mound so special.  It is the largest effigy mound in the world.  It measures approximately just over a 1/4 mile long (1348 feet) and is several feet tall.  The scale can only truly be appreciated from above.  There is a viewing tower, but the slope of the land means that you cannot see the entire serpent even from the top of the tower.  When you remember that this was constructed entirely by hand using wood, stone, and bone tools the achievement of its construction becomes even more remarkable.

The viewing tower at Great Serpent Mound

My map of the Great Serpent Mound showing the orientation of the site and location of the viewing tower (copied from various sources)

Great Serpent Mound from the viewing tower - the spiral tail is to the left and the head is out of sight to the right rear

Aerial view #2

Aerial view #3

Great Serpent Mound is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and has been nominated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  If you are a history geek like me, this site is a must-see.  It is quite simply one of the most impressive man-made locations I have ever visited.

Looking northward along the west flank of the serpent

The spiral tail of Great Serpent Mound

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