The Great Serpent Mound is a prehistoric effigy earthwork of a serpent uncoiling located on a wedge-shaped, slightly convex ridge in the rolling hills of southern Ohio where it overlooks a waterway called Brush Creek. From the tip of its nose to the end of its tail, the effigy is 1,370 feet long and varies in height from less than a foot to more than three feet. Conforming to the curve of the land on which it rests, the head of the serpent approaches a cliff above a stream as its body winds back and forth for more than eight hundred feet and seven coils, and ends in a triple-coiled tail. The serpent head has an open mouth and appears to be swallowing an egg, or perhaps the sun.
The Serpent Mound is believed to be created by the Adena culture, who lived in the Ohio Valley from around 800 b.c.e. to around 100 c.e. The Adena were renowned for their elaborate earthworks and their creation of "sacred circles" as part of their cosmology. However, no artifacts related to the Adena have been found within the Serpent Mound. Recent studies indicate that the Serpent Mound is actually much more recent than the Adena timeline, and is now attributed to the Fort Ancient culture, which was in the area between 1000 - 1550 c.e. Carbon dating of wood charcoal found in a neraby burial site has linked the Great Serpent Mound to the Fort Ancient peoples. There are still some nagging doubts about the Fort Ancient connection, for instance, the mound does not contain artifacts which the Fort Ancient culture typically buried in its mounds. The mound is also uncharacteristic for that group as Fort Ancient people did not usually bury their dead in the manner of the burials found in proximity to the effigy.
There are many interpretation of the snake effigy and the oval structure it’s about to seize. Some think the structure represents the sun and thus symbolizes an eclipse. Serpents are a common feature in the art of the Late Prehistoric Period (900 C.E. to 1650 C.E.). Many American Indians of the Eastern Woodlands believed the Great Serpent was a powerful spirit of the Underworld.
The head of Serpent Mound is aligned to the setting sun on the summer solstice and the coils may be aligned to the summer and winter solstice and equinox sunrises. These alignments support the idea that Serpent Mound had a ceremonial purpose
The Great Serpent Mound has been designated a National Historic Landmark by the United States Department of Interior, and maintained within a park by the Ohio Historical Society.
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