Serpent Mound is the largest serpent effigy in the world. It was clearly of great significance to the culture that built and other Ohioan natives.
Serpent Mound does not contain any artifacts, and therefore, we can only speculate as to its purpose. However, the serpent’s importance to native cultures and graves nearby suggests a spiritual role for the site. It also may have served as a form of a compass.
The site is made of purely organic substances. Therefore, periodization is a complicated process involving a good deal of guesswork.
What is Serpent Mound?
Serpent Mound is a pre-historic effigy in Adams County, Ohio. It is shaped like a serpent and is believed to be the largest serpent-shaped effigy in the world. It is 1,376 feet long and about 25 feet wide.
The shape of the serpent is made out of a variety of natural materials. The basis is structured out of clay and ash. That base is topped by rocks and a good dose of soil. The construction has proven sturdy, and it has withstood centuries of exposure to the elements.
The effigy’s shape goes along with the topography of the land around it, with its head reaching towards the edge of a cliff. It appears that the snake is poised to eat an oval shape constructed in front of its mouth. Many observers believe that the oval represents an egg, though others have speculated that it may be the moon.
The effigy was constructed on a crater site, which hit our planet about 300 million years ago. Although we have no way of knowing what the crater meant to the constructing culture, the location of the effigy on that spot is almost certainly not coincidental.
What Was the Purpose of Serpent Mound?
There are several graves and tombs located near Serpent Mound. Therefore, one theory is that the site was built to guide spirits to their resting place.
There is a second theory, which does not necessarily contradict the first. The shape of the serpent matches the Draco constellation, as seen by the naked eye. The serpent’s first curve is believed to line up well with Alpha Draconis, which was once used as the North Star. Therefore, some archaeologists believe that the Serpent Mount was used to locate the true north.
Researchers have also shown that the serpent’s coils align perfectly with two annual equinox and solstice events, respectively. Assuming this theory is correct, it points to a firm grasp of astronomy by these Native Ohioan cultures.
Who Built Serpent Mound?
The mound presents a challenge to historians and archaeologists. Excavation has not revealed analyzable artifacts. Also, the mound was constructed out of organic materials that are difficult to periodize.
With these problems in mind, theories about Serpent Mound’s origins involve a great deal of guesswork. Nevertheless, experts believe that the effigy was constructed by either the Fort Ancient Culture or the Adena Culture.
The fact that the two guesses are dated approximately 1,300 years apart attests to periodization’s immense difficulty. However, recent radiocarbon analysis suggests that the site is too old to be associated with the Fort Ancient Culture (which flourished in the 1000-1750 AD period.
Archaeologists have reliably traced artifacts found in the nearby conical mound to both cultures. Therefore, the most reasonable theory is that the Adena Culture constructed the initial mound and the Fort Ancient Culture used it far later. The Fort Ancient Culture may also have significantly changed the structure. We simply don’t know.
Preserving Serpent Mound
We may not know as much about Serpent Mound as we would like, but at least contemporary researchers are aware of its importance. The area was initially bought and protected by the Trustees of the Peabody Museum. Today it is overseen by the respected Ohio Historical Society. Local associations have been engaged in an ongoing effort to gain UN recognition for its importance.
Unfortunately, there have been instances of vandalism at the site. One individual drove a pickup truck near the mound on the Fourth of July weekend in 2015. An Adena burial ground was damaged, but luckily the Serpent Mound itself was unharmed. As a result, the American Indian Movement has stated that it should play a more significant role in preserving the site.
Hopefully, future excavation will shed some light on the original purpose of the mysterious Serpent Mound.