Built around 2,000 years ago by the Ancestors of many modern American Indian tribes, Fort Ancient Earthworks and Nature Preserve is Ohio’s oldest state park and the largest hilltop enclosure in North America. While the name suggests that this site was used as some kind of defensive structure, evidence shows it was actually a gathering place used for ceremonial purposes.
6123 State Route 350
Oregonia, OH 45054
- Park grounds & Visitor center:
- Wednesday-Saturday: 10 am - 5pm
- Sunday: Noon - 5 pm
What you'll see
Built on a steep bluff overlooking the Little Miami River, Fort Ancient is a nature-lover’s paradise with miles of trails, earthen embankments, and hidden astronomical connections. Some of the embankments reach 23 feet high, which is incredible considering they were built one basket of earth at a time. More than 67 gateways break up these embankments, inviting people to wander in and connect with their community.
One of the special areas at Fort Ancient is Morehead Circle, which is located near the museum. There is evidence that a woodhenge, or circular arrangement of wooden posts once existed there and that sacred ceremonies happened in this area.
Archaeology & Artifacts
Items made of materials sourced from areas as far away as the Rocky Mountains help paint a picture of the importance of Fort Ancient as a gathering place. Once thought of as evidence of trade is now thought to be evidence of pilgrimage—that people from all over the continent brought items from home as an offering in the ceremonies they attended here. Most of the artifacts recovered from Fort Ancient are in curated collections at the Ohio History Connection in Columbus. These include bone implements, stone tools, pottery fragments, and pieces of flint and mica.
The Museum at Fort Ancient offers 9,000 sq ft of exhibitions, which are free for Ohio History Connection members, and included with regular admission. The Museum is fully accessible and includes a classroom with information about today’s American Indian Tribes, which connects to the seasonal garden that showcases crops that were cultivated during the Hopewell and Fort Ancient cultures.
At Fort Ancient, the builders literally carved the rhythm of time into the land. Two of the distinctive limestone-capped mounds align to the summer solstice sunrise, and two align to the winter solstice sunrise. These days must have held deep importance for the site's builders. There is also evidence that the builders understood the 18.6 year lunar cycle. The people of the Hopewell era and their ancestors knew themselves to be part of nature, rather than separate from it. Using the precise location of these mounds, nature functions also as a calendar.
Must See at Fort Ancient
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Witness Ancient Brilliance
The Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, span several locations in Ohio. Each earthwork has its own marvels and wisdom to reveal, and is worthy of witnessing firsthand.