Serpent Mound is the world’s biggest surviving effigy mound—a mound in the form of an animal—from the ancient era. Situated in southern Ohio, the 411-meter-long (1348-feet-long) indigenous American structure has actually been excavated a few times due to the fact that the late 1800s, but the origins of Serpent Mound are still a mystery. Some approximates place the construction of the National historical Landmark—also called good Serpent Mound—at around 300 B.C.

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What Is Serpent Mound?

As its name suggests, Serpent Mound each other a giant sinuous snake v a cut tail in ~ the west end, a head at the eastern end, and also seven winding coils in between. In all, the line stretches a 4 minutes 1 of a mile and ranges indigenous 1.2 come 1.5 meters (3.9 to 4.9 feet) in height and also 6.0 come 7.6 meter (19.7 to 24.9 feet) in width.

Serpent Mound is situated on a high plateau overlooking Ohio Brush Creek in Adams County, Ohio, about 73 miles eastern of Cincinnati. It’s top top the website of an ancient meteor affect dating to approximately 300 million year ago; the crater, measuring 8 come 14 kilometres (5.0 miles to 8.7 miles) in diameter, is known as Serpent Mound crater.

Experts disagree about what the head the the mound represents, through some scholar positing the oval form signifies one enlarged eye while others think it’s one object—a hollow egg, because that instance—being swallowed by open jaws.

Purpose the Serpent Mound

Serpent Mound might have had actually a spirituality purpose, provided that the numerous native cultures in north and central America revered snakes, attributing superordinary powers come the slithering reptiles.

Additionally, graves and burial mounds near the site imply Serpent Mound’s building contractors may have created the framework for some kind of important burial or mortuary function, such as to guide spirits. Yet the mound chin doesn’t contain any kind of graves or artifacts.

Serpent Mound may have further had temporal significance—the head of the serpent aligns with the summer solstice sunset when the tail points come the winter solstice sunrise. As such, ancient peoples may have actually used the framework to mark time or seasons.

The design of the mound also matches the form of the constellation Draco, through the star Thuban (Alpha Draconis, which offered as the north pole star native the fourth to second millennium B.C.) lining up with the very first curve in the snake’s torso from the head. This alignment suggests an additional purpose because that Serpent Mound: a sort of compass that helps recognize true north.

Great Serpent Mound Excavations

In the late 19th century, frederic Ward Putnam, an archaeologist at Harvard University, carried out the earliest clinical excavations that Serpent Mound.

Since these an initial excavation efforts, excavators have deadline Serpent Mound to one of two native American cultures: The early Woodland Adena society (500 B.C. Come 200 A.D.) and also Late Prehistoric fort Ancient society (1000 come 1650 A.D.).

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Though the terms “Adena” and “Fort Ancient” hadn’t however been coined when Putnam very first placed trenches in Serpent Mound and its nearby earthen piles in 1887 come 1889, the excavator recognized that human being of two various time periods inhabited the Serpent Mound area. The attributed the effigy to the previously group (the Adena).

Decades later, various other archaeologists likewise attributed Serpent Mound come the Adena, largely based on circumstantial evidence. That is, Serpent Mound consists of no artifacts that have the right to be supplied for identification, but the adjacent conical piles do.

Putman originally excavated a conical mound located 200 meter (656 feet) south east of Serpent Mound, unearthing lot of burials and also associated artifacts, including pottery and projectile points. In the 1940s, excavator James Bennett Griffith analyzed these artifacts and also identified them together Adena, and also thus attributed the effigy to the culture.

Griffith also found both Adena and also Fort ancient materials in nearby cultural features, however he thought about it far less most likely that the an ext recent human being would have developed Serpent Mound, especially because the effigy is similar in format to various other Adena earthworks in the Ohio Valley, such as Portsmouth works (a mound complex in Scioto County, Ohio).

Adena society or fort Ancient?

In the mid-1990s, a research study team reopened one of Putnam’s trenches and built up charcoal from three locations over and below what they taken into consideration the mound base. Making use of radio carbon dating, they determined that the samples—and Serpent Mound—date earlier to around 920 A.D., some 1400 years later than initially thought.

This new data, i m sorry is based on the first direct aging that the structure, put the effigy in the Late primitive (Fort Ancient) period.

But in 2014, one more research team carbon-dated a variety of other charcoal samples, put the building and construction of Serpent Mound between 381 B.C. And also 44 B.C., v a mean date of 321 B.C.

The new evidence suggests, as soon as again, that the Adena were the original contractors of Serpent Mound. The study team believes the the Fort ancient people likely modified and/or renovated it, pointing come the truth that other adjacent monuments likewise show proof of fix or modification by primitive groups.

Serpent Mound preservation

In addition to leading the first excavation initiatives of Serpent Mound, Putnam additionally led initiatives to restore and also preserve the effigy. Specifics his efforts helped progressive funds because that Harvard college to purchase the site, which the Yale Peabody Museum of organic converted into a public park till 1900.

Serpent Mound then came to be property of the Ohio State Archaeological and Historical Society, now known as the Ohio Connection, which still manages the site. The organization constructed an monitoring tower at the site in 1908, and later built the Serpent Mound museum and other visitor facilities.

Serpent Mound (along v multiple various other Ohio American Indian earthworks) is being thought about for consists on the UNESCO people Heritage List.


Herrmann et al. (2014). “A brand-new multistage building and construction chronology for the good Serpent Mound, USA.” journal of historical Science.

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Milam, Keith A. (2010). “A amendment diameter because that the Serpent Mound affect crater in southerly Ohio.” The Ohio journal of Science.Serpent Mound; Ohio Connection.Fort ancient Culture: an excellent Serpent Mound; khan Academy.Ohio Central, Serpent Mound; Ohio Connection.Serpent Mound; UNESCO, Tentative List.Serpent Mound Crater, Ohio; United claims Meteorite affect Craters.