UC project puts Midwest mounds back on the map

August 25, 2008

More than 10 years ago, University of Cincinnati researcher John Hancock, professor of architecture in UC's top-ranked College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning (DAAP), began an ambitious, complex project using modern technology to electronically rebuild lost or damaged Native American monuments that once rivaled Stonehenge in their astronomical accuracy.

That electronic rebuilding project, known as EarthWorks, is now traveling museums across the Midwest - an area where, once, thousands of mounds and earthworks were built by Native American cultures in the form of geometric shapes, ringed hilltops or animal effigies (think Ohio's Serpent Mound or Fort Ancient).

The new project

EarthWorks and its success are now leading to Hancock's next project - the Ancient Ohio Trail. It's a project that grew directly from Hancock's own experiences in traveling the region to locate and study both fully extant as well as partial remnants of ancient earthworks left by the Adena, Hopewell and Fort Ancient cultures.

"In working on EarthWorks, I had a lot of fun tromping around the hills and valleys to find the earthworks or their ruins. There's hardly anything more thrilling than that. I wanted to share that feet-on-the-ground experience. That's how the Ancient Ohio Trail project began. It seemed that with what our team knew about their locations, conditions and a lot of history, and even the most scenic routes to get to them...and the best bed-and-breakfasts to stay in, we could create a 'heritage tourism' experience right here that was as rich and interesting as any in Europe!" he said.

With help from a team in UC's nationally ranked School of Architecture and Interior Design, Hancock is paving the way for others to follow in his exploratory footsteps via the just-launched Ancient Ohio Trail Web site.

Currently, the site containsHancock and his team plan to continue adding features to the site. In the future, they plan to add audio and video tours as well as other information that users will be able to download to a cell phone, laptop or other electronic device when actually at a specific earthwork site.

Mounds on the map

Some of the earthwork locations featured in the Ohio Virtual Heritage Trail Web site's directions, itineraries, routes and images areUC partners

A consortium of organizations has come together to assist Hancock and UC with developing the Ancient Ohio Trail. The organizations involved include"In terms of tourism and economic development, we have a unique resource in the form of these rare and endangered earthworks. There's an appreciation for them that extends far beyond the Midwest. Indeed, growing numbers of 'heritage tourists,' including Europeans and Asians, actively seek out such destinations for travel and education. We want to make that both easier and more educational for both local and international travelers," explained Hancock.
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University of Cincinnati

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