Americas,  Ancient (pre BCE),  ER,  United States

The Great Serpent Mound

Aerial view of the Great Serpent Mound. Photo Credit-
Aerial view of the Great Serpent Mound. Photo Credit-

In a previous post, we discussed the Mississippians and their mound city at Cahokia (  Another similar system of mounds were made in Ohio, although much earlier than the Cahokia mounds.  The Great Serpent Mound is found in Adams County, Ohio near the town of Peeples.  Millions of years ago, a large meteor crashed into the area creating a five mile wide crater and surrounding plateau.  The mound was built on this plateau in the shape of a large snake with a curled tail.  It is the largest serpent effigy in the world, measuring approximately 1,300 feet in length and one to three feet high.  The head is oriented to the east and the tail points west, with seven winding coils in between.  There is a large oval on the head, which some scholars believe is an enlarged eye and others think is an egg or prey being swallowed by the snake.  

It is believed the native cultures in this area attributed supernatural powers to snakes, as many snake artifacts have been found made of copper sheets.  It has also been theorized that the mound was created to mark time or seasons.  The curves in the snake’s body parallel lunar phases or possibly align with the solstices and equinox, like other ancient monuments like New Grange in Ireland (  There are also serpent effigies in Scotland and Ontario that are similar, but none this large.  Another theory is that the shape of the mound imitates the constellation Draco, with the first curve of the snake’s torso aligning with the North Star.  Still another theory suggests it is a depiction of Halley’s Comet, which appeared in 1066.

In 1847, Ephraim Squire and Edwin Davis first sketched and surveyed the Great Serpent Mound.  The two were amatuer archeologists who published had their studies published by the Smithsonian Museum under the title of the Ancient Monuments of the Mississippi Valley.  The mound was first excavated by Frederic Ward Putnam of Harvard, who found the mound damaged by significant erosion and treasure hunters.  Worried for the mound’s safety, he bought up the mound and surrounding property for The Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology at Harvard.

Since then there have been several excavations on the mound to determine its age and who could have built it.  Scholars have proposed the mound was built by several different cultures including the Adena, the Hopewell and the Fort Ancient cultures.  18th century missionary John Heckewelder reported the native people of Delaware told him the Allegheny people built the mound.   Burial mounds from both the Adena and Fort Ancient cultures have been found near the Serpent Mound.  Radiocarbon dating in 1991 determined the mound was approximately 900 years old, which would count out the Adena culture as they were primarily in the area much earlier.  This date pointed at the mound being the work of the Fort Ancient culture.  The Fort Ancient culture was significantly influenced by the Mississippians, and shared the rattlesnake as a common theme.  However, later radiocarbon dating in 2011 places the age of the mound much earlier, being built around 300 BCE.  This would put the mound’s construction at the height of the Adena culture.  A theory exists which combines these two saying the Fort Ancient people simply refurbished and embellished on an existing site created by the Adena people.

The Great Serpent Mound was under consideration to become included as a UNESCO World Heritage List in 2008.  The mound is under threat now not from the elements, but from human intervention.  The site has become popular with New Age groups who believe it is an intergalactic portal.  They bury amulets and crystals in the mound and destroy the site.  The Great Serpent Mound has also made an appearance on Ancient Aliens (which is the best unintentional comedy out there.), who said it was a landing site for “ancient astronauts”.