From Ancient Earthworks to Modern Culture: Exploring Chillicothe, Ohio


Hopewell Culture National Historical Park in Chillicothe, Ohio © CURT MCALLISTER

Nearly 2,000 years ago, early American Indians lived in the central and southern regions of Ohio. These prehistoric people, now known as the “Hopewell Culture,” constructed magnificent complexes of earthworks with geometrical precision, which feature earthen squares, circles, and octagons of astounding sizes! These enormous complexes were then replicated throughout the region to create the world’s largest concentration of geometrical and monumental earthen architecture.

If that alone isn’t impressive, many of these sites are designed with special alignments with astronomical events throughout the year. Some locations align with the summer solstice, others with the winter solstice, and one even features the eight-point alignment to the complex 18.6-year lunar cycle. This would be an astonishing feat using modern-day technology, but this ancient culture could create these alignments with only the tools of their time.

UNESCO World Heritage Designation

Because these sites provide cultural importance to humanity, they will soon grace the prestigious UNESCO World Heritage List as part of the Hopewell Ceremonial  Earthworks nomination. This list currently features well-known sites such as the Pyramids of Giza in Egypt, Machu Picchu in Peru, and the Great Wall of China, to name a few. It will be the first site in the State of Ohio and the 25th site in the United States to receive the honour of becoming part of the World Heritage List.

Eight sites from around Ohio form the Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks World Heritage nomination. There are five sites in Chillicothe, one in Lebanon, and two in Newark. Although these sites share similar earthen architecture, they individually showcase unique characteristics, which contribute to the story of this ancient culture.

Much remains unknown about this culture, but archaeologists continue efforts to understand their history. During their explorations, they uncovered unique objects made from precious materials that came as far away as the Rocky Mountains, southern Canada, and the Atlantic Ocean. This reflects the distances of their journeys and the connections with other cultures of the time.

Cultural Experiences & Entertainment

Five of the eight World Heritage nomination sites are in the Appalachian foothills of Chillicothe, located in southern Ohio and home to the Hopewell Culture National Historical Park. The rich American Indian heritage extends into more modern-day times with the Shawnee tribe, whose language contributed to the city’s name.

A legendary Shawnee leader’s story is still brought to life annually on the outdoor stage of the Sugarloaf Mountain Amphitheatre with the production of Tecumseh! Outdoor Drama. This captivating story depicted a time in the 1700s when Tecumseh struggled to defend his sacred homelands in Ohio. This production offers an action-packed evening with spectacular battle sequences, galloping horses, and military cannons in action.

Tecumseh met with another prominent individual, Thomas Worthington, to thank him for promoting peace between their cultures. You can learn about Worthington and his family while touring his beautifully restored 19th-century mansion at Adena Mansion & Gardens, one of the last Benjamin Latrobe-designed homes. Worthington is best known as the “Father of Ohio Statehood” for his role in Ohio, joining the Union and becoming the 17th state.

Modern-Day Culture

Downtown Chillicothe is full of modern-day cultural experiences. You can sample the exquisite flavours of southern Ohio and view the unique combination of architecture, which houses many of the quaint small-town shops. Upon arrival, you will feel like a local as you walk around and meet the residents.

Plan your visit to Chillicothe!

Learn more today at

Get your free copy of Global Heroes, jam-packed with positive news, straight in your inbox.

Your subscription could not be saved. Please try again.
Your subscription has been successful.

We are an area filled with a variety of activities to peak the interests of every person in your group or family. From museums to live shows to leisurely strolls on a scenic path, Ross County has something just for you!


Subscribe to our Newsletter and Access all issues of Global Heroes News straight in your inbox. 100% free, no purchase necessary, for life. Uplifting stories, highlighting the inspirational efforts of everyday people, celebrities, and organizations, who are diligently working together towards practical solutions to global problems.