If asked, most people would admit they fear snakes. But prehistoric Native Ohioans must have felt differently since they built an effigy mound in the shape of a giant sinuous snake with a curled tail. This internationally known National Historic Landmark is about 1,330 feet in length and ranges from one to three feet in height. It is best viewed from a platform 25 feet off the ground, located at Serpent Mound State Memorial off state Route 73, about 10 miles north of Peebles, Ohio. This mysterious site has been a public park for more than a century and attracts visitors from all over the world. The Ohio History Connection currently manages the Great Serpent Mound, and it is also being considered for inclusion on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
summer solstice sunset and the seven winding coils also may point to the winter solstice sunrise and the equinox sunrise. As such, ancient peoples may have used the structure to mark time or seasons. Serpent Mound may have had a spiritual purpose, given that the many native cultures in North and Central America revered snakes, attributing supernatural powers to the slithering reptiles. Additionally, graves and burial mounds near the site suggest Serpent Mound’s builders may have constructed the structure for some kind of important burial or mortuary function, such as to guide spirits. But the mound itself doesn’t contain any graves or artifacts.
A thousand or more years ago, numerous mounds were made by the ancient Native American cultures that flourished along the fertile valleys of the Mississippi, Ohio, Illinois, and Missouri Rivers, though many mounds were destroyed as farms spread across this region. No one knows for sure who built these ancient earthworks or why, but radiocarbon dating has attributed Serpent Mound to one of two Native American cultures: The Early Woodland Adena culture (500 B.C. to 200 A.D.) and Late Prehistoric Fort Ancient culture (1000 to 1650 A.D.). As new data is studied, archeologists tend to lean more toward the idea that Great Serpent Mound was built by the Adena culture. Whether this impressive monument was used as a way to mark time, document a celestial event, act as a compass, serve as a guide to astrological patterns, or provide a place of worship to a supernatural snake god or goddess, we may never know with certainty. But since it is the largest and finest effigy in the United States., it’s worth a visit to see this rare mound in rural southwestern Ohio.