Sacred Geography: Ceremonial Centers – The Necropolis

Mounds City

A necropolis, or ancient burial grounds, is basally ceremonial centers focused around death and to provide pathways to the next world. These complexes not only served as burial grounds but also for preparation for afterlife travels. One of the best examples is the Mound’s city Group in Chillicothe, Ohio.

Hopewell Culture National Historic Park, Chillicothe, Ohio

Mounds CityThe Mound City Group, part of the Hopewell Culture National Historic Park, is located six miles north of Chillicothe, Ohio in Ross County.  Ross County is second only to Licking County (Newark, Ohio) in number of mounds in the state.  Although the site is a necropolis, or ancient burial grounds, it is promoted by park officials as a ceremonial center because burial practices were ritualistic in nature.  Many of the burials were intrusive having been placed in existing mounds built by the Adena or Hopewell.  The embankment encompasses 13 acres.  Within the embankment are 20 small conical burials, two large conical mounds and a loaf mound.  There is a remnant of a charnel house where cremations took place.

Mounds City charnal houseAs with other earthwork sites, Mounds City was abandoned centuries ago.  The site was first used by early settlers for agriculture.  Then in 1917, Camp Sherman, a World War I training camp, was erected within the walls of the embankment.  In the process of constructing the barracks, several mounds were destroyed including an 18-foot conical mound.  Further damage resulted from road and rail construction as well as excavations.  Today the site has been complexly reconstructed.  The Ohio State Archaeological and Historical Society established the Mound City Group as a state memorial in 1920.  In 1923, the site came under the protection of the United States government as the Hopewell Culture National Historic Park in 1992. The site includes four other earthwork sites in addition to Mound City.

Reference: Geopiety and Landscape Perceptions at Mounds State Park, Anderson, Indiana by Barbara A Perry

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