High Bank Works

a black and white historic drawn map of a top-view of geometric earthworks including alignments of the sun in pink and the moon in blue.
Builders of this magnificent earthwork captured alignments to all twelve solar and lunar standstills! Alignments depicted here according to Hively and Horn, 1984.  NPS graphic using Squire and Davis 1848 map.

Squier and Davis, 1848.

Ancient Observatory

Many Hopewell earthworks seem to be aligned to astronomical events. High BankWorks appears to aim toward 12 exact points on the horizon. A desire to align works accurately may be one reason why the Hopewell built their earthworks so enormous and with such precise geometry.

High Bank Works consists of multiple earthen features spread over 197 acres on a terrace above the Scioto River. A circle and octagon, each measuring approximately 1,000 feet in diameter, are major features of this site. On the interior of the octagon were eight small mounds that correspond to the eight intersecting points of the outer walls. Six of the intersecting points form gateways, and one to the north forms an entrance into the large circle. The large circle has one gateway to the east and is opposite a smaller circular enclosure 250 feet in diameter.

Beyond the southern most point of the octagon were two small circles, each 300 feet in diameter, with single gateways. They were connected to the larger forms by two nearly parallel embankments extending southwest for almost 2,000 feet. Three small conjoined enclosures were located at the far end of the parallel embankments.

High Bank Works' walls and gates are thought to be aligned to the eight points of the complicated 18.6 year lunar standstill cycle. The earthworks also appear to mark the four solstices. But unlike the sun's solstice cycle, the moon does not always stop at the same northern or southern extreme before "standing still" and reversing directions. Just marking the maximum and minimum of the moon's movement would have required many generations of study.

The circle and octagon at High Bank form a remarkable pair with the Octagon Eathworks of Newark, the only other such combination the Hopewell ever built. High Bank’s main axis is at exactly 90 degrees to Newark’s, and the cross-axis of its octagon points to the moon’s northernmost rising at this latitude. Other features align to rise and set points of the sun, as well as the moon. In the mid-1800s, the walls of High Bank’s octagon were measured as equivalent to Hopeton’s –— 12 feet high and 50 feet wide.

a gravel road extends through a bright green field of grass and wildflowers.
High Bank Works walls no longer appear above the ground, this earthwork is one of our best preserved earthworks below the ground and is very much intact.

Photo courtesy John Hancock

The Site Today

This site is a research preserve and is open to the public only for scheduled events. For more information contact us at 740-774-1126.

High Bank Works was not immune to the decades of farming and plowing that took its toll on earthwork sites. As a result of the multiple years of agricultural degredation, the site has not been restored to show any earthworks, unfortunately. If you wish to view the size of some of these incredible monuments, please visit Hopeton Earthworks and Seip Earthworks as the park has begun interpretive mowing so that visitors can actually see the immense size and shape of these collosal earthen monuments.

Important Note: Launching, landing and operation of any type of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV / drones) is not permitted within National Park Service boundaries at any time. It is not restricted to just park operating hours. This is a 24/7 regulation, every day of the year. All sites and areas of Hopewell Culture National HIstorical Park (even parking lots) are included. Please report violations to a ranger or by calling us or emailing us. Read more about Unmanned Aircraft in the National Parks.

An aerial map showing park grounds

Squier and Davis 1848


Last updated: January 19, 2024

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Mailing Address:

16062 State Route 104
Chillicothe, OH 45601


740 774-1125

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