Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks

circle logo composed of colored layers in purple, green and brown text reads Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks Witness Ancient Brilliance
The Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks are Ohio’s first World Heritage Site and the 25th World Heritage Listing in the United States. The Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks include eight locations in Ohio that are managed by the National Park Service and Ohio History Connection.
A tall grass-covered mound under a dark grey sky.
Central Mound, mound #7, at Mound City Group under a dark grey, winter sky.

NPS / Tom Engberg

World Heritage Designation

It's official! Ohio’s Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks have been designated as the nation’s newest UNESCO World Heritage site.

The Earthworks include Hopewell Culture National Historical Park in Chillicothe, including the Mound City Group, Hopewell Mound Group, Seip Earthworks, High Bank Earthworks, and Hopeton Earthworks, as well as Ohio History Connection's Octagon Earthworks and Great Circle Earthworks in Newark and Fort Ancient Earthworks in Oregonia.

Built between 1,600 and 2,000 years ago by people now referred to as the Hopewell Culture, the earthworks were built on an enormous scale using a standard unit of measure, form precise squares, circles, and octagons as well as a hilltop sculpted to enclose a vast plaza. Artifacts, which are among the most outstanding art objects produced in pre-Columbian North America, show that those who built the earthworks interacted with people as far away as the Yellowstone basin and Florida.

The National Park Service manages all or part of 19 of the 25 World Heritage Sites in the United States including, the Statue of Liberty National Monument, Grand Canyon National Park, Yellowstone National Park, and Mesa Verde National Park.

Learn more about World Heritage in the United States.

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What is the Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks?

Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks is comprised of eight ancient Indigenous ceremonial earthworks in southern Ohio. Three sites are owned and managed by Ohio History Connection or the State of Ohio. These include Great Circle Earthworks, Octagon Earthworks, and Fort Ancient. Five of the sites are included in Hopewell Culture National Historical Park: Mound City, Hopewell Mound Group, Hopeton Earthworks, Seip Earthworks, and High Bank Works.

Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks nomination submission was announced in May of 2022 by the Director of the National Park Service Chuck Sams III. It is a partnership between Ohio History Connection and the National Park Service, Hopewell Culture National Historical Park. Since submission of the nomination a series of events have taken place which included an onsite review by an ICOMOS designated person, question and answer session between ICOMOS and Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks Executive Committee members, and independent review of the nomination dossier.

World Heritage site designation is a natural or cultural site, area, or structure recognized as having Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) and therefore as deserving special protection. When a cultural or natural site has OUV, it is “so exceptional as to transcend national boundaries and to be of common importance for present and future generations of all humanity.” World Heritage Inscription requires a site to meet specific criteria that highlights the significance of a culture or natural feature. Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks nomination is based on two criteria, 1. The Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks are Masterpieces of Human Creative Genius, and 2. The Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks bear a unique testimony to the tradition of the indigenous Hopewell culture of two millennia ago.

Click to learn more about UNESCO World Heritage
Click the logo above to learn more about UNESCO World Heritage

UNESCO World Heritage Centre

What is World Heritage?

Shortly after WWI, the idea of creating an international movement for protecting heritage emerged. In 1972, the World Heritage Convention was created by the United Nations Educational, Scientific & Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to do just that. The 1972 Convention concerning the protection of the world cultural and natural heritage developed from the merging of two separate movements: the first focusing on the preservation of cultural sites, and the other dealing with the conservation of nature. The World Heritage Convention aims to promote cooperation among nations to protect heritage around the world that is of such outstanding universal value that its conservation is important for current and future generations. It is intended that properties on the World Heritage List will be conserved for all time. The concept of World Heritage is universal in that World Heritage sites are shared by all the peoples of the world, irrespective of the territory on which they are located. Currently, the list contains 981 properties scattered around the globe on nearly every continent. View and explore the complete list of World Heritage sites.

Nomination Process

The first step towards gaining entry onto the World Heritage List is to be placed on a country's Tentative List. The Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks was placed on the United States' Tentative List in 2008. The United States can select one cultural site from the Tentative List each year and prepare a full World Heritage Nomination. A formal advisory body, the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) evaluates the nomination to determine whether the property has "Outstanding Universal Value." To meet the test, the property must meet one or more of the ten World Heritage criteria (Six cultural and four natural), possess integrity and authenticity, and must meet requirements for protection and management. On the basis of this evaluation, ICOMOS submits a recommendation to the World Heritage Committee. The World Heritage Committee includes representatives of 21 nations and meets once each year to render final decisions on nominations.

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Click the logos above to visit the official World Heritage Ohio website.

World Heritage Ohio & UNESCO World Heritage

Is Serpent Mound part of the inscription?

No. Serpent Mound, probably built several hundred years before or after the Hopewell-era sites, is the largest documented surviving example of an ancient effigy mound in the world. It is worthy of its own separate nomination.

You can explore and learn about the other sites Dayton Aviation Sites & Serpent Mound in Ohio which are also vying for World Heritage status. Visitors will find a trove of information on current news, partner links and ways to support this honorable cause.


Hopewell Culture NHP Contributions to World Heritage

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    Last updated: October 16, 2023

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    Mailing Address:

    16062 State Route 104
    Chillicothe, OH 45601


    740 774-1125

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