Serpent Mound

Photo by Els Slots.

Serpent Mound is part of the Tentative list of United States of America in order to qualify for inclusion in the World Heritage List.

Serpent Mound is the largest known surviving prehistoric effigy mound in the world. The mound in present-day Ohio was built by the Fort Ancient Culture in the 12th century, and is emblematic of the tradition of effigy mound building among some American Indian cultures in eastern North America. The geoglyph is formed in the shape of the Great Serpent, which pre-Colombian cultures might invoke to aid them in hunting and curing illnesses.

Map of Serpent Mound

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The coordinates shown for all tentative sites were produced as a community effort. They are not official and may change on inscription.

Community Reviews

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brian walter

u.s.a. - 16-Jan-11 -

my family has had it's reunion at serpent mound for many years. i have been there so many times it's like visiting an old friend every time i go there. the scenery is incredible. the snake effigy is truly incredible, especially when viewed from the observation tower. in addition, there are hiking trails through patches of wildflowers that lead down to ohio brush creek. this site is a jewel,from an archaeoligical, historical, and natural beauty standpoint. it definetly deserves protection as a world heritage site. it deserves such protection on it's own merit, and doesn't need to be included with the newark or other earthworks to deserve such protection. i only hope it is granted world heritage site status quickly to give this site protection from developers and others who would exploit and destroy this wonder. i truly hope it's included on the list of protected sites. not to do so would be a terrible omission. serpent mound holds now and forever a special place in my heart.

Robert Pond

US - 16-Jan-11 -

As the author of “Follow the Blue Blazes: A Guide to Hiking Ohio’s Buckeye Trail,” I would like to express my appreciation to previous reviewers on this website. As these reviewers pointed out so eloquently, the site known as Serpent Mound is a realistic and powerful expression of a Native American people that existed almost 1000 Years ago.

For myself, who has returned to Serpent Mound many times over the years, I still experience an emotional feeling of wonderment and a reverential connection with the past. The lifelike serpent could be ready to engulf an egg or as one Native American explained: "the Snake Clan is actually being led by the Turtle Clan" (Cry of the Ancients by Little Pigeon).

Visitors to the site should also take the path down to Ohio Brush Creek that begins to the right and near the serpents head. Wildflower enthusiasts will enjoy the seasonal native plants along the walk. The walk will also show how fragile is the site, for the supporting rock is eroded and pitted with deep crevasses or caves. Also, the front of the cliff reveals a simulacrum (an image in the cliff) loosely resembling a serpents head. Perhaps this is the reason for the people of what we refer to now as the Fort Ancient Culture to build their effigy on this spot.

Another reason given for the site selection is that is on an uplift of a 10-mile wide bowl in the surrounding landscape. This huge depression was thought to have been created by a prehistoric meteorite.

I hope all who read these reviews will try to visit this amazing site in Adams County. The site has been nominated for World Heritage status with the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). You will also see the Blue Blazes of Ohio’s 1400-mile Buckeye Trail and the national North Country Trail’s blue blazes, found on the trees between the serpent and the gate.

Bryan Jacobs

USA - 16-Jan-11 -

Since 2004, the year I met my soon to be wife we have celebrated our anniversary at Serpent Mound. We usually make it a week celebration. We start at the Newark Earthworks in Newark, Ohio; we then travel State Route 23 South out of Columbus, Ohio to Ross County. Here we go to the Hopewell Center in Chillicothe and enjoy the museum and their movie, along with the grounds themselves. Then we head to Fort Ancient and Fort Hill, finally ending at Serpent Mound. During this trip, there are other mound sites to visit, Alligator in Granville, Tarleton near Lancaster just to name a few. One can never go wrong spending a weekend driving through the once great lands of the Ohio Native People.

Keith Warren

United States - 16-Jan-11 -

The other reviews have not noted the remarkable artistic quality of Serpent Mound. I visit earthworks in the Midwest on a regular basis, and have been to most of the major sites. Serpent Mound, with its relaxed, sinuous feel is the only effigy mound that I have seen that still feels like a sculpture. It also incorporates a remarkable visual illusion--when walking around it and looking at the top of it, it looks as if the snake is moving slightly. It's truly a cultural high point, and would be so for any culture.

ted sojka

USA - 16-Jan-11 -

Dear people who view this site that deserves World Heritage Status

The management of the Serpent Mound site has just been changed to a group of knowledgeable volunteers with experience. All these state sites are suffering due to lack of funds coming to them for such purposes from the federal government. Cutting taxes has its costs in services to the public.

Ohio has so many sites and the Serpent Mound is one of the most famous for many reasons, from being the largest Effigy Mound in the world, to a mound that some think, works as a solar observatory. The curves in the body line up with some important dates at Sunrise and Sunset over the course of a year.

This is truly amazing geometry at work that was put down for all times in the form of this giant mound. Some additional information is in the small museum but it also available on line.

I always do research before visiting such a site, but even if a traveller happened upon the site by accident, they would realize that this giant mound is a special place. The Peabody museum, more than a century ago did work to preserve it so that it did not suffer the fate of many other lost mounds.

Mounds at the largest city in America built before Columbus were leveled for fill dirt and road embankments, even though it was recognized by the early explorers of this continent, including Lewis and Clark in their survey done for Thomas Jefferson.

One site that could not be maintained by the Historic Society during the great depression, The Newark Earthworks, was turned into a golf course, "to protect it". Native Americans cannot go on the property except for a few days a year. Like Serpent Mound, there is a small tower visitors can view the site as people play golf on a spot that many still believe is sacred. Even it were not religious, it still deserves more respect, as a piece of history of the country and the world.

We are still learning things about these earthworks and they deserve to be protected for future generations.

Ted Sojka

Native Earthworks Preservation-Iowa

Theodore F. Sojka

Decorah, Iowa - 16-Jan-11 -

Ohio's ancient earthworks.

I loved the visit I had to Serpent Mound on a family vacation a few years ago. I had seen it in textbook photos many times, and viewed it in videos produced by Roger Kennedy of the Smithsonian.

We were thrilled and inspired as were our young children to have finally seen Serpent Mound in person. It is like seeing Monet in person rather than in a postage stamp reduction in a book. Years later we travelled to see the Newark Earthworks. I was an educator for three decades and never found a class that was not impressed by America's first architecture. It prompted a trip to see Cahokia near St. Louis to learn more about the past cultures of the United States.

Els Slots

The Netherlands - 19-Apr-09 -

Serpent Mound (T) by Els Slots

I drove deep into the Ohio countryside to visit Serpent Mound. Driving on the byways here is a pleasure in itself, you really get a feel for rural USA. Serpent Mound is a geoglyph - a drawing in or on the earth. The most famous example of geoglyphs of course are the Nazca Lines in Peru. Here in Ohio the Fort Ancient Indians made one in the form of a snake. It dates from the 11th century. Of the various kinds of geoglyphs that exist this is an "effigy mound", a raised pile of earth built in the shape of a stylized animal.

There is a gate at the entrance of the site to pay a fee, but when I arrive mid-morning there is nobody around. However the gate itself is open so I can drive on. I am not the only visitor, I see three other cars. Staff is not available and the little museum on site is also closed. A bit surprising, as their website has it that the museum is open Fri-Sun from 10-17h. The same site also speaks of "budget cuts" that may have an effect on opening hours, which may be the problem then.

So I just walk around on my own, there are basic explanatory signs. The snake is about 420 meters long, from the curled up tail to its open mouth. You have to look very hard to see its complete form. Fortunately there is a watch tower that you can climb to get more overview. The mound is a difficult thing to get captured on a photo because the snake's body is curled. There is also a walkway around it to give you a feel for the size and where the head and tail are.

And then the final question: will this ever become a WHS? I really doubt it. Maybe it will stand a chance as a serial nomination with similar sites (although Serpent Mound IS the largest effigy mound in the world).

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Full Name
Serpent Mound
United States of America
Archaeological site - Pre-Columbian
2008 Added to Tentative List

Unesco Website: Serpent Mound
Serpent Mound visitor info

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Serpent Mound (T)
WHS 1997-2024