Serpent Mound in Adams County and the so-called "Alligator" Mound in Licking County are among the most fascinating legacies of Ohio's ancient Native American cultures. Effigy mounds are gigantic earthen sculptures built in the shapes of animals or, sometimes, people. Some investigators call them "geoglyphs" and similar monuments are found around the world, from the hilltops of Great Britain and Iowa to the deserts of California and Peru.
Much about these ancient works of indigenous art is still mysterious, but Ohio's effigies may finally be giving up some of their secrets. A study of their age and cultural context hints they are symbols of the most powerful creatures of the Woodland Indian Underworld – the Great Serpent and the Underwater Panther. Perhaps these sacred places were shrines where shamans invoked the terrible power of the Underworld.
I gave a talk for the Ohio State University on Wednesday 27 January 2010. The audio portion of the program, along with my PowerPoint slides, is available at this OSU website: