Abstract

The Serpent Mound in Adams County, Ohio, is probably the most widely recognized effigy mound in the world. Opinions differ, however, as to who built the effigy and when. Currently there are two conflicting positions. According to Lepper and colleagues (this volume and elsewhere) the effigy was built by people of the Fort Ancient culture circa AD 1070. According to the present author and colleagues, recently obtained radiocarbon dates and other data indicate that Serpent Mound was built much earlier, by people of the Adena culture, circa 320 BC.

In this article, evidence is presented that corroborates the earlier published radiocarbon dates suggestive of an Adenaera construction. This evidence includes a review of findings that real serpents were sometimes buried with Adena and Hopewell people and consideration of a relational complex reaching back to the Early Woodland—wherein the Great Serpent of Native American legend is associated with the journey of the deceased person’s soul, the star constellation Scorpius, and the Lowerworld. Together, these data provide an Early Woodland cultural and interpretive context for Serpent Mound and further corroborate the Adena-era radiocarbon dates for its construction.

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