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Golfers are seeking millions to relinquish control of a World Heritage Site in Ohio with deep connections to ancient Indigenous cultures

A groundskeeper mows the field (Via Ben Brook/Shutterstock)

Ohio’s historical society is close to gaining control of ancient ceremonial and burial earthworks currently managed by a country club where golfers play alongside the mounds.

A trial scheduled to start Tuesday will determine the price the historical society must pay for the site, part of the Hopewell Earthworks system, which was designated a World Heritage Site last year. These earthworks, constructed between 2,000 and 1,600 years ago by the Hopewell Culture, hosted ceremonies that attracted people from across the continent, evidenced by archaeological findings of materials from as far as the Rocky Mountains.

The Ohio History Connection, which already owns the 2,000-year-old Octagon Earthworks in Newark, Ohio, secured a state Supreme Court decision eighteen months ago allowing it to reclaim the lease held by the Moundbuilders Country Club. The goal is to transform the site into a public park.

A groundskeeper mows the field (Via Ben Brook/Shutterstock)

The historical society values the site at approximately $2 million, whereas the country club is seeking a much higher valuation.

The earthworks, including eight long earthen walls, were built by Native Americans to correspond with lunar movements, aligning with points where the moon rises and sets over an 18.6-year cycle. Described by the Ohio History Connection as “part cathedral, part cemetery, and part astronomical observatory,” these structures are significant to numerous tribes, some with ancestral connections to Ohio, who advocate for their preservation as testament to Indigenous achievements.

In 1892, voters in Licking County approved a tax increase to protect what remained of the earthworks. The area was converted into a golf course in 1911, and the state leased the 134-acre property to Moundbuilders Country Club in the 1930s.

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