But consider this: It was created nearly 2,000 years ago, making it among the oldest man-made structures in North America.
The massive stone Mayan and Aztec edifices of Mexico and Central America offer irrefutable evidence of the advanced civilizations that existed there long before the Europeans arrived. But these remnants of even older architectural accomplishments lie within a three-hour drive from Pittsburgh.
Neither the Staddens nor any of those who came later to marvel at the discoveries could more than guess about who had built them or for what purpose. Even the Native Americans living there could offer no answers.
Two centuries of civilization have erased as much as two-thirds of the earthen evidence before it could be properly examined. Newark, founded in 1802, gradually spread across and leveled the earthworks near the creek and river. Canal and railroad construction sliced through other structures. Survey maps drawn about 1840 are the primary evidence of the complete plan, but fortunately several structures have survived, primarily because they were adapted for other purposes.
The Great Circle served as Licking County Fair Grounds, a military barracks and an amusement park before it was deeded to the Ohio Historical Society in 1933. The octagon and its adjacent circle were also used for farming and military encampments before they were deeded in 1911 to a local county club, which incorporated them into its golf course, preserving them for generations.
These structures are now designated as Newark Earthworks State Memorial and are managed by the Ohio Historical Society.
According to Bradley T. Lepper, an archeologist with the society, the mounds were created during the period known as the Hopewell culture, which ran from about 100 B.C. to A.D. 400.
If you go ...Newark Earthworks
Newark Earthworks is located on Ohio state Route 79, 10 miles north of Interstate 70, a three-hour drive from Pittsburgh. The parking lot of the Great Circle site is open daylight hours from April through October, but even in winter visitors are free to walk around the site.
Viewing of the Octagon at Moundbuilders Country Club is limited to a wooden platform and a short walking path, except for six occasions during the year. On Oct. 11 there will be an observation of the most northerly moonrise in the 18.6-year lunar cycle, and special celebrations are planned. For more information contact the Ohio Historical Society at 1-614-297-2300 or http://www.ohiohistory.org/.
"But I think this complex was actually completed within a generation," he said, "and was likely the culmination of the vision of one charismatic individual, or perhaps a small group of leaders. How such a detailed plan could have been sustained over a longer period is hard to imagine."
Hunters, fishermen and plant gatherers who lived in small villages and moved frequently, the Hopewell peoples were also prolific mound builders. Up to 10,000 mounds once existed around the eastern United States. Maybe 1,000 have survived. Most are heaped burial mounds or "effigy" mounds built in the shape of animals.
"It's likely that the builders arranged a series of low mounds in a circle," said Dr. Lepper, who participated in the effort. "They scooped dark brown earth from the inner ditch and piled it over the circular array of mounds. Then they dug up bright yellow brown earth from deep nearby pits and mounded it along the inside of the dark brown embankment."
But there's more.
As advanced as the Hopewell culture was, about 500 A.D. it began to change. Small villages grew larger, and conflict broke out among them. Mound building ceased. In the late 17th century, inhabitants of the Ohio Valley were driven out of the area by Iroquois and Delaware peoples.
By the time settlers like Stadden arrived, knowledge of the Hopewells had entirely vanished -- except for their great mounds.
Post-Gazette travel editor David Bear can be reached at 412-263-1629 or email@example.com.