If you ever find yourself in Adam’s County, just north of Peebles, Ohio, you should take the opportunity to explore an area rich in Native American history, and home to the enigmatic Serpent Mound. Host to centuries of prehistoric intrigue, it is a beautiful earthwork structure that draws thousands of people to visit it each year. The Serpent Mound is recognized as a National Historic Landmark and is the world’s largest serpent effigy. Beth Jenkins, the History Preservation Manager at Serpent Mound State Park, calls the mound a true “Ohioan gem."
In 1848, the Serpent Mound was surveyed by E. G. Squire and Edwin Davis while conducting research for the recently founded Smithsonian Institution, which they compiled into their book, Ancient Monuments of the Mississippi Valley, a study of documented mounds and architecture created by prehistoric indigenous cultures.
At the time of their survey, much of the area was being used as farmland. Many mounds had been damaged or destroyed by farming and treasure hunting. In 1886 Fredrick Ward Putnam, an American anthropologist who built his career on studying prehistoric Ohio mounds, began efforts to restore and preserve the Serpent Mound and several adjacent mounds by buying much of the land containing and surrounding the sites. For a time, the land was owned by Harvard University and then later gifted to the state of Ohio. In 1967 the Ohio Historical Society opened a Serpent Mound museum near the mound. They also established the path around the outside of the mound, so that all who traveled to visit the structure could have access to it.
The Serpent Mound is a global sensation that has been the subject of many a history book, class, and lecture, inciting the curiosity of people around the world. Those attracted to the visit the effigy are all intrigued by something different. Many are captivated by the mystery and the historical significance, while others are drawn by a spiritual or mystical connection. “We really don’t know, and that’s what brings people here,” says Beth Jenkins. “Visitors feel such a connection to the site that they want to pay their respects with handmade offerings and gifts.”
Regardless, the site is a celebration of prehistoric craftsmanship and the beauty of nature coming together as one perfectly to create a vision of awe for onlookers. Visitors are forbidden to walk on top of the earthworks, but encouraged to utilize the path surrounding the effigy, or enjoy the bird’s eye view offered by the park’s observation tower.