Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Woodland Altars

Last week I served as a chaperone to my son's sixth grade class field trip. They went to a beautiful camp in Adams County, Ohio, called Woodland Altars. We spent nearly three days there, and I was quite impressed with the whole program of instruction. I was also impressed with the marked difference between the behavior of the kids on this field trip, and the behavior of the kids in my sixth grade class when we went on these kinds of trips.

One of my favorite sites on this trip was Serpent Mound, an effigy structure built by the "Fort Ancient" culture, which flourished around A.D. 950-1050 along the Ohio River. The Serpent Mound itself may not strike a casual visitor as anything like, say, a pyramid or an aqueduct, but, as with Stonehenge and the Celts, it is a structure that proves the astronomical prowess of the Fort Ancient people.

Even more amazing--at least to me--was the "Cryptoexplosion Structure" (PDF Map). This is, believe it or not, an impact crater nearly 5 miles in diameter, the remnant of a meteorite impact nearly 300 million years ago. The surrounding countryside is strikingly beautiful, and as you drive over the hills and ridges it is fascinating to think that these are all that are left of a crater similar to those one can see on the moon's surface.

We were blessed with perfect weather, which meant good hiking and camping, beautiful sunrises and sunsets, and peaceful redbud observation. I got to be better acquainted with the teachers, too, and I was genuinely moved by their sincere interest in the educational process. I was particularly impressed by the enthusiasm and high spirits of David House, whom I hope to get to know even better.

All in all it was a great chance to get away and be with the kids. If you manage to get out there yourself, be sure to pay a visit to the House of Phacops. Proprietor Thomas Johnson is an authority on trilobites, and he is slowing building a museum with many interesting fossils, gems, minerals, and geological curiosities. Some items are for sale (including some exquisite trilobite fossils). He is a warm and friendly person, and can tell you all about the geology of the area (and other areas as well).

4 comments:

Steven said...

Dear Sir,

I did much of my field work in Paleontology down in Adams County and spent a good deal of time at the Serpent Mound. There is some question of interpretation regarding the formation of the structure--some have interpreted as you outline here, others have interpreted the event as a Massive volcanic eruption. Either way, it makes for interesting rock formations in the nearby area.

I loved going out there in the fall particularly. Looking down on the mound from the observation tower with the fullness of autumnal color all around was really a moving experience.

shalom,

Steven

Scott Carson said...

Hi Steven

Yes, I can imagine that the whole place is quite spectacular in the fall!

Regarding the nature of the structure, the Ohio DNR is quite certain now that it is an impact crater. There was, as you indicate, some uncertainty at one time, but since the chemical analysis of deformation structures has been completed they now know for sure that it is an impact crater and not due to vulcanism.

MrsDarwin said...

I too went to Serpent Mound on field trips, though what I remember from this remove is climbing up the tower in order to see the whole thing spread out underneath me. I went to summer camp for several years at a farm in Peebles, not too far from the mound, and every year we'd trek on over to explore it again.

Boy, I haven't thought about Serpent Mound in a long time. Thanks for stirring up memories.

Scott Carson said...

I climbed up that tower! You do get a nice view of the Mound. In fact, the Mound site is in a wonderful location, commanding a very nice view of the Bush Creek valley. One can easily imagine why the Fort Ancient and Adena peoples thought of the place as sacred ground (the Adena, an earlier culture, built burial mounds in the same area).