Preserving Sacred Land: Local Volunteers Commence Efforts to Save
Region’s Past

By: Jeff Gambrell

Dr. Jeff Leipzig pointing out the north mound that they recently cleared themselves. Preserving Sacred Land: Local Volunteers Commence Efforts to Save Region’s Past. Photo credit Jeff Gambrell.


HAMILTON – It was a cool and misty morning in the pastures on the outskirts of
Hamilton as a group of cars followed in-line, parking at the dead end of a quiet, country
road. In those cars was a small group of roughly eight volunteers on a mission to
uncover history that laid hidden from the world. The volunteers had originally met up at
Pyramid Hill’s visitor center stocked with outdoor equipment including gloves, hedge
trimmers, chainsaws and loppers awaiting the guidance from staff on where to go. From
there, they were led on a brief drive to the site, having to eventually leave their cars
behind and journey on foot the remainder of the way. Their destination: Fortified Hill, a
2,000-year-old sacred site constructed by the Hopewell Tribe who once inhabited the
area we now call Hamilton.
Fortified Hill was recently acquired in Fall 2019 when it was put up for auction as four
parcels of land. Its future was uncertain at the time leading up to the auction date;
however, it was successfully saved. This past Sunday, volunteers visited the site which
is now heavily dense with honeysuckle (and other underbrush) to begin efforts on
clearing the space and restoring the sacred land back to what it once was.
Dr. Jarrod Burks, an archaeologist with the Heartland Earthworks Conservancy, made
the trip down from Columbus to assist with the clearing. “These ancient monuments are
a remarkable achievement and they speak to a knowledge of engineering and
astronomy (many earthworks have astronomical alignments) that Native Americans
achieved nearly two thousand years ago”, noted Dr. Burks. “There once were many
hundreds of these earthen enclosure sites, which include hilltop enclosures and
geometric enclosure sites (like the Newark Earthworks). Many of these sites have been
destroyed because of development, roads/railroads, mining, etc. They represent a
rather unique time in the past when societies were able to build massive, monumental
constructions without the aid of tools we take for granted—like steel shovels, bulldozers,
backhoes, and the like. They built these by hand, one basket load of earthen at a time.
And they did it all before people lived in cities…or even villages…and they did not yet
grow corn”.
Volunteers may be requested again in the future as much work still needs to be done to
properly restore the site and allow it to be accessible by the public. All volunteer
opportunities will be posted on Pyramid Hill’s Facebook page. Fortified Hill is anticipated
to be open to the public by March 2022.
Volunteers clear Fortified Hill. Photo credit Jeff Gambrell