NEWARK, Ohio (NEWSnet/AP) — Ohio’s historical society is closer to gaining control of ancient ceremonial and burial earthworks that has been leased for decades by a golf club.

A trial was slated to begin Tuesday to determine how much the historical society must pay for the site, which is among eight ancient areas in the Hopewell Earthworks system named a World Heritage Site last year.

 

Built between 2,000 and 1,600 years ago by people from the Hopewell Culture, the earthworks hosted ceremonies that drew people from across the continent, based on archeological discoveries that found raw materials from as far west as the Rocky Mountains.

The Ohio History Connection, which owns the 2,000-year-old Octagon Earthworks in Newark in central Ohio, won a state Supreme Court decision a year and a half ago allowing it to reclaim a lease held by the Moundbuilders Country Club so that it can restore the site into a public park.

 

Native Americans constructed the earthworks, including eight long earthen walls, that correspond to lunar movements and align with points where the moon rises and sets over the 18.6-year lunar cycle. The Ohio History Connection calls them “part cathedral, part cemetery and part astronomical observatory.”

In 1892, voters in surrounding Licking County enacted a tax increase to preserve what was left of the earthworks. The area was developed as a golf course in 1911, and the state first leased the 134-acre property to Moundbuilders Country Club in the 1930s.

Numerous tribes, some with historical ties to Ohio, want the earthworks preserved as examples of Indigenous peoples’ accomplishments.

A county judge ruled in 2019 that the historical society can reclaim the lease via eminent domain.

The country club says it has provided proper maintenance of the grounds and allowed public access over the years.

Legal disputes rose up to the state Supreme Court, which declined jurisdiction.

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