09 January 2011

Newark Earthworks could become World Heritage Site

The Newark Earthworks are, along with a few other Ohio Hopewell-related sites, being considered for inclusion on a list to be submitted to UNESCO for possible designation as World Heritage sites. In other words, they're short-listed to get short-listed.

It would be a wonderful (and, to my surprisingly optimistic mind, not entirely unlikely) thing if the earthworks would make it to the official list of amazing things on the planet. First of all, Newark seldom is recognized for anything positive, and having a World Heritage site would raise this area's profile in a very good way. It could possibly even have a beneficial financial impact by bringing in tourist revenue.

Second, this would be good not only for Newark but for the earthworks themselves. Anthropologists and archaeologists have been surprisingly reluctant to invest much in studying these huge relics that are essentially the North American equivalent of Stonehenge. Becoming a World Heritage site would drum up interest in the earthworks from a scholarly perspective, AND it would increase interest and effort in preserving what (comparatively little) remains of these amazing monuments.

Third, the inclusion of the earthworks into the list of World Heritage sites will serve as yet another reminder of our shared heritage and experience. We have differences, yes, but in reality, we are all people and more alike than we are different. Whether I visit the Newark earthworks or another Ohio mound site, or Stonehenge, or the Colosseum in Rome, I get a sense of being connected with it all, a participant in the great stream of humanity. Anything, even just a really big pile of dirt, that causes us to pause, put down weapons, and look at one another as human beings, is something worth saving and promoting.

YOU can be involved in this effort. Read the article from the Newark Advocate, and consider possibly writing to the Office of International Affairs (e-mail jonathan_putnam@nps.gov) or signing an online petition. I sent an e-mail, so I can't vouch for how well the petition site works. The basic text of my e-mail to Jonathan Putnam is below so that you can just adapt it for your purposes if you don't want to write your own e-mail from scratch. The deadline is January 12 (this upcoming Wednesday).

Dear Jonathan Putnam,

I'm writing to urge that you and the Office of International Affairs continue to pursue the nomination of major Ohio earthworks, designated as Hopewell Ceremonial Centers, to consideration as a UNESCO World Heritage site. I would also urge you to add Ohio's Serpent Mound to the nomination to add to the possibility of recognition for this entire cluster of ancient monuments.

Despite being little-known even in the international anthropological community, these earthworks are among the most important and impressive prehistorical structures on the planet. The Ohio earthworks sites deserve to be recognized and appreciated for their significance and contribution to human history and culture.


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