Friday, October 13, 2017

Homeschool Field Trip: The Mound Builders of Ohio

In our years homeschooling, we have visited quite a few of the Native American mounds built in the eastern half of our country.

Here's where we've gone:

I know of a few more well-preserved Native American mound locations, but last week, the kids and I hit up the last of my must-see list: Serpent Mound!

Serpent Mound is a state park, which made it the only sightseeing destination on our trip where I had to pay admission (other than, you know, the Girl Scout Convention and the My Little Pony movie). Well worth, it, though, to see one of the important effigy mounds in the United States!

The museum for the site is really small. Like, REALLY small. Like, "Where did all of the artifacts that were surely here at one time actually end up because they ain't here now?" small.

Oh, well. At least the mount wasn't entirely destroyed by farmers' plows, I guess.

This part of the museum was super cool, though:
Check it: on the top is what the peoples of this area were up to, while below is what people were doing in the rest of the world. Yay for geohistorical context!
 And this was cool: this is a replica of what the Native Americans used to transport all of that dirt:
Woven basket. Times four billion, probably.
 And now, on to the mound!

This fire tower didn't actually give a great perspective of the mound as a whole, but you could see part of it from your elevated location:

And, of course, it's a lovely spot to take pictures of your loved ones:

I may have made them stand there a little too long...

But to be fair, the sun was in and out of these enormous cloud banks all morning, and it was destroying my ability to white balance. The tone of most of these photos is totally shot.

The mound is a lot shorter than you'd think it would be:


About waist- to chest-height on a kid, I reckon.
 Archaeologists theorize that the curves in the serpent's body are related to astronomical phenomena:

And there is also a very old asteroid crater just to the north of the mound, which probably made the mound site, at the top of the strange bluff, seem even more fantastical to the native people:


These two. Can I just say that my favorite thing about parenting is watching the relationship between these two? My most important job as their parent is helping them nurture it.

I think I'm doing okay at it!



After Serpent Mound, the kids and I drove back country roads the whole way to Hopewell Culture National Historical Park.

I'm just going to say real quick that it annoys me that the Hopewell people are named after the family who later owned this land. Real classy, yo.

I'm kind of fascinated by backyard archaeology, though, the history of archaeological wonders that were once in the hands of random citizens, and how they were preserved (or not) by those people. So I thought this old book mentioning the mound site was super cool:

This museum had more of the site's finds on display--

--but even here, in the smack middle of Ohio, we're still seeing evidence of the British Museum's near monopoly on antiquities:



I checked the British Museum site and found them, by the way, along with a TON more "mound city" artifacts. I guess I know where all that stuff from Serpent Mound is now! 

Check this out! After our sharks study last year, I was able to identify these pretties from half a room away:

Hopewell was also the first of FIVE Junior Ranger badges that the kids earned in three days of this trip:

 They love earning badges, don't get me wrong, but Syd, in particular, can get frustrated with the process, because the challenge level of the activities are so variable from site to site, or even throughout the book. In related news, did you know that I have a rule that when you say you "can't" do something, or you're "not good" at something, you have to do five push-ups?


Rules are rules. The kids think that I'm mean AND crazy, but I do not allow them to speak unkindly about themselves.

I like to do the museum/visitor center first, because I think it allows us to then see the actual stuff with more context and understanding. After we get that, then it's on to the mounds!


Look how nice the weather got for a while! It's going to pour later, but for now my white balance is thrilled:

A couple of these mounds were almost completely destroyed at one point, and a couple were completely excavated and then rebuilt. I don't know how I feel about that. It feels weird.


These two. I'm working here in our big family room while the kids are on the carpet in front of the couch, assembling planispheres as part of their Cadette Night Owl badge requirements, and I just had to tell them off because Will asked Syd for the instructions, Syd refused to hand them over, so Will shoved her and snatched them. I forced them to remind me of how old they were, because at the moment, it was impossible to tell.



This is cool. The mound below is unimproved, representing the way that the entire site looked before an effort was made to restore it.

I should have put a LOT more room to grow into those Junior Ranger vests!

Here's one more weird thing. As we ate our lunch on a picnic table away from the mounds, we all three watched in fascination as some sort of paranormal research group paced the site, circling the mounds. A woman led them while gesturing with her hands, and people followed her with various types of gear:

We only had to make it to nearby Dayton that night, so on a whim I detoured to the newest national park site that I'd been hearing about, the Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument. It's just one house with a parking lot, along yet another country road, but we found out, hopped out of the car, ran up the steps, and... the door was locked. A sign told us to knock, and if nobody was there it gave us a telephone number to call, but otherwise, the place was closed! I got out my phone and checked the website, and found that they're open by appointment only?!?

Whatever. Here we are, I guess:

Fun fact: over the next couple of days, I would hear park rangers recommending Charles Young to other visitors, and every. Single. Time I would pipe up and tell that ranger that we'd gone to Charles Young at 3 pm on a Saturday, and it had been closed, locked, and empty. The park rangers were always horrified, bless them. I guess they'd only gotten half the memo!

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