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Yesterday, May 3, 2008, was Newark Earthworks Day. This annual event has been been in existence for several years, and this one was quite special.

The day started at the Reese Center at the Ohio State University – Newark campus with several panel discussions. I was a volunteer at the event, and worked the registration table most of the day. I was fortunate to be able to attend the second session of the day: “Cosmology of the Builders: Solar and Lunar Alignments.” On the panel were John Hancock (discussing the Octagon and Circle Mounds in Newark), Lionel Sims (discussing Stonehenge) and David Carrasco (discussing Teotihuacan.) It was an incredible session. My only regret is that they didn’t have more time. I wish, especially, that Lionel Sims would have had more time, as his proposal for what Stonehenge really marks was fascinating.

Mary Borgia’s 4th grade class from Miller Elementary School had displays featuring pre-historic sites from around the world. You could tell that the children put a lot of effort into their research and displays. Mary should be commended for her work with her classes over the years in helping the youth of Newark realize what an incredible treasure they have right in their backyard.

In the evening, the event moved to the museum at the Great Circle Mound. The museum was re-opened after having closed several years ago due to budget cuts. The Greater Licking County Convention and Visitors Bureau is now sharing the space with the museum. It appears to be a win-win for both the CVB and the Ohio Historical Society (which operates the museum and the Newark Earthworks.)

The end of the day was nothing short of spectacular. The Palabra del NiƱo Dios Teopi-Itzintecuhitl dancers performed Aztec prayer dances in the Great Circle Mound. There were several hundred people in attendance. (The picture at left gives you just a small idea of how many people were there.)

The dancers led us into the Great Circle, where they then went to the top of the mound in the center of the circle. The crowd formed a semi-circle around flowers that had been placed in front of the mound.

It started raining shortly after the dancers began. Many stayed for awhile, but as the rain came down harder and harder with no end in sight, many in crowd left. Finally, the sun did come back out — rewarding those of us who stayed with an incredible experience that we are not soon to forget.

The dancers braved the rain, never stopping or taking shelter. At one point, during an especially heavy downpour, the woman shown above did remove her headdress and put the feathers under a blanket for protection. She retrieved them after the sun came out.

It was an honor when the dancers invited the audience to join them. Many of us formed a circle around the dancers and tried our best to do the dances. It was incredible, though many of us (myself included) discovered just how out of shape we really are!

The Newark Earthworks is on the “short list” of sites to be added to the United Nations’ list of World Heritage Sites. It is expected to be added within the next seven years. When that happens, I expect not only many more events like the one yesterday, but also a fundamental change in how the Earthworks are managed.

Much more information about the Earthworks can be found at OctagonMoonrise.org. I’ve posted more pictures from Newark Earthworks Day 2008 on Flickr.

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