Human beings have lived in North America since the Wisconsin glacier retreated in about 15,000 BCE. The first cultures-the Fluted Point, the Plano, the Archaic-left behind little more than carved stone tools and, occasionally, human remains. It wasnít until the advent of the Adena Culture around 1000 BCE that the earliest residents of North America began building burial and effigy mounds. The Adena are best known for the former, and because of the number of burial mounds they left behind a lot has been learned about who they were. Itís known that they hunted and farmed in the Ohio Valley for several thousand years. The men grew to an average height of about 5Ē6í, the women to 5Ē2í. Adena Indians modified their bodies in some extreme ways. One common practice was head deformation. A board would be fastened tightly across a babyís head for weeks, flattening his skull as it developed.
The Great Serpent Mound was treated with great reverence by the Adena, who buried their dead beneath dozens of small mounds in the vicinity, but never inside the mound itself. It was built on a point overlooking the Brush Creek Valley, from yellow clay taken from three pits in the area, and is more than 1300 feet long. The body, which curves back and forth from a spiral-shaped tail, ranges in width from three to twenty feet. The head of the snake is represented by a large oval shape, which may be an egg itís eating, or might also be the snakeís open mouth as it strikes.
Over the years the Serpent Mound site has gained a reputation as a "mystery spot"--a place where unexplained things happen with some frequency. Whether this condition inspired the effigy or is caused by it, the legends persist. Itís said that the dead moundbuilders make occasional appearances, and that other odd things tend to happen in the park which now surrounds the mound site. In 1966 it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Today the Great Serpent Mound Park is tended by the state and is easy to visit on State Route 73 north of Peebles. Being there after dark is not advisable for a number of reasons.
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Beckwith, Rodney. "The Den of the Serpent." Southeast Ohio. Winter 1999: 10-11.