The Portsmouth Earthworks were constructed by the so-called Hopewell culture (100 B.C to 500 A.D.) -- an archaeological term designated an artifactual and technological period of pre-contact American Indian peoples. The earthworks is a large ceremonial center located at the confluence of the Scioto and Ohio rivers. Much of the site is now encompassed by the city of Portsmouth in Scioto County, Ohio. Part of this earthwork complex extends across the Ohio River into Kentucky. Originally, the Portsmouth Earthworks included a northern section consisting of a number of circular enclosures, two large horseshoe-shaped enclosures, and three sets of parallel-walled roads leading away from this location. One set of walls went to the southwest and may have linked to a large square enclosure located on the Kentucky side of the Ohio River. Another set went to the southeast where it led to the Ohio River. The walls continued on the opposite side of the river and led to a complicated circular enclosure. The third set of walls went to the northwest for an undetermined distance.
There are few surviving remnants of the Portsmouth Earthworks. Of these, only Mound Park in Portsmouth is open to the general public. The City of Portsmouth park includes one of the large horseshoe-shaped enclosures. It is called Horseshoe Mound and it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Learn more about our effort to inscript several Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks sites (in Ross County, Licking County, and Warren County) to the UNESCO World Heritage List.
- Byers, A. Martin. The Ohio Hopewell Episode: Paradigm Lost and Paradigm Gained. Akron, OH: University of Akron Press, 2004.
- Carr, Christopher, and D. Troy Case, eds. Gathering Hopewell: Society, Ritual, and Ritual Interaction. New York, NY: Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers, 2005.
- CERHAS. EarthWorks, Virtual Explorations of the Ancient Ohio Valley. The Center for the Electronic Reconstruction of Historical and Archaeological Sites (CERHAS). Cincinnati, OH, 2006.
- Case, D. Troy and Christopher Carr, eds. The Scioto Hopewell and their Neighbors: Bioarchaeological Documentation and Cultural Understanding. New York, NY: Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers, 2008.
- Pangea Productions. Searching for the Great Hopewell Road. N.p.: Pangea Productions, 1998.
- Lepper, Bradley T. Ohio Archaeology: An Illustrated Chronicle of Ohio's Ancient American Indian Cultures. Wilmington, Ohio, Orange Frazer Press, 2005.
- Earthworks Virtual Explorations of Ancient Newark, Ohio. The Center for the Electronic Reconstruction of Historical and Archaeological Sites. Cincinnati, OH: Center for the Electronic Reconstruction of Historical and Archaeological Sites, 2005.
- Warriner, Gray, producer. Legacy of the Mound Builders. Seattle, WA: Camera One for the National Park Service and the Hopewell Culture National Historical Park, 1994.
- Woodward, Susan L., and Jerry N. McDonald. Indian Mounds of the Middle Ohio Valley: A Guide to Mounds and Earthworks of the Adena, Hopewell, Cole, and Fort Ancient People. Lincoln: The University of Nebraska Press, 2002.