Calling it a “moment of discovery,” Hancock went on to secure federal, state and university grants to study the earthworks and their builders, develop methods to make them more understandable to the public and create a online guide to all earthworks in Ohio.
From there, for nearly two decades, Hancock helped lead the team of Native American archaeologists, historians and scholars, including staff from the National Park Service and the Ohio History Connection, who all worked tirelessly to advocate for the recognition of earthworks. on par with other world heritage sites such as the Great Wall of China and Stonehenge.
“If a Greek temple is in ruins, you can see it, and it’s still quite interesting,” Hancock told the magazine. However, many Hopewell sites in the area, he said, were flat, covered in forest or simply too large to be comprehensible. “We had to find a way to describe the integrity of the sites by combining the architecture you can see and the archaeological evidence you can’t see.”
Now that the Ohio Earthworks are designated World Heritage Sites, the team is working to update and improve visitor experience materials, interpretive signage and online resources for the expected increase in regional tourism.
Featured image at the top of Mound City provided by Hancock.