Ancient Earthworks of North America suggest pre-Columbian European contact
Long before the Isolationist doctrine of the Smithsonian became an academic dogma, mounds and earthworks in America were routinely compared to those observed in Western Europe. This position was summed up by Stephen Denison Peet, founder of the American Antiquarian, in these passages from 1892:
Relics of the Mound builders resemble those found in Great Britain and the north of Ireland, and even suggest the transmission of the same myths and symbols from the eastern to the western continent.
The contact seemed to have produced a marvelous effect. It was not a decline from the Bronze Age which we see in these familiar symbols, but the effect of contact with European voyages in pre-Columbian times, pre-Columbian discovery, in fact. The conclusion is startling, but this is the only way that we can account for the marvelous resemblances.
Connection between the Serpent Mound of Ohio and ancient earthworks of Britain
Peet was also one of the first to connect the Portsmouth, Ohio Earthworks with Avebury in Wiltshire, England:
…we think it can be proven that the most striking features of the work at Avebury are duplicated here; the sun symbol being embodied in the concentric circles on the Kentucky side; the phallic symbol in the horse-shoe mounds upon the Ohio side and the avenues of standing stones corresponded to the covered ways which connected the enclosures on the Kentucky side with that on the Ohio side. 1
John Aubrey sketch of the entire Avebury complex and the enormous processional avenues that once led to it ( Ancient Skies )
Portsmouth, Ohio Earthworks, from Ancient Monuments of the Mississippi Valley ( Wikipedia)
Ohio’s Great Serpent Mound was also compared to the Serpent Effigy at Loch Nell, Scotland, by both Frederick Ward Putnam and E.O. Randall:
“It has, however, a counterpart in the Old World. In Great Britain, as is well known, there are frequent remains of a race of people similar to, if not identical with, the Mound Builders of America...In Scotland there is a very remarkable and distinct serpent, constituted of stone.” 2
Left: Serpent Mound at Loch Nell taken from Constance Cumming's In the Hebrides (1883). Right: The Serpent Mound in Ohio ( Wikimedia Commons )
Connections between Bell Beaker and Corded Ware Cultures of Europe and Adena Culture of North America
During the 19 th and early 20 th centuries, the European cultures to which American earthworks were attributed were simply referred to as “Druidic” or “Celtic”. Today, these remains are ascribed to the descendants of the Bell Beaker and Corded Ware Cultures (both named for their distinctive pottery) of the Chalcolithic and E.B.A.
Recent genetic studies show that the Corded Ware Culture originated with mass migrations of the Yamnaya Culture from the Pontic Steppe into Northeastern Europe between 3000 and 2800 B.C. 3 The Yamnaya Culture buried their dead in pits beneath small mounds, sometimes covering the bones in red ocher, while Corded mounds demonstrate regional diversity and sophistication.
The Beaker People expanded out of the Iberian Peninsula into Western Europe and the Mediterranean between 2900 and 2500 B.C. They are credited with introducing metallurgy into Ireland and Britain. The Beaker People practiced individual burials inside of a variety of round conical mounds (“Disk Barrows”, “Bell Barrows”, and “Bowl Barrows”), and continued the Megalithic culture of their Neolithic forbears, including construction of large circular henges and the reuse of earthworks already built.
Early Bronze Age barrow and enclosure, Boscombe Down, Amesbury. Beaker pottery was retrieved from the central burial and the barrow ditch. ( Wessex Archaeology / Flickr )
The appearance of these groups heralded a major genetic changeover in Europe. 4 As new lineages associated with both cultures superseded those of the Neolithic period, 5 regional variations of the prolific cultural package began to appear, including the Unetice culture in Poland, Germany, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia (2200 B.C.), and the Wessex culture in Britain (2000 B.C.), continuing through the Bronze and into the Iron Age via the Tumulus, Urnfield, Hilversum, and Celtic cultures.
Many of the North American earthworks compared with those across the Atlantic were built by the Adena People. Adena enclosures are circular embankments of earth with interior or exterior ditches, featuring openings possibly referencing solar, lunar, or otherwise astrological events, usually located among mound fields. The enclosures sometimes had timber circles incorporated into their designs.
These structures are comparable to Neolithic and Bronze Age henges. Some henges (such as Arbor Low) surround megalithic circles. Stonehenge began life around 3100 B.C. as a simple circular enclosure with the ditch outside of the embankment.