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Environment and Human Response at Newark's Great Circle
Culver, Emily G.

2011, MA, University of Cincinnati, Arts and Sciences: Anthropology.

As agents on the landscape, humans leave an imprint that becomes incorporated into the archaeological record. The archaeological record may include stone tools or broken pieces of pottery, or, on a larger scale, geometric earthen constructions. An anthropologist or archaeologist attempts to interpret the behavior which led to the archaeological phenomenon. One cultural phenomenon that has been a constant source of intrigue for archaeologists is the earthen monuments built by indigenous people in North America. Perhaps the greatest earthworks in the world in terms of scale were built by indigenous people during the Middle Woodland period (ca.2100-1500 B.P.) within the Ohio Valley. The most visible expression of building prowess in terms of scale is exhibited in the Newark Earthworks Complex.


This thesis explores the cultural phenomenon of the ditch at the Great Circle, part of the Newark Earthworks Complex, in order to examine the cultural response to environment during indigenous occupation of the Newark area. Paleoenvironmental reconstruction using proxy data helps elucidate cultural adaptation by indigenous people to either environmental stability or duress. This thesis examines four cores from one of the geometric components of the Newark Earthworks, the ditch of the Great Circle, and uses various environmental proxies including magnetic susceptibility (MS), powder x-ray diffraction (XRD), particle size analysis, and loss on ignition (LOI) from radiocarbon dated sediments retrieved from soil cores as an exploratory investigation of climatic conditions.


Magnetic susceptibility in conjunction with radiocarbon dating indicates that the Newark Earthworks were built after a cold and dry period. The Great Circle earthwork was likely used as a water management feature after a climatic downturn. Mineralogical interpretation based on XRD analysis supports the conjecture that the ditch of the Great Circle held water, suggesting it was used as a water reservoir in prehistoric times. However, the indigenous people may have used the ditch for other purposes including using it as a social boundary as a means of separating those outside the circle from those within it. One or both of these behaviors may have been the impetus for constructing the Great Circle.

Kenneth Tankersley, PhD (Committee Chair)
Vernon Scarborough, PhD (Committee Member)
106 p.

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Culver, E. (2011). Environment and Human Response at Newark's Great Circle. (Electronic Thesis or Dissertation). Retrieved from https://etd.ohiolink.edu/

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Culver, Emily. "Environment and Human Response at Newark's Great Circle." Electronic Thesis or Dissertation. University of Cincinnati, 2011. OhioLINK Electronic Theses and Dissertations Center. 22 Nov 2017.

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Culver, Emily "Environment and Human Response at Newark's Great Circle." Electronic Thesis or Dissertation. University of Cincinnati, 2011. https://etd.ohiolink.edu/

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