You are standing inside an earthworks built by prehistoric Hopewell Indians nearly 2000 years ago. Early settlers in this area thought these walls were constructed as a fort. Today, archaeologists believe the site was used primarily as a religious and social center. Some of the walls and mounds may function as astronomical calendars. The Hopewell Indians occupied the major river valleys of southern Ohio where they constructed hilltop enclosures, geometrically shaped earthworks, and mounds. For reasons still unclear, the Hopewell culture disappeared about 500 to 600 AD.
The second major group associated with this site lived here betweeen 1200 and 1450 AD. These people lived in villages and supported themselves by growing corn, beans, and squash in addition to hunting, fishing, and collecting wild plant foods. They located one of their communities nearby along the Little Miami River, and another one within the South Fort portion of the enclosure. While this second culture did not build the earthworks, it was the first culture discovered by archaeologists at this site. As a result, the culture and the site were both named Fort Ancient.
More information on the archaeology of Fort Ancient State Memorial is available in the museum. Please help us preserve this important site by walking only on the trails, not on the earthworks.