February 13, 2007
BRADLEY T. LEPPER
The Octagon Earthworks in Newark is one remnant of the Newark
Earthworks, recently listed by The Dispatch as one of the Seven Wonders
of Ohio. Earlham College professors Ray Hively and Robert Horn demonstrated in
1982 that the walls of this 2,000-yearold circle and octagon were aligned to the points on the horizon, marking the limits of the rising and setting of the moon during an 18.6-year cycle. The implications of this argument for our understanding of the knowledge and abilities of the ancient American Indian builders of the earthworks are astounding. But how can we know whether they deliberately lined the walls up with the moon or whether the series of alignments is just an odd coincidence?
In the current issue of the Midcontinental Journal of Archaeology, Hively and Horn use statistics to address this question.
And while they acknowledge that they cannot provide a definitive answer, their analyses certainly offer compelling evidence to support their idea that the sites are among the world?s earliest astronomical observatories.
Hively and Horn focused on five alignments. These are the main axis of the site, which points toward the maximum northerly rise point of the moon, and the orientation of four of the octagon?s eight walls, which align variously with the moon?s maximum southern rise point, the minimum northern rise point, the maximum northern set point and the minimum southern set point.
They performed a “Monte Carlo” analysis in which a computer randomly generates more than 10 billion equilateral octagons, randomly aligned them to a compass bearing and then checked how many astronomically significant alignments resulted.
They determined that, even “making the most generous plausible combination of assumptions favoring chance alignments,” the odds that the alignments at Newark are merely accidental are about one in a thousand. Using more reasonable assumptions, the odds are more like one in 40 million.
[Read the full article here: http://www.dispatch.com/live/contentbe/dispatch/2007/02/13/20070213-D7-04.html]