THE WORLD'S MOST
FAMOUS EARTHEN EFFIGY
Along the drive from Hillsboro to Serpent Mound State Memorial, the leading edge of the Appalachian
Plateau will be prominent, bringing fundamental changes in the geology, ecology, flora, and fauna.
Many of Ancient Ohio’s greatest earthen monuments are clustered along this ecological seam, where the
abundance of multiple landscapes could be combined and celebrated. The change in scenery is most
welcome, and the rolling hills and narrow valleys offer wonderful vistas.
Ohio’s famous serpent effigy is best visited early or late in the day, when shadows are deep. Site interpretation is much enhanced by the small museum, and by the old iron tower allowing visitors to get an overhead view of the sprawling creature. Most beautiful are the snake’s spiraling tail, the 3 main coils (which some claim offer astronomical alignments), and the head (or egg, or eye, or the sun) which faces the summer solstice sunset during annual celebrations.
The quarter-mile-long snake occupies the saddle of a ridge, near a set of ancient burial mounds. Its earthen form seems to slither westward, its head abruptly overhanging the edge of an enormous crater. This snake has rested here for nearly 1,000 years, the solstice alignment suggesting that one of the effigy’s purposes was to mark the turning of the year so that planting and gathering and hunting could be planned. But the serpent certainly had other meanings for its builders, who were connected to the widespread “Mississippian” cultural world.