Nephite Cities in America’s Heartland

Joseph-Knew-Mormon-Media-Network-Great-Circle“Few realize that some of the oldest, largest and most complex structures of ancient archaeology were built of earth, clay, and stone right here in America, in the Ohio and Mississippi valleys. From 6,000 years ago until quite recently, North America was home to some of the most highly advanced and well organized civilizations in the world – complete with cities, roads, and commerce.” — Dr. Roger Kennedy, former director of the Smithsonian’s American History Museum

In the heartland of North America the Hopewell civilization built some of the largest and grandest earthworks in the world. The Hopewell and Nephite cultures thrived during the same time frame, 400 BC – 300 AD and many students of the Book of Mormon believe they are one and the same.

Mound cities appear to have been designed for defense. For this defense, great ditches, 6 feet deep were dug around the outsides. That dirt was then piled 6 feet high as a second defense. On top of the mound tall timbers were embedded making a palisade as a third defense.

It’s hard to call it a coincidence that Nephite Captain Moroni defended his cities in the same manner.

  • And now it came to pass that Moroni did not stop making preparations for war, or to defend his people against the Lamanites; for he caused that his armies should commence in the commencement of the twentieth year of the reign of the judges, * that they should commence in digging up heaps of earth round about all the cities, throughout all the land which was possessed by the Nephites.
  • And upon the top of these ridges of earth he caused that there should be timbers, yea, works of timbers built up to the height of a man, round about the cities.
  • And he caused that upon those works of timbers there should be a frame of pickets built upon the timbers round about; and they were strong and high. (Alma 50:1-3) * 72 B.C.

Mormon-Media-Network-Joseph-Knew-Great Octagon Max-S-RiseThe largest of these mound cities is found in Newark, Ohio. Known as the Great Octagon and the Great Circle, this city was not a place of defense, but it was a place of worship and a center for learning and Astronomical study. In 1982, professors Ray Hively and Robert Horn of Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana studied the layout of the city and determined that the people who built it had a keen understanding of astronomy and geometry. The great octagon, in conjunction with the great circle, was laid out in such a way as to line up with the rising and setting of the moon.

Mormon-Media-Network-Joseph-Knew-Great-Octagon-Max-S-SetThe Nephites of the Book of Mormon were aware of moon cycles and we know at the very least they used those cycles to chronicle time.

  • And they gave an account of one Coriantumr, and the slain of his people. And Coriantumr was discovered by the people of Zarahemla; and he dwelt with them for the space of nine moons. (Omni 1:21)

The Nephites had enough awareness of the heavens to recognize when a new star appeared. They recognized, and presumably had names for, constellation patterns.

  • Mormon-Media-Network-Joseph-Knew-Great-Octagon-Max-N-setAnd behold, there shall a new star arise, such an one as ye never have beheld; and this also shall be a sign unto you. (Helaman 14:5)
  • For the stars of heaven and the constellations thereof shall not give their light; the sun shall be darkened in his going forth, and the moon shall not cause her light to shine. (2 Nephi 23:10)


The Moon travels through a cycle from north to south that takes 18.6 years to complete. Hively and Horn noted that the Octagon and Circle are aligned with the points on the horizon that mark the rising and setting of the moon at its southern and northern most points. It has been estimated that the odds of this being accidental or coincidental are approximately one in forty million. The people who built this city recognized not only the 28 day cycle of the moon, but also understood its 18.6 year pattern. 

Joseph-Knew-Mormon-Media-Network-Great-Circle-2It is believed by many scholars that the Great Circle and Octagon were used for religious services. Just inside the Octagon, in front of the eight gates or entrances, are eight flat-topped mounds. They stand 6 feet high, and are 75 to 90 feet long and 40 to 60 feet wide. It’s unknown for certain what these mounds were, but it’s possible they were placed there to prevent people on the outside from seeing the religious ceremonies taking place inside the Octagon. Is it possible that this, being the largest Nephite religious structure, was the temple in the Land Bountiful? Was it here that the righteous gathered after the great destruction at the time of the crucifixion?

  • Joseph-Knew-Mormon-Media-Network-Great-Circle-3And now it came to pass that there were a great multitude gathered together, of the people of Nephi, round about the temple which was in the land Bountiful; and they were marveling and wondering one with another, and were showing one to another the great and marvelous change which had taken place.
  • And they were also conversing about this Jesus Christ, of whom the sign had been given concerning his death. (3 Nephi 11:1-2)

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Newark Great Circle and Octagon photos — Energy Media Works LLC

Great Octagon and Circle etchings — Public Domain


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