Sunday, October 07, 2007

Notes From My Knapsack 10-14-07
Jeff Gill

Hello, World; We Are Newark

Last week I had the pleasure and privilege of sitting in on a conference call for the U.S. Commission for UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (check ‘em out at

As the callers from across the nation – the guy in Hawaii was up before 5 am, standing in his kitchen in the dark – rang in, introducing themselves, I thought back to a few months ago.

The Lovely Wife and I decided to take the Little Guy to his maternal-side long-ago stomping grounds, Mammoth Cave National Park. When we were waiting for a bus to an outlying cave entrance on one of our guided trips, I stopped under the large American flagpole by the entrance, and copied down a bronze plaque’s inscription.

Under a circular logo with a diamond in the center, the symbol found at sites around the globe marking a World Heritage Site, these words were inscribed:

“Through the Collective Recognition of
the Community of Nations
Expressed within the Principles of the
Convention Concerning Protection of the World
Cultural and Natural Heritage
-Mammoth Cave National Park-
Has Been Designated a
World Heritage Site
And Joins a Select List of Protected Areas
Around the World
Whose Outstanding Natural and
Cultural Resources
Form the Common Inheritance
Of All Nations.”
Below that statement is the date “Oct. 27, 1981.”

Mammoth Cave is one of only twenty places in the United States, like Monticello, the Grand Canyon, Independence Hall, and Yellowstone, with the designation “World Heritage Site.” Those twenty share the title with marvels like the Pyramids of Giza and Macchu Picchu, Stonehenge and Teotihuacan.

That number is about to change, as ten more locations over the next decade will be presented through the Secretary of State to UNESCO for “inscription.” In 2009, the first two names proposed are Papahanaumokuakea National Monument on the northeastern shores of Hawaii (including Midway Atoll), and the Civil Rights Churches of Alabama.

Right on their heels come Frank Lloyd Wright’s masterpiece, Fallingwater, and . . .

The Newark Earthworks.

Someday very soon, somewhere in our community, a marker like the one at Mammoth Cave is coming for the “Ohio Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks,” an assemblage of both the myriad mound complexes in the Chillicothe area, and our own complex here, all built around 2,000 years ago.

I don’t mind admitting that I teared up a bit during the call, when the list of ten recommended sites was read, and just now when I typed out the official statement that goes with WHS status. Actually, I was pretty happy for the Hawaii guy, too, since he didn’t get up so early for nothing.

Ohio has done herself proud in this effort, with Serpent Mound from just a thousand years ago on the tentative list of ten, and then the Underground Railroad sites from Wilberforce down to Ripley as a recommendation for continued review on the next ten, along with the Dayton Aviation sites, which were on that second list with the suggestion that they resubmit alongside Kitty Hawk.

This is one historic state, and here in Licking County we are truly the “Land of Legend.” The world (and National Geographic) is taking notice, and now the National Park Service and the State Department are following suit.

If you ever wondered what it would be like to live in an ancient hill town in Italy, or by a pilgrimage site in South America, or next to a natural wonder in the US Southwest, wonder no more. You’re already there, and you’re home.

But we’d best be tidying up, because company’s comin’.

Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio; he is a longtime volunteer guide at the Newark Earthworks sites and Flint Ridge. Tell him your tale of globe-trotting, even if it’s right down the road, at