Vandalism At Serpent Mound Won’t Stand

Daniel Coleman Dargavell was charged with two fifth degree felonies for his alleged joy ride at Serpent Mound. (Photo: Provided)

Daniel Coleman Dargavell was charged with two fifth degree felonies for his alleged joy ride at Serpent Mound.
(Photo: Provided)

By Carrie Blackmore Smith

A 19-year-old man, accused of taking a joy ride over an ancient Native American earthwork at Serpent Mound, has confessed to the crime and agreed to pay $3,000 in restitution for damages, according to Adams County authorities and park officials.

Daniel Coleman Dargavell allegedly jumped the curb in the parking lot in the middle of the night over the Fourth of July weekend and attempted to drive a large white pickup over a 2,000-year-old Adena Mound.

The damage is repairable, according to Park Manager Tim Goodwin, but the act of vandalism violated the sacred grounds and has prompted a discussion about how to better protect the site.

“When you see on the video, a truck trying to climb a 9-foot Adena Mound, it ticks you off,” Goodwin said.

The Ohio Historical Site called Serpent Mound is actually a series of mounds. Grounds on the site and a conical Adena Mound were damaged. The Great Serpent Mound – which is world renowned and a National Historic Landmark – was not damaged.

Torn up sod will be replaced and within a few months no one should be able to detect the tire marks that currently scar the sacred grounds, Goodwin said.

Brad Lepper, an archeologist with the Ohio History Connection, which owns the property, said the vandalism should not set back an ongoing effort to eventually get the Serpent Mound onto the list of United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s World Heritage sites.

The 1,400 foot Serpent Mound, a snake effigy believed to be built by either the Adena or Fort Ancient people thousands of years ago, is the “largest animal sculpture of any in the world,” Lepper said.

Damage to the 9-foot Adena Mound at Serpent Mound, an Ohio Historic Site

Damage to the 9-foot Adena Mound at Serpent Mound, an Ohio Historic Site

“It deserves the respect of the world,” Lepper said. “It should be listed alongside the pyramids of Egypt and the Great Wall of China.”

Some members of the Friends of Serpent Mound Facebook page are demanding that a caretaker be at the site all times, but right now the plan is to install more surveillance cameras, Goodwin said.

“We are looking at our standard procedure and we are getting more cameras,” Goodwin said.

Acts of vandalism are rare at the site, said Goodwin, who has been park manager for about a year and a half. Roughly three years ago a group of people tried to plant crystals in the Serpent Mound in the middle of the night, Goodwin said.

“It’s one of a kind, very sacred. A lot of people lay claim to it,” Goodwin said.

This time, it could have been worse. The vandal fortunately did not drive over Serpent Mound, Goodwin said.

Adams County Chief Deputy John Schadle, of the county sheriff’s department, said one of his detectives saw surveillance images and “put two and two together,” bringing Dargavell – who has had a series of roadside arrests – in for questioning last week.

“He did confess,” Schadle said.

Dargavell was charged with two counts of fifth-degree felony vandalism, which could land him some prison time. Dargavell is currently out on bond after spending a few days in jail. There was a short court hearing Monday, where Goodwin learned that Dargavell had agreed to pay restitution.

“(Serpent Mound) is a great tourist draw and has great historical significance,” Schadle said. “What he did probably didn’t just upset Native Americans, but the citizens of Adams County and history buffs all over the world.”

Serpent Mound a World Heritage Site?

The ancient earthworks at Serpent Mound are one of three sites in Ohio that are nominated for United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization World Heritage Site status. They are three of 13 on the United States’ tentative list. The other two nominees are the Dayton Aviation Sites, places where Orville and Wilbur Wright worked and lived and the field where their first sustained and controlled flights took place; and the Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks, which are “the largest concentration in the world, of prehistoric monumental landscape architecture” and includes the Fort Ancient Hilltop Enclosure, in Warren County. The Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks nomination is furthest along, according to Brad Lepper, an archeologist with the Ohio History Connection. “It’s a huge cost to develop these documents,” Lepper said. “We are doing fundraising and a certain amount of lobbying. Lots of people seem to not even know what we have in our backyard.” To learn more, visit:

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