Mayan Words Among Georgia’s Indians?

Mayan Words in Hitchiti-Creek Language Suggest Ancient Connection

The Hitchiti language, one of many languages spoken by Creek Indians, was spoken in Georgia and Florida during the Colonial Period by tribes including the Hitchiti, Chiaha, Oconee, Sawokli, Apalachicola and Miccosukee. Based on the number of place names derived from the Hitchiti language, scholars believe this language was once spoken over a much larger area of Georgia and Florida than it was during colonial times.1

A Seminole Indian camp with a sleep chickee, cooking chickee, and eating chickee. (Courtesy Wikipedia)

Curiously, the Hitchiti language appears to contain words of Mesoamerican origin. For instance, the Hitchiti word for “house,” chikee,is identical to the Totonac word for “house”: chiki.3

The Totonacs likely borrowed the word from their Maya neighbors where the word means “woven basket/container.” In fact, the Mayan word refers specifically to one type of basket, those made with split cane or similar woody material. Since Totonac homes consisted of a substructure of interwoven tree limbs and saplings with an overcoat of stucco-like clay (referred to as wattle-and-daub construction), “woven container” is a fitting description for these homes. The Hitchiti chikee was a four post design with no exterior walls but instead used mats woven from split cane material to create partitions and blinds. Again, we see that “woven container” is an appropriate description of these homes as well. (“Container” was a common euphimism in Mayan for “house.” For instance, in the Mayan dialect of Chol ‘otot is usually glossed as “house” but has been shown to have “a wider range of meanings as ‘container.’”)4

Chikee was the name of the summer house for Hitchiti-speaking tribes. They also had a winter house that had thick walls to better keep in heat. They called this house a tcokofa or “hot house.”5 In Mayan choko means “hot.” The word is still used in modern Muskogean and is chukopa which means “warm place,” where chuko means “warm” and pa means “place.”

El Castillo pyramid at Chichen Itza

Other Mayan words also appear in Hitchiti dictionaries. Chi is the Hitchiti word for “mouth.” Chi also means “mouth” in the Itza dialect of the Mayan language. One of the Itza’s most famous cities was Chichen Itza. Chichen is translated as “mouth of the well” with chi meaning “mouth” and chen meaning “well.” Chahni means “well” in Hitchiti thus chichahni would mean “mouth of the well” in that language.

John Mitchell’s 1755 map of Georgia shows Chiaha listed as Chiha.

The next entry in the Itza Mayan dictionary after chi is chiaha-eh  which translates as “water’s mouth” or “water’s edge.” Chiaha, sometimes also corrupted as Chehaw and Chiha6, was a common town name among Hitchiti Creek Indians7 whose villages were located beside rivers and streams. The earliest record of a town by this name appears in the journals of the De Soto expedition who visited a town named Chiaha that was located on an island in the middle of a river.8 Thus “edge water” is an appropriate description of these villages.

Lake Okeechobee as viewed from space. (Courtesy Wikipedia.)

Interestingly, the area around Lake Okeechobee in south central Florida was known as “Chia”9 and the people who lived there were called the Mayaimi. One researcher theorized, based on absolutely no evidence, the word meant “high place” but due to its use for the area surrounding Lake Okeechobee it seems more likely a corrupted form of Chiaha, “chi-ha,” meaning “edge water.”

In Hitchiti, Okeechobee means “Big Water” where oki means “water” and chobee means “big.” There was another word for “big” among the Creek Indians: lako. In Mayan, lakam means “big,” as in the Mayan name for Palenque, Lakamha which means “Big Water.”

The –ha suffix was a way in which the Mayan language denoted water. Similarly in Georgia and Florida there are many rivers and lakes with Hitchiti names that end in ha such as the Altamaha River in Georgia, Ocklawaha River and Lake Hatchineha in Florida. This suggests that they also used this suffix to denote water but only with further research can we be certain.

The Mayan word for blood is ch’ich. According to anthropologist and linguist John R. Swanton, the Natchez word for “blood” was i’cha which, although different from the usual Creek word, reappeared in Hitchiti as ichikchi.10 The Hitchiti dictionary lists pichikchi for “blood.” Yet it also lists the prefix pichi as “to give” thus it is likely pichikchi actually means “to give blood”  and Swanton’s ichikchi is the correct word for “blood” in Hitchiti.

The Hitchiti word bih means “head-chief” and the head chief was known as the Great Sun. Early eyewitness accounts of the Natchez noted that each morning the Great Sun would smoke a pipe and blow the smoke towards the sun (center) and then to the four directions.11 Thus we see that the Great Sun is associated with the five directions.

Mayan k’in glyph with quincunx design

Among the Maya the quincunx design consisting of five dots represented the four directions plus a center direction. In Mayan this design has the phonetic value bi or be.12 It is often integrated in the k’in glyph which means “sun.” Thus, like the Maya, the Hitchiti word bih is associated with both the sun and four directions.

The Hitchiti word for rattlesnake, chintmigun, translates literally as “snake chief.” Likewise, “in many Mayan languages the word for ‘rattlesnake’ is composed of the word for ‘snake’ preceded by aha(w) (lord).”13 So, although the actual words are not the same, the ideas are identical.

There are also words of Mixe-Zoque origin in Hitchiti. For instance, the Hitchiti word for “three,” tuchini, is very similar to the Mixe word for “three,” toohk.14

The typical scholarly argument suggests these are just coincidences or at the very least very recent additions to the Hitchiti language during the colonial period. The argument goes that if they were truly ancient then they would have changed in the intervening years.15 Yet recent linguistic research shows this is not the case. In fact, researchers showed that “the frequency with which a word is used relates to how slowly it changes through time, so that the most common words tend to be the oldest ones.”16 Chikee or “house” is certainly a very common word thus it could easily have survived the ravages of time unchanged.

In fact, the word was already part of several place names when the first Spanish explorers entered the southeast in the early 1500s. The conquistador De Soto recorded a town named Cofachaqi and Cofitacheqi in his journals. Nearly five hundred years later the word is still in use among the Seminole and Miccosukee with zero change.

Why do several seemingly Mayan words appear in the Hitchiti language? How many other such words are there? In his article, “The Natchez, an offshoot of the civilized nations of Central America,” famed early Mayan scholar, Dr. D. G. Brinton, noted over 100 words of Mayan origin.17 In  his article “Maya stock and Mexican languages,” Carl Herman Berendt, acknowledged as “undoubtedly the greatest scholar of the Mayan language,”18 also compared Maya with Natchez. In Miscellanea Maya in the Berendt Linguistic Collection, No. 179, Berendt showed similarities between Natchez, Apalachee, and Mayan.19 

In his article, “On the Language of the Natchez,” Brinton later backtracked somewhat from this position and noted, “It is very evident…that the Natche is a dialect of the Maskoke or Creek…with a small percentage of totally foreign roots.”20 But then notes, “The body of roots wholly dissimilar from any I have been able to find in the Chahta-Maskoke dialects, embraces a number of important words, and makes up a sufficiently large percentage of the language to testify positively to a potent foreign influence.”21 He did not speculate as to whom this foreign influence might be but it seems reasonable to assume that, based on his previous writings, the Maya were one likely candidate.

Brinton also noted that among the Natchez, the commoners spoke one language, referred to as the “stinkard language,” while the elites spoke another. As Brinton notes, “The Natchez offered one of several examples among American Indians where in the same community two independent tongues were employed, one by the nobles, the conquerors, another by the vulgar, the conquered.”22

Although, again, Brinton would later question the idea of two separate languages, the legends of several tribes suggest they were, in fact, ruled over by foreigners who lived atop the earthen pyramids scattered throughout the region.23 These foreigners were always referred to as a “priestly clan.” Among the Cherokee they were known as the Ani-Kutani and among the Choctaw the Unkala. The Choctaw legends stated they controlled an important temple called the “House of Warriors” and “chanted hymns in an unknown tongue.”24 Some legends even noted that these foreigners came from the sea and maintained rule within a single family for thirteen generations before dying out.25 The Cherokee claimed to have massacred the foreigners who ruled over them.

Were these “priests” actually nobles of Maya descent ruling over local indigenous tribes? Does this explain why only certain Mayan words such as for “blood,” “house,” “head chief,” et cetera, showed up in the commoners’ language?

Another clue that may help determine the most likely source of this foreign influence arises from symbols that appeared on pottery in Florida and Georgia around 200 AD. Known as Swift Creek pottery, these symbols were similar and, in some cases, identical to Mesoamerican symbols and Mayan glyphs. For more info read: “Mayan Glyphs on Georgia, Florida Pottery?

Work in progress. For more information visit: Maya in America- The Untold Story of Ancient America.

[References cited can be found on the original paper: “A Mayan Connection to Florida and Georgia Indians?“]

Were the Maya Mining Gold in Georgia?

Is there evidence that the Maya were in Georgia and Florida? If so, why were they there? Were they mining gold and shipping it back to Mexico? Does a gold artifact discovered in a Florida mound in the 1800s offer positive proof of this? Let’s look at the evidence and see what it suggests about the true goings-on in the southeastern U.S. before the arrival of Europeans.

Maya in Florida and Georgia?

A site in Florida called Fort Center near Lake Okeechobee offers the earliest evidence of corn agriculture in the eastern United States. The question naturally arises as to how corn, a Mexican plant, showed up in Florida before it showed up elsewhere in the southeast. If it came by land you would expect to see evidence of its cultivation in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama long before it arrived in south central Florida. The logical conclusion, then, is that it was brought by people who arrived by boat. The archaeologist who excavated the site, William Sears, asserted in his book/archaeological report, Fort Center: An Archaeological Site in the Lake Okeechobee Basin, that this is precisely how corn came to be at this site. But who brought it?

Interestingly, Lake Okeechobee was originally named Lake Mayaimi. It took its name from a tribe of Indians named the Mayaimi who lived around the lake. This is where the city of Miami gets its name. So in the same place where the first evidence of corn agriculture was discovered we find a tribe named Mayaimi. In nearby Cape Canaveral the Spanish recorded that a tribe named the Mayayuaca lived. Another nearby tribe recorded by the Spanish was the Mayaka. When the Spanish first reached the Yucatan in Mexico they encountered a tribe called Maia (Maya) living in a province called Maiam. Could the Maya have been responsible for bringing corn to Florida?

The migration legend of one Native American tribe, the Hitchiti, suggests this is the case. The Hitchiti migration legend as recorded in the book Creation Myths and Legends of the Creek Indians seems to place them in the Lake Okeechobee area after arriving on the coast of Florida:

Their ancestors first appeared in the country by coming out of a canebrake or reed thicket near the sea coast. They sunned and dried their children during four days, then set out, arrived at a lake and stopped there. Some thought it was the sea, but it was a lake; they set out again, traveled up stream and settled there for a permanency

At the time this legend was recorded, the Hitchiti lived in Georgia. Following this legend in reverse, the only place south or “down stream” from Georgia with a lake large enough to be confused with the sea is Lake Okeechobee. The fact they arrived at the sea coast suggests they arrived in Florida by boat.

Teotihuacan Pyramid of the Moon Courtesy Wikipedia

Pyramid of the Moon at Teotihuacan in Mexico. (Courtesy Wikipedia)

More importantly, this legend states  that the Hitchiti’s ancestors came out of a “reed thicket.” The actual Hitchiti word recorded in the legend is utski which translates literally as “reeds.” In the Mayan language, “reeds” or “place of reeds” is a metaphor for a large city. For instance, the Maya referred to the great Mesoamerican metropolis of Teotihuacan as Puh which means “reeds.” The great Toltec capital of Tula was also known as a “place of reeds.” “Place of Reeds” served as a metaphor relating the masses of reeds in a marsh to the masses of people in a metropolis thus a metropolis became a “place of reeds.”

The Hitchiti migration legend reference to their ancestors coming from “reeds” suggests they were Maya who left a major city in Mexico and then arrived on the coast of Florida and temporarily settled near Lake Okeechobee before heading upstream and settling in Georgia “for a pemanency.” Interestingly, the Itza Maya referred to their ancestors as Ah Puh which translates as “Reed People.” Could the Hitchiti be descendants of the Itza Maya?

Mayan Words and Glyphs Among the Hitchiti?

El Castillo at Chichen Itza (Courtesy Wikipedia)

If the Hitchiti were, indeed, descendants of the Itza Maya then there should be linguistic similarities between the Hitchiti and Mayan languages. And, in fact, there are. Chichen Itza, the great Mayan city in the Yucatan constructed by the Itza Maya, is translated as “Mouth of the Well of the Itza.”  Chichen means “mouth of the well” in Mayan with chi meaning “mouth” and chen meaning “well” as confirmed in an Itza Maya dictionary. According to a Hitchiti-English dictionarychi also means “mouth” and chahni means “well” thus chichahni means “mouth of the well” in Hitchiti.  (For more linguistic connections read: “Mayan Words Among Georgia’s Indians?“)

The Maya also had a writing system believed to have been passed down from the Olmecs which used glyphs to convey sounds and sometimes concepts. If the Hitchiti were related to the Itza Maya then you would expect to find evidence of this writing system among this tribe. In fact, there is. A pottery tradition known as Swift Creek pottery existed in the same areas of Georgia where the Hitchiti language is known to have been spoken. Designs on this pottery are similar and some cases identical to Mayan glyphs and symbols in Mexico. More importantly, this pottery tradition begins around the same time that corn first showed up around Lake Okeechobee.

For instance, one of the most important symbols among the Maya was that of Kukulkan, the plumed serpent. According to David Smith in his article “Quetzalcoatl- The Plumed Serpent,” (Quetzalcoatl was the Aztec name for this deity) this symbol also makes an appearance on Swift Creek pottery:

This Swift Creek design appears to represent Quetzalcoatl, the Plumed Serpent deity from Mexico.

Swift Creek design that appears to show the “plumed serpent.” (Courtesy David Smith)

Plumed Serpent at the Olmec site of La Venta near Veracruz, Mexico.

More importantly, Smith argues that the duck bill on this version of Quetzalcoatl represents a wind deity known as Ehecatl-Quetzalcoatl. (A gold duck bill pendant discovered near Lake Okeechobee will be discussed later which further supports a Mayan presence in Florida.)

In his article “Swift Creek Design Investigations” that appeared in the book A World Engraved: Archaeology of the Swift Creek Culture, researcher Frankie Snow notes that another Swift Creek design has an “Olmec look.” This design which he described simply as “unidentified creature” bares a striking resemblance to the Olmec Jaguar glyph:

Swift Creek design suggestive of the Olmec Jaguar Olmec Jaguar design

A quick perusal through the pages of A World Engraved reveals many other such designs. For instance, one design features a cartouche featuring two symbols, a diamond and cross. The fact that the Swift Creek potters decided to place both of these symbols in a cartouche reveals they believed these two symbols were closely associated. Among the Maya, these are both glyphs for the Mayan word Ek which means “star” or “Venus”:

Swift Creek diamond & cross design  Mayan cross-and-diamond Ek glyph

Another Swift Creek design appears to represent another version of the Mayan Ek glyph:

Swift Creek design Mayan Ek glyph

And this is just the tip of the iceberg. (Read “Mayan Glyphs on Georgia, Florida Pottery” for a more in-depth discussion.)

So to recap:

  1. There are Mayan words in the Hitchiti language
  2. A pottery tradition in the same areas of Georgia where the Hitchiti language was spoken contains designs identical to Mayan glyphs
  3.  The Hitchiti migration legend placed them arriving in Florida from a place of reeds, a known Mayan euphemism for a large city, and living at the very place where corn was first cultivated in the southeast.
  4. The pottery tradition and arrival of corn occur at the same time in the same areas where the Hitchiti are known to have lived

This is what the FBI would call “evidence.”

 

Getting here from there- Yucatan to Florida By Boat?

Now that it seems clear there was a Maya presence in Florida and Georgia the next question that must be answered is were the Itza Maya capable of crossing the Gulf of Mexico and reaching Florida? According to researcher Douglas Peck, the Maya most capable of crossing open ocean were the Chontal Maya. In his paper on the Chontal Maya and their seafaring accomplishments he noted they were great seafarers and navigators who controlled all the coastal trade routes from Mexico down to Central America. They also made voyages into the Caribbean. Thus the Chontal Maya were the most likely candidates to have traveled to Florida bringing corn along with them. Which begs the question: who were the Chontal Maya and what was their relationship with the Itza Maya? (Continues…)

Possible Mayan Site Discovered in Georgia Mountains?

Architect and scholar Richard Thornton has published his findings about an archaeological site on the side of Georgia’s highest mountain peak, Brasstown Bald. His conclusion, that the site was built by the Maya, could rock the archaeological community who have insisted for decades that no evidence existed for the presence of people from Mexico in the southeastern U.S. Thornton followed several lines of evidence to come to this startling conclusion including similarities between the terraced mountainside site with those constructed by the Maya, similarities in language, and similarities in culture and religious ideas. Read his findings below and decide for yourself if this site is, indeed, an ancient Mayan site in the mountains of Georgia. For more evidence of a Maya presence in Florida and Georgia read my article “Were the Maya Mining Gold in Georgia?

This computer reconstruction of the site on the slope of Brasstown Bald in north Georgia shows similarities with Maya sites in Mexico. (c)2011 Richard Thornton

Archaeological zone 9UN367 at Track Rock Gap, near Georgia’s highest mountain, Brasstown Bald, is a half mile (800 m) square and rises 700 feet (213 m) in elevation up a steep mountainside. Visible are at least 154 stone masonry walls for agricultural terraces, plus evidence of a sophisticated irrigation system and ruins of several other stone structures. Much more may be hidden underground. It is possibly the site of the fabled city of Yupaha, which Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto failed to find in 1540, and certainly one of the most important archaeological discoveries in recent times.

BLAIRSVILLE, GA (December 21, 2011) — Around the year 800 AD the flourishing Maya civilization of Central America suddenly began a rapid collapse. A series of catastrophic volcanic eruptions were followed by two long periods of extreme drought conditions and unending wars between city states.

Cities and agricultural villages in the fertile, abundantly watered, Maya Highlands were the first to be abandoned. Here, for 16 centuries, Itza Maya farmers produced an abundance of food on mountainside terraces. Their agricultural surpluses made possible the rise of great cities in the Maya Lowlands and Yucatan Peninsula. When the combination of volcanic eruptions, wars and drought erased the abundance of food, famines struck the densely populated Maya Lowlands. Within a century, most of the cities were abandoned. However, some of the cities in the far north were taken over by the Itza Maya and thrived for two more centuries.

Read the full article here:

http://www.examiner.com/architecture-design-in-national/massive-1-100-year-old-maya-site-discovered-georgia-s-mountains

Were Creek Indians from West Mexico?

Many of the cultural traditions and artifacts discovered in Mississippian period archaeological sites in Georgia have strong similarities to cultural traditions in the west Mexican states of Nayarit, Jalisco and Colima. These traditions include the creation of circular pyramids, shaft tombs, dog effigy pots, human ancestral pair sculptures, and tree of life symbolism. Other artifacts discovered in Georgia have strong similarities to Olmec artifacts from the west Mexican states of Guerrero and Jalisco including bird man masks, three-pronged ceremonial maces, and jaguar deities. Migration legends of historic Muskogee Creek Indian tribes living in Georgia also suggest an origin in west Mexico.

Two of the most famous artifacts discovered in Georgia are the male and female human effigy statues found at the Etowah Mounds site. Carved from local marble and discovered buried in a log-lined tomb in the Funeral Mound (Mound C) at Etowah, they are believed to represent venerated ancestors. It is theorized that these statues were part of an ancestor worship cult that existed throughout the Mississippian time period.

A similar tradition of ancestor pair ceramic sculptures buried in specialized tombs is known from west Mexico. These sculptures were part of what is referred to as the Western Mexico Shaft Tomb Tradition.[i] Such tombs and their associated artifacts are distributed across the states of Nayarit, Jalisco and Colima in west Mexico. It should be noted that in Colima by 600 AD the ceramic figures had become solid and they also integrated stone elements with their gods’ representations.[ii]

Etowah Mounds Human Effigy Statues Human Effigy Pair from Nayarit Mexico
Male and Female Human Effigies from Mound C at Etowah Mounds “Ancestral Pair” from Chinesco culture of western Mexico state of Nayarit (Metropolitan Museum of Art). Notice the face painting is very similar to the Mississippian styles.

In addition to the ancestral pair sculptures, dog effigy pots were also found buried in these shaft tombs. The most famous of the canine effigy pots are the Colima dog pots. These pots are thought to represent the Techichi breed. The Techichi was a small, mute dog that was fattened up to eat[iii]. The pots show the “fattened up” version of these dogs. The Techichi is the breed from which the Chihuahua is derived.

Colima dog pot Colima dog pot w/ spout
Colima Dog Pot Colima Dog Pot with spout

In Georgia a similar dog effigy pot showing a fat little dog was discovered at the Bull Creek site in Muskogee County. The pot includes a swirling design painted on its surface that suggests it was associated with the Creek Indian Wind Clan. Creek tradition holds that the Wind Clan was the most ancient clan among the tribe and the “aristocracy of all the clans.”[iv]

The breed of dog represented on the pot appears to be the Chihuahua. It has an upturned snout, bulbous forehead, erect ears and curved tail all consistent with the Chihuahua breed. The pot has been dated to 1325 AD.

Bull Creek Dog Effigy Pot from Muscogee County, Georgia chihuahua
Dog Effigy Pot from Bull Creek Site Modern-day Chihuahua for comparison

Historical eye-witness accounts of Chihuahuas or Techichis in Georgia exist in the journal entries of Spaniards that were part of the Hernando de Soto expedition. This expedition travelled through Georgia in the 1530s. In several entries the Spanish mentioned that Georgia tribes raised a “little dog” to eat which they kept very fat for that purpose. Like the Techichi, the Spanish noted that this dog could not bark.[v] Later historians thought the Spanish accounts could have referred to opossums instead of dogs.[vi] Yet the eye-witness descriptions of these “little dogs” along with the Dog Effigy Pot from Bull Creek seem to confirm they were Chihuahuas.

In addition to ancestral pair statues and dog effigy pots another type of artifact found in west Mexican shaft tombs were tableaux. One such tableau from Nayarit shows a “multi-layered tree with birds.”[vii] The tree is uniquely stylized. A similar uniquely stylized tree with birds was found engraved on a marine shell in Craig Mound at Spiro, Oklahoma. The object, known as Tree of Life with Birds, is the only such design known to exist throughout the southeast.[viii]

Tree of Life with Birds from Spiro Mounds Tableau featuring cedar tree with birds from west Mexico shaft tomb tradition
Tree of Life with Birds, A.D. 1200-1450, Spiro, Oklahoma A Nayarit tableau showing a multi-layered tree with birds.

The Spiro site, part of the Caddoan Mississippian Culture, is known to have had trade contacts with the Etowah Mounds site in Georgia. In fact, the population of Spiro moved away around 1250 AD[ix], the same time that a new population arrived at Etowah Mounds[x]. Is this a coincidence or did people from Spiro move to Etowah at this time? In fact, the funeral mound at Etowah was constructed after this 1250 AD repopulation of the site. It is in this funeral mound that we find the ancestral pair statues and other objects that seem to reflect the same west Mexican tradition as exemplified by the Tree of Life with Birds artifact found at Spiro.

Additionally, other artifacts at Spiro have shown it had trade connections with both Mexico and the Ancestral Puebloan peoples of the southwest. For instance, a single obsidian scraper unearthed at Spiro was shown to have come from Pachuca in central Mexico.[xi] Also pottery from the Ancestral Puebloan peoples of the American southwest has also been found at Spiro. Turquoise and pottery from the Ancestral Puebloan cultures of the southwest have been found in other Caddoan areas of Texas as well.[xii] It should be noted that the Ancestral Puebloans are known to have had trade contacts with the people of west Mexico and thus it is possible that these west Mexican cultural traditions arrived in the southeast via the southwest.

The Caddoans also produced unique pottery featuring human faces with distinctive scarring. The people in the western Mexican state of Colima also created such pottery showing distinctive scarring not only on human faces but also the afore-mentioned dog pots.

Hamilton Caddoan Head Pot Caddoan head pot with Puebloan sun symbol
This famous Caddoan human effigy pot shows distinctive scarring on its face. This head pot includes a Puebloan sun symbol on its forehead.
Colima hunchback pot with facial scarring Colima dog pot with facial scarring
This hunchback pot from Colima in west Mexico also shows facial scarring. This Colima dog pot also shows facial scarring.

Another artifact from the west Mexican state of Nayarit shows a model of a mortuary temple constructed on a mound covering a tomb. Similarly, a temple topped the funeral mound constructed at Etowah and within the mound were specialized log-lined tombs. (Continues…)

House of Living over House of Dead from West Mexico shaft tomb tradition
A ceramic model of a mortuary temple constructed over a shaft tomb from western Mexico. It is thought to represent the house of the living above the house of the dead.

Fort Mountain Stone Wall (400 AD)

Sapelo Shell Ring Complex1.SapeloShellRings Rock Eagle2.RockEagle ancient stone wall atop Fort Mountain3.FortMountain Kolomoki Mounds4.Kolomoki Ocmulgee Mounds5.Ocmulgee Etowah Mounds6.Etowah
Above: Watch an excerpt about Fort Mountain from the Lost Worlds: Georgia DVD.   Buy today or make a donation and help support LostWorlds.org. All sales help fund future videos and exhibits. For more videos visit our YouTube channel, LostWorldsTV.

Rock Eagle and Rock Hawk were not the only stone structures built during the Woodland period. Other stone structures can be found in north Georgia but this time they are not in the form of bird effigy mounds. Instead they are mysterious stone walls built atop several mountain peaks. Several of these walls, sometimes circular in design, existed throughout north Georgia including atop Stone Mountain, Alec Mountain, Ladd’s Mountain and others but many were demolished for road fill. A few of these walls still remain including at the top of Fort Mountain. The mountain derives its name from the stone structure which was originally believed to be a Native American fortification.

The structure varies in height from 3 to 10 feet though averages around four feet. It measures from 4.5 feet wide at its narrowest point to 16 feet at its widest point. It has an east-west orientation and extends for about 928 feet near the summit of Fort Mountain. There are four breaks in the wall as it zigzags between the 2750-2760 foot elevation level. It is thought that these breaks in the wall’s structure are recent additions added by European colonists and explorers. There are also between 19 – 29 pits in the wall which are also believed to have been added by looters searching for artifacts within the wall.

ancient stone wall atop Fort MountainThe wall is constructed of stones from the surrounding summit area of the mountain. [View Gallery] Though most of the stones are small or medium sized requiring no more than one or two individuals to lift them into place, a few large boulders weighing several tons are also part of the wall particularly on the eastern end. These boulders appear to have already been in place from natural rock falls and the Native American builders simply located the wall in such a way as to incorporate them into its structure. In some instances the wall seems to detour specifically to take advantage of these natural features.

Zoom in to view the Fort Mountain stone wall.

The wall is believed to have been built around 400 A.D. and to have had a ceremonial function since it lacks certain characteristics necessary for defensive purposes. First, the wall is so low in spots that people inside the wall would be completely exposed to danger from without. Second, there is no source of water within the wall to sustain its inhabitants during an extensive siege. Third, the wall fails to take advantage of strategic contours of the mountain slope and in some instances actually changes course and makes persons behind the wall more susceptible to hostile actions from persons outside the wall. For these reasons it is doubtful the wall was ever a true fort.

(Continues…)

New Artifacts Suggest Mexican connection to Ohio’s Hopewell Culture

Mexican-syle artifacts from Mann Hopewell SiteIt’s 1988. Workers building a road in Mt. Vernon, Ind. damage an ancient burial mound, causing a treasure trove of silver and copper to pour from the ground.  A bulldozer operator decides to grab some of the treasure. He ends up in prison for looting.
It sounds like the plot of an Indiana Jones film, only it’s not a movie. The treasure belonged to a mysterious and advanced culture that flourished in the Eastern and Midwestern U.S. nearly 2,000 years ago. Because it predates the written record, this prehistoric culture doesn’t have a Native American name but in the 1800s, archaeologists dubbed it the Hopewell Tradition.

The Treasure In The Fields
Just a few miles away from where the road workers first discovered their treasure lie fields of cornstalk stubble and gently rolling hills. But they’re more than just hills.
“What you’re seeing here is a complex of earthen structures that were very purposefully and very specifically built along this cultural landscape,” says Michele Greenan, an archaeologist and curator at the Indiana State Museum.
“There’s a number of mounds here — probably 20, maybe even more mounds, earthen architectural features that were built for different purposes,” like ceremonies or burial, she says.
The fields are called the Mann Hopewell Site, after the farmer who owned their sprawling 500 acres. Two of site’s earthen structures are among the biggest mounds built anywhere by the Hopewell, which was not a tribe so much as a way of life that flourished in the Eastern and Midwestern U.S. between about A.D. 100 and 500.
‘It’s Like Vegas … For Archaeologists’
Amateur archaeologist Charlie Lacer began walking the Mann fields in the 1950s, collecting what he found along the way.
“You could find stuff that you could not find [on] any other site around here,” Lacer says. “I mean, there [were] just tons of materials there. You couldn’t pick up everything you saw — you had to be kind of selective, particularly if you were carrying this stuff in your pockets.”
Lacer managed to stuff a lot into his pockets — 40,000 artifacts that he donated to the Indiana State Museum two years ago. Four hundred of those pieces are now on display in nearby Evansville for the first time ever.
The exhibition is titled Cherished Possessions: The Mann Hopewell Legacy of Indiana. It was nearly called Indiana’s Egypt, but the attempt at archaeology a la Indiana Jones lost out to historical precision. Still, it’s almost-name does give a sense of the Mann Hopewell Site’s importance.

“It’s like Vegas … for archaeologists,” says Mike Linderman, who manages state historic sites in western Indiana. Linderman says the Mann Hopewell Site is bigger than its more famous Hopewell counterparts in Ohio, and it’s filled with even more exotic materials, like obsidian glass that has been traced to the Yellowstone Valley in Wyoming, and grizzly bear incisor teeth.
“Grizzly bears obviously are not from Indiana, never have been,” Linderman says. “There’s a theory out there now that instead of being trade items, these items [were] actually being collected by the people from Mann Site on rite-of-passage trips they [were] taking out to the West. You know, it’s something big if you’ve killed a grizzly bear and you can bring its teeth back to Indiana.”
Jaguars and panthers aren’t from Indiana, either, but they show up at the Mann Hopewell Site as beautifully detailed carvings. Put them together with clay figurines that have slanted eyes — not a Hopewell feature — and Linderman says we could be looking at a connection between Indiana and Central or South America.
Digging Deep For Clues
And that just scratches the surface, so to speak. In 2006, researcher Staffan Peterson did the archaeological version of an MRI scan on 100 acres at the site. Whenever his equipment detected an archaeological feature, a dot showed up on a map.
“Every day, we’d download our data and our jaws would drop,” Peterson says. “It was kind of like buckshot, there were so many. And we were able to map out upwards of 8,000 archaeological features.”
Two of the most notable features are what Peterson calls “wood henges” — like Stonehenge, but made of wooden posts — which he believes may be one of a kind in the U.S.
But there may be an even more remarkable discovery — one that could rewrite history books. Linderman says scientists are starting tests on what looks like evidence of lead smelting, a practice that, until now, was only seen in North America after the arrival of the French, 1,000 years after the Hopewell Tradition.
Lead smelting is just one of the many questions archaeologists will be targeting in upcoming digs that they hope will clear up at least a few of the Mann Hopewell Site’s — and American prehistory’s — mysteries.
“It’s a sleeping giant,” says museum curator Greenan, “and it’s going to take its place as one of the most important archaeological sites in North America.”

Here’s a link to the original story:http://www.npr.org/2011/01/03/132412112/the-prehistoric-treasure-in-the-fields-of-indiana?ft=1&f=1008

Turquoise suggests new trade routes between ancient America and Mexico

Norman Hammond, Archaeology Correspondent

aztec serpent jade mosaicMany visitors to the American South West come back with turquoise jewellery: the Native American people of Arizona and New Mexico exploited local sources, and modern craftsmen have developed a prosperous industry. Thirty years ago the archaeological scientists Garman Harbottle and Edward Sayre used neutron activation analysis to show that turquoise mosaics from Mexico, found as far away as the great Maya city of Chichén Itzá in Yucatan and dating back to around AD900, used raw material originating in the Cerrillos mines between Albuquerque and Santa Fe in New Mexico, an overland distance of some 3,200 km (2,000 miles). It was assumed that the Cerrillos mines had also supplied more local demand, for instance from the Chaco Canyon communities west of Santa Fe. A new technique of source characterisation, using hydrogen and copper isotope ratios established by secondary ion mass spectrometry (SIMS), shows that this picture was altogether too simple.

Sharon Hull and her colleagues report in the Journal of Archaeological Science this month that of eleven samples from Chaco Canyon sites, dating from AD550 to 1050, only two could be attributed to the Cerrillos source. Two others came from Orogrande in southern New Mexico, three from the No 8 Mine in northern Nevada, and one from the Montezuma source in southern Nevada.

Although none of the Mexican mosaics has yet been re-examined in detail, this looks like a good idea: not only the Chichén Itzá pieces, but Aztec turquoise mosaics, such as those in the British Museum’s Mexican Gallery, could well yield evidence that ancient trade networks in late pre-Columbian America were much more complex than we have assumed.

Journal of Archaeological Science 35; 1355-1369

The original story appears here:

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/court_and_social/article3872341.ece

Kolomoki Mounds (500 AD)

Sapelo Shell Ring Complex1.SapeloShellRings Rock Eagle2.RockEagle ancient stone wall atop Fort Mountain3.FortMountain Kolomoki Mounds4.Kolomoki Ocmulgee Mounds5.Ocmulgee Etowah Mounds6.Etowah
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Kolomoki Mounds are the next great accomplishment of Georgia’s Native Americans. The Kolomoki Mounds site is believed to have been the most populous Native American community north of Mexico during its time period. The site consists of nine earthen mounds built between the years A.D. 350 and 750. The largest of Kolomoki’s nine mounds is Mound A and it rises to a height of 57 feet.  Its base is larger than a football field thus making it the Indian mound with the largest land base in the state of Georgia. The mound takes the form of a truncated or flat-topped pyramid. Although today the mound is covered with grass and a few trees, it originally would have been swept clear of any vegetation and covered with different colored clays. The final capping layer was made from red clay. Years before this red capping layer was added the mound had been completely covered with white clay.  These clay capping layers are so thick and hard that early archaeologists joked it would take an earthquake and dynamite to ever break through them.


View larger map  Zoom in to see the actual Kolomoki Mounds site. Click on the individual markers to learn more about each feature.

The southern half of the summit of Mound A is elevated three feet higher than the northern half. No evidence of structures has been found on the summit of the mound thus it may have served solely as a ceremonial platform or stage for public rituals. It also could have served as a platform for astronomical observations since pottery from this time period suggests such observations were being made and accurate calendars were being produced.

It is also not certain how people reached the summit of the mound since no ramp led to the top. It is possible that steps were incorporated into the plaza-side of the mound’s steep face but this has not been investigated.

In the center of the Kolomoki site is a conical mound rising to a height of 20 feet at its apex.  Known as Mound D, this mound contained 77 burials and a cache of exquisite ceremonial pottery. In fact, it is the unique nature of these mortuary pottery vessels that the Kolomoki site has become noted. This cache consisted of effigy pottery in the shapes of various animals including deer, quail and owls. [View Gallery]

Mounds D & Mound A at Kolomoki Mounds in Blakely, Georgia

This computer reconstruction shows how Mound D & Mound A might have appeared in 600 AD. This artwork is available on t-shirts, stickers, mugs, and other items in our LostWorlds Gift Store.

The burial mound itself was constructed over a long period of time and consists of several stages. The first stage was a rectangular platform mound about six feet high created from yellow clay. A cache of 60 pottery vessels, including the aforementioned effigy pottery, was placed against the eastern side of this mound. Many burials later, the mound evolved into a circular platform mound about 10 feet high, still covered in yellow clay. After the final burial activity, the mound was completely covered with red clay and took its present form. These final burials were all placed in the east side of the mound with the skulls facing eastward. Burial objects made from copper and iron as well as pearl beads were included with these burials.

Between the burial mound and Mound A lies a central plaza of red clay. The people of the village most likely lived in houses surrounding this plaza. Their houses were of wattle-and-daub construction with thatched roofs made from local grasses. (Continues…)

Ocmulgee Mounds (1000 AD)

Sapelo Shell Ring Complex1.SapeloShellRings Rock Eagle2.RockEagle ancient stone wall atop Fort Mountain3.FortMountain Kolomoki Mounds4.Kolomoki Ocmulgee Mounds5.Ocmulgee Etowah Mounds6.Etowah
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As impressive as the previously discussed Kolomoki Mounds complex is, the NativeAmerican Mound Builders of Georgia would outdo themselves at the next site in our story: Ocmulgee Mounds. Located in Macon, this ancient civilization consists of seven Indian mounds and associated plazas.

The Great Temple Mound at Ocmulgee was built atop the Macon Plateau and rises 56 feet high from the surface of the plateau. Yet because the mound was ingeniously constructed on the edge of the plateau and the plateau itself was terraced and clay fill added to match the angle of the Temple Mound, the mound rises an impressive 90 feet from the river bank below. It was this imposing view that most visitors to Ocmulgee Indian Mounds saw in prehistoric times since most trade and travel was conducted by dugout canoes along the Ocmulgee river.


View larger map
Map of Ocmulgee Mounds. Zoom in to see individual mounds and other features. Click on the blue tabs  to learn more about each feature. Explore the site in 3D with the Google Earth plugin.

Due to its ingenious construction, the top of the Great Temple Mound is significantly higher than the surrounding tree line thus enabling anyone standing here to have a commanding view of the countryside for miles and miles around as well as an unobstructed view of the entire sky dome for astronomical observations. From here one could easily see signal fires or smoke signals from outlying villages warning of invaders or other trouble. Likewise traders could light signal fires atop the Great Temple Mound to announce the arrival of new trade goods. As its name suggests the Great Temple Mound was also home to a large temple which likely doubled as the Chief Priest’s home. Here he kept a perpetual fire burning which was an important element of their religion and myths.

This giant ground sloth on display at the University of Georgia was unearthed in Brunswick, GA during construction of I-95.

Giant ground sloth found in southeast Georgia on view at UGA.

The Ocmulgee Mounds site has been occupied for 12,000 years as evidenced by the Clovis spear point found during excavations. The Clovis people lived during the last Ice Age and used these spear points to hunt mastadons, wooly mammoths, giant ground sloths and other giant animals that once roamed Georgia. Around 2000 B.C., the same time period as the Sapelo Shell Rings, the first small shell mounds were constructed at the site but it wasn’t until 900 A.D. that the monumental constructions began. [View Gallery]

Who Built Ocmulgee Mounds?

At this time newcomers arrived in the region and brought with them corn agriculture, a new style of pottery, new types of arrowheads and a more complex economic, religious and political system. It is thought that these were Muskogean speakers who later were called Creek Indians by Europeans. According to Creek Indian tradition, Ocmulgee Mounds was the site where they “first sat down” after their long migration from the west. Other traditions hold that they originated near “the backbone of the earth” which was their name for the Rocky Mountains. In fact, as we’ll see below, they could have originated as far away as west Mexico and later migrated into the desert southwest before finally arriving at Ocmulgee.

Popocateptl Volcano erupting at nightOne tribe of Creek Indians, the Cussitaw (Cusseta/Kasihta), have a migration legend which might relate to the settlement of Ocmulgee Mounds. It tells how they originated in a place much farther west, a place where the earth would occasionally open up and swallow their children (a possible reference to earthquakes). Part of their tribe decided to leave this place and began an eastward migration in order to find where the sun rose. On their journey they came to a mountain that thundered and had red smoke coming from its summit which they later discovered was actually fire (a possible reference to a volcano.) Here they decided to settle down after meeting people from three nations (Chickasaws, Atilamas, & Obikaws) who taught them about herbs and “many other things.”

From these references one can speculate that these people migrated from Mexico which is west of Georgia and has both earthquakes and active volcanoes. (For a more in-depth analysis of the Creek migration legend, read “Were Georgia’s Muskogee Creek Indians from West Mexico?“) Mexico is also the birthplace of corn agriculture, a defining characteristic of these newcomers. It is also in Mexico where we find cities consisting of flat-topped pyramid mounds arranged around open plazas which is the most noticeable feature of town planning at Ocmulgee. (Continues…)

Etowah Mounds (1250 AD)

Sapelo Shell Ring Complex1.SapeloShellRings Rock Eagle2.RockEagle ancient stone wall atop Fort Mountain3.FortMountain Kolomoki Mounds4.Kolomoki Ocmulgee Mounds5.Ocmulgee Etowah Mounds6.Etowah

Etowah Mounds is one of the final and perhaps the finest accomplishments of the ancient NativeAmerican moundbuilders of Georgia. This is one of the four most important Mississippian sites along with Moundville in Alabama, Spiro in Oklahoma, and Cahokia in Illinois.

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The Etowah Mounds complex consists of six earthen Indian mounds all in the traditional Mississippian truncated pyramid shape. These Indian mounds were built between 950 A.D. and 1450 A.D. although major construction didn’t truly begin until around A.D. 1250. The Etowah Indian Mounds site is surrounded by a deep moat on three sides and the Etowah River on the fourth. A palisade wall stood just inside the moat adding further protection to the site. Just like our previous site, Ocmulgee Indian Mounds, the major structures are believed to have been built by Muskogee Creek Indians. Also like Ocmulgee Mounds, the site appears to have been inhabited by another group of people first who were later displaced. It is possible that after the massacre at Ocmulgee Mounds mentioned in the previous article, the surrounding Hitchiti Creek Indian tribes moved further north and inhabited the Etowah region before once again being forced out.

The largest structure at the Etowah Mounds site was the Great Temple Mound and it has the distinction of being the tallest Indian mound in Georgia. It rose 67 feet high (over seven stories tall) and was oriented to the cardinal points (as were the other Indian mounds at the site.)

Etowah Mounds aerial view

The temple mound was probed with ground penetrating radar but nothing worth investigating was found and thus this Indian mound has never been fully excavated. Archaeologists did find evidence of at least one large structure on top of the Great Temple Mound. A log wall or fence surrounded the summit. Curiously, the summit is pentagonal in form.

The Lesser Temple Mound, or Mound B, is a more circular or oval Indian mound. It is possible this temple mound was originally square and later plowing by farmers in the 1800’s and 1900’s softened the edges to create the current rounded form. It also appears to have had a large structure on top. This Indian mound is approximately 30 feet tall.

 Zoom in to see the Etowah Mounds site. Click on the blue markers to learn more about individual features of the site.

Shell gorgets from the Etowah Mounds site in Georgia.The Funeral Mound, on the other hand, has been completely excavated and some of North America’s most important Native American and Mississippian artifacts have been discovered there.  Among these were ceremonial copper axes, copper-covered earspools, necklaces and pendants of shell and engraved shell gorgets. These shell gorgets were circular medallions worn around the neck made from large seashells and inscribed or carved with various designs. [View Gallery]

Many of these shell gorget designs belong to a complex known as the Southeastern Ceremonial Complex, once referred to as the Southern Cult or Southern Death Cult. It has been repeatedly noted that many of these Southeastern Ceremonial Complex designs have strong Mesoamerican influences such as the Long Etowah Mounds Bird Man copper plateNosed God and the Bird Man or Eagle Warrior. It should be remembered that if the Creek Indian Migration Legend is correct, the Muskogee Indian tribe did have its origin in west Mexico. Yet by the time of the major construction period at Etowah Mounds these people had not lived in Mexico for over 300 years. The original Mesoamerican ideas would have evolved in that amount of time and would have been influenced by the people they had come into contact with in the eastern woodlands. Thus ideas such as the Feathered Serpent remained but evolved into their own unique expression. Likewise for the Long Nosed God and the Bird Man/Eagle Warrior.

Native American dance demonstrationThese symbols were also portrayed on copper breastplates worn by high status individuals. One such copper breastplate was found buried with an individual in Mound C, the burial mound. It shows a Bird Man or Eagle Warrior dancing. Amazingly, dancers at modern powwows can be seen performing dances that look remarkably similar to the dances portrayed in these copper designs.

Marble human effigy statues from Etowah Mounds in Georgia.The most important artifacts discovered at the Etowah Mounds site are undoubtedly the two carved marble statues of a man and woman. They are each about two feet tall and are in sitting positions. Early Spanish explorers noted that similar statues were part of an ancestor worship cult and were housed in Funerary Temples where offerings were made to them. These particular statues were discovered buried in their own grave at the base of Mound C. It appears that they were hastily buried without a lot of care since they were broken into pieces when discovered.

This hasty burial corresponds with another piece of archaeological evidence: the palisade wall appears to have burned down. Often times Native Americans would bury important objects when they came under attack in order to keep the items out of the hands of their enemies. It is probable that an attack serious enough to burn down the major defensive work of the massive Etowah Mounds site would have been the inspiration for such a hasty burial of these important objects. It is also possible that the attackers smashed the statues, thereby ritually killing them, and buried them to prevent them from ever being used again.[Continues…]