Did Mayan Astronomers Create the Forsyth Petroglyph?

Does the Forsyth Petroglyph record the same astronomical event recorded in Temple XIX at Palenque and also depicted on the Mayan Blowgunner Vase?

Abstract: The hieroglyphic platform in Palenque’s Temple XIX records a comet breakup and impact event in 3300 BC. The same event was recorded on a Maya vase known as the Blowgunner Vase, which has been interpreted as a star map. The Forsyth Petroglyph appears to contain information found in both the Temple XIX inscriptions as well as the Blowgunner Vase and likely alludes to the same event. Additionally, the use of a Mayan glyph(s) (CHUM and/or YEH) and mythological symbol (CIPACTLI) on the Forsyth Petroglyph further links it to its Mayan counterparts and strongly suggests it was carved by Maya or Maya-influenced astronomers.

In a previous paper I argued that the Forsyth Petroglyph was a star map that recorded a comet breakup and impact event in 539 AD that coincided with a severe climate downturn at that time recorded in both historical records and the Greenland ice core.1 I have since found connections between the Forsyth Petroglyph and Maya “mythological” accounts of an event which happened near the end of the last Maya calendar that is also consistent with a major impact event. Evidence for this event is found in ice core, climate, and sedimentary records.

The event known as the Maya Flood Myth is the basis of much of Maya religion and mythology.2 The event is recorded in an inscription in Temple XIX at Palenque3 as well as on a Maya vase known as the Blowgunner Vase.4 The Blowgunner Vase has been argued to be a Maya star map.5 Coincidentally, it contains the exact same constellations in the same configuration as those on the Forsyth Petroglyph. Since the Forsyth Petroglyph and Blowgunner Vase show the most similarities I will compare them first.

The traditional interpretation of the Blowgunner Vase6 is that it illustrates a Maya myth wherein a figure known as Jun Ajaw, “One Lord” or “One Sun” uses a blowgun to shoot Itzam Yeh (“Itzam Revealed”), the Celestial Bird, out of the sky.7 The Celestial Bird is represented as a Quetzal bird. The glyphs on the vase below the blowgun read, “Itzam Yeh Descends (from) the Sky.”8

 

Others have taken the interpretation further and argued that not only does the vase record a myth but also serves as a star map.9  According to this interpretation, the tree in which Itzam Yeh is perched represents the bright band of stars of the Milky Way. The scorpion at the bottom of the tree represents the constellation Scorpio located in the sky next to the bright band of the Milky Way. The Serpent on the far right of the vase rollout is thought to represent the constellation Draco.

Blowgunner Vase as a star map: tree represents the Milky Way, scorpion represents Scorpio constellation and serpent represents Draco constellation.

These star groups match the star map that I have argued exists on the Forsyth Petroglyph. The constellation Draco is unmistakably represented on the far right of the Forsyth Petroglyph just as on the Mayan Blowgunner Vase. The claws of the constellation Scorpio are represented on the left side of the petroglyph just as on the Blowgunner Vase.

Interpretation of the symbols on the Forsyth Petroglyph including the constellations Scorpio & Draco as well as a comet and comet fragments.
Scorpio constellation on petroglyph Pincers of the Scorpio constellation
Draco constellation on petroglyph Draco constellation

Yet I’ve also argued that a comet is also represented on the petroglyph and this comet breaks into fragments. Does anything similar exist on the Blowgunner Vase?

In fact, there is. The Celestial Bird in the top of the tree likely represents a comet. The use of a Quetzal bird to represent this Celestial Bird is quite telling. The Quetzal is a bird from southern Mexico that has extremely long tail feathers. A bird flying across the sky with a long tail is a perfect symbol for a comet.10 The Chinese actually referred to one type of comet as a “long tailed pheasant star” showing that they, too, related birds with long tail feathers to comets.

The blowgunner, Jun Ajaw, shooting the Quetzal from the top of the tree thus represents the comet impacting earth. The Mayan glyphs below the blowgun read, “Itzam Yeh descends (from) the sky.” Thus the blowgunner scene is a clear reference to a comet which falls from the sky similar to the comet breakup recorded on the Forsyth Petroglyph. Curiously, the glyph for YEH, “revealed,” is nearly identical and in the same location (between Scorpio and Draco) as the incomplete star symbol on the Forsyth Petroglyph. I’ve interpreted this as a supernova on the petroglyph thus the Mayan verb YEH, “revealed,” is a fitting description of a star that appears out of nowhere.

Blowgunner Vase as both a star map and account of comet impact event.

This same symbol on the Forsyth Petroglyph also closely resembles the glyph for the Mayan word CHUM, “enthronement.” This is an important aspect of the Mayan Flood Myth as recorded in Palenque’s Temple XIX. The first event that takes place in this myth is the “enthronement” of God GI in the sky on March 10, 3309 BC. Curiously, the myths surrounding GI have him being born and enthroned multiple times. This has confused scholars but makes sense when one realizes that his enthronement in the sky is best explained as the appearance of a supernova in the sky.11  Supernova can brighten becoming visible and dim becoming invisible multiple times before they explode. Thus GI’s multiple births becomes explicable via an astronomical interpretation.

Classic version of Mayan CHUM glyph meaning “to seat” on Palenque Temple XIX
Possible CHUM glyph on Forsyth Petroglyph

Just as YEH, “revealed,” was a perfect description of a supernova so is CHUM, “enthronement.” Most stars are always in the sky night after night thus they don’t “come to power.” They are simply always there. Only a supernova appears out of nowhere and takes its position in the sky, i.e., is “enthroned.” The fact that supernovas are usually so bright they are even visible during daylight hours is likely another reason they are said to be “enthroned,” since they are the “king” of the stars during their short reign in the sky.

A berrylium-10 spike shows up in the ice core records around 3300 BC12 which is the same time that God GI was enthroned in the sky. Such spikes are known signatures for supernova explosions thus the physical evidence supports this astronomical interpretation of God GI.

The most important symbol in the Temple XIX Flood Myth is the decapitation of a cosmic crocodile. In my book chapter, “Decoding the Mayan Flood Myth,” I argue that the cosmic crocodile represents a comet.13 Like a comet a crocodile has a head and a long tail. The decapitation event was likely a phenomena known as a “tail disconnection event” when a comet’s tail is torn off by a coronal mass ejection from the sun. In 2011 Comet Elenin exploded after being hit by a CME.

Interestingly, the blowgunner Jun Ajaw, “One Lord” or “One Sun,” is shown with three spots on his body likely representing sunspots. Sunspots only appear on the sun during active periods, which is also when solar flares and coronal mass ejections are possible. Perhaps Jun Ajaw’s blowgun represents the sun shooting a coronal mass ejection at the comet, which is responsible for bringing the comet down to earth?

On the Forsyth Petroglyph there is a symbol on the far right of the stone that is very similar in design to representations of Cipactli.14 Cipactli is the Aztec version of the decapitated crocodile and is always represented as a disembodied crocodile head with a distinctive crest above his eye.15 The Maya Cosmic Crocodile also always features a distinctive crest above his eye. The Forsyth Petroglyph also includes this distinctive crest.

“Cipactli” or decapitated “Cosmic Crocodile” featuring distinctive curl over its eye on the far right side of the Forsyth Petroglyph
One version of Cipactli which looks most similar to the Forsyth Petroglyph design.

The impact events represented in Palenque’s Temple XIX and the Blowgunner Vase happened around 3300 BC while the event recorded on the Forsyth Petroglyph likely happened around 539 AD. Yet scientists have noted that two major ammonium peaks in the Greenland ice core, signatures of cosmic impacts, stand out in the ice core record: one at 3300 BC and one at 500 AD. Thus the 500 AD event was similar to the 3300 BC event and likely revived the memory of this older event.

The fact that this “myth” was recorded at Palenque sometime after 500 AD further supports the idea that the 539 AD event revived the memory of this ancient catastrophe and resulted in it being recorded in various mediums including the vase and hieroglyphic platform. It appears this Mayan record of an ancient catastrophe was also recorded on the rock petroglyph known as the Forsyth Petroglyph in Georgia. The use of Mayan glyphs and mythological symbols on the petroglyph as well as the similarity in layouts between the petroglyph and the Maya Blowgunner Vase strongly suggest it was carved by Maya or Mayan-influenced astronomer-priests.

[This article is based on the research paper: Comparison of Forsyth Petroglyph, Mayan Blowgunner Vase and the Mayan Flood Myth from Palenque Temple XIX.]

References Cited

[1] Daniels, Gary C. “Possible Astronomical Symbols on the ‘Sculptured Rock from Forsyth County, Georgia.’” LostWorlds.org. Accessed online 20 August 2012 at < http://www.scribd.com/doc/52788845/Possible-Astronomical-Symbols-on-the-Forsyth-Petroglyph>.

[2] Roys, Ralph, trans. “The Creation of the World.” The Chilam Balam of Chumayel. Accessed online 16 August 2012 at < http://www.sacred-texts.com/nam/maya/cbc/cbc15.htm>.

[3] Garcia, Erik Velasquez. “The Maya Flood Myth and the Decapitation of the Cosmic Caiman.” PARI Online Publications. The Pre-Columbian Art Research Institute. Accessed online 14 August 2012 at <http://www.mesoweb.com/pari/publications/journal/701/flood_e.pdf>.

[4] Daniels, Gary C. “Decoding the Mayan Blowgunner Vase.” Mayan Calendar Prophecies: Predictions for 2012-2052. CreateSpace: 2012, pp. 110-116.

[5] King, Timothy David. “The Blowgunner Vase as a Star Map.” The constellation system of the ancient maya. Stanford University.

[6] Kerr, Justin. Blowgunner Vase. FAMSI.org. Accessed online 16 August 2012 at <http://research.mayavase.com/kerrmaya_hires.php?vase=1226>.

[7] Freidel, David and Linda Schele. Maya Cosmos. Harper Collins. New York: 1993, p.70. Accessed online 16 August 2012 at < http://www.amazon.com/Maya-Cosmos-Three-Thousand-Shamans/dp/0688140696/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1345464423&sr=8-1&keywords=maya+cosmos>.

[8] Zender, Marc. “The Raccoon Glyph in Classic Maya Writing.The PARI Journal.  The Precolumbian Art Research Institute. Spring 2005: Volume V, Number 4. Accessed online 16 August 2012 at <http://www.mesoweb.com/pari/journal/archive/PARI0504.pdf>.

[9] King, Timothy David. “The Blowgunner Vase as a Star Map.” The constellation system of the ancient maya. Stanford University.

[10] Daniels, Gary C. “Comet Machholz and the Return of Kukulkan.” Mayan Calendar Prophecies: Predictions for 2012-2052. CreateSpace: 2012, pp. 53-54.

[11] Daniels, Gary C. “Supernova or Galactic Core Explosion?” Mayan Calendar Prophecies: Predictions for 2012-2052. CreateSpace: 2012, pp. 104-105.

[12] LaViolette, Paul. Earth Under Fire. Bear and Company.

[13] Daniels, Gary C. “Decoding the Mayan Flood Myth.” Mayan Calendar Prophecies: Predictions for 2012-2052. CreateSpace: 2012, pp. 90-109.

[14] Cargill, L. A. “Aztec or Mayan star glyph – Native American rock carving.” HubPages.com. Accessed 19 August 2012 at <http://austinstar.hubpages.com/hub/aztec_maya_puzzle>.

[15] Stuart, David. The Inscriptions at Temple XIX at Palenque. The Pre-Columbian Art Research Institute. San Francisco: 2005, p.71. Accessed online 16 August 2012 at <http://www.mesoweb.com/publications/stuart/TXIX-spreads.pdf>

Archaeoastronomy of the Ocmulgee Earth Lodge

Was the Ocmulgee earth lodge an astronomical observatory and sophisticated scientific apparatus designed to forewarn its designers of impending catastrophe coming from the heavens?

Introduction

The earth lodge at the Ocmulgee Mounds site in Macon, Georgia is a unique building among Native American archaeological sites in the Southeast. It is a round building completely covered with earth except for a smoke hole in the center of the roof to allow smoke to escape from the central fire pit below. Entry into the earth lodge was from the east through a low, long, tunnel-like, earth-covered corridor. One would have to crouch or crawl until he reached the central, round chamber before he could stand fully erect again. According to the Creek Migration Legend this structure was where the tribe’s warriors would gather “to fast and purify their bodies,”[1] thus entry was likely limited to males exclusively.

The low doorway into the Ocmulgee earth lodge, a “mound with a central chamber.” (Photo © 2004, Gary C. Daniels)

The main chamber was bounded by a low wall upon which rested the lower ends of the roof timbers. There were four large upright posts in the middle of this circular chamber that supported four horizontal posts that formed a large square. The middle of the roof timbers rested on these horizontal timbers and on top of these timbers earth was piled thereby creating the earth-covered roof of this structure. The roof timbers did not all meet in the center instead leaving a large hole through which smoke could escape.

In the center of the floor between these four upright posts was a large fire pit molded into the clay floor. Along the floor against the circular low wall were a series of 47 seats molded into the clay floor. Each had a small cubbyhole molded into the front of the seat, the exact purpose of which is unknown although it was likely a place to store personal items.

Ocmulgee Earth Lodge model

On the western end of this round chamber was a large, elevated platform or altar in the shape of a bird. The bird likely represented a raptor, either an eagle or falcon, both highly revered among Creek Indians. Surrounding the eye of the raptor was a design known as the ‘forked eye motif.’ It had the appearance of a two-tailed comet. (More on this later.) This is the earliest known instance of this symbol, which eventually became widespread throughout much of Southeastern and Midwestern America. One researcher noted that mythological beings represented with the forked-eye surround were associated with the celestial realm[2]which is consistent with a comet interpretation. Finally, three more seats were located on this platform bringing the total number of seats in this great chamber to fifty. Clearly these three elevated seats were reserved for very important persons.

The only artifact excavated from the interior of the chamber was a large conch shell. These shells were reserved for serving a ritual tea known as both the “black drink” because of its color and the “white drink” because of its use in purification rituals. The tea was made from the leaves of the yaupon holly plant. The leaves of this plant had high concentrations of caffeine, many times more than a similar amount of coffee, and was drunk piping hot thus increasing the absorption of caffeine into the bloodstream.

Origins of the Ocmulgee Earth Lodge

Creek Indian tradition maintains that the Ocmulgee Mounds site in Macon, Georgia was the site where they “first sat down” after their long migration from the west.[3]   One version of the Creek Migration Legend states that one of the first structures the tribe built when they arrived at their final destination in the east was a “mound [with a] great chamber in the center.”[4]

The earth lodge was unearthed at Ocmulgee Mounds during excavations in 1938.[5] The earth lodge had been burned and archaeologists were able to date this charcoal to around 1015 AD[6]. Whether the structure was burned by its own inhabitants or by an attacking enemy is unknown.What is known is that the structure is unique in the Southeast. Archaeologist Lewis Larson noted that the 19th century researcher Swanton
“provided the most detailed and exhaustive survey of the ethnohistorical literature covering the domestic and public architecture of the southeastern Indians. A review of his survey reveals that there are no structures comparable to the Macon Plateau earth lodge as it has been described by Kelly….”[7]
In other words, during the time period that the migration legends were recorded, no known structure similar to an earth lodge was in existence thus: 1) how could a Native American informant at this time describe such a structure while recounting his tribe’s migration legend and 2) how could the description of this structure match perfectly with the archaeological data from excavations conducted nearly 200 years afterthe legend was recorded? Either the informant in question was psychic or the legend is an accurate recounting of real historical events.

This very uniqueness caused Larson to call into question Kelly’s “earth lodge” interpretation of his findings and Larson even went so far as to refute the very existence of earth lodges in the Southeast even at Ocmulgee Mounds. Yet the migration legend seems to support Kelly’s interpretation of the data as, indeed, a “mound with a central chamber,” i.e., earth lodge.

Archaeaoastronomy of the Ocmulgee Earth Lodge

The Pawnee were a Midwestern Caddoan tribe that also constructed earth lodges similar to the one at Ocmulgee Mounds. Some of these earth lodges were used as astronomical observatories.[8]The Pawnee earth lodge observatories had entranceways facing east just like Ocmulgee’s earth lodge. They also had an altar on the western end of the interior chamber just like Ocmulgee’s earth lodge except the Pawnee altars were not bird-shaped. (Although lots of bird remains including a bluejay, owls, woodpeckers, eagles, quails and others were found in some Pawnee earth lodge observatories suggesting birds were an important part of the activities that took place inside.)

Pawnee earthlodge
Model of Pawnee earth lodge Layout of Pawnee earth lodge

Researchers have listed five characteristics of Pawnee earth lodges that indicated they had been used as a priestly observatory:

  1. unobstructed view of the eastern sky
  2. east-west orientation so that at the vernal equinox the sun’s first light would strike the altar
  3. the size parameters of the lodge’s smoke hole and door (height and width) would be designed to view the sky
  4. the lodge’s smoke hole would be constructed to view certain parts of the heavens-such as the Pleiades
  5. the presence of four main interior support posts correctly aligned to the semicardinal points.

How well does the Ocmulgee earth lodge match up with these five conditions? The Ocmulgee earth lodge was constructed on top of a bluff or plateau thus it would have had an unobstructed view of the eastern sky. It also had four main interior support posts aligned to the semicardinal directions. The structure also had an east-west orientation yet, according to researchers, its doorway aligned to the sunrise on February 22nd and October 22nd instead of the vernal equinox (March 21.) (Using software called The Photographer’s Ephemeris I was able to confirm this alignment.)

 

This satellite image shows the door of the earth lodge perfectly aligned with the sunrise (yellow line) on October 22.  ©The Photographer’s Ephemeris & Google Maps.

Why would the builders have chosen this date instead of the vernal equinox? Was there any significant astronomical event on this day that they may have wanted to mark? In our current era, October 22nd represents the peak night of the Orionid meteor shower. Yet 1,000 years ago, due to precession of the equinoxes, the Orionids would have peaked 14 days earlier on October 8th.  The Taurid meteor shower, however, which today peaks on November 5th, would have also peaked 14 days earlier at that time; i.e., on October 22nd.

The Taurids were created by debris left over from comet Encke. This shower, which produces spectacular fireballs, appears to originate from the Pleiades asterism within the constellation Taurus. As noted previously, a bird-shaped platform or altar was located at the western end of the Ocmulgee earth lodge. This bird had a design around its eye known as the ‘forked eye motif’ that was in the shape of a two-tailed comet.[9]Thus 1000 years ago on October 22, sunlight would have streamed through the Ocmulgee earth lodge’s doorway and landed on the bird platform with the  comet-like forked-eye design. That night the peak activity of the Taurid meteor shower would have occurred.

Comet Hale-Bopp’s two tails reminiscent of the ‘forked-eye motif’

Additionally, using the software program Stellarium, I was able to determine that the Pleiades were very high in the sky just past midnight on October 22, 1015 AD and therefore visible through the smoke hole of the Ocmulgee earth lodge. Thus the very constellation from which the Taurid meteor shower originated would have been visible directly overhead through the smoke hole.

Therefore, the Ocmulgee earth lodge meets all five criteria indicative of its use as a priestly observatory except it was aligned with a significant astronomical event other than the vernal equinox.

Doomsday Clock?

Curiously, around the same time that archaeologists have dated the destruction of the Ocmulgee earth lodge by fire, a cosmic catastrophe seems to have impacted Earth, likely the result of the Taurid meteor shower. According to the Anglo Saxon Chronicle, on September 28, 1014 AD, a tsunami devastated many towns in England.[10] (In our modern Gregorian calendar this date would equate to October 4, 1014 AD.)[11] Researchers in North Carolina have noted that either a major storm surge or tsunami devastated the coastal areas of the state around this time as well.[12] Considering all the evidence for a major Atlantic tsunami at this time it was most likely this tsunami not storm surge that devastated coastal North Carolina.[13]

Dallas Abbott of the Lamont Doherty Observatory at Columbia University found tsunami deposits from the same time period in New York, the Caribbean and northern South America.[14] She also found sediment deposits from the mid-Atlantic ridge in an inland bog in New York that also dated to the same time period. Her research concluded that the only thing that could have produced all these effects was a meteor impact in the center of the Atlantic Ocean. Abbott noted that all these events corresponded with a large ammonium spike in the Greenland ice core record similar to other such spikes recorded around the time of known meteor impacts.

Other researchers going back through the historical record found that the 11th century featured one of the most active Taurid meteor showers ever recorded. I. S. Astapovich and A. K. Terent’eva conducted a study of fireballs appearing between the 1st and 15th centuries and revealed the Taurids to have been “the most powerful shower of the year in the 11th century (with 42 fireballs belonging to them) and no shower, not even the great ones, could be compared with them as to activity.”[15]Thus the Taurid meteor storm of 1014 must have been truly an awe- inspiring spectacle even greater than the Leonid meteor storm of 1833.

Leonid meteor shower of 1833 as seen at Niagara Falls

Thus all the evidence supports the theory that a meteor slammed into the middle of the Atlantic and produced tsunamis that impacted coasts on both sides of this ocean in the Fall of 1014 AD.

Coincidentally, according to Aztec legend, their Fourth Sun ended in 1011 AD due to a great flood followed by the sky falling. This event is recorded on the Aztec Calendar Stone or Stone of the Fifth Sun that included two xihucoatls, “fire serpents,” around the outside edge of the sculpture. Each “fire serpent” had a snout with seven star symbols that represented the seven stars of the Pleiades.[16] This suggests these “fire serpents” were flaming meteors emanating from the Pleiades and thus were part of the Taurid meteor stream. The Taurids are known for slow-moving fireballs with long smoke trails thus the designation of “fire serpent” is quite appropriate. The fact that the Fourth Sun ended with a flood is consistent with these “fire serpents” having impacted the ocean creating a tsunami. Yet their date of 1011 AD is two years off from the known impact date of 1014 AD. Why?

Researchers have noted that after the Aztecs won their independence in 1428 they revised many historical events to fall on important dates within their 52 year calendar cycle called the xiuhmolpilli.[17]  One researcher noted, “A number of events of early history were assigned to dates with important positions in the 52-year cycle and that certain types of events were recorded as occurring in years of the same name.”[18]Additionally, astronomer Anthony Aveni noted that “calendrical adjustments were frequently geared to the 52-year xiuhmolpilli or one [of] its multiples….”[19]Thus this could explain why the flood that ended the Aztec’s Fourth Sun and resulted in the creation of the Fifth Sun is said to have taken place in 13 Reed, 1011 AD, instead of the actual date of 1014 AD.

The Taurids are active from early October until late November in modern times and a thousand years ago would have ranged from late September until mid November. Thus the date recorded in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, September 28, 1014 (October 4, 1014 AD in our modern Gregorian calendar), is consistent with an interpretation that two large meteors (fire serpents) part of the Taurid meteor stream crashed into the middle of the Atlantic Ocean and caused tsunamis that spread out and impacted shores all around its perimeter.

Is this the reason the people at Ocmulgee burned their observatory sometime around 1015 AD (perhaps even in 1014 AD)? Was the Ocmulgee earth lodge a place where the men of Ocmulgee cleansed and purified themselves through various rituals all with the hopes of appeasing their gods and avoiding future catastrophes?

When these purification rituals failed to prevent another catastrophe did they burn the observatory to the ground out of frustration? Or did they believe that such catastrophes could only occur at the peak of Taurid meteor shower activity on October 22nd and when it came earlier on October 4th they realized their doomsday predictor, the earth lodge with its perfect alignments, had failed and was no longer of any use?

This type of ritualized behavior was quite common among the indigenous people of North America. For instance, the Aztec Calendar Stone was associated with the New Fire Ceremony and this ceremony, in turn, was associated with the Pleiades. The New Fire Ceremony was conducted every 52 years when the Aztec’s two primary calendars came back into sync. They called this event the “binding of years” and the New Fire ceremony marked the occasion.

The last New Fire ceremony took place in 1507 at the temple of Huixachtlan on the top of Huixachtecatl, “Hill of the Star.” The “star” in question was the Pleiades asterism. According to the Franciscan missionary Bernardino de Sahagun who wrote a 12 volume history of Mexico the New Fire ceremony went something like this:

…they considered it a matter of belief that the world would come to an end at the conclusion of one of these bundles of years. They had a prophecy or oracle that at that time the movement of the heavens would cease, and they took as a sign [of this] the movement of the Pleiades. On the night of this feast, which they called Toximmolpilia [the Binding of the Years***] it so befell that the Pleiades were at the zenith at midnight with respect to the horizon in Mexico. On this night they made new fire, and before they made it, they extinguished all the fires in all the provinces, towns and houses in all of this New Spain. And they went in a solemn procession. All of the priests and servants of the temple departed from here, the Temple of Mexico, during the first quarter of the night, and went to the summit of that mountain near Itztpalapan which they call Uixachtecatl. They reached the summit at midnight, or almost, where stood a great pyramid built for that ceremony. Having reached there, they looked at the Pleiades to see if they were at the zenith, and if they were not, they waited until they were. And when they saw that now they passed the zenith, they knew the movement of the heavens had not ceased, and that the end of the world was not then. [Vol. 4, p143]

And when they drew the new fire, they drew it there at Uixachtlan, at midnight, when the night divided in half, They drew it upon the breast of a captive, and it was a well-born one on whose breast [the priest] bored the fire drill. And when a little [fire] fell, when it took flame, then speedily [the priest] slashed open the breast of the captive, seized his heart, and quickly cast it there into the fire. [Vol. 7, p25]

Then [the priests] slashed open [the captive’s] breast. In his breast [cavity] the new fire was drawn. They opened the breast of the captive with a flint knife called ixcuauac. [Vol. 7, p28]

These New Fire rituals were dedicated to the god Huitzilopochtli.[20] Curiously he was associated with birds and birds were given to him as offerings, primarily hawks and quail. This is reminiscent of the bird offerings found in Pawnee earth lodges as well as the bird platform thought to represent a hawk or eagle in the Ocmulgee earth lodge.

Other ceremonies dedicated to this god also appear to reenact a meteor impact event. For instance, Sahagun’s description of the annual Panquetzalitztli festivals, held in honor of Huitzlilopochtli, notes:

“in a concluding episode of the ritual events, a large paper-and-feather xihucoatl [fire serpent] was brought down the steps from the platform of the Main Pyramid, to be presented at an altar on the bottom landing: Thereupon likewise descended the fire serpent, looking like a blazing pine firebrand. Its tongue was made of red arara feathers, looking like a flaming torch. And its tail was of paper, two or three fathoms long. As it descended, it came moving its tongue, like that of a real serpent, darting in and out. And when [the priest] had come [with it], bringing it down to the base [of the pyramid], he proceeded carefully to the eagle vessel. Then he went up [to the eagle vessel] and raised [the fire serpent] also to the four directions. When he had [so] raised it up, then he cast it upon the sacrificial paper, and then they burned. (Sahagun 1951-70, Bk. 2:136).”[21]

A fire serpent descending from the heavens (i.e., top of the pyramid) and bursting into flames once reaching Earth is the perfect metaphor for a meteor impact.

Celestial Origins of the Forked-Eye Motif

In order to test a hypothesis, one must be able to make predictions and then verify those predictions with research data. Thus if the forked-eye surround is truly a representation of a comet or comet fragment (i.e., meteor) then other creatures that wear this design should also have associations consistent with this interpretation. In fact, they do.

The forked-eye surround would later be found on another creature associated with the sky: the horned feathered serpent. Among the Cherokee this creature was known as Uktena and its description is consistent with a comet or meteor:

Those who know say the Uktena is a great snake…with horns on its head, and a bright blazing crest like a diamond on its forehead, and scales glowing like sparks of fire. It has rings or spots of color along its whole length, and cannot be wounded except by shooting in the seventh spot from the head, because under this spot are its heart and its life. The blazing diamond is called Ulun’suti—”Transparent”—…for whoever is seen by the Uktena is so dazed by the bright light that he runs toward the snake instead of trying to escape. As if this were not enough, the breath of the Uktena is so pestilential, that no living creature can survive should they inhale the tiniest bit of the foul air expelled by the Uktena.[22]

The fact that the myth includes reference to seven spots may associate this creature with the Pleiades in the constellation Taurus. The fact that this creature is also antlered likely also associates it with the constellation Taurus, the only constellation that looks like a horned animal. There are accounts of meteorite impacts releasing noxious gases that have sickened people,[23] which is also consistent with the Cherokee legend. Among the Lakota Sioux the Unktehi caused a great flood[24]which is consistent with other evidence presented earlier.

Conclusions

The Ocmulgee earth lodge was an astronomical observatory for the observation of the Taurid meteor shower. The fact that the door of this observatory was aligned with the peak activity of this meteor shower supports this hypothesis. Evidence is suggestive that the forked-eye surround motif on the bird platform is associated with celestial phenomena such as comets or meteors and thus supports the hypothesis. The fact that the Taurid meteor shower experienced an elevated level of activity during the 11th century likely inspired the creation of the Ocmulgee earth lodge observatory. The fact that this observatory’s destruction coincided with an oceanic impact event and associated tsunami likely caused by meteor(s) from the Taurid complex was no accident and was a purposeful response to this catastrophic event.

 

References Cited


[1] Grantham, Bill. Creation Myths and Legends of the Creek Indians. University Press of Florida, 2002: pp. 149.

[2] Townsend, Richard. Hero, Hawk, and Open Hand. p.130 Accessed online 18 July 2012 at < http://books.google.com/books?id=zomCBhVLLGcC&lpg=PA130&ots=-vRdD1Aoo2&dq=celestial%20origin%20of%20forked%20eye&pg=PA130#v=onepage&q=celestial%20forked%20eye&f=false>.

[3] Fairbanks, Charles H. Archeology of the Funeral Mound.  University of Alabama Press: 2003, p. 6.

[4] Grantham, Bill. Creation Myths and Legends of the Creek Indians. University Press of Florida, 2002: pp. 149.

[5] Larson, Lewis. “The Case for Earth Lodges in the Southeast.” Ocmulgee Archaeology, 1936-1986.  University of Georgia Press, 1994: p.105

[6] Historic Structure Report The Earth Lodge Ocmulgee National Monument. National Park Service, 2004: p. 1. Accessed online 18 July 2012 at <http:// www.nps.gov/history/history/online_books/ocmu/ocmu_earthlodge_hsr.pdf>.

[7] Larson, Lewis. “The Case for Earth Lodges in the Southeast.” Ocmulgee Archaeology, 1936-1986.  University of Georgia Press, 1994: p.108

[8] O’Brien, Patricia J. “Prehistoric evidence of Pawnee Cosmology”, American Anthropologist (New Series) Vol. 88, No. 4 (Dec 1986), pp 939–946.

[9] Daniels, Gary C. “Ocmulgee Mounds.” LostWorlds.org, 2004: http://lostworlds.org/ocmulgee_mounds

[10] Ingram, James (trans). “Anglo-Saxon Chronicles.” Accessed online 24 November 2010 at <http://classiclit.about.com/library/bl-etexts/anon/bl-anon-anglo-saxon-3.htm>.

[11] Walker, John. Calendar Converter. Accessed online 17 July 2012 at < http://www.fourmilab.ch/documents/calendar/>.

[12] Culver, Stephen J, et al. “Late Holocene Barrier Island Collapse: Outer Banks, North Carolina, USA.” The Sedimentary Record. Society for Sedementary Geology, December 2007: pp. 4-8. Accessed online 18 July 2012 at < http://www.scribd.com/doc/77171096/North-Carolina-Tsunami>.

[13] Howard, George. “Hurricane or Tsunami?: North Carolina coast turns to Tar Hell around time of Magna Carta.” CosmicTusk.com. Accessed online 17 July 2012 at < http://cosmictusk.com/hurricane-or-tsunami-north-carolina-coast-turns-to-tar-hell-around-time-of-battle-of-hastings/>.

[14] Abbott, Dallas. “Exotic Grains in a core from Cornwall, NY- Do They Have an Impact Source?” Journal of Siberian Federal University. Accessed online November 25, 2010 at <http://elib.sfu-kras.ru/bitstream/2311/1632/1/01_.pdf>.

[15] Astapovi?, I. S., and Terenteva, A. K. In Physics and Dynamics of Meteors. Kresák, L., and Millman, P. M (Eds.). IAU Symposium 33. Reidel, Dordrecht.

[16] Jenkins, John Major. Maya Cosmogenesis 2012. 1968. p. 308.

[17] Aveni, Anthony. “Astronomical considerations in the Aztec expression of history: Eclipse data.” Ancient Mesoamerica, 10 (1999), 87-98. Accessed online 26 Nov 2010 at <http://www.mexicauprising.net/aztececlipsedata.pdf>.

[18] Umberger, Emily. “The Structure of Aztec History.” Archaeoastronomy, The Bulletin of the Center for Archaeoastronomy IV (1981):10-18.

[19] Aveni, Anthony. “Astronomical considerations in the aztec expression of history: Eclipse data.” Ancient Mesoamerica, 10 (1999), 87-98. Accessed online 26 Nov 2010 at <http://www.mexicauprising.net/aztececlipsedata.pdf>.

[20] “Huitzilopochtli.” Wikipedia.org. Accessed online 18 July 2012 at <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Huitzilopochtli>.

[21] Townsend, Richard F.  State and Cosmos in the Art of Tenochtitlan. p.70 Accessed online 26 Nov 2010 at <http://books.google.com/books?id=Xn-lIHpVG7oC&lpg=PP1&ots=TbZDDrTW11&dq=richard%20f.%20townsend&pg=PA70#v=onepage&q&f=false>.

[22] Mooney, James. Myths of the Cherokee. US Bureau of American Ethnology, 1897-8 Annual Report, 1902.

[23] Orozco, Jose. “Meteor Crash in Peru Caused Mysterious Illness.” National Geographic News. September 21, 2007. Accessed online 18 July 2012 at <http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2007/09/070921-meteor-peru.html>.

[24] “LAKOTA CREATION MYTH.” IndianLegend.com. Accessed online 18 July 2012 at  <http://www.indianlegend.com/lakota/lakota_001.htm>.

Exploding Asteroid Theory Strengthened by New Evidence Located in Ohio, Indiana

Was the course of life on the planet altered 12,900 years ago by a giant comet exploding over Canada? New evidence found by UC Assistant Professor of Anthropology Ken Tankersley and colleagues suggests the answer is affirmative.

Date: 7/2/2008 12:00:00 AM
By: Carey Hoffman
Phone: (513) 556-1825
Photos By: Lisa Ventre

Geological evidence found in Ohio and Indiana in recent weeks is strengthening the case to attribute what happened 12,900 years ago in North America — when the end of the last Ice Age unexpectedly turned into a phase of extinction for animals and humans – to a cataclysmic comet or asteroid explosion over top of Canada.

comet/asteroid theory advanced by Arizona-based geophysicist Allen West in the past two years says that an object from space exploded just above the earth’s surface at that time over modern-day Canada, sparking a massive shock wave and heat-generating event that set large parts of the northern hemisphere ablaze, setting the stage for the extinctions.

Now University of Cincinnati Assistant Professor of Anthropology Ken Tankersley, working in conjunction with Allen West and Indiana Geological Society Research Scientist Nelson R. Schaffer, has verified evidence from sites in Ohio and Indiana – including, locally, Hamilton and Clermont counties in Ohio and Brown County in Indiana – that offers the strongest support yet for the exploding comet/asteroid theory.

Samples of diamonds, gold and silver that have been found in the region have been conclusively sourced through X-ray diffractometry in the lab of UC Professor of Geology Warren Huff back to the diamond fields region of Canada.

The only plausible scenario available now for explaining their presence this far south is the kind of cataclysmic explosive event described by West’s theory. “We believe this is the strongest evidence yet indicating a comet impact in that time period,” says Tankersley.

Ironically, Tankersley had gone into the field with West believing he might be able to disprove West’s theory.

Tankersley was familiar through years of work in this area with the diamonds, gold and silver deposits, which at one point could be found in such abundance in this region that the Hopewell Indians who lived here about 2,000 years ago engaged in trade in these items.

Prevailing thought said that these deposits, which are found at a soil depth consistent with the time frame of the comet/asteroid event, had been brought south from the Great Lakes region by glaciers.

“My smoking gun to disprove (West) was going to be the gold, silver and diamonds,” Tankersley says. “But what I didn’t know at that point was a conclusion he had reached that he had not yet made public – that the likely point of impact for the comet wasn’t just anywhere over Canada, but located over Canada’s diamond-bearing fields. Instead of becoming the basis for rejecting his hypothesis, these items became the very best evidence to support it.”

Additional sourcing work is being done at the sites looking for iridium, micro-meteorites and nano-diamonds that bear the markers of the diamond-field region, which also should have been blasted by the impact into this region.

Much of the work is being done in Sheriden Cave in north-central Ohio’s Wyandot County, a rich repository of material dating back to the Ice Age.

Tankersley first came into contact with West and Schaffer when they were invited guests for interdisciplinary colloquia presented by UC’s Department of Geology this spring.

West presented on his theory that a large comet or asteroid, believed to be more than a mile in diameter, exploded just above the earth at a time when the last Ice Age appeared to be drawing to a close.

The timing attached to this theory of about 12,900 years ago is consistent with the known disappearances in North America of the wooly mammoth population and the first distinct human society to inhabit the continent, known as the Clovis civilization. At that time, climatic history suggests the Ice Age should have been drawing to a close, but a rapid change known as the Younger Dryas event, instead ushered in another 1,300 years of glacial conditions. A cataclysmic explosion consistent with West’s theory would have the potential to create the kind of atmospheric turmoil necessary to produce such conditions.

“The kind of evidence we are finding does suggest that climate change at the end of the last Ice Age was the result of a catastrophic event,” Tankersley says.

Currently, Tankersley can be seen in a new documentary airing on the National Geographic channel. The film“Asteroids” is part of that network’s “Naked Science” series.

The new discoveries made working with West and Schaffer will be incorporated into two more specials that Tankersley is currently involved with – one for the PBS series “Nova” and a second for the History Channel that will be filming Tankersley and his UC students in the field this summer. Another documentary, this one being produced by the Discovery Channel and the British public television network Channel 4, will also be following Tankersley and his students later this summer.

As more data continues to be compiled, Tankersley, West and Schaffer will be publishing about this newest twist in the search to explain the history of our planet and its climate.

Climate change is a favorite topic for Tankersley. “The ultimate importance of this kind of work is showing that we can’t control everything,” he says. “Our planet has been hit by asteroids many times throughout its history, and when that happens, it does produce climate change.”

http://www.uc.edu/News/NR.aspx?ID=8625


					

Sapelo Shell Rings (2170 BC)

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The oldest Native American civilization in the state of Georgia can be found along the Atlantic coast on Sapelo Island. Known as the Sapelo Island Shell Ring Complex, this site consists of three doughnut-shaped Indian mounds built from successive layers of different types of shells including oysters, conch, clams, and mussels. The rings rise approximately 20 feet above the tidal marsh and the largest of the three has a diameter of 255 feet. The site has been radiocarbon dated at 2170 B.C. making it older than many of Egypt’s pyramids! (Similar sites have been discovered in Florida such as the Horr’s Island Mounds and Guana River Shell Rings which are even older.)

This 3D animation shows the shell rings constructed all-at-once as intentional monuments.

There are two theories regarding the formation of the Sapelo Shell Rings.  One theory holds that they were built purposefully, in a short burst of building activity, as intentional monuments and ceremonial centers. The other theory holds that they were unintentional monuments built up over many years as NativeAmericans discarded their trash. This theory holds that the circular shape of the shell rings was the result of Native Americans living in circular villages and discarding their trash behind their homes which resulted in a circular trash ring that gradually built up over time. (A third hybrid possibility, gradual but intentional, will be discussed later wherein the residents purposefully discarded their trash behind their homes knowing that it would slowly accumulate into a protective, surrounding wall.)

How the Timucua hunted alligators. Buy this artwork framed or as a poster.

The latest research seems to support the gradual accumulation theory.  The Sapelo Shell Rings are filled with not only various types of shells but also the bones of fish such as catfish and mullet, mammals such as deer and raccoon, and reptiles such as alligator. In other words, the shell rings are built from the refuse of daily living and preliminary research shows that this refuse accumulated over a long period of time as opposed to being deposited in a single building event as one would expect if the rings were intentional monuments.

This 3D animation shows how the village would have originally looked before the shell rings had completely formed.

Archaeologist Victor Thompson researched and excavated this site over several years. His research showed that one of the shell rings first began as several pits spaced equally apart filled with shell and other refuse. Over time these trash pits turned into shell heaps and later the areas between these shell heaps were also utilized for dumping shells and other refuse. Thus the circular form of the ring took shape as the residents, over a long period of time, continued dumping their refuse between and on top of the original shell heaps. This process resulted in a less than perfect circle and also gave the ring a decidedly “lumpy” appearance. If this had been built as an intentional monument one would expect the circle to be more symmetrical and the height to be more uniform but they’re not which is exactly what you would expect to see if the rings accumulated over a long period of time.

Party Time at Sapelo

What does seem to be intentional is the central plaza within the shell rings. (View QTVR) Thus, even though the shell rings themselves may  be trash piles, their central plazas were indeed purposefully constructed as a location for ceremonies, feasts, dances, games and other activities of village life. In fact, Thompson noted that the interior of the shell ring was lower than the ground level outside the shell ring. He proposed this could have resulted from the villagers repeatedly cleaning the central plaza area by sweeping and dumping this refuse onto the shell ring. This would have added to the height of the ring while simultaneously lowering the ground level within the ring.

What’s For Dinner?

Timucua men cooking a variety of food items including fish, snakes, and alligator.

By analyzing the bones and shells discarded in the shell ring, Thompson was able to discover not only what the people living at Sapelo ate but also when they ate it. The evidence showed that the villagers ate oysters primarily during the winter months. They ate clams throughout the year but more so in the warmer months. As to be expected, they also ate a lot of fish with two varieties of sea catfish being preferred based on the quantity of remains found. Fish in the drum family were the second most eaten fish including such varieties as  kingfish, silver perch, sea trout, Atlantic croaker and star drum. Interestingly, only one variety of freshwater fish was eaten: the sunfish. The remains of crabs, primarily blue crabs but also Florida stone crabs, were the second most abundant food source discovered in the shell trash heaps.

The Timucua dressed up as deer in order to get close to their prey. Buy this artwork as a poster or get it framed.

These villagers also ate white-tailed deer, opossum, raccoon, turkey, bottle-nosed dolphin, gray squirrel, Atlantic sea turtle and fresh water turtles, little green heron and domesticated dog. Minus the dolphins, dogs, turtles and herons much of the diet of these villagers 4,000 years ago is remarkably similar to those living in the area today. (Continues….)

Kolomoki Mounds (500 AD)

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Kolomoki Mounds are the next great accomplishment of Georgia’s Native Americans.(Watch Video) 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. (View QTVR) 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. (Watch Animation) 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.

The southern half of the summit of Mound A is elevated three feet higher than the northern half. No


View larger map

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. (View QTVR) 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.

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. (Click the image to shop now and help support LostWorlds.org.)

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 lay 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.

Kolomoki Mounds: Burial Mound

Swift Creek Burial Mound at Kolomoki Mounds
This burial mound on the western side of the Kolomoki Mounds complex was filled with burials and Swift Creek pottery.

At the far western end of the site is located a circular, dome shaped burial mound known as Mound E. The mound is about 11 feet high and constructed from soil and rocks with a final capping layer of red clay and rocks. Within it was found the graves of several people along with their grave goods. Some of these grave goods included a copper-covered wooden ornament and a mass of fifty-four complete pottery vessels. One individual was interred with a mass of shell beads and copper ear ornaments with pearls at their centers.

Another mound, Mound B, located at the southeastern end of the central plaza near Mound A, has perplexed archaeologists since its discovery. It seems to have been created solely to hold up very large posts. Some have suggested that these posts were the goal posts of an Indian ball game while others suggested they were possibly totem poles. A more likely explanation, though, comes from written observations during the historic era of Hitchiti Indian practices in this same region. Hitchiti (or lower Creek) towns were divided into “White (peace) Towns” and “Red (war) Towns.” At every public assembly, each town would erect either a white “Peace Post” or red “War Post” at the southeast corner of their central plaza to indicate their present political orientation. Thus, it is likely that Kolomoki’s “mysterious” mound reflects an earlier Woodland version of this same ritual or is a later addition by the Lamar culture.

Astronomical alignments have been noted for several mounds at the Kolomoki site. Mounds A, D, and E which form the central axis of the site form an alignment with the sun at the spring equinox. Mounds F and D form an alignment with the sun at the summer solstice. Other mounds were thought to have been aligned in order to predict the arrival of these solar events.

As was noted previously during the Fort Mountain discussion, pottery manufactured during this time period seems to reflect a detailed knowledge of astronomical events. This pottery, called Weeden Island sacred pottery, includes designs that have been interpreted as being:

  • a solar calendar divided into twelve months including indicators for equinoxes and solstices
  • a star map of the night sky including constellations
  • representations of the paths of Mercury and Venus in the eastern predawn sky
Weeden Island pot thought to be a calendar This Weeden Island pot is thought to have representations of the night sky. This Weeden Island pottery is thought to represent the paths of Venus and Mercury in the night sky.

 

Thus clearly the people who built Kolomoki Mounds were a sophisticated people with knowledge of astronomy.

Who built Kolomoki?

Map of Swift Creek culture area
Map showing the distribution of Swift Creek (purple) and Santa Rosa Swift Creek (orange) culture areas. (Courtesy Herb Roe.)

The primary evidence comes from the two types of pottery that have been found at the site: Swift Creek pottery and Weeden Island pottery. The Swift Creek culture is the older and more wide-spread of the two and it is believed that the Weeden Island culture evolved directly from the Swift Creek. A map of the Swift Creek culture area shows that it was once spread across most of the state of Georgia. The distribution of this culture and its pottery seems to match the distribution of the Hitchiti Native American language family thus it is likely that Hitchiti was the language of the Swift Creek Culture.

One of the few modern-day speakers of this language is the Miccosukee Indian Tribe in south Florida. They were once part of a larger tribe known as the Chiaha who lived in Georgia and Tennessee. As was noted in our previous discussion on Fort Mountain there is mounting evidence that the Chiaha were Maya immigrants from Mexico. According to one Hitchiti migration legend they arrived by boat in the Lake Okeechobee area of Florida before migrating north into Georgia. Archaeologists have found the earliest evidence of corn agriculture in North America in the area around Lake Okeechobee dating to at least 200 AD, the same time period that construction began at Kolomoki. Corn originated in Mexico thus its arrival in Florida suggests Mexican natives brought it there by boat.

This Swift Creek design appears to represent Quetzalcoatl, the Plumed Serpent deity from Mexico.
Swift Creek design that appears to show Quetzalcoatl, the “plumed serpent.” (Courtesy David Smith)

Additionally, linguistic connections between Hitchiti and Mayan also exist. For instance, Chiaha is a Mayan word that means “edge water” or “water’s edge.” This is precisely where most Swift Creek villages were constructed and thus a fitting name for this tribe. The Hitchiti word for “house” is chiki, the same as it is for the Totonacs in Mexico.

In both Mayan and Hitchiti chi means “mouth.” These are just a few examples of the linguistic connections.

But further connections can be found in the Swift Creek pottery itself. It appears that Mesoamerican glyphs are represented in many of the design motifs carved and stamped into the surfaces of these pots. The most famous and widespread mythological symbol in Mexico is that of Quetzalcoatl, the plumed or feathered serpent. Images of this mythological being have been discovered on Swift Creek pottery.

Swift Creek design representing the 2 Cane Glyph from Mexico.
Swift Creek design on left is similar to the “2 Cane” glyph from Mexico. (Courtesy David Smith, Atlanta Antiquity, 2009.)

Also, in pre-Hispanic Mexican mythology the year “2 Cane” is associated with the beginning of time. The glyph for “2 Cane” has been found on Swift Creek pottery. Further research will undoubtedly reveal even more such connections.

Is there any evidence for long-distance ocean travel during this time period? In fact, there is. An ocean-going dugout canoe was discovered at Weedon Island, Florida in 2008. Coincidentally, this is the island which gives the aforementioned Weeden Island pottery its name. The canoe was discovered buried on the shore below the high tide mark. Two features immediately suggested to archaeologists that this canoe was used for long distance travel across the open ocean. [Continues…]

Ocmulgee Mounds (1000 AD)

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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.(View QTVR) 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. (View Image Gallery) 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.

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.

Archaeologists use the term “Mississippian” to refer to these cultural traits. Mississippian does not refer to a single tribe or people and, in fact, many different tribes across the Southeast and Midwest eventually adopted various aspects of Mississippian culture. “Mississippian” culture is similar to the term “Western” culture in that it describes traits which were shared by many different peoples and cultures speaking many different languages. Just as cultures from Asia to South America have become “westernized,” so did cultures all over the eastern U.S. become “Mississippianized.”

Other evidence also suggests a Mexican origin for the Creek Indians. For instance, the type of tobacco grown in the southeast by the Creek Indians has been shown to have its origins in Central America.

Creek Indian Steeh-tcha-ko-me-co by George Catlin
“Steeh-tcha-ko-me-co” by George Catlin, 1834.
Chontal sculpture from Guerrero, Mexico
Chontal sculpture from Guerrero, Mexico.

Also, an artifact from the Chontal culture discovered in the state of Guerrero in west Mexico reveals a similar dress styles as a Creek Indian chief painted by artist George Catlin in 1834 named Steeh-tcha-ko-me-co. The Chontal are also noted for portable stone human effigy statues that were part of a complex funerary practice. Similar stone human effigy statues were used by Mississippian era Creek Indians such as at the next site in our story: Etowah Mounds. Also, a stela from Guerrero featured a bird-man design similar to a design on a copper breastplate found at Etowah.

Additionally, the Muskogean language spoken by the Creek Indians is believed by some linguists to be distantly related to the Hokan family. This language family has its origin in western Mexico and the western U.S. where the Yuman group is still spoken in western Arizona, southern California, and northwestern Mexico.

Interestingly, the Yumans also constructed earth lodges which is another feature of the Ocmulgee site (discussed below). More specifically, the Yumans were known for constructing square earth lodges. Not far from Ocmulgee at a site known as Brown’s Mount, archaeologists unearthed the remains of a square earth lodge that dates to the same time period as the round earth lodges at Ocmulgee. Thus an idea present in the West was also present in the East and believed to have been built by the same people as those who constructed Ocmulgee Mounds.

It is also appears that Brown’s Mount played a part in the Creek migration legend. The legend states:

They always have, on their journeys, two scouts who go before the main body. These scouts ascended a high mountain and saw a town…Then the Cussitaws became angry, and determined to attack the town, and each one have a house when it was captured. They threw stones into the river until they could cross it, and took the town (the people had flattened heads), and killed all but two persons.

Thus it seems from the legend that the scouts climbed Brown’s Mount (which is down river from Ocmulgee Mounds) and planned the assault on the town. This also reveals that the Ocmulgee Mounds site was already inhabited when the Cussitaws showed up and these inhabitants practiced cranial deformation which resulted in “flattened heads.”

Ocmulgee Mounds Bibb Plain Mississippian pottery
The newcomers arrived at Ocmulgee Mounds with a different style of pottery featuring shouldered bowls with smooth, undecorated surfaces similar to that found among the tribes of the desert Southwest.

The archaeological evidence actually supports this part of the migration legend. The original pottery unearthed by archaeologists at the site is known as Swift Creek pottery and is noticeably different than the style (called Bibb plain) brought by the newcomers. Also, early explorer C. C. Jones, Jr. from Savannah visited the Ocmulgee site in the late 1800s when the Central of Georgia Railroad was cutting a trail through the site. They cut through the burial mound and Mr. Jones noted in his book Antiquities of the Southern Indians Especially the Georgia Tribes that a skull from the lowest part of the mound, thus the oldest part, exhibited cranial deformation giving it a flattened appearance while the later burials in the upper part of the mound did not. All of this evidence suggests two completely different people inhabited the Ocmulgee Mounds site, one replaced (or massacred) by the other.

As noted in the previous article on Kolomoki Mounds, Swift Creek pottery appears to be associated with the Hitchiti-speaking tribes. At least one Hitchiti migration legend suggests they migrated north into Georgia after having first arrived by boat in the Lake Okeechobee area of Florida. It is in this area where archaeologists have found the earliest evidence of corn agriculture, a native crop of Mexico, although this was a much smaller variety of corn than that brought later by the newcomers at Ocmulgee Mounds.

Mayan Cranial Deformation
A Maya skull and statue both showing cranial deformation.

Curiously the Hitchiti language has several Mayan words in it and Mesoamerican symbols have been found on Swift Creek pottery. The Maya were also known for head flattening. Thus all of this evidence suggests the Hitchiti (or at least some portion of them) were possibly descended from the Maya.

It is likely that the Hitchiti/Swift Creek built the first stage of the funeral mound since the skeletons with cranial deformation were found there. Did they also build the first stages of the Greater and Lesser temple mounds? According to another version of the Creek Migration Legend, the first structure the newcomers built upon arrival was “a mound [with a] great chamber in the center” where the warriors could gather– a clear reference to an earth lodge. Yet the legend mentions nothing about constructing the temple mounds and, in fact, their descendants would later tell European settlers they did not know who constructed the mounds.

Ocmulgee Mounds

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The main features of the Ocmulgee Mounds’ site plan are two truncated pyramidal earthen mounds, one larger than the other, flanking and defining an open plaza area. This site plan does not match previous known Swift Creek site plans such as at Kolomoki Mounds. The site plan does match other Mississippian site plans west of Ocmulgee Mounds such as that at Cahokia near St. Louis. Thus this evidence favors the newcomers as the builders of the Greater and Lesser Temple Mounds and central plaza as well as the Earth Lodge, as previously mentioned.

Also as previously mentioned, the migration legend tells how the Cussitaws would always have scouts ahead of the main group.  Ocmulgee is located on the Ocmulgee River which flows into the Altamaha River which flows into the Atlantic Ocean just south of Sapelo Island for a distance of 300 miles. It is about a three week journey from Ocmulgee to the coast by dugout canoe. Thus as the main group rested at Ocmulgee the scouts would have reached the Atlantic Ocean and realized that their journey had ended. They could go no further east and had discovered that the sun rose from a great ocean each morning. They would return and tell the others about their discovery. Ocmulgee thus became the logical place for a permanent settlement. It truly is where they finally “sat down.” Continues….