Evidence of Foreign Invasion of Georgia in 1100 AD?

Why was a fortified town built on the lower Chattahoochee River in southwest Georgia around 1100 AD? Known as the Cool Branch Site by archaeologists, it was the first “Mississippian” town in that part of Georgia. The Mississippian culture was a Native American culture that built towns featuring earthen pyramids built around central plazas. These villages were often surrounded by a palisade wall made from upright logs sharpened to a point at the top. Mississippians also produced pottery in different styles and using a different method (shell tempering) than other native groups. They also shared a construction technique of building prefabricated walls which they erected by placing the bottom portion in a pre-dug trench that was then back filled providing stability. Finally, Mississippians also shared religious iconography featuring feathered serpents and eagle men.

Archaeologists have argued for years over how the Mississippian culture developed. One group has held that Mississippian towns have all the traits of being built and inhabited by foreign tribes. Some have even argued that this culture had its ultimate origins in Mexico although not all archaeologists who agree with the “invasion” theory support the Mexican origin theory. These claim the invaders simply came from powerful Mississippian settlements to the west such as Moundville in Alabama or Cahokia in Illinois.

The second theory is that Mississippian culture was the result of natural cultural evolution of local tribes. As these tribes grew in size and faced similar challenges they responded in similar ways resulting in what we call the Mississippian culture.

Cool Branch was not the first Mississippian site in Georgia. That honor goes to the Ocmulgee Mounds site in Macon. (Evidence at this site also suggests it was created by foreign invaders.) But it was the first Mississippian site on the lower Chattahoochee River.

Distribution of Averett, Wakulla and Rood pottery on lower Chattahoochee River. (c) 2002 Used under fair use provisions of copyright law.

Distribution of Averett, Wakulla and Rood pottery on lower Chattahoochee River. (c) 2002 John Blitz & Karl Lorenz. Used under fair use provisions of copyright law.

Pottery Styles Tell the Tale

Researchers John H. Blitz and Karg G. Lorenz wanted to understand how the Mississippian culture emerged in this area of Georgia. Was it through evolution of local tribes or an invasion by a foreign tribe. They decided to test this idea using an ingenious method. First they mapped all the pottery styles along this section of the Chattahoochee River. What resulted was a map showing one type of pottery, known as Averett, dominated in the north around Columbus, Georgia and another type, Wakulla, dominated in the south near the confluence of the Chattahoochee and Flint rivers. Finally the Mississippian type, known as Rood, dominated in between these two types.

Cool Branch Incised pottery style. (c) 2014 Georgia Indian Pottery Site. Used under fair use provisions of copyright law.

Cool Branch Incised pottery style. (c) 2014 Georgia Indian Pottery Site. Used under fair use provisions of copyright law.

Research clearly showed that both Averett and Wakulla had a deep history in the local area. Thus the people who made this pottery were locals who also had a long history there. But the Rood style pottery simply showed up all-of-a-sudden around 1100 AD and was more similar to styles from Moundville, Alabama than to these two local styles. In fact, the researchers showed there was almost no overlap between these pottery styles– Rood style only showed up in Mississippian villages and Averett/Wakulla only showed up in their respective villages. Whoever these three groups were they didn’t appear to have much interactions with one another. Thus the researchers proposed that the Mississippians settled in an uninhabited buffer zone between two local tribes. The fact that there was no local culture in this uninhabited area which could evolve into Mississippian strongly supported the argument that the Mississippians were invaders.

Fortifications and Frontiers

Plan view of the Cool Branch site (9QU5). (c) 2002 John Blitz & Karl Lorenz. Used under Fair Use provisions of copyright law.

Plan view of the Cool Branch site (9QU5). (c) 2002 John Blitz & Karl Lorenz. Used under Fair Use provisions of copyright law.

The Cool Branch site was surrounded by “an 850 meter long palisade wall with tower bastions spaced 35 meters apart.” <p.126> None of the Averett or Wakulla sites featured palisade walls. Thus whoever built the Cool Branch site felt it was worth the effort to cut trees and build a massive wall around the site. When the first Europeans landed in America, their initial settlements always included forts surrounded by walls. As these settlements grew and expanded into the frontiers this pattern would be repeated as walled forts were built first followed by settlements. The Mississippian culture followed this exact pattern along the Chattahoochee. The Cool Branch site appears to be the first fortified settlement which was then followed by more settlements. As the researchers concluded, “palisade construction was employed as a strategic technology to acquire and hold new territories on the Mississippian frontier.” <p.127> This settlement pattern further supports that the Mississippians were invaders.

Aftermath of Invasion?

Averett (top), Rood (middle), and Wakulla (bottom) pottery. (c) 2002 Used under fair use provisions of copyright law.

Averett (top), Rood (middle), and Wakulla (bottom) pottery. (c) 2002 Used under fair use provisions of copyright law.

What were the results of this invasion? Since no Averett-style pottery was found in Mississippian sites and very little Rood-style pottery was found in Averett sites it seems clear these two groups had very little contact with one another. Averett sites do contain pottery styles from cultures just north of them thus they likely formed alliances with these tribes as a result of this Mississippian invasion. But by 1300 AD, two hundred years after this Mississippian invasion, Averett styles disappeared from the archaeological record.

The Wakulla culture had a completely different response to this invasion. These cultures began to reorganize themselves in the Mississippian manner. They began building villages with earthen pyramids like those of their new Mississippian neighbors.

The Mississippians themselves expanded and built numerous other settlements throughout their new colony. Sites such as Rood’s Landing and Singer-Moye would feature massive earthen pyramids and become some of the largest Mississippian settlements in Georgia attesting to the power of these invaders.

Model of Rood's Creek Indian Mounds in Kirby Interpretative Center.

Model of Rood’s Creek Indian Mounds in Kirby Interpretative Center. (c) 2004 LostWorlds.org

Causes of Invasion

Mound centers in the lower Chattahoochee- Apalachicola River Valley between 1100-1250 AD. (c) 2002 Used under fair use provisions of copyright law.

Mound centers in the lower Chattahoochee- Apalachicola River Valley between 1100-1250 AD. (c) 2002 Used under fair use provisions of copyright law.

But what was the cause of this invasion in the first place? The fact that Averett villages to the north of Cool Branch appeared to have little interactions with the Mississippians and the Wakulla who were south between Cool Branch and the Gulf Coast had significant interactions suggests a possible motive for this Mississippian invasion: trade. Seashells and salt were important trade items throughout most of North American history. The Chattahoochee River was an important trade thoroughfare for the transportation of shells and salt from the Gulf Coast to the mountains of north Georgia. Perhaps conflicts between the Wakulla and Averett cultures (as exemplified by the extensive buffer zone between the two cultures) had led to a breakdown in north-south trade. Perhaps each group was imposing their own tolls on trade canoes passing through their respective regions thereby driving up the cost of shells and salt. Perhaps they were manipulating the exchange rate between coastal products and mountain products demanding more stone axe heads for fewer baskets of shell or salt. Or perhaps the Mississippians simply wanted to monopolize this important trade and corner the market on seashells and salt.

It doesn’t take much imagination to imagine what would happen if America’s oil providers in the Middle East stopped shipping oil to us or raised the price to something unacceptable. The U.S. government would undoubtedly respond by sending military force. In fact, our fortified military bases in the region were built to maintain the free flow of trade (i.e., oil). Thus it is likely the Mississippian invasion of the lower Chattahoochee was in response to trade issues as well and the fact that the focus of their interactions appear to be on the Wakulla to the south and not the Averett to the north suggests it was coastal trade products such as shells and salt that were their focus.

Survival

Unlike the Averett culture to the north, the Wakulla culture would survive as a Mississippianized hybrid known as Fort Walton culture. They not only successfully adapted to the arrival of these outsiders but, in fact, outlived these invaders. After 1400 AD Fort Walton style pottery continued in popularity but the invaders’ own Rood style pottery disappeared. Apparently the Fort Walton culture began an alliance with a Mississippian culture to the east known as the Lamar culture centered at Macon, Georgia. This is revealed by the appearance of Lamar style pottery at the time of the disappearance of Rood style pottery.

Thus after 250 years the Mississippian invaders were pushed out and the Wakulla-derived Fort Walton culture would once again control their homeland.

Source: “The Early Mississippian Frontier in the Lower Chattahoochee-Apalachicola River Valley” by John H. Blitz and Karl G. Lorenz in Southeastern Archaeology, Winter 2002.

Cahokia-Moundville-Etowah Artifacts Unearthed at Mayan site in Mexico

Over the past year there has been much debate about the possible presence of Maya in America, specifically in Georgia. Certain academics were quite vocal in their opposition to this idea stating emphatically that there was “no evidence” of a Maya presence in Georgia. So imagine my surprise when I stumbled upon this article from the magazine Archaeology dated to 2010. It clearly states that pottery from the Etowah site in Georgia had been found at the Mayan site of Tamtoc in Mexico. So why all the denials by academics over the past year that there is “no evidence” of a Mayan presence in Georgia? Were they unaware of this major research article in Archaeology magazine? Unlikely.

Furthermore, are we to believe that the inhabitants of Etowah went south but no Maya came north? The article below suggests just this sort of sillyness. The mental gymnastics academics will go through to avoid having the Maya in America is astounding as if there was some type of force field on the Rio Grande River that prevented people a thousand years ago from crossing it. But if this was a trade relationship then the influence likely went back and forth not just in one direction. Read an excerpt below from the Archaeology article to learn about the evidence of artifacts from Etowah (as well as Cahokia and Moundville) at the Mayan site of Tamtoc in northeastern Mexico:

This view looks eastward from the top of one of the long mounds above Tamtoc’s ceremonial plaza. The large ritual mound Cerro del Cubilete is on the left. (Courtesy Tom Gidwitz)

Tamtoc

by Tom Gidwitz

These projectile points, unearthed at Tamtoc, share a style common to points from the Mississippian culture that was prominent in what is now the Southeastern, Eastern and Midwest United States. (Courtesy Patricio Davila and Diana Zaragoza)

For decades, archaeologists have theorized that North America’s Late Woodland and Mississippian cultures drew inspiration from the Huasteca, but Davila and Zaragoza’s excavations at Tamtoc in the 1990s convinced them that cultural influence, and perhaps actual migration, spread from north to south. They unearthed objects that seemed to come from the American Southeast in about A.D. 900—a fragment of a sheet of hammered copper, a pointed metal hand tool, a piece of engraved shell, a cache of a dozen whole and twenty fragmented Cahokia projectile points, and pottery that could have come from sites to the north such as Etowah, and Moundville. When they dug into a terrace beside the site’s western mound, they found that, like the mounds at Cahokia, it had been piled up layer-by-layer in basket-sized loads, with dirt from pits that became the lagoons around the site.

“We dug and dug and dug,” says Davila, “but I understood nothing.” Then he read Garcilaso de la Vega’s La Florida del Inca, an account of the 1539 Hernando de Soto expedition to the Southeast. It describes huge Indian trade and war canoes that plied the waters of the Gulf of Mexico and the rivers of the Southeast. “We think there was a migration by sea,” says Davila.

Scholars have long recognized that both the Southeast and Huasteca had towns with artificial lagoons and platform mounds with thatched structures on top, engraved shell jewelry, imagery of feathered dancers, stone pipes, and ghostly pots that represent the dead with closed eyes, open mouths, and filed teeth. They have theorized that the cultural influence flowed from Mesoamerica northward, but the Tamtoc artifacts, other mounds in the Huasteca, and the region’s incised shell gorgets, post-date their earliest North American counterparts.

University of South Florida archaeologist Nancy White says that major cultural influences, as well as people, may well have traveled north to south. “We know other things may have moved from North to South America, things that may be considered less important or equally important, like tobacco.” The Mississippian motifs of the Late Prehistoric period that appear in the Huasteca do indicate that “at this late time people were probably moving around and sharing these ideas, but just a few things.” In the field, Martínez and Córdova want to see for themselves.

Read the full article here: http://www.huasteca.tomgidwitz.com/html/tamtoc.html

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>.

Ancient Chihuahuas in Southeastern U.S.?

 


Do three dog effigy pots excavated in Georgia in the 1930s at the Bull Creek Site and one from the Neisler Mound site represent the Chihuahua breed, a native dog of Mexico? Is the tribe most likely associated with these pots the Kasihta/Cussetta Creek Indians whose migration legends strongly suggest an origin in west Mexico, likely the state of Colima which is also known for similar dog effigy pots? 

Did the Kasihta raise Chihuahuas for food which they fattened up for this purpose as depicted by the pots and as recorded by early Spanish eye-witness accounts? Finally, does this evidence overturn all the conjecture and theories of possible Old World influence on the origin of the Chihuahua and prove that it is purely a New World dog that dates back at least to 100 AD in Mexico?

In 1937 archaeologists unearthed three dog effigy pots from the Bull Creek site in Muscogee County, Georgia.  The final report on the site only devoted a few paragraphs to the discussion of these pots. The first discussion stated:

“Bottles from the Bull Creek site consist entirely of mortuary vessels…This category includes three bottles commonly known as the Bull Creek cemetery dog pots. Figure 156 shows the three vessels and three examples of similar vessels from other sites in the region. The three vessels from Bull Creek and the one vessel from Neisler Mound are considered the only known examples of this one type of negative painted dog effigy vessel.”1

The dog pots were next discussed in the pottery types section of the report:

“The dog pots from Bull Creek included two varieties of painting. The two vessels from Burials 3 and 7 exhibited red spiral designs on a buff background. The third exhibited a black pattern on a reddish background. A third vessel is most similar to a dog pot recovered from Neisler Mound (see Figure 156).

In 1979 the Bull Creek negative painted pottery was given the type name Nashville Negative Painted variety Columbus and was considered a local copy of similar vessels from the northwest (Williams 1979). More recently Scarry gave the Bull Creek pots a new type status as Columbus Negative Painted variety Columbus (Scarry 1985:213).

Schnell has noted on several occasions that only four examples of the Bull Creek varieties of negative painted dog pots are known to exist (Schnell 1990:69). This conclusion has been reaffirmed through communications of both Schnell and the senior author with individuals knowledgeable of the antiquities market in the region. The recovery of three-fourths of the known examples of this vessel form from a single site, Bull Creek, does represent a unique occurrence.”2

(Continues…)

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…)

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.

More early dwellings at Ocmulgee monument site, archaeologist finds

greater and lesser temple mounds at Ocmulgee Mounds

View of the Greater and Lesser Temple Mounds at Ocmulgee Mounds in Macon, GA.

An ancient civilization of mound builders who lived near the Ocmulgee River just northeast of what is now downtown Macon may have been home to more native people than originally thought.
Though the research, much of it done with a ground-scanning instrument to roughly map underground shapes and forms, is still under way, early analysis seems to indicate more unearthed dwellings at the site than were previously known to have existed.

Dan Bigman, an archaeologist and doctoral candidate at the University of Georgia, has charted 25 or so acres of the Ocmulgee National Monument grounds since the summer.
Passing back and forth across grid sections while holding a 5-foot-wide sensor, Bigman and his assistants have made underground scans without disturbing the surface.
“It seems like we are seeing (evidence of) a lot more structures … than I expected,” Bigman said Monday. “I was pretty blown away.”
He plans to wrap up his survey later this week with hopes of returning later with other ground-scanning equipment to further verify and, perhaps, enhance the imaging data he has already gathered.
He said a major excavation of the site in the 1930s examined just 17 percent of the property. Bigman’s scans have covered much more area of what is considered one of the largest native Mississippian-period settlements in the eastern U.S. The Macon mounds date back about 1,000 years.
Bigman, 31, set out to pinpoint where exactly the mounds-era inhabitants lived and how their dwellings were situated in relation to one another.
“You can map, in some cases, the cultural remains that are underneath the ground,” Bigman said as he took a break from charting a grassy stretch of Drakes Field, a rarely visited patch on the western edge of the grounds, about half a mile from the Macon Coliseum. “The things that we’re seeing mostly are house structures, house walls.”
The scanning device he uses can also detect long-buried fire pits or hearths, other signs of early dwellings. Once it is determined how densely populated spots are, Bigman said, “You can start looking at questions like what was the social structure, how was the community organized?”
Bigman said the area has “a very complicated occupational history,” which includes Creek occupation in the late 1600s, but he is more interested in the Mississippian culture seven or so centuries earlier.
“Was it continuous occupation or was there space between communities?” Bigman wonders. “How did people identify themselves? Were they part of a larger town or did they have sort of like neighborhoods they were affiliated with?”
His geophysical survey is something of an EKG of the underground. He can plot contour maps or gray-scale images of specks of post holes or rotted wood, pockets in the earth where water accumulates. Because organic material holds water well, Bigman’s ground scanner, which seeks out areas of electrical conductivity, can paint a sketchy picture of possible dwelling foundations, buildings’ footprints still detectable down the ages.
“From the excavations done in the ’30s, we know that they were square (dwellings), we know they were rectangular and we know the range of the sizes that they were. So you can go back and say, ‘Look, here’s a square that’s within the range,’ ” he said of deciphering what the data suggests to help in determining the distribution of people and how large their communities were.
“We just know so little about the site,” Bigman said, “and some of the basic things that you need to answer archaeological questions about communities or about political systems or about how people lived or organized themselves spatially or socially or economically. Where did they live and how did that change over time? Did the site expand over time? Did it contract over time?”
Such questions can be answered or best-guessed, he said, “If we know where they lived.”
“But until I work out the chronology, it’s going to be difficult to say. I can say where the people were, but the question is when,” Bigman said.
The Creeks, who lived there 400 or so years ago, had houses that “were pretty square, too,” he said, so it might be hard to tell which period the underground readings denote.
“The hope,” he said, “is to squeeze data out of here without destroying any more of the ground.”
Read more: http://www.macon.com/2010/12/07/1367701/more-early-dwellings-at-ocmulgee.html

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…]