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.


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.

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?


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.


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>.

Mayan Glyphs on Georgia, Florida Pottery?

Distribution of Swift Creek sites in Southeastern U.S.

The arrival of corn at the Fort Center and Ortona sites in the Lake Okeechobee area of Florida by 200 AD coincides with a pottery tradition known as Swift Creek. In fact, this pottery tradition appears in the same places where the Hitchiti language was spoken thus the two are likely related. As noted in my article “Mayan Words Among Georgia’s Indians?” the Hitchiti language has several words of Mayan origin.

Researchers noted in A World Engraved: Archaeology of the Swift Creek Culture that many of the symbols found on Swift Creek pottery are similar to designs from Mexico. Although this similarity has been dismissed by mainstream scholars as coincidental26, in light of all the linguistic evidence it seems more likely that it is far from coincidental.

For instance, a plumed serpent-like figure has been found on a Swift Creek pot that is similar to feathered or plumed serpent designs from Mexico27. Due to its duck bill-like face it has been conjectured that it represents the wind aspect of the plumed serpent known by the Aztecs as Ehecatl-Quetzalcoatl. As noted by Susan Milbrath, “in the Codex Borgia, Ehecatl-Quetzalcoat is the patron of the day Wind, the counterpart of [the Mayan] Ik.”28 The plumed serpent in Mexico is also associated with Venus.

Swift Creek “Coiled, crested serpent”

Olmec plumed serpent

Other Swift Creek designs known as “long-nose mask design,” and “unidentified creature” are similar to various versions of the Mayan ek glyph which means “star” or “Venus.”

Swift Creek “Long-nose Mask” Swift Creek “Unidentified creature”
Mayan EK glyph for “star” Mayan EK glyph for “star”

Although we do not know the meaning of the symbols on the Swift Creek pots we can deduce that they also have a relationship to stars since both designs feature two iterations of a symbol which consists of concentric circles with a central dot that has been shown to represent stars on petroglyphs in Georgia.30 The fact that this Swift Creek design features two such star symbols may represent Venus as the Morning and Evening star.

Another Swift Creek design known as “mask like design with unusual mouth element” appears to contain two other versions of the Mayan ek glyph both within a cartouche. The fact that the Swift Creek potters placed both symbols in a cartouche shows they believed these two symbols conveyed closely related or identical concepts. In Mayan, both of these symbols, the diamond and cross, are closely associated and used both separately and sometimes together to represent the Mayan word ek, “star/Venus.”

Swift Creek diamond-cross design

Mayan EK “star/Venus” glyph

features both a cross and diamond

Mayan EK glyph

featuring diamond design

Mayan Venus/EK glyph

featuring rounded-cross design

Interestingly, these designs predate the Maya. The earliest examples show up on Olmec pottery.31 When contained within a cartouche they stand for the day sign Lamat32 on the Mayan calendar and often associated with Venus, the morning and evening star.

Olmec pottery sherd with diamond version of EK “star” glyph as well as flint “eye”

On the same Olmec pottery sherd can be found another glyph that looks like an eye and represents flint. The same symbol can be found on numerous Swift Creek pots. Throughout Mesoamerica flint was often portrayed with an eye or face.

Mesoamerican flint glyphs with various eye motifs
Swift Creek flint/eye

Flint in Mesoamerican cultures is associated with the sun. Coincidentally, the Spanish friar Juan de Cordova recorded a very interesting Mayan story that relates flint with sunlight and an all-seeing eye:

On the day we call Tecpatl ( Flint ) a great light came from the northeastern sky. It glowed for four days in the sky, then lowered itself to that rock (the rock can still be seen at Tenochtitlan de Valle in Oaxaca ). From the light there came a great, a very powerful being who stood on the very top of the rock and glowed like the sun in the sky.

There he stood for all to see, shining day and night. Then he spoke, his voice was like thunder, booming across the valley.

Our old men and women, the astronomers and astrologists, could understand him and he could understand them.

He (the Solar Beam) told us how to pray and fixed for us days of fast and feasting. He then balanced the “Book of days,” (Sacred Calendar) and left, vowing that he would always watch down on us, his beloved people.33

Thus the Swift Creek flint-eye is consistent with Mesoamerican beliefs. It should also be noted that Venus was also seen as a big eye in the sky. As Malbrath notes, “the double-headed serpent on Lintel 25 [at Yax-chilan] intertwines with a volute bearing a heavy-lidded eye framed by five radiating elements, a form of Venus symbol that may refer to Venus as the ‘big eye.’”34 

The Mayan glyph for “sun” is known as kin. It looks like a flower with four petals sometimes with a dot in the center of each petal. Swift Creek pots appear to also represent this glyph.

Swift Creek  ‘four-petal-w/-dots’ designs Mayan ‘four-petal-with-dots’ kin glyph Mayan ‘four-petal’ kin “sun” glyph

The design also includes the quincunx, five dot, design which in Mayan has the phonetic value bi or be.35 Among the Maya it represented the five directions: north, south, east, west and center. Interestingly, the Hitchiti word bih means “head-chief” and the head chief was known as the Great Sun. Early eyewitness accounts of the Natchez, noted that each morning the Great Sun would smoke a pipe and blow the smoke towards the sun (center) and then to the four directions.36 Thus we see that among the Hitchiti-speakers, like the Maya, bih is associated with both the sun and five directions.

As Milbrath notes, “the Mayan quincunx glyph (T585a) may represent a variant of the central Mexican Venus sign. It has considerable antiquity, having been found on an Olmec scorpion sculpture (Monument 43) from San Lorenzo dated before 900 B.C.”37 and also had an association with Venus among the Maya. Interestingly, if the Swift Creek design is rotated 180 degrees it has a strong similarity to the Mayan/Aztec god Chac/Tlaloc who also is associated with Venus. (This will be discussed later.)

Another Swift Creek design known as “buzzard’s head” looks remarkably similar to the Mayan cimi glyph which is another calendar day sign and is associated with “death” and “reincarnation.” In fact, it is the thirteenth and final sign of the thirteen day period in the Maya Tzolkin calendar when the Trecena begins with jaguar.

Swift Creek “buzzard’s head” design Mayan Cimi glyph for “death” & “transformation”

The one difference is the Swift Creek design appears reversed from the Mayan design. This could be the result of the “stamping” process used to create the image. The Swift Creek designs were first carved into a wooden paddle and then pressed or stamped into the side of the pot while still wet. This process results in a reversed image thus the image carved on the paddle would have appeared similarly to the cimi glyph above.

Another Swift Creek design known as “unidentified creature” has been noted for its Olmec-style appearance38. It is very similar in design to the Olmec jaguar deity.

Swift Creek Olmec-style “creature” Olmec jaguar deity Mayan Ik’ glyph for “wind/breath/spirit”

The face of the Swift Creek jaguar appears to also contain the Mayan T-shaped ik’ glyph for “wind/breath/life.” To the Maya, the Jaguar’s spotted skin represented the stars of the Milky Way galaxy. The Maya also used a jaguar glyph with a quincunx symbol on its head to represent the planet Venus. (See chart below.) Thus this appears to be another possible representation of Venus on Swift Creek pottery. Jaguar is also one of the thirteen day signs of the Trecena and as just noted when the Trecena begins with jaguar it ends with cimi (death/transformation.) Thus the ik’ “breath/spirit” association with jaguar is an appropriate way to begin a cycle that ends with cimi “death/transformation.”

Mayan Venus glyphs. Notice the jaguar glyph in the center of second row.

Another jaguar design appears on another Swift Creek pot but when turned upside down turns into the head of a rattlesnake. It also includes a flint knife in the center of the design:

 Swift Creek “Jaguar” design w/ cleft head & flint knife nose When rotated looks like a rattlesnake head
Mesoamerican Tlaloc with snake eyes  Proto-Mayan flint knife

Interestingly, this combination of a snake, jaguar with cleft head, and flint knife is consistent with Mesoamerican mythology. For instance, Matthew Stirling notes in his article “Early history of the Olmec problem,”

a “jaguar god who was…the forerunner of the important Aztec god Tezcatlipoca, [was] conceived of in one phase as a jaguar. ‘Thunderbolts’ or stone axes,‘rained from heaven,’ were attributed to his activities. Saville speculated that the cleft in the forehead characteristic of these jaguar axes was caused by the blow on the head received during his struggle with Quetzalcóatl, at which time he was transformed into a jaguar. One thing Saville did not mention is that the fetish or distinguishing mark of Tezcatlipoca is the flint knife, a feature shown on many of the were-jaguar votive axes.”39

The Swift Creek jaguar design includes a cleft-head and a flint knife nose and when rotated appears to be a rattlesnake head. Thus the Swift Creek design could have represented the struggle between Quetzalcoatl, the feathered rattlesnake, and Tezcatlipoca, represented as a jaguar.

A Swift Creek design mentioned earlier, when turned upside-down, also appears to be a representation of Tlaloc:

Swift Creek  ‘four-petal-w/-dots’ designs Same design rotated looks like Tlaloc Tlaloc w/ curved fangs and circled dots on cheeks

Tlaloc was also a god of rain and thus fertility. Interestingly, the figure at left has the appearance of flowering plants but when rotated takes the appearance of Tlaloc which is consistent with these Mesoamerican associations.

?It should also be noted that Tlaloc is often represented in Mesoamerica wearing a headdress with circumpuncts in its headband. As noted previously, the circumpunct was likely a star symbol among the Hitchiti. The fact that Tlaloc had strong associations with Venus and wore a “crown” of circumpuncts suggests that the circumpunct was also a star symbol in Mesoamerica as well. (Interestingly, there are five circumpuncts in the headband at left. In Mesoamerica Venus was strongly associated with the numeral five which Milbrath refers to as the “fiveness of Venus” which she argued symbolized the “Venus Almanac of five Venus cycles correlating with eight solar years.”40 This further supports the argument that the circumpunct was a star symbol in Mesoamerica.)

The preceding myth about the battle between Quetzalcoatl and Tezcatlipoca includes symbolism which is suggestive of a meteor storm. For instance, stone axes raining from heaven could represent meteorites which fell to earth. Tlaloc has other associations which are consistent with this interpretation. For instance, he is said to fall from the sky and bury himself in the earth.

Among Native Americans, jaguars/panthers were also associated with meteors and shooting stars. For instance, the Shawnee leader Tecumseh’s name means “Shooting Star” or “Panther Across the Sky” and he received this name because of an especially bright and long-lasting greenish-white meteor that shot across the sky at his birth:41

As Pucksinwah stared at the sky on this night, he saw a huge meteor streak across from the north, leaving a trail of greenish-white flame. It lasted for fully 20 seconds and was unlike anything he had ever seen before. This was the Panther spirit that the old men sometimes spoke of, and a good sign indeed. As the women around the fire talked excitedly and pointed to the heavens, a baby’s cry came from the shelter. Usually a child was not named for several days while the parents waited for a sign to indicate what the great spirit Moneto wished the child to be called, but this child must surely be named Tecumseh, “The Panther Passing Across”

Shooting stars were viewed by many cultures, including Mesoamerican cultures, as the souls of the dead departing and/or returning to Earth.

Another Swift Creek design is similar in design to the xochitl “flower” glyph from Mexico:

Swift Creek  design w/ ying-yang element One version of xochitl “flower” glyph w/ yin-yang knot Another xochitl glyph

The xochitl flower glyph was the last day sign in the Aztec calendar and represented both the flowering of life and the disappearance from existence42. As noted above, the Mayan glyph for sun, kin, also was flower-shaped and likely represented similar concepts.

Another Swift Creek design is similar to another flower glyph from Mexico, the water lily glyph. This glyph was used to represent the number 13 which was a very important number among the Maya used to represent the concept of completion.43 The Maya included this glyph as a headdress on their Chac Serpent deity. (Chac was the Maya version of Tlaloc.) Thus we see the concepts of flowers, fertility, Tlaloc/Chac, stars/Venus, and completion are closely associated in Mesoamerica.

“Chac serpent with waterlily headdress of Classic numeral thirteen head variant” Swift Creek design similar to waterlily headdress

The water lily also seems closely associated with stars. “The Lamat glyph sometimes represents a half star with a stylized water lily (Imix), resembling a variant of the star glyph known as T510e.”44

The water lily serpent is also associated with IK45, which in Mayan is associated with “wind, breath, life, spirit.”46 As noted by Milbrath, “in the Codex Borgia, Ehecatl-Quetzalcoat is the patron of the day Wind, the counterpart of Ik. This suggests that God H, the Water-Lily Serpent and Ehecatl-Quetzalcoatl are all related by an association with Venus and the wind.”47

Flowers were also associated with stars in the secret language of the Itza Maya priesthood known as the language of Zuyva. For instance, in the sacred book Chilam Balam of Chumayel, a section called “A Chapter of Questions and Answers” includes question #8 which is “large flower (of the night)” with the answer “star (in the sky).”48 (This secret language is believed to be related to Mixe-Zoque which happens to be the language of the Olmecs. Were the Itza priests actually Olmec?)49

Flint represented not only the sun and all-seeing-eye but also duality. The flint blade could bring life (via surgery or food preparation) or death (via the warriors knife.)50 Likewise the Cimi glyph was another calendar day sign with a meaning associated with death and reincarnation.

Interestingly, the Hitchiti word for “star” was owachiki which translates literally as “soul house.” Thus we see a clear connection between stars and the concept of death and reincarnation in both cultures.

In fact, the Swift Creek xochitl (“flower”) and ek (“star”) designs look strikingly like a female womb with fallopian tubes giving birth to a shining star! Indigenous cultures throughout Latin America refer to a woman’s vagina as her “flower” because many flowers, especially orchids, greatly resemble a woman’s sex organs. Thus the symbolism between flower and rebirth is clear. A woman’s womb, as the center of creation of new life, becomes an earthly “soul house” at birth in the same way that a star becomes a celestial “soul house” at death. Or put another way, the dead are reborn as stars.

Swift Creek “xochitl” Swift Creek “ek”
Diagram of a woman’s reproductive organs showing similarity between Swift Creek “xochitl” and “ek” designs.

Considering the fact that most scholars believe the potters in Swift Creek culture were women, it seems highly appropriate that they chose to represent the story of life, death, and afterlife with the female anatomy.

Curiously Venus has a worldwide association with female sexuality:

“The planet was worshipped by all peoples and cultures of antiquity as the divinity of fertility, the goddess of war, beauty, and love. In its role as the goddess of war and fertility it is associated with the Morning star. In its role as the divinity of sexual love it is associated with the Evening star…In the West the planet Venus has always been linked to the female sex, women, in biology, botany, medicine, and other natural sciences.”51

It should also be noted that in Mesoamerican beliefs, Venus/Tlaloc/Jaguar were all associated with rain52 and thus fertility. The Maya goddess Ix Chel, depicted as an aged woman with jaguar ears, was a goddess of fertility and medicine. Ix Chel was one of the most revered gods among the Chontal Maya, also known as the Poton Maya. They were master seafarers and the most likely candidates who could have reached Florida and Georgia during this time period. (This will be further discussed in the conclusion.) Thus it is possible that these glyphs represent aspects of an Ix Chel fertility cult in the Southeast.

The association between Tlaloc/Chac, flint, fertility and rebirth can also be found in the Hero Twin myths. “In both Mesoamerican and some North American versions, ‘the second-born twin, representing the personified placenta or umbilical cord, sometimes has a flint association.’ Sometimes in Mesoamerica, the second-born hero twin is depicted as a flint or chipped-stone knife. In Post-Classic central Mexico, this human knife is shown as having anthropomorphic characteristics, including eyes and teeth. According to art historians Mary Miller and Karle Taube, ‘Chac and Tlaloc, respectively the Maya and Central Mexican hurlers of thunderbolts, were thus the creators of these valued materials.’”53

Interestingly, all of these glyphs have something in common: they all are related to astronomy, the sun, stars, life, death, and rebirth. In addition, many of these Swift Creek designs contain prominent concentric circles with a central dot. This symbol is used by cultures worldwide as a symbol for the sun and stars. It is known that Native Americans used this symbol for the sun as well.54

The fact that so many of these Swift Creek symbols are similar in design to Mesoamerican symbols whose meanings are constrained within a small range of possibilities is strong proof that they are likely Mesoamerican in origin. If the designs were based on random chance, you would expect to see designs more randomly distributed across the entire corpus of Mayan glyphs. The fact that these symbols show clustering around such a narrow range meanings provides strong evidence that something more than chance is responsible for the similarities.


As mentioned earlier, the Swift Creek pottery tradition began around the same time that corn agriculture first showed up in the Lake Okeechobee area of Florida. The Swift Creek pottery tradition also occurs in the same area where the Hitchiti tribe is known to have lived. It is also the Hitchiti language which features apparent loan words from Mayan. The Hitchiti migration legend appears to place them in the Lake Okeechobee area after having arrived on the Florida coast from a “place of reeds”:

“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”.55

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.

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, according to Mayan scholar Linda Schele in her book The Code of Kings, the Maya referred to the great Mesoamerican metropolis of Teotihuacan as Puh which means “reeds.”53 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 permanency.” 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?

According to J. Eric Thompson in his book Maya History and Religion the Itza were a branch of the Poton Maya.57 He noted the Poton, who also called themselves the Yokot’an, lived in a province named Acala.

Interestingly, the first Spanish to visit Florida noted that a tribe named the Mayaimi lived around Lake Okeechobee. Other Spanish explorers with the Hernando de Soto expedition noted they visited a town in this area named Uqueten which was the southernmost village of a province named Ocale58, namesake of modern-day Ocala, Florida. They also noted that after leaving a town named Ocale they visited one named Potano59. Since Native American towns were named after the people who lived there it’s safe to assume people named Uqueten and Potano lived in a province named Ocale in Florida just like the Poton/Yokot’an Maya lived in a province named Acala in Mexico.

"Mirror Bearer" Maya / Olmec wood sculpture
This rare Maya wooden sculpture dates from 500 AD and possibly represents an Olmec priest or trader. (“Mirror-Bearer,” Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection)

As previously noted the Poton Maya were master seafarers, often referred to as the Chontal Maya, and the most likely candidate to have made the voyage to south central Florida around 200 A.D. Based on a magnificent wooden sculpture known as the “Putun Maya Lord”60 which dates to around 500 A.D. we know they were expert wood carvers. Researchers have noted that the intricate Swift Creek designs carved into wooden paddles show they were also expert wood carvers.61

Also as previously noted, one of the primary deities worshipped by the Poton Maya was Ix Chel, a goddess of fertility and medicine. Their other primary deity was Kukulkan, the plumed serpent. Thus if Poton Maya traders had significant contacts with an area one would expect to find representations of these two deities. As discussed earlier, both a plumed serpent and fertility symbols have been found among Swift Creek pottery designs.

"Mirror Bearer" 500 AD Maya / Olmec wooden statue

The Poton Maya (Chontal Maya) also claim to be descendants of the Olmec,62 the mother culture of Mesoamerica. The aforementioned “Poton Maya Lord” wooden statue has definite Olmec features. This may also explain the appearance of the Olmec-style jaguar glyph among Swift Creek designs.

The preponderance of the evidence seems to indicate that the Itza Maya were the ancestors of the Hitchiti tribe. They arrived in Florida around 200 AD as indicated by the arrival of corn in Florida, Mayan words in the Hitchiti language and Mayan glyphs on Swift Creek pottery. Massive earthen pyramids were also constructed at this time such as the Crystal River Mounds and Letchworth Mounds in Florida and Kolomoki Mounds in Georgia which is where much of this Swift Creek pottery has been found. The discovery of one of the largest sources of the mineral attapulgite just a few miles from these sites provides one possible reason for the Maya presence in the area. Attapulgite was used by the Maya to create the pigment Maya Blue which was very important to their culture. They were also likely mining gold in the north Georgia mountains. It seems highly unlikely that all these correlations are coincidental.

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

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

Did Maya mine blue pigment from Georgia?

One of the many mysteries involving the ancient Maya is the origin of a blue pigment they used to paint murals and buildings. Archaeologists have searched far and wide for the source of this pigment. It now appears that the largest source of the clay that makes this pigment can be found in southwest Georgia. This is the same location of the Kolomoki Mounds site which I’ve argued had a strong Mayan influence. This was the most populous site north of Mexico during its time period and it collapsed at the same time as Teotihuacan in Mexico. Archaeologists have long wondered why such a populous site was located in such an isolated location. With the discovery of the nearby source of Maya blue pigment, this mystery may now have been solved. Read the news below:

In a moment of boredom this week, a documentary film maker, whose passion is the archaeology of the Americas, probably solved a riddle that has eluded architects and archaeologists for centuries.   Where did the Mayas mine their “Maya Blue” pigment?

Studying the mica deposits in Georgia somehow led to the subject of Georgia clays. Clay is one of that state’s most important exports. Georgia clays are characterized by a wide variety of colors and chemical characteristics.  Somewhere along the Wikipedia trail, Haskell stumbled onto a clay with the odd name of attapulgite, also known as palygorskite.  He continued reading the article:

The name attapulgite is derived from the U.S. town of Attapulgus, Georgia, in the extreme southwest corner of the state, where the mineral is abundant. It is known to have been a key constituent of the pigment called “Maya Blue”, which was used notably by the pre-Columbian Maya civilization of Mesoamerica on ceramics, sculptures, murals and (most probably) Maya textiles. The clay mineral was also used by the Maya as a curative for certain illnesses, and there is evidence to show it was also added to pottery temper.“

Continue reading on Examiner.com http://www.examiner.com/architecture-design-in-national/did-the-mayas-famous-blue-pigment-come-from-georgia

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


Mayan Words Among Georgia’s Indians?

Mayan Words in Hitchiti-Creek Language Suggest Ancient Connection

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

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

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

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

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

El Castillo pyramid at Chichen Itza

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mayan k’in glyph with quincunx design

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Were the Maya Mining Gold in Georgia?

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

Maya in Florida and Georgia?

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

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

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

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

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

Teotihuacan Pyramid of the Moon Courtesy Wikipedia

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

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

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

Mayan Words and Glyphs Among the Hitchiti?

El Castillo at Chichen Itza (Courtesy Wikipedia)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Swift Creek design suggestive of the Olmec Jaguar Olmec Jaguar design

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

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

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

Swift Creek design Mayan Ek glyph

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

So to recap:

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

This is what the FBI would call “evidence.”


Getting here from there- Yucatan to Florida By Boat?

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

Possible Mayan Site Discovered in Georgia Mountains?

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

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

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

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

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

Read the full article here:


Forsyth Petroglyph Reveals Comet Impact?

Forsyth Petroglyph from Georgia
Is this petroglyph from Forsyth County, Georgia a star map and does it record a comet impact event in 536 AD?

The “sculptured rock from Forsyth County, Georgia” is a petroglyph that currently sits in front of Baldwin Hall at the University of Georgia in Athens, Georgia.  It was moved there in the late 1990s from its location next to the President’s Building.[i] It was originally located in north Georgia and was “found near Mt. Tabor Baptist Church in the Northwestern part of Forsyth County.”[ii] It was first described in White’s Statistics of Georgia in 1849:

 “On the road from Canton to Dahlonega, 10 miles northwest from Cumming, is a very remarkable rock. It is an unhewn mass of granite, eight and a half feet long, and two and a half feet wide. It is three-sided, with irregular converging points, upon which are characters, seventeen of them varying in shape. The largest circles are eight inches in diameter. From its appearance, it must have been wrought at a very remote period. The designs are very irregular, and it is probable that they were executed by the same race of people who constructed the mounds in this and other sections of the State. What the characters on this rock mean, the oldest inhabitants cannot tell. The oldest Indians could give no account of it.”[iii]

It was next mentioned twenty-four years later in the book Antiquities of the Southern Indians, Particularly of the Georgia Tribes by Charles C. Jones, Jr. originally published in 1873. Jones referred to the petroglyph as the “Sculptured Rock from Forsyth County, Georgia.” I will refer to this petroglyph as the Forsyth Petroglyph throughout this paper for brevity’s sake. In his book Jones states:

“In Forsyth County, Georgia, is a carved or incised bowlder of fine-grained granite, about nine feet long, four feet six inches high, and three feet broad at its widest point. The figures are cut in the bowlder from one-half to three-quarters of an inch deep….As yet no interpretation of these figures has been offered, nor is it known by whom or for what purpose they were made. It is generally believed, however, that they are the work of the Cherokees. On the eastern end of the bowlder, running vertically, is a line of dots, like drill-holes, eighteen in number, connected by an incised line.”[iv]

It was next mentioned in an 1888 Smithsonian Bureau of Ethnology Report entitled “Picture-writing of the American Indians.” This report noted that “the characters in it are chiefly circles, including plain, nucleated, and concentric, sometimes two or more being joined by straight lines, forming what is now known as the ‘spectacle shaped’ figure.”[v]

View of the Forsyth petroglyph at the University of Georgia
View of the Forsyth petroglyph at the University of Georgia. (Courtesy Flickr)

The report goes on to compare the petroglyph to so-called cup-and-ring sculptures around the world, especially in the Middle East, British Isles and India, which have supposed astronomical interpretations.  Sir James Simpson who developed a classification system for these types of petroglyphs notes that “occasionally four or five or more of [these symbols] are placed in more or less regular groups, exhibiting a constellation-like arrangement.”[vi] In Palestine and Jordan similar designs are said to be “reasonably suggestive of the sun, moon, and stars.”[vii] In India these designs are “correlated with the worship of Mahadeo, one of the many names given to Siva, the third god of the Hindu triad, whose emblem is the serpent.”[viii]

The Forsyth petroglyph was next mentioned in 1950 in an article by Margarett Perryman entitled “Hunting Petroglyphs in North Georgia” in the second issue of Early Georgia, the journal of The Society for Georgia Archaeology. [ix] In this article she notes:

Photo from Perryman’s 1950 article about the Forsyth Petroglyph.

“My general reading on North American Indians naturally included, Antiquites of the Southern Indians, by Charles C. Jones, Jr., and it was there I found the first reference to rock writings in Georgia. One of the stones he described and pictured was said to be in Forsyth County. So at long last it became possible for me to actually examine a genuine Georgia petroglyph.

But finding even that well documented stone was not so easy. It took a good bit of detective work and much pussy-footing around the Public Library to find out in what section of Forsyth County the stone was located.

The first hunt was ready to start but we had to make some rather careful plans, for these were the days of gasoline rationing. We had to do a lot of round about town walking and weaning of the car to save up enough gas coupons to make the first expedition up into Forsyth County.

The favorable day finally arrived and after losing our way innumerable times on the backwoods roads, some miles west of Silver City, we were able to locate the stone. There on the wayside of a little dusty country road was my first Georgia petroglyph. Totally neglected and forgotten and practically obscured from sight by brambles and looking somewhat like a fat grey granite whale, was the most beautiful carved stone I ever saw. The elements had been kind to the stone, for most of the symbols were still discernible, although grey-green lichens had grown into most of the markings.

On that Sunday afternoon this petroglyph was given a most thorough examination. Our fingers traced every concentric circle until they were roughened and grimy. We admired the perfect symmetry which the ancient stonecarver had achieved in his well proportioned designs. We marveled how every symbol had been carved with such precision and how deeply cut. We counted the little nut size holes that were spaced so neatly and carefully down the entire backbone of the rock.

Luck was with us that day for the owner of the land on which the stone lay was our guide and companion. He valued his ‘old Indian rock’ very much and he was quite elated to have us admire his prize possession. His name was Mr. Corn and I shall never forget his genuine friendliness and his twinkling eyes as he told us exciting tales about the old stone.

He told us how folks had come in the dead of night and dug under and about the stone in quest of the forty pony loads of pure Indian gold; how many a brawny copper colored lad had skulked about the stone at dusk to study the inscriptions; how old and bearded tramps with tattered treasure maps had appeared in the evening mists and disappeared after much pacing around the stone; of the quaint old men that appeared often with weird treasure finding gadgets to prod and poke the ground about the stone; of the vandals that attempted to dynamite the stone, believing it to be hollow and hoping to find the treasure inside; of the law suits and land fights that had taken place in years gone by.

Mr. Corn gave us the information that there were other rock writings on his farm and was interested in showing them to us that day. But night was falling fast, so we promised that we would be back soon and bring our camera and take photographs of all his stones.

Alas and alack! Well laid plans often go astray and it was many months before we could get back to Forsyth County with our camera equipment and then Mr. Corn was gone.

The new owner of the land was considerate enough to let us take photographs of the petroglyph and he grudgingly consented to let us search for the stonecarvers ancient cutting tool. The only thing he was interested in was seeing that we did not get the treasure for our own.

He knew absolutely nothing about there being other carved stones in the vicinity. But he did show us a large purposely shaped, obviously imported piece of rock with a rather recent and crudely carved letter N on its top side. He claimed that this rock was the key that would unlock the whereabouts of the, ‘hundred pony loads of Indian gold,’ and he knew exactly where it was buried almost…

After getting home and developing our pictures we compared them with the drawing of the stone as shown in Jones book. The shape of the stone was identical, measurements agreed, but the symbols as shown in our photographs would not match those of Jones. Some of the symbols were alike but placement of them was entirely different and we found many symbols that Jones had not shown.

Then the question arose had Jones actually seen this stone? Or had he seen it and waited until a much later date before he drew the picture from memory? Or had he acquired the drawing from some other person who had been careless? Or had symbols been cut at a later dater after Jones had examined the stone? Apparently here was just another one of the baffling mysteries that always seem to pester and torment a petroglyph hunter.”

Later in this article Perryman compared the Forsyth petroglyph to the Track Rock petroglyphs and noted:

“The Forsyth County stone and the stones in Union County have symbols totally dissimilar, the rocks are of a different geological nature, the topographical placement of the petroglyphs varies, and it appears to me that the two stones were carved for somewhat different purposes. But there is one important feature that is almost identical; the fact that both have nut size holes carved upon them of a similar diameter and depth.”

Perryman standing behind the Forsyth petroglyph in situ. Apparently some of the carvings have been chalked to show up more clearly in the photograph.

When I first discovered the illustration of this petroglyph in Jones’ Antiquities, I immediately assigned it an astronomical interpretion based purely on its appearance, not yet having read the Smithsonian report. I stated in 2004 on my website LostWorlds.org that at first glance it appeared to be a star map.[x] This is the first known attempt at interpreting the Forsyth Petroglyph.

The Hypothesis

To the above potential interpretation, I add the proposal that designs on the Forsyth Petroglyph include astronomical representations of stars, the constellation Draco, the Pleiades asterism or constellation Scorpius, a comet, and meteors or comet fragments.

Two Georgia pottery traditions, Weeden Island and Swift Creek, have designs similar to those that appear on the Forsyth Petroglyph and have been interpreted as astronomical symbols. David Allison has argued that astronomical phenomena are portrayed on “sacred” Weeden Island pottery including “constellations, the Milky Way, the annual movements of the sun and moon, solar equinoxes and solstices, and the paths of the planets Venus and Mercury as ‘morning stars.’”[xi]

Frankie Snow has argued that some of the motifs found on Swift Creek pottery are astronomical in nature. He suggests that concentric circles and circles with a central dot (nucleated circles) are motifs that represent the sun.[xii]

Both the Weeden Island and Swift Creek pottery traditions coexisted in Georgia between 20 BC and 805 AD.[xiii] Since similar motifs are found on the Forsyth Petroglyph, it likely dates from the same time period although no tests have been done to prove this. Other researchers have suggested it is “roughly contemporary to… dated ceramics [from] AD 700 to 1400 (i.e., Late Woodland Swift Creek and Middle Mississippian Savannah.)”[xiv]

Analysis and Interpretation of the Forsyth Petroglyph

Possible interpretations of the symbols on the Forsyth Petroglyph
Fig. 1: Possible interpretations of the symbols on the Forsyth Petroglyph

The most numerous features on the Forsyth Petroglyph are a series of concentric circles and nucleated circles (circles with central circles/dots) known in petroglyph studies as cup-and-ring[xv] designs and elsewhere as circumpuncts or circled dots[xvi]. Most of the circles on the Forsyth Petroglyph are nucleated although a few of the smaller circles are not.

Detail of Forsyth Petroglyph
Figure 2: Side by side comparison of a detail from the line drawing with photo of same section on the actual rock Note: The circles on the actual petroglyph are closer together than the drawing conveys. Also, line drawing doesn’t accurately reflect thickness of circles.

David Allison found two sets of concentric circles on C.B. Moore’s Vessel No. 17  from the “Mound Near The Warrior River, Taylor County. Mound B.” and proposed they were solar symbols. On the same vessel Allison also found circles with central dots and proposed a solar interpretation for them as well.

Frankie Snow found concentric circles with central dots on several Swift Creek pots. He interpreted these as solar symbols based on known historic accounts of Native Americans using similar symbols to represent the sun.

Another view of the Forsyth Petroglyph.
Another view of the Forsyth petroglyph located at the University of Georgia library. (Courtesy Flickr)

So far we have established that concentric circles and nucleated circles (circumpuncts) may have astronomical associations as symbols for our day star, the sun. Is it possible that Native Americans also used concentric circles to represent night stars? Due to the multiple instances of concentric circles and their scattered arrangement on the Forsyth Petroglyph it is doubtful that each and every one of them represents the sun. I propose that in this particular case, based on their quantity, arrangement and context (i.e., the other design elements that surround them), they represent stars in the night sky. Evidence below will further support this contention. (For further proof that ancients used concentric circles with central dot as a symbol for stars, see the ancient Sumerian image “Kudurru of King Melishipak.”)[xvii] [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.

Fort Mountain Stone Wall (400 AD)

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

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

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

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

Star Patterns in Stone?

diagram of wall on Fort Mountain

Diagram of the Fort Mountain stone wall. The pattern of the stone wall is similar to that on the pottery vessel below.

While at first the zigzagging shape of the wall seems random, it may give clues to the actual purpose of the wall. During the same time period that this wall was being constructed, Native Americans in southwest Georgia were producing a type of pottery with strange designs that have perplexed archaeologists for over a century. The pottery, called Weeden Island sacred pottery, contains zigzagging linear patterns very similar to the pattern made by the Fort Mountain stone wall. It has recently been argued that these zigzagging patterns were actually derived from astronomical observations of specific planets and represent their movement around the night sky over the course of months and years. Could Fort Mountain represent something similar and could it have been the place where such astronomical observations were made?

Vessel No. 1 from Hare Hammock

“Vessel No. 1 from the Larger Mound Near Hare Hammock” features a similar zigzagging pattern that has been interpreted as representing the paths of Venus & Mercury as morning stars. (Image courtesy David Allison)

Even today we build our astronomical observatories at the tops of mountains. It’s a logical place to do so. It puts you closer to the thing you are observing. More importantly, for Native Americans living in a heavily wooded and forested environment, it puts you above the treetops and gives you a full 360 degree view of the night sky as well as the full sky dome from horizon to horizon.

The pattern of the Fort Mountain stone wall is very similar to the pattern on a pottery vessel found by archaeologist C. B. Moore. This vessel, referred to as “Vessel No. 1 from the Larger Mound Near Hare Hammock,” is decorated with two bird-head handles. Incised on both sides of the vessel is a zigzagging pattern. This pattern has been interpreted as representing the movement of the planets Venus and Mercury in the morning sky. (Venus is the brightest object in the eastern sky before sunrise and thus would have naturally drawn the attention of Native American sky gazers.) Could the zigzagging pattern of Fort Mountain’s stone wall be an attempt by early Native Americans to map upon the landscape the movements of these same bright objects in the early morning sky?

It is interesting to note that this same pottery vessel contains two ideas that were also being represented in stone around the same time period: bird effigies (Rock Eagle/Rock Hawk) and this zigzag design (Fort Mountain). Rock Eagle faces east and the Fort Mountain stone wall is oriented along an east-west axis. The pottery vessel was located in a grave on the eastern side of a burial mound and all the skulls within this mound were also facing east. The symbolism seems consistent.

Finally, astronomer John Burgess found that the wall was aligned with the summer solstice. As he noted in 1987:

The north end of the Fort Mountain Stone Wall points toward the position on the horizon where the sun rises on the summer solstice. If a clear view of the horizon were possible, an observer  standing on this nearly straight section of wall would find that, using it as a sightline, the time of the summer solstice could be determined when the sun rises at that point on the horizon pointed to by the wall.

Legend of the Moon-Eyed People

The Cherokee Indians who later inhabited these mountains have a legend that says the stone wall was constructed by a race of “moon-eyed” people. They also said that these people were nocturnal and lived underground, only coming out at night. These people were supposedly tall, light-skinned and had beards. Could there be any truth to such legends?

Archaeologists have noted that the Hitchiti language was once widespread throughout Georgia due to the number of place names in the state that are of Hitchiti origin. When the first Spanish explorers entered this region in the early 1500s they encountered many Hitchiti-speaking tribes. These tribes were described as being tall and wearing mustaches and turbans. The chiefs wore full beards. (One such chief from a town called Ocute had a beard that, according to Spanish accounts, reached his belly button.) Thus the idea that tall, bearded people constructed the Fort Mountain wall isn’t completely out of the question.

But what of the ‘nocturnal, subterranean-dwelling’ aspects of the legend? Once again, Spanish records indicate they encountered Hitchiti-speaking tribes living in “hollow’d mounds…fully covered in mud.” These mounds are likely identical to the earth lodge discovered at Ocmulgee Mounds in Macon, Georgia– a site also constructed by Hitchiti-speaking Native Americans. From the outside an earth lodge appears to be a mound of earth yet it is, in reality, a sophisticated structure covered in earth usually reserved for ritual or ceremonial purposes and likely the residence of a chief or priest (who would have been bearded.) Thus this seemingly bizarre part of the legend, subterranean dwellers, now has a plausible explanation as people who lived in earth lodges.

Fort Mountain stone wall

Video still from the DVD “Lost Worlds: Georgia” showing a section of the stone wall.

The Spanish gave these natives the derogatory name “micos sucios” which translates as “dirty monkeys.” This has been conjectured to be the origins of the tribal name Miccosukee, one of the few Hitchiti-speaking tribes remaining in America (currently residing in south Florida.). The Miccosukee were, in reality, part of a tribe known as the Chiaha, who were located in the mountains of Tennessee and Georgia. Thus it is likely that they are the tribe responsible for the construction of Fort Mountain.

Since we’ve established that the Cherokee legend is likely an accurate description of the people who built Fort Mountain, we can deduce one final important piece of the puzzle. The legend states they were nocturnal which suggests they spent their nights on Fort Mountain observing the stars and performing ceremonies. Thus the astronomical interpretation of this site is likely an accurate one.

From all of the preceding evidence, we can now piece together a plausible picture of Fort Mountain and its creators. They would have been astronomer-priests of a

Fort Mountain stone wall

Another video still from the DVD “Lost Worlds: Georgia” showing a section of the stone wall.

Hitchiti-speaking tribe, likely the Chiaha. As priests they would have worn long beards. They would have spent their nights observing the stars and moon, and eventually noticed the strange motions of certain stars that we know today as planets. The brightest and most beautiful of these stars/planets were Venus and Mercury and so they built a monument in stone that reflected the path these bright objects took across the pre-dawn sky. These astronomer-priests then returned to their earth lodges during the day to sleep. Since they would not have gotten much sun they would naturally be a lighter complexion than Native Americans who spent their days in the sun. Outsiders who witnessed these priests would tell stories of how tall, fair-skinned, bearded people who lived underground and only came out at night constructed the rock wall at the top of Fort Mountain.

But what of the name “moon-eyed”? It is possible this simply refers to the fact that the people were part of a lunar cult that worshipped (or studied) the moon. Yet there is another intriguing possibility. Today, there are three main groups of Cherokee still living in the Great Smoky Mountains: the Qualla, Tomotla and Snowbird. The Qualla (who live on the main reservation) refer to the Snowbird as “moon faces” because of their Mexican and/or Central American facial features. Could the builders of Fort Mountain, likely the Chiaha, have had a Mesoamerican origin?

Did the Maya Build Fort Mountain Wall?

"Mirror Bearer" Maya / Olmec wood sculpture

This rare Maya wooden sculpture dates from 500 AD and possibly represents an Olmec or Poton Maya priest or trader. (“Mirror-Bearer,” Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection)

In fact, the name “Chiaha” is actually a Mayan word which means “edge water” or “water’s edge.” The Chiaha built their villages beside the water thus this is a fitting description. The capital of Chiaha was actually built on an island in the middle of a river. Also, the word for “house” in Hitchiti is chikee. The Totonacs of Mexico also use the word chiki for “house.” They borrowed the word from their Maya neighbors where the word means “woven basket.” This is a fitting description for a Miccosukee chikee since they use mats woven from split cane as walls, partitions and privacy screens. Also, the winter house or “hot house” of the Miccosukee is called a chokofu. In Mayan, choko means “hot.” Additionally, chi means “mouth” in both Hitchiti and Mayan. These are just a few of the linguistic connections between the Miccosukee/Chiaha and the Maya.

The Hitchiti migration legend also suggests a Mesoamerican origin. This legend states that the Hitchiti emerged from “reeds” along the shore. They then walked towards the rising sun until they encountered a large body of water that they first thought was the ocean but quickly discovered was a large lake. They settled here for a while before journeying north where they settled permanently.

If we start in Georgia where the Hitchiti were living at the time this migration legend was recorded and follow the legend in reverse this suggests Florida as the place they migrated north from into Georgia. The only lake in Florida big enough to be confused with the ocean is Lake Okeechobee thus it is probable this is where they first settled down after emerging from “reeds.”  And since we know humans don’t simply sprout from the ground, it’s safe to assume they arrived in Florida by boat.

Coincidentally, it is in the Lake Okeechobee area at a site called Fort Center where we find the earliest evidence of corn agriculture in the southeast. Corn is a native crop of Mexico and researchers have yet to come up with a solid explanation for why corn shows up in south central Florida before it shows up elsewhere in the southeast. The most logical explanation, of course, is that it arrived with people who traveled from Mexico to Florida by boat.

Curiously, the Maya referred to any large city as “reeds” or “place of reeds” comparing the vast numbers of people in a city to the vast number of reeds in a marsh. The fact that the Hitchiti migration legend included the seemingly insignificant detail that they emerged from “reeds” suggests the Hitchiti migrated from a large Mayan city.

"Mirror Bearer" 500 AD Maya / Olmec wooden statue

Notice the mustache and unique hair style and elaborate ear ornaments. Could this represent a Mayan or Olmec trader known to the Cherokee as the “Moon Eyes”? (“Mirror-Bearer,” Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection)

The only people capable of such long distance ocean travel at this time in Mexican history were the Olmecs or their descendants, the Chontal Maya. Both of these groups controlled the coastal trade routes along the Gulf coast of Mexico as far south as Central America. The Chontal Maya, who called themselves the Poton,  worshipped a moon goddess named Ix Chel and this lunar cult appears to date back to Olmec times. The Aztecs referred to one location where the Chontal Maya lived as Nacajuca, “place of pale faces,” due to the light skin of the inhabitants. Could the Chontal Maya be the light skinned people who built Fort Mountain according to Cherokee legends? A wooden statue of a Poton Maya lord shows what appears to be a trader with a handlebar mustache, a unique depiction in the Maya world yet consistent with early Spanish accounts of Creek Indians in Georgia with mustaches.

Interestingly, when the Spanish visited the Chiaha capital in the early 1500s both the leader and the town were known as Olameco. Coincidentally, the Aztecs in Mexico referred to the Olmecs as olmeca. Although at this time it doesn’t appear that these words are related it is an intriguing coincidence nonetheless.

The First Georgia Gold Rush?

What would motivate a group of traders to leave the civilized world of a Mayan city to explore and settle among the tribal villages in Georgia? An article from the New York Times dated September 19, 1884 may provide a clue:

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn., Winkley, an experienced gold prospector from New-Mexico and Idaho, brought to this city today specimens of gold and silver ore taken from gold mines recently discovered in Murray County, Ga., inside of Fort Mountains, about 50 miles from this city. Assays made of this ore show it to be worth on average $27 per ton. One specimen of silver exhibited assayed $100 to the ton, and a specimen of gold quartz assayed $1,200. Great excitement prevails, and people are rushing to the mines from all directions. They are pronounced by experts to be among the richest yet discovered in America.

A Geological Survey of Georgia Bulletin from 1909 noted:

A small isolated auriferous [gold-bearing] area occurs on the summit of Cohutta Mountain in Murray county. The locality is about four miles east of Chatsworth.

Cohutta is the Native American name for Fort Mountain. The location of this deposit on the summit appears to be within the same general location as the stone wall which runs very near the summit. Could this wall have been built to protect this vital resource or at least shield those inside the wall from curious onlookers from outside the wall?

Yet this gold deposit on the summit was not the largest such deposit on Fort Mountain. This same Bulletin noted an operating gold mine on Cohutta Mountain called the Cohutta Mine. The Bulletin noted several large gold-bearing veins in which “free-gold was noticeable in some of the ore examined.”

The 1884 and 1909 discoveries of large gold deposits at Fort Mountain were not the first such discoveries. In the early 1800s there were legends of secret Cherokee gold mines on Cohutta/Fort Mountain. Stories about the local Cherokee wearing gold jewelry, and settlers trying to find the source of the gold have been handed down through generations. One Cherokee chief from this time, Chief Vann, who lived at the base of Fort Mountain left $200,000 in gold to his son Joseph Vann when he was murdered in 1809. Joseph deposited this gold in a bank in Tennessee when the Cherokees were forced out of Georgia in 1834. This is a large sum today but in 1809 this was an astounding sum of money. Did Chief Vann acquire this gold from Fort Mountain?

“How the Indians collect gold from the streams” by Jacques Le Moyne, an artist at the first French colony in the New World at Fort Caroline in Florida.

The Cherokees were forced out of Georgia due, in large part, to the discovery of gold on Cherokee lands in 1829. This was the beginning of America’s second gold rush, the first occurring in neighboring North Carolina in 1799. But clearly, Native Americans knew about this gold in the Georgia mountains long before the Americans. In fact, when the Spanish passed through this area in the 1530s they heard rumors of gold mining and smelting at the previously mentioned site of Chiaha. The French also visited Native American gold mines in north Georgia in the 1560s. They recorded that a tribe called the Potano were responsible for this mining. Could the Potano be one-in-the-same as the Poton Maya?

Whatever the truth may be, the fact is gold can still be successfully panned in Gold Mine Creek on Fort Mountain to this very day.

Star Maps and Petroglyphs

Sculptured Rock from Forsyth County, Georgia aka Forsyth Petroglyph

“Sculptured Rock From Forsyth County, Georgia” appears to be decorated with astronomical symbols which could represent a star map of the night sky. (Jones, Antiquities of the Southern Indians)

Another interesting phenomenon also occurred in the same mountainous region of Georgia around the same time period: petroglyphs. Located in Track Rock Gap at the base of Brasstown Bald, Georgia’s highest peak, is a field of boulders which have been carved with curious designs.

Other petroglyph rocks have been found nearby in Forsyth County. Some of these designs, primarily the concentric circles and the “dumbbell” figures, strongly resemble designs that would later show up on Weeden Island pottery vessels interpreted as being calendars. Could the Forsyth petroglyphs be star maps carved in stone? In fact, the Forsyth Petroglyph contains Mayan glyphs and religious symbols which further supports the presence of Maya in north Georgia.

It is interesting to note that during the time period between 550AD and 750AD, which is when these petroglyphs were possibly carved, the Chinese Royal Court recorded over ninety comets visible to the naked eye, more than any other prior period. Thus there was plenty going on in the night sky to interest Georgia’s ancient astronomers.

Although the true intent of these Native American architects and artisans may never be fully understood what is known is that these stone creations were only the beginning of their accomplishments. They would next begin the construction of pyramids at the Kolomoki Mounds complex.

References Cited

Archeologists to search for lost mission

ALBANY, Ga. — Amateur archeologists will get a chance to search this summer for the lost mission of Santa Isabel de Utinahica, built in the wilderness in the 1600s for a lone friar who was dispatched to evangelize among the Indians on the edge of Spain’s colonial empire.

“This was on the frontier,” said Dennis Blanton, curator of native American archaeology at Atlanta’s Fernbank Museum of Natural History. “It was perched on the edge of the known world in this hemisphere. A barefoot Franciscan was dropped alone into alien territory and given his marching orders to convert these Indians and probably gather a certain amount of intelligence.”

Fernbank and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Historic Preservation Division have teamed up to launch the exploration in June near the rural south Georgia town of Jacksonville, about 160 miles south of Atlanta.

“You’ll get a sense of what these friars were dealing with,” said Blanton, who will supervise the work. “We want to put people in the crucible and be a part of this educational experience.”

The program is intended to give adults and high school and college students an opportunity to take part in an excavation and to heighten appreciation for the state’s history and archaeological treasures. The amateurs will be guided by professional archeologists.

“This really is the perfect example of how archaeology contributes,” Blanton said. “If we want to understand the situation on the ground in any detail, we’ve got to go move some earth and that’s what we want to do.”

The site is in a Telfair County forest in an area known as “the forks,” where the Ocmulgee and Oconee rivers converge to form the Altamaha River. Based on historical accounts and American Indian artifacts, there’s no doubt there was a mission in the area, one of the most remote of several dozen missions set up by the Spanish in northern Florida and southern Georgia, Blanton said.

The mission was named Utinahica after the Indians that lived in the area, Blanton said. They were ancestors to the well-known Creek Indians.

Archeologists have already surveyed the area using remote sensing devices and plan to check it further with ground penetrating radar, he said.

Spanish artifacts have already been recovered at three sites and those will be targeted first, Blanton said.

“We want to set a good model for what ought to be done on these places,” he said. “We want people to come away with an appreciation of how it’s done well. It’ll be thoughtful and systematic. By the end of the summer, we’ll be targeting places that look particularly interesting.”

Blanton has hired two assistants to help with the program, which is expected to be offered again during the summer of 2007. Teachers who participate can get continuing education credits.

“My strongest personal interest is to get people in middle and south Georgia deeply involved,” he said. “But we’ve got people coming from as far away as Oklahoma. It’s really appealed to a lot of folks.”

Most Georgians know about the role of the English and Gen. James Oglethorpe, who arrived with a band of settlers in 1733 to establish Savannah and the Georgia colony, but they know little about the role of the Spanish, who had a mission on St. Catherines Island south of Savannah that was active from about 1575 to 1680, Blanton said.

“There’s nearly 200 years of prior European history that had a huge bearing on the later history we attribute to the English,” Blanton said. “What we’re trying to do is give people a healthy reminder of this longer history, which is also pretty interesting history. It’s almost like reading fiction.”

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.