Evidence of Foreign Invasion of Georgia in 1100 AD?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pottery Styles Tell the Tale

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

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

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

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

Fortifications and Frontiers

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

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

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

Aftermath of Invasion?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Causes of Invasion

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

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

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

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

Survival

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tamtoc

by Tom Gidwitz

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ancient Metropolis of Canada Unearthed

An ancient Native American city the size of New York City has been discovered in Canada. It’s amazing that archaeologists are still discovering such massive sites in North America. Just goes to show that we know very little about the true history of this hemisphere. Even more interesting is they found European artifacts at this site that predate the arrival of Europeans by 100 years! Read the article below:

A tantalizing glimpse at the faces of the people of the Mantle site. CREDIT: Owen Jarus

Today New York City is the Big Apple of the Northeast but new research reveals that 500 years ago, at a time when Europeans were just beginning to visit the New World, a settlement on the north shore of Lake Ontario, in Canada, was the biggest, most complex, cosmopolitan place in the region.

Occupied between roughly A.D. 1500 and 1530, the so-called Mantle site was settled by the Wendat (Huron). Excavations at the site, between 2003 and 2005, have uncovered its 98 longhouses, a palisade of three rows (a fence made of heavy wooden stakes and used for defense) and about 200,000 artifacts. Dozens of examples of art have been unearthed showing haunting human faces and depictions of animals, with analysis ongoing.

Now, a scholarly book detailing the discoveries is being prepared and a documentary about the site called “Curse of the Axe” aired this week on the History Channel in Canada….

…among Mantle’s discoveries are the earliest European goods ever found in the Great Lakes region of North America, predating the arrival of the first known European explorers by a century. They consist of two European copper beads and a wrought iron object, believed to be part of an ax, which was carefully buried near the center of the settlement.

A maker’s mark on the wrought iron object was traced to northern Spain, and the fact that it was made of wrought iron suggests a 16th-century origin. In fact, in the early 16th century Basque fisherman and whalers sailed to the waters off Newfoundland and Labrador. It’s believed that it would have been acquired by the aboriginal people there and exchanged up the St. Lawrence River until eventually reaching Mantle.

Read the full article here: http://www.livescience.com/21494-ancient-mantle-site-discovered.html

Ancient suburb of Cahokia unearthed in East St. Louis

A large suburb of the Native American metropolis of Cahokia has been unearthed in a road construction project in East St. Louis, Missouri. Details from the article:

According to Cahokia Mounds’ website, the city acted as a base for all Mississippians and reached its peak population between 1050 and 1150. It was a huge mecca for people living in the Midwest and beyond.

“Essentially, where there wasn’t anything before that resembled a city, the Mississippians came and laid out plans to build a city,” Galloy said. It took “tons of time and labor.”

It still isn’t clear how the East St. Louis site was connected to the Cahokia site, or how large the site was.

One reason East St. Louis is harder to define is its location in a flood plain. In the 1800s, the city passed an ordinance requiring streets and buildings to be built up on three or four feet of fill, Galloy said, to help prevent flood damage.

“What that did was it covered all of East St. Louis,” he said. Usually, “when archaeologists go out to look for sites, we can see artifacts on the surface. Well, in East St. Louis, we can’t even see the original surface.”

Without clues on the surface, archaeologists are finding several unexpected features in unexpected areas in East St. Louis.

Read the full article here: https://www.stlbeacon.org/#!/content/26038/cahokia_construction_dig

Native American Tea Cups Unearthed at Cahokia

Archaeologists have unearthed unique drinking vessels in the ancient Native American metropolis of Cahokia that are proven to have once been used as drinking vessels for the Black Drink. The Black Drink was a highly-caffeinated Native American tea made from the leaves of the Yaupon holly plant that grows in coastal regions of the Southeast. The scientists were able to test residue remaining in the cups and determined their use. The researchers then jump to the amazing conclusion that this was the earliest known use of Black Drink in America. This simply isn’t true. The earliest use of the Black Drink is documented in the Southeast during the Woodland Period and it spread into the Midwest during the Hopewell Period. Some archaeologists even think they have evidence for its use as far back as the Archaic Period. (See the Wikipedia article: “Black Drink” for a good overview.) In fact, the Ocmulgee Mounds site in Georgia predates the Cahokia site by at least 100 years and is known to have consumed this tea and likely controlled the trade of Yaupon holly leaves with its strategic location in Central Georgia.

Another interesting tidbit from the article is the fact that these drinking cups date from 1050-1250 AD. Over and over again I’ve seen this pattern of settlements in America lasting for exactly 250 years. Yes, the article states the site lasted until 1350 but the last hundred years were likely just hangers-on. The Black Drink cups reveal the true length of time the site was at its height. Once again we see a 250-year cycle related to the rise and fall of a powerful Native American civilization. Interestingly, scientists know of a 250-year solar cycle that influences rainfall patterns. Research has shown that Iron Age settlements in Europe lasted 250 years as a result of this rain/drought cycle. It is likely one of the reasons for the decline of Cahokia as well. Other scientists have noted a 250-year seismic cycle. Since Cahokia sits right in the middle of the New Madrid fault zone earthquake activity could also have contributed to its decline. (Curiously, the Maya believed in a 256-year cycle that governed the rise and fall of civilizations. I researched this topic and published my results in the book Mayan Calendar Prophecies| Part 1: Predictions for 2012 and Beyond.)

Here’s an excerpt from the article:

Archaeologist Patricia Crown at the University of New Mexico and chemist Jeffrey Hurst at the Hershey Technical Center in Pennsylvania analyzed plant residues in eight mug-shaped pottery beakers from Greater Cahokia and its surroundings. They found signs they once held “black drink,” a caffeinated brew made from the toasted leaves of the Yaupon holly (Ilex vomitoria) that grew more than 300 miles (480 kilometers) to the south.

“We’re not sure when Native Americans stopped using black drink,” Emerson said. “I think its use went more into the closet, due to pressure from Europeans to drop pagan practices.”

For many tribes of Native Americans, the black drink was a key component of purification rituals before war parties, religious ceremonies, important political councils or other important events. Rapid consumption of large quantities of the hot drink preceded ritual vomiting as part of the purification rituals. People in South America continue to make drinks from varieties of holly, such as yerba maté and té o’ maté, albeit in more relaxed contexts. [Top 10 Extreme Religious Sects]

“It’s always described by Europeans and people who have consumed it as something tasting like tea,” Emerson said.

You can read the full article here: http://www.livescience.com/22136-caffeinated-black-drink-first-city.html

Cavanaugh Mound Restoration

The Archaeological Conservancy has acquired the Cavanaugh Mound in Arkansas with plans to restore the mound and add interpretative signs explaining its history. Cavanaugh Mound is a largely intact late prehistoric platform mound on the Arkansas River just east of the Oklahoma border, about 14 km from the Spiro Mounds complex. The site is situated on a high terrace above the Arkansas River. At about 60 m across and 9 m high, Cavanaugh Mound is one of the largest, if not the largest, prehistoric mound in the region. Very little has been published concerning this site, however, and very little formal archaeological work has been done there. An excerpt from the news story on this restoration project notes:

Jessica Crawford traveled from Marks, Miss., to Fort Smith to look at a BIG pile of dirt.

It’s an historic piece of ground, in fact, located behind the New Liberty Baptist Church in south Fort Smith and believed to be constructed by Native Americans (possibly Caddo Indian ancestors) between AD 1100 and 1300.

Crawford is the southeast regional director for The Archaeological Conservancy, the private, non-profit organization that purchased the “Cavanaugh Mound” in 2006 to prevent its further destruction. The Archaeological Conservancy was formed in 1980 for the purpose of acquiring and preserving important archaeological sites.

Read the full story: Archaeologists seek to research, restore the ‘Cavanaugh Mound’

Moundville Aerial Video

Chickasaw.tv, the Chickasaw Nation’s online video network, has produced an amazing video featuring the Moundville site in Alabama. The video features aerial flyovers of the Moundville site revealing its true majesty. The site notes,

Moundville was a preeminent ancient center of mound culture on the Black Warrior River, just west of present-day Tuscaloosa, Alabama. It was second in size only to Cahokia. Today the Archaeological Park features about 30 pristine, well-preserved mounds and the remarkable new Moundville Museum.

You can view the video here: http://m.chickasaw.tv/?video=8

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…)

Moundville Native American Festival Celebrates Ancient Culture

Ancient rulers and thousands of their subjects thrived in a city behind huge wooden walls that once surrounded the Moundville site. These prehistoric Native Americans farmed, hunted and fished. Their society recognized nobles by birth and praised the feats of great artists, warriors and holy people. Each year, descendants of this vibrant culture return, celebrating the South’s rich Indian heritage at the Moundville Native American Festival.

Repeatedly named one of Alabama’s Top 20 Tourism Events, the award winning Moundville Native American Festival is always slated for Wednesday through Saturday during the first full week of October. Located at The University of Alabama’s Moundville Archaeological Park, performers, artists, craftspeople and tradition bearers entertain and educate visitors about the rich culture and heritage that makes Southeastern Indians unique.

Portal to the Past

Visit the newly renovated Jones Archaeological Museum! State-of-the-art exhibits tell a story of the nobility who once lived at Moundville. Stunning artifacts, recreated scenery and a special effects theatre are all part of the new displays. While you’re there, don’t forget to visit Knotted Bird Gifts and The Black Warrior Coffee Company.

Art of the Craft

See pottery being pit fired or learn how Choctaws make rivercane baskets in the festival’s Arts and Crafts Arbors. See fire kindled by friction or talk with a world-class bowman as he carves wooden longbow. Native Americans and other experts demonstrate these and many other arts, crafts and technologies during the entire festival.

Bull’s Eye!

Watch experts shoot the bow and arrow or throw a spear 50 yards with the help of a stick. See how a hollow piece of cane can be used to blow a deadly dart at the festival’s Target Range.

Hands-On

Kids of all ages get firsthand experience in playing native games and making simple crafts in the Children’s Area. Play the ancient game of stickball, dress up like Southeastern Indians or throw an Indian football. Make a shell bead necklace or try your hand at Indian Twister. There’s fun for the whole family.

Dig Deep

Visit the Archaeology in Action station to find out how scientists excavate and discover new things about the ancient Moundville people. Tour guides, stationed at Mound B, one of North America’s tallest earthen mounds, and at other strategic spots around the site reveal what we know about Moundville as well as researcher’s latest findings.

Rhythm of Life

The Native American Stage features renowned dancers, storytellers and musicians. Hear the heartbeat of native music as the drum pounds or the rattles shake. Find out why certain animals look or act the way they do. Listen to voices blended in haunting harmony or a flute sighing as it remembers the wind.

See the Point

Knapper’s Corner hosts stone toolmakers from around the country. Making spear and arrow points from rocks that break like glass, these artists reproduce ancient works as well as creating new works of art. See craftsmen demonstrate “flintknapping,” a fascinating technology used by humans worldwide before forged metal was invented.

History Lives

Discover why the fur trade was so important to Indians in the late 1700s and early 1800s in the Living History Camp. Through sights, sounds and smells, this camp brings the past to life. Smell native foods cooking on an open fire, or hear an elder describe his journeys through the wilderness. Enactors are dressed in period clothing, their authentic camps filled with items suggesting a simple time gone past.

Trader’s Circle and Arts Market

Authentic handicarfts, artifact reproductions, art prints musical instruments, toys, clothing, books, jewelry and a wide assortment of souvenirs are all for sale in the Trader’s Circle or Arts Market. Some of the country’s finest artists and craftspeople are featured exhibitors. Don’t forget to check out Knotted Bird Gifts in the newly renovated Jones Archaeological Museum. There’s a gift for every pocketbook!

Food for Thought

The festival’s Food Court, located next to the museum, features a cornucopia of Native American food as well as an abundance of traditional festival concessions. Try an Indian taco, shuck roasted corn or a smoked turkey leg. Additional food is available at the riverbank near Knapper’s Corner.

Festival Admission (Oct. 5th-8th):

Adults: $ 10.00

Children: $ 8.00

Groups with Reservations: $ 8.00 per person. Teachers and bus drivers are admitted free with registered group.

Festival Hours:

Weekdays    9:00 am to 3:30 pm

Saturday      9:00 am to 5:00 pm

Directions:

Moundville Archaeological Park is a division of University of Alabama Museums. The park is located 13 miles south of Exit 71A on I-20/59 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama off of State Highway 69.

Learn more about other public Indian sites of Alabama and other ancient Native American civilizations that once existed throughout the southeastern U.S.

Researchers reveal how prehistoric Native Americans of Cahokia made copper artifacts

Etowah Mounds Bird Man copper plateEVANSTON, Ill. — Northwestern University researchers ditched many of their high-tech tools and turned to large stones, fire and some old-fashioned elbow grease to recreate techniques used by Native American coppersmiths who lived more than 600 years ago.

This prehistoric approach to metalworking was part of a metallurgical analysis of copper artifacts left behind by the Mississippians of the Cahokia Mounds, who lived in southwestern Illinois from 700 until 1400 A.D. The study was published in the Journal of Archaeological Science in May.

The researchers were able to identify how the coppersmiths of Cahokia likely set up their workshop and the methods and tools used to work copper nuggets into sacred jewelry, headdresses, breastplates and other regalia.

The researchers were able to identify how the coppersmiths of Cahokia likely set up their workshop and the methods and tools used to work copper nuggets into sacred jewelry, headdresses, breastplates and other regalia.

“Metals store clues within their structure that can help explain how they were processed,” said David Dunand, the James N. and Margie M. Krebs Professor of materials science and engineering at Northwestern’s McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science and co-author of the paper. “We were lucky enough to analyze small, discarded pieces of copper found on the ground of the excavated ‘copper workshop house’ in Cahokia and determine how the metal was worked by the Cahokians.”

Two materials science and engineering students conducted much of the research. Matt Chastain, a Northwestern undergraduate at the time of the study, worked alongside Alix Deymier-Black, a graduate student in the materials science and engineering department. Chastain, first author of the paper, undertook the metallurgical analysis of the samples, supplied from ongoing excavations at Mound 34 in Cahokia. Chastain followed up his analysis by volunteering at the excavation site.

“We cut through some samples of the copper pieces and polished them to look at the grain structures of the copper with a microscope,” said Deymier-Black, second author of the paper. “From the size, shape and features of the grains inside the copper, we determined that the coppersmiths were likely hammering the copper, probably with a heavy rock, then putting the copper in the hot coals of a wood fire for five to 10 minutes to soften it and repeating the cycle until they had created a thin sheet of copper. ”

After using basic metallurgical science to better understand the methods the Cahokians used to create copper sheets, Deymier-Black and Chastain recreated the metalworking process in the lab with natural copper nuggets, fire and a heavy stone —pounding and heating the copper into thin sheets.

The researchers also tested theories that some archeologists had made about the coppersmiths’ techniques. One idea was that they made large copper pieces, like ceremonial breastplates, by “laminating” sheets of copper together through a hammering technique. Deymier-Black said that the lamination could not be reproduced, even with much greater weights achievable with a modern press. The other hypothesis, that the Cahokians used copper knobs or copper rivets and other mechanical devices to secure sheets of copper together, seems more likely.

Another puzzle was how the Cahokians cut the hammered sheets of copper into regular shapes. The researchers cut replicated hammered sheets by four different methods: grinding an embossed ridge, shearing with scissors, hammering against a sharp corner, and bending the sheet back and forth. Only the bent edge looked similar to the edge of the historical artifacts, indicating that the Cahokians most likely used that method to cut copper.

Scientific insight into the process used to create the sacred copper artifacts of Cahokian people is helpful to James Brown, professor of anthropology at Northwestern Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences and John E. Kelly, professor of anthropology at Washington University in St. Louis. The two researchers, co-authors on the study, are credited with pinpointing the location of the copper workshop at Cahokia.

“I’m delighted that through the scientific process we were able to confirm some of the techniques and end some disputes about how the copper artifacts were made,” said Brown, also an international expert on Native American archaeology. “This study gives some of the real details, so that an observer can imagine how it was done and could possibly hook onto other kinds of observations about the people of Cahokia.”

Provided by Northwestern University

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.

Ocmulgee Mounds (1000 AD)

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As impressive as the previously discussed Kolomoki Mounds complex is, the NativeAmerican Mound Builders of Georgia would outdo themselves at the next site in our story: Ocmulgee Mounds. Located in Macon, this ancient civilization consists of seven Indian mounds and associated plazas.

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


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

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

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

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

Who Built Ocmulgee Mounds?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ocmulgee Mounds

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

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