Rock Eagle & Rock Hawk (100 AD)

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

Above: Watch an excerpt from the Lost Worlds: Georgia DVD.   Buy, download, or rent today or make a donation and help support All sales help fund future videos and exhibits. Watch LostWorldsTV for more videos.


Rock Eagle effigy mound is the next oldest Indian mound site in Georgia after the Sapelo Shell Ring Complex. This Indian mound is an effigy in the shape of a bird with its wings spread. [View Gallery] It is believed to have been constructed by a Native American group around 2,000 years ago although originally it was thought to be more than 5,000 years old. It is one of only two such Indian effigy mounds known to exist east of the Mississippi river with the second Indian mound known as Rock Hawk [View Gallery] also located within Putnam county, the same Georgia county as Rock Eagle.

Rock Eagle effigy mound has a 120 feet wingspan and is 102 feet long from head to tail. It has a vertical height of 8 feet from the ground to the top of the chest. The bird’s head faces east, the direction of the rising sun. It is constructed entirely of white quartzite rock of various sizes. Many of the rocks were too large for one person to carry by hand and thus archaeologists believe they were dragged to the site on deerskins. It also contains several types of clay that were brought in from other locations since these clays are not found in Putnam county. Rock Eagle

A. R. Kelly and the University of Georgia excavated the effigy mound site in the 1950s. During this excavation Mr. Kelly found a single quartz projectile point and the cremated remains of a human burial.

Other rock Indian mounds exist in the state of Georgia that also feature human burials. These tend to be circular mounds of piled rock. Interestingly, the main body of the eagle is a circular pile of rocks over eight feet high. The wings, head, and tail are much flatter and don’t rise more than a couple of feet above ground level. Thus this mound may have started as a typical round rock burial mound and then with a flash of creative inspiration evolved into the present bird shape.

Zoom in to see the locations of Rock Eagle and Rock Hawk. Click on the markers for more info on the individual features.

Early European explorers in the region noted that Native Americans continued building rock mounds even into the early contact period. Sometimes these Indian mounds were built over the permanent burial spots of prominent warriors or chiefs. Other times the burials were temporary with the bones being exhumed later and the rock mound left as a type of memorial. Sometimes the rocks were piled on the spot where a warrior had been wounded in battle. Just as we build battlefield monuments and monuments to our fallen leaders, Native Americans appear to have done the same thing.

These same early explorers also noted that rocks were continually added to these Indian mounds by passing NativeAmericans. It was a sign of respect to add a rock to the mound of a fallen warrior or chief. Just as we add flowers to the graves of loved ones for years after they have passed away, Native American Indians seem to have honored their dead in a similar way.

No Native American leaders before or after have ever been afforded such magnificent burial monuments thus whoever were buried at Rock Eagle and Rock Hawk were clearly persons of great significance. Much later at the Etowah Mounds site in Cartersville, Georgia artifacts representing an Eagle Warrior or Bird Man were unearthed. Could Rock Eagle and Rock Hawk represent the burials of two of the founders of this cult?

Rock Eagle

The above artwork is available on a variety of gift items including t-shirts, posters, stickers, mouse pads, and more in our Rock Eagle Gift Shop. Buy today and help support future exhibits.

It is important to note that although these two Indian mounds are referred to as an “eagle” and a “hawk”, no one knows for sure if this is what the builders intended. In fact, they could just as well represent buzzards rather than either eagles or hawks. Considering that buzzards have traditionally been seen as symbols of death due to their black color and their diet of dead, decaying animals, it is not completely unbelievable that the Native American builders would have constructed a burial mound in the shape of such a bird. Both Rock Eagle and Rock Hawk are located on the highest points in Putnam county. Interestingly, Mr. Kelly also noted that both Rock Eagle and Rock Hawk may have been enclosed by a rock wall made of the same type of rock as the mounds themselves. This pattern of building rock structures, particularly walls, at high points in the landscape would reach its zenith at the next site in our chronology: Fort Mountain.

Resouces & Further Reading:

  • Jeffries, Richard W. “Investigations of Two Stone Mound Localities, Monroe County, Georgia.” University of Georgia Laboratory of Archaeology Series, Report No. 17. Athens, GA: 1978.
  • Petrullo, Vincenzo. “Rock Eagle Effigy Mounds and Related Structures in Putnam County, Georgia.” Unpublished manuscript. Athens, GA: University of Georgia.
  • Kelly, Arthur R. “The Eatonton Effigy Eagle Mounds and Related Stone Structures in Putnam County, Georgia.” Unpublished manuscript. Athens, GA: University of Georgia, 1954.
  • Williams, Mark. “Rock Mounds and Structures.” New Georgia Encyclopedia. 2004.


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…)

Fort Mountain Stone Wall (400 AD)

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

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

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

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

Zoom in to view the Fort Mountain stone wall.

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


New Artifacts Suggest Mexican connection to Ohio’s Hopewell Culture

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

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

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

Here’s a link to the original story:

45-Foot Ancient Canoe Stuck In The Muck Of Weedon Island

By KEITH MORELLI of The Tampa Tribune

ST. PETERSBURG – Stuck somewhere in the muck of Weedon Island is a significant piece of history.

weeden island canoeA 45-foot canoe, buried for more than a thousand years and used by a long-dead culture of Native Americans, worked its way to the surface, and now authorities are trying to figure out how best to preserve it.

The vessel is carved out of a single pine tree, and archaeologists say it was used to paddle over the open waters of the bay — unlike the other ancient canoes uncovered in Florida over the years, which were used to ply the calmer waters of lakes and rivers.

With the back end of the canoe broken off, it measures 39 feet, 11 inches. If the missing piece was attached, archaeologists estimate 5 more feet would be added to the length. The size of the vessel and configuration of the bow leads archaeologists to think the vessel may have been used to trade with people living some distance away.

“It’s the longest prehistoric canoe ever found in the state of Florida,” said Weedon Island Preserve Center manager Phyllis Kolianos.

“I think it’s fascinating,” she said this morning. “I think it’s a very important find, and it’s very significant. It gives us an understanding that these weren’t simple people living here, that they were probably trading with other cultures.”

The dugout is the first pre-Columbian seagoing vessel uncovered in Florida. It points to a culture that thrived in what would become the Tampa Bay area and traded with others along the Gulf of Mexico coast and beyond. The influence of the Weedon Island culture stretched to places as far away as Georgia, archaeologists say.

Kolianos said carbon dating of the canoe shows it to be about 1,100 years old.

Continue reading the full story here:

A dog’s life long ago


BROOKLYN – In ancient Illinois, small dogs were made to carry or pull
sacks of firewood until the tips of their vertebrae broke.
Sometimes their heads were lopped off with stone axes during sacrificial
ceremonies. Most often, they were buried with the trash.
No wonder canines kept by Indians in the Midwest were described in early
European explorers’ journals as nasty tempered and prone to bite. They
were also believed to be unable to bark but still served as watch dogs,
perhaps by nibbling on a sleeping Indian’s toes.
Nevertheless, an evolving archaeological record in the metro-east shows
that these small 25- to 35-pound primitive animals became as ingrained
in ancient human existence as today’s pampered canine pets.
In Southern Illinois a thousand years ago, it was truly a dog’s life,
according to 60 complete or partial dog skeletons recovered from the
remarkably well-preserved, buried remains of a village from an era
archaeologists refer to as “Terminal Woodland.” The site is just outside
Brooklyn and is well clear of a nearby modern cemetery.
This fishing village was primarily occupied until about 950 A.D., or
just before the explosion of mound building that marked the more well-
known Mississippian Culture, whose members built the raised earthen
complex at the Cahokia Mounds Interpretive Center a few miles away.
The skeleton total from the Brooklyn site, first excavated in 2003, is
probably a North American record for the recovery of prehistoric dog
remains, said Joe Galloy, a Harvard-trained archaeologist. Galloy’s
specialties include interpreting the relationship between dogs and the
earliest Americans.
“If there is something that really pulls on the muscles, this bone, the
spinous process will fracture and reheal, and this is an example of
one,” said Galloy, holding up a delicate, deformed vertebra on which the
shark-fin like bone tip that anchors back muscles was bent.
“You see this in modern sled dogs,” he said, “This comes from being used
as pack animals, probably hauling firewood.”
On a large sheet of white paper spread on a table in front of Galloy at
the offices of the Illinois Transportation Archaeological Research
Program in Belleville, was the nearly complete skeleton of a young,
female dog recovered from the excavation site.
Galloy said this creature is descended from wolves that probably prowled
human camps and dumps 15,000 or so years ago in Europe and Asia and
gradually changed in appearance to resemble today’s dogs. Galloy said
the wolves, in return for scavenging, became the eyes and ears of the
humans and eventually became their hunting partners.
At another archeological site — the Koster Site along the Illinois
River in Calhoun County — one of the earliest North American dog
burials was uncovered in the 1970s. Radiocarbon dating showed it is
about 8,500 years old.
This animal, however, was probably a revered hunting dog and was
interred separate from a trash pit and had been reverently laid on its
side, just like rare human burials from this much earlier time.
But the dogs found by excavating teams at the Brooklyn dig headed by
Galloy and site supervisor Brad Koldehoff were not hunting partners. By
the time of this particular village, fishing and growing corn had
replaced nomadic hunting.
The Brooklyn site, which has gained a national reputation, is officially
known as “Janey B. Goode.” The nickname derives from the old Chuck Berry
song and is a tribute to the location’s archaeological riches.
“In contrast to earlier times, when the men went out hunting and the
dogs went with them and were very highly valued, at this time people
settled in one spot and the dogs became women’s’ helpers,” he said.
Another use, albeit a grisly one, was as sacrifices, probably to dispel
sickness in humans.
Six of the dogs, all males, were found buried and headless. Two dogs
were found with their heads still intact, but with their skeletons bound
back to back with the skulls facing east and west.
Dog remains found from a time a few hundred years later at Cahokia
Mounds were burned and had cut marks indicating the creatures had been
used as food, said Koldehoff, the excavation director. Koldehoff pointed
out that within a span of maybe 500 to 600 years, early dogs went from
hunting partners, to pack animals to dinner fare.
But weren’t there some ancient people, children perhaps, who cuddled
primitive puppies and maybe even played with them?
Koldehoff said he thinks that had to have happened, but there is no
physical proof.
“There’s certain things you can’t dig up,” he said. “You can’t dig up a
dance. You can’t dig up a song. And you can’t dig up somebody petting a
Contact reporter George Pawlaczyk at and 239-2625.
© 2006 Belleville News-Democrat and wire service sources. All Rights

Oakville excavation raises more questions

OAKVILLE, Iowa — The prehistoric Indian village that was excavated near here a year ago has been covered up again, but analysis of what was found will take several more months, and the questions raised may never be answered.

A portion of the village — determined to be a “significant” cultural site — was excavated and some 100,000 artifacts removed as part of a process of rebuilding a levee that broke during flooding on the Iowa River in 2008.

The reason the site was deemed “significant” is that it is largely undisturbed and it is of a culture that “is not greatly represented in the record” — that is, not many sites like it have been excavated before, Jim Ross, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers archeologist, said.

Researchers believe it is a village of the Weaver cultural tradition that existed around 320 A.D. (that’s 1,700 years ago) with 150-250 people living in 20 to 25 branch-and-bark wigwams arranged in a circle, or ring, around a plaza. They are believed to have lived there about 10 years.

Among the questions archeologist Dave Benn, of Bear Creek Archaeology, Cresco, Iowa, is pondering:

— The pottery found at the site has very little decoration, compared with a high level among people living just before this time period. Why? Why did this complexity vanish?

— Evidence suggests that this people did very little trading, compared with extensive trading among people living just before them. Again, why?

Whereas earlier sites revealed copper, shells and non-native chert (a type of rock used to make tools) indicating that the people traded with others all over the Midwest, this site revealed only a little non-native chert, and that may have been a holdover from earlier days, not a reflection of trading, Benn said.

What happened to change trading patterns?

People during this time period cultivated plants for food; researchers are sifting through evidence to see if this village might have added to the list; in other words, that there was an intensification of agriculture.

The final report of findings is to be submitted to the Corps by the end of this year.

As for the artifacts that were removed, the Corps is working with the landowner — who by law owns them — on an agreement in which some will end up at the Office of the State Archeologist in Iowa City, where they will be available to researchers, while others will be put on display at local museums, Ross said.

The artifacts include projectile points, drills, awls, knives, chopping tools, deer and fish bone and pieces of pottery.
Read more:

Native American artifacts on Pascagoulas Greenwood Island date to 1000 B.C

Greenwood Island on the western side of Bayou Casotte in Pascagoula has long been known for its Native American history. Now, archaeologists have dated that history to 1000 B.C., and said that pottery shards found there are the oldest known specimens uncovered on the Mississippi coast.

The findings were released by Carey Geiger, president of the Southwest Chapter of the Alabama Archaeological Society, based on his study of artifacts recovered from the island over 40 years by an unnamed Pascagoula searcher and during a 1997 excavation by University of South Alabama archaeologists from Mobile.

Geiger, a retired chemist with the Pascagoula Chevron Refinery, has been volunteering with the university’s Center for Archaeological Studies since 2006.

Geiger discussed his study during a presentation last week at the university, showcasing several of the artifacts, which include arrowheads and pieces of pottery.

Charcoal found with the pottery, discovered in the basal-clay layer of soil, was carbon dated to 1000 B.C., Geiger said.

“We traced it back to what we call the Norwood series of pottery,” also discovered in digs in northwest Florida, Geiger said. “It was the first Indian ceramics in this area, called fiber-tempered,” he said.

He explained that fiber-tempered pottery is created of clay and, most likely, Spanish moss and then heated by fire.

Geiger believes that the findings provide a key insight into Greenwood Island’s past.

“According to field notes, it was found only with oyster shell, charcoal and dirt,” he said. “It was right on the basal clay, which would indicate they were the first people there.”

The island is also historically significant in the context of the U.S. military. In 1848, the Army, returning from the Mexican-American War, chose Greenwood Island as a camp and hospital due to overflow from New Orleans. It was named Camp Jefferson Davis, and Geiger said as many as 20 soldiers may be buried there, based on an 1895 report by the government.

According to a representative with the Jackson County Historical Society, the remains of two soldiers were discovered on the island in 1979 and interred at Biloxi National Cemetery a decade later. Most recently, remains were discovered in two coffins during low tide, and are being studied by archaeologists with the University of Southern Mississippi.

Geiger also spoke about how tidal erosion and industrial encroachment specifically dredging have disturbed the island, damaging preservation efforts.

Although he said he is not an opponent of industrial development, he believes Greenwood Island to be of tremendous importance archaeologically especially considering the Native American findings.

“There was a very significant occupation from about 1000 B.C. to early A.D.,” he said. “It was very large.”

Shawnee Lookout Oldest Hilltop Settlement?

“Shawnee Lookout (2005),” Oil on Canvas by Mary Louise Holt. Click image to purchase at

The Shawnee are one of the most important Native American groups in North America due to their long standing and far flung trade networks. They had trading outposts throughout eastern North America from the Great Lakes to Florida. One site known as Shawnee Lookout in Ohio appears to have been continuously occupied by the Shawnee for over 2,000 years. It is also much larger than the original 1960 archaeological investigations revealed. Read an excerpt from the news report here:

The discoveries continue to surprise for a team of UC students digging in Shawnee Lookout Park, with a major new mound being located and a rare kiln used to fire pottery excavated in recent weeks, along with even more evidence emerging to support the theory that the site could be the largest continuously occupied hilltop Native American site in the United States.

But perhaps most importantly from this year’s work, evidence was also found to bolster the theory that Shawnee Lookout was the largest continuously occupied hilltop settlement established by any Native American group. The dating of recent evidence found argues for cultural continuity at the site, meaning the Hopewell who lived at Shawnee Lookout up to 2,000 years ago are showing direct links to the Shawnee people who were living on the site less than 300 years ago.

Work this summer was conducted by a group of more than 20 students working in the Hamilton County Park District property in southwestern Ohio as part of UC’s Ohio Valley Archaeology Field School. Much of the summer was devoted to excavating the remains of structures, dwellings about the size of a modern-day ranch house, says UC Assistant Professor of Anthropology Ken Tankersley, who oversaw work at the site this summer.

“The site we were working at had been previously looked at back in the 1960s and was considered a small village site,” Tankersley says. “This summer we did an extensive survey of the site, and it is so densely vegetated, you can understand how there were features that were missed. We found a number of mounds at other sites around the park. While it had always been thought that there were about 40 archaeological sites in Shawnee Lookout, it now looks like there are many, many more.”


Large Hopewell site unearthed in Ohio

A huge archaeological site has been unearthed in Ohio dating to the Hopewell time period. From the news report:

Five weeks of digging this summer by professional and amateur archaeologists from the Cleveland Museum and the Firelands Archaeological Research Center, guided by the magnetic readings, have confirmed the presence of a major occupation, and have begun to reveal some tantalizing details about the encampment and its inhabitants.

It’s one of the earliest, largest and most sophisticated Native American settlements in northern Ohio, Redmond said.

Artifacts such as sherds of pottery and razor-sharp flint tools called bladelets indicate that three distinct prehistoric groups occupied the settlement off and on, beginning as early as 2,500 years ago, at the same time the Roman Republic was rising. They remained until shortly before European explorers arrived in the area in the 1600s.

Evidence suggests the site may have, over time, served multiple purposes: a ceremonial spot, a wintering shelter, a defensible village and a trading hub. Its plentiful artifacts are in the same style as those made by the mound-building Hopewell people in southern and central Ohio, but it’s not clear whether those items were imported, or crafted by locals imitating the Hopewell traditions.

Read the full article here: Cleveland Museum of Natural History researchers uncovering prehistoric American Indian settlement in Huron County

Virtual First Ohioans

The Ohio Historical Society has a new online exhibit entitled Virtual First Ohioans which includes videos and photos of artifacts found at many of Ohio’s most important archaeological sites. The site covers every archaeological period in Ohio from the Archaic to the Woodland to the Mississippian. The exhibit includes extensive information on the most important cultures to have lived in Ohio including the Adena, Hopewell, and Mississippian cultures.

Visit the Virtual First Ohioans exhibit.

Archaeological dig near Oakville, Iowa finds ancient village

Some 1,700 years ago, the people who live in what is known officially as archaeological site “13LA582” west of Oakville, Iowa, were hunter-gatherers who also grew native crops like sunflower seeds.

They lived in a doughnut-shaped village around a communal area and occupied 20 to 25 tree branch and bark wigwams capable of housing up to 10 people each.

The group is believed to be part of the Weaver culture located not far from the confluence of the Iowa and Cedar rivers in Louisa County where fish and game were plentiful, said Dave Benn, a research archaeologist. He was hired to excavate the site as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers sited a new location for a levee to protect the town battered by flooding last year.

“They ate a huge number of fish, and we also found turtle and deer bones,” Benn said of the diet of the people about whom little is known. “They lived well, they ate well, and there was a lot of food here.”

A team of archaeologists toiling under a plastic canopy off Louisa County Road H22 are carefully unearthing remnants of the village from a 10-foot-by-213-foot trench cut right through the middle of it. They are hoping to gain a greater insight into the lives of these prehistoric people who once flourished throughout the region.

“There were villages up and down the banks of rivers all through the area,” said Benn. “This one is a particularly good find, probably the best I’ve seen in a decade.”

In eight weeks of meticulous digging and cataloging, the site has yielded 100,000 artifacts, Benn said. Many are unrecognizable bone fragments and pottery shards, but there are also stone arrowheads and spear points, stone axe heads and pits laden with ancient trash that give a glimpse of how the village lived.

Read more: