The state of Georgia has seen monumental construction projects being built for over 4,000 years. Beginning with the shell rings of Sapelo Island and ending with the Great Temple Mound at Etowah, the native peoples of Georgia were an industrious people with many great accomplishments including the first known pottery in North America.
The six sites covered in this exhibit are only a very small sampling of the countless Native American sites in Georgia. There is not a single county in Georgia that does not have multiple known sites, many as spectacular as those represented here. There is plenty of work to be done by future archaeologists and many questions still to be answered.
Who were these people, where did they come from, and why? Intriguing clues point to multiple migrations of people from as far away as South America and Mexico. One of Georgia’s coastal tribes, the Timucua, are the likely builders of the Sapelo Shell Rings and appear to have spoken a language related to one in South America. The shell rings were built after a major cosmic catastrophe inflicted destruction across the Earth ending the great Bronze Age civilizations in the Old World and setting much of South America’s Amazon rain forest ablaze. This is the likely motivation for people from South America leaving their homeland and seeking out a new one thousands of mile away on the Georgia coast.
Other tribes, such as Georgia’s Hitchiti-Creek, have migration legends which suggest they also arrived here by boat. Their arrival coincided with the first appearance of corn, a native crop of Mexico, and the appearance of Mexican symbols imprinted on their pottery known as Swift Creek pottery. The Hitchiti language also features many words of Mayan origin. All of these clues strongly suggest they arrived in Florida from Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula where Mayan culture originated and later migrated north into Georgia.
Sites such as Ocmulgee Mounds and Etowah Mounds feature symbols, pottery and other artifacts which have strong similarity to those of west Mexico. The migration legends of the Creek Indians suggest they originated as far away as the Rocky Mountains and perhaps as far away as west Mexico. Their legends said they fled their homeland because of earthquake and volcanic activity. Thus we see a common thread among all the migrations which led people to Georgia. People don’t normally leave their homes unless forced to do so by outside forces such as war or natural disaster. And so it was for Georgia’s Indians.
Modern-day academic anthropologists refuse to entertain the idea that Georgia’s Indians migrated from Mexico. “Where are the artifacts,” they ask. “Where is the linguistic evidence?” Yet when presented with the evidence they dismiss it out-of-hand and continue to cling to their established dogma.
These academics say the Creek Migration Legends which suggest a Mexican origin are just old myths and can’t be trusted. These academics suggest it’s mere coincidence that Mexican-like symbols appear on Swift Creek pottery and an even bigger coincidence that this occurred around the same time that corn arrived in the area. One must be a true-believer in coincidences to be able to dismiss this type of evidence without entertaining the idea that the two phenomena might actually be connected.
Yet the same academics who dismiss the Creek Migration legends will spend countless man-hours researching the “migration legends” of the Spanish conquistador De Soto even though they readily admit that there’s not one shred of physical evidence that he ever travelled through Georgia. Yet this Spanish migration took place only 500 years ago and included hundreds of people carrying metal tools and weapons. Certainly they dropped a few things along the route yet not one single Spanish artifact from the De Soto expedition has ever been found in Georgia. Thus what are the odds that artifactual evidence will be found from migrations that happened over a thousand years ago and longer?
This lack of evidence has not stopped volumes of material from being written about this Spanish migration. Yet the “lack of evidence” to support the Creek Migration Legends is the first reason cited for why no research has been done in this area. The double-standards are glaringly obvious.
When I first began creating the Ancient Civilizations of Georgia exhibit I knew nothing about the archaeological sites or native tribes of Georgia. I did not begin this journey with preconceived ideas about the origins of these mounds and the people who built them. I simply followed each thread of evidence to see where it led.
When I stumbled upon the migration legends of the Creek Indian tribes it was impossible to ignore what the legends suggested: that these tribes originated in Mexico. When you add to this the Cherokee legends which also suggest the Mound Builders were foreigners it would seem this would pique someone’s curiosity. Yet academics still continue their popular refrain of “there’s no evidence” that the mounds in Georgia were built by anyone other than indigenous groups who lived in Georgia for thousands of years prior.
I had no idea that even suggesting a Mexican origin as a possibility would be so adamantly opposed by academics and treated as heresy. Somehow these academics have no problem believing that 10,000 years ago Native Americans could migrate from Asia all the way to the tip of South America without problem yet walking from Mexico to the southeastern United States 1,000 years ago is somehow seen as completely preposterous. But luckily I do not need the permission of these academics to publish my findings.
Yet even the Museum of the American Indian has recently published an article in their magazine which proposes that modern day academics have gone too far in their dismissal of the idea that Native Americans in the eastern United States were influenced by those in Mexico. Perhaps the times are changing such that this will become an acceptable line of research for future graduate students of anthropology without the risk of committing professional suicide and being excommunicated from the hallowed halls of academic anthropology.
Certainly many of the ideas and theories presented here will eventually need to be updated based on more current research. Yet to ignore the oral histories and legends of the very people who created the mound sites seems odd. The more I study the more I realize that modern academics have completely underestimated the true complexities of Native American societies. A new continental view needs to be adopted by future researchers if they are to unravel the mysteries that remain.
The remarkable achievements of Mound Builders throughout the Southeast deserve much more attention than they have received in popular culture. This ancient culture was as rich, exotic and interesting as any in the Old World and in fact it is estimated that the overall number of mounds and constructions exceeds even that of the ancient Egyptians. Georgia’s ancient architects deserve to take their place among the world’s most honored and respected builders.