Corn, Cotton & Lima Beans
A new variety of corn arrived in Georgia at the same time that the first Mississippian sites appeared such as at Ocmulgee Mounds. Coincidentally, this corn arrived in the American southwest first around 800 AD. Cotton arrived in the American southwest at around the same time.[xliii] Both corn and cotton originated in Mexico and traveled along the new trade route established between Chaco Canyon and west Mexico.
Lima beans show up in the southeast around 1301 AD. This is the same time period that the newcomers arrived at Etowah thus making them the most likely candidate for the introduction of this crop.
There are two types of Lima beans. One, known as the Lima type, was first domesticated in Peru (hence its name). The second, known as Sieva type, was first domesticated in southern Mexico and Guatemala in the same geographical region where the Zoque live.[xliv] It is also the Sieva type that was first grown in the southeast in 1301 AD. In fact, the Sieva type is still considered a distinct bean from the Lima in the southeast and is referred to as the butter bean.
According to the latest research the distribution of the lima bean from southern Mexico and Guatemala “has been traced by the various ‘prehistoric varieties’ left along Indian trade routes. One course of prehistoric ‘bean migration’ extended up through Mexico into what is now [the American] Southwest, thence eastward to spread from Florida to Virginia.”[xlv]
Lima beans, corn, and cotton all appear to arrive in the American southwest via the same migration route suggested by all of the preceding artifact-based evidence as well as the Creek Migration Legends for the origin of the Creek tribe.
Thus the fact that three new food sources, corn, Chihuahuas and butter beans, all with Mexican origins showed up in Georgia the same time newcomers arrived in Georgia strongly suggests they arrived with these newcomers from Mexico.
A Question of Timing
There is a considerable time gap between the cultures of the Olmec, west Mexican, Ancestral Puebloan and Mississippian cultures discussed in this paper. The Olmec culture is believed to have “disappeared” around 900 BC. Evidence presented in this paper shows they had very likely migrated into the west Mexican state of Jalisco between 1000 and 700 BC. The west Mexican shaft tomb tradition and the associated Olmec-style artifacts found in Colima date between 300 BC to 600 AD suggesting that Olmec ideas if not the culture itself survived in some form until this time as well. Perhaps by this time they were simply a priestly clan within a foreign society.
The known trade contacts between west Mexico and Chaco Canyon in the American southwest date to 800 AD to 1200 AD. This leaves a 200 year gap between the end of the shaft tomb tradition and the earliest trade contacts with Chaco Canyon. This gap happens to coincide with the earliest estimate for the eruption of Mount Ceboruco, estimated to have happened sometime between 730 AD – 1130 AD. This eruption was the largest in North America for the previous 10,000 years thus it may explain why the shaft tomb tradition suddenly ended and then people with similar pottery styles showed up at Chaco Canyon 200 years later.
It should be remembered that the Aztec migration from Aztlan into central Mexico is thought to have taken almost three hundred years. When an entire tribe migrates they do not do so non-stop. They must settle and grow crops for a few years before moving on again. The Creek Migration Legend says this is exactly how their migration took place.
Thus it would not be unreasonable to estimate a migration time of 200 years for the people of west Mexico to reach Chaco Canyon. Once arriving they would have undoubtedly retained stories about their original homeland and then sent out explorers to find it again. Once found they could have initiated a trading relationship between their new homeland and their old homeland.
This would also explain one version of the Creek Migration Legend that stated they originated from the area of the Rocky Mountains. Perhaps the tellers of this version of the legend simply forgot about their original location near an erupting volcano as referenced in another version of the legend.
The Caddoan culture was one of the earliest Mississippian cultures in the southeast. It developed beginning around 800 AD[xlvi], the same time that the first trade contacts between west Mexico and Chaco Canyon had been established. The distance between Chaco Canyon and Mount Ceboruco in Nayarit, Mexico is approximately 1429 miles. The distance between Chaco Canyon and the Spiro Mounds site in Oklahoma is only 873 miles. Contacts between the southwest and the southeast had been going on for hundreds of years thus the ancestors of the Creek Indians could have migrated via established trade routes and arrived in the Caddoan area in 800 AD without problem. It should also be noted that corn arrived in the region at about the same time and seems to be an integral part of all Mississippian settlements.
The Long Nosed God masks featuring the cleft-head design first show up in Missouri around 900 AD. According to the Creek Migration Legend, the tribe encountered a river too large to cross, a likely reference to the Mississippi River, so they settled down for a few years. This may represent the establishment of the Cahokia site near St. Louis, Missouri. Evidence suggests that the copper breast plate found buried at Etowah featuring the Bird Man and three-pronged ceremonial mace was actually fabricated at Cahokia.
A burial at Cahokia between 950 -1000 AD featured a 40 year old man laid out on a bed of more than 20,000 shell beads arranged in the shape of a bird. Thus we can assume the Bird Man cult had arrived at Cahokia by this time. Cahokia then experienced a population explosion around 1050 AD.
The Ocmulgee Mounds site in Georgia dates from 950 AD -1150 AD. This is in the right time period to account for an eastward migration from the Mississippi River in 900 AD and arriving at Ocmulgee Mounds by 950 AD. According to their migration legend they were the first of the four migrating tribes to arrive in the east while several of the other tribes lagged behind. A completely new type of pottery showed up at Ocmulgee at this time as well which looked more like the pottery of the American southwest than it does the local Swift Creek pottery.
The new pottery featured shouldered bowls which is a common feature of pottery in desert areas because the shoulder forces water to bounce back into the pot instead of splashing out. This is an important consideration in desert areas where one must walk a long distance to retrieve water. This design feature enables one to return home with all the water one collects.
It would not be until 1250 AD that the Etowah Mounds site experienced a massive population influx and a major building spree. This building spree included the construction of the pentagonal Temple Mound and the Funeral Mound where the Bird Man copper plate and marble human pair statues were found in an elaborate log tomb inside the mound.
1250 AD is also the time that both Cahokia and Spiro Mounds experienced a depopulation of their respective sites. Though some of this population undoubtedly moved to nearby locales, it is likely many of these people moved to Etowah. Both Spiro and Cahokia are known to have had trade contacts with Etowah.
It was also in 1250 AD that the so-called Southern Cult or Southeastern Ceremonial Complex emerged. It appears there was a major revival of religious symbolism that had a remarkable similarity to Olmec religious symbolism including bird men, three-pronged ceremonial maces, rectangular “clan” symbols, feathered serpents, jaguars/underwater panthers, to name just a few.
After arriving in Georgia the migrants would have realized their long journey was over. The only thing east of Georgia was the Atlantic Ocean from where the sun rises each morning, thus their mission of finding from where the sun rose had been accomplished. Perhaps the thrill of knowing their wanderings was over was the impetus for the great revival of old religious symbols.
Interestingly, the Kachina religious tradition would emerge among the Ancestral Puebloan peoples in 1250 AD as well and would take over the old kiva system. One important kachina was in the guise of a bird man. 1250 is also when the pentagonal mound at Emerald Mound in Mississippi was constructed that has many features of the Olmec’s Stirling Acropolis from La Venta. Thus 1250 AD seems to be an important date in North American archaeology.
It would not be until 1325 that the spiral mound would be built at the Lamar Mounds site near Ocmulgee. This is also when the Bull Creek Dog Effigy pot from Muskogee County, Georgia dates. This pot appears to represent a Chihuahua. By this time Etowah had collapsed and so had the great city of Cahokia.
According to Cherokee legends, a foreign priestly clan known as the Ani Kutani resided on the mounds and ruled over the local populations.[xlvii] The locals eventually rose up and overthrew these foreigners and massacred all of them. This was said to have happened 300 years before the arrival of Europeans which places it in the same time period as the fall of Etowah. Etowah Mounds does, in fact, show signs of having been subject to a serious attack in which its palisade wall was burned and its marble ancestor-pair statues smashed.
The Lamar Mounds site was built in the middle of a swamp with the mounds effectively becoming islands during the wet season. The Lamar-style pottery has features of both the earlier Swift Creek culture and the later Mississippian culture suggesting a merging of cultures at this time. Creek traditions suggest this is precisely what happened.
In conclusion, it appears that a culture influenced by both west Mexican and Olmec ideas settled in Georgia during the Mississippian period. Both the cultural traditions and oral history of the Creek Indians strongly suggest an origin from west Mexico. Linguistic evidence also supports a Mexican origin. Archaeological evidence from excavations at Ocmulgee Mounds support the accuracy of the migration legends that suggest a western origin.
Although the volcanic eruption data rules out the western U.S. as a location for their origins, other evidence makes it likely they migrated through the southwestern U.S. area first before heading on towards the Midwest and Southeast.
The Ceboruco volcano is the most likely candidate due to the timing and size of its largest eruption and its location being in the same area as the shaft tomb cultural traditions. Chaco Canyon is also exactly due north of Ceboruco which coincides with the migration legend’s story of the original migrants mixing their fire with fire that came from the north. In Creek Indian tradition, mixing fire is the same as mixing of people. Chaco Canyon also shows the earliest evidence of platform mound building and the construction of round ceremonial buildings called kivas on the edge of open plazas[xlviii] similar in design to the Ocmulgee Earth Lodge.
It is likely that the Creek Indian Wind Clan represents the people who migrated from Mexico. The west Mexican shaft tomb tradition was associated with circular stepped pyramids which were likely associated with the Mesoamerican god Ehecatl-Quetzalcoatl. Many Mississippian artifacts contain swirling wind/swastika symbols, feathered serpents, Venus symbols and sometimes all three together which supports the idea they also recognized a deity with characteristics of Ehecatl-Quetzalcoatl.
Since many of these artifacts are similar to Olmec artifacts it is likely the Wind Clan was descended from or highly influenced by an Olmec tribe from western Mexico. They may be one and the same with the Ani Kutani of Cherokee legend. Evidence suggests the Olmecs or many aspects of their culture survived in west Mexico long after they “disappeared” from other parts of Mesoamerica. Since people don’t usually “disappear” it is more logical to assume they simply migrated away.
The obsidian scraper from Chopuca in central Mexico found at Spiro Mounds may have arrived by this same route or, more likely, it arrived by a more direct southerly route. It is doubtful the west Mexico-Chaco Canyon-Spiro route was the only one in existence. The Mayan Huasteca were located much closer to the southeastern U.S. and featured town plans more similar to Mississippian era sites than anything found in either the American southwest or west Mexico. In fact, the Creek Migration Legend and Creek tradition both hold that the mounds at the Ocmulgee Mounds site were constructed by an earlier people and the Creek’s only contribution was the construction of a “mound with a central chamber,” i.e., earth lodge. Thus the Creek Migration was just one of many that may account for the many Mesoamerican traits of Mississippian culture.