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A Potential Treasure Trove of Ice Age Fossils and Human Artifacts in Northwest Georgia

A Potential Treasure Trove of Ice Age Fossils and Human Artifacts in Northwest Georgia


Google blew it!  Its cartographers missed a water-filled crater a half mile long!

Eons in the past a meteor or comet fragment broke up and struck what is now Northwest Georgia.  What remains today are something akin to Carolina Bays, but oriented to a roughly East-West alignment.  This pond is the largest, by far, of the depressions created by the impacts.  It is a half mile long and a third of a mile wide.   Note that pond is perfectly oval and that impact cut into the natural terrain on the northwest side of the pond.  This is not typical of sink holes.   Sink holes are rare in Northwest Georgia, anyway.

What is especially intriguing about this pond is that it is sandwiched between a dense cluster of Mississippian and Colonial Period Native American town sites, plus is relatively close to the Coosawattee River.   During the Ice Age, large herds of mega-mammals migrated up and down the Great Appalachian Valley.  Such a large pond, next to a fast flowing mountain, coming out of the mountains to the east, would have been a natural attraction for wildlife and an ideal hunting ground for early man.   The close proximity to two Native town sites virtually insures that artifacts will be found in the ponds sediment and environs.



I first noticed the ancient pond while using ERSI GIS satellite imagery to study the Coosawattee and Oostanaula River Valleys for a private client.   The pond appears on early USGS Geodetic maps as “swamps or wetlands,”  but is completely left off Googles new maps.  The depression in the landscape is labeled a slight rise in elevation by Google and ERSI terrain maps.

This pond is obviously of no practical use by the farmer, who owns it.  One can see where a bulldozer or dredge was sent into the wetland in an attempt to drain or fill in the depression.  This is a situation in which the owner would find it financially advantageous to be offered property tax abatement,  income tax credits or direct purchase in order to save the pond as an ecological preserve and a location for infinite scientific studies.

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Richard Thornton is a professional architect, city planner, author and museum exhibit designer-builder. He is today considered one of the nation’s leading experts on the Southeastern Indians. However, that was not always the case. While at Georgia Tech Richard was the first winner of the Barrett Fellowship, which enabled him to study Mesoamerican architecture and culture in Mexico under the auspices of the Institutio Nacional de Antropoligia e Historia. Dr. Roman Piňa-Chan, the famous archaeologist and director of the Museo Nacional de Antropologia, was his fellowship coordinator. For decades afterward, he lectured at universities and professional societies around the Southeast on Mesoamerican architecture, while knowing very little about his own Creek heritage. Then he was hired to carry out projects for the Muscogee-Creek Nation in Oklahoma. The rest is history. Richard is the Tribal Historic Preservation Officer for the KVWETV (Coweta) Creek Tribe and a member of the Perdido Bay Creek Tribe. In 2009 he was the architect for Oklahoma’s Trail of Tears Memorial at Council Oak Park in Tulsa. He is the president of the Apalache Foundation, which is sponsoring research into the advanced indigenous societies of the Lower Southeast.



    WOW ! I would just love to be there to look for those fossils. I collect fossils, or should I say I did collect fossils in England but haven’t come across any interesting ones in the area I live in Crete. I shall be interested to hear what the experts find.


    WOW !! I would just love to be there looking for those fossils. I collected fossils when I lived in England but here in the area I live there is nothing very interesting with regard to fossils.


    Those patterns are not indicative of attempts at drainage but rather indicate cultivation of water loving plants such as rice, cranberries or flax. It may also show harvesting of peat.

    • Good point. Don’t what crop they would be growing. It is too cold for rice there, but too hot in the summer for cranberries and flax. The Appalachian Valley is as hot or hotter than Atlanta in the summer, but a little colder in the winter. Will give it some thought.


    Hey Richard,
    The area on the right and lower left look like raised platforms to me. The Maya made raised platforms in swampy areas for growing food crops. They could have made them in shallow water and used the deeper water to raise fish ect. They should have been able to raise about anything suited for the area on platforms like these.
    If the platforms are made high enough drainage should not have been a problem unless you had big storms or floods. If there was not a direct inlet from one of the rivers the water level could have stayed fairly constant making it easier to farm the area.
    Thanks for another great article

    • Wayne there were definitely raised platforms in the Savannah River Valley near Elberton, where my Creek ancestors lived. From a young boy onward, that always puzzled me. That’s why this archaeological zone needs to be protected and studied thoroughly!


    Richard, A mammoth tooth was recently found in Blount Co. Tennessee inside Tuckaleeche cavern.


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