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Ancient bronze pot found 15 feet under the Nacoochee Valley

Ancient bronze pot found 15 feet under the Nacoochee Valley


We have discovered the location of a Spanish mining village near Dahlonega!  It was first mentioned by U.S. Senator John C. Calhoun.

For the past five years, the People of One Fire has repeatedly pleaded for some government agency or private foundation to sponsor a comprehensive, long term archaeological study of the Nacoochee Valley in Northeast Georgia.  We are convinced that it will change the history of North America.  Operating with a skeleton Works Progress Administration (WPA) budget in 1939,  archaeologist Robert Wauchope found substantial evidence of a continuous human occupation of the Nacoochee Valley from the Ice Age to the present.  What is particularly interesting were the chain of village sites on the Chattahoochee and Soque Rivers, which were occupied almost continuously from at least 1000 BC to around 1696 . . . the year of a catastrophic smallpox plague.

Another research question that has been generally ignored by institutions and governmental agencies is the presence of many thousand Sephardic Jewish and Iberian descendants in North Georgia, Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia.  My article about a former Cherokee princess, now a Sephardic princess, coming up to me at the Dahlonega Walmart cheese counter, has garnered 73, 732 readers!  You can read that article again at:  A Sephardic Princess in Dahlonega, Georgia

People of One Fire founding member, Michael Jacobs, always sends me the coolest Christmas presents.  One year he sent me eyewitness accounts of the Track Rock Terrace Complex by Spanish traders (The Cherokees were not even mentioned).  Another year, he sent me a letter written by Edward Graeves, a director of the Melilot Colony in Northeast Georgia . . . written on January 6, 1660.  Last night came another Christmastide historical bombshell. 

It was an official government map of the mineral deposits of the Southern Appalachians, published in 1833.  First all, it contains the most accurate description of the boundaries of the Cherokee Nation at that time.  Note that in 1828 . . . prior to the public announcement of gold deposits . . . Georgia persuaded the Cherokees to sell most of their territory, which contained gold deposits.  The Creeks had already been pressured into selling the section of the Georgia Gold Belt in their territory in 1827.  The Cherokee gold belt had been thinly populated by long time Creek and Uchee residents, under the recent domain of the Cherokees, so Cherokee leaders thought it no great loss . . . until the gold deposits were announced.

What immediately caught my eye, though, was the drawing of a bronze tripod flagon in the lower center section of the map.  A flagon was used by ancient chemists to heat substances until they separated into heavier and lighter liquid components.  The spout was mounted so the heavier component could be poured off.  A quick Google Image Search revealed that the artifact that most closely matched the form of the flagon found in the Nacoochee Valley dated from the Middle Bronze Age and was unearthed in Cyprus . . . an island in the eastern Mediterranean noted for its copper, gold and iron deposits since 4,000 BC. 

This flagon could have been used by 16th and 17th century miners in the Nacoochee Valley.  However, its 15 feet depth at the time of discovery suggests that it was dropped at that location many centuries before then.

Michael Jacobs was Historic Preservation Planner for the Southeast Georgia Regional Commission, when he helped create the People of One Fire.  He is now Senior Regional Planner at the South Georgia Regional Commission, so he does not have time to write articles for us anymore.  However, his contributions to the increase in knowledge about the Southeast’s past are extraordinary.  All his research is done in his minimal spare time.  It is my hope that some day, he gets credit for those discoveries.

Why did so many people think that the Calhoun Mine and Spanish mining village was in the Nacoochee Valley?

The Calhoun Mine, near Dahlonega, GA  is a National Historical Landmark.  There is a very accurate Wikipedia article on it.  See  Calhoun Mining Operation In 1821, the Native Americans living in the Nacoochee Valley sold most of the valley to a group of families from Burke County, NC.  Most of these Native Americans moved to thinly populated sections of the Creek Nation in Alabama, but in a few years had to move again.  The same phenomenon was occurring in what is now the Buckhead and Peachtree Hills areas of Atlanta.  Hitchiti and Apalache Creek villages, who were not Muskogee Creeks, individually sold their lands and moved on prior to these lands being formerly ceded to the State of Georgia.

The North Carolinians’ land was somewhat in legal limbo until 1828, but was considered part of Habersham County.  After 1828, the land between the Nacoochee Valley and the Chestatee River, plus the Calhoun Mining Operation was added to Habersham County until December 1832, when Lumpkin County was created.   Thus, when the Spanish villages and artifacts were discovered by gold miners, these sites were all in Habersham County. 

When pioneer archaeologist, Charles C. Jones, Jr., briefly visited the Nacoochee Valley in 1858, it just had been cut off of Habersham County and placed in a new county (White), which didn’t have a courthouse yet.  There was still confusion about the boundaries between the counties in that area.  Keep in mind that at the time, this was a very remote mountainous region that few people ever visited.

Jones found a newspaper article from 1828, which said that the employees of John C. Calhoun had found the ruins of a Spanish mining village on the western end of Habersham County.  Jones had a pre-1828 map that showed the Habersham County line to be at the western end of the Nacoochee Valley, so in his book that he wrote in 1873 he placed the Calhoun Mining Operation immediately south of Helen, GA at the western end of the Nacoochee Valley.

In the 1970s, considerable research was done of the Georgia Gold Rush by professional historians.  Among other things, it resulted in the designation of the Calhoun Mining Operation as a National Historic District and a National Historic Landmark.  However, no standard history texts even mention the substantial presence of Sephardic Jewish colonists in the Southern Appalachians, so these historians were not aware of 16th and 17th century European village sites in the Georgia Gold Belt.  Meanwhile, local history lovers have been vainly looking for the Calhoun Mining Operation in what is now White County, GA.

There are Spanish village sites in the Nacoochee Valley Area.  Several were discovered by gold miners in the 1820s and 1830s.  Infrared imagery shows what appears to be the footprint of a triangular fort with bastions in the flood plain of the Chattahoochee River, south of Sautee, GA.   However, the one discovered by John C. Calhoun’s employees was definitely on the Chestatee River in Lumpkin County, GA.


The long lost 16th/17th century Spanish village was near Dahlonega on the Chestatee River, not on the Chattahoochee River in the Nacoochee Valley.

Nuevo Potosi

A smaller detail on this map eventually caught my attention.   The only community in the Northeast Georgia Mountains was named New Potosi.  Now that is NOT a name that Anglo-Americans would have named a town in the 1700s and early 1800s.  In fact, it is definite that by 1833, Anglo-American gold miners had established the village of Auraria, a couple of miles west of New Potosi.  A few miles to the northeast, the country seat of Dahlonega had been founded.  New Potosi or Potosi does not appear on any 18th or 19th century official map of Georgia.  Dahlonega and Auraria do appear . . . and still do.

The name is highly significant.  Silver mines at Potosi, Bolivia supplied most of the silver bullion, which funded the Spanish Empire until the 1820s, when Bolivia won independence.  In 1592, gold and silver deposits were discovered in northeastern Mexico.  The region soon became known as San Luis Potosi . . . to give it the image of another mining boom town.

Conversos and Cryptic Sephardic Jews with a background in mining and slave trading flocked to San Luis Potosi in 1610, when the Spanish Inquisition showed up without warning in  Cartagena, Colombia.  Cartagena was one of three cities in Spanish American colonies, where slave trading was allowed. Several Sephardic families in northern Mexico became wealthy from sponsoring raids into what is now the United States to acquire indigenous slaves to work in the San Luis Potosi mines.

The Cryptic Jews thought that San Luis Potosi was so remote from the Inquisition in Mexico City that they would be not be persecuted.   However, the Inquisition got word of a large population of Jews in the north and so many Sephardim were forced to flee again . . . either to New Mexico or to parts unknown.  Several prominent accused Cryptic Jews were captured in northern Mexico then burned at the stake in Mexico City.  The religious ceremonies that accompanied these excruciatingly torturous executions were no different in context than the Aztecs’ human sacrifices.

Section of 1820 Sturges Map of Georgia – All these place names are standard Creek words!

The woman, who came up to me at the Walmart cheese counter stated that her family had lived in the Dahlonega area BEFORE the arrival of Anglo-American gold miners in the late 1820s.  Therefore, they assumed that their ancestors were Cherokees.  I told her that his assumption was not valid.  All the Native American place names around Dahlonega are Creek, not Cherokee. White settlers gave the Cherokee names to Dahlonega, Yonah Mountain and Walasi-yi Gap.   Even as late as 1820, state maps called Yonah Mountain by its original Creek name . . .  Noccassee . . . which means “bear” just like the Cherokee  word, Yonah.

We now know that when the Cherokee Tribe was given North Central and Northwest Georgia in 1785, it was definitely occupied by an independent alliance of 12 villages, whose occupants were Creeks, Uchees and Panoan immigrants from the Georgia Coast.  They called themselves the Elate or Elasi, which means “Foothill People” in Itsate-Creek.   Since the Cherokees were not particularly interested in the remote, mountain lands, the original inhabitants were allowed to remain, but had virtually no political say-so in the Cherokee tribal government. 

However, there was another problem.  The lovely lady had paid for DNA tests from three commercial labs.  All three said that she had NO Native American DNA, but very high levels of Semitic, Iberian, North African and Middle Eastern DNA.  In fact, she had just as much Semitic DNA in her as a friend from high school in Dahlonega, whose family were indigenous Christians from Nazareth in Israel.   Indigenous Israeli Christians typically are far more “Jewish” than European Jews.  The Cherokee princess from Dahlonega was a Sephardic Jewish Princess.

Now this all makes sense

In 1828,  employees of South Carolina Senator John C. Calhoun’s gold mining operations in Georgia stumbled into the ruins of a 16th or 17th  Spanish gold mining village.  They found many iron mining tools, plus a Spanish cigar mold.  Evidently, the miners were growing tobacco too.

Pioneer Southeastern archaeologist, Charles C. Jones, Jr, reported the discovery in his 1873 book on the Southeastern Indians. He placed the Spanish mining village in the western end of the Nacoochee Valley on Dukes Creek.   However, in doing background research for the article on New Potosi, I discovered something that most people don’t seem to know.  Calhoun’s tract of gold mining land was not in the Nacoochee Valley, but along Cane Creek and the Chestatee River near Dahlonega!  This location is about 24 miles west of the Nacoochee Valley.  Calhoun either owned the land where New Potosi was located or else his tract was immediately across the river from it.  The descriptions of his employees’ discoveries and the family heritage of “Our Lady of the  Dahlonega Walmart Cheese Counter” all make sense now.

Nevertheless, there are eyewitness accounts of large numbers of Spanish-speaking gold miners being in the Nacoochee Valley as late as 1693.  South Carolina Royal Governor James Moore saw them.  Hundreds, if not thousands of 16th and 17th century European artifacts have been found in the Nacoochee Valley.  In contrast, outside of Parris Island, SC relatively few have been found in the Carolinas and eastern Tennessee.  While the national media raved about some European artifacts being found inside the wall footprints of a single building in Burke County, NC,  the discoveries in the Nacoochee Valley were in a seven mile long corridor. 

Then there is the Acosta Trail, which connected St. Augustine with the Apalache Kingdom and the Georgia Mountains.  In this situation, it seems not to have been named after a person, but rather from the original meaning of the Spanish word, acosta.  It means “away from the coast.”   At the site of Nuevo Potosi is the Achasta Golf Club Community.   The promoters said that it was named after a Cherokee town at the site.  However, no such name appears on any list of Cherokee villages.  There are a couple maps from the early 1800s that label the Acosta Trail as being the “Achasta Trail.”

So . . . Georgians have known about the Spanish colonists in the mountains for almost two centuries.  Despite this, historians have ignored the existence of early Spanish colonies in the mountains and so don’t mention them in any state history textbooks.

The good news is that (apparently) the site of Nueva Potosi is mostly under a golf course,  publicly owned land or undeveloped land.  The archaeological zone is located northwest of the termination of the GA 400 expressway and along US 19 Hwy.  The Chestatee River Flood Plain, next to US 19,  is used to provide access for canoeists, kayakers and inflated rafts.    This is an archaeological zone in which archaeologists could easily work incrementally in order to unravel a concealed past.


And now you know!

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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.



    Richard, Marry Christmas!!! This new discovery of the Bronze age smelting device in Georgia indicates a mining colony existed back to that time period. Historians have known of an ancient Kingdom called “Alashiya” that was mining and shipping copper to the Bronze age Eastern Mediterranean Kingdoms and controlled some of the port cites of Cyprus but have never been able to locate it. The Biblical word for Alashiya is “Elishah” a brother of the founder of Tarshish city in Spain that the Phoenicians of Tyre and Hebrews did trade with. This Sea mining trade network seems to have connections with Spain, Cornwell England, and the Natives of America at one time. The ancient maps of the Greeks called England “Alba”, a connection with the “Al” spelling of the name Alashiya. Ala-bama, Ala-tamaha, perhaps some connections. As soon as are University folks understand Native peoples arrived by building Sea fairing boats… the sooner people would understand better the history of the South East US. Thanks again for your articles.

    • I “think” it was for mining purposes, but it may have been something involved with preparation of a beverage or herb.


        That’s THREE votes for gold-mining/processing related lol!

        Here’s my take… (I have a small hobby foundry btw.)

        The vessel is damaged in an unusual and highly informative manner. Notice that two of the legs are broken off. Now bronze does not just break without bending first unless it has been subjected to very high temperature at the same time a force being applied to it. Occasionally this will happen to a complex casting as it cools if I have rammed the sand mold too hard.

        So my guess is that the (small) vessel was placed into a fire or on embers and as it overheated (about 500C) the 2 legs broke and it tilted over. Then it appears an attempt was made to remove it from the fire with tongs or sticks and the pressure of the pinch broke the two missing parts of the thin rim of the vessel off. The reason the vessel would have been in a fire in the first place would have been to evaporate off the mercury from the mercury/gold amalgam that would have been inside.

        A similar vessel I could find nowhere, but the process of mercury amalgamation to recover fine gold particles which otherwise would be lost is a practice that to my amazement occurred in the Americas as far back as the 2nd millennium B.C.

        “Isotopic data on mercury in lake sediments, combined with 14C dates, indicate that mercury mining at Huancavelica began around 1400 B. C. and that mercury production peaked at approximately 500 B. C. and at A. D. 1450, corresponding to the heights of Chavin and Inka rule, respectively, in the region (Cooke et al., 2009). Retorts were described (Petersen, 1970: 49; Burger & Matos, 2002) and detrital mercury was found in drainages near Huancavelica (Arana, 1901: 6; Petersen, 1970: 29). ”


          the pot damage while being used seems obvious. I was not aware how long mercury has been used to recover gold, but thinking some more, I think I recall mercury being on Spanish ship manifests that were lost in storms that would be contemporary to the age of the pot. someone probably can computer access the manifests for fun.


    I would vote for your pot to be a gold refining device. I have no experience with gold, but silver melts fairly low temperature. the pot has legs like a spyder skillet to set in the coals of fire and a pouring spout to the right. a chemical was likely combined with the gold ore and heated in camp type fire, then when the gold separated, it was poured off into mold. I think the more recent miners used mercury to separate gold, but there is likely something more primitive that worked effectively. (the black powder rifle shooters use a device similar to this with a pouring spout to melt lead and pour into the bullet molds).

    • That is good an explanation as I can find. The spouted flagon from Middle Bronze Age Cyprus was near mines.


    A New Journey to Carolina includes an essay on the Spanish in the Carolinas in the 1500s. Maybe a group of Spaniards entered Georgia and found gold in today’s Habersham County (where gold was first discovered in Georgia) but died before they could return with the news. Imagine how the history of North America would have changed if they had returned with gold!

    • Oh, the Spanish speaking Jews lived in North Georgia for over a century and their descendants still live there. When they take DNA tests, virtually all the people in North Georgia, who call themselves “Cherokee” show no or very little Native American heritage, but lots of Sephardic Jewish heritage. Many have more Middle Eastern DNA than the average American Jew . . . whose ancestors mostly came from eastern Europe.


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