Archaeologist discovers obsidian artifact in Georgia’s Nacoochee Valley
This past Wednesday, a senior member of the Society of American Archaeology, who has devoted his life to the study of the Mayas, was being given a guided tour of sites in the Nacoochee Valley, discovered by the famous archaeologist, Robert Wauchope, in 1939. In eyesight of the mysterious Kenimer Mound, he looked to the ground and picked up an obsidian blade, the type that was typically used on Mesoamerican swords. History was made at that moment.
The archaeology profession is not aware of obsidian deposits in the United States, east of the Rocky Mountains. However, the archaeologist thinks that this obsidian came from a deposit near Teotihuacan.
Sautee-Nacoochee, Georgia – This beautiful valley is chock full of archaeological sites and history. For many centuries prior to the arrival of Europeans, it was one of the most densely occupied locations in North America. It is the crossroads of some of the most important Native American trade paths in Eastern North America. It was the location of a late 16th century and 17th century Sephardic gold mining colony. Beginning in 1646, it was the location of a fortified Spanish trading post. It was also the location of the nation’s first major gold rush in late 1820s.
There is something else . . . the largest Native American town in the Nacoochee Valley, where Sautee is located now, was called Itsate. Itsate is what the Itza Mayas called themselves. The real professionals in the study of Maya civilization are quite aware that large, five-sided mounds, sculpted from hills, are very typical of the Highland Mayas. However, because Georgia archaeologists blocked the flow of information about sites such as the Kenimer Mound, they are just now becoming aware of what archeologists, Robert Wauchope and Arthur Kelly discovered here in the 20th century.
Ironically, the discoverer of this obsidian blade was a friend of Arthur Kelly, who founded the Society of American Archaeology. Kelly was sacked from his position of department director by the University of Georgia in 1969, because he went public with his claim that he had found Mesoamerican artifacts along the Chattahoochee River. Decades of research by this archaeologist in Mesoamerica and the Southwest has also convinced him that there were extensive contacts between certain areas of North America and Mesoamerica.
The Nacoochee Valley was just one of the archaeological zones visited in Georgia this past week. Next week at the annual meeting of the Society of American Archaeology in Florida, its other members will learn about the evidence that Mesoamericans did indeed explore and settle within the interior of the Southeastern United States. Out of respect for this gentleman’s long, distinguished career in archaeology, we will let him be the person to tell the whole story.
However, we can’t wait to let one cat out of the bag . . . so to speak. There is a stone architecture town site in a mountain gap, over 1600 miles to the west of Georgia’s Track Rock Gap Terrace Complex that displays many of the same petroglyphs found at Track Rock Gap. This town site will be our next article on the remarkable week that has just occurred.
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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.
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