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Archaeologist discovers obsidian artifact in Georgia’s Nacoochee Valley

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.

Obsidian is an extremely hard volcanic glass that can produce blades sharper the the finest stainless steel surgical scalpel. By the way, this article is NOT an April Fools Joke!

Obsidian is an extremely hard volcanic glass that can produce blades sharper the the finest stainless steel surgical scalpel. By the way, this article is NOT an April Fools Joke!


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.



    There’s one problem.
    It’s called Pigeon Mountain, in Walker County, Georgia.
    It is the only active volcano east of the Mississippi. And has Obsidian Deposits. They used to mine them there, west side of mountain.
    Just so you know Richard. I found this Obsidian myself.
    But it is known out there, but not by many,
    take care

  2. Thanks for telling us this. I will pass it on.

    Neither the archaeologists nor I knew that. I was going on what he said . . . and he’s the archaeologist. In fact, I don’t think any archaeologist knows about the obsidian deposits there. When obsidian was found at Hopewell sites in Ohio, all archaeologists assumed that they came from the Southwestern United States.

    Of course, it makes sense. Pigeon Mountain is part of a large volcanic range that includes one mountain that erupted in 1857.

    But . . . the archaeologist did say that he saw something in the obsidian that made him think it was from around Teotihuacan. I don’t know what he saw, but he said that the Maya and SW USA obsidian was different.

    The obsidian that he found will be tested in a lab to determine its origin. Then we will know for sure.


    Ill researched, Nacoochee Mound was recorded much earlier than Wachope’s North Georgia survey.

    • Hey Bennie! I know who you are. I have your book. Actually, we were not looking at the Nacoochee Mound, but a cluster of 38 sites discovered by Robert Wauchope in the Nacoochee Valley. It was not ill-researched. In 2013 and 2014, the county government commissioned LIDAR scans and infrared photos. Since then, I have been using them, Wauchope’s book and ERSI satellite images to pinpoint the sites so they can be protected. They are in a National Historic District, but newcomers don’t know that virtually all the valley has been lived on until the general contractors start tearing up stone box graves. There are three stone architecture terrace complexes on the sides of the valley plus a cluster of hand-dug tombs, which the locals call “caves.” The saddest thing was that about 30 years ago a wealthy Floridian hired a bulldozer to scoop up the stones from the ruins of a stone temple on top of the Kenimer Mound. He used the stones to build the chimneys and foundation of his McMansion on a mountaintop. Good to hear from you. Richard T.

      • PS – Do you remember the village site on the Tuckasegee River, which you worked on? It had a “Mississippian Component” and then a small hamlet of crude round huts. The “Mississippian Component” was occupied by the Tokah-si Creeks. Juan Pardo called them Toque. The word means “Spotted.” They first moved to the SW Atlanta Metro Area then concentrated on the Tallapoosa River at Tuckabachee (Tokahpasi) Alabama then in 1777 moved back to the Chattahoochee River where Six Flags Over Georgia is located now. Tuckasegee is the Anglicization of Tokahsi-ki, which means “Offspring of Tokah People”.


    Yet I met some Dakotas who knew of Georgia Obsidian.
    Trade routes I suppose.
    Great article though. I am happy to see some true history come out. When I was a young kid, asked my dad where did all the Indians go? He told me to go to the gym at Murray County High School. Their mascots are the Indians.
    It took a lifetime for reality to sink in.


    I know of Tennessee obsidian, it still all over the ground here, but no one has interest yet.. This does give me hope though, that one day the obsidian here will be tested for age and origin, hopefully before its all sub divisions and stores… A whole mound like ridge was cut down in Kodak Tn for Wal-Mart s parking lot recently, the workers found artifacts, but they bull dozed anyway 🙁

    • Are you sure it is not black chert? According to the Tennessee State Minerals website, there is only one county in that state with any igneous rocks. I found a blog site that said that many people mistake a high quality Tennessee chert as obsidian.


        Lol, yes.. I know what they say, and I know what chert looks like.. And i know the differance in chert and obsidian. There is chert here, but there is also jasper, and obsidian, some worked some just chucks..I’ll mail you a sample if you’d like

  6. rosa_hunt@comcast.ner'

    In case this is still active – wanted to let you all know I found 2 pieces of obsidian in my Druid Hills Atlanta backyard. Your thread came up when google searched for obsidian rock found in Atlanta. My friends call it Dragonglass from GoT I find it super interesting and will dig for more!

    • Rosa, that is amazing. Now how in the world did obsidian get into the soil of Druid Hills? The most obvious explanation would be regional trade between Native Americans. An alternative explanation is that the chauffeur for Ms. Daisy Mansell said, “Why Miss Daisy, we ain’t in Mexico anymore!”


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