Richard Thornton | May 9, 2017 | 23
Archaeologist William Sears had the South American origin idea first
While working on a research paper for a client about the indigenous people around Lake Okeechobee. I stumbled upon a reference to archaeologist William Sears being ostracized for his views on a movement of peoples from South America to the Southeast. Notice in the postmortem bio below, Sears last published paper was only accepted by a magazine called “American Antiquity and Yachting,” Yachting ?????
Where both Sears and his critics went into the foul zone is that they both based their speculations on artifacts and an incomplete understanding of how these people fed themselves. They limited their world to South and North Florida. They, as almost always, ignored linguistics and failed to look at the complete cultures of the folks to the north and the south. For example, the people in the coastal plain of South Carolina and Georgia worshiped the Amazonian Headwaters, sun god, Toya. The High Kings up until the late 1600s in Georgia were called Paracusti . . . Paracus People.
The spirits of our ancestors, who made those artifacts, are very much alive within the people who subscribe to this newsletter. WE ARE ALIVE.
If William Sears’ name sound familiar, he was one of the first archaeologists to seriously study Kolomoki Mounds . . . a prime candidate for a South American connection. He thought is was a Late Mississippian Mound Center at the time, but in his retirement changed his mind and said that it was a Middle Woodland town and ceremonial site. Radiocarbon dating has confirmed that change of mind.
Here is the section of his bio that deals with the movement of people.
“Bill Sears believed that the freshwater regions of peninsular Florida were peopled by immigrants from northern South America who preceded Arawakan language-speakers through the Antilles. He cited the use of celts and adzes made from conch-shells, the proposed derivation of the Timucuan language from South American roots, the cultivation of maize, and the use of earthworks to form fields in savannahs (wet prairies) as was done in South America. He also cited the use of fiber-tempered pottery, similar to that used in South American, and distinct from pottery used in the rest of the eastern United States.
Sears divided the period of occupation at Fort Center into four periods. Period I began before 450 BCE, perhaps as early as 1000 BCE, and lasted until around 200 CE. Period II ran from about 200 to between 600 and 800, followed by period III until 1200 to 1400, and then period IV up to about 1700.”
His seminal work, “The Sacred and Secular in Prehistoric Ceramics” (1973), published in Variation in Anthropology, edited by D. Lathrap, has stimulated new ideas for many southeastern archaeologists. In the mid-1970s Bill started to look southward to the Caribbean, where he often sailed recreationally, thinking of connections between North, Central, and South America. While not a diffusionist, his speculations were reported in “Seaborne Contacts between Early Cultures in Lower Southeastern United States and Middle Through South America” (1977, E. Benson, editor, The Sea and the Pre-Columbian World). Working with Shaun Sullivan and other students, his wife, and daughter Amy, he chronicled the movement of peoples in a northward direction through the Bahamas, publishing the results in American Antiquity and Yachting.”
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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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