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Archaeologists identify hundreds of stone structures in Alabama’s Choccolocco Mountains

Archaeologists identify hundreds of stone structures in Alabama’s Choccolocco Mountains

 

On June 2, 2017 several TV stations, newspapers and Alternative Perceptions Magazine announced the discovery of many more Native American stone structures in the mountainous region of Alabama, east of the Coosa River and north of Interstate 85.  The concentration of stone structures extends eastward into Georgia across Metro Atlanta to the Savannah River.  Archaeologist, Dr. Greg Little, believes there may be thousands of more stone structures to be discovered in the Choccolocco and Talladega Mountains of Alabama.

Dr. Harry Holstein at Jacksonsville State University in Alabama has played a pivotal role in the discovery and professional investigation of Native American stone structures in the region. He has posted online several of his archaeological reports, which give complete credibility to the articles now being written by other archaeologists and historic preservationists.

Between 2013 and 2016,  Creek Indian investigative teams associated with the People of One Fire, identified five stone architecture -terrace complexes in East Central Alabama.  They were in Chambers, Randolph and Cleburne Counties on the eastern edge of the state.  Like most of the sites in Georgia, they also included stone cairn cemeteries, which seemed older than the agricultural terraces.

 

Choccolocco is the Anglicization of the Creek words,  choko rakko,  which mean “house big.”   By the 1700s, the term referred to the Creek ceremonial square, which was bounded by wooden bleachers with awnings.   It was at that time, too large to have a roof, but was still called a building.

The Woodland Period Oxford Mound, which was intentionally destroyed a few years ago to provide land fill for a Sam’s Warehouse, was just the tip of the iceberg in Alabama’s enormous legacy of indigenous stone architecture.  Archaeologists and hikers have described seeing many stone effigy serpents,  cairns,   dome-shaped stone mounds,  rectangular stone mounds, stone platforms and the ruins of stone buildings. 

In 1658,  French ethnologist, Charles de Rochefort, devoted two chapters of a book to describing the Apalache civilization of North Georgia and Northeastern Alabama, which utilized many buildings, constructed of fieldstone and clay mortar.  The Highland Apalache were directly ancestral to the Creek Indians.  In 1873, pioneer Southeastern archaeologist,  Charles C. Jones, Jr., stated that the landscape of North Georgia was littered with stone ruins and walls when the first Anglo-American settlers arrived.  Most of these stones, unfortunately, quickly became foundations, chimneys and warehouse walls.   In the late 20th century,  academicians completely ignored the remaining stone ruins in the Lower Southeast, when describing the cultural history of the region prior to the Native American Holocaust. 

There are even several stone architecture complexes in Middle Georgia near Columbus and Macon. However, Georgia archaeologists have show little interest in Native American stone architecture since 1959, when the famous archaeologist, Dr. Arthur Kelly identified a cluster of stone cairns, a stone boat grave and agricultural terraces with stone walls on the Chattahoochee River, north of Atlanta.  In 1955,  his friend, archeologist Phillip Smith from Harvard University carried out a comprehensive survey of stone structures between Fort Mountain, GA and the Nacoochee Valley.   Since then, thousands of pre-Columbian stone walls, mounds, effigies and building foundations in Georgia have generally been ignored, when academicians published descriptions of the state’s Native American heritage.   That is certainly not the case in Alabama.

In the 1990s, Gwinnett County commissioners (NE Metro Atlanta) were perplexed by a 330 acre archeological zone, filled with the stone foundations of rectangular and round buildings, stone walls,  stone cairns, stone effigies and terraces without retaining walls.  A developer wanted to destroy the semi-mountainous tract and fill it with mixed-use development.  Gwinnett hired three Georgia archaeological firms in a row, who refused to label the site “historically significant.”  Keep in mind, they were not asking the archaeologists to say who built the structures . . . just to say that the site met the criteria for protection by historic preservation laws.

Frustrated, the commissioners decided to label it a “recreation park” and bought the land from the developer.   It is now the Little Mulberry River Park and has well-maintained walking trails, plus paved parking, for those wishing to see the ruins of a lost civilization.   Georgia archaeologists still refuse to study it!  

You go figure.  Maybe Georgia’s neighbors in Alabama can help out the folks in Gwinnett County.

To read the full article by archaeologist,  Dr. Greg Little,  go to . . .  Choccolocco Stone Ruins

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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.

16 Comments

  1. sqdncertrucker@windstream.net'

    Choccolocco Stone Ruins – I have googled this and cannot locate the article or paper. Please provide a good link to this paper.

    Reply
    • Did you try googling the specific archaeological site names listed in the article I linked to? My understanding from the original article is that there are hundreds of ruins withing the Choccolocco Mountains. Trying googling Harry Holstein – stone structures

      Holstein is the archaeologist for most of these sites, so far. His email is holstein@jsu.edu

      Reply
      • bman3725@gmail.com'

        I know of several of these structures located in the Talladega national forest. Found one this past hunting season on the Southern end.

        Reply
  2. kahkahwee@charter.net'

    Richard,
    I have photos of some of those stone structures that were once on land at Fort McClellan. Not sure if they are still standing. As usual, the so-called authorities show no interest in the sites.

    Reply
    • Don,

      There are archaeologists and historic preservationists interested now. The disaster in Oxford, AL fired them up. Please send digital copies of the photos of these sites . . . if you don’t mind.

      Thanks

      Richard T.

      Reply
  3. markveale@hotmail.com'

    Richard, These terrace sites on your map appear to be on the other side of the Mountains that De Soto’s army were led… from the North West of Georgia into Alabama towards the town of “Athahachi”, “a new town” of Tuscalusa. This Coosa river area of Alabama must have been then called “Talise” (Tallasee?), “Rio de Talise”, “Talisi”: “This town is large and fertile with much corn, and next to a large river.” Were the “Tallasee” people related to the “Tanasi” of Tennessee? The nobles of the Apalachi refer to a river called “Hi-tana-chi” so perhaps this is the same river now called the Coosa.

    Reply
    • Tanasi is the Europeanization of the Creek word, which means “Descendants of the Taino Arawaks.”

      I “think” that the Spanish word Talase, was their way of writing the Muskogee Creek word Tvlasi, which means either, “Descendants of Teotihuacan” or “Descendants of Etowah Mounds.” However, that region of Alabama has a lot of small stone balls, which were used in a South American weapon, called the bola. Also, some of the De Soto Chronicles spell the town’s name, Talaxi. There was also a large town at the mouth of the Altamaha River on the Georgia coast named Talaxi. However, the people there spoke a South American language. So the folks at Talaxi, Alabama may have been South Americans, not ethnic Muskogeans. Neverthesless, their descendants joined the Creek Confederacy.

      Reply
      • Timntd@aol.com'

        Mr. Thornton, That is very exciting. I have somewhat studied the Taino’s and Carib people. I have even stayed with the remaining Carib people on the island of Dominica. It is fascinating that the migration made its way into what is now Alabama. Also reading the diary of Columbus reveals somewhat the voracity of the Caribs that he encountered.

        Reply
  4. htcarter@bellsouth.net'

    I am amazed by the lack of interest in these sites. I’ve known about them for a while. Harry Holstein , of JSU does a yearly presentation and sites visit . It is excellent. Also, There is a site that has large stone mounds excavated back in the early seventies by archaeologists but were never re-assembled to original structure. It is close to the highway. If re-assembled, it would become a tourist attraction; but in the very least, it would be a respectful thing to do. I was going to get Boy Scouts with help from others. Dr. Holstein agreed to lend his expertise to guide the project. I couldn’t get any local politicians interested. Plus, since these mounds were on state property, the Muskogee tribe leaders in Oklahoma have to give permission to do anything to these sites.
    I had approval from State officials. Robert Perry, an archaeologist who works with them for this area is responsible in obtaining permission from the Muskogee. I spoke to him and contacted him a few times, but he just wasn’t interested and everything stopped there. I may try again this fall when the snakes are not out and pursue this endeavor. Anyone interested, please contact me. I have photos.

    Reply
    • Please get in touch with the People of One Fire, when you want to lead a hike. Our email address is PeopleOfOneFire@aol.com I will announce your plans and tell people how to get in contact with you.

      Thanks for the work you do. RT

      Reply
  5. adhamilton@mindspring.com'

    Have any effigies or other cultural symbolism been found at these sites in Alabama? The reason I wonder is that in Georgia – along the same latitudes as Alabama – these stone constructions and the terraced features are remarkably similar to those of the Mayan culture. Many of the artifacts that have been recovered from these areas show renditions of symbols and deities that appear to be Mayan in origin. Fort Mountain, where much of this material is, also shows evidence of the structures being astronomically aligned – a defining feature of the Mayan culture. See Gary Daniels research on this topic at http://www.lostworlds.org under “Mayans in Georgia”.

    Reply
    • My understanding from the original announcement is that there are several field stone snake effigies in the Choccolocco Mountains. However, I have no personal knowledge of them. Yes, you are correct, mountaintop snake effigies are generally associated with the Itza Maya worship of the Sky Serpent. However, other indigenous ethnic groups may have also adopted this religion.

      Reply
    • btrbuilder@gmail.com'

      I am wondering if what they are seeing is related to the nephellim of genesis six . Many things get credited to the mayans and other civilations when the origin is pre-flood nephellim! Jeckel island is a prime example of this!

      Reply
      • Not in this case. There are eyewitness accounts of the Apalache (direct ancestors of the Creeks) living in stone buildings in the mid-1600s. This fact and the fact that the Creeks had a complete writing system prior to the arrival of Europeans were erased. The primary reason was that Anglo-Americans didn’t want to admit that they had destroyed a civilization in the Southeast and stolen its people’s lands. Creek People are quite capable intellectually for stacking rocks and planning cities.

        Reply
  6. atagreg@bellsouth.net'

    There is a photo of a stone mound and an illustration of the largest stone snake effigy in the press release: https://www.newswire.com/news/thousands-of-ancient-stone-mounds-recently-discovered-in-alabama-19593273

    The new book has about a dozen photos of these. To see the archaeologists’ reports google “Harry Holstein” + Shelton Stone Complex or Morton Stone Structure or Morgan Mountain Stone Mounds.

    It is an odd situation, but a part of mainstream archaeology embraces these discoveries and another part just despises it. It’s complicated, but these are genuine and ancient. There are literally hundreds of odd stone walls and at least 3 snake effigies, probably more. Lots of areas yet to be checked.

    Reply
    • Thank you for writing us Dr. Little. Any time that you want to contribute photos or articles, you are always welcome. This is our heritage, so it is especially important to us that these sites be listed on the National Register of Historic Places or clustered into National Historic Districts. We will support you anytime you wish to nominate a site.

      Creeks have always been monotheistic, so we have no concept of “spirits inhabiting rocks and trees, etc.” It is our experience that the best way to protect a Creek heritage site is to encourage local residents to visit and respect the sites. Almost all the big mounds and stone architecture sites in Georgia that were destroyed in the late 20th century were unknown to local historic preservationists until it was too late.

      Reply

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