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.
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