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Celebrating the Creek New Year!

Celebrating the Creek New Year!

It is also know as Posketv, the Green Corn Festival or the Creek Busk!

When the sun sets in your neck of the woods around 9:00 PM EDT this evening, it will mark the year’s end of a very ancient calendar and the beginning of a new year.  The Creek solar calendar was equally as accurate as the one used today, but distinctly different than the Maya calendar.  That is one of the reasons that we know that the Itza Mayas were just one of the ingredients in our ancestral Brunswick Stew . . . not the main course.  The Creek Calendar consisted of 12 30-day months and a varying number of “Leap Days,” which were calculated by astronomer-priests known as “Keepers of the Days.”  The Leap Days became the Green Corn Festival.  A corn fast preceded the Green Corn Festival.  The feasts of the Green Corn Festival included prodigious amounts of corn-on-the-cob and brunswick stew, but not such items as grits, hominy, hush puppies and tamales . . . which were made from mature, dried corn kernels.  During the festivities, it was common for engagements to be announced and weddings held.  A marital engagement involved the man moving in with his prospective wife’s family for a year. The couple enjoyed friendship with benefits, but the man had to do menial chores for his future mother-in-law.  The highlight of the Green Corn Festival was when all domestic fires were extinguished then re-ignited with coals from the temple.  A married couple celebrated the renewal of their vows by jointly carrying the coals in a special ceramic pot, shaped like a conch shell or even with a conch shell.

A gap in the Alec Mountain Stone Oval is aligned with the Winter Solstice Sunset and perpendicular to the Arnold Mound, 500 feet below.

The Alec Mountain Stone Oval and Arnold Mound

In the winter and spring of 2019,  volunteers went out into the mountainous woods in an attempt to locate and record some of the 100+ ancient stone ruins and mounds in Northeast Georgia, identified by Smithsonian Institute archaeologist, Cyrus Thomas, in 1886.  Almost all these sites have been forgotten by the current generation of Southeastern archaeologists.  These enigmatic ruins tell a very different version of the Southeast’s past than what students are taught today. 

Perhaps our most memorable outing was when we climbed Alec Mountain to visit the oval stone ruins of an ancient observatory.  The site now is so densely covered with trees, it is impossible to get a photo or video of the entire ruins.  I cannot tell you who built this observatory or when it was built . . . but it is probably at least 2000 years old . . . maybe 4,000 years old. 

What immediately surprised me was that the oval was aligned to true North-South, but tilted about 12 degrees to the south.  There must be an astronomical reason for this tilt and the oval shape, but the answer would only be speculative.  There was relatively flat ground below and above the oval, so the tilt was intentional.  The long axis of the ruins today are approximately 103 feet, while the short axis was 89 feet.  On the northern end of the oval is a terrace and the ruins of a stone structure, which I portrayed as a cylinder in the drawing on the right.

 

The Alek Mountain Site was visited by archaeologist, Robert Wauchope, in 1939.  By that time, it was a popular attraction for automobile tourists. Much of the lower slopes around the ruins were pasture, thus affording spectacular views of surrounding mountains from the ruins.  Himself an Eagle Scout, Wauchope encouraged a local Boy Scout troop to take over stewardship over the ruins. They cleared a trail, kept trees from encroaching on the ruins and constructed a gravel parking lot on Alek Mountain Road.

Using laser and GPS measuring equipment, I obtained slightly different measurements than archaeologist, Phillip Smith.

In 1956, Harvard University archaeologist, Phillip E. Smith, directed a team of local men in the excavation of test ditches at the Alec Mountain Site.  The found no artifacts.  The ditches and pits that they dug are still visible.  At that time, the site was kept in pristine condition by the Boy Scout troop.  His interpretation of the site was that it was quite ancient, but he didn’t know who built it.

This archaeological site has lacked maintenance for a long, long time.  I spoke to women in their 30s and 40s, who have lived in eyesight of Alec Mountain all their lives, but never heard of the ruins.  I am an Eagle Scout also.  The Northeast Georgia Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America could not determine which troop maintained the site for at least two decades.  Apparently,  in the late 20th century, the Habersham County government re-graded Amy’s Creek Road.  In the process, work crews destroyed the parking lot and the archaeological site was quickly forgotten by almost all people in Habersham County.

 

Etymology of Alec Mountain

At least as early as the 1600s,  alek was the Creek word for a medical doctor.  That was derived from the name of a Native American tribe living on the lower stretches of the Altamaha River in Georgia, who called themselves the Alekmanni . . . meaning Doctor or Medicine People.  Their capital was about 25 miles upstream from Fort Caroline on the May River, where Jesup, GA is now located.  That is one of the many reasons that we know for a fact that Fort Caroline was on the Altamaha River, not in Florida. Among other things, the Alekmanni grew cinchona trees, from which quinine is derived.  It is quite possible that the ancient town site beneath Alec Mountain was a trading colony for the Alekmanni.

Now this is where it gets really weird.  Alekmanni is an archaic Southern Scandinavian-Northern German word.  It would have had the same meaning for the Angles (Archaic English People in southern Scandinavia) as it did the Creeks in the 1700s.  In old English, placing an “a” in front of the noun, leka, created a word that meant, “someone who uses herbs.” The root word, leka, means “herbs” or “medicinal herbs.”   Leka survives in modern English as the vegetable, leeks,  but is the root word for medicine and doctors in Swedish, plus many Northeastern European languages.  For example, läkere (pronounced lekare) is a medical doctor in Swedish. Läkemedel is the Swedish word for a medicinal drug. It is obvious that North America’s past is far more complex than what is told to students in their textbooks.   One cannot argue with homonyms being found in both Native American and Bronze Age European languages.  However, to make any interpretations today beyond that takes us into the realm of speculation. 

 

 

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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.

12 Comments

  1. pres@gloriafarley.com'

    Happy New Year Richard

    Reply
  2. gajoe42@gmail.com'

    Richard,

    I enjoyed your notice of selection of Ms Harjo as Poet Laureate of the United States. As you may be aware there is another great Creek poet named Alexander Lawrence Posey (1873-1908). I am holding in my hand a collection of his poems published by Forgotten Books published in 2015. (www.ForgottenBooks.com) entitled. His father was brought up by an Indian woman, Lawrence Posey married a Creek girl, he poet, is the son of of this Creek woman known as Mrs. Posey, her Creek name not mentioned-but she was the daughter of Pohos Harjo (Nancy Philips) of the Wind Clan. Much more biographical information is included in the book, along with many poems. I thought you might find inspiration in this for a longer article–and maybe find links between the Poet Laureate and the Harjo line of Alexander Lawrence Posey. There is no real evidence of his father’s Indian line and it is assumed he is white, But of course, descent is through the mother in Creek custom so Posey must certainly be considered among if not the first Creek poet to write in English. He was a graduate of the Bacone School.

    Joe

    I continue to enjoy your articles since my retirement.

    Reply
    • Hey Joe . . . can’t believe that you are actually retired. Thought you would get bored by now and be working another full time job! LOL Posey is one of the Creek-Uchee family lines in my mother’s family, which was in Elbert, Wilkes, Hart and Madison Counties. Of course, this man may be another Posey line. That does sound like an interesting book to review for POOF. Is the book available at public libaries?

      Reply
      • gajoe42@gmail.com'

        My copy was a gift when I retired. I am only guessing it came from the Google Books’ collection-I will check to see. It may be online. Far from being bored, I was able to raise a lot of money, preserve the Hickory Log material and create a new exhibit at the museum–in effect completing the “Hall of Ancients.” I left the museum in capable hands, those of Jeff Bishop. At the same time, I was exhausted working with inadequate staff as the university entered a period of austerity under a new regime. Perhaps you imagined I was younger, but I was 75 when I retired. Billy Hasty was a great supporter of my work as chair of the university’s board, but has been seriously ill and could no longer continue to lead the board, so it was TIME. As you know, I am not trained in archaeology, but have continued to lecture and have just begun my own blog (“longleafjournal.com”).I enjoy writing and have enjoyed some small successes with my poetry. I continue to enjoy your posts.

        Reply
      • gajoe42@gmail.com'

        Posey’s book of poems is in fact on Google Books. Perhaps his mother’s name is a link to the new poet laureate who chose the Creek name Harjo.

        Reply
  3. markveale@hotmail.com'

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Celtiberians#/media/File:Ethnographic_Iberia_200_BCE.PNG

    Richard, just overwhelming data of how little we have been taught about the history of Georgia are these ancient stone works. Another connection is the likeness of bronze age beliefs of places like Spain, Scotland, Ireland, Britton. I understand most people have been brainwashed not to agree with the facts of the connections of druid culture among some of the Eastern Nations. Like the word “Yupaha” having to do with a horned animal…that is a connection with the Celtics : ” the “horned god” of Celtic polytheism. Cernunnos was a Celtic god of fertility, life, animals, wealth, and the underworld, and was often depicted wearing antlers as horns. The Celtics and the Bell Beaker seem to have arrived first to the Western Side of Europe according to ancient works of the classic Greeks.

    Reply
  4. panthergaptx@gmail.com'

    Howdy, Happy Prosperous NEW YEAR!! I envy you your mountains…working my way back to truck slipped and fell…face planted on prickly pear. One way to end a year.

    Reply
    • Geez! Face landed on a prickly pear. I can’t think of a worse form of torture . . . unless the prickly pear was on fire! Hope you heal up quickly.

      Reply
  5. panthergaptx@gmail.com'

    Howdy, We actually have worse cacti. Thanks for the support. Your articles seem to have improved with your new site. Really Great.
    Have you done a full article on stick ball?

    Reply
    • No, I have not done a full article on stickball. I soon will be having to put more time into fixing up this property, so there will be fewer article. thank you for your support.

      Reply
  6. panthergaptx@gmail.com'

    Howdy, Just read that Mayans would go to temple bare chested. Is this a fact and is there any info of this practice in Georgia?

    Reply

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