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Dirty little secrets about the Mouse Creek Culture

Dirty little secrets about the Mouse Creek Culture


Dear Mr. Thornton,

Earlier this summer I stumbled upon an intriguing article that you wrote about the Chickasaw People in August 2012, which tells a very different story than what we have been taught here at the University of Tennessee.   Here is the link –  Early History of the Chickasaw People.   I am a graduate student in Anthropology and hold a B.S. in Anthropology.   

It is your theory that the Mouse Creek Culture in southeastern Tennessee was Chickasaw instead of Yuchi.  Your article based that theory just on the architecture.  No one else says that.  The faculty here has been studying the archaeological sites in eastern Tennessee for over 80 years.  Don’t you think that they would know much more about the subject than you?   I sent a copy of your article to some highly respected members of our faculty, who are considered experts on the Mouse Creek Culture.  ********** wrote a book about the Mouse Creek Culture and interpreted its occupants to be Yuchi.   *********** response was quite angry and said that no one should pay any attention to you.

Can you provide more details for justifying your theory?  You seem to be right about the Mayas.  The long time name of the Tennessee River was a Maya word.  However, the faculty members want to know, if you have some information that they don’t have. Otherwise, I would advise you to stop making wild, unscientific speculations in areas, which you do not have any qualifications.

Please do not mention my name or the faculty members’ names.

Sincerely  . . .  ***********


General Description of the Mouse Creek Culture on the McClung Museum Website, University of Tennessee

Mouse Creek Phase villages are often found in close proximity to Dallas Phase villages.  Only the Dallas Phase villages contain mounds.

The Mouse Creek Phase dates to the early European contact period in the southeast United States (approximately AD 1400-1600).* Archaeological sites belonging to the phase are located along the Hiwassee River and adjacent portions of the Tennessee River in southeast Tennessee. The most extensive excavations of Mouse Creek phase sites were made in the 1930s by the University of Tennessee in conjunction with federal Works Progress Administration programs and construction of the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Chickamauga reservoir.

Although flat-topped earth mounds are associated with sites of other contemporaneous phases in the mid-south, no mounds have been found at Mouse Creek phase sites. Instead, the plans of larger Mouse Creek settlements include a large structure situated beside an open area, or plaza, surrounded by smaller structures. People were often buried in and around these smaller structures and sometimes in concentrated cemeteries next to the plaza.

*From the author . . . Cherokee History and North Carolina archaeology web sites/references change these dates to (1000 AD – 1400 AD) because North Carolina archaeologists now state that the Cherokees arrived in their state around 1400 AD or earlier.  However, it was Georgia and Tennessee archaeologists, who did the actual excavations and ran the radiocarbon dates.


Response to the University of Tennessee anthropology student

Dear Tennessee Volunteer:

Actually, I know a lot more about the Mouse Creek Culture now than I did in 2012, but have never gotten around to updating this old article.  I will list the evidence in separate sections of this article.

Thank you for writing us.

Richard Thornton


All Tennessee references describe the Mouse Creek Culture as being only in Tennessee. This is clearly not the case.

(1) Location of Mouse Creek Culture villages

The first thing that you professors need to know is that the majority of Mouse Creek villages were in Northwest Georgia.  All of your references state “located along the Hiwassee River and adjacent portions of the Tennessee River in southeast Tennessee.”  Whereas 84 years of intensive archaeological study of the Upper Tennessee River Basin has revealed 10 Mouse Creek villages in Tennessee,  Very sporadic surveys of Northwest Georgia have revealed 21 village sites, where both Dallas and Mouse Creek artifacts were found.  None of these archaeological sites have been sufficiently excavated to determine complete site plans.  The archaeologists probably were looking at twin villages . . . side by side . . . or else distinct neighborhoods within towns.  There are probably many more Mouse Creek sites in Georgia, because most did not have mounds and therefore are difficult today to spot.

The earliest known town with distinctive Chickasaw architecture is the Eastwood Site in the Nacoochee Valley of Northeast Georgia.  It was occupied from around 800 AD to 1200 AD.   The oldest known Chickamauga (“Place to Look Out in Chickasaw”) was also in the Nacoochee Valley.  Apparently, it eventually moved to the Tennessee Valley near Chattanooga.  The map above shows Mouse Creek villages downstream from Chattanooga exactly where Chickasaws were living until after the American Revolution.

(2) Beliefs and traditions of the Creek Indians by Georgia Colonial Secretary Thomas Christie (1735 AD)

The text of this famous document states, “As before, the Chickasaws were members of the new Creek Confederacy formed by Coweta.  The Chickasaws soon left the confederacy because of anger toward what they considered the arrogance of Coweta.  Emperor Brim ordered all the towns to attack the Chickasaws.  However, the Cusate refused to make war on their long time brothers and friends. Even to this day, Cusate and Chickasaw towns are often built side by side.”

In the “Migration Legend of the Kashite (Cusate) People” (1735), it is stated that the Chickasaw were members of the original People of One Fire or Creek Confederacy.   This confederacy dated to around 1400 AD.  Its members were the Alabamu,  Chickasaw, Cusate and Apike.   Thus, a tradition of a close alliance between the Chickasaw and Cusate dates back to the exact time, when Mouse Creek villages began developing.

(3) Early History of the Creek Indians and their Neighbors by James Adair (1775)

Adair stated that he met his mixed Chickasaw-Jewish wife at the Chickasaw village of Ustanauli located exactly where one of the villages, which has produced some Mouse Creek artifacts, was identified by archaeologists.  It was two miles upstream from the confluence of the Coosawattee and Conasauga Rivers.

(4) 1785  Official Map of Georgia

This map shows that the Chickasaw and Upper Creeks (Cusate) still occupied the section of Northwest Georgia and Southeast Tennessee where Mouse Creek villages are found.  However, the situation was already changing radically even as the map was being distributed.  The Chickasaws were moving west to keep their distinct identity or southward with Upper Creeks to be farther away from white settlers and Cherokees.

The site plans of Mouse Creek villages were almost identical to this known Proto-historic Chickasaw village.

(5)  Chickasaw architectural traditions

The earliest known Chickasaw village in the Nacoochee Valley has two modest mounds on its northern end, but later Chickasaw villages did not contain significant mounds.  It was common to have small cemeteries behind individual residential compounds. The Chickasaw residential compounds consisted of a winter house, a summer house and a cooking shed.  This is exactly what is found in Mouse Creek villages.


(6) Uchee (Yuchi) architectural traditions

It is well-documented that the alternative name for the Uchee was “The Round Town People.”   All Uchee villages, buildings and plazas were round.  Even today, Uchee cermonial grounds in Oklahoma are round.  There is no resemblance between a traditional Uchee village and a Mouse Creek village. 

At the time of first contact with English traders, the Hogeloge-Yuchi lived in a corridor along the Hiwassee River southward into Georgia to along the Chestatee and Upper Savannah Rivers.  Three of the Mouse Creek village are on the Hiwassee River.  However, there are no colonial maps showing Yuchi villages in the region, where most of the Mouse Creek Culture villages were located. All places names in this area are either Chickasaw or Creek.

The fact is that about 30 years ago,  some professors at the University of Tennessee were themselves . . . not very scientific . . . because, without looking at any colonial period maps or Georgia archaeological reports, they “wildly speculated” that there were Yuchi People living on Mouse Creek.   When they found Mouse Creek cultural traits in villages paired with “Dallas Culture” traits,  they assumed that all these other villages were Yuchi also.  Once their speculations had been published, they felt that they could not change their opinion.   Thus, for over three decades,  students, such as yourself, have not been exposed to contradictory information.




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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.



    Very Interesting. Now I see what a problem the students have in keeping up with all this history. Thanks Richard.


    Thank you for supplying maps and other additional information in your posts. There was a time when higher education was striving to get at the truth. Sadly, now it seems that many in Academia are convinced that they know everything to the point that they are blinded to new evidence which contradicts their knowledge base. If I could send you a couple of pictures of legally obtained artifacts to a private email address, I would like your opinion about their possible source. Thank you again for sharing your knowledge of Native American architecture and historic research on this site.

    • Thank you for you kind remarks. I learn something new almost every day, so don’t pretend to know everything now. You can send the photos to I can’t promise to be able to help you on artifact identification. Sometimes I can. Sometimes I can’t. Being an architect, my focus in architecture and town planning techniques, but my Mama said that I was right smart in figuring out thangs, so she sent me to Jawja Tech to get a proper ehjewkashun.


    This goes on in botany and zoology as well. There is a tiny crawfish , called the Alabama Least Crawfish, that academics say ONLY inhabits an area of South Mobile county , Alabama and an adjacent part of green county mississippi…. yet I can go 100 yards out my door —- 65 miles to the northeast of Mobile , and pluck you one out of this little swamp near me. These guys will not come here to see them.

    How can you study a thing and not even want to get as much information about that thing that you can get?


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