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Dr. Román Piña Chán speculated that Moundville was founded by Toltec refugees

Dr. Román Piña Chán speculated that Moundville was founded by Toltec refugees


The artistic motifs typical of Moundville, Alabama are virtually identical to those at Tula, Mexico . . . capital of the Toltecs.

A new POOF subscriber asks for the names of the books given to Román Piña Chán and if his books are still in publication.


Hey Richard!

Hope you enjoy my special Mexican Christmas Card.  I became a professional artist, instead of a city planner.   You probably don’t remember me.  I went by a different last name back then, dressed like a hippie and dyed my long hair blond, but we were graduate assistants together at the Georgia State University College of Urban Life.   You even came out to my house in Druid Hills one time and showed me some of your slides from Mexico, but then I got together again with my boyfriend – bad mistake. Did you ever marry that pretty senorita in Mexico?  She was always showing up in your slides of Aztec ruins. LOL  I thought it was funny that you would talk endlessly about a girl in Mexico, when you were on a first date with me. It was obvious that anybody else would be playing second fiddle in your heart.

I also remember you talking about your fascinating travels in Mexico and how the Creeks in Georgia were forming a tribe.  I have a little Creek heritage myself. When that article about Track Rock Gap came out in the AJC, they made no mention of your many trips to Mexico.  The reporter made you look like a off-the-wall hobbyist.  Why did he do that?  I didn’t even know that there was a TV program about the Track Rock ruins until a few weeks ago when I saw it on Youtube.  Several of my friends and I went hiking there on Thanksgiving weekend.  It is an incredible, beautiful, haunting place.  Track Rock should be a national park.

I have two questions.   First, what were the names of the two books that you gave Dr. Piña Chán, the archaeologist at the museum in Mexico City?   Seems like they are going to eventually change the history of Georgia.  Are they still in print?  Secondly,  did Dr. Piña Chán write any books himself?   Are they still in print?

You are doing a great job.  I am proud to know you.

Merry Christmas!

Carol Ann Bottoms,  Atlanta, GA


Yes, I do remember going out to your big two story, brick house in Druid Hills!  I assumed that you disappeared soon after because I didn’t have enough money for your tastes.  LOL   I never saw Alicia again.  I did talk to her on the phone when I was on my honeymoon in Mexico with another woman.  You are right about the second fiddle observation.  Alicia and I were telepathic . . . like we were really star children from another planet.

Architectural rendering of the acropolis at Tula . . . capital of the Toltecs

I still have copies of the two books that I gave to Román Piña Chán.  They were:

(1)  The Mississippian Culture . . .  The Story of the Temple Mound Builders As Told by Their Gorgets  by Overstreet and Bentley (out of print)

(2)  Sun Circles and Human Hands: The Southeastern Indians Arts and Industries by Emma Lila Fundaburk and Mary Douglass Fundaburk Foreman

This beautiful book is still in print and available from the University of Alabama Press,, Barnes & Noble, etc.


All the major books written by Román Piña Chán and Ignacio Bernal are still in print and available on, etc.  They are beautiful books with incredible photos of the artifacts in the Museo Nacional de Antropologia.  The majority of Piña Chán’s books are in Spanish, while most of Bernal’s are in English.  Bernal was much more fluent in English than Piña Chán, despite the fact that he walked away from me, when he realized that I knew very little Spanish at that time.


Site Plan of the Moundville Town Site in northwestern Alabama

The Toltec Connection

Carol, your Christmas Card with Mesoamerican motifs reminded me of a key experience I had the first time that I was in Dr. Piña Chán’s inner sanctum office.   It is amazing that I suddenly remember the details of that morning in June, so long ago, but I do.   He was skimming through Sun Circles . . . then looked astonished and shouted Ejole‘!   He jumped up, walked over to his book shelf on the wall to my left and pulled out a book, he had written on the Toltecs.  He let out more exclamations and then asked me to pull my chair around to his side of his office desk.

Here I was, a wet-behind-the-ears Gringo architecture student, sitting directly beside one of the greatest archaeologists in the world. It was surrealistic.  Dr. Piña Chán was looking at the pages of Sun Circles, which displayed the motifs found on cylindrical ceramic seals and pottery in Moundville, AL and along the lower Chattahoochee River in Georgia & Alabama.  He exclaimed, “Mira! Ellos son lo mismo!

Dang!  He was right.  The motifs on the largest temple walls in Tula were identical to the artistic motifs found at Moundville and many of the clay seals found on the Chattahoochee River!   There is a famous cup found at Moundville with a skull and bones motif.  Dr. Piña Chán showed me an almost identical cup found at Tula, plus the same motif can be seen on a frieze around the principal pyramid at Tula.

Dr. Piña Chán then picked up the telephone and asked one of his secretaries to bring him, whatever was available on Moundville in Los Estados Unidos.  A couple minutes later, she brought in some papers, photographs and drawings.  He studied this material a bit then told me that the timing was right.  The region around Tula was being invaded by Chichimec barbarians at exactly the same time that Moundville was founded.   Tula fell to the Chichimecs around 1150 AD.  At the time, I didn’t know this, of course, but the acropolis at Ocmulgee was also abandoned around 1150 AD.

On the other hand, the famous Mexican archaeologist thought that the mound sites in Georgia showed strong Maya influence.  However, the truth is that such things were seemingly irrelevant to anything except getting a high grade on the thesis, I was to write on the fellowship in Mesoamerica.  I did not view the experiences in Mexico as anything significant to my future career . . . more like in the realm of attending a famous rock festival.  Thank goodness I kept a daily journal to explain the slides I took at archaeological sites.   As far the presence of Toltec refugees in western Alabama and Mississippi . . .


The truth is out there somewhere in the universe . . . so is Alicia.


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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.



    This is totally off in the weeds, but does anyone else remember a really bad movie from 1963 called “Kings of the Sun”? In the movie a palace revolt withing an advanced, pyramid building central American civilization causes the losers to flee to southeastern North America. There they start building pyramids and fighting with the local Woodland culture natives. Truly bad acting and script, but sort of odd that Hollywood stumbled upon a true narrative. Here is the link to Youtube for the film;

    • I never saw the movie, but I was quite young then. I will watch it tonight. Thank you!


    A Popular Science news article published in 1896 by Professor F.W. Putnam, a well known archaeologist who had over 25 years of field study at the time. He believed the southern mound builders were a branch of the ancient Mexican race and builders of the great cities in Central America. He based his conclusions on the many customs, ceremonies, and artifacts that were found among the Mississippi Valley and Central American sites.

    I believe that the evidence is still there, it is just buried in the vaults and store rooms of museums and universities. Just waiting to be discovered again.

    • I agree. When the DNA of Creeks and Seminoles, their Asiatic portion is pretty much the same as those people in Mexico and NW South America. Many Georgia Creeks, my family included, also carry Uchee DNA, which is similar to the DNA of the Sami, Black Irish and Basques.


        I have also read that William Bartram personally met with and obtained goods traded directly from Cuba. He described how the Native Americans used dug out canoes to travel across the gulf to Bahamas and Cuba. If they could navigate that they could certainly cross over to Mexico and back.

        • Yes, and in somewhat earlier times, the Calusas built large catamarans, very similar to those of Polynesia. It makes me wonder if the Calusas were originally Polynesians.


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