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Drawings and photos of Itza, Chontal and Tamauli Maya earthen mounds

It remains a mystery why North American archaeologists are not aware that several branches of the Mayas exclusively built earthen mounds along the Gulf Coast of Mexico, plus in the Chiapas Highlands of Mexico, Belize and Guatemala. They were identical to those built in the Lower Southeastern United States.  In both regions, the mounds were stuccoed with brightly colored clays.

The Apalache of northern Georgia went a step further and applied decorative bands and patterns made of crushed gold-colored mica to some of their mounds and all of their temples.  This architectural detail was the source of the legend of the cities of gold in the Southern Highlands.  A “signature” of Apalache mounds in Northeast Georgia are that they are veneered with stone cobbles, just like two of the mounds, pictured below, from Tamaulipas.

The walls of their temples were  constructed by stacking stones with red clay mortar.  All that remains today are usually lines of collapsed stone walls.   Portions of stone building walls still stand at the Sandy Creek and Track Rock Terrace Complexes.

Chontal Maya town in Tabasco State, Mexico. Note the horseshoe shaped ball court. These were a feature of Proto-Creek towns from the Swift Creek Period to the early 1800s.

Chontal Maya town in Tabasco State, Mexico. Note the horseshoe shaped ball court. These were a feature of Proto-Creek towns from the Swift Creek Period to the early 1800s.

 

Clay stuccoed earthen mound in Tamaulipas

Clay stuccoed earthen mound in Tamaulipas

Clay stuccoed earthen mound in Tamaulipas

Clay stuccoed earthen mound in Tamaulipas

Fieldstone covered, spiral earthen mound in Tamaulipas

Fieldstone covered, spiral earthen mound in Tamaulipas

Fieldstone and clay stuccoed spiral mound in Cuizitos, Tamaulipas

Fieldstone and clay stuccoed spiral mound in Cuizitos, Tamaulipas

Five-sided mound, sculpted from hill in Itza Maya terrace complex - Belize

Five-sided mound, sculpted from hill in Itza Maya terrace complex – Belize

Detail of five-sided mound. Note that it is identical to many such mounds found along the Lower Chattahoochee River and in northeast Georgia.

Detail of five-sided mound. Note that it is identical to many such mounds found along the Lower Chattahoochee River and in northeast Georgia.

Lidar image of pentagonal Itza mound, sculpted from hill in Belize.

Lidar image of pentagonal Itza mound, sculpted from hill in Belize.

Topo map of Itza Maya terrace complex in Chiapas State.

Topo map of Itza Maya terrace complex in Chiapas State.

Surviving stone walls of rectangular buildings at the Track Rock Terrace Complex

Surviving stone walls of rectangular buildings at the Track Rock Terrace Complex

Remains of an Apalache stone wall, lain with clay mortar, that seals an Apalache Royal tomb.

Remains of an Apalache stone wall, lain with clay mortar, that seals an Apalache Royal tomb.

 

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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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