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Elbert County, Georgia . . . actual location of Rembert Mounds discovered

Elbert County, Georgia . . . actual location of Rembert Mounds discovered


As described by William Bartram in 1773, it was one of the most incredible town sites in the United States.  South American immigrants had created a dozen football field size raised beds of biochar soil along the flood plain of the Savannah River.   There were also numerous round pyramidal mounds.  The principal mound was 50 feet high and 280 feet in diameter.   It was every bit as big as the Cuicuilco round pyramid near Mexico City. 

Beginning with Charles C. Jones in 1873 and continuing with Cyrus Thomas (Smithsonian) in 1886,  Robert Wauchope in 1939,  Joseph Caldwell in 1949 and again in 1973,  archaeologists had been finding the Rembert Mounds to be badly eroded, but not seeming to be near the scale is land area as Bartram described.  That puzzled the archaeologists, because normally Bartram was quite reliable.

In 2015,  I read and reread Robert Wauchope’s Joseph Caldwell’s descriptions of their investigations of Rembert Mounds.  They bothered me.  What these famous archaeologists were called Rembert Mounds, were called by local folks in Elbert County, when I was growing up, the Elbert Mounds.  The Elbert Mounds were on a Late Mississippian town site at the edge of Lake Strom Thurmond.

You see after one of our family reunions in the Dewey Rose Community of Elbert County, my Uncle Hal took us cousins to see both the Elbert Mounds and the Rembert Mounds.  What was left of the Rembert Mounds was farther north at Morrahs Ferry and on the opposite side of the Savannah River.   They were on a massive expanse of the Savannah River flood plain there.   Unfortunately, it is all under Lake Richard B. Russell now.  Of course, I was young at the time and only have vague memories of the Savannah River Valley’s pre-lake appearance.

I have continued to delve into the mystery from time to time.  This morning, I finally figured out what had happened.  In 1773,  the massive archaeological zone was on the west side of the Savannah River.   During the early 1800s a major flood caused the river to move a half mile westward.   Georgia and South Carolina bickered about who now owned the land on the new east side of the river.  The mounds were mentioned by a surveyor, who was a witness in the federal court case.   Georgia was allowed to keep the land, although everybody since then, including the archaeologists, obviously assumed that the land was in South Carolina and therefore could not be the Rembert Mounds site. 

After finishing articles on the archaeological sites around Franklin, NC, POOF is going to head a little south and provide you more information on the Rembert Mounds.   I am currently working on the computer model of the ancient town.  The raised biochar cultivation mounds were up to 12 feet tall.  There is no telling how long ago, this town was settled.


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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.



    Nice job Richard. Many of the rivers in Ga have flooded and re-routed themselves. The Altamaha River is one that has changed a few times, which might explain somethings.


    Looking forward to reading after your further investigations then Richard. Sounds interesting.


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