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Etowah Mounds . . . the 1 1/2 hour People of One Fire video

Etowah Mounds . . .  the 1 1/2 hour People of One Fire video


If one scans the legion of web articles and videos on the internet about Etowah Mounds,  it immediately becomes obvious that the authors don’t know diddlysquat about the ancient history of the Etowah River Valley.  They either ascribe a myriad variety of Old World peoples as the town’s occupants or else portray them as scraggly-haired indigenous savages, not a whole lot more advanced than hunter-gatherers.  A couple of archaeologists in Minnesota even provided us a list of Viking kings, who ruled the town.  The scientific proof of this amazing fact is based on the fact that the male skeletons at Etowah were unusually tall  . . . well, not unusually tall for the Creeks,  but these archaeologists apparently don’t even know who the Creeks were.  They call Etowah a Cherokee town, ruled by Viking nobility.

However, there is one trait that all the authors share . . .  whether they be archaeologists, wannabe Cherokees or New Age prophets.  All think that the town’s original name was Etowah.   They don’t know that the real name was Etula . . . and Etula is the Itza word for “principal town or capital.”   Hm-m-m . . . that does change one’s interpretation of the site a bit.

Oh, there is something else they share in common.  Not one archaeologist seemed aware that the appearance of the three surviving, visible mounds has changed starkly from 200 years ago. This year marks the 200th adversary of the first measured drawings of Etowah Mounds.  The top of Mound A was lopped off by artifact hunters and its plantation owners, in order to grow corn on the mound.   Mound B’s top was also lopped off, while it deep gashes cut in its sides by a string of archaeologists.  The mound was re-sculptured by employees of the Georgia Parks Department in the late 1950s.   And Mound C?  . . . let me tell you a funny story.

During my research for the creation of this video,  I ran across a thesis produced by an anthropology student at the University of Tennessee.  He went on to get his PhD and now is a university professor.  His thesis was about the religious, political and astronomical symbolism of the mound architecture at Etowah.   However, most of the thesis is devoted to Mound C, which was completely destroyed by archaeological digs in 1885, 1925 and 1955-56.   It didn’t seem to dawn on the neophyte that if all of the mound was destroyed by the archaeologists, he cited, then there would be nothing left of it.  The mound he associated all manner of geometric magic to is a very inaccurate fake, constructed by convict laborers for the Georgia State Parks Department in the late 1950s.

The crashing sound just before I began to speak on the video was a bomb that went off in the woods behind this cabin.  As the old rock song goes . . . “we gotta get out of this place” . . . and I think it is about to happen!

To watch this video . . . go to  then paste in   Etowah Mounds . . . A Native American Capital’s Secret History and Architecture.


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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.



    Hi Richard. I thoroughly enjoyed this video about the Etowah Mounds. Your work on the models is outstanding especially the water and flower effects. What great patience you have and the final model is breathtaking . I wish I was near enough to go and see it at the Museum.


    Hey Richard,
    I went to Etula a couple of months ago and noticed the areas around the road leading to the site are turf grass farms. Has anyone been able to get satellite imagery right after they harvest the grass? I believe you said that Robert Wochope had the turf removed in front of A mound and exposed the foot prints of buildings.
    Maybe when the turf grass is harvested something may show up on the right type of image.
    I also found the old river channel thanks to one of your earlier photos.
    Its hard to believe the river dumped so much silt over the town in 1886, that must have been some flood, but the one that changed the rivers course had to have been a very large flood.
    I really got a kick out of the fact some scientists have done astrological alignments off the rebuilt mound C.
    I bet they have some ” interesting ”
    theories to explain their findings.
    Thanks for a very interesting video.

    • It was Arthur Kelly who removed the turf in 1955. I can see dark spots on the soil when the turf is removed from the landscape outside the palisades. I guess they were farmhouses or small burial mounds


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