Richard Thornton | Apr 13, 2017 | 0
Etula (Etowah Mounds) suburbs extended 7 miles down stream
Surveys by archaeologists Cyrus Thomas (1884), Warren Moorehead (1925) and Robert Wauchope (1939) identified at least 38 mounds in the Etowah River Conurbation. They probably missed many older burial mounds, because none of the men did a thorough job of studying the landscape. Wauchope determined that many of the town sites, including the Etowah Mounds Site were first settled between 1000 BC and 400 BC. Yet by the time Wauchope published his book in 1966, many of the mounds had been destroyed and one of the world’s largest coal-fired electric plants had been constructed there. In the 1970s and 1980s, archaeologists more thoroughly examined several sites, identified by Wauchope, while architects and historians studied many pre-Civil War structures in the corridor. The result was the largest National Historic District in the United States.
Despite all of this research by highly respected professionals, the general public and archaeologists in other parts of North American still have the impression that Etowah Mounds consisted solely of an +/- 80 acre fortified village. In fact, what is now called “Etowah Mounds” was merely the “downtown” of a very large town . . . a conurbation of numerous communities. This is the perception repeated in virtually all anthropological texts, doctoral dissertations, tourist brochures and even in the Etowah Mounds State Museum.
In 2016, the People of One Fire ran a series of articles on the Upper Chattahoochee River Valley, where Wauchope spent much of his time in 1939. It is the same situation in this corridor. However, far fewer excuses for the public’s misunderstanding of the Etowah Valley. The three largest mounds within the fortified downtown are the main landmarks of an international tourist attraction, yet there are absolutely no state historic markers, which explain the many other locations where Native Americans once lived nearby. Oh there are a few for Antebellum plantations and institutions, plus one about the Civil War . . . but nothing honors the peoples, who lived in this valley for thousands of years.
There could well be a similar situation near where you live. This is where you can be of service to your community. Let people know that mounds were merely the focal points of human occupation and that prior to the mid- 1500s AD, much of the Southeastern United States contained river valleys that were densely populated. Native American History is America’s History.
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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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