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Footnote: Why didn’t Lewis Larson and Arthur Kelly criticize the new exhibits at Etowah?

Footnote:  Why didn’t Lewis Larson and Arthur Kelly criticize the new exhibits at Etowah?

A People of One Fire reader sent a personal email asking why archeologists Lewis Larson and Arthur Kelly did not criticize the new exhibits at the Etowah Mounds Museum.  The museum was extensively remodeled in the late 1990s, while I was living in Cartersville, GA . . . the location of Etowah Mounds.  According to the newspaper articles about the reopening of the remodeled museum, the changes were guided by some of Georgia’s leading archeologists, but I do not recall their names.  Also, the articles did not define what was meant by “leading.”

Arthur Randolph Kelly died in 1979 . . . long before the museum was remodeled.  During the last 10 years of his life, he was snubbed by most Georgia archaeologists, but still highly respected in the rest of the nation. 

Lewis H. Larson died in 2012 of complications from Alzheimer’s Disease.   Thus, he was still alive at the time of the remodeling, but already suffering from the effects of disease.

William H. Sears, who excavated the Etowah house containing European trade items, died in 1996.  

The books, primarily written by Charles Hudson or his colleagues, which stated that Etowah Mounds was abandoned immediately after the De Soto Expedition, were published from 1978 to 2006. The proclamation from a president of the Georgia Council of Professional Archaeologists, announcing that there was no fourth occupation phase at Etowah was made in 1996.   Thus, Lew Larson and William Sears were still active during the first decade of book publications, but not the official deletion of the fourth phase.  I cannot answer why they did not speak up.   My gut feeling is that some folks made sure that no one heard their opinion on the matter.

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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.



    Hey Richard
    I have enjoyed your last several articles, they have been very informative. Have you put the report you have on Etula on the Internet?
    I would like to read the original docs.
    Keep up the great work!

    • I don’t have a way. It is a printed, bound booklet. Would you believe that it was in a box I packed in 1972, mainly containing memorabilia of ex-girlfriends and fraternity socials? Life is like a box of chocolates. One the gals, whose photographs were in the box, died this past December 12, after being a invalid with Parkinson’s Disease since the early 1990s.


        Hey Richard,
        To bad, as you prove with your research the source documents are where you get the best information. Please keep putting more about the report in your articles.
        Thank you for your wisdom Keeper


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