Richard Thornton | May 9, 2017 | 23
Georgia’s “secret” volcanic range
POOF member, Suzanne Ward, mentioned the volcanic cones in the Pigeon Mountain Volcanic Range. Virtually nobody knows about this unusual geological feature in the Southeast . . . even the state’s geology professors seem to be unaware of it. I called the directors of the geology departments in Georgia’s three largest public universities. None of them knew much about the geology of the North Georgia Mountains and didn’t even know that the volcanic cones were there.
The only reason I know is that there are frequent tremblers under Pigeon Mountain. It is dormant and last erupted in 1857. The frequent little earthquakes trigger the “Earthquake Code” requirements of the International Building Code. I telephoned the professors so that I could get more specific information on the amount structural reinforcement, my buildings needed. They were no help at all.
The generally extinct line of volcanoes begin at Curahee Mountain near the Savannah River and are aligned roughly East-West across the state. They cross the Blue Ridge Mountain Range and have distinctly different shapes than the Blue Ridge Mountains. They are the source of the gold, copper, ruby, sapphire, garnet and diamond deposits in North Georgia.
Calderas are especially large volcanic basins. There are several ancient collapsed calderas in North Georgia. We know of three that contain complexes of Native American tombs. They are often called caves by the local mountaineers, but were hand dug for burials. This is what a collapsed caldera looks like on a topographic map.
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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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