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Giant teepees in the Americas

Giant teepees in the Americas


(Architectural rendering above)  While the earthen pyramids and temples of the Itsate-Creeks, like those in the Mississippi Basin, strongly resembled their counterparts in Mesoamerica,  Apalache-Creek architecture in the southern Appalachians and Piedmont strongly resembled the pre-Inca architecture of the Andes Mountains and Amazon Basin of South AmericaApalachen is the plural of Apalache in their language and is the source of the Appalachian Mountains name.


Mark Veale commented about the teepee shaped houses of some Native Americans in Macon County, North Carolina.  The teepee was an ancient and widespread form of architecture in much of the Americas, Lappland, Finland and northwestern Russia.  For the first 100 years of its occupation the giant town on the Ocmulgee, its houses were predominantly giant teepees.  The Itza Maya style post-ditch houses only arrived around 990 AD.    The so-called Ocmulgee earth lodge was really a giant teepee.  Remember,  the Lakota were late arrivals the Great Plains from Minnesota.  They brought the teepee with them.  POOF will show you some examples of teepee houses and temples around the Americas and in northern Scandinavia.


The first newcomers to the Macon Plateau (Ocmulgee) lived in giant teepees. (800 AD – 1000 AD)


This is how the Ocmulgee “Earthlodge” would look today if it had been accurately reconstructed.


This is a typical indigenous house in Colombia, Venezuela, Suriname and Guiana.


The Wataw (Guatô) houses have a lower pitch, but the same details. Note how short the Wataw are. One could understand how the tall Creeks and Cherokees would call them “Little People.”


Chachapoyan, Peru – Conical houses in the Andes usually had stone walls or buttresses.


Identical circular stone foundations are found in the territory of the Kingdom of Apalache.

The Kingdom of Apalache was the progenitor of the Creek Confederacy.  The Florida did not call themselves Apalachee until the Spanish told them that Apalache was their tribal name.  They called actually called themselves the Tula-Hiwalsi. Apalache is the Anglicization of a Panoan  (Peruvian) word which means “From Ocean – descendants of.” 

The mother province of the Apalache covered the Upper Piedmont and southern Appalachian Mountains from east central Alabama across most of North Georgia to northwestern South Carolina.   Seventeenth century French ethnologist stated that the elite of the Apalache lived in conical houses with stone foundations on the sides and tops of mountains and large hills.  The commoners lived in river valleys in standard Creek towns and houses, which the public is much more familiar with.

The greatest concentration of stone house foundations are found in a swath of landscape from Metro Atlanta north to Track Rock Gap, GA then eastward to the South Carolina counties directly adjacent to the Savannah and Tugaloo Rivers.  They are generally ignored by Gringo archaeologists,  because such structures do not fit into their simplistic explanation of the Southeast’s past.

The God of the Winds and Trade,  Kukulkan (Quetzalcoatl) was particularly popular among middle class Mesoamerican merchants, traveling traders and artisans.  Non-Mexican archeologists almost never excavate folk temples to this deity because they were wood . . . actually they were identical to the “Ocmulgee Earth Lodge.”   Nevertheless, when erecting a giant temple to Quetzalcoatl in their capital of Tenochtitlan, the Mexica (Aztec) architects evoked the tradition of cylindrical temples with conical thatched roofs.  Note that the stone and plaster details almost exactly match the roof of the Ocmulgee Earth Lodge.

Mexica architects exaggerated the wall height of the folk temples in this mega-Quetzalcoatl temple.


Artifacts in the Miami Circle suggest it was a temple.  It may have been erected by maritime traders.


The Creek town of Tama on the Ocmulgee River in 1776.  Model based on drawings by William Bartram.

William Bartram stated that this monster chokopa (teepee structure) could hold over 500 people.  It is probably the largest teepee ever built in the Americas.   After the American Revolution the region, east of the Ocmulgee quickly filled with settlers.  The ancient capital was briefly listed on maps as Tama Old Town then disappeared from the maps.   Chokopa is an Itza Maya word, meaning “warm place.”  Chokopas had thick clay walls, which doubled as both buttresses and insulation.

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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.



    Very interesting, you are on a roll. I always look forward to your next post, but for this series I set an “appointment ” to read it.

    • Appointment? We are charging the same rate as the new rate for doctors . . . $150 for a 5 minute visit.


    Hello Richard, It’s always Good to read your articles. Kukulkan (Quetzalcoatl) according to the Mexah (Aztec} codex artwork wore a “pointed conical hat” like a “teepee”. The Apalachi/ Chiska people are noted as having a hat style like it but with a rim? His conical type of hat was used by Celtic “wizards” in Europe, Egyptians, Hebrew high priest, Phoenicians Sea traders, some of the people around the Black Sea (Thracians), some Cherokee, and I think I have seen some Asians cultures use this type of hat as well. More proof that the oceans did not stop peoples from migrating and trading. Ocmulgee, Ga. has had settled peoples living around that lake (now a swamp) for 17,000 years…at least. It could be one of the oldest continuous occupied cities in the world, (Byblos only 8800 BC) and like you have stated, the main temple was a teepee design. Can you say what the name of that city was called by the Apalachi (who were called the “T-la-tu-ici / At-la-tu-ci” by perhaps the “Tu-la” people in Mexico)? Another Great article Richard.

    • Yes, the capital of the Florida “Apalachee” was Anihaica. It is a Peruvian Arawac word which means “Elite – Place of or Town of” .

      Tula was the Totonac, Itza Maya and Itsate Creek word for town.


        Richard, I was re-reading the book that Mr. Briggstock had provided some information on the Apalacha Royal City Melilot….the houses of that city were also designed like large teepees as well. The Nobles “Paracoussis” (North Georgia) did use stones around the bottom of theirs which seems to trace from Peru (Para)… Mexico?…up the Colorado river to the Anasazi people area (with some connection perhaps to the “Lakota migration”) to North/South Carolina. This could be one migration path to the South. Perhaps the much earlier migration using Catamarans type boats made their way on the Amazon river to the Atlantic ocean and island hopped over time to the Savanna river and settled mostly by the North Eastern Georgia Mountains. In any case, these stone bottom Teepee homes / Temples are found in Georgia, Peru, Europe, Arizona, Colorado.


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