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Holy Places Where No Blood Could Be Shed

Native American Brainfood

The evidence is accumulating that many Pre-Columbian refugees came to Southeastern North America to escape religious and political oppression in addition to the volcanoes and droughts. The monotheistic religion of the Apalache Kingdom was the antithesis of the bloodthirsty regimes that then dominated Mesoamerica and the Andes. No human or animal blood could be shed within approximately two miles of an Apalache temple, whether it was on a mountain top or in a floodplain.

For those who are visiting the People of One Fire website for the first time, we will explain who the Apalache were. The Apalachee of Northern Florida were given that name by the Spanish. They called themselves the Tulahalwasi, “Offspring of the Highland Towns.” They originated as a colony of the true Apalache, whose mother province was in the Upper Piedmont and lower mountains of Georgia.

For several hundred years, the Apalache were vassals of the Itsate (Itza Maya immigrants) who lived in the higher mountains of Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee and western North Carolina. The Apalache rose to dominance around 1350 AD. Archaeologists call their time of cultural dominance, “the Lamar Culture.”

Both the Itsate and the Apalache used stones in their architecture. However, the Apalache had an archiectural tradition of veneering mounds with stones. This is not seen at Itsate town sites.

At the peak of power, the Apalache controlled a polyglot region that stretched from southwestern Virginia to the Apalachicola River in Florida. However, by 1653 the Paracus-ti (High King) of Apalache functioned something like the Pope and did not directly rule other provinces.

In the mid-1600s, the capital of the Apalache was at Melilot, which was probably located at what is now Little Mulberry River Park in Gwinnett County, GA (NE Metro Atlanta).  However,  by the 1680s, English cartographer, Robert Morden, showed the capital to be in the Nacoochee Valley, where the village of Sautee is now located.

After the 1686 smallpox plague, the Apalache Confederacy disintegrated.  Its direct heir was the Achese Confederacy, based on the Ocmulgee River at present day Macon, GA, and then the Koweta (Creek) Confederacy, based on the Upper Ocmulgee River, near present day Jackson, GA and Indian Springs.

Human sacrifice

Archaeologists have recently discovered a cave in Belize containing the skeletons of hundreds of brutally murdered children. Since the cave was also a Maya shrine, it is assumed that they were sacrifices to some Maya deity, most likely the rain god, Chac-Mool. What is even more horrifying about this macabre scene is that forensic testing of their teeth have determined that the children were not from that region, but were kidnapped from other parts of Mesoamerica. You can read the Washington Post article here.

In other words, just like the Aztecs, the Mayas sent out raiders to capture sacrificial victims. Although probably never cutting out the hearts of thousands of victims at one setting, the Maya elite did not hesitate to kill their own people or the children of other city-states in order to appease their mythical deities.

The Incas were more subtle. They sent out priests and soldiers to captive provinces in order to obtain the most beautiful adolescent girls. Their parents were told that they would become princesses. However, a considerable percentage of these “chosen ones” ended up being drugged and clubbed to death on forlorn mountaintops in order to appease the “mountain gods.”

The Moche “Civilization” that controlled the Andes region several hundred years before the Incas, lusted after blood. Archaeologists have found extensive evidence of human sacrifices that involved the cutting of throats and the draining of blood into sacrificial basins.  Apparently, some of the sacrifices involved ritualistic torture that could go on for days.

Meanwhile in the Southeast and Midwest

Archaeologists have found multiple examples of human sacrifice in Cahokia. Most of the victims were found under mounds and temples. This is a tradition long practiced by the Polynesians, who regularly killed captives or even their own people and used their graves as the bases of temples. The Natchez maintained a custom into the early 1700s in which the relatives of kings voluntarily gave themselves to be strangled in order to accompany a deceased king into the afterlife.

To date, archaeologists have not found clear evidence of human sacrifice in Muskogean mound builder towns. Cave burials of Apalache royalty contain the skeleton and such things as copper ornaments and fine pottery, but no other skeletons. Itsate stone box and log burials almost always contain single skeletons.

Eagleman1Some copper and shell artwork in Georgia town sites such as Ocmulgee and Etowah display a man wearing the crown of a Itza Maya sun god priest, plus the nose and wings of an eagle. He is carrying the scepter of an Itza Maya king in one hand and either a human head or a wooden carved head in the other.

At Etowah gorgets were found that displayed a woman, wearing the headdress of a priestess of Kukulkan (Quetzalcoatl). She is also carrying the scepter of an Itza Hene Ahau (Sun Lord) in one hand and the head of a human in the other.


These works of art date from the period when the Itza Maya descendants were predominant. They may represent the sacrificing of enemy captives or may be only symbolic. If symbolic, they would be comparable of the traditional Christian art of St. George slaying the dragon.

The peoples in Florida that the Spanish called Timucua and Calusa, did practice human sacrifice. In times of food shortages or societal stress, young mothers were expected to offer up their first born child to be sacrificed in honor of the king. Both the Calusas and the “Timucuans” regularly sacrificed war captives to their gods.

Like many other tribes in North America, the Muskogee Creeks did ritually kill their war captives, generally by burning them at the stake or roasting them on a barbecue grill. However, the Muskogees were a different ethnic group than the Apalache. In 1754, while devastating the Cherokee countryside in the last stage of the Creek-Cherokee War, the soldiers of Koweta captured seven Cherokee town chiefs. One was ritually executed on the battlefield. Six more were carried back to northern Georgia and burned at the stake on the banks of the Chattahoochee River. This tradition matches exactly Maya cultural practices.

There are two sets of independent eyewitness accounts that state that the Apalache did not practice human or animal sacrifice. In 1658, Charles de Rochefort quoted Richard Briggstock as stating that no form of bloodshed was permitted in the vicinity of an Apalache temple. The Apalache priests constantly burned copal resin incense on those stone cairns that you find at stone architecture sites in North Georgia, northeast Alabama and northwest South Carolina. It is possible that their former Itsate masters DID make human or animal sacrifices on these cairns. We just don’t know yet.

The only real sacrifice that the Apalache made was (of all things) clothing! Briggstock stated that each year at the Green Corn Festival the Apalache elite would present some of their brightly colored clothing to the priests at the temples. The priests would then give the clothing to the commoners.

The Creeks in Northeast Georgia were descendants of the Apalache, not Muskogees. When British settlers began making contact with them in the mid-1700s, they immediately learned that no form of bloodshed, including hunting animals, was permitted in the vicinity of Apalache temples. In 1785, two men passing through the Yamacutah Shrine in what is now Jackson County, GA got into a great deal of trouble because they shot a bear near the shrine. These Apalache-Creek temples and shrines also functioned as wildlife sanctuaries.

A ceramic chronological connection

My recently published book, The Forgotten History of North Georgia, was the first step in trying to put all the pieces together from the evidence that the People of One Fire has been assembling over the past seven years. I am now trying to determine natural or man-made variables that would have caused bands of people to emigrate to the Southeast from Northern Mexico, the Maya lands, eastern Peru and the Amazon Basin.

Stamped pottery originated in Peru and was NOT a Mesoamerican tradition. Some chronological coincidences immediately popped out. In the period between 350 BC and 200 BC there were social upheavals that eventually led to the collapse of the Paracus and Chavin Cultures in Peru. This time period marks the appearance of permanent agricultural villages on the Etowah River and Middle Chattahoochee River in Georgia. It also marks the appearance of check stamped pottery in the Southeast.  Note that many polities in the Southeast, including the Apalache, called their high king, Paracus.

Swift Creek stamped pottery in the Southeast was virtually identical to the stamped pottery made a little earlier and the same time in eastern Peru. Even today, Conibo People in Satipo Province, Peru wear clothing with motifs identical to Swift Creek pottery. The Swift Creek Culture appeared in central Georgia around 200 AD – at exactly the same time that bloodthirsty Moche city states were invading and attempting to subjugate eastern Peru.

The Swift Creek Culture suddenly disappeared from the South Atlantic Coastal Plain around the middle 500s. Simultaneously, the population at Leake Mounds on the Etowah River in northwest Georgia began a rapid decline. In 539 AD a massive meteor or comet struck the South Atlantic Ocean near the Bahamas. The tsunami that resulted, obliterated the coastal islands of Florida and left a debris ridge that is still up to 85 feet high near the coast of Georgia. The 120 feet high tidal wave that would have left such a fingerprint certainly flooded most of Southeast Georgia.

Napier Style stamped pottery in the Southeast was virtually identical to the style of stamped pottery produced by the Shipibo People in eastern Peru. The appearance of Napier Pottery in North Georgia around 600 AD, corresponds to the period when the Wari city states in western Peru conquered the Moche city states in central and northern Peru. It is quite likely that Tennessee archaeologists will find Napier style pottery in the vicinity of the Holston River, which was originally named the Shipi-sippee.

Shell-tempered redware potsherds are endemic in the suburbs of Maya cities.  They used crushed shells as a temper, which enabled the pottery to vitrify (permanently harden) at about 1000 ° F.  The gray clay of the pottery core was veneered with a bright red clay slip.

Redware was the only style of pottery that Maya commoners were allowed to make, since its production required far less wood than conventional pottery. Wood was rationed to the commoners. Most of the timber went into firing limestone to make lime for the temples and houses of the elite or fine pottery for the elite.

The appearance of shell-tempered redware pottery in the Southeast coincided exactly with the mass destruction caused by the eruption of the El Chichón volcano in Chiapas and the subsequent collapse of Maya civilization in the following century. Shell-tempered, redware pottery is endemic at Ocmulgee Mounds and the Track Rock Terrace Complex. Hm-m-m.

PS: Oh so many years ago, I was sitting for the first time in the office of Dr. Roman Piňa-Chan at the Museo Nacional de Antropologia in Mexico City. He was thumbing through the book I gave him on the Southeastern Indians and was puzzled by the art at Etowah Mounds. The copper and shell art had many Mesoamerican themes. The stone and ceramic statues looked like Mayas – some like slaves, others like nobility – but he said that the pottery in Georgia looked like it came from place far away.  He didn’t explain any further, because he said that he didn’t understand why there would be such similarity.  Now I finally understand what he meant.

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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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