Richard Thornton | Aug 9, 2017 | 5
Images: Comparing a Dixie Rain Goddess with a Mexican Rain Goddess
The white marble goddess on the left is on display at a museum in Tellico Plains, Tennessee. It shares many stylistic details with a rain goddess unearthed in the Valley of Mexico that probably predated the rise to dominance of the Aztecs. Both goddesses are wearing the abstract weeping eye motif that was associated with rain deities. The style of this Mexican rain goddess is much more realistic that normally seen in Aztec sculptures. So where did the Tellico Plains rain goddess come from?
The pottery from Etowah Mounds that one sees on display in the museum is well made but just does not have the decorative details and variety that one sees in Middle Mississippi Valley near Cahokia. However, the stone statuary from the Etowah River Valley is the most sophisticated and abundant north of Mexico. Dozens of statues have been found in and near Etowah Mounds, yet about 85% of the town site has never been excavated. If you have never seen these statues pictured above, most are hidden away in the private collections of mansions up north. That is also probably where the best pottery from Etowah Mounds can be found.
On the other hand, the copper art at Etowah is world class. While looking at a book on the Southeastern Indians that I gave him, Dr. Román Piña Chán, Director of the Museo Nacional de Antropologia in Mexico City, told me that the copper art from Etowah Mounds was the finest in all of the Americas. Copper is much harder to work than gold or silver. Dr. Piña Chán was puzzled as to why the indigenous peoples in the Georgia Gold Belt apparently did not produce any gold art . . . just gold chains and foil.
The curator of the Tellico Plains museum did not say how he obtained the rain goddess, but the chances are really high that its artist lived in the great town of Etula, that archaeologists call Etowah Mounds. The statue is sophisticated by New World standards and made of white marble.
Of course, the largest marble deposit in the world is located in Northwest Metro Atlanta, about 20 miles from Etowah Mounds. There are also large, white marble boulders where I live near the source of the Etowah River. Georgia white marble is some of the purest calcium carbonate in the world. Tragically, with the demise of hand-carved details in architecture, most Georgia marble is now ground in to the primary ingredient of Tums or as additives for chicken feed.
There is a problem though. The Dixie Sun Goddess has very different facial features than the statues from Etowah Mounds. The photos of the Etowah statues are arranged from oldest to newest . . . beginning with Great Sun Woman. Great Sun Woman and her (not pictured) Great Sun Man have Highland Maya features . . . squarish heads, turbans, small noses and protruding chins. All of these, except the third one from the left, were carved from either limestone or sandstone. They don’t have the fine details of the marble statues from the Etowah Valley. The statues of the women on the left above have sloping foreheads like the Mayas pictured in Maya art. The other statues have small to medium size ears, small noses, protruding chins and facial features fairly typical of modern Creek Indians.
Now take a look again at the Dixie Rain Goddess. She has massive ears and her face has different proportions than the known Etowah sculptures. Her body is stooped forward, while both the male and female statues that are definitely from Etowah Mounds are sitting erect. By the way, if you see kneeling statue from Southern Mexico or from the Lower Southeast, it definitely portrays a female. Both the Mayas and proto-Creeks protrayed men with crossed legs and women kneeling.
Notice that the Dixie Rain Goddess is wearing a bun even higher up on her head than the men at Etowah. Females in Etowah statues are either wearing turbans or elaborate hair styles – even pony tails. She also has a much larger nose and a shorter chin that the Etowah figures. She is obviously from a different ethnic group.
I browsed photos that I had made at other museums in the Southeast. The human head that came closest to that of the Dixie Rain Goddess was at Moundville, Alabama! I still think that he was carved by someone at Etula (Etowah.) Note that this gentleman had the same supersized ears and a large, elongated nose. Like both rain goddesses, he has a smaller mouth and it is portrayed much closer to the chin. His hairstyle is also different than those of the men from Etowah Mounds. The chances are good that both this man and the Dixie Rain goddess were members of the same ethnic group. However, that does not eliminate them from being Meso-Americans. They were merely from a different ethnic group than the ones, who lived in Etowah Mounds during its three phases of occupation.
The same drought that devastated the Anasazi in the Southwest reached as far east as the Mississippi River Valley and western Alabama. Cahokia was abandoned when it reached the Mississippi. Moundville became only ceremonial center when the drought reached its longitude. There would have been a real demand for rain goddesses about that time in Northwestern Alabama.
Below is a painting from 1734 of a woman, who was part of a group of Creeks that visited Westminster Palace. Her appearance was captured for all time by Great Britain’s best painter of the era. She has the same features as the Dixie Rain Goddess, including the large ears. On the right, is a Maya sculpture of a woman with similar features. She was a member of the ruling elite in a Lowland Maya city. The Northern Mayas had very different physical features than the Highland Mayas. The Hitchiti Creeks were descended from Highland Mayas, who intermarried with Muskogeans. Notice the similarity of the hair cuts on the Maya woman and the Moundville “man”. Maybe he is a she!
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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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