Images: The Geometric Earthworks of the Amazon Basin
In our recent article on Kolomoki Mounds, it was mentioned that the Hopewell Earthworks in Ohio are pretty much identical to the older and contemporary geometric earthworks in the Amazon Basin of Brazil, Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador. Several readers contacted the POOF editor and asked what I meant by those comments. In this situation, a picture speaks a thousand words.
It is not just ancient geometric earthworks that can be found in northern South America. There are conventional earthen mounds in Peru that are contemporary with the oldest mounds in Georgia and Louisiana (c. 3,500 BC). The Great Serpent Mound at the Ortona Site in Southern Florida is contemporary or older than the Great Serpent Mound in Southeastern Ohio. The extreme southern location of Ortona suggests that its cultural influence came from farther south.
Currently, North American anthropologists describe the Hopewell Culture as an indigenous tradition that began in Illinois then spread eastward to reach its cultural apogee in Southeastern Ohio, where it was the epicenter of a regional trade system that covered most of Eastern North America. This is a re-hashing of an orthodoxy adopted as fact in a conference at Harvard University in 1947. For 30 years afterward, the “facts” taught students were that the first mounds were in Ohio, plus the first cultivation of maize and the Mississippian Culture began in Southern Illinois.
Southeastern indigenous cultural history confirms a regional trade network. Both the Shawnee and the Creeks have traditions that they have been “friends” since ancient times. They were constant trade partners with the Uchee being the “middle men.” The ancestors of the Creeks would travel northward to escape the summer heat and attend festivals in Shawnee’s homeland. The Shawnee would travel southward to escape the cold and attend festivals at such places as Kolomoki Mounds.
That is not the same thing as saying that all these things began in Illinois, Indiana and Ohio. Mound-building, permanent villages and ceramics in the Lower Southeast predate their appearance in the Midwest by 2-3,000 years. The research that the People of One Fire has been doing over the past four years has compiled strong architectural and linguistic evidence that there was two way cultural exchanges along a water-based transportation route between Amazonia and the Lower Southeastern United States. For example, the shell rings appeared first on the coast of Georgia, but eventually were built on the coasts of Colombia and Venezuela. The technical skills and religious traditions associated with the building of geometric earthworks seem to have come from Amazonia. Our geospatial analysis suggests that the ports of entry were the mouths of the Savannah, Mobile and Apalachicola Rivers. These three rivers could take travelers all the way from the ocean to the heart of the Appalachian Mountains . . . where it was only a day’s walk to a source of the Tennessee River.
Before looking at images of Amazonian earthworks, we will refresh the readers’ memory of what Hopewell earthworks looked like:
Below are some of the literally thousands of geometric earthworks being discovered in Brazil, Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia. Many are being found by amateurs using either Google Earth or NASA satellite imagery.
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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.
Latest posts by Richard Thornton (see all)
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- Do archaeologists own the artifacts obtained from your property? - March 21, 2017
- The Saga of Mahala Bone . . . her people in the Southeast and Oklahoma - March 20, 2017