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GIS Reveals an Apparent Feat of Indigenous Land Surveying

GIS Reveals an Apparent Feat of Indigenous Land Surveying

Being a Rambling Wreck from Georgia Tech, I live in a precise world of vectors and three dimensional objects defined by x, y & z coordinates. However, there are some things that you can’t explain with numbers and this is one of them.

Several of our readers, who have just read The Apalache Chronicles wrote us that they were surprised that there is another complex of stone structures in the vicinity of Track Rock Gap, which is the one described in detail by Charles de Rochefort in 1658. They wanted to know where it was and if it had been studied by archaeologists.

GIS Reveals an Apparent Feat of Indigenous Land Surveying

GIS Reveals an Apparent Feat of Indigenous Land Surveying

The Apalache Sun Temple was probably at the top of an ancient extinct volcano, 7.35 miles (11.89 km) from the Track Rock Complex. This is a designated archaeological zone studied by archaeologist Robert Wauchope in 1940 and promptly forgotten by everyone else in his profession in the 63 years since then. It is associated with its own complex of stone-walled terraces, caves and cairns.

According to Cherokee tradition and Wauchope, this second set of stone ruins composed the original capital of the Creek Indian Confederacy, which the Cherokees destroyed around 1715. Cherokee elder, The Swimmer, told this legend to Smithsonian ethnologist, James Mooney in the late 1800s. Contemporary Cherokee officials claim to have built all stone structures in the region.

The top of each archaeological zone is visible from the other one. Both temple bases are at 2,120 feet above sea level. Track Rock’s acropolis is oriented to the azimuth of the Winter Solstice Sunset. The other site’s ruins appear to be oriented to the Summer Solstice Sunrise. In fact, the nearest commercial structure is called the Sunrise Grocery.

In order to discern what astronomical characteristics the Wauchope’s site has, I programmed in a vector between the high point of Brasstown Bald Mountain and the high point of the cone shaped mountain. Brasstown Bald is the source of the Chattahoochee River and the highest point in Georgia. There may be a relationship in this vector to a celestial object, but it was not obvious.

Out of curiosity, I extended the vector southward. Then came the shock. The vector passes over the Attapulgite mine in Georgia linked to the Itza Maya cities, then over the mouth of the Apalachicola (Chattahoochee) River, then passes over the Maya port at Ekab. That was the port that served Isla Mujures – the mythological home of the goddess Ixchel and the center of her worship. The region between Mobile Bay and Apalachicola Bay was known as Am Ixchel (Place of Ixchel.) The same name was applied to the coast of Tamaulipas State in Mexico.

I have no explanation, but a line is a line.

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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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