Richard Thornton | Jun 3, 2017 | 15
Irish colonists on the South Atlantic Coast
Since the number of people with European ancestry in the world, who would know how to build a Gothic cathedral today, approaches the number zero, it is obvious that these great achievements in architecture were built by skilled indigenous Mexican stone masons, directed by extraterrestrial architects. I sent that profound discovery to the producers of the History Channel series, Ancient Astronauts. You know they didn’t even have the courtesy to respond! A feller jest can’t get no respect!
Pulling y’all’s legs!
Like most of you Native Americans, I have always been highly irritated by pseudo-scholars who ascribe the construction of Pre-Columbian architecture to anyone but the indigenous peoples of the Americas. Earlier this year, some nutty archaeologist with a Ph.D. sent me a list of the Viking kings of Etalwa (Etowah Mounds.) Her logic was that since tall skeletons were found at Etowah Mounds, the elite must have been Vikings! She informed me that Etowah was really an ancient Viking word meaning eagle. It is actually an English mispronunciation of Etalwa – the Creek word for a large capital town.
I wrote back that the Creek Indians at the time of contact averaged a foot taller than Europeans, so the Vikings must have really been Creek Indians. I sent her a list of Creek Great Suns, who were the real kings at Trondeheim, Roskilde, Bäckviken and Uppsala. She was not amused. She was also absolutely shocked that a Native American had sufficient intellect to type a Scandinavian word and know its meaning.
Just last week, a self-appointed Islamic scholar on True American History from Pakistan, now living in Chicago, informed me that the Creek Indians were really Muslims from North Africa. The great sultan Ali bin Blah-Blah-Blah had dispatched a fleet to discover America long before Columbus. Muslim immigrants had built the mounds as bases for great mosques, but English infidels had torn them down and covered up history. His proof was that Creek Indians wear turbans and that the word Muskogee is really an infidel mispronunciation of the word, mosque.
I referred the Islamic scholar to the “Vikings built Etowah Mounds” lady in California, the “Lost tribes of Israel built the mounds” folks in Utah, the “Cherokees built all the mounds” folks in North Carolina, and the “Space aliens built all the mounds” expert in Switzerland. A Mosque Indian feller jest can’t get no respect these days!
Swiss author, Erich von Däniken, began the current craze in 1968, with the publication of the book, Chariots of the Gods. Von Däniken particularly was obsessed with the civilizations of the Americas. He explained almost any structure in the Western Hemisphere, more sophisticated than a thatch hut, to be the work of extraterrestrial architects. It is common knowledge that American Indians are intellectually incapable of designing large buildings and planning cities.
Unfortunately, forty years of malarkey from Herr Von Däniken has made him a demigod among a legion of those obsessed with extraterrestrial things. The ridiculous History Channel series, Ancient Astronauts, constantly quotes him, like he was the godfather of archaeology.
Excuse me a second. A young bear is in the backyard of my cabin. He is messing with my flying saucer. All of the people on this Ancient Astronauts show are earthlings. How could they possibly give accurate portrayals of us extraterrestrial architects?
To avoid giving Von Däniken any more time than he is due, let me tell you this. He only has a high school education. His first felony conviction occurred at the age of 19 for simple theft. The next year, he was convicted of fraud and embezzlement in Egypt. He wrote Chariot of the Gods while manager of a hotel in Switzerland. Shortly before the book was published, he was arrested for a variety of felonies committed over a 12 year period. They included income tax evasion, perjury, theft and financial fraud. He was in prison while writing his second bestseller book.
Anybody but them savage Injuns!
The first, “anyone but the Indians” craze began in the mid-1770s and continued until the 1870s, when archaeology started its path toward becoming a science. As English settlers penetrated the interior of North America, they encountered the ruins of large towns with mounds up to a hundred feet tall and many enigmatic stone structures.
The English didn’t want to admit that they had been Johnny-come-lately participants in the most horrific genocide in the history of mankind. Therefore, they ascribed these ruins to be vestiges of an ancient civilization, founded by people from one of the Mediterranean or Middle Eastern civilizations. Savage Indians had killed off this civilization and therefore, Europeans had been ordained by God to punish these savages for their evil deeds and ignorance.
It is plausible that bands of people may have made it across the Atlantic and Pacific over the centuries. We know that Scandinavians did. Some ideas from these sporadic arrivals may have been absorbed by indigenous peoples.
It is also plausible that these bands built some structures and some communities, particularly in the Ohio River Basin. I am even open to the possibility that there have been some contacts between humans and visitors from other solar systems. However, radiocarbon dating and documented artifacts has eliminated the possibility of the great towns and large ceremonial mounds in the Eastern United States being anything but the product of the indigenous cultures of the Americas.
That goes for the Hopewell earthworks too. There are almost identical geometric earthworks in the Upper Amazon Basin, which predate the Hopewell Culture.
Here are the facts.
- The first great stone circles appeared first in Canada, and then 500 year later in the British Isles. There is increasing evidence that Stonehenge was built by a people, who were related to American Indians.
- The oldest known mound in the Western Hemisphere (Bilbo Mound) was constructed around 3545 BC (Savannah, GA)
- The oldest known mound complex in the Western Hemisphere was constructed around 3450 BC. (Watson Brake, LA)
- The oldest known North American pottery was found in east-central Georgia. (Lower Savannah River & SE Georgia – c. 2500 BC)
- A cluster of large platform villages and mounds in northern Louisiana were occupied between c. 1650 BC and 700 BC. A group of credible archaeologists in Louisiana are building evidence that the founders of the Olmec Civilization came from the Southeast. However, there are artifacts at Poverty Point which are identical to those made at Skara Brae in the Orkney Islands. There may have been a pan-North Atlantic Neolithic culture composed of people, who were related to American Indians. Dr. Gordon Freeman of the University of Alberta is investigating that hypothesis right now in Wales.
- The first cultural fluorescence in the Southeast that involved permanent agricultural towns and large mounds corresponded exactly to the cultural fluorescence of the Teotithuacan Valley in Mexico – roughly 200 BC to 750 AD.
- The second cultural fluorescence in the Southeast began around 900 AD as the Maya cities were collapsing and continued until European plagues swept through the region during the late 1500s.
- The ancient Hebrews first appeared as a distinct tribe among the Canaanites around 1200 BC. The Kingdom of Israel was founded around 1050 BC. The “Lost ten tribes of Israel” were sent into exile by the Assyrians around 750 BC.
A slave raid to the South Atlantic Coast
There is evidence, though, that Gaelic colonists settled the South Atlantic Coast before Columbus arrived. Right now, the evidence is confined to sworn testimony from some Spanish explorers. However, you have to remember that a Spanish Catholic could be burned at the stake for lying in a sworn deposition made to a priest. Those depositions and notarized reports that survive from the 1500s, should be taken seriously.
The year 1521 AD was one of the most important in the history of Spain. In 1519 Hernán Cortés had led a band of 550 conquistadors and sailors into the heart of the Aztec Empire, in violation of orders from the Governor of Cuba, Diego Veláquez, In January 1521 he began a siege of the three Aztec capital cities of Texcoco, Tlatalolco and Tenochtitlan. The Aztecs had been greatly weakened by European plagues. Cut off from food supplies and potable water for weeks, Tenochtitlan, one of the largest cities in the world, fell. The incalculable amount of gold and silver in Mexico soon made Spain a super-power.
In early 1521, Spanish colonists elsewhere assumed that Cortés’ insubordinate invasion of Mexico had failed. They had no knowledge of the vast wealth of Mexico and were looking around for new locations to found colonies for growing sugar cane and, hopefully, mining gold and silver. Francisco Gordillo and Pedro de Quejo secretly sailed ships to the South Atlantic coast to capture slaves and scout out potential locations for new colonies. They captured 70 victims from the Chicora Tribe by inviting them on board the ships to receive gifts, the shackling them with chains.
One ship sank in a storm on the return voyage to Santo Domingo, causing its human cargo to drown. When they learned about the abduction, colonial authorities freed the surviving captives. Word soon spread throughout Dominca that Cortés had obtained unimaginable wealth in Mexico, and that La Florida (southeastern North America) was much larger than explorer Ponce de Leon had assumed.
Lucas Vázquez de Ayllón, a wealthy sugar cane planter and member of the Audencia (colonial council) interviewed Gordillo and Quejo, plus an especially bright Native that they had attempted to enslave, named by the Spanish, Francisco de Chicora. De Ayllón then compiled a report to be submitted to the King of Spain that accompanied his petition to be named the Governor of the future Province of La Florida. King Carlos V granted Ayllón a charter to colonize La Florida at his own expense and be made its hereditary noble.
In 1520, Fra. Peter Martyr d’Anghiera, a priest, historian and professor, was appointed by Carlos V to be chronicler for the new Council of the Indies. In 1522, he interviewed Francisco de Chicora, Gordillo, Quejo and Ayllón for weeks then submitted a detailed report to the king. Martyr died in 1526, but this report was published posthumously in a book named De Orbe Novo (About the New World.) The book has been published and translated numerous times in the centuries since then. The passages concerning the land that would become Georgia and the Carolinas were always included, but generally ignored.
After some more exploratory voyages, de Ayllón founded a colony in 1526 at location now believed to be near the mouth of the Altamaha River in Georgia. The colony quickly collapsed due to disease and starvation. Ayllón was one of those who died. It was abandoned six months after being settled.
The cheese-makers of Duhare
While Gordillo and Quejo treated the Chicora Indians with treachery, their relations with the other province along that section of the Atlantic Coast were peaceful. Peter Martyr recorded its name as Duhare. It was one of the more powerful provinces in the region.
The inhabitants of Duhare were described as being Europeans, who seemed to possess few metal tools. There are no metal ores in the South Atlantic Coastal Plain. The Duhare had red to brown hair, tan skin and gray eyes. The men wore full beards and were much taller than the Spanish. Spanish accounts clearly labeled the people of Duhare, Caucasians, even though they stated that the houses and pottery of Duhare were similar to those of American Indians.
The people of Duhare were also skilled farmers. They grew large quantities of Indian corn, plus another grain, which the Spanish did not recognize. They also grew several varieties of potatoes and all the other vegetables that had been developed in the New World.
The king of Duhare was named Datha. He was described by the Spanish as being a giant, even when compared to his peers. He had five children and a wife as tall as him. Datha had brightly colored paint or tattoos on his skin that seemed to distinguish him from the commoners.
In many respects, the Duhare had similar lifestyles to neighboring American Indian provinces, for one exception . . . they raised many types of livestock including chickens, ducks, turkeys, geese and deer.
According to all Spanish sources, the Duhare maintained large herds of domesticated deer and made cheese from deer milk! The excess male deer population was fattened with corn for butchering. The deer stayed in corrals within the villages at night, but grazed in herds in the day time, accompanied by “deer-herders” and herd dogs. Neighboring Native peoples knew not to hunt them.
Several Spanish sources, including de Ayllón, stated that the Duhare owned some horses. However, when interviewed by Martyr, Francisco de Chicora could not confirm or deny the presence of horses.
History lost in the fine print
In 1922 the Smithsonian Institute published, Early History of the Creek Indians and Their Neighbors by renowned ethnologist, John W. Swanton. It included much of Martyr’s passages on Duhare, but was prefaced with contemptuous remarks by Swanton that the story couldn’t be true and that the Duhare were probably a Siouan tribe.
In 1998 a version of the book, edited by famous archaeologist, Gerald Millanich, was published by the University of Florida Press. It also contained the description of Duhare, but again the editor and all readers assumed that Swanton’s assessment was accurate.
For the past 500 years, European and North American scholars have totally discounted the descriptions of Duhare because they knew for a fact that American Indians didn’t make cheese; that there is no such thing as a dairy deer; and that there were no chickens or domestic geese in the Americas until the Europeans arrived. These scholars also knew that the cultivation of the potato was limited to the Andean region until introduced to other regions by the Spanish.
That being said . . . guess what y’all? In my earlier life, I started the first licensed goat cheese creamery east of California. It would have been the first in the nation, but North Carolina officials dragged their feet for many months, trying to figure out how to give me a license for an agricultural activity that was not listed in state laws.
The generally available translations of the descriptions of Duhare leave out details from the original book, published over 500 years ago. Those details involved descriptions of cheese making and animal husbandry. I wondered how Spanish sea captains could fabricate authentic details of the cheese-making process? An anthropologist sitting in his or her office in Washington, DC or Tallahassee probably would not catch the significance of the details, but I did.
The Spanish soldiers may have observed Chamoisee dairy goats being herded and milked. The goats of Spain are descended from a short wild goat with curly hair called a capra prisca. The wild Chamois goat of northern Europe is similar in appearance and size to a North American white tail deer.
Many contemporary archaeology programs in the United States most frequently reward those students, who regurgitate whatever their professor told them to believe. This can be a problem, when an authority figure was in error. Once the data is obtained from careful excavation, or advanced technology, interpretation of a situation requires powerful deductive reasoning and as broad an education as possible . . . the ability to think outside the box.
While investigating the similarity of Irish Bronze Age petroglyphs to those in the North Georgia Mountains, I stumbled across this ancient Irish lullaby, called Bainne nam fiadh. ” On milk of deer I was reared. On milk of deer I was nurtured. On milk of deer I ran beneath the ridge of storms on crest of hill and mountain.”
I immediately contacted the newly opened Consul General of the Republic of Ireland in Atlanta. A lovely Irish lassie with an enchanting lilt in her voice, put me in contact with the Irish cultural attaché in New York City.
The attaché put me in touch with a highly respected anthropologist in Ireland. He said that Duhare is Early Medieval Gaelic. It can either be translated as “place of the Clan Hare” . . . or if the Duhare came from west of the Shannon River, it meant, “du’hEir – place of the Irish.” The meaning of “aire” or “eire” in Roman Period Gaelic was “coast.” So Duhare could also mean “Coastal People.”
The story gets better! The Irish anthropologist told me that “Yes, indeed . . . the Irish DID domesticate an indigenous deer in Neolithic times and develop it into a dairy animal. The Osrey (Deer People) of South-Central Ireland were particularly noted for their fine Deer Cheese. There were also tribes in western Scotland and the Orkneys, who originally raised dairy deer.
The raising of dairy deer ceased in most of Ireland during the 1200s, when the French monks, who accompanied the Norman invaders introduced dairy cattle. One tribe in western Ireland continued to make cheese from deer milk for awhile, but it soon disappeared from Ireland.
Linguistics placed the time of the immigration of the Duhare to North America somewhere in the period after Romans left Britannia, most likely the Early Medieval Period. The presence of dairy deer probably made the voyage no later than the 1200s AD.
Datha was a standard Roman Period or Medieval Irish Gaelic word that means “painted.” Since the Spanish recorded that the chief named Datha covered his skin with pigments or tattoos, as was traditional among the Celts, this name makes perfect sense.
The first book published on the history of Georgia by William Bacon Stevens opened with a statement that early colonists on the coasts of Georgia encountered mixed Native-Irish inhabitants, who spoke the Gaelic language. He provided references to Medieval journals in France and Ireland, which described multiple voyages to Witmannsland in the 1100s by Irish Gaelic Christians, who were escaping persecution by the Roman Catholic Church. Norse Christian mariners provided the boats to transport them across the Atlantic.
In 1935, Smithsonian archaeologist, James Ford surveyed the new Santo Domingo State Park on the South Channel of the Altamaha River in Georgia to determine its eligibility for inclusion in the new National Park System. He determined that the tabby ruins were not those of the Mission Santo Domingo de Talaxe, but “only” an 18th century sugar mill. While digging test holes at the state park, Ford unearthed several bronze and iron axes, swords, hammers, wedges and daggers. He interpreted them to be debris left by Late 16th Spanish explorers. No one made bronze weapons in the Iberian Peninsula after around 5-600 BC. The 24 year old Ford didn’t know that.
The amazing bronze and iron weapons and tools were on display at the Santo Domingo State Park Museum until 1947. Supposedly, they were put into storage somewhere when the park became an orphanage. An inquiry about the whereabouts of these priceless artifacts to the State Parks and Historic Sites Director did not receive a response.
Scandinavian villages on the South Atlantic Coast?
On his 1524 voyage along the Atlantic Coast of North America, Giovanni da Verrazzano made contact with three villages that he noted in his journal were occupied by Europeans. He gave them Scandianavian names – Long Town, Angle (English) Town and Norse Town. Long Town is a translation of the Scandinavian word for a trading port on a coastal river. They were located somewhere in the Golden Isles of Georgia. Virtually all references show Verrazzano heading back to France off the coast of North Carolina, but the map of his voyage clearly maps the South Atlantic barrier islands, which are off the coast of southern South Carolina , Georgia and extreme northeastern corner of Florida.
The Warren Wilson Village Site
There is one more intriguing detail. While I was Director of the Asheville-Buncombe Historic Resources Commission, North Carolina archaeologists unearthed a Late Mississippian Period village next to the Swannanoa River on the Warren Wilson College campus. It was abandoned around 1500 AD.
The village’s architecture and pottery was pretty much the same as what contemporary Lamar Culture Muskogeans were making in Georgia, but the village plan was not. The oval shaped community contained no mound, but had a defensive timber palisade around its periphery like most Lamar Culture villages. HOWEVER, there was another oval shaped palisade inside the ring of houses. Archaeologists were puzzled by the function of the inner palisade, which seemed to be made of stakes rather than stout timbers.
When archaeologist, Roy Dickens, sketched the village on the Swannanoa River as an illustration of what he called a Cherokee Pisgah Culture settlement, he left out the inner stockade. It couldn’t be explained and he didn’t want people to question his “Cherokee” label on a Mississippian village. Twentieth century archaeologists didn’t like to talk about things which would make them seem less than omniscient.
The inner stockade puzzled me. I remembered visiting a reproduction of an Iron Age Celtic village in England. The Celtic houses were little different than Muskogean houses. The center of the village was a stockade formed by wooden stakes where livestock animals were kept at night. The animals were allowed to graze in the surrounding pastures and woodlands in the day time. Well, I didn’t know diddlysquat about Southeastern archaeology back then anyway. What could possibly be the connection between a pre-Roman Period village in England and a Native American village near the Ancient Capital of the Great Cherokee Nation?
However, now . . . after the research done on the Duhare . . . I am beginning to wonder. Did the hybrid Gaelic people, who occupied the province on the South Atlantic Coast, also occupy villages in the Piedmont and Southern Highlands? Was the Pisgah Culture a hybrid Shawnee-Muskogean-Gaelic culture? There was no such thing as a Cherokee back then. You can count on one hand the number of Late Mississippian villages comprehensively studied in the South Carolina Upper Piedmont and western North Carolina Mountains. There is no real way of knowing. The truth is out there somewhere.
Hope y’all enjoyed the humor . . . and Happy Turkey Day!
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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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