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Kolomoki Mounds National Historic Landmark . . . an astonishing 2,000 year old feat of land surveying

Kolomoki Mounds National Historic Landmark . . . an astonishing 2,000 year old feat of land surveying

Indigenous Astronomy and Town Planning in the Southeastern United States: Part Three

Geospatial analysis totally refutes an orthodoxy held by academicians.


Kolomoki-Ladds-DetailKolomoki Mounds was a ceremonial site and large town in Southwest Georgia that was occupied from around 0 AD to 750 AD . . . and again briefly by ancestors of the Creeks, associated with the Lamar culture.  Kolomoki is considered one of the most sophisticated and largest Woodland Period archaeological zones in the United States. Unlike most contemporary Hopewell Culture sites, it was a true town in addition to having ceremonial functions. 

Kolomoki’s greatest construction activity and population density occurred between around 350 AD – 600 AD.  The earliest radiocarbon date for a mound base is 30 AD.   The archaeological zone contains at least eight mounds, plus other earthworks, a plaza and ponds.  Mound A is today about 56 feet (17m) tall, but 1500 years ago, it was at least 75 feet tall.  Massive mounds of earth compact, subside and erode over time in wet climates like Southwest Georgia.

Archaeologists have long pondered why Kolomoki was constructed in a seemingly remote location, eight miles from the nearest major river . . . the Chattahoochee.   A geospatial analysis revealed that the selection of the site for Kolomoki was based on the intersection of two massive surveyor’s traverse lines.  The vertical line runs 309.8 miles (516 km) between the mouth of the Apalachicola River to the stone observatory on Ladd’s Mountain, near Etowah Mounds. The diagonal line is aligned to the azimuth of the Spring and Fall Equinoxes and runs between the mouth of the Mobile River and the center of Kolomoki Mound A.  This vector is 186 miles (310 km) long.

Two “signature” types of architecture,  woodhenges and keyhole houses,  that Midwestern archaeologists assume are unique to the region of Southern Illinois around Cahokia Mounds,  actually appeared 500 years earlier at Kolomoki.  Fifty years after Kolomoki was abandoned, they appeared at Toltec Mounds near Little Rock, Arkansas  then a hundred years later at Cahokia.  These two types of architecture will be discussed further with the virtual reality images at the end of the article. Apparently, descendants of Kolomoki founded the original village at Cahokia.

The town site that archaeologists call Mandeville functioned as the port of entry of Kolomoki on the Chattahoochee River. It did not grow to its maximum size until after Kolomoki was abandoned, but never occupied more than about a fifth the land area covered by Kolomoki.

The town site that archaeologists call Mandeville, probably functioned as the port of entry for Kolomoki on the Chattahoochee River. It did not grow to its maximum size until after Kolomoki was abandoned, but occupied about a fifth the land area covered by Kolomoki.

Kolomoki began around 0 AD or earlier as a small village and ceremonial site for peoples, who were little different than those elsewhere in the region.  They made a style of pottery that was descended from ancient Deptford Style pottery, which originated on the Atlantic Coast in present day Savannah, GA.  The pottery was either stamped with simple check patterns, cord-marked or left with a burnished finish.

Around two centuries later, an elaborate new style of pottery made its first appearance in the Southeast at the Mandeville Town Site on the Chattahoochee River, southwest of Kolomoki.  From there its popularity spread to almost all of Georgia. Called Swift Creek Style by archaeologists,  it consists of elaborate curvilinear designs, stamped with wooden paddles, onto the soft, un-fired clay bodies.  At the time (1961) that the famous archaeologist, Arthur Kelly discovered that the oldest and most ornate Swift Creek pottery examples were found at Mandeville and then Kolomoki,  he assumed the older Swift Creek ware would eventually be found farther south in Florida.  This has not happened.   The Swift Creek Culture spread southward into Florida from Georgia.  That means that the immigrants, who introduced Swift Creek came from south of Florida.

It is no accident that the first appearance of Swift Creek pottery was in the southwester corner of Georgia. This style of pottery first appeared among the Conibo People of Eastern Peru and the Swift Creek motifs are still found in their elaborate textiles.  The Creek language contains several Conibo words, such as the words for beans, tobacco, the Sacred Black Drink and village chiefs.  Both the Conibo and modern day Creek Indians are known for the “Stomp Dance”.   Brightly colored, traditional Creek and Seminole Indian clothing and head turbans are also very similar to that worn by the Panoan peoples of Peru and Amazonia, which include the Conibo.

Most of the mounds were begun during the period when Swift Creek pottery predominated at Kolomoki.   However, a new cultural influence from the south began manifesting itself at Kolomoki around 350 AD.  Called the Weeden Island Culture after an archaeological site in Florida,  this artistic tradition reflected strong Arawak influence.  In particular, the ceramic portrayals of human figures at Kolomoki resemble contemporary ceramics in parts of Colombia.   The synthesis of Swift Creek and Weeden Island cultural influences sparked a rapid population growth at Kolomoki, which seems to have been more of a ceremonial site in the Swift Creek Cultural Period.

A large asteroid or comet struck diagonally off the coast of Florida and caused a catastrophic tsunami on the coast of Georgia, that probably covered much of South Georgia with water.  During the same period super-volcanoes erupted in Central America and Iceland, which caused a Little Ice Age for several decades.  The Maya civilization went into hibernation for 50 years.  Europe entered the Ice Age.  The Hopewell Culture disappeared and Kolomoki entered a period of steady decline.  By 750 AD, the location had very few residents, but its cultural influence remained in the region.

The indigenous cultural tradition that the Spanish and contemporary anthropologists call the Florida Apalachee apparently began at town sites such as Kolomoki, but never traveled much farther up the Chattahoochee River.  Although anthropologists label the Florida Apalachee, a Southern Muskogean People, they created this orthodoxy without bothering to translate their town names at the time of initial contact with the Spanish. * They are all South American words.  The name of their capital, Anihaica or Anihica, means “Elite-Place of” in the Southern Arawak language, spoken in parts of northeastern Peru and Amazonia. Even Apalachen, the first “Apalachee” village visited by the De Soto Expedition, is a Panoan word from Peru.  It has no meaning in the Muskogean languages other than being a proper noun.  Apalachen is the plural of Apalache in Panoan.  However, the true Apalache were concentrated on the Apalachee River and its tributaries in Northeast Georgia.  

* The so-called Apalachee dictionary that one sees on the internet and in books by Florida academicians is actually a glossary of words spoken by a band of Tamale Creeks from the Altamaha River in Southeast Georgia, who were exiled for converting to Roman Catholicism. The authors of this glossary was the friars at the Mission San Martin de Tomale and nearby missions, where these Creek refugees lived.

According to Creek tradition, the true Apalache established colonies in Southwest Georgia and the Florida Panhandle among the descendants of Kolomoki.  The true Apalache built the Great White Path (US 129) to interconnect their provinces in the North Carolina Mountains, Georgia and Northwest Florida.  They introduced what anthropologists call Mississippian cultural traditions to the locals on the Gulf Coast.  The elite in Northwest Florida were from North Georgia and spoke a language similar to modern day Miccosukee. The elite called their province Tula-halwasi, which means “Descendants from the Highland Towns.”  By the 1500s, those living in the Florida Panhandle were speaking a dialect of Southern Arawak that the true Apalache in North Georgia could not understand, but nevertheless, the two peoples remained on friendly terms and had long established trade relations.


The town plan of Kolomoki consisted of a large pyramidal mound tilted at angle of about 14 degrees and facing a plaza and group of mounds to the southwest. These mounds have precise geospatial relationships that mark the key dates on the solar azimuth.  The vector of Mounds D and F define the Spring and Fall Equinox.  Mounds B and C are clustered near Mound A and define the Summer Solstice and locations of constellations. Mound B was actually a compact woodhenge, which functioned as a sun dial. The vector between Mounds C and D marked the Winter Solstice. The vector between Mound D and E, plus F and G, were aligned to the Pleiades Constellation. Two semi-circular earthworks originally defined the public plazas from the residential areas.  They were also aligned with the Pleiades.  During the latter stages of Kolomoki, some houses, perhaps for priests and attendants were built inside these arcs.

The occupants of Kolomoki obviously had a severe problem with flash floods . . . particularly around Mound A, whose steep slopes caused rain water to rush down its sides into the plaza.  A stormwater drainage system was constructed, whose details exact match those required by building codes for 21st century land developments.  Drains were constructed around the base of the massive mound.  A catchment pond was built on its south side.  Overflow from the catchment pond was drained to Kolomoki Creek to the east.  The entire plaza was sloped to drain to a much larger pond on the north side of Mound A.  Its overflow also drained to Kolomoki Creek.  The people at Kolomoki also built drainage ditches outside the semi-circular earthworks, which drained residential areas.


The real name of this remarkable indigenous town is not known.  The name Kolomoki is the Anglicization of the name of a branch of the Creek Confederacy, who were called the Kolima-ki or Colima People.  They were living in southwest Georgia, when Europeans reached this region, but not when the mounds were built. Like the Colima People in northwestern Mexico, these immigrants were fond of producing pottery in the shape of Chihuahua dogs.  

It was noted by the members of the De Soto Expedition that the indigenous peoples of Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina maintained large numbers of these small hairless dogs as household pets and sources of protein.  The Creek Indians also had at least two other larger species of dogs. 

The much larger, but still hairless Xoloitzcuintli was also utilized as a pet, but had a primary function of guarding the village against raiders and large predators.  An even larger dog with hair was used for hunting.  It was the same breed as what is now called the Carolina Dog or Dixie Dingo.  For unknown reasons, the hairless dogs became extinct by the late 1700s, but many of the Dixie Dingoes went feral.  In recent years, they have become recognized again as a distinct breed of dog, indigenous to the Southeastern United States.

Geospatial analysis determines who founded Kolomoki

The current orthodoxy among Caucasian anthropologists is that Kolomoki was established as a trade colony of the Hopewell Culture in Ohio.  The primary evidence for this belief is that in the 1990s, several corporations, such a UPS, Rubbermaid and NCR relocated from Ohio to Atlanta and therefore many Ohioans relocated to Georgia.  If Ohioans moved to Georgia in the late 20th century, they obviously also moved to Georgia in the First Century AD to bring enlightenment to that backward region. 

Seriously, the ethnocentric logic by these academicians is not much better.  Architecturally, there is no similarity between the Hopewell Culture and Kolomoki until right at the end of the Hopewell Culture, when a pyramidal mound with similar proportions to Kolomoki’s Mound A, but 1/2 the size, was built in the middle of a semi-circular earthwork at the Seip Site in southeastern Ohio. 

When academicians realized in the early 2000s that Kolomoki was planned according to the Solar Azimuth,  they reasoned that this knowledge could have only come from the Hopewell People in Ohio, since Midwesterners are inherently smarter than Southeastern indigenous peoples.  Readers will now find references to Kolomoki being a Hopewell or a Hopewell-influenced in Wikipedia.

First of all there is a big problem for all the Hopewell-philes.   Hopewell earthworks are identical to those being found across a vast region of Amazonia, but younger by several hundred years than the earliest Amazonian earthworks.  The aboriginal name of Amazonia and the current name of that Brazilian state is Pará.  Apalache is the Hispanization of the hybrid Panoan-Muskogean word Aparashi, which means “From Pará – Descendants of.”   The linguistic and architectural evidence suggests that the progenitors of the Hopewell Culture also came from Pará,  not from the Midwestern United States.

This speculation by academicians is also diametrically opposite to Creek Indian historical tradition.  We have found over and over again in the past ten years that the Creeks know far more about their cultural history than the white anthropology professors do.  This might be another situation like the “Mayas in Georgia Thang.”

From the first stages of the People of One Fire’s geospatial study, it was known that Kolomoki was on a traverse line that spanned from the stone ruins atop of Ladd’s Mountain near Cartersville, GA to the mouth of the Apalachicola River.  It is not either True North or Magnetic North.

Using ERSI GIS software,  I first started with the base map that contained the traverse line from Ladds Mountain to the mouth of the Apalachicola River’s mouth.  I then calculated the centroid for Mound A at Kolomoki and drew the Solar Equinox azimuth from there . . . thinking perhaps it would cross a major Classic Period Mesoamerican city in Mexico like Teotihuacan.  It did not, but did cross over the mouth of the Mobile River in Alabama.  The location of Kolomoki was initially determined by the intersection of traverse lines from the two points that voyagers from the Gulf of Mexico could enter the interior of the Southeast.  Obviously, “Hopewellians” hiking down from Ohio, would not have determined the location of Kolomoki by their starting points on Mobile Bay and Apalachee Bay.   The immigrants were from south of North America.

This is an amazing feat of land surveying!  How they did it, I have no clue.




Virtual Reality tour of Kolomoki Mounds


Birdseye view of Kolomoki . . . looking to the east



A woodhenge or giant timber sundial was originally labeled Mound B by archaeologists until they unearthed the structure and found the circular pattern of post holes.


The keyhole house was created by digging a rectangular pit and tunnel entrance. It has never been found in other parts of Georgia, Alabama or Florida, plus was never built again after Kolomoki was abandoned.

The keyhole house was created by digging a rectangular pit and tunnel entrance. It has never been found in other parts of Georgia, Alabama or Florida, plus was never built again after Kolomoki was abandoned.


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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.



    What?? They ate the puppies??? I’m sharing this with my high school class on Friday. 🙂

    • They sure did Karla. Don’t you remember that on several occasions, the Proto-Creek towns that De Soto visited, fed all their unwanted guests with hundreds of hairless dogs. However, hush-puppy fed dogs were considered delicacies back then. I will have to pass on that one and stick to hush-puppies and fried catfish.


        I’d like to know more about the origin of the word Hush-Puppies. Is it true they fed these to the dogs to keep them quiet?


    Richard, The Kolomoki 14 degree tilt seems to point at the highest mountain in Alabama: “Cheaha” and that mountain range looks to me like a serpent. The “feathered serpent” cult people ( Olmec’s, Toltec’s, Maya, Mexica) would have considered that mountain range special. The “sleeping Giants” mountain range is near by on the other side of Talladega.,-83.5&z=7&t=H&marker0=33,-83.5,Georgia%20%28U.S.%20state%29

    • I will check that tomorrow. I didn’t think of seeing where the north vector goes to. It may be pointing at Moundville or Cahokia. Now wouldn’t that be a hoot. Kolomoki pointing toward Cahokia!

    • The only geospatial relationship I could find was that the location of Cahokia is due north of where the mouth of the Mississippi River was around 1200 years ago. The line that is perpendicular to the Equinox azimuth passes through central and north central Alabama. There was nothing particularly the there during the Middle Woodland Periods.


        Cahokia is due North of the Yucatan and those Toltecs/ Itza Maya’s were quite the math types, Much like you “rambling wrecks”? Great job on these articles Richard.
        In regards to the Apalache people being connected to the “Toltecs” of Mexico : History of the Caribby-islands.. page 210 states: ” The Apalachites make it their boast that they had propagated certain colonies a great way into Mexico”. “The inhabitants of the country upon their arrival gave them the name “TLATUICI”. (The Aztecs used the term “TLATLAYAN” for “the place of burning” for the great lord Quetzalcoatl who is noted leaving Mexico towards the East on a boat with his followers (1 Reed 895). An exact match for the first parts of those 2 words… from 2 separate peoples. Perhaps, the “Great copal” city had at one time been built for burning incense for the dead leaders of the Feathered Serpent religion? (Olmec’s, Maya, Toltec’s, Aztecs and North Georgia have that connection.)


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