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LIDAR images of a Native American Metropolis

LIDAR images of a Native American Metropolis

The Nacoochee Valley Project

Archaeologists have for the most part ignored the Nacoochee Valley since archaeologist Robert Wauchope spent much of 1939 here. There are almost contiguous, contemporary village sites along the 18 miles of the Chattahoochee and Soque Rivers in this valley.   I believe that it is one of the most important archaeological zones in North America. It was a fountainhead from which many cultural advancements sprang.  So far I have found four terrace complexes and something in the range of 33 mounds, plus reservoirs, platforms and Itza style ball courts.

For the past eight years I have been studying the sites identified by Robert Wauchope, plus since 2012, studying the new sites revealed by LIDAR scans. I am currently working on a three dimensional computer virtual reality model of the central and western sections of the valley, based on recent LIDAR scans. When it is finished, POOF readers will be the first to see it.

One astonishing feature of the Nacoochee Valley is that most of these villages were occupied almost continuously between around 800 BC and 1700 AD.

One astonishing feature of the Nacoochee Valley is that most of these villages were occupied almost continuously between around 800 BC and 1700 AD.




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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.



    As a resident of White County and experenced in the use of LIDAR files , I would request that you send me the full LADAR file of your first illustration as an attachment to an email. I would like to examime it more closely.
    I would get it from Chris Ernst but he has left county employment.
    Thank You,

    • Chris gave them to me on the condition that I not give them to anybody else. Normally, the county charges for LIDAR images, but the deal was that any computer models I created from their LIFAR would be shared with White County. I have the same arrangement with Glynn and Jackson Counties.

      The first yellow squares and circles were by Chris. I compared them to Robert Wauchope’s archaeological reports and they matched. I then compared the infrared images to the LIDAR images. If both LIDAR and Infrared seem to show something, then I go on site. Many of the infrared are not visible at ground level, because they are based on soil chemistry. I will show y’all an interesting infrared after lunch.

    • I should have mentioned that Robert Wauchope found that the village sites were almost contiguous along the Chattahoochee River, Chickamauga Creek, Sautee Creek, Bean Creek and Soque River. LIDAR only picks up earthworks and stone walls, so I have to use various spectrums of infrared to find villages without mounds.


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