Richard Thornton | May 9, 2017 | 23
Map: Indigenous Stone Structures in the Southeast
The information on this generalized map was taken from a GIS map being maintained by the People of One Fire. However, by agreement with the National Park Service, the precise GIS map cannot be shown to the general public. It is only provided to the National Park Service, state historic preservation offices, plus regional planning agencies.
The sources of information on this map include the archaeological survey of Native American sites in the Southeast by the Smithsonian Institute in the1880s, the archaeological survey by George Wauchope, professional archaeological reports and field surveys by POOF members.
Current status of sites in West Virginia and Virginia
At least one terrace complex has been identified near Winchester, VA and dated to being slightly younger than the Track Rock Terrace Complex. However, while living in the Shenandoah Valley, I remember hiking past stone-walled terraces in the Massanutten Mountains and along the side of Little North Mountain near my farm. At the time, I just assumed that they were old vineyards because “American Indians didn’t know how to stack rocks” according to my college textbooks. Other than my late friend and archaeological consultant, Bill Gardner of Thunderbird Associates, Virginia archaeologists have shown very little interest in the Shenandoah Valley. I suspect that in time, several other terrace complexes will be confirmed in this region.
Status of sites in “South American region” of Tennessee, Kentucky and Virginia
Several POOF members insist that the “ceremonial stone walls,” which are labeled on several sites in this region are really agricultural terraces. However, they state that the archaeologists are afraid to call them such, because they would be ostracized by their peers. I have not seen any of these sites and so cannot make an assessment myself. The indigenous peoples of the Appalachians DID build stone walls that were ceremonial in function. On the other hand, if there is at least one terrace complex in Northern Virginia, it is certainly plausible that others would have been built between there and the main concentration in Georgia.
Archaeologist Adam King identified a six feet high stone retaining wall around the main plaza in front of Mound A. It is very likely that there are other stone walls at this town site, but most of area within the fortifications has never been excavated.
Until the early 1900s, these rings were endemic on the mountaintops near Atlanta and in Northeast Georgia – even on Stone Mountain. They were perfect geometric forms, not just ceremonial enclosures, and often included stelas as benchmarks for observing celestial events. They obviously were astronomical observatories.
Almost all of these rings were scooped up in the first half of the 20th century to crush into gravel for road construction. I now only know of two in perfect condition . . . on Aleck Mountain in Habersham County and in a national park, so I can’t discuss it. The remnants of rings and temple structures can be see on Yonah Mountain in White County, GA, Ladds Mountain in Bartow, County, GA and Curahee Mountain in Stephens County, GA.
Click map to enlarge it to full size.
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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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