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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.

Etowah Mounds

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.

Stone rings

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.



    Nothing but Crysral River in Florida?

    • Can you provide us more David? I will add them to the GIS map and to this POOF map. The Crystal River stellae were the only ones that the NPS had on record.

      There are zillions of shell rings and middens in Florida, but I could only find one mention of a stone structure.


    Key Largo Rock Mound on the Florida Bay coastline of Key Largo. It is now much degraded and is on private property. But it caused a minor uproar when it was “discovered” during road and rail construction in the early 20th century.
    Stone walls on several other Keys. Notably Lignum Vitae Key and Indian Key. Both now state parks. Not much prehistory left on Indian Key; obliterated by 19th century development into a major wrecking center. It was actually the first County Seat of Dade County. Until a Seminole war party under Chekika wiped them out. Lignum Vitae Key was private with a dedicated resident caretaker until the State took it over. Never developed or populated. Probably a lot still there. Only a small area around the old caretaker’s house is open to the public. The rest of the island is virgin tropical hardwood hammock with one of the highest natural elevations in the Keys. Lots of reports of stone walls.


    It keeps getting more amazing.

    On the map ‘Indigenous Stone Structures in the Southeast’ I’ve noticed that stone cairns, ceremonial walls and stone terrace complex are found in the north of West Virginia and Virginnia bordering Pennsylvania.

    Here’s an interesting detail:

    Pennsylvania was Iroquoian territory before the European colonizers came.

    The Iroquois Confederacy before 1722 consists of five (5) nations, composed of the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga and Seneca.
    In 1722 the Tuscarora joined the Iroquois Confederacy and were accepted, making it a six nation confederacy.

    Before the Europeans colonized North America,
    the Tuscarora settled and lived in Eastern Carolina.
    They seemingly encountered European explorers and settlers in the colonies of North Carolina and Virginia.

    In 1711-1713 there was a war (Tuscarora war) against English colonist and their indian (native) allies.
    The Tuscarora (probably lost the war) migrated north to Pennsylvania and New York.
    They were accepted in 1722 as the Sixth Nation of the Iroquois.

    Here we have about the same timeline/timetable in which the Cherokee (Europeans, Middle-easterners (and native allies?) emerged in the Tennesee / Carolina region (see earlier post ‘Did the mysterious Chiska become a clan of the Cherokee?’.

    Could it be that the Tuscarora had any contact and cultural exchange with South American/Caribbean tribes when they lived in Carolina prior to their migration to Pennsylvania and New York before they became the Sixth Nation of the Iroquois?

    It could explain the Tunebo(Uwa)/Warao/Arawak sounding words for tree garuda and garoha (garo’ha) in Mohawk Oneida since it seems to be out of place in the Iroquois dialects.


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