Massive Native American Mound Discovered in Dawson County, Georgia!
In 1939, it was part of a chain of village sites, a stone terrace and cairn complex and mounds stretching downstream from two of the tallest waterfalls, east of the Rockies that were discovered by the famous archaeologist, Robert Wauchope. The ancient town sites of this “lost world” are in Dawson, Lumpkin and Pickens Counties, Georgia. Although he assigned official state site numbers to his discoveries and later described them in a book that he published on North Georgia Native American sites, the archaeology profession, the state government, regional planners and local officials have completely forgotten this Shangri La in the Blue Ridge Mountains.
It was a time that has gone with the wind. None of the rural highways and county roads in Dawson County were paved. There were few road signs outside the hamlet of Dawsonville, which functioned as a county courthouse, with a few stores around it. A primary source of cash income for families in northern Dawson County was moonshine. Moonshine was king. Even today, the ruins of old stills can be found near remote springs and hidden vales throughout northern Dawson County and western Lumpkin County. That industry gave birth to stock car racing. Would you believe that the birthplace of stock car racing legend, Bill Elliott, is only about a mile away from this archeological zone? The Elliott family still works on their race cars nearby in a large garage complex.
Archaeologist Robert Wauchope had planned to spend a week or two in the Nacoochee Valley in White County, GA, but ended up spending most of the summer of 1939 there. Once classes started on week days, he was functioning as the University of Georgia’s first anthropology professor. Then word got out about his amazing discoveries on the Chattahoochee River. Folks, who owned properties with mounds or stone ruins on them elsewhere in the mountains began contacting him by mail. Several of those families owned farms and “summer homes” near Amicalola Falls. That’s back before it became a part of the state’s park system.
Two ladies told him about the mounds and stone ruins along the Amicalola River. Wauchope found a 3,000 year old town site at the Edge of the World Rapids on the Pickens County side, where GA Hwy. 53 now passes over the Amicalola River. He was given specific directions to a large mound just upstream from the rapids, but because of the lack of road signs, he was never able to find it. Actually, he pronounced the name of a road incorrectly and so locals could not direct him to the right farm. Nevertheless, so many people affirmed that the mound did indeed exist that he assigned it a state archaeological site number.
Soon after Pearl Harbor, the WPA program that paid much of Wauchope’s salary was cancelled, so he had to move to the University of North Carolina in order to make ends meet. He never lived in Georgia again. He returned in 1958 with his family to begin writing the book on North Georgia. He stated in the book’s introduction that the landscape of Georgia had changed so much in 20 years that he hardly recognized it. In several cases, he was not even able to find archaeological sites that he had worked on. The landscape had changed starkly . . . especially where huge Corps of Engineers lakes had filled the valleys.
Typical of what Wauchope also found along the headwaters of the Chattahoochee River in Northeast Georgia, the occupation of the land went back about 3,000 years between Amicalola Falls (790 feet) and Cochran Falls (600 feet) downstream seven miles to the Edge of the World Rapids. It was a classic Highland Apalache town. The Apalache were the ancestors of the Koweta Creeks. Wauchope found Deptford (Early Woodland), Cartersville Check Stamped (Middle Woodland), Woodstock (Late Woodland), Etowah I (Early Mississippian), Etowah II (Middle Mississippian), Lamar (Late Mississippian) and Late Lamar (Colonial Period) pottery. This valley was inhabited from about 1000 BC to the middle 1700s. Nearby are the stone walls and cairns of the Amicalola Terrace Complex . . . overlooking Steel Bridge Road in Dawson County.
The advanced Native American culture that thrived along the Amicalola River in Dawson County, GA for thousands of years has been completely left out of the anthropology and history books. The indigenous people in the Northeast Georgia Mountains were a branch of the Creek Indians, called the Highland Apalache. The Appalachian Mountains are named after them.
Archaeologists around the Southeast are at least vaguely aware of the Nacoochee Mound, but generally ignorant of the ancient, advanced indigenous culture that existed there for 3,000 years. However, the Amicalola Culture is completely unknown. There are blank spaces over Dawson and Lumpkin Counties, when academicians draw maps of what they call “Native American chiefdoms” in the Southeast.
The pyramidal mound, labeled 9DW4 by Wauchope, is diamond shaped and aligned to the Winter Solstice Sunset. It is 110 feet wide, 180 feet long and 40 feet high. It is identical to the mounds, built by the Itza Mays in the Chiapas Highlands and Kekchi Mayas in western Belize and southwestern Guatemala. Unfortunately, it is obvious that someone has been digging in the mound.
It is very bad karma to dig in a Creek mound for fun and profit. Those involved might reconsider any such activities in the future.
Well . . . it looks like the folks in Dawson and Lumpkin Counties, Georgia just found themselves another major tourist attraction. European tourists are crazy about anything Native American . . . and oh so close to Amicalola Falls and the beginning of the Appalachian Trail!
Mama always said that life was like a box of chocolates . . .
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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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