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Massive oval temple mound identified in Georgia’s Nacoochee Valley

Massive oval temple mound identified in Georgia’s Nacoochee Valley


The archaeological site is also linked to the fate of the last Roanoke Island Colony in North Carolina.

It appears to be the large sculptured hill, dedicated to the Apalache sun goddess, which was visited by Richard Briggstock in 1653. This goddess had all the traits of the Hebrew YWYW, except that she was female.   The sun was considered her special creation, not the goddess itself.  Briggstock told his story to the Rev. Charles de Rochefort,  Chaplain to French and Scottish Protestants in the Caribbean Basin.  De Rochefort forwarded Briggstock’s crude sketches to a printer and engraver in Rotterdam, Holland, Arnout Leers.   That is why the mound is portrayed significantly too bucolic and the temple looked like a Greek Orthodox Church. 

The annotated translation of de Rochefort’s description of the Native American peoples of Georgia in the 1650s is entitled, The Apalache Chronicles. It was published by Marilyn Rae and Richard Thornton in 2013.  The book is available from Ancient Cypress Press and  Also last year, I published a comprehensive analysis of all archaeological studies and all known archaeological sites in the Nacoochee Valley.   It is entitled, The Nacoochee Valley . . .  Ancient Crossroads of the Americas.  This book is available from Lulu Press ( in either full color or as a less expensive digital file that can be down-loaded.  It has become my most popular book ever.

In 1939,  archaeologist Robert Wauchope found a stone tablet at the hill’s base, which stated “Elyoner Dare heyr sithence 1593.”  Members of the Williams Family then showed Wauchope about 16 stone tablets, inscribed with Elizabethan words, that they had found over the previous century while plowing their fields or hunting on their land.  They also had found a Native American tomb in which was inscribed the notice that Elyoner Dare was buried here in 1599.  Her daughter was also later buried in the tomb, but the engraving did not say when.  Wauchope probed around the Royal Burial Complex, south of the large hill and found another stone tablet about 30 feet from the Dare Tomb entrance.  It apparently was engraved in the Apalache-Creek writing system, but also included two Roman letters, A and D.

Stone tablet unearthed by archaeologist Rober Wauchope near Eleanor Dare’s tomb in 1939.

Wachaupe was shown a total of 28 stone tablets by Nacoochee Valley residents, with were written in Elizabethan English.  All had been found in the 1800s and early 1900s . . . BEFORE the discovery of the famous Dare Stone in northeastern North Carolina.   He urged the owners to take the stones to Brenau College, where they could be studied.

After scientists from Harvard University declared the Nacoochee Valley stone tablets to be authentic,  Brenau College created an outdoor drama based on the messages portrayed on the 28 stone tablets found in the Valley or along the Upper Chattahoochee River in White and Habersham Counties, Georgia.  This outraged North Carolina economic development moguls.   Wauchaupe was quickly hired away from the University of Georgia to work at double the salary at the University of North Carolina.  This tactic sealed his lips.

Wauchope did not stay in North Carolina very long as he was soon inducted into the OSS and served our country in the Mediterranean Basin during World War II.  He spent most of his life at Tulane University.  Presumably,  most of the artifacts, he obtained in the Nacoochee Valley are now held by the Department of Anthropology at Tulane.   Several enormous artifact collections were “loaned” to Wauchope by Nacoochee Valley families, but never returned.  They included vast amounts of

Wauchope did not publish his book on his extensive archaeological studies of North Georgia until 1966.  The connection of his work to the Dare Stones went unnoticed by Georgia archaeologists.  Apparently, I was the first person to read the entire description of his discoveries in the Nacoochee Valley and realize their extreme importance to understanding the fate of the Roanoke Island Colony survivors.  I also found it very interesting that Wauchope searched for a Cherokee village in the Nacoochee Valley, but never found one.   All he ever found were either Proto-Creek or Early Colonial Period European artifacts.   This fact was complete concealed by Georgia state bureaucrats when creating historical markers.   One is not told that the only landmark with a Cherokee name, Yonah Mountain, was given its name by settlers from North Carolina AFTER Native Americans were gone from the valley.   However, they did not have access to an accurate Cherokee dictionary evidently.  Yonah is the Cherokee word for a Grizzly Bear, not the Eastern Black Bear. There are no Grizzly Bears in the Southeast.

Many ancient volcanic cones can be seen from the mountain ridges around the Nacoochee Valley.


The Nacoochee Valley was created by a line of volcanoes which erupted eons ago AFTER the Blue Ridge Mountains had already formed.  Some of the vestiges of these volcanoes are isolated mountains and still maintain their “cone” appearance.  Some else are collapsed calderas.  Others are small cones protruding from the flanks of the much older Blue Ridge Mountains. 

Curtis Dyer was born near the source of the Chattahoochee River.

The Nacoochee Valley contains examples of all three manifestations of an ancient and violent geological history.   These volcanoes spewed forth the gold, zinc, copper, rubies, sapphires and diamonds . . . yes, diamonds . . . that made the mountains such a draw for European explorers . . . both from the Early Colonial Period and the Bronze Age.   There is no doubt about the presence of Bronze Age explorers, miners and colonists.  Most of the petroglyphs in North Georgia are identical to either those in Southwestern Ireland or southern Sweden.   The style of petroglyphs vary between river basins in the Gold Belt.   Also, the Alekmani, a tribe encountered by 16th century French and Spanish explorers on the Georgia Coast, also lived on the eastern end of the Nacoochee Valley, around Alec Mountain.  Alekmani is an archaic Swedish word that means “Medicine People.”

Eighty year old Curtis Dyer, the previous owner of the Sun Temple Mound,  told me that he directed a well-drilling crew to drill at a location on the northwestern corner of the Upper Plaza (see photo below).   The crew found very little water until they broke through the roof of a massive underground reservoir.  They were never able to determine its depth.  Water pressure pushed the water to 50 feet below the surface of the plaza. 

All the rocks beneath the surface of the Nacoochee Valley are believed to be igneous.  Igneous rocks do not melt in the presence of acid water to create sink holes and caverns.    Therefore, it is not clear what created the vast cavern.   Perhaps, it was once an underground magma chamber a hundred or so million years ago. Curtis added that it is not uncommon to see tiny specks of gold in the water from that well.

Speaking of gold . . . the nation’s first major gold rush began in the Nacoochee Valley.  Curtis made a surprising statement:  “All the miners since the beginning of the gold rush have only found about 1/8th of the gold that’s in the soil here.   I have found quite a few nuggets myself along the edge of the river here.

I told him that was amazing, considering that the Nacoochee Valley had been densely populated since around 1200 BC . . . maybe much earlier.  He agreed and told me that he could still pickup arrowheads by the bushel loads when he used to grow corn in the fields near the temple mound.  With his fingers he drew a line across the pasture.  Between there and the river, there were no Indian artifacts.    I told him that perhaps the river had moved southward in the last couple of hundred years.

Curtis added that some geologists with the State of Georgia told him that they believe that there was a dense band of gold just above the bedrock underneath the Nacoochee Valley.   To date, no one has tried to dig down to it.



The Sun Temple Mound, viewed from the north on July 3, 2018.



The Sun Temple Mound in the winter time.







Discoveries at the temple site on July 3, 2018

The mound appears to be a heavily sculptured natural feature like the nearby Kenimer Mound,  not a structure created by piling dirt.  However, this is not known for certain.  Most likely it is the core of an ancient volcanic cone, which at some point in the ancient past was partially eroded away on the eastern side by the Chattahoochee River.

Its SW-NE axis is 518 feet long.   Its SE-NW axis is 360 feet long.  The hill appears to be about 55 feet tall.  In a return trip, I will obtain the precise height with a GPS measuring device.  The terrain at the juncture of the mound with the Chattahoochee River is quite similar to the view portrayed above by Arnout Leers, except that he exaggerated the height and ruggedness of the mountains to the south of the Chattahoochee River.  There are three plaza levels.   The lowest is generally above most flood statges of the river, but is flooded by river waters every few years.  The Upper and Temple Plazas have not been flooded since the valley was first settled by white families in 1822.  However, they have been damaged by construction of farm buildings and houses on the plazas.

A stone retaining wall about 15+ feet high separates the Lower Plaza from the Upper Plaza.   Precise measurements will be made by a laser devise at the next visit.  The lower portion of the wall is very different than the upper section.  The lower portion consists of large stones with smooth faces.  They seem similar to the stone work of Peru.  The upper section consists of smaller, uncoursed rubble set with red clay mortar that was typical of southern Mexico.   No smoothed riverstones were observed.  Thus, the rocks had to be carried from somewhere else. This suggests two different construction phases and possibly two or more different ethnic groups occupied the site.  In fact, the hill could have been considered sacred for thousands of years for all we know at this time.  I also will be studying its astronomical characteristics.

Future reports on the study of this site, will be presented in the People of One Fire Youtube Channel.    They will include both videos taken at the site and movietized Power Point slide show lectures.





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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.



    Thanks so much for your continued research!! So exciting to know that the Dare Stone mystery has a possibility of being solved. It is such an important issue relative to the history of Nacoochee Valley, and North Carolina. These artifacts may be some of the most valuable ones ever found in the area. They tell such an important story about what happened to the “lost colony”. So glad that you are working with Curtis Dyer. He is a lifelong resident of the valley, and very informed about what has happened there.

    • Maybe we can get you back to the Valley, sometime soon, so I can gain from your knowledge also, Sylvia.


    Richard, These more ancient and larger stonework’s you have discovered seem to be well fitted as if the ancients used some chemical compound to weld stones together…very much like the ancient Peruvians. Again you have discovered proof of the Sea fairing peoples that migrated to the Kingdom of the Apalacha from Peru.
    One symbol of the stone petrograph is perhaps representing the 4 peoples spoken of by the Creek (Joani) Chikili lore of who started the Creek confederacy in Eastern Mexico.

    • Well Eleanor Dare married a Creek Indian chief after she settled here and had a daughter by him. That sounds more like a Creek Brunswick Stew Story rather than a white supremacy story. LOL


        Hey Richard
        The white supremacy part of the story sounds like a “Cherokee Princess ” story! Some folks make it up as they go along i guess.


    Richard, nice looking mound with the hardwoods. Anybody in the country over there in North Georgia and here in SC with fields should make their own mounds. I’m on the top of a mound in my backyard right now that is 23′ above sea level as measured by surveyors a couple of years ago prior to my structure being allowed to be built according to the city zoning code here. Maybe mine is a burial mound. Mine comes in handy as a gym to exercise on by doing gardening. Anyway Richard, I just finished making a little blogspot site on that neighborhood I wrote to you about near here on James Island, SC where indian artifacts were found and not memorialized. I drove by over there and made some photos. The ring is nicely mowed and there were no shells. The private neighborhood is right at one end of the ring. Feel free to click on it. Here’s the link:


    Excellent info. Thank you for finding all these historic connections to “The Valley”. Sylvia Wilson, are you the lady who find the Cherokee Trail Trees?


    Do you have contact info? We live not too far from the Nacoochee Valley site.

    • I do have the contact info, but this is private property, and they do not want a lot of strangers coming around their home and farm.


        We live down river and would like you to see our property/artifacts.


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