More Thoughts on the South American Connection
Over the past year, a South Carolina company that specializes in documentaries for public television has been going across the Americas filming archaeological zones that show connections to other parts of the Americas. The international team of scientists in the cast has come up with some thought-provoking observations as the documentary nears completion. They have identified many examples of ideas, cultivated crops and peoples moving up and down the Americas in both directions. I am convinced by their evidence.
The premier of the documentary will be in Mexico. A Mexican television network ordered a Spanish language version first. The English version will probably appear on American public television in 2015.
Ricardo . . . ¿Por qué sus indios de Georgia estatuas de mármol de esclavos hacen?
Richard, why did your Indians in Georgia make marble statues of slaves?
Life is funny in that one can go months or years without anything happening then there are moments that will have implications for decades in the future. Such was the time so many years ago, when Dr. Roman Piña-Chan called me back to his office after giving me the VIP tour of the Museo Nacional de Anthropologia. As instructed by the Mexican Consul in Atlanta, I had given him a propina in the form of a book on the Southeastern Ceremonial Cult that included hundreds of drawings and photos of artifacts. Dr. Ignacio Bernal had left the tour early, so I also gave Dr. Piña-Chan, Bernal’s gift, which was a book on the Native American sites in Georgia . . . except back then they were called Indian sites. LOL
The famous archaeologist was intrigued because some aspects of the Southeastern Ceremonial Cult appeared to have come straight from Mexico. Other aspects were very different from Mexico. There were ceramic seals dug up along the Chattahoochee River that had virtually the same designs as those found at Tula, the capital of the Toltecs and El Tajin, the capital of the Totonacs. On the other hand, the stone and ceramic statues found around Etowah Mounds were more realistic than Mesoamerica statuary AND most of the subjects were wearing turbans, which was the mark of a slave or common laborer among the Mayas. Piña-Chan would know. His mother was Maya and he grew up in Tabasco where the Chontal Maya originated.
Piña-Chan told me that the copper art at Etowah Mounds and Ocmulgee National Monument was superior to anything ever produced in Mexico or Central America. Why was there no gold or silver art? These metals are much softer and have a lower melting point. He was astonished when I told him that Etowah Mounds was adjacent to the gold bearing belt where the USA’s first major gold rush had occurred.
The Mexican archaeologist was fascinated by the Swift Creek, Napier and Etowah complicated stamp pottery portrayed in the books. He thought that these pottery styles were beautiful and unlike anything ever produced in Mexico. He jokingly suggested the Indian men in Georgia came from Mexico, but the women came from somewhere else. Women made the utilitarian ceramics.
That last riddle has been in the back of my head all these years since then. As I mentioned in the last Brainfood, the traditional art of the Conibo People in eastern Peru looks like Swift Creek pottery, while the traditional art of the Shipibo People looks like Napier pottery. However, both peoples paint their pottery. Still today, the Conibo and Shipibo pottery is considered the most beautiful indigenous pottery in the Americas.
THEN, while searching through the internet on another topic, I stumbled upon a Spanish language anthropological paper about a province in northern Peru during the Early Horizon Period (900 BC-200 AD) that used carved wooden paddles to stamp complex designs on pottery. This art originated as the carved wooden paddles that were used to apply complex dye patterns to skin for tattooing. That tradition was first seen among Polynesians! Polynesians on remote islands still use carved wooden paddles to apply tattoos.
The Paracus People of Peru were replaced by the Nazca People around 200 AD. Many provinces in South Carolina and Georgia called their High King a Paracus-te (Paracus People) even those that spoke a dialect of Creek.
Other articles from Peru indicated that stamped pottery was commonplace in northern and eastern Peru during the Early Horizon and Horizon Periods. You don’t see the pottery in archaeological articles much because it was utilitarian ware, not the fancy stuff buried in royal tombs. I did find confirmation that the painted designs on Conibo and Shipibo pottery today originated as stamped designs.
Swift Creek pottery and the construction of large pyramidal mounds appeared in Georgia and Florida immediately after the Moche people drove out several Early Horizon cultures in 200 AD. Napier pottery, the construction of the Summerour Mounds in North Georgia and the onset of the Late Woodland Period appeared in Georgia immediately after the Moche Civilization of Peru collapsed in 600 AD. There has to be a connection. The most likely explanation is that bands of people fled northward to escape political or religious persecution from the new folks in charge.
There is more. Most of you know that the Peruvian indigenous peoples mummified their leaders in sitting positions, displayed them in public and carried the mummies around on litters during religious festivals. The Spanish replaced this custom with religious festivals that carried around statues of saints and Mary.
Sixteenth and seventeenth European explorers in northern Georgia saw exactly the same custom. Mummies in the mild Appalachian climate would eventually mold. At that point, the royal mummies would be buried in manmade or natural caves. The earliest royal cave burials in northern Georgia were found by archaeologists to be associated with the Swift Creek Culture. However, since they know everything there is to know, there has been little interest in the Swift Creek Culture for the past 30 years.
A new understanding of the European Contact Period
Two of the many things that surprised me when reading the descriptions of the indigenous peoples of South Carolina and Georgia by 16th and 17th French explorers are that they worshiped the Pre-Inca/Pre-Moche South American sun god, Toya, and the rarity of pure Muskogean words. There are lots of Itza Maya and South American words, but few, if any, Muskogee root words. Many of these Itza words have been absorbed into Mvskoke and Hitchiti, sometimes being modified like mako becoming mikko.
The lack of Muskogee root words in the eastern Southeast before 1700 strongly suggests that they were very late arrivals in the east. Ancestors of Itsate (Hitchiti) speakers came much earlier and were probably the commoners ruled by elite oligarchies, who traced their ancestry to the south.
A scenario is developing that puts both the core ancestors of the Cherokees and the Muskogees in the eastern Southeast AFTER the indigenous populations were decimated by diseases in the 1500s. Of course, the Creek Confederacy, and probably the Cherokee Alliance, eventually included some peoples, who had arrived earlier.
The Kusa-te (ancestors of the Upper Creeks) did not speak Mvskoke, when visited by Hernando de Soto’s Expedition in the summer of 1540. The Kusa-te arrived in northwest Georgia around 1300 AD. Their arrival also marked the appearance of lima beans and Mexican purple plums in the Southeast.
According to Cherokee tradition, the Nûñnë ‘hï lived in great “town houses” on the tops of mountains, when their hunters first entered the region. This legend completely negates the Eastern Band of Cherokees claim to have built the mountainside complexes . . . not to mention the fact that all of the rest are located south of Track Rock Gap . . . the largest ones in territory that was never occupied by Cherokees.
In the last couple of pages of the “Migration Legend of the Kashita (Kashi-te) People” they first lived among the Kusa-te in NW Georgia then the Talasee in the Smoky Mountains. They then migrated southward and on the way claimed to have sacked a great town on the side of Georgia’s highest mountain. The Kashi-te then traveled southward into the lower mountains, where they lived amongst the Apalache (Palachicola.) The Kashi-bo were forced out of their Peruvian homeland around 1475 by the Inca Empire. Both Kashi-te and Kashi-bo mean “Kashi People.”
The Kashi-te legend is somewhat collaborated by archaeology. The newest fill soil on the single terrace tested at the Track Rock Terrace Complex was c.1500 AD. After Itsapa collapsed, the Apalache became the superpower.
In 1653, the Paracusti of Apalache could raise an army of 7,000 men in one day’s notice. He told Richard Brigstock that he had nothing to fear from the Europeans because his army so outnumbered them. There is no way that the Muskogees or the ancestors of the Cherokees could have occupied much of the Apalache Kingdom with that sort of military might at his disposal. Only a catastrophic drop among the Apalache population and replacement by less advanced peoples could explain the very different Native cultures encountered by British settlers on the frontier in the 1700s.
Much more thought and a great deal of research will be required to get beyond the stage of speculation. However, if one does not ask questions, one does not get answers.
Biased and inaccurate content in Wikipedia
I was contacted last week by an executive of Wikipedia, who is Choctaw. They are going to do something about the Newagers and North Carolina anthropologists removing references to the Chickasaw, Creek, Shawnee and Yuchi Indians in history articles associated with Tennessee, Kentucky, Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina.
In late 2012 someone removed all paragraphs that mentioned the Creek Indians from Wikipedia county history articles in the northern half of the Georgia. These nutcases even removed the two paragraphs in the Bartow County, GA article that described Etowah Mounds National Historic Landmark, the county’s most important tourist attraction.
A creepy guy in rural England, who calls himself “the Purple Gatekeeper of the Illuminati” blocked all efforts to restore the articles to their original content. If you see an example of biased or inaccurate Native American history, please contact me and I will forward the info to this executive.
Also, Wikipedia badly needs photographs of historic structures in the Southeast AND particularly of locations associated with the Trail of Tears for all five Southeastern Civilized Tribes. Please send those photos directly to Wikipedia. Wikipedia is currently promoting a program that will award prizes to the best photos.
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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.
Latest posts by Richard Thornton (see all)
- Occupation of Etowah Mounds site actually dates to at least 1000 BC - March 23, 2017
- Architect’s cabin provides convenient indoor-outdoor living - March 22, 2017
- The night from hell - March 21, 2017
- Do archaeologists own the artifacts obtained from your property? - March 21, 2017
- The Saga of Mahala Bone . . . her people in the Southeast and Oklahoma - March 20, 2017