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Outstanding website created by Alabama Office of Archaeological Research

Outstanding website created by Alabama Office of Archaeological Research

 

Alabama, we salute you!

In 2003, the National Endowment for the Humanities issued a grant to assist the University of Alabama’s Department of Anthropology in the cataloguing of archaeological reports and artifacts.  Summaries of all known archaeological sites in the state have been placed on an outstanding website, which is organized by river basins . . .  the exact same way that our Muskogean ancestors organized their provinces.  The reader is given a summary of the site, its approximate location and any archaeological work done on the site.  At the bottom of each archaeological web page is a list of all archaeological reports and academic papers, relevant to this site.  Well done!

To access the web site, click this URL link:   Alabama Office of Archaeological Research

Why is this so important?  I can tell you first hand.   It is impossible to protect Native American heritage sites, if you don’t know where they are.  Look what happened in Oxford, Alabama!   Archaeologists in many states have taken the elitist attitude that it is okay to publicize sites, associated with the development of the United States, but Native American sites are their personal domain . . . off limits to Native Americans.  That is not the case in Alabama.  They don’t want to see another Oxford Mound situation.

When I was Chairman of Woodstock, VA Historic Preservation Commission,  we didn’t know where any of the archaeological sites (both Native American and Colonial Periods) were and the nearby University of Virginia Department of Anthropology  refused to help us.   The state planners wouldn’t help us because they were only interested in the Civil War sites.  Fortunately,  the archaeologists of the National Park Service could legally help us, since they were planning a National Park in the county.  Woodstock was founded in 1752!

When I was Director of the Asheville-Buncombe County Historic Resources Commission,  most of the Native American sites were left off the maps given us because “they were not associated with the Cherokees.”   When I was Principal Planner of Cobb County, GA,  we had our own archaeological site file, which had many more sites than the state had listed.  However, shortly after I went back into private practice, Georgia’s archaeologists succeeded in having all archaeological site files taken away from local planners and elected officials.

It is impossible for a city planner, architect or public official to protect an archaeological site, if even its existence is kept a secret.   Supposedly, in Georgia now one can contact a small office at the University of Georgia to find out if there is an archaeological site is on your tract of land.    It is at the discretion of this office to provide the information . . . at their leisure. The actual work is done by students.

Fortunately, before I became the most hated man among Georgia archaeological Old Guard,  I fact-checked the system.   I had an architectural project on a tract where Robert Wauchope had surveyed a village and mound, 1 1/2 miles downstream from  Etowah Mounds. At the time, there was also the ruins of a Cherokee log cabin on this old frontier farmstead.  Wauchope gave the location an official site number in 1939.   

Three weeks later, I received a brief email stating that “there were no known archaeological or historical resources on the described property.”    Oh really?   Unfortunately, most elected officials, real estate developers and architects do not own a copy of Wauchope’s, An Archaeological Survey of North Georgia.

Things are not so pretty, elsewhere

Over the past three years,  the People of One Fire has been systematically going down the South Atlantic Coast and Southeastern rivers to discuss every known Native American occupation site.  Over and over again, we have identified situations in which very important archaeological sites were identified or even excavated, by archaeologists in the 20th century then forgotten by the current generation of archaeologists.  Virginia archaeologists ignore the many Woodland and MISSISSIPPIAN mound sites in the Shenandoah Valley and southwest Virginia.  Most of the sites excavated by Robert Wauchope and Arthur Kelly on the Chattahoochee River in Georgia are left off the maps and reports, produced by the University of Georgia because the current generation didn’t like them.  Kelly and Wauchope were extroverted, likable people without over-inflated egos.   North Carolina does not even assign archaeological site numbers to the mound sites in western North Carolina that obviously contain proto-Creek artifacts . . . case in point  – the Tallulah Mound.   The locations of many of the town sites and mounds along the South Atlantic Coast have been completely forgotten, because the archaeologists, who located them have passed away.

Well . . .  the People of One is doing what it can to mitigate the situation.  Meanwhile, enjoy Alabama’s semi-official state song.  The display and waving of a Confederate flag may offend some . . . but by golly, this song is about as good as rock n’ roll gets. 

 

 

 

 

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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.

2 Comments

  1. wakefieldrising@gmail.com'

    As we use to say in the Army ” Oooooo ah!”.

    Reply

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