Richard Thornton | May 9, 2017 | 23
Painting shows Mayas living in Georgia in 1734!
This famous painting above by William Verelst was created in Westminster Palace, when Mikko Tamachichi led a delegation of Creek leaders to meet British officials in 1734. Apparently, no one ever looked at the faces of the indigenous visitors . . . or else, they are so used to seeing Mediterranean people portray Indians in movies that they don’t know the differences between indigenous physical features. A major ethnological discovery has been hiding in that painting for 280 years.
There is a mystery about the Savannah River Band of Uchee. They live in the same region where Tamachichi moved after being banished from Ichesi (Macon, GA area) in 1717. Many of them look like Uchees. However, a sizable percentage have the physical features of other indigenous peoples. The most puzzling are those that look like the elite of the Yucatec Maya . . . the folks, who built the big Maya cities.
There is plenty of linguistic and architectural evidence to put the Itza Mayas in the Southeast. That’s not even a theory. However, the Itzas didn’t build large cities and were illiterate when the big cities were being built by other branches of the Mayas.
I have told them that they appear to have a mixture of indigenous ancestors, not just Uchee. However, there has been a lot of mixing of ethnic groups in the Southeast over the past 300 years, so it was hard to pinpoint why a sizable percentage of their tribe looked like a branch of the Mayas for which we have no evidence of immigration.
The Uchee, Apalache and Itsate all told early British settlers that the first place they lived when they arrived in their current homeland was the general vicinity of Savannah. High King Chikili told the settlers that “our first emperor is buried in a mound near Savannah.”
But then . . . this morning, I was working on the annual update of The Forgotten History of North Georgia when I happened to click the wrong button on my art editing software. I was converting the painting above to a graytone image. Suddenly, the face of one man in the background filled the computer monitor’s screen. OMG! He looked just like a Yucatec Maya from 1200 years ago.
Apparently, Mikko Tamachichi had invited a broad cross-section of members in the Creek Confederacy to accompany him on his trip to England. The physical features were quite diverse.
Then I looked closely at the other faces for the first time. The woman to his right also looked like a Yucatec Maya.
Tamachichi had the facial features of many Creeks, who are descended from Cussata (Kusate~Kashete~Coushatta). These features hark back to the earliest inhabitants of Mexico. The skeletons that they are finding in Mexico with these features go back 10,000 to 13,600 years ago. They looked like many people in Myanmar (Burma) and Siam (Thailand) today. (See below.)
One of the men was a spitting image of an Itza Maya. The Itza and Highland Mayas are taller than the Yucatec and Campeche Mayas. Like the Itsate Creeks they have protruding chins, small ears, minimal ear lobes and straight noses. Their complexions are different than the Lowland Mayas also. Highland Maya generally are lighter and have an “Oriental” tint to their skin.
Many Creek descendants from Northern Georgia have these features. Above is my gggg-grandfather from Northeast Georgia. My Native heritage is mixed Apalache, Itsate and Uchee.
You will notice two tall men on the rear right of the painting. They are Apalache, whose home province was in present day Northest Metro Atlanta. They were as tall as the Upper Creeks, but lacked the appearance of a raptor that is typical of Upper Creeks.
Finally, in the front center of the painting was Toonahawi, the nephew of Tamachichi. He has very typical Uchee features mixed with those of his uncle and the Yucatec Mayas. Rumors are swirling that this is really Principal Chief Langley of the Savannah Uchee. However, that would make Chief Langley about 300 years old. That may or may not be a factual rumor!
The mound sites along the Lower Savannah River are quite unique. They consist of small compounds, sometimes of an acre or less, that were palisaded. There was one very large royal compound on an island, immediately north of Downtown Savannah, that archaeologists call the Irene site. Its principal mound was very different from most other mounds in the Southeast (see below.) This suggests that at some time in the past, there was one ethnic group, which functioned as the governing elite, while other ethnic groups lived in small, dispersed villages.
Learn something everyday . . . even if one is not looking to learn!
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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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