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Patauli . . . Gateway to the Pleiades

Patauli . . . Gateway to the Pleiades

Singer-Moye Mounds (Site 9SW2)

Earlier in POOF’s series on the peoples of the Chattahoochee River, a 310 mile long line of important towns and mountaintop shrines were described, which run from the mouth of the Apalachicola River to a stone architecture observatory on Ladd’s Mountain, west of Cartersville, GA.  Most of these towns and shrines were apparently constructed between around 0 AD and 600 AD.  That certainly was the case for the two largest Woodland Period towns, north of Mexico . . . Kolomoki in SW Georgia and Leake Mounds in NW Georgia.  These were true towns, not just ceremonial sites as in the Hopewell earthworks. The dates on the many stone shrines are not really known, because they have received very little study by archaeologists.

For more information on this 310 mile long alignment, go to Kolomoki and Singer-Moye

Two major exceptions for the Woodland Period chronology of these archaeological sites are Okafvne (Okafunee) and Patvli (Patauli).  Okafvni means “water-sticking out” or “horseshoe bend” in Hitchiti-Creek.  It was the nearest port on the Flint River for the attapulgite mines at the Creek village of Attapulgus, which supplied builders in the great Maya city of Palenque with their primary ingredient for Maya blue.   However, this town was occupied in the Teminal Archaic Period, Woodland Period and Colonial Period.

Known to archaeologists as the Singer-Moye Mounds (Site 9SW2), Patauli has always been an enigma. Located 20 miles up Pataula Creek from the Chattahoochee River, it seems to be in the middle of nowhere and does not adjoin massive expansive of bottom land like most proto-Creek towns. Its mysterious nature does not end with location, however.

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An archaeological zone that few people know

Archaeological Zone 9SW2 is little known outside the community of archaeologists in Georgia. Yet, it is one of the larger mound complexes in the Southeast and certainly the best preserved.

Singer-Moye Mounds has received very little professional archaeological study until recently. In 1968, the families, who owned the Singer-Moye Site, donated 35 acres of the archaeological zone to the Columbus Museum of History.  At the time, the museum was led by Dr. Joseph B Mahan, who devoted most of his life to the study of the indigenous people of the Chattahoochee River Valley.  Mahan was the only Southeastern anthropologist, who was ever particularly interested in the Uchee.  He and some other late 20th century archaeologists, puttered around there, but never even prepared a topographic survey.

Since Mahan’s death in 1995, this museum has shifted its exhibits away from Pre-European history and been renamed, The Columbus Museum.  In 2008, the Columbus Museum donated all of its artifacts and an enlarged site containing over 42 acres to the Georgia Museum of Natural History at the University of Georgia in Athens.  An additional 101 acres were donated by the Moye family in 2010 to the Georgia Museum of Natural History. 

It is anticipated that the archaeological zone will sometime in the future join the state park system as an historic site, once it is fully studied by archaeologists. However, progress has been slow for the professional archaeological work there.  Funds for archaeological work in the Southeast have dried up outside of Florida. The current batch of politicians, elsewhere in the South, seem uninterested in cultural concerns and the major foundations seem to be only interested in the Southwestern United States, Mesoamerica and South America.

A town that belongs in the highlands of western Belize

I first became aware of the Singer-Moye Site about a decade ago when reading the book, The Chattahoochee Chiefdoms by University of Alabama professors, John Blitz and Karl Lorenz. However, the sketch site plan attached to the brief article on Singer-Moye in the book seemed implausible.  In fact, the sketch only slightly resembled the actual site plan.  Also, the book provided no information on the specific location of the site.  All internet articles on this archaeological zone also intentionally leave out the locational information. 

The anonymous nature of this archaeological zone continued until July 2016, when I stumbled upon a blog site by a University of Alabama anthropology student, who worked one summer at Singer-Moye.  She also was careful to conceal the archaeological zone’s location, but left one tiny detail on a map, which an architect-planner, like myself, could quickly use to obtain the true location of the ruins from the Stewart County, GA Clerk of Court’s tax maps.  From that the latitude and longitude on ERSI GIS high resolution satellite imagery-based mapping could be calculated.  I also was able to match the location with known Creek towns of the Colonial Period.

The University of Georgia’s Department of Anthropology had published online its topographic survey of the mounds, without road or stream names. However, by interpolating scaled ERSI-NASA satellite imagery with the two sets of maps, I quickly had everything I needed to create an extremely accurate, three dimensional computer model.

The results were astonishing.  The town plan and orientation of the town plan was unlike anything I had seen in the Southeast.  That traverse line, running from Ladd’s Mountain, GA to Apalachicola, FL runs through the center of Mound A at Singer-Moye, but the town was not aligned to it.  All the earthworks were tilted to the southwest about 14.6 degrees. YET, pentagonal Mound A was designed so that its two southern faces align with the sunrise and sunset of the Winter Solstice.  There is a line of ponds and mounds in the southwestern corner of the site that align with True North-South.  I have a feeling that as I analyze the site plan further, I will find many other astronomical alignments.

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There was nothing about Patauli that looked like an indigenous town of the Southeast.  The plaza of the acropolis gradually slopes uphill from south to north. At the highest point of visible ruins is a large platform with no mound on it – Mound D.  The platform is essentially a massive terrace built into the side of the hill.  Mounds B and C also began as modifications of the natural terrain, but conventional pyramidal mounds grew out of them.  Mound B also contains terraces on the southeast corner.

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We see this mountain-or-hilltop platform feature at several of North Georgia stone terrace complexes, but it is generally found only in medium-sized Highland Maya town sites in Chiapas, southern Guatemala and western Belize.  Yes, the upper platform COULD be a landing platform for extraterrestrial spacecraft, but we won’t say anymore about that!

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Asymmetrical plazas are very rare in the Southeast, but typical of Highland Maya cities and towns.  The “downtowns” of Highland Maya communities were typically placed adjacent to small, fast running streams as is the situation at Patauli. That is also typical of the terrace complexes in North Georgia, but not of proto-Muskogean towns in Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia.  What Patauli most closely resembles are the Kekchi Maya towns from the Classic and Post-Classic Periods in the highlands of western Belize.

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To this day, like most Highland Maya tribes, the Kekchi still cultivate mountainside terrace complexes.  However, unlike the Itza Mayas around Lake Atitlan, Guatemala, the Kekchi did not incorporate temples and housing terraces into the cultivated terraces.  There is at least one terrace complex, near Lake Atitlan that is virtually identical to the Track Rock Terrace Complex.  Instead, the Kekchi built their medium sized towns on moderate slopes.

As seen below, Kekchi towns usually contain one or more five-sided mounds like the proto-Creek towns in Georgia.  In fact, most of their temples were built on earthen mounds, not stone pyramids as in more sophisticated parts of the Maya realm.  Some Kekchi pyramids have fieldstone veneers, but this is also seen in Apalache towns in North Georgia.

The Kekchi Maya City of Chawak Bu'o'ob was built on a sloping hillside. It contains two pentagonal mounds, plus some structures seen in Georgia's terrace complexes.

The Kekchi Maya City of Chawak Bu’o’ob was built on a sloping hillside. It contains two pentagonal mounds, plus some structures seen in Georgia’s terrace complexes.

Although Patauli’s central plaza is asymmetrical, the arrangement of the mounds seemed planned.  Highland Maya town centers are organic . . . not seeming to have been planned in advance, but rather structures were randomly placed as the community grew.  This is true even for the great city of Palenque.

teotihuacan-pataulicombo

The Teotihuacan and Patauli connection to Pleiades Constellation

As the reader can see above, the urban plans of Teotihuacan and Patauli share some similarities.  They are tilted at the same angle and have a north-south axis.  In recent years, the orientation of Teotihuacan has been linked by astro-archaeologists to the Pleiades Constellation.  The planners of Patauli went a step further.  The locations and relative sizes of the mounds at Patauli exactly match the stars in the Pleiades Constellation.   Why this town in the middle of nowhere was placed on a 310 mile long line between a mountain in NW Georgia and the mouth of a river in Florida . . . plus was modeled after the Pleiades Constellation . . . is in the realm of pure speculation.   There has to be a very good reason and the answer is not going to be found in an Anthropology 101 textbook.

 

More on Belize

When I visited Belize on the fellowship, it was the Crown Colony of British Honduras. Most of the country was in a very primitive state.  There were few paved roads and no electric lines outside of towns, once you got away from the coast.  There were no regular route buses running to the region in western Belize where I was assigned by Dr. Piňa-Chan to visit.  None of the Maya ruins anywhere in the colony were developed for tourism.

To get there, I hitched a ride from Isla de Mujeres, Mexico to Belize City with some French anthropology students, who had leased a sailboat.  Beyond Belmopan, I had to ride on a dilapidated boat, resembling the “African Queen,” up the Belize River to the Macal River. Once off the boat, I had to hire an Ulster Irish tour guide to drive me in a jeep to the ruins. He did not respond, when I asked him why he moved to British Honduras.  There was only a small faded sign, marking the site entrance.

While on the boat, the only source of food was from vendors on the docks, whenever the boat happened to be flagged down by new passengers.  I quickly developed a roaring case of amoebic dysentery.  There was no toilet paper for sale, anywhere beyond Belmopan.

Don’t try that experiment at home!  Back then the only treatment for amoebitis was taking a poison pill then a antidote eight hours later.   Several doctor-administered suicides were required, before all the amoebas were killed.   I would not have that wonderful experience for another couple of weeks, when I returned to Mexico City.

belize-highlands1The mountains between British Honduras and Guatemala were beautiful.  They were something like the higher Appalachian Mountains, populated with exotic tropical flowers and animals.   Unfortunately, the “unusual Kekchi Maya ruins” turned out to be earthen mounds, covered in trees.  They were identical to the mounds in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia.  Boy was I PO’ed at Dr. Piňa-Chan for wasting my limited travel budget in sending me to this godforsaken place.  Apparently, these sorts of ruins seemed unique to Dr. Piňa-Chan, but they just looked like Ocmulgee Mounds covered in trees to me.  Little did I know that seeing Dixie Injun architecture in the boonies of British Honduras would have such great significance in 2016.

There were no doctors or pharmacies in that part of the colony. I couldn’t go back to the nearest bus station on the boat because I was having to answer the call of nature every few minutes. I had to use banana leaves for toilet paper. The tour guide gave me a lift to the end of the old road near the Guatemalan border. Out of sympathy for the amoebic dysentery, he didn’t charge me for the extra mileage. 

mayavillage2I hiked on a horse trail along a beautiful mountain river past perhaps a half dozen Kekchi villages.  Most of the Kekchi had never seen a Gringo before. As soon as the people realized that I was North American, not Spanish, they were extremely nice.  They gave me food and some sort of folk herbal medicine that helped the diarrhea a lot.  What was really was weird is that I saw many Kekchi, who looked like my grandmother’s generation. Some of the young men even looked like shorter versions of ME!  I would not know why until 2012.

I had to stay on the back trails until I reached Melchor de Mencos, a town large enough to have a police station, bank and farmacia!!!   If Guatemalan soldiers had caught me without a stamped passport, no telling what they would have done. 

As soon as the police saw my INAH photo ID, they asked no more questions and stamped my passport.  The bank exchanged my BH Pounds, Mexican pesos and US travelers checks into Quetzals, the local currency.  There was no such thing as credit cards or debit cards back then!  The farmacia sold me a case of Kaopectate.   A long night’s sleep in a local posada and I was on the bus for Lago Peten Itza and then Tikal.

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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.

5 Comments

  1. wakefieldrising@gmail.com'

    Fascinating!

    Reply
  2. iwg42@hotmail.com'

    Hey Richard
    Great read! Is this site open to the public? I would like to see it.

    Reply
    • Wayne, it is not open to the public. In fact, as I described in the opening paragraphs, the archaeologists are trying to keep it a secret from the public and the descendants of the people, who lived in the town . . . the Creeks. I have taken care of that problem. Access Genealogy will have more information about the site and where it is located.

      Reply
  3. thenicklessfamily@gmail.com'

    The Walls of Cahokia were laid out precisely as a summer reflection of the Heavenly Market Enclosure, an Asian constellation .

    Reply
  4. kkakins@gmail.com'

    What an awesome experience. Wish I could go, too.

    Reply

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