Petroglyphs near ancient volcano seem to be a writing system
Also, a layer of sand, up to 15 feet deep, separates the Early Colonial occupation of the Nacoochee Valley from artifacts dated to the late 1700s and early 1800s. A undocumented natural cataclysm occurred there a little over 200 years ago.
Beautiful spring weather was the perfect excuse on March 23, 2019 for three intrepid explorers to hike up to reported carved boulders. The site of the two boulders is 2.16 miles southwest of the top of Chimney Mountain and at an elevation of 910m (2001 feet) on a crest of the mountain ridge. Chimney Mountain reportedly had smoke or steam intermittently coming out the top until the 1886 Charleston Earthquake. This smoking mountain is what first attracted Smithsonian Institute archaeologist, Cyrus Thomas, to study the area.
Chimney Mountain is definitely an ancient volcano. Whether it is extinct or dormant is not known. The only geological study of the region only analyzed visible rocks along public roads – not inside this mountain. All of the rocks in our study area were determined by the 1951 geological survey to be volcanic. The predominant rock, rhyolite, is generally associated with massive, highly explosive calderas with no visible cones. The rhyolite was estimated in that study to date from 65 to 134 million years ago, but the geologists did not have the type of equipment now available for studying the chemical, radioactive and magnetic characteristics of rocks. They merely looked at some rocks with handheld magnifying glasses.
Geological activity may or may not be the reason for the carving of this boulder. It seems to be associated with astronomical symbols, but I am not certain of this. The primary reason that we are documenting the petroglyphs and stone ruins in the Soque River – Nacoochee Valley Area is to obtain a better understanding of why they exist and when they were constructed.
Description of the petroglyphic boulders
I was able to obtain precise documentation of this site with my new state-of-the-art combined GPS-laser measuring device. However, we do not divulge latitude and longitude of archaeological sites on private land. Both stones are high density rhyolite, which suggests that they naturally occurring features of the mountainside. The main boulder is 329 cm (10.8 ft) long and 134 cm (4.4 ft) tall. This boulder faces True South, which is about 6.5 degrees different than magnetic south. The smaller boulder, which was partially covered with soil and debris, faces True West. It appears to be a stela that was pushed over on its side. The only natural landmark, which aligns to the south of the Westmoreland Petroglyphs is Lynch Mountain. It is a collapsed caldera and 5.2 miles south of the petroglyphs.
To identify the barely visible petroglyphs, I took near visible infrared light photos. Closeup photos of individual symbols were more visible, but probably would have been almost meaningless to most readers. Using software developed for making old maps and drawings legible, I digitally removed the color spectra of lichen and moss. I then magnified the photo digitally and “chalked in” the images with a 10 pixal per inch digital spray. All of these symbols appear on the Track Rock, Forsyth and Tugaloo Petroglyphs in Georgia, plus the Nyköping Petroglyphs in Sweden. I was unable to see any images on Boulder B, but was able to feel with my finger what appeared to be a stylized elk like what appears on the Track Rock petroglyphs, plus many Bronze Age petroglyphic sites in Sweden and Norway.
A mysterious geological cataclysm in the Nacoochee Valley.
During the late 1820s and 1830s, gold miners found several village sites, constructed out of hewn logs, which contained European artifacts typical of the 15th and 16th century. All were buried under six to nine feet of sand! In 1939, archaeologist Robert Wauchope was puzzled by a three to fifteen feet deep band of sand, containing no artifacts, which lay under the soil, containing late 18th century and 19th century artifacts. Beneath the sand was a 4-12 inch band of soil contain a mixture of Creek (Lamar Culture) artifacts and 16th/17th century European artifacts. Below that were artifacts, typical of the region south of the mountains, going back to the Ice Age. Without looking for them, Wauchope found 35 Clovis points. However, after a year of searching, Wauchope wrote that he never found a village with Cherokee artifacts in them. He concluded that whoever lived in the Nacoochee Valley in the late 1700s had very similar lifestyles to those of white settlers on the frontier.
My new old home is slightly south-southeast of the Westmoreland Petroglyths and 1.5 miles east of the Lynch Mountain caldera. While civilizing my tract of land on the brow of Sautee Ridge in the eastern end of the Nacoochee Valley, I have also run into some very inexplicable geology. There is a 12-18 inch band of tan-colored sand beneath the topsoil. What in the world is sand doing on top of a Georgia mountain? You are not supposed to find sand on top of a mountain or hill anywhere in the Southern Mountains or Piedmont. Beneath the sand is very hard, red clay. At many locations the rhyolite bedrock protrudes to the surface, but it also underlays all of the red clay.
However, there is somethings far more strange than sand in the lower levels of my topsoil and upper levels of the sand . . . volcanic bombs. The bombs consist of potato shaped rocks with a porous texture and smooth surfaces. Most of the volcanic scaria rocks are black, but some are dark brown. The pumice rocks are a cream color. There is also a strange looking rock that is created when volcanic ash falls into fast running, shallow mountain rivers then is exposed to high heat from lava. The ash hardens around rounded river pebbles and looks something like concrete.
Out of curiosity, I sent the photo below, plus a close up view of the blackest volcanic bomb and a small plastic bag of the sand to the United States Geological Survey in Reston, VA. I told them that I was an architect working on the restoration of a building on top of a low mountain in a zone of rhyolite bedrock, but was finding the stones in the photos plus the tan sand in the soil above hard red clay. I asked them if there was any danger to the building from a volcanic eruption. I didn’t tell them that the building was in Georgia.
About 10 days later I received a telephone call from an excited geologist with the USGS Volcano Hazards Program. The “sand” was volcanic ash. The black lava rock and pumice could be anywhere from one to a thousand years old. She wanted to know if my project was in the Pacific Northwest Volcanic Zone in California, Oregon or Washington. They were seeing a lot of underground activity there.
I told her actually that I was in Northeast Georgia. She responded that it was impossible and became very angry. She said that there had been no volcanic activity in Georgia for probably 60 million years. I told her that the USGS website states that several mountains in northern Georgia emitted super-heated gases, smoke and sufurous fumes immediately before the 1886 Charleston Earthquake. She said that she had never heard of that. She asked me where I got the volcanic sand. I told her, “underneath my garden. It’s under everybody’s yards on this street. People also find obsidian around here, when officially it is not supposed to be anywhere in the Southeast“
She responded curtly, “In Georgia? . . . I’m a professional geologist, not some ignorant conspiracy theorist on TV. That sand would be quartzite by now, if it had fallen in your area of the country. You picked it up while on vacation out west, didn’t you? You know we could have you arrested for filing a hoax. We are very busy people, responsible for protecting the lives of millions of citizens. If you try this hoax again, we will have you arrested.” She then hung up
So . . . we still don’t know why a vast quantity of sand or volcanic ash? was deposited on the floor of the Nacoochee Valley at the tail end of the 17th century or in the early 18th century. We can be fairly certain, though, that it was an extermination event and explains why the capital of Apalache disappeared suddenly from the European maps during that era. The Chattahoochee River is not much more than a creek in the Nacoochee Valley. One would think that it lacked the water volume to pack fifteen feet of sand on the valley floor.
Now you know!
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