Research Update: The Hopewell Culture in Western North Carolina
The People of One Fire’s team of professionals and dedicated volunteers is about to turn the anthropology books upside down again. During the second year of homelessness in 2011, I lived in the office of an abandoned chicken house near Blairsville. It was about two miles from Track Rock Gap. Funded by periodic checks from former Director of the National Park Service and National Museum of American History, Roger Kennedy, the main focus of my research was the Early Colonial Period. For several months, I thought that the stone ruins at Track Rock Gap marked a Spanish Sephardic gold and gem mining village, until autumn frosts enabled me to see the entire site. It was only then that realized that the terrace complex was identical to several I had visited decades earlier in the Highlands of Chiapas and Guatemala. By January 2012, I had been sidetracked to the “Mayas in Georgia Thang” and never got back to my Colonial Period research.
In the early 1980s, a geologist, forensic anthropologist and forester surveyed ancient mines in western North Carolina and North Georgia. Using a combination of radiocarbon dating and tree ring analysis, they determined that these mines were excavated in the period between around 1585 and 1615. This is the exact period when many large proto-Creek towns in Northwest Georgia were suddenly abandoned. One of the most solid proofs of very early Sephardic Jewish or European settlements in western North Carolina is in Tomatala, just east of the new Cherokee Casino. It is a gold mine, which contained some late 16th century mining tools. Trees growing in the mouth of the mine were found to date from the early 1600s.
The book that these researchers wrote included direct quotes from the South Carolina Colonial archives, which described late 17th century and early 18th century contacts between invading Cherokees and Spanish-speaking Jewish settlers. The Cherokees did not reach the Sylva, NC (Jackson County) area until 1745. They reported to British colonial authorities that they either killed or drove out these long time residents of the Tuckasegee River Valley. Yet today, the official version of Jackson County history says that the Cherokees have lived in their county for at least 10,000 years. Their book was pulled from North Carolina library bookshelves during the “Maya-Myth-Busting-In-The-Mountains” political campaign in 2012 . . . apparently because my book on the Itza Mayas in North America, quoted this book several times.
While visiting the site of this mine in Tomatla, I visited the Tamatli Mound. It was a trading colony for the mother province of Tama on the Altamaha River in southeast Georgia. I noticed geometric earthworks, identical to those in the Upper Amazon River Basin and in southeastern Ohio. I thought that was peculiar, but assumed that some Hopewell traders had settled in among the Tamatli.
In 1989, an archaeologist, based at the Western Office of the North Carolina State Historic Preservation Office in Asheville, spent part a day at the Otto Mound, which is about 100 yards (meters) from the Georgia State Line. There are a cluster of town and mound sites just south of the state line, which have been labeled as being Proto-Creek and associated with the peoples of the Etowah River Valley. Most of the artifacts that the archaeologist obtained in test pits were identical to those found south of the line, except she labeled them “Cherokee.” However, she also found some Hopewell style bowls in some of the oldest levels of the town. She interpreted them “as proof that the Cherokees were full participants in the Hopewell Culture.” They well may have been full Hopewell Culture participants, but the original core tribe of Cherokees were living in Quebec (Canada) until the latter half of the 17th century! And you wonder why I label her sub-species, Homo Archaeolopithicus Carolinus?
In 2015, while doing research for a history website client, I discovered that the oldest known Hopewell style pottery is not found in Ohio, but at a culturally isolated town site at the confluence of the Apalachicola and Cipola Rivers in Northwest Florida. This fact seems to have been forgotten by the current generation of academicians, but the Florida archaeologists who made the discovery three decades ago interpreted to mean that “Hopewell traders reached Florida much earlier that has been previously assumed.” I have another interpretation. The Hopewell earthworks did not “appear out of thin air.” They were introduced by immigrants from the extremely advanced civilization in the Upper Amazon River Basin, whose name was Pará.
Yesterday, a new subscriber to People of One Fire, who lives in Western North Carolina, sent me extraordinary satellite images of geometric earthworks in the region between the Smoky Mountains and Asheville. They are on par with the most sophisticated earthworks of the Amazon Basin and southeastern Ohio. He is going to do more research. What we need is more information on the artifacts, unearthed near these earthworks. The trouble is that North Carolina archaeologists label everything Cherokee and in order not to offend someone holding the casino purse strings, plus will not publicize discoveries, which conflict with the current version of Cherokee history told to tourists. The question now is . . . “Did the Hopewell Culture originate in Western North Carolina or did the Hopewell People move to the North Carolina Mountains after they abandoned southeastern Ohio?” We will be getting back to you on this one.
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