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The Dillard Mound in 1500 AD

The Dillard Mound in 1500 AD


The Dillard or Greenwood Mound is located near Dillard, GA – immediately east of the Little Tennessee River. Although a five sided mound like the Otto Mound, a few miles to the north, and approximately the same size,  the newer Dillard Mound was oriented to the Summer Solstice Noontime, while the Otto Mound is oriented to the Winter Solstice Sunset.  This reflects a religious change and new calendar around 1375 AD . . .  well, actually a political revolution. 

Beginning with the construction of the Great Temple Mound at Ocmulgee National Monument around 900 AD,  the orientation of proto-Creek temple mounds was based on the Maya solar calendar, which recycled on the Winter Solstice. This architectural tradition continued into the Middle Mississippian Period.  Lessor mounds might be constructed to form plazas and courtyards, but the “big mound” was always oriented to the Maya calendar.

There was extensive social upheaval in the late 1300s within the Creek Motherland.   Construction was stopped on the massive temple mound at Etula (Etowah Mounds). No more pyramidal mounds were constructed, which faced the Winter Solstice Sunset.  The Kaushe (Kusa~Coosa) founded a new capital on the Coosawattee River about that time.  Their temple mound was oriented East-West.   The temple mound at Ichese (Lamar Village) was reconstructed to be oriented East-West as was the temple mound a Nokose (Nacoochee Mound).   Most new mounds in the southern Appalachians, however, faced the south. 

This revolution, known to anthropologists as the “Lamar Culture,” introduced more egalitarian societies and new artistic traditions.  Lamar ceramics were elegant in design and fired to high temperatures.  The right to lead was no longer based on descent from the “Sun Lords,” who arrived so long ago from the south.  Mounds were much lower in height.  Large oval plazas were constructed accommodate markets, ball games and the celebration of the Green Corn Festival.   Essentially,  what is now considered the unique traits of Creek culture coalesced in this revolution.

The new calendar and such customs as the Green Corn Festival were introduced by Tamaule refugees from Tamaulipas around 1250 AD and possibly the Kaushete from the region of Vera Cruz near the Orizaba Volcano, who arrived around 1400 AD.  Both peoples spoke dialects that mixed Itza Maya with proto-Muskogean.   Those Tamaule, who remained in Mexico, are the only indigenous peoples today in Mexico, whose calendar begins on the Summer Solstice . . . who celebrate the Green Corn Festival . . . and who eat corn on the cob and hush puppies.  As you might guess, they also consume vast quantities of tamales, which formerly was also a staple diet of the Creeks.

This was not the fully egalitarian Creek society of the late 1700s and early 1800s, however.  We know from eyewitness accounts by Hernando de Soto’s chroniclers and 17th century French ethnologist, Charles de Rochefort, that the elite lived in separate towns than the commoners.  The new elite considered themselves to be a separate ethnic group.   This dual ethnicity, though, seems to be the origin of the bicameral legislatures of the Colonial Period Creek Culture.   Members of the House of Warriors were elected by the elite ethnic group.  Members of the House of Clans were elected by the commoners.  Both houses elected the tribal council, sun lords (hene ahau) and Great Sun (mako/mikko~High King).

Above is a town plan for the Otto Mound Town Site.   It dates from the Middle Woodland Period, but reached its largest population around 1000 AD – 1250 AD.  Unlike the Dillard site, the Otto Mound is flanked with several burial mounds, probably dating to the Woodland Period.

Below that, we again will include the Tamauli-te Corn Fritter Dance.   There are paintings and sketches of young Creek women  performing this same dance in the early 1700s.  There is a color code to these Tamaule dresses.   Girls, too young for courtship wear plain white dresses.  Young women, who are single and available wear red circles.  Married women wear purple or crimson circles.


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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.



    Moralia Michiocan has an incredible sculpture representing this dance. It fills a major Round-a-Bout and is near to the area of the aqueduct if I’m remembering correctly.

    • I have livelong friends in Morelia! When she was 16, her parents invited me over to dinner in the Nueva Sta. Maria section of Mexico City. She and her older sister danced to Credence Clearwater Revival songs with me so late, that her parents asked me to spend the night. During the night, I came down with salmonella food poisoning from eating bad shrimp at a restaurant for lunch. I threw up all over this senorita’s bedroom (she was in another room) for a couple of days. It was not the way to start an international friendship . . . but it did. Her family and I have been friends since then . . . visiting back and forth.


    fantastic, can you state the actual azimuth for the dillard mound SS noon and the WS sunset for the otto mound?
    Great work
    Don Mcmahon

    • No, not accurately. the shape of the mound has been altered by plowing, floods and archaeologists. However, I can see on the satellite image that it pointed southward.


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