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The Etowah Mounds that you never saw

The Etowah Mounds that you never saw


Where has the time gone?  Twelve years have passed since the Muscogee-Creek Nation retained my professional services to carry out a thorough architectural analysis of Etowah Mounds in conjunction with the ground radar study of what they thought was the entire Etowah site . . . which the MCN, State of Georgia and National Science Foundation were funding.  The final products were to be a report, which I polished into a book, plus a massive 6 feet by 8 feet model of the town as it appeared around 1350 AD. 

Unfortunately, the archeologists involved didn’t realize that in the real world, architects, engineers, surveyors, geologists and kindred professionals work for their clients, not for their peers.  They REFUSED to give copies of their print-outs to the Creek Nation, stating that the results were their private property.  They wanted to get “full credit” for their work by presenting the report first at an archaeological conferences.

Meanwhile, during the past five years, a thorough study of all available archaeological studies of Etowah Mounds . . . the first occurring in 1818! . . . has revealed that Mounds A and C originally had very different forms than you see today and that the town covered a much larger area than you are told now.  Today’s Mound C is a very inaccurate fake built by the State of Georgia in the late 1950s.  In 1939,  archeologist Robert Wauchope identified five mounds and a large town area on the south side of the Etowah River.  Some of the mounds were begun around 1000 BC.    Dr. Arthur Kelly, the founding director of the Department of Anthropology at the University of Georgia and one of the supervising archaeologists at Etowah Mounds, was aware that there were at least FOUR Mississippian Cultural occupations at Etowah Mounds.  The site was actually abandoned permanently between around 1696 (Great Appalachian Smallpox Plague) to 1716 (beginning of the Creek-Cherokee War).  This information was completely erased in the late 1980s by a small group of very influential, occult archaeologists, whose puppeteers wanted to put the Cherokees in Georgia after 1550 in order to justify construction of a Cherokee gambling casino near Etowah Mounds.

Mound A in its final form was about the same height as Monks Mound in Cahokia or slightly taller. Mound C was round and had a ramp.

The Oklahoma Creeks back in 2006 were far more submissive than today. Back then, also, I was accustomed to maintaining a very low public profile and did not think it “professional” to criticize other professionals . . . even though the archaeologists were biting the hands that were feeding them and didn’t consider themselves part of a multi-disciplinary team.  If this happened today, I would have made these arrogant neophytes so miserable with power of the internet that they would have crawled to Okmulgee, Oklahoma to hand deliver their report to Principal Chief Ellis. 

Instead, Second Chief Berryhill contacted the US Geological Survey and asked them to provide me military quality satellite infrared imagery . . . which this agency did.  However, I had to wait a couple of months for the satellite images to be shot and then converted into digital files that my computer could read.  The infrared images matched perfectly the small sections of the ground radar print-out that the Etowah Mounds rangers were able to “steal” for me.  Actually, some of infrared spectra picked up many small mounds within and outside the state-owned land that ground radar missed.  That being said,  I must warn you that the book I wrote is now . . .


That’s right.  The primary value of Ancient Roots II: The Indigenous People And Architecture Of The Etowah Valley in Georgia, is historic.  It is a snapshot of where our research was when the People of One Fire was first formed.  My primary client contact,  Judge Patrick Moore, instructed me to base my report on the latest archaeological publications, unless they mistranslated Creek words . . . which the authors almost always did.   Little did I know that the current generation of archaeologists had either forgotten or intentionally concealed the actual findings of past archaeological digs by nationally famous archaeologists at Etowah.  I would not realize the scope of this fabricated history until reading all of the available archaeological reports about Etowah Mounds in one continuous sequence about two years ago.

What is particularly odd is the information gleaned by Dr. Adam King at Etowah Mounds during the past 23 years is generally kept out of the public’s eye.  King did the research for his dissertation at Etowah Mounds in 1995 and 1996.  He is generally considered the “expert” on Etowah Mounds now by his peers.  Yet . . . one is not told in most references that there is a 15 feet tall layer of silt, deposited in the 1886 flood, over the landscape around Mound A.   The surviving mound is actually 85 feet tall, not 67 feet tall.   Later, King found a six feet tall stone wall around the base of the great plaza next to Mound A.  That information was removed from the Wikipedia article on Etowah Mounds during 2012 . . . when certain occult archaeologists did not want you to know that there were many stone structures other than at Track Rock in North Georgia and eastern Alabama as far south as Columbus.   At the same time, “someone” removed three paragraphs from the Cartersville and Bartow County Wikipedia articles, which described the pre-Cherokee history of the region.  The articles now merely say that “the county was created by land owned by the Cherokee Indians.”  Bartow County’s international tourist attraction is not even mentioned in the Wikipedia article!

Grave diggers, art collectors and proto-archaeologists drastically changed the forms of Etowah’s mounds in the 1800s. Mound C was invisible after 1925. Dr. Elias Cornelius did not measure Mound B.  Note that someone had already dug a trench through the top of Mound C by 1818.


Charles C. Jones, Jr. hired a civil engineer to prepare an accurate site plan of Etowah Mounds town site. Artifact hunters had created a wagon road to the top.  There were originally 15 mounds in the Etula (Etowah) town site.


1818 – Earliest drawings of Etowah Mounds

Dr. Elias Cornelius, a Natural Science professor at Yale University, visited the Etowah Mounds site, when it was within the Cherokee Nation.  The nearest Cherokee village was located in vicinity of the present day Roselawn Mansion on Church Street in Cartersville.  Cornelius was surprised to learn that the Cherokees did not know, who built the mounds, but that also they had arrived in the Etowah Valley around 1794. According to his report they told him that they avoided the area around the mounds because the locale was haunted.

This is important information.  Cornelius stated that the oldest trees growing on and around the mounds were only about a century old.  That means that town was abandoned somewhere between 1696, when a smallpox plague wiped out much of the population of the Southern Highlands and 1716, when the Creek-Cherokee War broke out because all 32 Creek leaders invited to attend a friendly diplomatic conference in the neutral Uchee village of Tugaloo had been murdered in their sleep by the Cherokees.

Cornelius measured the height and circumference of the largest mound.  He described it has having ramps on three sides, while the western face was very steep.  His site plan showed the north and south ramps ending roughly 3/4 up the slope of the pyramid. The Mound A that we see today only has one ramp while its top section has been excavated down to an earlier occupation time.   Unlike temples in the first, second and third phases of the Mississippian Period in Georgia, the temple at the top was round.   The Tanasi (Taensa) built round temples.  The Apalache and Wahasi of northeast Georgia also built round temples.  All of the temples at Rembert Mounds near present day Elberton, GA were round. (See Rembert Mounds.)   Since all of the last phase of the mounds occupation appears to have been excavated or eroded away, it is impossible to determine the exact ethnicity of the final occupats of the town site. The Apalachicola, another name for the real Apalache, were shown on French maps, occupying northwest Georgia throughout the first 3/4th of the 18th century.  They are the prime candidate for the last mound construction.

Mound A was about 90-100 feet tall when viewed by Dr. Cornelius.  One can assume that it was about 110 feet tall when first constructed.  Civil War earthen fortifications that were about six feet tall in 1864 have now eroded to being anywhere from 4 inches to two feet tall in this era due to the erosion caused by rain.  This is an interesting figure for its height.  It was originally the same height as Monks Mound at Cahokia, Illinois, but reached its maximum height several hundred years after Cahokia was abandoned.


Most of the ten 50 feet diameter round house footprints on the Great Plaza are still visible in satellite imagery.  A rectangular structure was in the SW Corner.

Round houses on the plaza

Many readers may recall an earlier POOF article when I described the day when I first became aware of the round houses on the Great Plaza of Etowah Mounds.  Georgia Tech professor,  Julian Harris, who was the Architect of the Etowah Mounds Museum, arranged for the famous archaeologists,  Arthur Kelly and Lewis Larsen to give our Pre-Columbian Architecture class a tour of the Etowah Mounds site.   After the main tour,  Dr. Kelly invited about a dozen of us to go outside to view the green circles on the Great Plaza created by ancient round houses.  Back then they were very visible at ground level, but now are only obvious in aerial photos.  At the time, Kelly told us that he hoped to get permission to excavated the Great Plaza.  That never happened.

Archaeologists Arthur Kelly and Joseph Caldwell found numerous town sites in northern Georgia, whose last occupation level contained a mixture of Late Lamar (Proto-Creek) artifacts with European artifacts.  This mixture was also found at Etowah Mounds.  Kelly labeled this mixture, the fourth occupation of Etowah Mounds.  He believed that the large round houses near the plaza’s surface were Apalachicola houses.

A new generation of professors, who were transplants from regions, took control of the anthropology program at the University of Georgia and the profession of archeology in the state during the 1980s.  They brought with them no cultural knowledge of the Uchee, Chickasaw, Uchee and Coastal Plain South Americans, who occupied virtually all of Georgia, when the colony was founded in 1733. 

Charles Hudson, who was from Kentucky, but educated at UNC-Chapel Hill, pushed a “Cherokee” interpretation of North Georgia archaeological sites. None of the professors had any knowledge of the Muskogean languages and so labeled standard Creek words in the Carolinas, Tennessee and northern Georgia as “ancient Cherokee words, whose meanings have been lost.” 

The University of Georgia was built on land, essentially stolen from the Creek Confederacy the year before.  For about two decades afterward, Creeks lived across the Oconee River from the new college.  Nevertheless, UGA set up a Native American Studies Program, which was essentially a Cherokee Studies program.  Its logo was composed of the Cherokee syllabary.   For the next two decades, the University of Georgia offered full scholarships to North Carolina and Oklahoma Cherokee students, but none to Uchees, Creeks and Seminoles from Georgia, Florida or Oklahoma! 

The new academic cartel created a myth that the Muskogeans had abandoned northern Georgia around 1550, soon after the De Soto Expedition. This is stated in the Wikipedia article on Etowah Mounds.  They obviously never looked at any historic maps, because the first official maps of the State of Georgia in 1785 labeled North Georgia, “Upper Creeks of the Muskhogee Creek Confederacy.” French maps show the Etowah River Valley occupied by “Conchaque or Apalachicola” until the American Revolution.  Until 1818, the Creek Confederacy lands extended as far north as Clarkesville, GA.   Henceforth,  any Native American occupation sites in northern Georgia, which contained European artifacts, dating from after the mid-16th century were labeled as “Proto-Cherokee.”   It didn’t matter that the pottery styles were associated with Muskogean cultures.

During the mid-1980s, when a team of University of Georgia professors guided the renovation of the exhibits in the Etowah Mounds Museum, they removed all references to Dr. Kelly’s Fourth occupation phase during the Colonial Period.  Instead there is a vague reference to the Cherokees occupying the site from the 1600s onward.    Yet, as stated above,  Elias Cornelius determined that the town was last occupied around 1715 and that the Cherokees did not arrive on the Etowah River until after the end of the Chickamauga War in 1794.  The Cherokees also told Cornelius that they did not build the mounds and avoided even going there, because it was haunted.

These professors also created a bald-face lie.   The most prominent exhibit in the renovated museum displayed Indians hastily burying the two marble statues on the TOP of Mound C as an enemy (presumably the Cherokees) approached to sack and burn the town.   As will be explained below, it is well documented that the statues were found at the base of Mound C!  Even in 1818, the top of Mound C had been gutted by grave robbers!  Yet, because Southeastern anthropology defines “facts” as the consensus of elites in the profession,  anthropology students have been taught this lie for over 30 years.  Even Adam King, who has devoted his career to the study to the study of Etowah Mounds stated the lie as a fact in his books on Etowah Mounds.  Apparently, he never bothered to read the report on the excavations of Etowah Mounds by Arthur Kelly, Lewis Larsen and Joseph Caldwell.  Surely, it would have dawned on him that if after 1925, Mound C was not even visible, Lewis Larsen could not have found the statues at the top of the mound in 1956? 

Notice that the artists, who created the diorama had no clue what the Creeks look like. They obviously used Western Plains Indians as their models.

Up until around 2012, there was an aerial photo of the Great Plaza taken after  Dr. Kelly in 1955 had directed the sod to be scraped off with a tractor.  One could see 10 perfectly round circles.  A couple of years ago I tried to track down the photo.  It is held by the Antonio Waring Lab at the University of West Georgia.  The staff of the lab first said that I was welcome to drive down to Carrrollton to look at the photo.  If I so desired they would make me a copy from a negative for a small fee.  Just before I was scheduled to look at the photo, I received a call from the lab stating that I would have to fill out a rather long form and submit to the Georgia Historic Preservation Division in Atlanta to get permission to view the photo.  I did that and then received a letter stating that I would also have fill out a form to get permission from Dr. Mark Williams at the University of Georgia Archaeology Lab to be allowed to view the photo.  I never heard back from submitting that form, but can be fairly certain of what was going on.   Many Southeastern archaeologists view our heritage as their private domain . . . even when such photographs are the property of the people, through their elected state governments.

History of archaeological work at Etowah Mounds

The reader can see on the site plan of Etowah Mounds, prepared in 1818 by Elias Cornelius that “someone” had already dug a deep trench through Mound C.  It is the mound on the lower left portion of the drawing.  Cornelius did not explore the environs of Etowah to identify other mounds.  However, in 1859, pioneer Southeastern archeologist, Charles C. Jones, Jr. did spend a considerable amount of time walking the landscape on both sides of the river.  He identified 15 mounds.  The USGS infrared images that I used to layout my model of Etowah found three other mounds to the west of Mound A, which do not appear on most drawings of the site.  That means that “Greater Etowah” originally had 18 or more mounds.

In the mid-1880s, the Smithsonian Institute hired John P. Rogan, a cousin of the Institute’s chief archeologist,  Cyrus Thomas, to supervise excavation of Mound C.  Without direct authorization, Rogan also “freelanced” at several mounds south of the Etowah River, while his laborers continued to dig down through Mound C.   He claimed to have found no artifacts in these mounds, but in 1939,  Robert Wauchope, found plenty of very old artifacts in what was left of these same mounds.  Interestingly enough, the Smithsonian’s site plan of Etowah Mounds does not show the mounds on the south side, but does show several other mounds outside the palisades of the core town.   In 1886, shortly after the Smithsonian closed down their Etowah dig,  a massive flood swept through the Etowah River Basin.  Its torrential waters significantly changed the appearance of the bases of the surviving mounds, plus deposited a 15 feet deep layer of alluvial soil.

Online references falsely state that John Rogan moved back to his hometown of Bristol, TN and was never heard from again.  In fact,  after being fired twice by the Smithsonian for not producing enough trophy artifacts, Rogan returned to Cartersville, GA and spent the rest of his life there.  He mysteriously had the funds to purchase a prime commercial lot on the street leading to Etowah Mounds, hire an architect and construct at that time, the tallest brick commercial building in Cartersville,  the Rogan Building. I was the architect of this building’s rehabilitation.  His hardware and farm equipment supply store filled the building.  However, he also advertised regularly in newspapers to be a guide for excavating mounds around northern Georgia. It is almost certain that he continued to dig into the mounds on the Etowah River. In 1925, as stated in Warren K. Moorehead’s book (see below) he assisted a new team of archaeologists dig into Etowah’s mounds.

In the mid-1920s,  archaeologist Warren K. Moorehead embarked on a major study of the mounds in the lower Etowah River Basin.  He personally focused on what remained of Mound C, while assigning the first female archeologist from the Southeast, Margaret Elizabeth Ashley, the investigation of mounds farther down stream near Rome, GA.  Moorehead excavated all of Mound C down to the level of the 1886 alluvial soil, not realizing that this was not the base of the mound.

In 1939, archaeologist Robert Wauchope walked the main Etowah town site, but focused his work on mounds outside the defensive ditch.  Etowah Mounds National Historic Landmark is located along a long stretch of gentle shoals that would have been an ideal location for harvesting freshwater mussels and erecting fish traps.  Such locations were the sites of the earliest villages in the Southeast.  Such was the case here.   Wauchope found evidence of Late Archaic, Deptford Culture-Early Woodland, Kellogg Culture-Early Woodland, Cartersville Culture-Middle Woodland, Swift Creek-Middle Woodland, Woodstock-Late Woodland and Mississippian Culture villages at the town site.  The museum exhibits tell you that newcomers arrived at a “virgin” locale around 1000 AD to found the first phase of the town.  That is just not true.  Very likely, there was a Woodstock Culture village still occupied, when the newcomers arrived.

In the early 1950s,  the State of Georgia purchased the tract of land, which contained the semi-circular ditch and two remaining large mounds.  In a knee-jerk reaction, several adjacent property owners hired contractors to bulldoze at least five mounds.  Several more have been so severely damaged by floods that they are only visible on infrared photos.   Yet,  most references available to the public describe Etowah as a “small site only containing three mounds.”

The team led by Lewis Larsen focused on Mound C.  Virtually all the artifacts seen in the Etowah Museum came from the portion of Mound C that was below the soil’s surface in 1954.  The two famous marble statues were found in a log tomb, within a round temple at the base of Mound C.  The tomb also contained two skeletons . . . probably the founders of the town.

Photo taken by Lewis Larsen about the time that the marble statues were discovered. Note the round patterns of post holes, created by round temples.

In the report that he and Lewis Larsen prepared after their 1954-1955 excavation of Etowah Mounds, Arthur Kelly made no mention of the visit to Etowah Mounds by Elias Cornelius.  Although Larsen found round temples at the base of Mound C, in which was contained the two famous  Etowah Marble statues, one does not see any round structures in the illustrations of Etowah Mounds seen in the museum or articles by archaeologists and journalists.  In fact, evidently even Dr. Adam King is not aware that the square Mound C is a fake, created by the State Parks Department about 55-60 years ago. His books on Etowah always show Mound C as a truncated, rectangular pyramid with no ramp.

Dr. King and his contemporaries are also not aware that until around 1200 AD,  the Etowah River flowed NORTH of Mound A!  The original town site was huge and was entirely on the south side of the Etowah River.  Numerous dissertations and professional papers have been written in ignorance of this fact over the years.  Thus, the authors totally misinterpret the early history of the town.  Of course, they also don’t know that the real name of the town was Etula, which is an Itza Maya word meaning “Principal Town”.  Hm-m-m  . . . are we starting to see a pattern here?

Virtually every aspect and architectural detail of this painting of Etowah Mounds is WRONG, but it has the official occult stamp of approval.

The painting of Etowah Mounds that is displayed in the museum and which is utilized by any archaeologists writing articles on Etowah Mounds is as bogus as the diorama of the statues being buried at the top of Mound C.  None of the architecture or the town layout is accurate.  It is not even to proper scale. Etowah was laid out in residential blocks and had lots of fruit trees.  However, that is how Southeastern archaeology works today.   If the purple gatekeepers issue their stamp of approval, it instantly becomes orthodoxy.

My 2007 architectural model of Etowah at about 1350 AD is accurate, except for the square pyramidal shape of Mound C and the ramp on Mound A.  It was not built until the mid-1800s AD!  However, I was told by my client, the Muscogee-Creek Nation, to follow the latest archaeological reports in 2006.   








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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.



    Thank you for continuing to be a truth-speaker. . . .


    I found your article very informative and interesting. Clearly I need to rethink what I have heard of the mounds and their significance. I am particularly interested in the social / religious aspect of the inhabitants. Has there been any academic research published in this area?

    • Yes, there are numerous professional papers and some books on that subject. The most recent books are by Dr. Adam King of the University of South Carolina. Google Etowah Mounds- social customs and religion.

      Keep in mind though that most or all of these academic papers are written by people, who do not know the Creek People’s language, cultural traditions, migration legends or personalities. They have never been even friends with a Creek. The situation is akin to a person writing a dissertation on the animals of the ocean by standing on the beach. Then the Muskogee Creeks have been in Oklahoma for almost two centuries. They have evolved into a very different society than those which built the mounds.


    Hi Richard,

    I have a very basic question regarding the mound builders. I have visited some of these sites and are constantly amazed at what these people did. Having used a shovel and a wheelbarrow to move dirt many times in my life, I know just how hard it is. So, now matter who these people were, my question is how in the world did they do this?! They did not have shovels or wheelbarrows. Is there anything in the historical records that gives clues to how the native Americans managed to move these unbelievable amounts of soil? Thanks again for all of your work.

    • The carried the dirt in large baskets attached their shoulders like a hiker’s back pack.


    I live in Dallas GA. Thank you for these truths that have answered several of my questions about the inaccuracy of the mounds! It has been such a pleasure to read this informative information! Dallas, GA is covered In Artifacts! Kay Astrachan.

    • Yes, Dallas is covered in artifacts, yet there has been very little archaeological work there. I don’t know why.


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