The Florida Connection . . . a forgotten world around Lake Okeechobee
THE FLORIDA CONNECTION
The People of One Fire caps out 2016 with a mini-series on the connections between the rich indigenous heritage of Florida and the Southeastern Ceremonial Culture and thus, contemporary Native American tribes in the Southeastern United States. In the summer of 2007, several founding members of the People of One Fire journeyed down to the southern tip of Florida to visit phenomenal archaeological sites, which had been publicized by South Florida newspapers, but were generally being ignored by archaeologists outside the region. They came back with information that made the rest of us seriously reconsider all orthodoxies about the Southeast’s Pre-European past.
While the information available on Florida indigenous cultures in textbooks has remained essentially unchanged for at least 25 years, the folks in the People of One Fire have been rapidly advancing our level of understanding . . . mainly by studying and interpolating the work of archaeologists in that region. The various cliques within archaeology intentionally remain ignorant toward the work of their “enemies” in academia. They also do their best to block reports of their opponents’ work in national professional journals.
In this series, we will describe the incremental process between 2006 and 2016 by People of One Fire researchers that has led to a very different understanding of the indigenous peoples of Florida and their connections to the ancestors of the Creek and Chickasaw Peoples. All of Florida was NOT a cultural backwater prior to the arrival of the Spanish, as often assumed by archaeologists elsewhere in the United States. It was always a cultural bridge between the Americas, but in some periods, Florida was on the cutting edge of technological advancement.
In 2002, the New York Times published an article about the discovery of canals and causeways in Southern Florida, near Lake Okeechobee. The article was accurately written and focused on an interview with Bob Carr, the chief archaeologist. You can read this article at: Lake Okeechobee Canals. The newspaper article was essentially a summary of a technical article about the canals in the March 2002 issue of “Florida Anthropologist.” However, very little information about the discoveries and their implications made it into major anthropological journals.
What I did not realize for a decade after that New York Times article was that Carr was forced to go to the popular media because he was being snubbed by many archaeologists in his own state and by most academicians, elsewhere in the United States. He had discovered substantial proof that the “Mississippian Culture” did not begin on the Mississippi River. This was heresy against the god, Anthropos. Carr was able to get occasional “light weight” articles in Florida newspapers about the Ortona Site until around 2006, then the public’s awareness of the Ortona Site dribbled down to the ignorance level again.
Amichel is the name written down by early Spanish explorers for the section of the Gulf Coast between Mobile Bay, Alabama and Apalachee Bay, Florida. In 2006, one of POOF’s founding members, Deborah Clifton, figure out that Amichel was really the Castilian pronunciation for Am Ixchel . . . which in Tabasco Maya means “Place of the Goddess Ixchel.” Deborah’s heritage is Creek-Choctaw and she holds a PhD in Anthropology. She knew what she was talking about.
However, if one reads the Wikipedia article on Tamaulipas State, Mexico, one learns that Amichel is the name that the Spanish explorers in Mexico called the region around Tampico Bay. The Wikipedia article on Yucatan State, Mexico tells us that “the Mayas once called the region at the northern tip of Yucatan, Amichel.” Archaeology is so specialized these days in the United States that “experts” on the Southeastern Indians, Pre-Columbian Tamaulipas and the Mayas in Yucatan don’t have a clue what was going on in the rest of the Americas.
A Spanish language version of Wikipedia states that Amichel means “Lugar de la diosa Ixchel,” which means “Place of the goddess Ixchel.” Dr. Clifton was 100% correct. The three Amichels form a perfect equilateral triangle across the Gulf of Mexico.
Dirty little secrets at Ocmulgee National Monument
I could not join the POOF members on their journey to South Florida, because I was “burning the midnight oil” to finish a massive model of the acropolis at Ocmulgee National Monument. That turned out to be a good thing in the long run. The mandatory research necessary to build such a model resulted in me rediscovering facts that the current generation of archaeologists had either forgotten or concealed. The real history of Ocmulgee was very different than what the public was being told.
For example, exhibits in the Ocmulgee Museum and even the official book on Ocmulgee, published in 1994 by the University of Georgia Press and written by the faculty of its anthropology department, stated the ” Lamar Village” was founded around 1350 AD, about 200 years after Ocmulgee was abandoned. A ranger at Ocmulgee National Monument gave me a copy of a the report from a symposium in 1974, sponsored by the National Park Service on the Lamar Village at Ocmulgee National Monument. He also gave me a copy of Dr. Arthur Kelly’s report on his excavations at Ocmulgee National Monument in the 1930s. It was not completed until just before the symposium. It was presented to the public for the first time at this symposium. By the way, you will learn in a later article in this series that Ocmulgee was not fully abandoned. Construction merely stopped on its acropolis.
Listed as speaking and attending at this symposium was graduate student, Mark Williams, who soon obtained his PhD and founded the Lamar Institute. Also attending was Dr. David Halley, who eventually became Director of the UGA Department of Anthropology and editor of the book, Ocmulgee Archeology.
Earlier that year, archaeologists, employed by the National Park Service had excavated Mound A and some house footprints at the Lamar Village. They had been shocked to discover that the Lamar Site was originally a Swift Creek village in the period between around 200 AD and 550 AD. A massive tsunami from an asteroid or comet impact devastated the Coastal Plain of Georgia around 538 to 550 AD. The village had been reoccupied around 990 AD by people, who made the same style pottery as those who founded Etula (Etowah Mounds) a couple of years later. They were also the first people to build rectangular, Itza Maya style chiki houses at Ocmulgee. Over the next 50 years, more and more houses at Ocmulgee were rectangular until almost all structures were rectangular.
The real name of the Lamar Village in Macon, Georgia is Itchesi, which means “Descendants of the Itza.”
These people had obviously come from the south, yet they made a style of pottery that seemed to be descended from Swift Creek stamped pottery, but who built houses like those in the suburbs of Chichen Itza. About the same time that Itchesi had been founded, Toltec invaders had conquered Chichen Itza. How could one explain people living in the unique Itza Maya prefabricated houses, but making a Swift Creek Culture style of pottery? This is a question that has not been answered.
It is no accident that many towns with Mesoamerican traits suddenly appeared in Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee around 1000 AD, at the exact time that the Itzas in Chichen Itza became the vassals of Toltec overlords. The Toltecs introduced new architecture, an autocratic government and the sacrifice of human hearts.
Dr. Kelly’s report had a big surprise in it. The oldest houses in Ocmulgee were round, about 30-32 feet in diameter and had center columns. This style of domestic architecture is typical of the Northern Andes, parts of Colombia and the Toa River Valley in Cuba. Thanks to a dissertation by Daniel Bigman in 2102, we now know that until around 1000 AD, Ocmulgee only had round houses. However, in the 1930s, when Arthur Kelly’s excavation of Ocmulgee was going on, radiocarbon dating had not been invented. Kelly always assumed that the round houses predated the arrival of “Mississippian Mound Builders.” Nevertheless, there is absolutely no mention or drawings of round houses in the exhibits at the Ocmulgee Museum. The public is not told that the round, so-called Ocmulgee Earth Lodge was burned and ritually buried a decade or so after rectangular houses first appeared in the suburbs of the town.
The official founding date of Ocmulgee is c. 900 AD, the date of the base of the Great Temple Mound. People may have been living there as much as a century or so earlier. Incredibly, only three radiocarbon dates have been obtained from this major archaeological zone, owned by the federal government. Are the archaeologists afraid of what they might find out?
The Wikipedia article on the Lamar Village states that the town was founded in 1350 AD. Southeastern archaeologists have known that this is not true since 1974. I asked the ranger why the National Park Service had not corrected the exhibits in the Ocmulgee Museum to reflect the discoveries made by their own archaeologists. He said that Dr. Kelly had suggested that right after the symposium and rangers had several times requested that the exhibits be updated. However, politically influential archaeologists in Georgia and within the National Park Service had always blocked the changes.
In 2012, I edited the article in Wikipedia on the Lamar Village and included direct quotations from the National Park Service’s and Arthur Kelly’s reports. Within four hours, the additional articles were deleted. I soon received a warning from a “Wikipedia Purple Gatekeeper” in England that I would be permanently blocked from using Wikipedia, if I ever touched that article again.
Meanwhile, someone went through all the Wikipedia articles on all counties in North Georgia and deleted all references to the Creek Indians and archaeological sites associated with the Creeks, such as Etowah Mounds. Three full paragraphs on Etowah Mounds were deleted from the Bartow County, GA Wikipedia article. I had nothing to do with the original articles, but was ignored when I complained about the deletions. Even though Etowah Mounds National Landmark is Bartow’s most important tourist attraction, the Wikipedia article today only briefly mentions that the Cherokee Indians were the county’s former inhabitants . . . nothing about Etowah Mounds. Absolutely incredible. .
In 2013, I obtained the three missing paragraphs from the Cartersville Convention and Visitors Bureau, who wrote the original Wikipedia article on Bartow County. With their blessing, I added back the three missing paragraphs. The insertion was again quickly deleted and I received the same threatening message from the “Purple Gatekeeper” in England. It is obvious that the occult is manipulating Native American history.
The field trip to Southern Florida
Members of POOF, headed for South Florida and I got together for a long working dinner, where I discussed my specific interests about the sites near Lake Ocmulgee. None of the newspaper articles showed what the earthworks actually looked like at Ortona. There was only photographs of a jungle-like landscape or what appeared to be nondescript sand piles. I needed to know the actual shapes and dimensions of the earthworks. I also wanted to know what their buildings looked like.
In 2006, one of the last detailed articles on the Ortona Site quoted a young archaeologist, who exclaimed that South Florida once contained hundreds of miles of canals and causeways, “like the Mayas built.” I am sure that the comment caused the late 20th century generation of Florida archaeologists to go into conniptions. It was taboo for their generation to discuss the possibility that Mesoamerican agricultural seeds were personally carried to North America by Mesoamericans.
However, the comment peeked my interest. The young man had obviously never seen a Maya city, because the “regular” Mayas did NOT built long canals and causeways. They did build roads between cities that were called by the same name as used in the Creek languages . . . Great White Paths . . . but the Yucatan Peninsula is rocky, generally hilly and contains very few streams or lakes. Much of the rest of the Maya Heartland is mountainous. The Maya Lowlands in the vicinity of Tikal, Guatemala do contain some swamps, but to date no canals have been found, which connected Maya cities.
On the other hand, the peoples living in the Gulf Coastal Plain of Vera Cruz and Tabasco States DID build long causeways and some canals. Today, anthropologists label them “Western Mayas,” but they were not true Mayas. They were the descendants of the Olmec Civilization and were considered barbarians by the elite of Classic Period Maya cities (200 AD – 900 AD). These peoples were usually illiterate and only built earthen pyramids (mounds) – identical to those in the Southeastern United States.
The articles about the Ortona Site said that construction of these canals began around 250 AD – 300 AD. That was an odd date for “Maya immigrants” to be spilling out of their homeland. The Maya Classic Period began between 200 AD and 300 AD, depending on who you talk to. At that stage in their urban development, the modest structures in most embryonic Maya towns would have been dwarfed by later North American towns such as Cahokia, Moundville and Etula (Etowah). During this early period, Teohuacan dominated the political affairs of many Maya provinces. That fact leads to another explanation for why technology from southern Mexico suddenly appeared in southern Florida.
It is known that between around 100 AD and 200 AD, armies, dispatched from Teotihuacan in Central Mexico, conquered in succession, southern Vera Cruz, the Chiapas Lowlands, Tabasco and then the Chiapas Highlands. Princes from Teotihuacan were placed over the defeated provinces, who thereafter were required to pay tributes to Teotihuacan. Perhaps, bands of people living in the Usamacenta River Delta had fled from the Teotihuacano invaders and ultimately ended up in Southern Florida?
There was another intriguing aspect to South Florida’s history. Between 900 AD and 1150 AD, the region was densely populated with large towns, interconnected by causeways and canals. During this period the same type of pottery was made throughout the region, suggesting the existence of a kingdom. The towns around Lake Okeechobee were suddenly abandoned around 1150 AD and never reoccupied. The time period of 900 AD to 1150 AD also when the acropolis at Ocmulgee National Monument was occupied, PLUS the life span of the the great city of Tollan, capital of the Toltec Kingdom in Central Mexico. Was there a connection?
Archaeologist Bob Carr, Director of the Florida Archaeological and Historical Conservancy, gave our people a guided tour of the massive Ortona Site on the southern end of Lake Okeechobee. He also gave them a color photocopy of the archaeologist’s sketch site plan of Ortona, plus two sheets of grid paper, where he had sketched each of the major earthworks, dimensioned them and given brief descriptions of their appearance and/or materials. Despite the extensive qualifications of the archaeological team at the site, this is as far as they got in explaining their discovery. Perhaps the money had run out.
When our team returned back home, they gave me the photocopies. I converted the sketches on the topo map and grid paper into a three dimensional CADD computer model. Architects have extensive experience in converting paper USGS topo maps into precise three dimensional terrain models.
The results were astounding. I saw many things that had not been mentioned by the archaeologists in news articles. Perhaps they did not consider them significant. There was a Great Serpent Mound. There were ponds and mounds, which were the exact same shape as ceremonial scepters, shown several hundred years later in the copper and shell art of such later towns as Ocmulgee and Etowah. There was a horseshoe shaped Mesoamerican ball court, typical of southern Mexico. Ortona contained numerous crescent-shaped mounds that were identical to worship sites associated with Ixchel in eastern Mexico. There was definitely a cultural connection between Ortona and the Gulf Coast of southern Mexico.
This was the first time in my career that I embarked on substantial research without being paid to do so. Besides being limited in the hours that I could afford to work for free, I often lacked credibility from the perspective of the persons being contacted. Always before, I could introduce myself as the Consulting Architect for “the National Park Service, Georgia Department of Transportation, Muscogee-Creek Nation, Smyrna, GA, etc.” This time, the person being contacted almost immediately asked why I was asking questions about an archaeological site in South Florida. Because I was not representing a powerful political entity, most academicians cut off the conversations quickly.
It was quickly discovered that if I was going to have any luck at all, I had to introduce myself as the architectural history consultant for the Muscogee-Creek Nation. I, in fact was their consultant until 2009, when the new Principal Chief fired Judge Patrick E. Moore, whom I had worked for in the Creek Nation. However, even before then, no one in the Creek Nation gave a flying flip about a town site in South Florida. In the eyes of Oklahoma Creek officials, such a location was irrelevant to the tribe’s history. It turns out that they were wrong.
I needed more architectural information about Ortona, in order to fill in the details left out by felt tip pen markers. There was virtually nothing published about sites in the Lake Okeechobee Basin, except for the Fort Center Site, which was much older than Ortona. In his book on Fort Center, Archaeologist William Sears had provided fascinating details about the earthworks on which houses and temples sat, but very little on the buildings, which sat on those earthworks. No archaeologist seemed interested in these buildings . . . only the pottery and soil strata.
Except for the University of South Florida, none of the anthropology professors at major Florida universities would talk to me at any length. The USF professors, who had worked at Ortona had moved on, so the archaeology professor, whom I talked to, knew much less than I did about the site. Professors at the Universities of Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina and Tennessee claimed that they had never heard of Ortona or even of an advanced indigenous society in South Florida. A University of Tennessee professor suggested that I contact the National Park Service’s Southeastern Archaeological Center in Tallahassee, Florida. Until 1973, SEAC was located at Ocmulgee National Monument. It was moved to Tallahassee by President Richard Nixon to punish Georgia for having one of its senators on the Watergate Commission.
The SEAC archaeologist, who specialized in the Mississippian Cultural Period had never heard of the Ortona Site. He seemed to view South Florida as a distant world that was part of Cuba. The Woodland Period specialist said that he had “heard something” about Ortona, but didn’t believe the newspaper articles. He added that “the people down there were hunter-gatherers and so couldn’t have possibly built the structures, which were claimed in the newspaper articles.” So much for the National Park Service’s involvement.
As it has turned out, the archaeology profession has generally ignored the Ortona site, because it messed up their mythical world view. No formal archeological report has ever been published about the entire Ortona site . . . only radiocarbon dating of some its canals. The CADD model that you see in this article is still today, the only precise document that fully describes the Ortona Site.
I gave up trying to find archaeological studies, which described Lake Okeechobee’s houses and public buildings. The computer model needed buildings on it to appear realistic. Lacking any other reference, I showed the type rectangular structures, erected by the Seminoles in South Florida during the 1700s and 1800s. I could be right or I could be wrong.
The Miami Circle and Miami Village
In 1998, the post holes for a circular building about the same size as the so-called Ocmulgee Earth Lodge was found at Brickell Point in Downtown Miami, during the construction of a new building. Archaeologist Bob Carr was hired to supervise a team of archaeologists that excavated it. The floor and post holes of the structure had been cut into young limestone. The structure was undeniable and easy for the public to visualize.
From the radiocarbon dating of decomposed wood in some of the post holes, Carr’s team estimated that the structure was 1800 to 2000 years old. Early publicity about the site caused some writers and amateur historians to speculate that the structure was built by Mayans or Central Americans. Artifacts found in the sediment above the structure suggested that it was constructed by the Tequesta (Tekesta) People of Southeast Florida. However, the Tequesta were not building round structures when the Spanish arrived. For that matter, the Mayas did not usually build round houses or round temples. They are more typical of South America . . . and the founders of Ocmulgee.
In 2013, MDM Development Group began construction of a massive commercial complex at a parking lot in Downtown Miami that had been known for 70 years to overlay an archaeological zone. The excavators quickly ran into the footprints of a Native American village, which was contemporary with the Miami Circle. In fact, like the Miami Circle and the original houses at Ocmulgee National Monument, these houses were also round.
Archaeologists and journalists still continue to label both the Miami Circle and Miami Village site as being built by the Tequesta . . . but were they? On the right, can be seen what a public building looked like at a definite Tequesta village site, north of Miami . . . .very different. The houses in this village were also rectangular. Tequesta architecture in the 1500s and 1600s was remarkably similar to that of the Seminoles, who inherited their lands.
Could the builders of the Miami Circle and the Miami Village moved somewhere else? You will find out in later editions of this series.
In Part Two of the Florida Connection . . . In the summer of 2007, at the exact same time that People of One Fire members were touring South Florida, an extended drought dropped Lake Okeechobee’s water level to reveal thousands of skeletal remains. Two very different types of indigenous peoples were eventually identified by forensic anthropologists. Their findings should have turned the history books upside down, but are not today reflected in anthropology textbooks OR in Wikipedia articles.
Then in 2015, I found a treasure trove of documents dating from 1733 to 1737, including the “Lost Creek Migration Legends,” in a box at Lambeth Palace in England. They describe all the major branches of the Creek Indians, except the Uchee, originating in Mesoamerica or somewhere to the south.
The following two tabs change content below.
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.
Latest posts by Richard Thornton (see all)
- Here’s the truth about the situation in Sweden - February 20, 2017
- Footnote: Second Pardo expedition definitely went to the north of Santa Elena - February 20, 2017
- Joara . . . what the public is not being told - February 19, 2017
- The Search for Juan Pardo’s routes through the Appalachians - February 18, 2017
- Fascinating TV documentary on St. Catherines Island, Georgia - February 17, 2017