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The Mesoamerican Connection . . . Four Decades of Silence

The Mesoamerican Connection . . .  Four Decades of Silence



Take a look at a detailed map of the Native American land cessions in Georgia.  There is a strange, small rectangle of land in what is now Athens, GA on the west side of the Oconee River that was purchased by an informal treaty in the 1790s.  Why would the State of Georgia want such a small tract that was not defined by geographical boundaries on three sides?

The answer is female breasts . . .  Creek breasts to be specific.  The cession was directly due to the tradition of Uchee and Creek females going topless during the warm months and both genders daily going skinny dipping, when the weather permitted.

Athens had been selected as the location of the first state-chartered university in the nation.  The campus was planned on a plateau, where the capital town of the Talasee Creeks had been located.  Many of its inhabitants merely moved across the Oconee River so that they would be protected from Pro-British Upper Creek attacks.  Even before ceding the land, east of the Oconee, the Northeast Georgia Creeks had welcomed white neighbors and especially . . .  affluent white in-laws.  It is no accident that the Governor Troup of Georgia was the first cousin of Creek Mikko William McIntosh. 

Creek teenage girls were typically far more mature socially than their white counterparts.  They were also “experienced” and quite winsome . . . so quite capable of sweeping a helpless young white man off his feet, if they so desired.  On the other hand, it was not uncommon for white widows to marry Creek or Uchee men, because they took baths everyday, were typically very tall and also knowledgeable on the skills necessary to feed a family.

So . . . the Creek and Uchee lassies were not entirely innocent in this matter. They frolicked, au naturalle, on the rocks and shoals of the Oconee River to entice the wealthy young men at Franklin College (now the University of Georgia) to come play with them.  The students and undoubtedly some young professors looked for any excuse to take healthful walks along the river.  Senior professors thought such things a major threat to moral and intellectual education of the men. 

Traditionally, Creek youth “dated” for five to ten years before settling down to married life. Both before and after marriage, the women used herbal birth control methods, which insured that they would have small, but healthy families. This was a very different custom than most of the indigenous ethnic groups in the Americas, whose girls typically married soon after puberty.  Of course, proper white girls had no clue that there was such a thing as birth control herbs. Most married very young with minimal social contact with single males until actively hunting for a husband.

Also, unlike indigenous peoples elsewhere in the United States, there was really very little difference in the lifestyles of the Creeks and their neighbors from the Old World.  The newcomers primarily grew traditional Creek crops and the Creeks quickly adopted the husbandry of Old World livestock.  Their root religious beliefs were also very similar.

What the white male aristocrats feared most, however, was the potential of Creek female in-laws to incite a rebellion among white women. The Creeks and Seminoles traditionally gave sanctuary to runaway slaves.  Uchee and Creek women always had the right to vote, hold political office and obtain a quick divorce from a bad husband.  They owned all domestic real estate and automatically had custody of children, after a divorce. Intelligence was highly esteemed among Creek women. What if such radical ideas polluted their male-dominated, slave-owning society?

The problem was solved by purchasing all the land on the west side of the Oconee River within eyesight of the Franklin College campus.  It was, as they say, out of sight . . . out of mind.

Don’t talk about things, not understood

The Athens, GA land cession is a metaphor to what happened to the archaeology profession in the Southeast during late 20th century.  With the almost simultaneous passing of three giants of their profession . . . Joseph Caldwell, Robert Wauchope and Arthur Kelly . . . its attitude quickly shifted from being explorers in an unknown frontier to being Keepers of Sacred Knowledge upon which artifacts would be inventoried and analyzed.  Archaeologists like Arthur Kelly, who I knew personally, practiced their profession out of a love for gaining new knowledge.  The archaeologists, who have dominated the profession since then, are too often people, who feel a psychological need to feel superior to others and so present themselves as wizards, who if they are sufficiently worshiped, will reveal some their secret knowledge to the thralls around them.

Remember the response in 2012 by a University of Georgia anthropology professor when I pointed out the fact that the Kenimer Mound is identical to the Sun Temple mounds, built by the Itza and Kekchi Mayas?  He wrote publicly, “Now run along children and go play.  Stop dabbling in things that you do not understand.

He was not an exception.  In 2004, a former president of the Georgia Council of Professional Archaeologists stated to a meeting of the Society for Georgia Archaeology at Fort Mountain . . .  “We now know everything there is to know about the Southeastern Indians.  It is time that we move onto other things.”  

I could not believe my ears.  The Georgia Council of Professional Archaeologists and the SGA were MEETING AT FORT MOUNTAIN.  To this day, archaeologists do not know who built the stone walls at Fort Mountain . . . when they built them . . . or why they built them.  Are these people that out of touch with reality?  Why didn’t the others attending the conference stand up in outrage?  The jarls, karls and thralls meekly applauded and then did as they were told to do.

Since they view all others as ignorant thralls, inherently inferior to themselves, it is mandatory that they always appear omniscient in all things.  This is an absolute contradiction to their claim of being scientists. They avoid discussing questions and evidence, which they cannot explain within their orthodoxy, based on limited body of knowledge.  As we saw in 2012, they will expend an enormous amount of energy trying to suppress any threat, which makes them appear not to be omniscient.

Very little has changed in the “official” version of the Southeast’s past, since the publication of the book, Ocmulgee Archaeology. . . 1936 to 1986.  In fact, that book stealthily leaves out critical information about the discoveries in the Macon, GA area, which conflicted with a fossilized concept of the past, held even then by most of its authors.   We will get back to that problem a little later in the article.

Off the track from the beginning

Over the past six years, a private client has funded my systematic analysis of all available archaeological reports in all the counties of Alabama, Georgia, southern South Carolina, western North Carolina and now, southeastern Tennessee.  With the exception of Charles C. Jones, Jr, virtually all the so-called archaeologists in the Southeast before the 1920s were glorified grave-robbers, who took their trophy artifacts back up north, where they came from.  We won’t even talk about them.

During the 1930s, a new generation of archaeologists was funded by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) to supervise a massive archaeological study of American Indian sites in the Southeastern United States.  Many of these people became the giants of their profession in the 20th century.  Yet, from the very beginning they shared traits, which would insure an incomplete understanding of the past.

  1. None of the archaeologists were either Native Americans or African-Americans. From that time until the end of the century, archaeologists never consulted with the descendants of the mound builders before interpreting the towns and shrines, built by their ancestors.
  2. All of the archaeologists carried regional cultural biases with them, when they traveled to the Southeast to excavate indigenous towns, built by peoples quite different from those in the Northeast and Midwest. Robert Wauchope was the only PhD working in these programs, who was from the Southeast. His degree was from Harvard. Invariably, they interpreted the towns as being founded by American Indians, living in whatever part of the nation, they grew up in.   Thus, until the 1970s, visitors to Ocmulgee National Monument in Macon, GA were told that the Swift Creek Culture was introduced by Indians from New England, while the mounds were built by Indians from Illinois.  Dr. Kelly was from eastern Texas, but educated at Harvard.  For about two decades, he believed that the mounds were built by Caddo Indians from East Texas.
  3. All of the archaeologists consistently made no attempt to translate the Native American names of towns and rivers in the Southeast, plus the chronicles of the De Soto, Fort Caroline and Pardo Expeditions. Chiaha, Callimaco and Altamaha are Maya words. Chisca was also a Peruvian tribe, which dressed identically to the Chisca in Tennessee. Orata is the Panoan (Peruvian) word for a town chief.  Mako is the Itza and Itsate Creek word for a king.  Heneha (Hene Ahau) Is the Maya and Creek words for a Sun Lord or relative of the king. Sati-uriwa is a Panoan word, which means “Colonists-King of.”  Aho is the Southern Arawak and Creek word for sweet potato.  Iche is the Itza Maya and Hitchiti Creek word for maize.  Talako is the Panoan, Itza and Creek word for a lima bean.  Ase is the Panoan and Creek word for the Yaupon Holly and Sacred Black drink.   Pira is the Panoan and Creek word for a canoe.  Chiliyam is the Itza and Hitchiti Creek verb for “to write.”
  4. From the 1920s until today, Southeastern archaeologists refuse to discuss how vegetables, words, cultural practices and architecture from Mesoamerica and northwestern South America arrived in the Southeastern United States. When I was in college, anthropology books literally stated that corn, beans, squash and pumpkins were first grown in southern Illinois then carried by American Indian missionaries into the Southeastern United States and that sweet potatoes were never grown in the Southeast until introduced by white plantation owners.  There was no explanation of how lima beans traveled directly from the eastern foothills of the Andes Mountains to Illinois.
  5. Most archaeologists in the Southeast assumed that the modern federally recognized tribes had always existed and generally been located in the same region for hundreds or thousands of years. In fact, the evidence, including the oral traditions of indigenous peoples, is that prior to the 1700s, the peoples of the Southeast were highly mobile.  They traveled long distances by foot.  Individual bands and towns moved across the countryside in search of better locales to either farm or hunt.
  6. Until very recently, Southeastern archaeologists completely ignored the thousands of stone structures in the region. In 1873, Charles Jones, Jr. specifically stated that when the first Anglo-American settlers arrived in Georgia and Eastern Alabama, the landscape was littered with stone ruins of structures built by advanced Indian civilizations. Yet even today, these ruins are not generally discussed because there was a bitter argument within the profession during the late 20th century over whether these structures were built by Indians or early white settlers.
  7. Since the early 1980s, archaeologists have generally defined scientific facts by citing the opinions of recognized authority figures in their profession. Thus, pick up almost any anthropology thesis or dissertation today and it will cite John Swanton or Charles Hudson as the source for an inaccurate translation of a Creek word . . . not the official Muscogee-Creek Dictionary.  Virtually all of Swanton’s and Hudson’s translations are completely bogus.

This is perhaps the most dangerous trait of anthropological education today.  As can be seen in the list of fallacies in Southeastern archaeology, the stage was set for inaccurate interpretation of artifacts and town sites.  While major technological advances have been made in the measurement of artifacts and sites, these scientific facts are being interpreted by a highly flawed body of cultural knowledge.  


Lewis Larson took this photo on the day, he discovered the Etowah statues at the base of Mound C.


Not letting facts get in the way of our myths

I will pick on Etowah Mounds and Ocmulgee National Monument, because I know both of these archaeological zones intimately.  Undoubtedly, similar criticisms can be made at other Native American town sites in the Southeast.  In the late 20th century consulting archaeologists and museum exhibit designers intentionally did not include information about archaeological discoveries at these sites, which would have conflicted with their fossilized view of the past.  In both sites, this information would strongly link the towns to advanced civilizations to the south . . . not Cahokia.


  1. When Ocmulgee Archaeology was first published, very few of the 30,000+ boxes of artifacts, unearthed at Ocmulgee in the 1930s, had ever even been opened. Dr. Kelly told me that he never saw most of the artifacts and had no role in the planning of the museum exhibits.  He was the only PhD archaeologist at Ocmulgee for several years and was assigned all of Georgia by the WPA, which kept him out of Macon much of the time.  The only person on the site with a college degree was Joe Tamplin, who had recently graduated in Civil Engineering at Georgia Tech.  Tamplin was the “Supervising Archaeologist” at Ocmulgee.


  1. Radiocarbon dating technology did not exist in the 1930s. Despite being a unit of the National Park Service, there are very few radiocarbon dates for the vast Ocmulgee Archaeological Zone. Most chronologies that one sees for the town were derived from assumptions about the potsherds unearthed there . . . the vast majority of which, no professional archaeologist has ever seen.
  2. Dr. Arthur Kelly did not write a report on his work at Ocmulgee in the 1930s until the early 1970s. He still had not seen most of the artifacts, when he wrote that report and died in 1979.
  3. It is common knowledge that most of the figurines and better pieces of pottery went out the gate of Ocmulgee under the coats of workmen. There were two “supervisisors” for several hundred laborers, working at as many as eight locations, spread across a 12 mile long corridor.
  4. During the 1930s,hundreds of ceramic salt-brine drying basins, up to three feet in diameter, were discovered at Ocmulgee. Such artifacts are endemic at coastal town sites in Mexico, occupied by the Chontal Mayas and at Waka in Guatemala.  Not one salt brine basin is on exhibit in the museum and they are not mentioned anywhere in the museum.  By the way, the Creek name for the Ocmulgee Acropolis is Waka also.  Could there be a connection?
  5. In the period 800-1000 AD, massive round houses, typical of northern South America, predominated in the Ocmulgee Acropolis, but other neighborhoods during that phase of the town’s occupation, had architecture and pottery typical of Georgia during the Woodland Period. There is no mention in the museum of the massive round houses.  Around 1000 AD,  Mesoamerican post-ditch houses appeared at Ocmulgee and became predominant by 1100 AD.
  6. In 1973 and 1974, the National Park Service funded a new excavation of the Lamar Village Site . . . known as Ichesi by the Creeks. The archaeologists discovered that the town was founded in the 990s AD, not 1250 AD as stated in the Ocmulgee Museum. The town’s founders made the same style pottery as those found in the first occupation of Etowah Mounds.  At both sites, the people lived in Itza Maya style “chiki” houses, but built round temples.  None of this information is presented in the Ocmulgee Museum.  Around 900 AD, Chichen Itza in Yucatan was captured by a people with Toltec cultural traits.  Many of Chichen’s Itza Commoners were driven out or fled voluntarily.


A civil engineer’s 1873 survey of Etowah Mounds . . . prepared for anthropologist Charles C. Jones.  Note all the additional mounds.  There were more!

Etowah Mounds

During the 1800s, there were 18 mounds at Etowah . . . that includes those within the semi-circular moat and those, which dated to the Woodland Period or were part of the original town between about 1000 AD and 1250 AD.  Three mounds were leveled by amateur artifact collectors in the early 1800s.  Several mounds on the south side of the river were destroyed by John P. Rogan, working independently after being fired by the Smithsonian Institute.  Other mounds were covered in silt by the massive 1886 flood.

  1. Contemporary archaeology books tell readers that there was no report on the 1954-1956 excavations at Etowah Mounds, published by Lewis Larson, Arthur Kelly and Joseph Caldwell. This is not true.  Not only was it published, but it was sold at the Etowah Mound s Museum for three decades.  I have a copy, given to me by Larson and Kelly, when they led a guided tour of the site for my architectural history class in the autumn of 1969.   Sales of the report ceased in the mid-1980s.
  2. This report showed photographs of the famous Etowah marble statues being excavated from within a log tomb at the base of Mound C. Around the tomb were the footprints of a round temple, built around 1000 AD or earlier.  No radiocarbon dates were obtained in the 1950s dig.
  3. Only about 5% of the Etowah town site has been excavated. The original town ran north-south on both sides of the current channel of the Etowah River.  A catastrophic flood around 1250 AD destroyed the original town and cut a new channel through its heart.  The only portion of massive Mound A at Etowah that has been excavated by a professional archaeologist is the base of the east ramp.  During the mid-1990s, Adam King dug down 15 feet to the original base as part of his doctoral dissertation from the University of Pennsylvania.
  4. In the mid-1990s, the Etowah Museum was remodeled under the guidance of a team of University of Georgia anthropology professors. The key exhibit at the renovated museum is a display showing the marble statues being dumped in a pit at the top of Mound C. A painting nearby, leaves out an extremely large building that existed in the plaza between the three large mounds between around 1250 AD and 1375 AD.  It also leaves out a log stockade that surrounded Mound B and the stone retaining wall around the great plaza, east of Mound A.
  5. All references state that work on Mound A ceased around 1375 AD and that the mound was never occupied again. This is not true.  During the 1800s, the owners of the Etowah Mound site allowed art collectors to dig there for $200 a day.  These grave robbers radically changed the appearance of the mound and cut off its upper 25 feet – thus exposing the 1375 AD level.  In 1818, Mound A was only a few feet shorter than Monks Mound at Cahokia.
  6. All references state that Etowah Mounds was occupied three times and abandoned around 1585 AD It was not lived at again until the Cherokees built a village there. The Cherokees specifically stated to a professor visiting the mounds in 1818 that they arrived on the Etowah River in the 1790s and never built a village near the mounds because they were haunted. The trees growing at Etowah Mounds were up to 100 years old in 1818.

Archaeologist Arthur Kelly found significant evidence that Etowah Mounds was occupied a fourth time in the Colonial Period by the Apalache Creeks.  The Creeks seemed to be there until after the American Revolution.   Pre-Revolutionary War maps show Apalache-Creek (Conchaqui) villages along the Etowah River.  The footprints of the Apalache buildings can be seen as greener grass on some satellite images in the plaza, east of Mound A.  Being made a pariah by fellow archaeologists in Georgia because of the Site 9FU14 controversy,  Kelly was never able to obtain funds to excavate the plaza at Etowah Mounds to prove the presence of a Colonial Period Creek Indian occupation. *

Dr. David Halley, who was the Director of the University of Georgia Archaeology Lab in 1969 during the controversy over the 9FU!4 site, but later director of the department, opposed Kelly’s four occupation interpretation.  Halley was a teenager in Massachusetts during the excavation of Etowah Mounds in the 1950s.  Hally believed that the Late Lamar Culture and European colonial artifacts, found at the top level of Native American occupation, represented the Cherokees capture of North Georgia in the 1600s.  The 1785 official map of the State of Georgia shows NW Georgia occupied by “the Upper Creeks of the Muskogee-Creek Nation.”

After Hally became department head he pushed through a formal statement that Etowah Mounds had three occupations before the Cherokees.  The remodeled Etowah Museum, guided by his department, describes these three occupations and stated that the Cherokees later lived there after the mounds were abandoned.


*In June 1969,  a stone hoe was “stolen” from the boxes of artifacts from the Mandeville Site, stored in the UGA Archaeological Laboratory.  It so happened that Arthur Kelly asked me to check out reports of a garbage midden near the 9FU14 site, exposed by a flashflood on Utoy Creek.  He was out of town at a conference.  Fortunately,  I invited along Susan Muse, a GSU art student of Creek descent as a date that Sunday.  When Susan and I realized that this was actually a burial mound, we stopped all disturbance of the structure.  Soon, we observed Larry Meier drive onto the archaeological site, unlock the gate around the mound and insert an object.  Meier was the project supervisor.  The next day Meier claimed to have found the hoe in the mound and called a press conference to announce that he had proof that 9FU14 was an agricultural village.    On Tuesday,  John S. Pennington wrote a feature article about the discovery in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.  On Wednesday, a certain professor at UGA announced that he recognized the stone hoe from a grainy, black and white photo in the AJC.  It was from the Mandeville site.

At this point, a lot of people should have realized that something fishy was going on.  How could a professor know that a certain stone hoe from the hundreds of thousands artifacts stored in the lab was from the Mandeville site?   However, on Friday a team of archaeologists from the Georgia Council of Professional Archaeologists held a televised press conference, conveniently scheduled to be on the evening news.  They demanded that Arthur Kelly be immediately fired and arrested for felony theft and fraud.

On Monday, in between classes at Georgia Tech, I called the Athens, GA Police Department.  I told the detective about our observations and pointed out that it was totally illogical for Dr. Kelly to ask a clean-cut Navy Midshipman from Georgia Tech to be on the site, when he was planning a criminal act at the same time.   The detective agreed.  After Susan Muse collaborated my story, the investigation proceeded to the point of pending arrests of several professors and students at the University of Georgia.  However, the UGA administration squashed the cases against them.  It would be terribly embarrassing for such corruption being exposed by a Rambling Wreck from Georgia Tech.  No one was ever charged for the crimes.  Nevertheless, Dr. Kelly was pressured to resign, despite his innocence in the matter. The conspirators had already selected Charles Hudson, a young graduate from the University of North Carolina, to fill Kelly’s slot on the faculty.  That occurred soon after Kelly’s departure.

In gratitude for my testimony keeping him out of a humiliating court case,  Dr. Kelly, during the winter of 1970, endorsed my application to be the recipient of the first Barrett Fellowship.  It enabled me to study Mesoamerican architecture in Mexico, Guatemala and British Honduras (now Belize).   By happenstance, I happened to see some Itza terrace complexes in Chiapas and the Lake Atitlan area, which exactly 40 years later, I realized were identical to the terrace complexes in North Georgia.  The Master of Breath DOES have a sense of humor. 

And now you know!

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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.



    Tell it like a warrior, Mountain Lion!


    Hi Richard
    You mentioned in the beginning of the article under “off track from the beginning”, that more of the truth of the indigenous southeastern peoples would have been know if at least some of the researchers were native American or African American. Why would African American have mattered? It does not seem as though any of the ancient travelers and colonists came from Africa.

    • Many nominal African-Americans in the Southeast have just as much Native inheritance as nominal whites with Native American . . . especially in South Carolina, Virginia and central Georgia. The reason is that both Native Americans and African-Americans could be enslaved until 1752. Also, the African-American slaves, who escaped to Florida became Black Seminoles. They adopted Creek clothing, language, architecture and traditions. They sometimes intermarried with the original Seminoles. Mixed Native American-African Americans in rural areas often maintain more Native traditions in their family life than mixed European-Native Americans these days.


    Great article Richard! You mention Fort Mountain above and that lottle information is known who the original builders were. I have some information that might peak your interest and shed light on who built it.

    • Go ahead and send to us. I am a karl, not a jarl! LOL That’s Elde Anglo-Saxon and Gamla Norsk for “I am a freeman, not an earl.”


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