The Paths of their Lives After the Summer of Love
Part IV of the series on a forgotten archaeological dig
Once upon a time, in a land far away, a nationally famous archaeologist led a team of idealistic Georgia State University students on a journey into the ancient past. They started out at the site of one of the last Creek villages in Georgia, but then crossed Utoy Creek to make discoveries that should have turned the anthropology books upside down, but were kept a secret the next four decades. They put their hearts and souls into their hard work with little compensation, but the joy of comradery and for some . . . the sparkle of new love.
Links to the first three parts of this series:
For the students and volunteers, who worked at the Sandtown and 9FU14 sites, the experience marked the beginning of their lives. Very few became professional anthropologists, but most applied the skills, they learned at Georgia State University, to other careers.
At least two of the couples that first met on this remarkable archaeological site eventually married . . . and are still married 46 years later. One husband and wife team now lives in Asheville, NC, while the other lives in Key West, FL. The presence of Susan Muse on Utoy Creek for a couple of hours in the Summer of Love would have a profound effect on the future . . . 43 years later.
One archaeologist never saw Sandtown again after 1939. For two others, the 9FU14 dig marked a tragic downturn in their careers. We will tell you their stories.
Robert Wauchope (12/10/1909 – 1/20/1979 )
The many sites along the Chattahoochee River, west of Atlanta, were at the tail end of Wauchope’s 1939 exploration of North Georgia. Whereas some archaeological reports for sites in the Nacoochee Valley are several pages long, most for the Chattahoochee River include only a few sentences. Wauchope confessed that he lost almost all the artifacts that he excavated on the Chattahoochee River and most of his notes.
This lack of surviving details is doubly tragic. Wauchope was the first and last archaeologist to examine most of the Native American archaeological sites between the Chattahoochee River’s source and Southwest Metro Atlanta. Many are gone or covered with water now.
He was born in Columbia, SC. His father George A. Wauchope, was a highly respected English professor at the University of SC. He first became interested in archaeology, while obtaining an archeology merit badge, while becoming an Eagle Scout.
After graduation from high school, he wrote Alfred Kidder, head of a team of archaeologists, who were working on a site in Pecos, NM. They hired to work on some sites in the southwest, after which he returned to the Southeast and worked on the famous Stallings Island Site near Augusta, GA. He then attended the University of South Carolina, where he graduated with an English degree in 1931.
During 1932, Wauchope accompanied Alfred V. Kidder during excavations at Uaxactun, Guatemala. In 1938, he graduated from Harvard with a Ph.D. in anthropology, and took a job at the University of Georgia teaching anthropology courses and Southeastern prehistory. Wauchope held his position for 18 months between 1939 and 1940.
In 1939, Wauchope was employed by the Works Progress Administration to direct a team of WPA laborers in a survey of all known archeological sites North Georgia. This was a dream project for such a young archaeologist. However, Wauchope soon discovered that the Nacoochee Valley was one of the most important and densely occupied archaeological zones in North America. Therefore, he spent most of the year in this valley. He planned to come back later and survey the counties near the University of Georgia, where he was teaching.
On September 1, 1939 war broke out in Europe. In 1940, the federal government ended the WPA funding and shifted its focus to the massive development of defense industries. Wauchope was hired as associate professor of anthropology and director of the Laboratory of Anthropology and Archaeology at the University of North Carolina. He was not able to finish his survey or even his report to the Works Progress Administration. The WPA had ceased to exist. The counties that Wauchope was going to survey later are the very same ones in Northeast Metro Atlanta, where large stone terrace complexes have been identified between 2012 and 2016.
After Pearl Harbor occurred on December 7, 1941, most academicians soon forgot Wauchope’s survey work in Georgia. During World War II, Wauchope served with the Office of Strategic Services in the Mediterranean Area. The OSS hired many Harvard graduates.
After World War II, Wauchope was hired by Tulane University in New Orleans, where he spent the rest of his career. At Tulane, his interest quickly shifted to Mesoamerican studies. He soon developed a reputation as being one of the leading authorities on Maya ethnology. He also returned many times to work on sites in Guatemala. Today, this is a point of great irony.
In the summer of 1959, Wauchope and his family returned to Georgia to re-examine the archaeological sites that he had studied 30 years before with the intent of finally completing his report. He was shocked to find the landscape of Georgia radically changed. He could not even find some of them, while many others had been covered in water by a series of lakes built by the US Army Corps of Engineers. Only in the Nacoochee Valley was the landscape unchanged, except for the roads being paved. Perhaps for this reason, he lavished so much attention on the beautiful valley.
Wauchope’s report was submitted to the Society of American Archaeology in early 1966, and published as a softbound book by the society in July of that year. A condensed, hardbound book was made available to the general public in early 1967.
Arthur Randolph Kelly (10/27/1900 – 11/ 4/1979)
Site 9FU14 was the last archaeological study, supervised by Dr. Kelly, to be publicized by the media. He was forced to resign his position as a professor at the University of Georgia in the fall of 1969. Thereafter, he was considered a pariah by most of his fellow archaeologists in the Southeast, but was still invited to present papers to national conferences elsewhere. He died only 10 months after the passing of Robert Wauchope.
During the last 10 years of his life, Kelly used his expanded free time to organize and publish his reports from the excavation of Ocmulgee National Monument in Macon, GA. In a similar situation to Wauchopes, federal funding for the massive archaeological excavation had suddenly ended. Almost three decades would pass after his death before curation of the thousands of boxes containing Ocmulgee’s artifacts would begin.
Arthur R. Kelly was born in Hubbard, Texas. After graduation from high school, he attended the University of Texas, where he graduated in 1921. He became interested in anthropology as an undergraduate. At the time, Harvard was one of the few colleges in the United States that offered postgraduate degrees in anthropology. Kelly obtained his M.A. there in 1926 and his PhD at Harvard in 1929 . . . not a good time to be entering the labor force. Nevertheless, Kelly was offered a teaching position at the University of Illinois, where he taught for three years.
While in Illinois, Kelly was on the team that was excavating Cahokia. The fact that Cahokia was excavated first before many other large Southeastern Ceremonial Cult towns led to a long professional bias that Cahokia was the oldest such town.
Kelly was laid off from the University of Illinois because the Great Depression had greatly diminished the student body. However, he was soon hired to supervise the excavation of Ocmulgee National Monument in Macon, GA plus several other famous sites elsewhere in Georgia. He was Ocmulgee’s sole administrator during World War II.
After World War II, Kelly was hired to set up an anthropology department at the University of Georgia. Kelly was a co-founder of the Society for American Archaeology and soon the founder of the Society for Georgia Archaeology. He served as the Department Chair until 196 3 and continued to serve as the director of archaeology programs until 1969.
During the 23 years at UGA, Kelly became nationally recognized for his work at Etowah Mounds and in many river basins in the Lower Southeast that were scheduled to be flooded by reservoirs. During this period, he was frequently quoted by the media and generally considered the spokesman for archaeology in the Southeast. After the debacle at Site 9FU14, Kelly was essentially a “non-person” in Georgia and was very rarely quoted again in the media.
Lawrence Walter Meier (1/30/1934 – 3/17/2012)
Larry Meier’s career was not nearly as impacted by the scandal at Site 9FU14 as Dr. Kelly’s. He was a freelance archaeologist and apparently had friends in the state government. There were very few archaeological consulting firms in the Southeast during the 1970s and 1980s, so Meier filled a void when federal regulations began to require archaeological surveys prior to commencement of federally funded projects.
During the 1970s Meier became viewed as the expert on Native Americans of the Chattahoochee River Valley in Metro Atlanta. He was awarded the “plum project” of surveying the portion of the Chattahoochee River in the late 1970s that was proposed for inclusion in the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area. However, his career took a tailspin when he was convicted and incarcerated for a serious crime, unrelated to archaeology.
For several years in the late 20th century, Meier built the Cobb County Archaeological Lab into a modern facility, where he amassed an large collection of artifacts from sites that were generally unknown to archaeologists in other parts of the state. The town and village sites were usually satellites of either Etowah Mounds or nearby Standing Peachtree.
After Meier left the Cobb County Lab, it quickly became a sham for bypassing federal laws. Most of the “trophy” artifacts either were given to political contributors or stolen. Native American skeletons unearthed at county construction sites were temporarily hidden there to bypass NAGPRA. At the time of the lab’s formal closing in 1996, the cabinet counters and tables of its staff kitchen were covered with paper grocery bags filled with Creek Indian skulls. This was a sad and unjustified end to the career of a man, who had done so much to expand knowledge of the region’s Native American heritage.
Isaac Elias Saporta (1910 -1998)
As a highly respected, practicing architect, Georgia Tech professor and president of the Atlanta Archeological Society, Ike Saporta played a major role in pressuring community leaders into supporting archeological studies and historic preservation efforts. In the 1960s and 1970s, he was almost the “lone ranger” in the fight to save the Atlanta region’s legacies, while it was exploding with growth. Saporta’s perspective was that economic growth meant nothing if a city ceased to be a pleasant place for people to live.
Born in Volos, Greece in 1910, Professor Saporta spoke six languages and earned two advanced degrees in architecture from
the Saxon Polytechnic Institute in Dresden, Germany. He studied with many of Europe’s most important modern architects,
an experience that shaped his own vision of the modern city. In Paris in the 1930s, he worked in the atelier of the world famous
Architect, Le Corbusier. A Sephardic Jew, Mr. Saporta was captured by the Germans in March of 1944. He escaped and
joined the Greek Resistance. Later, he worked with the Americans in rebuilding destroyed villages in the Greek mountains.
After the war, Mr. Saporta moved to the United States with a firm commitment to conservation, egalitarianism and racial
equality. He was hired by Georgia Tech and founded its City Planning Department . He spent much of his life defending those ideals. In 1949 he began speaking publicly for the need to strengthen the the programs and legal teeth of the Atlanta Metropolitan Planning commission to order insure orderly growth of Atlanta. In the 1950s and until his death, Ike continually spoke out for the need to reserve open green spaces as Atlanta evolved into an international city.
At a time when Georgia Tech didn’t even offer courses in Historic Preservation and Anthropology, Ike Saporta almost covertly incorporated those disciplines into his Architectural Design classes. His concepts of people-scaled places, plus incorporation of prehistoric sites and historic buildings into the regional fabric, contrasted sharply with the ego-driven approach of several other design professors.
Ike Saporta and Arthur Kelly endorsed the Thesis-of-Intent that resulted in the author being awarded the very first Barrett Fellowship, which enabled him to study Mesoamerican architecture, planning and culture in Mexico. However, the greatest memorial to Ike Saporta’s teaching career is Downtown Asheville, NC.
Just as I received notice of passing the national architectural licensing and American Institute of Planners exams, I was hired by the City of Asheville to direct the revitalization of its downtown. I was encouraged to let my professional training and skills run free as I prepared the Urban Design Plan. I incorporated all the ideas that Ike Saporta had taught us to create a European style town with many historic structures. The plan was adopted by the city council.
However, this was all a sham. I was really hired to be an out-of-state patsy. Private sector leaders were secretly planning to bulldoze most of the downtown. When the time was ripe, they would declare the “European Plan” to be a failure and announce the mall.
However, the “European Plan” started working immediately and the people of Asheville went ballistic when the powers-that-be announced the planned demolition of the downtown. Despite immense public relations expenditures and heavy-handed political pressures, the bond referendum for building the mega-mall failed. The city council was forced to continue development of the Downtown Asheville that you see today.
Susan Anita Muse (4/7/1949 – 3/1/2012)
A few weeks after the strange incident on Utoy Creek, Susan’s father, know to all as JD, invited Susan, her sister Phyllis and me to visit some enigmatic stone ruins on his old family farm about 50 miles southwest of Atlanta. JD’s family was “old time Muskogee-Creek from West Georgia. They consisted of oval stone mounds, stone cairns and ancient agricultural terraces. At the time, it was just another one of those weekend afternoon jaunts that had no significance to the futures of any of us. I would not see Susan for another 43 years . . . and then only briefly.
Susan had just earned her Associate of Arts degree from Young Harris College. She then obtained a BS in Education from the University of Georgia and a Masters of Fine Arts from Georgia State University. Over the decades that followed, she became one of the state’s most respected artists and art educators.
Flash forward to the fall of 2010. Homeless, I had just moved from a campsite in the Chattahoochee National Forest to the office of an abandoned chicken house near Blairsville, GA. It had telephone and therefore, internet service. I happened to see a poster in a store that advertised an exhibit of the art of Susan Muse.
Surely not the same Susan from so long ago, but I was able to get her email address from the local art association. I sent her an email to see if she was the Susan Muse from Lakeshore High and Red Oak Methodist.
The response that came back was not what I expected. She was indeed the same Susan Muse, but the message was hostile and inquired how I knew where she lived. I had never really dated Susan and there was no reason for her to have negative memories of me. I wrote back how I discovered that she lived nearby, but got no response.
A few weeks later, I received an apologetic email from Susan that explained the situation. Organized crime had taken over the county where Blairsville was located. She had lived there most of her adult life, but was forced to move to an adjacent county because of unspecified threats against her life. She said that when things settled down, she would invite me over to her house to a party to meet her longtime friends in the area. That never happened.
The following June, I stumbled upon the Track Rock Terrace Complex. That very evening, I emailed Susan to tell her that I had discovered the same type ruins that were on her father’s old homeplace, but much larger. She wrote back that she had lived near there for over three decades, but had never heard of them. She had recently been sick, but when she got better, she would meet me at Track Rock with some of her friends and we could hike it. She never did.
In early October 2011, I was mailing a letter of condolence to Roger Kennedy’s widow at the Blue Ridge, GA post office. An emaciated, elderly woman came up to me and stared at me without saying a word. She looked like she knew me. Her face seemed vaguely familiar, but since she didn’t say anything, I didn’t either.
That night, I received an email from Susan Muse, asking if I had been in the Blue Ridge Post Office that day. I wrote back yes. She wrote back that she had seen me, but I looked like I always looked and about 25 years too young to be me. She added that she was really sick with something and did not feel like socializing right now. I wrote back, “So sorry” but didn’t tell her that she looked 25 years tool old to be her. I never heard from her again.
At the very moment on March 1, 2012 that a crew from the Travel Channel was with me filming the first documentary on the Track Rock Terraces, Susan Muse passed on to her eternal reward at her home a few miles away. I never got to say goodbye.
That same month, the Georgia archaeologists started on their speaking blitzkrieg among the “movers and shakers” of the Atlanta Area. The traveling pony show was later called “Maya Myth Busting in the Mountains.” Among other things they said that Track Rock was the only known terrace complex in the United States and that the terraces were probably built by the Cherokees to perform ceremonial dances and bury their “great chiefs.”
Even before POOF researchers discovered all the other stone architecture sites and put together all the pertinent facts, I always knew that these Georgia archaeologists were full of caca de toro, because of the Saturday afternoon jaunt with JD, Susan and Phyllis so long, long ago. Either they were lying or else so incompetent that they didn’t even know the archaeological resources of the state for which they were self-proclaimed experts.
And now you know!
This video was posted on the web about two weeks before Susan Muse passed on. It was made before she became seriously ill. She was one of many talented Muskogean artists.
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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.
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