Using words to explore the peopling of the Southeast – Part Two
(Above) View of the “Eastwood Mounds Site” around 700 AD. It was here, by mixing with the Swift Creek People and Itza traders from far to the south that the Chickasaw developed their distinct architectural and cultural traditions. Much of the pottery found in this village site is Napier Style. The Kenimer Mound was immediately to the east of this village. It is highly likely that laborers from this village, under the supervision of Itza or Kekchi architects, constructed the Kenimer Mound.
During this era, Panoans from Peru established the boundaries of what 1200 years later would be called the “Creek Indians.” The ancestors of the Chickasaw spread eastward until they reached the Savannah River . . . thus depositing a cultural memory in the future hybrid people that would be called Creeks of an eastward journey, which most of their ancestors never took. Meanwhile, the Arawaks in the North Carolina Mountains absorbed cultural influences from the Hopewell Culture, but soon would be influenced by the arrival of Shawnee from the north and Itza Mayas from the south.
From the early 1800s onward, both historians and frontiersmen in the Southeastern United States had an astonishing misperception. They assumed that all of the Southeastern tribes, except those exterminated by the Spanish in Florida and Coastal Georgia, had been living in the same place for hundreds or thousands of years. The real story is one of peoples from many different places constantly mixing then bands constantly breaking off and forming new tribes.
When tribes stated that they did not know who built the abandoned mounds near their villages, it was popularly believed that white men had built them. The truth is that they had moved to the location after the mound builders had moved somewhere else. Particularly in Georgia and Alabama, the majority of the new white settlers were from the Carolinas and Virginia. They had little direct knowledge of the Native peoples, who had lived there before them. These settlers made up fanciful stories to explain indigenous place names and long abandoned mounds. Their descendants in the Southern Highlands have made these myths into a religion. Far too often, archaeologists took these myths as the basis for interpreting their digs.
In the late 20th century, archaeologists in the United States recognized that the vast quantities of attapulgite and mica used by the Teotihuacano, Totonac and Maya civilizations far exceeded the available deposits in Mexico. They therefore adopted as a semi-fact that these minerals came from over 5,000 miles away in eastern Brazil. Georgia’s mica and attapulgite deposits are a fifth of the distance and directly adjacent to the Chattahoochee River. Both minerals are far more abundant in Georgia than in Brazil, but to admit Pre-Columbian trade between Mexico and the Southeastern United States would force the Gringos to admit that there were close encounters of a third kind between the Southeastern Indians, Mesoamerica, the Caribbean Basin and South America. That would have been a fate far worse than death.
The most accurate understanding of the cultural history of the Lower Southeast can be found in its first anthropologist, Charles C. Jones, Jr. He was an attorney and later mayor in Savannah, but his ancestors had deep Colonial Era roots in Liberty County, Georgia. He knew that the Creeks, Chickasaws and Uchees had once occupied all of Georgia and most of Alabama. His ancestors also considered the Creeks to be a civilized people. Therefore, Jones assumed that all mounds in the state, including areas most recently occupied by the Cherokees had been built by the ancestors of the Creeks. Jone’s undergraduate degree in history was from Princeton, while his law degree was from Harvard. However, contemporary archaeologists label him an “amateur,” while the self-styled archaeologists, who followed him, had less education and no college credentials in history, anthropology, archaeology or ethnology.
Ten years after Jones wrote his landmark book on the Southeastern Indians in 1873, the Smithsonian Institute sent a team of self-styled archeologists to the Lower Southeast to excavate its mounds. In most cases, the actual supervisors of these digs had no advanced education and no special skills, but were hired because they were Union Veterans. The Smithsonian employees ignored maps of Georgia before the American Revolution and Jones’ books. In the process they created many of the ethnological and historical myths that now appear on state historical markers in that region of the country. A consistent trait from 1883 until the 1980s was that they believed that the Indian Tribes had always lived where they were living at the close of the American Revolution.
Anthropologists and botanists long assumed that about 1500 years ago, maize kernels miraculously jumped from Central Mexico to Cahokia, Illinois then were carried by Northern missionaries to the ignorant savages of the Southeast. However, it is now known that maize (Indian corn) was being grown on raised beds at Fort Center near Lake Okeechobee, FL by 800 BC and 3200 year old maize pollen has been found in southeastern Alabama. The biggest surprise occurred in 2017, geneticists discovered that Indian corn, grown in the eastern 2/3 of the United States and all modern hybrid varieties in the United States are descended from a hybrid maize developed in the eastern foothills of the Andes in South America! This is the exact same origin where the Panoan Peoples live until this day. They include the Conibo, Shipibo, Kaushibo and Chiska Peoples.
8. Amazonians in the Appalachians and Midwest (100 BC – 550 AD) – Among Euro-Centric circles it is popular to give credit to the Celtic Druids of Britain for the creation of the geometric earthworks, created by the Hopewell Culture. There is nothing in Western Europe, which is similar to the Hopewell Geometrical Earthworks. Furthermore, there is nothing elsewhere in North America, similar to these earthworks, which predates them. There are in the Amazon Headwaters Region of eastern Peru and western Para State, Brazil almost identical earthworks, which both predate and are contemporary with the Hopewell Culture Heartland in eastern Ohio. It could be that only small band of priests made it all the way from Pará to the Ohio Country, but they would have been the architects of both the Hopewell earthworks and the Hopewell Culture. Over time indigenous peoples would have learned their knowledge. Without forensic studies of the few skeletons left by these priests, the theory is hard to prove. The Hopewell People cremated their dead.
Farther south is a different story. Keep in mind that Apalache is the Europeanization of A-Pará-Se . . . which means “From – the Upper Amazon River Basin – descendants of. Seventeenth century French ethnologist, Charles de Rochefot stated that until the arrival of the Apalachete’s (Proto-Creeks) in western North Carolina, there were many Arawaks living in the Carolina Mountains. There were still some Arawaks living there in the 1650s . . . but no Cherokees. The Arawak villages had names that ended in “koa.” English speakers wrote down the Cherokee interpretation of that sound as “qua” or “quah.” Thus, the Oklahoma capital of the Cherokee Nation actually has an Arawak name . . . Tahlequah.
9. Swift Creek Culture (c. 100 AD – 600 AD [900 AD in extreme NE Georgia]) –
This Middle Woodland Period cultural phase received its name from a village site excavated by Archaeologist Arthur Kelly in the mid-1930s. It is about six miles south of the acropolis of Ocmulgee National Monument. Swift Creek sites are characterized by sophisticated, highly crafted stamped pottery, accretional mounds and horseshoe shaped low earthworks for ball courts, which strongly resemble those of the Olmec Civilization. As late as 1776, William Bartram sketched horseshoe shaped ball courts in several thriving Creek towns.
The Mandeville Town Site on the lower Chattahoochee River began around 400 BC as a clear descendant of the Deptford Culture, but perhaps with some Copena immigrants. Around 100 AD the first ornate Swift Creek style pottery appeared. By 200 AD, most but not all, pottery was in the Swift Creek style. From Mandeville, Swift Creek spread to most of Georgia, plus parts of South Carolina, North Carolina and eastern Alabama. The motifs used in Swift Creek pottery were identical to those used by the Conibo People to this day for clothing, wood carving and pottery in Satipo Province, Peru.
In October 2012, scientists at the University of Minnesota determined that there was a 100% match between attapulgite mined in Georgia and the Maya Blue stucco at Palenque in Chiapas State, Mexico. Maya Blue was first used at Teotihuacan then introduced to Maya city states by their Totonac conquerors.
There is no source in Central Mexico for attapulgite, the key ingredient for the Maya Blue and Teotihuacano Red pigments used in the murals and stucco at Teotihuacan. I strongly suspect that traders dispatched from Teotihuacan were the first to discover the Americas’ largest attapulgite deposits in present day Southwest Georgia. The Mandeville Site is due west of the largest attapulgite deposit and Palenque was established originally as a colony of Teotihuacan.
Many Swift Creek towns in Southeast Georgia were abandoned about the time (539 AD) that a monstrous tsunami struck the Georgia from an asteroid or comet striking the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Cape Canaveral, Florida. There is still a 65 to 85 feet high debris ridge along the Georgia Coast! Swift Creek towns farther north dried up around 600 AD to 750 AD. There was a pocket of Swift Creek Culture towns in extreme Northeast Georgia and the Upper Hiwassee River, which lasted until around 900 AD. This region was known to early European explorers as the Province of Canos.
From the mid-1930s to the early 1960s, visitors to Ocmulgee National Monument were told that the Swift Creek People immigrated to central Georgia from New England. There is nothing in New England, which resembles the Swift Creek Culture. By 1960, Arthur Kelly theorized that the culture initially believed that the Swift Creek People came from Florida, but in 1959 he found the oldest known Swift Creek pottery at the Mandeville Site on the Lower Chattahoochee River just above where it is joined by the Flint River. It was dated to around 100 AD and was more sophisticated than later Swift Creek pottery. Initially, Swift Creek style represented about 1% of the pottery produced at Mandeville, but within a century characterized almost all the pottery at Mandeville. The Swift Creek Culture was well established in Georgia before it was being made in Florida.
During the past 80 years, none of the experts on the Swift Creek Culture and Swift Creek pottery have noticed a very significant fact. To this day the patterns and motifs of the clothing worn by the Conibo People of Satipo Province, Peru are identical to the motifs on Swift Creek pottery. There is a connection.
Almost all the cultural traditions, which distinguish Creeks from other Native peoples in the United States can be traced to eastern Peru. These include the Stomp Dance, traditional Creek clothing, the Sacred Black Drink and the Creek Square. The Creeks and the Panoans of Satipo Province, Peru use the same words for yaupon holly/Black Drink (ase), canoe (pira), village chief (orata), priest (wana), sweet potato (aho), beans (talako), tobacco (heche), pumpkin (chasi) and High King (paracusa). Some future members of the Creek Confederacy also used the Panoan word for a provincial king (uriwa), but most used the Itza word for that position. There are probably many other words that we have not had time to identify.
10. Ashininka-Arawak ~ the Weeden Island Culture (200 AD-900 AD in Florida ~ 350 AD-750 AD in SW Georgia) – First near the Gulf Coast above Tampa Bay then in the eastern part of the Florida Panhandle then in extreme Southwest Georgia and Southeast Alabama, a distinctive ceramics style appeared in towns that were making Swift Creek style pottery. It strongly resembled the ceramics in the coastal regions of present day Colombia and Venezuela. The territory eventually occupied by the Weeden Island Culture exactly matched the territory occupied by the Apalachee, when they were first contacted by Spanish officials in St. Augustine. It extended up the Chattahoochee River to just south of the Mandeville town site.
Like many other aspects of Southeastern Native American history, I assumed that everything that Florida anthropology professors said about the Florida Apalachee was accurate. They were Muskogeans and spoke an extinct language that was labeled “Southern Muskogean.” Unlike most branches of the Creeks, the Apalachee were polytheistic and worshiped a pantheon of Mesoamerican deities.
Even then, one thing bothered me. The Apalachee houses were large cone shaped structures for extended families. The Apalachee communal structures were rectangular. That was just the opposite of the architecture of other Muskogean peoples. The Chickasaw council houses were square, not rectangular, but their houses were identical to the Maya houses in Campeche. Of course, just as the members of the Society for Georgia Archaeology were fond of saying in 2012 . . . I was just an architect.
Marilyn Rae’s discovery of Charles de Rochefort’s book in the Brown University Library, completely changed my perception of the Southeast’s past. In fact, his eyewitness description of Proto-Creek culture in present day Georgia was so radically different than what was said in archaeology books, I initially assumed it to be mostly fiction. However, his detailed description of how Proto-Creek houses, fortifications and public buildings were constructed convinced me to fact check him. Much of the information he wrote was not known to archaeologists until the latter half of the 20th century. However, one by one, every detail of De Rochefort’s descriptions checked out.
Keep in mind that this book was written in 1658! De Rochefort stated that Apalache was not the real name of the people in Florida, who the Spanish had named Apalache. One of the first villages, which Hernando de Soto visited in northwest Florida was named Apalachen, which is the plural of Apalache. The brilliant French ethnologist explained that it was merely one of the colonies established among these people by the real Apalache in Northeast Georgia. He said that the commoners of this province had arrived in Florida from the south several centuries before Apalache established colonies there. A queen of the Apalache directed the construction of the Great White Path (road) through the colony, which connected the Tallasee (Little Tennessee) River with the Gulf of Mexico. This road is now the route of US Highway 129.
The Apalache colonists established a capital next to a large lake in the Florida Panhandle. The colonists called themselves Talahalwasee, which means “Colonies of the Highland Towns.” This is the origin of the name of Tallahassee, Florida . . . not the Muskogee words for “Old Town.” De Rochefort went on to say that over time, the true Apalache intermarried so much with the commoners that their hybrid language became unintelligible to the Highland Apalache. However, the two peoples remained on friendly terms and traded often. Apalache Creeks would have had no trouble understanding the languages spoken at the San Luis de Talimale and San Martin de Tomale. Those were Itsate Creek newcomers from Georgia.
So what language did the commoners speak in the Florida Panhandle? The principal town of the “Florida Apalachee” when De Soto stayed there was named Anihaica. That is definitely not a Muskogean word. It also was not a Middle Arawak or “Timucua” word. However, in a Ashininka-Southern Arawak Dictionary from Peru, it translates as “Elite-Place of.” Bingo!
11. Napier Culture (600 AD – 900 AD) – The Napier Culture produced geometric pottery . . . usually large diamond motifs . . . which was very similar to the stamped pottery of the Kaushebo People in Peru. This literally the real name of the Cusabo Peoples on the coast of South Carolina. Most of the Kaushebo (Cusabo) tribes definitely spoke Panoan. All of their surviving words can be translated with a Kaushebo-Panoan dictionary. Kaushe means “strong or elite” in Panoan. The region where Napier pottery is found in Georgia, the Blue Ridge Mountains down to just south of Macon, corresponds exactly to the home province of the (real) Apalache in 1653, when visited by Richard Briggstock.
The sudden appearance of Napier Style pottery suggests that there were some refugees fleeing social upheaval elsewhere. Indeed, immediately prior to 600 AD, there was a period of chronic warfare between the Moche Culture kingdoms and the new up-and-coming kingdoms that become dominant over the region. This is the most likely time point, where the elite of the Apalache arrived in the Southeast. The Swift Creek Culture may have been kick-started by bands of refugees from the far south, but the cultural change was gradual over a hundred years.
12. Chiapas Itza Maya (600 AD – 800 AD) – The presence of Itza Maya colonists in the Southeastern United States is not a theory, but a fact. The large branch of the Creeks in Georgia, western North Carolina and southeastern Tennessee called themselves Itza People. However, there seems to have been at least four distinct migrations from the Maya Lands. The first occurred during the Classic Period (200 AD – 800 AD) and was associated with the mining of minerals, unavailable in southern Mexico. When interviewed by the History Channel in 2012, the director of archaeology at Chichen Itza, Dr. Alfonso Morales, stated that they had recently found evidence that dignitaries from Florida and Georgia visited Chichen Itza. However, this information has not been formally presented to general public. The second migration occurred after a catastrophic eruption of the Chichon Super-volcano incinerated most of Chiapas in 800 AD. The third migration occurred around 1000 AD when the Itza Commoners, living in the suburbs of Chichen Itza were forced to flee the city en masse. The fourth migration occurred around 1250 AD, when Tamaulte (Itza Maya traders) were forced to evacuate Tamaulipas due to invasions by Chichimec barbarians.
The Creeks have always said that they were partially descended from Maya immigrants. The Miccosukee of Florida, formerly from Northeast Georgia, called themselves Mayas until the late 20th century. Miccosukee can carry on conversations with certain branches of the Mayas in Chiapas and Tabasco States, Mexico. Many Maya descendants in Georgia, Florida and South Carolina carry Maya DNA test markers, even thought the Itza were not true Mayas, but another ethnic group, which over the centuries became absorbed into the Maya cultural sphere.
Itsate Creek was the predominant Creek language in Georgia until after the American Revolution. Itsate is what the Itza Mayas called themselves. The Itzas from the Lowlands of Chiapas often called themselves Cho’ite, which is origin of the towns in the Southern Highlands named Chote or Chota. There were several Itsate Provinces in the Southeast during the late 1600s and very early 1700s. They may reflect different time periods of Itza Migration. These include provinces at Ocmulgee Bottoms, the Little Tennessee River Headwaters, the Nacoochee Valley in North Georgia, the Nottely River Valley in Union County, GA and Cherokee County, NC, the Dillard Valley in Cherokee County, NC, the entire length of the Oconee River in Northeast Georgia, the Lower Chattahoochee River Valley in the vicinity of Roods Creek, the province of Chiaha in Graham County, NC, the northern half of the Flint River Valley in Georgia and the Cumberland River Valley near present day Nashville, TN.
There are many pure Itza and Chontal Maya words in Itsate (Hitchiti) Creek. Several have been slightly modified, while being absorbed by the Muskogee (Creek) language. The Itza words in Itsate include: tama (trade), tamahi (trader or merchant), chiki (summer house) choko (winter house), chokopa (councilhouse), che (small), E- (prefix meaning principal or capital), al (Itza prefix meaning “place of”), am (Chontal prefix meaning “place of”) te (Itza suffix meaning “people or tribe), pa/po (Itza/Chontal suffix meaning “place of”) tula (town), etula (principal town), tulapa (village), mako (king), henemako (Great Sun or High King), hene-ahaw (sun lord or judge), ahaw (noble), emara (second in command), yama (slash & burn agricultural clearing), haw (river), hawche (creek), tal or tul (stone), talli (measure or survey), talliya (surveyor or architect), iche (maize), chiliam (to write), chiliki (barbarian), hene (sun) and chichi (dog, coyote, wolf).
Palenque was founded around 226 BC, but we can be certain that Chontal Maya traders were bringing it large quantities of attapulgite from Georgia by 600 AD, because this is when the town’s major building boom began. The Maya Blue sample, which the University of Minnesoto matched to Georgia attapulgite dated to the 600s AD.
Vast quantities of mica were used by Maya cities as reinforcement for stucco, a finish on murals and as cosmetics. There is virtually no mica in the Land of the Maya. Between around 200 AD and 600 AD, Chiapas (including Palenque) was a vassal of Teotihuacan. Twenty-feet long slabs of mica was used as flooring on the terraces of the Pyramid of the Sun in Teotihuacan. This mica came from the lower slopes of the nearby Popocatepetl volcano. That was the nearest mica deposit to Palenque, which was 500 miles (800 km) to the southeast. While a vassal, Palenque might have paid a premium price for mica transported on human backs from Popocatepetl, but an inexhaustible supply of mica was available from the present day Southeastern United States. Indeed . . . Charles de Rochefort stated that even in the mid-1600s the most valuable exports of the Apalache Kingdom in Northeast Georgia were mica and greenstone!
When did the first Maya traders reach the Southern Appalachians and when did the first Maya colonists come to stay? Those are questions that cannot be answered with complete confidence. The Swift Creek pottery style is not typical of Mesoamerica. Perhaps the initial mining and transportation of attapulgite was not handled by traders from Teotihuacan or southern Mexico, but by intermediary traders, whose origin was in South America. On the other hand, in the spring of 1969, Dr. Arthur Kelly showed me artifacts and photos of artifacts, which he thought were either produced in Mexico or were copies of artifacts, produced in Mexico. Most of the artifacts were from Mandeville or immediately south of there at the confluence of the Chattahoochee and Flint Rivers.
There is one documented stone structure near the confluence of the Flint River with the Chattahoochee River in deep Southeast Georgia, which is a prime candidate for Maya construction. Its purpose is unknown. It was the size and shape of a typical Campeche Maya house, plus had a basement, hewn into the sandstone. The function of the structure probably had something to do with the attapulgite trade, but that is speculative.
- The Kenimer Mound in the Nacoochee Valley of Northeast Georgia is a prime candidate for an early Itza Maya or Kekchi Maya structure in the Southeastern United States. The only place in the world where one finds five sided, pyramidal mounds is in the Chiapas Highlands of Mexico, Guatemala and Belize . . . or the original Creek Homeland in Georgia, the eastern edge of Alabama, western North Carolina and the tip of southeastern Tennessee. Until the late 1970s there were the remains of a stone temple on top of this mound. It was destroyed by a family, newly arrived from Florida, who used the stones to construct chimneys and foundation veneer for their “mountain dream house.”
In 1999, a team of archaeologists and students from the University of Georgia dug test pits on and around the Kenimer Mound (in violation of a written contract with the property owner). They found Napier Complicated Stamp, Unidentified Complicated Stamp and Plain Redware. These potsherds clearly link the mound to the period between 600 AD and 800 AD. Their report stated that there were no known mounds or villages around Kenimer. Actually, it was the center of a Pre-Columbian metropolis named Itsate. Mounds and neighborhood/village sites ring the hill. They were the focus of much of archaeologist Robert Wauchope’s work in 1939, and fully documented in his 1966 book on North Georgia archaeology. Immediately to the east were hundreds of stone box sepuchers, which was the traditional way that the Itza buried their dead.
The Nacoochee Valley was the location of the first major gold rush in the United States, has extremely fertile soil, PLUS has been continuously occupied by humans since the Ice Age. In fact, there were several Deptford Culture villages from around 1000 BC, which seem to have almost continuously occupied by various cultures and ethnic groups until the 1696 smallpox plague.
- Chiaha was a very important province in western North Carolina, when the De Soto Expedition came through the region in 1540. Chiaha is an Itza Maya name that means “Salvia River.” The De Soto Chronicles specifically mentioned large fields of salvia growing next to mountain rivers. Although its mounds are still visible in low water, the island on which Chiaha developed was covered by the waters of Fontana Lake in 1941. Nevertheless, we are able to at least say that the province was probably settled between 800 AD and 1050 AD. There was a massive explosion of the El Chichon Super-volcano in 800 AD, which incinerated Palenque and much of Chiapas.
There was no archaeological survey before Chiaha Island was covered with water. Beginning around 15 years ago, the North Carolina Cherokees began claiming that they have lived in western North Carolina for 12,000 years . . . even though both rivers on their reservation have Creek names. Since then it has been impossible for archaeologists to get excavation permits on any Mississippian or Woodland Period mounds in the region . . . since they are likely to tell a different version of history.
13. The Moche Disapora (c.100 AD – 700 AD) – The Moche Culture kingdoms produced some of the most sophisticated ceramics and gold art ever seen in the Americas. They were located on the northwest coast of Peru, which is also the region where paddle stamped pottery first developed. Like the Wari Empire, which followed them, they were also ruthless conquerors and made human sacrifices frequently. The brutality of the Moche armies was the initial motivation for bands of Paracusans, Panoans and Arawaks to flee northward as far as they could get. However, toward the end of the reigns of most Moche kingdoms, extreme weather conditions resulted in chronic warfare over food resources between the former allies.
Studies of ice cores drilled from glaciers in the Andes reveal climatic events between 536 and 594 AD that resulted in 30 years of intense rain and flooding followed by 30 years of drought. There was mass starvation of the commoners and vassal provinces during the drought. Numerous volcanoes in South America, Central America, Mexico and Iceland erupted during that period. In addition, an asteroid or comet struck the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Florida in 539 AD. Throughout much of the earth, life became living hell for many peoples. The Maya Civilization even went into a 50 year dormancy during that period.
Latest posts by Richard Thornton (see all)
- Movie . . . Sami Blood . . . plus an introduction to the Sami People - August 17, 2019
- Videos . . . the Mi’kmaq People of Nova Scotia - August 15, 2019
- The First Creek Confederacy did not include the Muskogees! - August 14, 2019
- Ten feet tall Easter Lilies - August 14, 2019
- How I got to know Mexico - August 13, 2019