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Virtual Reality: The landscape seen by Juan Pardo in 1568

Virtual Reality: The landscape seen by Juan Pardo in 1568

There are very few paintings by commercial artists of Southeast Native American towns, which are accurate.  The artists invariably paint a vast baked red clay desert, grass covered mounds and as an afterthought a dozen or so little houses.   Unfortunately, the grass they showing growing on mounds didn’t arrive in North America from Siberia until the 1800s! LOL

Recent work by several archaeological teams have proven that Southeastern mounds were stuccoed with brightly colored clays.  The Apalache Creeks in North Georgia went a step further and coated them with mica flakes, which made them glisten like gold.

Also, many eyewitnesses from the 16th and 17th century, including the De Soto Chronicles, describe ancestral Muskogean towns as being laid out with streets, residential blocks, courtyards, plazas, fruit orchards, public buildings and clusters of specialized residential buildings.

DeSoto1In early 1568,  Captain Juan Pardo set out from Santa Elena on Port Royal Sound, SC  to reach Kusa in Northwest Georgia.  He first went to Chiaha on the Little Tennessee River in North Carolina and then went down the river to Tanaske, which was on Hiwassee  Island in Tennessee, at the confluence of the Tennessee and Hiwassee Rivers.  He then returned to Chiaha and elected not to go to Kusa, since he was warned that four Native armies were planning to ambush his company of men.

On the way back to Santa Elena from Chiaha, Pardo passed through a town his notary wrote down as Nucose.  I am pretty sure that this was Nokose Tula  (Bear Town) in the Nacoochee Valley of Northeast Georgia.  Nokose was at the crossroads of sever major continental trade paths, including the connection between the Hiwassee River trail and the mouth of the Savannah River.

Adjacent to the main town for commoners was the elite town of Hontaoase (Offspring of People Who Irrigate Plants.)  According to the Dare tablets, found in the Nacoochee Valley, Hontaoase was where the last survivors of the Roanoke Colony lived out their last days.

I have just completed a computer model of the western end of the Nacoochee Valley where the site of Nokose is.   These images portray Nocose as it would have appeared in the autumn of 1568, when Juan Pardo and his men were passing through.   It will provide readers with a better understanding of what our ancestral towns looked.

Nacoochee-2016-POOF-1

The small trees with crimson leaves are purple plums (prunus mexicana). The Creeks in North Georgia raised large numbers of purple plum trees in the courtyards, next to their homes. The tree is indigenous to Mexico. Note the vast corn fields to the east of the town and the two other satellite village that are about 1/4 mile to the east from the main town.

Unlike Muskogee Creek towns,  Apalache, Koweta, Koasati and Chickasaw towns had oval plazas and oval mounds.  As we explained in a recent article on Booger Bottom Mound  near Buford, GA,  the construction of oval mounds and oval plazas is an ancient tradition in North Georgia, going back to around 1000 BC.

Site plan of Nokose. The mound was aligned to where the sun rose over Alec Mountain on the Summer Solstice, where there was a stone enclosure. The angle was slightly different than true East-West because the mountain blocked the view of the sun when it first rose.

Site plan of Nokose , when it was at its peak size around 1500 AD. The mound was aligned to where the sun rose over Alec Mountain on the Summer Solstice, where there was a stone enclosure. The angle was slightly different than true East-West because the mountain blocked the view of the sun when it first rose.

The Nokose Mound at sunrise on the Summer Solstice.

The Nokose Mound at sunrise on the Summer Solstice.

The town was still occupied in the late 1600s,  but apparently a massive smallpox plague in 1696 wiped out most of the Nacoochee Valley’s population.  Nevertheless, there was still a small village named Nocose, about a half mile south of this mound, in the early 1800s.  Nacoochee is the Anglicization of Nocose.

This is a view of Nocose in the 1600s, looking south toward Yonah Mountain. The population shrank substantially in the late 1500s and 1600s due to European diseases being introduced by the Sephardic Jewish gold miners in the Nacoochee Valley.

This is a view of Nocose in the 1600s, looking south toward Yonah Mountain. The population shrank substantially in the late 1500s and 1600s due to European diseases being introduced by the Sephardic Jewish gold miners in the Nacoochee Valley.

 

 

 

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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.

4 Comments

  1. ashlilin.al@gmail.com'

    Why do both the yuchi and koasati tribes today believe chiaha was on Zimmerman island in Dandridge/ Sevierville Tn? I’m curious about the confusion, can it not be proven for certain?

    Reply
  2. Because Charles Hudson told them so. Did you read my article about the professors on the De Soto Route committee coming to Asheville and being told that no towns on the French Broad were occupied in the mid-1500s – and ignoring us?

    Chiaha was described as being downstream where three mountain rivers come together. There are no rivers upstream from Zimmerman Island.

    I will write an article about it tomorrow that will explain everything.

    Reply
  3. wakefieldrising@gmail.com'

    Fascinating as always Richard! Thanks for all that you do!!

    Reply

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