The Trail to Yupaha
This is a 16 part series leading up to and including the premier of a new
series on the H2 channel called "Unearthing America." Take a walk with Richard
through history as he explains how he stumbled upon what could prove to be one
of the most sensational "finds" in America during the 21st Century.
Unearthing American will debut on 12/21/12 (yes... that day... the end of
the Mayan calendar) on the History2 channel... it will premier with a show on
the stone walls surrounding Track Rock Gap and how they relate to the Mayan
June 21, 2011 – It was a magnificent Summer Solstice in the Georgia
Mountains. There was barely a cloud in the sky. After hoeing my little
garden next to the former egg hatchery in which I was “camped out,” I decided
to celebrate the arrival of summer by taking the three canine musketeers for a
hike near the source of the Nantahala River in North Carolina. It was in a 3,600
feet high gap along US 64 between Murphy and Franklin. It had been the dogs'
favorite camp site a year earlier when we were living in a tent.
The little chicken hatchery was only about a mile from Track Rock Gap Road.
The most direct route to the Nantahala River's source passed through Track Rock
Gap, where the famous petroglyphs are located. On the way back from the
excursion, the whim suddenly hit me of taking another look at the petroglyphs.
Even though I now lived only about five minutes from the petroglyphs, I had not
seen them in about five years. The petroglyphs had deteriorated further in
those five years. There was not much to look at.
In pantomime language that only a trainer of herd dogs would understand, my
canine companions told me that they were thirsty and also wanted to relieve
themselves. I noticed what appeared to be a ravine across the road from
the U.S. Forest Service parking lot at Track Rock Gap. In the Georgia Mountains,
ravines almost always mean a spring or brook is nearby.
We had to walk about a 100 yards southward to reach a power line right of way,
which could give access to Track Rock Gap Branch. A “branch” is a “brook” in the
Southern English dialect. Within the mowed grass of the right of way, I
immediately noticed the footprint of a long fieldstone wall. All that was
left was its foundation. Apparently the Blue Ridge Electric Membership
Cooperative had removed the upper levels of the wall, when clearing the right of
way. The rock work was very old. Closer to the ravine was the
footprint of a shorter wall. The area around Track Rock Gap Branch had
been altered at some time in the past. It appeared to have been dammed
long ago. Also, the sides of the presumed retention pond had been
straightened. Immediately beyond the stream, I found some extremely old
fieldstone retaining walls. They were curved and formed terraces on the slope.
- Georgia Cultural Periods
From the ealiest Paleo-Indian period the writer steps the reader through the
various cultural periods as they influenced Georgia's indigenous Peoples…
Archaic, Woodland, Southeast Cermemonial, Etowah, and Lamar Culture periods
are covered as well as through the early European contact periods. A firm
understanding of the different cultural periods in Georgia's Native American
history is important in identifying when the Track Rock Gap area was
- The “Discovery” of Track Rock Gap
In June of 2011, very few people outside some of the staff at the U.S.
Forest Service Office in Gainesville, GA even knew that there was a large
complex of stone structures on the east side of Track Rock Gap. Even though
the staff has had an archaeological report about this extremely important
site for over a decade, it had allowed vines and scrub vegetation to
continue growing in the stone ruins. No university archaeological program
was invited to study the Track Rock terrace complex any further. Apparently,
most Georgia archaeologists were unaware that such an unusual complex was
located in their state until December of 2011. No sign at the boundary of
this archaeological zone was installed until spring of 2012.
- Archaeological Evidence
While on the lookout for possible 17th century Spanish Sephardic gold mining
village sites, the writer found enigmatic field stone walls across the road
from the Track Rock Petroglyphs. He asked around Union County, where he
lived, for any information about artifacts found near the walls. Soon a
gentleman living near Track Rock Gap emailed him an archaeological report
prepared after a survey of Track Rock Gap in 2000 and 2001 by Johannes
- Facts and Myths About Track Rock Gap
The second part of the Loubser report discussed some Cherokee legends about
the Track Rock Gap petroglyphs and terraces that claim a Cherokee origin.
However, he left out an important Cherokee legend that remembers the Track
Rock terraces as the ruins of a “Creek” town. This section analyzes Cherokee
traditions about this archaeological zone.
- Yupaha, AKA Great Copal
This section examines a legend from the Kashita branch of the Creek
Confederacy, which seems to refer to the Track Rock site. French and
Spanish colonial archives that relate to the Track Rock area will also be
- A Summer Fellowship
One never knows when some seemingly insignificant experience will one day in
the future have great significance. The writer finds himself in such a
circumstance when provided a fellowship by Georgia Tech to spend a summer
studying the indigenous architecture and town planning of Mesoamerica.
During this fellowship he met Dr. Roman Piña-Chan of the Museo Nacional de
Antropologia, and the questions pondered by the good Doctor has left a
stalwart impression on the writer's mind. Why were there cultural
similarities between the Mayan and Creek cultures?
- Archaeological site 9UN367
Archaeological site 9UN367, the Track Rock Terrace Complex, is unlike any
documented Mississippian Period community in the United States. In fact,
there is a high probability that the term “Mississippian” will go out of
vogue after Track Rock is thoroughly studied. The first step in
understanding the site was a geo-spatial analysis of the terraces in the
context of indigenous communities that were developing at the same time the
terraces were being constructed and cultivated.
- Track Rock Gap Archaeological Zone
Throughout all of the summer and early fall, dense vegetation, merciless
blackberry vines and poison ivy made it impossible to see much of
archaeological site 9UN367. In fact, the writer could not even find the
Vent Trail, which was supposed to give access to the heart of the
archaeological zone. The U.S. Forest Service had not erected a sign, which
denoted where the Vent Trail branched off from the Arkaquah Trail. By the
beginning of the fourth week in November of 2011, several hard freezes and a
torrential rain storm had eliminated most of the undergrowth on the sides of
Track Rock Gap. It was finally possible to visit all sections of the site.
The writer climbed the full height of the known archaeological zone on
Thanksgiving Day, November 24, 2011… what he found is controverting the
traditional archaeological view of the Georgia Mountains and the Native
Americans who lived there.
- An Overview of Mesoamerican History
A series of television documentaries timed to coincide with the recycling of
the Maya Long Count calendar have given the general public an impression
that southern Mesoamerica became a uninhabited desert after around 900 AD.
That was not the case. Many large cities in the southern half of Maya
country were abandoned. Apparently, most of the elite were either killed or
deported. Construction of sophisticated ceremonial architecture ceased. Many
areas of the Highlands that were devastated by volcanic eruptions were
temporary abandoned. It was NOT, however, the end of the Mesoamerican