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The Erection of Mounds

It has been perceived by a part of the preceding observations, that the Indian theology recognizes deities of Good and Evil, to one or both of whom they offer sacrifices. These sacrifices, when they are made to propitiate the deity, or avert a calamity, as sickness in the family, which is one of the most common and general modes of affliction in which an Indian s heart is melted into sympathy, these sacrifices, I remark, in such cases often consist of some cherished object in the animate or inanimate creation, hung up at the lodge door, on a high peeled pole, and exposed thus to dangle in the air. Scarlet cloth, which is a favorite color; ribbons, which are bought at a high price; the wings of a bird, or, when the appeal is strong, a small dog, which has first been devoted to the sacrificial knife, are thus offered. Other, and more general objects of request, calamities to be avoided, or luck to be secured, are expressed by some cherished thing, such as a piece of tobacco, which is deemed a sacred plant, thrown into the water or fire, or left upon a rock. Still another mode of making an acceptable offering, is by the incense of tobacco, burned in the pipe, the fumes of which, as they rise and mingle with the air, where gods and spirits are thought to dwell, is considered one of the most acceptable of sacrifices. When such offerings are made, the weed has been lighted from fire newly obtained from the flint, and not from common fire; and the offering is always...

Antiquities of North America

In the absence of any written record of those numerous races which formerly peopled this hemisphere, information must be sought in their monuments, and in the disinterred relics of their ancient manner of life. These, considering the almost unbroken wilderness which presented itself to the first white adventurers, are surprisingly numerous. They indicate the former existence of populous nations, excelling in many of the arts of civilization, and capable, by their numbers and combination, of executing the most gigantic works for religion, public defense, and common oration of the dead. Such relics, though, for the most part, not immediately pertaining to the history of the Indian tribes, have supported the conjectures advanced by Humboldt and other eminent cosmographers, that these races are but the dwindled and degraded remains of once flourishing and populous nations. The retrograde process, to which certain forms of incomplete civilization appear doomed, has perhaps been most strikingly exemplified in the difference to be discovered between the feeble and scattered tribes of the red race, and those powerful and populous communities who occupied the soil before them. The relics of the former people, usually discovered on or slightly beneath the surface of the ground, are of a rude and simple character, differing little from the specimens common among their descendants of the present day. The flint arrow-head, chipped painfully into shape the stone tomahawk, knife, and chisel the pipe, the rude pottery and savage ornaments, are their only relics; and these differ but little from the same articles still fabricated by their successors. Except among the Esquimaux, who occasionally use stone, and who avail themselves of...

Why and How did Native Americans Build Mounds

“Indian mound” is the common name for a variety of solid structures erected by some of the indigenous peoples of the United States. Most Native American tribes did not build mounds. The majority were constructed in the Lower Southeast, Ohio River Valley, Tennessee River Valley and the Mississippi River Valley. Some shell mounds can be found along the entire length of the United States’ Atlantic Coast.

Peachtree Mound near Murphy, North Carolina

The Peachtree Site had one of the few Hierarchal Period mounds in the North Carolina Mountains that has been excavated by professional archaeologists. The Heye Foundation studied the mound during the early 1900s in the same period that it excavated the Nacoochee Mound in the Georgia Mountains. Unfortunately, this work was done in an era when neither precise aerial photography nor radiocarbon dating was possible. Also, archaeologists of this era were primarily interested in obtaining “trophy” artifacts for their museum and benefactors in the Northeast. Little attention was given to the town as a whole, or its chronology. Most of the mound was destroyed. Farmers leveled what remained after the archaeologists left. However, many mounds are still visible on satellite color and infrared maps.

Nacoochee Mound, Nation’s First Gold Rush

One of Georgia’s most beloved landmarks, the Nacoochee Mound, has a fascinating history For generations of Georgians, and now the endless line of Floridians seeking cool nights, the Nacoochee Mound has announced to passersby that they are REALLY in the mountains. It is the gateway to Helen, GA a tiny lumber mill hamlet that was remade into an “alpine village” and now is an international tourist attraction. One senses that mankind has been in the Nacoochee Valley a long, long time. It has that feeling of a place with history. Its true history will surprise you. There is a Georgia State Historical Marker that informs tourists that the Nacoochee Mound was built by the Cherokee Indians; was the Cherokee town of Guasile; was visited by Hernando de Soto in 1541, and was excavated by archaeologists from the Heye Foundation in 1915. The only statement on the marker that is true, is about the Heye Foundation. Those archaeologists specifically stated that the mound was built by ancestors of the Creek Indians – no Cherokee artifacts were uncovered. Guasile was actually spelled “Guaxile” in the chronicles of the de Soto Expedition. However, it is a Creek word, meaning “Southerners.” Guaxile was probably either in modern day Franklin or Cullowhee, North Carolina.. It is highly unlikely that de Soto passed through the Nacoochee Valley. There is a strong possibility, however, that Spanish explorer Juan Pardo passed through the valley. Meanings of the Native American place names in the Nacoochee Valley There is a Georgia State historical marker in the Nacoochee Valley that explains that Nacoochee was “a beautiful Cherokee princess, who fell in...

Master Farmers and Mound Builders

Around 900 AD a massive, five-side mound was constructed near the modern-day village of Sautee. It was at the foot of Yonah Mountain and aligned directly with the longitude of the new town of Ocmulgee, about 145 miles to the south. This mound was not occupied very long. Around 1050 AD astronomer-priests arrived in the Nacoochee Valley from the new town of Etalwa (Etowah Mounds.) They designated a location in the valley where the natural mountain peaks to mark the solstices and equinoxes of the sun. A small mound was constructed at this spot and a hamlet grew up around it. The priests, called Keepers, also introduced the large scale cultivation of corn, beans, squash and pumpkins. Poles placed atop the small mound were used to tell the farmers when to plant their seeds and harvest their crops. The new mound grew slowly in size. Each time the Chief Priest-leader of the religious shrine died, the temple was razed and the mound expanded. With the rise of the Kusa (pronounced Kau-sha in the Hitchiti-Creek language of its people) both the mound and the village increased dramatically in size. The Kusa capital was to the west on the Coosawattee River, The additions to the mound made it oval shaped and oriented to the west – the setting sun on the Equinox. This was the Kusa tradition. News of the appearance of strange light-skinned men with powerful weapons probably reached the Nacoochee Valley, shortly after the Spanish attempted to found their first colony on the South Atlantic Coast, somewhere between Charleston, SC and St. Marys, GA. The first actual visit to...

Biltmore Mound, Asheville, North Carolina

During the 1980s American scholars suddenly became interested in Spain’s efforts to colonize the North America. For 200 years American history books had generally ignored the Spanish and French presence in North America prior to the English colonies winning their independence. Generations of students here were under the impression that no white man had set foot on the continent until brave Englishmen founded a short-lived colony on Roanoke Island, NC in 1585. Well, while all the history books were being printed in Boston, probably most students had the impression that the first colony was founded by the Pilgrims in 1621 on Massachusetts Bay! The earlier colonies at Roanoke Island and Jamestown, VA were painted as a typically inept effort by lazy Southern aristocrats, who would later start a Civil War. First, the victorious British, and then, the propagandists of the new American republic wanted erase all memories of non-English speaking peoples ever having a legitimate claim to the lands they conquered. The Natives, of course, were barbaric savages thinly scattered across the landscape, who selfishly wanted to keep their lands for themselves. The Spanish and French were painted as lazy aristocrats, who briefly passed through the countryside, treated the Indians with extreme cruelty, and then were too incompetent to found permanent settlements. The facts were something very different. The first attempt to found a colony in North America was by the Spanish at Sapelo Island, GA in 1526. By the end of that century, there were twice as many Spanish missions and mission Indians on the 90 mile long coast of Georgia, as there ever were on the 800...

Adena Mounds of the Ohio River Valley

Around 1000 BC a stocky, broad headed people migrated into the Upper Ohio Valley. Their original home was probably in the Southeast since their physical appearance was identical to that of the peoples who built the platform village at Poverty Point, LA and the shell rings on Sapelo Island. (See previous articles on those locations.) Another hint about their place of origin was that unlike their new neighbors, they knew how to make pottery. The oldest known pottery in the Western Hemisphere was found in the Savannah River Basin of Georgia. Ceramic technology spread very slowly elsewhere. It did not reach Mexico until around 1500 BC. Archaeologists have labeled these immigrants, the Adena People. That name in turn comes from the Adena Mound, near Adena, Ohio. During the first 200 years in their new home, the Adena were not remarkably different than their neighbors, other that they made pottery. Then, around 800 BC, the Adena people began to create mounds in their villages, initially by dumping detritus in the same spots for generations. By 300 BC they were intentionally piling soil and clay into geometric forms. Their later, more sophisticated, earthworks were aligned to the solar azimuth and perhaps some stars. Over time, some of their cone shaped mounds became extremely large – up to seventy high at the Grave Creek Mound in Wheeling, WV. Most of the larger mounds appear to have been burial mounds, and show no evidence of ever supporting buildings. The cone shaped mounds were usually surrounded by ceremonial ditches and earth berms. The circular enclosures typically had 30 feet+ openings facing the south or...

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