Collection: The Trail to Yupaha

Mesoamerican Geographical Names in the Southeast

Am Ixel: This is a Chontal Maya word, which means Place of the Goddess, Ixel. She was the goddess of fertility in Classic Maya times and also the goddess of the new moon in Post Classic times. Both the coastal plain of Tamaulipas State and the Gulf Coast between Mobile, AL & Cedar Key, FL were recorded by the Spanish as being named Amichel. Apparently, the Spanish never recognized the connection. Ixel was the favorite goddess of the Chontal Maya, who were considered illiterate barbarians by the Classic Period Maya. For them, she was also the patron ‘saint” of young, single Maya women and was often portrayed with her pet rabbit. Altamaha River: The upper section of this river in southeastern Georgia was the domain of the Tama-tli during the 1500s through the early 1700s. They also had large colonies in the North Carolina Mountains between Murphy and Andrews, plus the Keowee River in South Carolina. Al-tamv-ahv could be translated as “Territory of the Tamau Lord” or “Territory of the Tamau’s River.” Callimaco River: The Tennessee River was originally named the Callimaco (Kallimako) River. Trade jargons used by the Chontal Maya varied with their bases of operation. In northern Vera Cruz, Tlaxpala and Tamaulipas, their dialect mixed Nahuatl with Maya and Totonac. In that dialect, Kalli-mako would mean “House of the King.” The word has no meaning in modern...

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Mesoamerican Words in Itsate

Both Itsate and Muskogee have borrowed words from other languages. In fact, Muskogee is the most aberrant of all the Muskogean languages. Prior to the European Colonial Period the Muskogee speakers were a minority among the ancestors of the Creeks, but rose rapidly to power after the Itsate provinces were almost wiped out by plagues and slave raids. The original homeland of the Muskogee in the East was a triangle along the middle section of the Chattahoochee river, eastward to the area around Macon, GA. Muskogee seems to have been a blend of Itsate with a non-Muskogean language spoken along the Chattahoochee River, when the Muskogee arrived. On the other hand, Itsate appears to have originally been a dialect of Alabama, but was altered by contact with Mesoamericans. The grammar and basic vocabulary of Itsate is similar to Alabama. However, it has many words associated with government, architecture and agriculture which are pure Mesoamerican words. Itsate is to Alabama as English is to Old Anglo-Saxon. The evolutionary process of both languages seems to have been similar. For 200 years, the Norman French nobility spoke French while the commoners spoke Old English, which was evolving in response to the influence of French words being spoken by the elite. It could very well be that the elite of some of the provinces visited by de Soto and Pardo spoke a Mesoamerican...

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The Native American Holocaust

The population of Mexico began to drop almost immediately after the arrival of the Spanish in 1519. A smallpox plague devastated the population of Tenochtitlan while it was under siege by the Spanish. Many other European diseases spread across Mexico and Central America in the years that followed.  Even prior to the Cortez Expedition, a smallpox plague devastated the Yucatan Peninsula, the Caribbean Islands and the advanced peoples living around the Mobile and Pensacola Bays on the Southeastern Gulf Coasts. Several European plagues that swept through Mexico during the 1500s and early 1600s killed anywhere from 30% to 80% of the indigenous population. However, the worst plagues of all might have been a homegrown beast, but it is strange that it seldom affected immigrants to Mexico who were from Europe or Africa.  This fact would suggest that the plague was a mutation of some pathogen that Old World residents were long immune to. It was a hemorrhagic fever, called cocoliztli in Nahua that could kill victims in hours, but typically killed in 3-4 days. It only affected populations living in the highlands. The host of this pathogen was apparently an animal or insect that only lived in cooler, temperate climates.  Both of the mega-epidemics of this disease occurred during the worst droughts in 600 years. The 1545 epidemic killed 85% of the indigenous population of the Mexican highlands. There...

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Mexican Native Americans

As mentioned, three major centers of advanced culture blossomed around 900 AD and quickly disappeared around 1150 AD.  They were the Toltec capital of Tula, the trade megapolis on the Ocmulgee River in central Georgia, and the cluster of towns connected by canals and raised bed roads around Lake Okeechobee.  The causes of their contemporary rise and fall have not been studied by archaeologists and geologists.  In fact, very few of these scientists seemed to be aware of the coincidence. Etula in northwest Georgia and Ichese in central Georgia continued to prosper for 50 years after the abandonment of the acropolis of Ocmugee.  However, both were severely damaged by floods which caused the nearby river (Etowah or Ocmulgee) to cut a new channel across their respective horseshoe bends. Itza and Putan Maya (c. 900 AD – 1240 AD) It is quite possible that the Itza Mayas were not ethnically Mayas, but a South American or Central American people who migrated into Mesoamerica. The Itza priests had a secret language they called the language of Zuyva  The Classic Mayas said the Itza’s were foreigners who spoke their language brokenly. This suggest that they probably were not native Mayanspeakers and thus not really “Maya.” The period between 900 AD and 1250 was the Golden Era of the Itza Maya of the Yucatan Peninsula. They ruled their domain from Chichen Itza.  There...

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The North Atlantic Tsunami

Between 2007 and 2012 scholars became aware of several archives and geological records, which described a catastrophic tsunami in the North Atlantic in 1014 AD. The date is especially relevant to the study of the Track Rock terraces. Currently, the oldest radiocarbon date for an agricultural terrace at Track Rock is c. 1018 AD – which actually could be 30 years in either direction. Forensic geologist Dallas Abbott of the Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University has found evidence of a large meteor or comet strike in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, which hurled extraterrestrial debris over 3800 km (2361 miles) to a bog in the Black Rock Forest in New York. The material was dated to around 1014 AD. Abbot also found debris from a meteor or comet strike in the Lesser Antilles in the Caribbean Basin that also dated to 1014 AD. It is likely that the damage wrought by this tsunami (or multiple tsunamis) was similar to the one in the Indian Ocean on December 26, 2004. The scale of this disaster would have had a major cultural impact on the indigenous peoples of the Americas. There are stone inscriptions of a great flood along the coast of Mexico and Central America in the early 11th century AD. It is possible that the Aztec legend of the death of the Fourth Sun originated in...

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Late Woodland Cultures in the Southeast

In the Southeast, construction stopped at large Swift Creek ceremonial towns such as Leake Mounds in Cartersville, GA and Kolomoki Mounds in extreme southwestern Georgia around 650 AD. Apparently, the populations of these towns dropped substantially. Swift Creek Culture village sites were established in the upper Piedmont and Southern Highlands during this time.  The Weeden Island Culture, which replaced Swift Creek in the Gulf Coastal Plain continued.  Many of its ceramics had a distinct Caribbean or northern South American “feel” to them. While the Middle Woodland Cultures in the Southeast seemed to be waning, the population and cultural development in the Lake Okeechobee Region of southern Florida exploded after 600 AD.  The people of its many towns did not seem to be economically linked to those living in the interior of the Southeast. (See section on Lake Okeechobee.) While the Swift Creek Culture was pushed to the margins of lower Southeast, a new Late Woodland manifestation appeared called the Napier Culture. It was concentrated in the southern edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains and Upper Piedmont of Georgia, where precipitation maintained more normal patterns.  Napier towns built platform mounds, some of them very large.  There was extensive use of the bow & arrow, while corn was cultivated on a larger scale than during Swift Creek period. Woodstock Culture (c. 800 AD – 1000 AD): Archaeologist still debate is this...

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The Toltecs are associated with a single city, about 100 miles north of Mexico City. It is known today by the Totonac word for town, Tula.  However, that was also the probable name of Teotihuacan.  The city probably had another name.  The problem is now, anthropologists are not even sure what ethnic group lived there.  The city was contemporary with the Totonac and Huastec civilizations, but its architecture bears no resemblance to either.  What the architecture of Tula No. 2 does resemble is the Native American city in southern Illinois now called Cahokia.  Tula’s pyramids are earth and rubble veneered with stone and plaster, while Cahokia’s pyramids were all earthen. Scholars long assumed that the Aztec version of history, in regard to the Toltecs, was accurate.  These Aztecs stated that the Toltecs were originally Chichimec barbarians like themselves, who eventually became great artisans and scholars.  The word means “artisans” in Archaic Nahuatl. Toltec civilization did not quite have the sophistication of the Mayas. The final form of its architecture was simpler and more martial in appearance than that of the Mayas. The Toltecs utilized a logoglyphic writing system that probable was incapable of transmitting complete sentences or verb tenses. According to several Mesoamerican legends, Tula was founded around 900 AD by newcomers to its region.  Neighboring provinces tried to drive the newcomers out. In the Nahuatl version, Cē Ācatl...

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Totonac Civilization

Shortly after the abandonment of Teotihuacan, cities began developing in northern Vera Cruz. The location of Teotihuacan had become quite arid as today, while Vera Cruz benefited from have a lower altitude and proximity to the Gulf of Mexico. The descendants of the builders of these cities called themselves the Totonacs and they claim to have also once been the elite of Teotihuacan. The architecture of these cities, the best known being El Tajin and Cempoala, shared some decorative details with Teotihuacan, but architectural forms and city plans were quite different.  The Totonacs learned how to make pozzolanic concrete. ...

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Late Classic Maya Heartland

The populations of Maya cities and countryside exploded after the mid-Sixth century hiatus. Several cities reached over 100,000 people. According to NASA archaeologist Tom Sever, the Mayan civilization in Mesoamerica was one of the densest populations in human history. At its zenith around 800 AD, the total population was probably in the range of 22 million.  Prior to the analysis by NASA most archaeologists assumed that the total population was in the range of 10 million. Slavery: Paralleling the population growth was general affluence, which enabled the Maya elite to import and export commodities and artistic creations to and from long distances.  The carrying of commodities between cities was all done by slaves.  In fact, virtually all manual labor, except farming, was done by slaves.  At least 20% of the population were slaves; more likely the figure was in the range of 40%. The percentage of slaves in ancient Rome was 40%.  There were many counties in the antebellum South with over half their population being slaves.  In 1710 60% of South Carolina’s population was enslaved.  On the eve of the Civil War, 49% of the population of Mississippi was enslaved. Chontal Maya traders would have required huge inventories of slaves to carry their goods to the cities in the interior and paddle their boats in the ocean and in rivers.  They also would have been in an ideal...

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Tabasco and Chiapas

The southern end of Vera Cruz and all of Tabasco in Mexico are not significantly different in appearance than southeastern Georgia.  Most of the region is level and humid, with many swamps and natural lakes. The coast of Tabasco is lined with tidal marshes almost identical to those of the coast of Georgia.  Although most of the indigenous inhabitants of Tabasco are called Mayas, most are descended from ethnic groups that were not true Mayas, but absorbed varying degrees of Maya culture.  One group, the Tamauli were originally refugees from Tamaulipas State in the northeastern corner of Mexico. This...

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The Indigenous Peoples of Northern Georgia

During the earliest part of this Paleo-Indians period, an ice sheet covered the portion of North America above the Ohio River. Brasstown Bald probably had a permanent ice cap, while permafrost characterized its upper elevations. No evidence of glaciers has been found. The valleys around Brasstown Bald would have been similar in appearance to those near the mountains of New England and Southern Quebec today. This Late Sub-Boreal Period evolved into an Isothermal Period in which northern and southern plant species grew in proximity. Vegetation grew throughout much of the year. This made possible the large mega-fauna populations. Around...

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Site Tour of the Track Rock Gap Archaeological Zone

1 – Vent Trail: The entrance to the Vent Trail was only about 125 feet from Track Rock Gap Road.  The Vent Trail appeared to be an old logging road that varied from about eight to fourteen feet wide.  The trail’s lack of use had allowed dense stands of wild blackberries to grow up at the entrance along sections exposed to sunlight.  Since the trail leads to the dormant volcanic vent, it is also possible that centuries of foot and horse traffic have widened the original trail to the scale of a road. Until this point in time, we...

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A Geospatial Analysis

As stated in Part Three, the Stratum Unlimited, LLC report in 2001 (Other Missing Stone Archaeological Sites) virtually ignored the Native American communities in northern Georgia. Almost all were contemporary with the occupation of the Track Rock Terraces. This omission was particularly inexcusable for the town sites that were adjacent to the two creeks, which flow off of Track Rock Gap, Town Creek and Arkaqua Creek.  In 1930s and 1940s, archaeologist George Wauchope found evidence of long term occupancy at these sites that apparently began before the Track Rock terraces were constructed, and sometimes continued into the Federal Period....

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Trade Routes in the Lower Southeast

The memoir of French explorer, René Goulaine de Laudonniére state that the predominate flow of trade in the Lower Southeast in the late 1500s was north-south.  Greenstone, gold, ocher, mica, crystals, precious stones and silver that was mined in the Southern Highlands, were traded for salt, shells, grain, skins, furs, colorful clays, dried fish and dyes obtained from lower altitudes.  He emphasized that the desire to control the cargos of greenstone and gold from the mountains was the cause of many wars. A major trade route passed through Track Rock Gap, but it was not the most important one. The two most important trade routes ran through the Appalachian Valley in northwestern Georgia and the Savannah River Basin – Unicoi Gap – Dillard Gap in northeastern Georgia.  These were the only portals through the Southern Highlands that offered a reasonably level passage from one side of the mountains to the other.  The major trail paralleled the Savannah River up to the confluence of the Tugaloo and Seneca Rivers. One branch cut westward to the Nacoochee Valley and then northward through the Unicoi Gap to the Hiwassee River.  The other branch followed the Tugaloo River northwestward to the nearby source of the Little Tennessee River. It then went through Dillard Gap and followed the Little Tennessee all the way to the Tennessee River. The Great White Path or Etowah Trail...

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I knew so little back then. I had only the slightest grasp of my Creek Indian heritage.  I couldn’t even begin to answer Dr. Piña-Chan’s questions.  I did tell him that we had a lot of gold in the Georgia Mountains, but our archaeologists said that the Indians didn’t know anything about it.  Even then, however, I agreed with Dr. Piña-Chan. Why would our Indians be so skilled with working copper, which is also abundant in some parts of the mountains, but not work gold? Well, anthropologists knew so little back then, too.  They were just beginning to translate Maya glyphs. They were completely baffled by the abandonment of the Maya cities.  They had no clue that Maya urbanization once covered much of the landscape of the Yucatan Peninsula, Chiapas and the Petan. Fortunately, I kept a journal that summer to jog my memory on what I saw.  However, in addition, the opportunity to meet on a personal basis with a man of his professional stature somehow left an indelible  record in the remote corner of my memory bank. It was a scene in the movie, Apocalypto, however, that brought all those memories back. The recently captured slaves are being marched into the Maya city to be processed.  They passed through a limestone quarry.  All the quarry slaves were wearing white turbans identical to those on the famous marble...

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