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Title: Ocmulgee National Monument—Georgia - National Park Service Historical Handbook Series No. 24
Author: Pope, G. D.
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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[Illustration: NATIONAL PARK SERVICE: March 3, 1849]

                      Fred A. Seaton, _Secretary_

                         NATIONAL PARK SERVICE
                      Conrad L. Wirth, _Director_


This publication is one of a series of handbooks describing the
historical and archeological areas in the National Park System
administered by the National Park Service of the United States
Department of the Interior. It is printed by the Government Printing
Office and may be purchased from the Superintendent of Documents,
Washington 25, D. C. Price 25 cents.

                      National Monument · Georgia

                          _by_ G. D. Pope, Jr.

[Illustration: ]

                        Washington, D. C., 1956

_The National Park System, of which Ocmulgee National Monument is a
unit, is dedicated to conserving the scenic, scientific, and historic
heritage of the United States for the benefit and enjoyment of its



In presenting this reconstruction, based in a large measure upon
interpretations which took their origins from the work conducted at
Ocmulgee, the National Park Service would like to acknowledge the debt
of archeology to three gentlemen of Macon, Ga. Charles C. Harrold,
Walter A. Harris, and Linton M. Solomon were aware of the importance of
the large mound and village site close to their community and deeply
interested in its thorough study and ultimate preservation. It was
through their devoted efforts that the large-scale excavations were
undertaken, and the site of this important work preserved as Ocmulgee
National Monument.


  THE AMERICAN INDIAN                                                   2
  MAN COMES TO GEORGIA                                                  7
  FOOD FROM THE WATERS                                                 12
  POTMAKING BECOMES AN ART                                             19
  TEMPLE MOUNDS AND AGRICULTURE                                        28
  EARLY CREEKS                                                         40
  OCMULGEE OLD FIELDS                                                  48
  GUIDE TO THE AREA                                                    55
  HOW TO REACH THE MONUMENT                                            57
  ABOUT YOUR VISIT                                                     58
  ADMINISTRATION                                                       58
  SUGGESTIONS FOR FURTHER READING                                      58

[Illustration: Ancient Life at Ocmulgee. Artist’s conception of temple
mound village of about A. D. 1000, seen from the riverside.]

[Illustration: Men at work building a mound.]

From the middle of the 18th century until 1934 the Indian mounds near
the present city of Macon, Ga., had been a subject for speculation to
all who saw them. A ranger journeying with Oglethorpe, founder of the
Georgia Colony, mentions “three Mounts raised by the Indians over three
of their Great Kings who were killed in the Wars.” A more discerning
traveler in the same century could learn that contemporary Indians and
generations of their ancestors knew nothing of the origin of these
mounds, where ghostly singing was said to mark the early morning hours.
As late as 1930, however, even specialists could only add that the large
pyramidal mound showed connections with the cultures of the Mississippi
Valley and that a second mound had served as a burial mound.

In 1933, it was possible, with labor furnished by the Civil Works
Administration, to begin a systematic exploration of the Ocmulgee mounds
and adjoining sites. This work continued until 1941, most of it being
performed by the Works Progress Administration and the Civilian
Conservation Corps. In 1933, also, the citizens of Macon purchased the
land and gave it to the Nation. Ocmulgee National Monument was
authorized by Congress in June 1934 and established by Presidential
proclamation in December 1936.

Eight years’ work, involving the removal of untold tons of earth and the
recovery of hundreds of thousands of artifacts, has established the
archeological significance of Ocmulgee. It has demonstrated the
existence here in one small area of material remains from almost every
major period of Indian prehistory in the Southeast. Being one of the
first large Indian sites in the South to be scientifically excavated,
Ocmulgee provided many of the important details in our expanding
knowledge of that story.

It is the middle-Georgia chapter of this story we shall tell here. In it
we can follow the Indian almost from the time of his earliest
recognition on this continent to that of his final defeat and later
dispossession by the white man. The period covered may be close to
10,000 years; and while the evidence is often scanty, we can detect in
it the unmistakable signs of steady cultural progress. During that time
the Indian passed from the simple life of the nomadic hunter to the
complex culture of tribes which, enjoying the products of an advanced
agriculture, could devote their surplus energy to the development of
religious or political systems. In the final pages we can study the
effects of the increasing impact of European civilization on the alien
culture of a self-sufficient people.

                          The American Indian

Every school boy knows that at the time of its discovery North America
was the Red Man’s continent. He knows that white people, equipped with
the weapons and knowledge of an advanced civilization, took this land by
persuasion or by force. For most of us our knowledge of the American
Indian begins and ends with the brief interval in time where these two
races were involved in a bitter struggle.

Our knowledge is limited because until recently no one really knew the
answers to such questions as “Where did the Indian come from?” Many
thought that he had been preceded by another race of superior
intelligence, the “Mound Builders”; and in general our information about
him had rested on a great deal of ingenious speculation with very little
actual knowledge to back it up. The people most actively interested in
the problem are the archeologists. They have been studying it
intensively for about 75 years; and, while their work was at first
mostly descriptive, the last 25 years have seen tremendous strides in
both the techniques of their research and the soundness of their
interpretations. Now we know a good deal about the Indian and have
traced his career on this continent back to a time when our own past
becomes almost equally dim and shadowy. But this information is still
mostly to be found in big books, or in special studies that are hard to
obtain; so it may be helpful to outline briefly here what we know today
of the origins and early career of this particular branch of the human

In the Old World, human history has been traced to its beginnings
through fossil remains suggesting a stage of development earlier than
man. In the Western Hemisphere, however, no such remains have been
found, which indicates that the American Indian must have immigrated
here from another continent. In searching for his closest relatives,
therefore, scientists are now agreed that certain physical peculiarities
show the modern as well as the prehistoric Indian to be most closely
linked to the peoples of eastern Asia.

[Illustration: Museum exhibit panel. Arrangement of cultural features

                         WORKING OUT THE PUZZLE

The archeologist determines the chronology of events by location of
materials buried in the earth. Since early material lies below that of
more recent times he can learn what happened, when it happened, and why.
To fill in the gaps he studies changes in styles of pottery, tools and


—By Geology: dating through study of rock formations and fossils found
  with human remains. (Not very accurate)

—By Tree Rings: dating through study of annual rings which indicate
  climate changes. (Accurate only in dry areas)

—By Carbon Fourteen: dating through checking amounts of radio-active
  carbon in charcoal, shell and wood remains. (Accurate but difficult)

[Illustration: Cross section, east slope of Funeral Mound, Ocmulgee
National Monument. Arrangement of construction elements confused by
erosion and wash from top and side of successive mound stages.]


Most living American Indians share with the east Asians a group of
features which are considered to be distinctive of the great Mongoloid
division of mankind. These include: straight dark hair, dark eyes, light
yellow-brown to red-brown skin, sparse beard and body hair, prominent
cheekbones, moderately protruding jaws, rather subdued chin, and large
face. Since the question of race determination, however, is one of
extreme complexity, it should also be pointed out that while the
majority of modern Indians as well as prehistoric skeletal remains in
America share enough of these features in common to be regarded as
predominantly Mongoloid, they as well as the east Asians themselves,
possess other physical traits like stature and head form which vary
widely from group to group. Some of these other traits may be explained
by the influence of different environments acting over long periods of
time, but others point to an admixture of non-Mongoloid features in some
of the earliest migrants to these areas. It is just the meaning of this
mixture of apparently diverse elements which makes the problem of
ultimate origins so difficult; and we shall have to be content for now
with the general relationship which seems to have been established. If
the earliest wanderers to the Americas were primarily a blend of other
racial elements, their influence on the physical type of later American
Indians has been largely submerged by the Mongoloid features of the vast
majority of later arrivals.

Asia, too, is the closest great land mass to this continent, and from it
there are more practicable means of access than from any other area.
Even today the Bering Strait could be crossed by rafts, for islands at
the middle cut the open water journey into two 25-mile stretches.
Eskimos make the trip in their skin boats, or in winter by dog sled over
the frozen surface of the strait. In the past, the journey must have
been even simpler. During the several worldwide glaciations of the
Pleistocene Epoch, a geological period which began more than 600,000 and
ended about 10,000 years ago, great masses of ice spread across the
surface of the continents in the higher latitudes. Since the growth of
these ice sheets was nourished by falling snow, the seas, which supplied
the necessary moisture, were reduced in volume as the ice expanded. The
maximum drop in sea level has been calculated as between 200 and 400
feet, but the floor of Bering Strait is so shallow that a drop of as
little as 120 feet would have been sufficient to create a dry land
bridge between the continents. Further lowering must have increased the
area and elevation of this passage, but the main effect of this was
simply to extend the length of the interval during which the bridge
remained open. This may have continued well into the period of milder
climate after the time of maximum ice advance.

Another peculiar condition in this region at this time was the presence
of considerable areas untouched by glacial ice. These included the
foothills and coastal plain along Alaska’s northern coast as well as the
great central Yukon Valley. This surprising situation was probably due
to the small amount of moisture left in the winds which had passed over
the high and cold mountain chains bordering the southern coast and the
second great mass of the Brooks Range to the north. Furthermore, the
broad Mackenzie Valley, leading south along the eastern slopes of the
Rockies, was the area latest to be covered by glacial ice and first to
open up with the return of warmer conditions. It may even be that the
ice failed to cover this region during the last one or more of the minor
advances which together make up the latest, or Wisconsin, glacial

Taken all together, therefore, the conditions described provided man
with a chilly but relatively dry and passable route from the Asiatic
mainland to Alaska and thence to the warmer interior sections of North
America. For a considerable period this route must have been flanked
with glacial ice lying only a few miles away on one side or both through
a total distance of some 2,000 miles. It is one of man’s distinctive
qualities, however, that he is able to adapt himself to extremes; and it
is probable that the game he lived on was itself acclimated to living
close to the edges of the ice sheets. We are less certain about the
conditions under which this journey was begun at its Asiatic end; but it
seems likely that there, too, ice would have formed in the high mountain
masses, but that the valleys and lowland would have remained open as
they did farther east.

We are confident in our knowledge of where man came from to the New
World and how he was able to make the trip. We are on less certain
ground, however, when we try to determine when he arrived. Estimates
have varied widely, changing with every increase in our knowledge. From
the first enthusiastic attempts to fit the Indian into the Old Stone Age
chronology which was just then unfolding for the Old World, the cold
reasoning of skeptical scientists brought down the maximum age of human
occupation of this hemisphere to something like 3,000 years. Beginning
in 1925, however, a series of finds has provided unquestionable evidence
that men using very distinctive weapons were living on this continent,
largely by hunting the mammoth and a great bison, both now extinct,
during the period when the ice was receding for the last time. The
typical channeled or fluted spear point of this people has even been
found lately along the northern Alaska coast. So, while we still cannot
say that this characteristic artifact was brought from Asia rather than
being developed here in America, it is at least an interesting
coincidence that man hunted large and now extinct game in Alaska in
areas where conditions were at times particularly well suited to his

Other evidence shows that the users of this telltale point were not the
first to live in the region of the western plains; at least some of
their numbers had been preceded by men whose stone work was almost as
unusual and equally easy to identify. Recently developed methods of
dating by the use of radioactive carbon-14 show that the span of time
when the channeled point users, Folsom man, roamed the Plains included
one date of about 8000 B. C. For his predecessors, we feel justified in
pushing this date a good 2,000 or 3,000 years further back; and there
are even hints taken quite seriously by leading archeologists that man
was here many thousands of years before that. We know that the great
climatic swings marking the principal stages of the Pleistocene Epoch
were actually composed of repeated lesser pulsations. Like a mighty
pump, the changing climate worked upon all life within thousands of
miles of the shifting ice fronts, driving it southward with icy winds
and then sucking it back toward the north as cold and damp were replaced
by heat and drought. Man followed the game; and this, rather than any
planned migration, probably accounts for the wide spread of his earliest

American Indians, then, are most closely related to the present
inhabitants of eastern Asia, where they, too, had their origin. They
came to this country as its first human inhabitants some 12,000 to
15,000 years ago at the very least. They did not come all at once, or
even in one limited period of time, but probably in a fairly continuous
succession of small hunting bands following the game. Their earliest
migrations hither were doubtless the indirect result of great
fluctuations in climate which marked the coming and going of the ice
during the glacial age; and it was the peculiar conditions existing
about the present region of Bering Strait that encouraged them to
explore the now accessible region to the east. Once they had reached the
New World, their hunting travels probably carried them back and forth in
both directions so that a knowledge of the seemingly limitless territory
beyond became fairly general.

[Illustration: Broken Clovis point and sharp-cornered scrapers from
Ocmulgee excavations. Point length 3¹¹/₁₆ inches. Artist’s
reconstruction of point at left.]

The disappearance of the land bridge must have been very gradual by
human standards. Successive generations would have found the journey
increasingly difficult, but this would only have led to the adoption of
other measures such as waiting for winter ice or the use of rafts or
boats to cross the widening stretches of open water. Once arrived, they
began to spread out over the country, moving on as the game became
scarce to where it was more abundant, looking for new and unpeopled
areas whenever they began to catch sight too often of members of other
bands hunting the same territory. Not many years would be needed to
cover the vast expanse of the two continents. With movements of only 20
or 30 miles each year, it might have happened in as little as a dozen
generations; but we can say for sure that man had reached southern
Patagonia by about 6000 B. C., possibly far earlier. By then, we may
assume, the new homeland had been explored with some thoroughness; and
portions of it had already been inhabited for thousands of years. It was
by no means filled up; but many of its potentialities were known, and
American Indians were well started on their own peculiar course of

                          Man Comes to Georgia

The roving existence led by these _Wandering Hunters_ brought them into
the region which is now Georgia at a relatively early date. We do not
know by what route they came here, for it is easier to seek out the
geographic limitations which restricted the first migrants to the New
World to a single point of entry than it is to trace the wanderings of
their descendants over some 8,000,000 square miles of North America.
Nevertheless, we are beginning to get a few hints.

[Illustration: Mammoth Hunters, from Museum exhibit panel.]

Fluted point sites have been found in Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and
Virginia; and single fluted points have been found in a number of places
in Georgia, though possibly more often north than south of Macon. One
fluted specimen, however, was actually excavated from the Macon Plateau,
a designation adopted for the hilltop terrain of the Ocmulgee
excavations. The recovery here of other tools of the same greatly
decomposed flint strengthens the likelihood of a true “paleo-Indian”
occupation at Ocmulgee. The inclusion among them of many thumbnail
scrapers of a type recently shown to be distinctive of eastern fluted
point sites is especially significant.

The fluted point, missing the forward one-third of its length, was a
fine specimen of the so-called Clovis type of these artifacts, and so
typical of thousands of such implements which have been picked up at
random in the eastern United States as well as in the West. The Clovis
point is like its Folsom cousin in several ways, particularly in having
a long channel flake removed from one or both of its faces, possibly as
a means of reducing its total thickness, and in the grinding of the edge
along the lower sides and across the base to avoid cutting the lashings
which bound it to the shaft. Like the smaller Folsom point, too, it is
named for a site in the western High Plains, where its position
underlying Folsom on some sites and its association with mammoth bones
give us definite clues to its age west of the Mississippi.

Unlike Folsom, however, the Clovis fluted point is not limited to the
region on the east flank of the Rockies. Instead, it has been found from
Alaska to Costa Rica and from Vermont to Florida. Its use, too, seems to
have been less specialized. Folsom man was a bison hunter; and the
abundant grasses of the Plains probably account for the rather definite
limits of his range. The big Clovis points, on the other hand, were
certainly used on mammoth; but we do not know that this over-sized
quarry was their only target. Possibly the mammoth was more adaptable
than the bison and could seek out other areas as the changing climate
made its accustomed haunts unlivable; or it may have been the Clovis
hunters who were the more flexible and could shift more readily to other
kinds of game when the mammoth disappeared from the scene.

[Illustration: Hunting was hard work. Museum exhibit case.]

The wide geographic range of the point is matched by the variety of
shapes which are included in the type, though all have a family
resemblance built around the distinctive channel formed on one or both
faces. Until it is found in a context permitting direct dating, however,
the real problem in the East hinges on the significance of this family
resemblance. The question is whether this resemblance is a result of
chance, or whether it indicates contact with the makers of the fluted
points in the West whose age is now reasonably well established.

[Illustration: Hunter with atlatl (throwing stick).]

Perhaps the only thing we can say definitely about these early nomadic
hunters would be that their unusual fluted type of projectile point
occurs in the eastern United States and has been found in clearly
defined contexts which suggest a greater age than that known for any
other recognized types in these areas. This distinctive weapon is
thought to be a variety of the western Clovis fluted point, which has
been found in the West beneath Folsom, and therefore antedating 8000 B.

Their simple living was obtained with the aid of a few tools and weapons
of stone and wood. Being constantly on the move, they could erect no
very permanent dwellings; and a rough lean-to shelter was doubtless
their only protection from the elements. Hunting was the major activity
of the men; for, with fish from the streams, the game which they killed
made up the chief element of their diet. The women were not idle,
however; for in addition to preparing the food and caring for the
children, they spent many hours in gathering the nuts, roots, and
berries which made such a necessary and welcome supplement to their
daily fare. It is doubtful that the bow and arrow, which to us are
almost inseparable from our picture of the Indian, had yet been
invented; but the thrusting spear and the thrown javelin were very
effective at close range. At greater distances the hunter could bring
down his game with the dart propelled by a throwing stick. This
increased the effective length of his arm and imparted the resulting
greater thrust to the butt of the shaft.

Also missing in their equipment were the pottery cooking vessels of the
later Indians, which so simplified the preparation of foods by boiling
and thus added variety to the menu. Stone boiling, of course, could be
accomplished by means of heated rocks dropped into some suitable
container, such as a pit in the ground lined with a skin; but the method
was tedious and probably less used for that reason.

Organization for such a life was simple. Since they must move with the
game on which they depended, group size had to be limited; for large
bodies of people could not move easily from place to place. Moreover,
the population was not large, and there was plenty of room to spread
out. For all these reasons the hunting band was probably made up of a
few related families, numbering on the average perhaps 50 people who
habitually camped together. Leadership in such a small group would not
be a matter of too great importance; and the chief might be chosen for
skill in hunting or for an outstanding personality. Possibly he
inherited the office, but in any case his authority is not likely to
have been very great. The band doubtless accepted his choice of
campsite, his direction in the hunt, or arbitration in disputes; but in
doing so it was more likely to be out of respect for his ability than in
recognition of his official position.

Even at this simple stage of culture, though, there were doubtless well
defined rules of conduct. All primitive peoples today share certain
universals of social life. From these we may confidently infer that
every man was part of a clearly defined kin group, that the structure
and relationships of this group determined into what similar group he
might marry, and which were forbidden to him as sources for choosing a
mate. We can also be reasonably certain that while antisocial acts like
murder, adultery, and theft might not be punished by the community at
large, strong measures to hold them in check were generally approved
even though they might have to be initiated privately. In short, the
rudiments of social living were already thousands of years old. The
lives of these early Georgians were different from our own in countless
material ways; but even at this early date their primary problems were
the same as ours. They must have food, shelter, and protection for
individual survival; and the continued existence of the group required
the education of its younger members in the skills and habits and
community organization of their elders. The means to these ends were
crude, and by our standards extremely simple; but they were not
developed without considerable ingenuity; and hard work made up for many
technical shortcomings.

                          Food From the Waters

Our knowledge starts to increase as we come to the period beginning
about 5,000 years ago. Here a few of the details of Indian life in the
Southeast emerge rather clearly. Curiously enough it was the food habits
of these _Shellfish Eaters_ which first led to their identification; and
even today our scanty information on them still tends to center around
this feature of their lives. From the nature of the evidence we will
soon present, it is easy to infer that the principal food of many of the
groups of this period was shellfish. This may not seem especially
remarkable; but we know that, in shifting to a principal reliance on the
lowly mussel, clam, or oyster, they accomplished, in effect, a local
revolution in man’s pattern of living. They had discovered that an
almost inexhaustible supply of these prolific creatures was to be had
for the taking in places along the rivers and the ocean shore where
conditions favored their growth. Perhaps the taste for this form of diet
was difficult to acquire, but once achieved it freed them for
generations from the hard necessity of moving their camp every time the
game grew scarce. At last they could settle in one place; and the
numerous sites they occupied tell us not only that life was easier but
that the abundant food supply contributed also to a marked increase in
the population.

[Illustration: Shellfish Eater campsites were gradually raised on mounds
of their own shell refuse, sometimes even larger than this. Courtesy
Florida Board of Parks and Historic Memorials.]

[Illustration: Dart points of the shellheap dwellers were heavy, but
workmanship varied from crude to very careful. Length, 2¼ to 2⅞ inches.]

Our chief reminder of the presence of these early shell gatherers lies
in the piles of shells which mark the scene of their activities. Of
course the bones of deer, bear, rabbit, turkey, and other wildlife mixed
with the shells show us that to vary their diet they did a good bit of
hunting and fishing as well. The river and coastal shorelines are dotted
with such refuse heaps, often of monumental size, from Florida to
Louisiana and northward inland to the Ohio River and along the coast as
far as Maine. It may be doubted that these were all produced by related
peoples, or that they even represent the same time period; for it is
certain that many of them were still growing in fairly recent years.
Still, the fact remains that in the southern area as far north as
Kentucky and Tennessee the sites represent the oldest camps yet to be
uncovered following the earlier paleo-Indian period; and that besides
the evidence of a remarkably uniform economy, they disclose a great
similarity in the tools, weapons, and ornaments of their inhabitants.

Projectile points (a term we use because “arrowhead” implies use of the
bow and arrow) make up by far the most numerous type of artifact
recovered; and these tend to be long and heavy, although proportions may
be either narrow or broad. The size of these points indicates that
instead of the bow and arrow the dart was used with the “atlatl,” the
Aztec name we have adopted for the throwing stick or spear thrower. This
is confirmed by the presence of many antler hooks for the end of the
throwing stick. Shaped much like the hook of a giant crochet needle,
these engaged the notched butt of the dart shaft. Additional evidence is
found in the special stone, antler, or shell weights which were attached
to the shaft to add momentum to the throw.

[Illustration: Mullers and pot boilers were important kitchen tools.]

Tools included grooved stone axes, chipped drills, and large chipped
knife or scraper blades. Mullers, or flared-end “bell” pestles, were
used to reduce wild plant foods to edible form; but the mortars or trays
with which they were used are thought to have been made mostly of wood.
Vessels of soapstone or sandstone were added to the skinlined pit or
basket, and the flat pieces of steatite with a large hole bored in them
may have been used with these containers for stone boiling. Fish were
caught with bone fishhooks and with nets weighted with grooved or
notched stones. Bone was also used for awls, which were probably
employed in making baskets and for simple stitching operations as in the
making of leather moccasins or leggings, as well as for projectile
points and flaking tools. Bone heads served as ornaments, as did bone
pins which were often decorated, though the plainer ones may have been
used merely to secure clothing. Shell was worked into beads of many
varieties, and into gorgets or pendants in addition to the atlatl
weights mentioned.

[Illustration: Shell mound people of the Archaic period are the first
whose axes we can surely identify. The hafting groove encircled the ax
completely or, in the three-quarter-groove form, was omitted from the
bottom edge. Length, 22 inches.]

Life on the shell mounds, or in the camps along streams and rivers where
this source of food was of minor importance, was hardly different in
most of its material aspects from that of the wandering hunters who had
gone before. Permanent dwellings were still apparently unknown; and the
rough shelters which were built were doubtless much the same crude
lean-to of poles and brush or tree bark as formerly. Areas which appear
to have been floored with clay and the remains of many hearths indicate
that the shell mounds themselves were the actual habitation sites. This
is confirmed by the presence of the numerous articles of daily living
mixed in with the shells. The dead, too, were buried directly in the
mound, most commonly in small round pits which required that the corpse
be tightly flexed. Dogs were also buried in this manner occasionally,
and we can guess either that they were loved by their masters or that
they held some special religious significance. The fact that a very few
shell mounds were intentionally formed into a large ring, as much as 300
feet in diameter, provides a definite hint of religious ceremonialism.
From the few objects of daily use or adornment placed with the dead, we
can assume they believed in an after life.

The life of these Indians continued unchanged in any of its major
features until perhaps 2000 or 1500 B. C. About that time, according to
radiocarbon dating, the knowledge of pottery making seems to have
reached them in some manner which has not yet been determined. Perhaps
they even discovered it for themselves; but it seems more probable that
the idea reached them from some fairly distant tribe, and that by local
experiment they developed their own techniques from a hazy understanding
of the principles involved. At any rate, the upper levels of the older
shell mounds begin to yield “sherds” (fragments) of a coarse undecorated
pottery which contains innumerable tiny holes running through the paste
in all directions. These are the channels which remain after some
vegetable material like grass or moss fibers was burned out when the
vessel was fired. Any substance mixed with the clay to make it easier to
handle and keep it from cracking during the drying out and final firing
of the pot is known as “temper,” and the process itself is called
“tempering.” Later potters learned that a temper of sand, crushed shell,
or, better still, crushed rock or crumbled bits of old pottery made
stronger and better pottery; and therefore “fiber-tempered” wares
usually represent the oldest type of pottery we find in any region where
they occur. While this pottery was undecorated at first, its makers in
the Georgia area later developed a type of decoration composed most
often of lines of indentations, or punctates, made with the point of a
stick or a bone tool.

[Illustration: Except for caves, a rough windbreak to give protection
from bad weather was probably the only shelter known to the earliest

This new item in the household inventory was probably one of the most
significant advances which ever took place in the life of the American
Indian, and second in importance only to the later introduction of
agriculture. With it, the awkward and tedious routine of stone boiling
came to an end, and soups and stews enlarged the menu and became at once
the easiest prepared and one of the most appetizing of the foods used.
Pottery, too, marks a big change in the work of the archeologist when it
appears in the cultures which he is studying. Types of projectile points
and other stone artifacts have a way of continuing in use for long
periods without change. Clay vessels, however, seem to have been
constantly changing in form or decoration or construction, possibly
because the potter’s clay is so plastic and responsive to any fancy it
is desired to express, and there are many different ways of producing
similar results. For this reason, it forms a sensitive indicator of the
passage of time and is one of our best clues to relationships between
sites and the cultures of their inhabitants.

[Illustration: Fiber-tempered pottery might be only a crude beginning of
the potter’s art, but even these vessels were large and strong enough to
be highly useful. Width, 15 inches.]

No sizable shell mounds of these Archaic peoples, as they are known to
the archeologist, have been found in the central-Georgia area. Numerous
sites occur here, however, which contain no pottery but are littered
with scraps of worked flint and where large numbers of the heavy Archaic
projectile points are plowed up annually. At other sites, including
those on the Macon Plateau, these points are found with a considerable
quantity of the distinctive fiber-tempered pottery. It appears,
therefore, that the Shellfish Eaters proper were a limited portion of
the population of that era and that others with just about the same
material equipment followed the old hunting and gathering life in
temporary camps. The shell heaps themselves were occupied for rather
brief periods by single groups of people. Possibly the large shell
mounds represent an annual camping spot for numerous groups who used
them successively and at other times of the year lived chiefly on game
or along the smaller rivers where shellfish were available but not in
such vast quantities. This would account for the smaller accumulations
of shells in some areas; and it could be that recent changes in the
courses of such rivers as the Ocmulgee and the Oconee, brought about by
industrial activity and flood control measures, have resulted in the
obliteration of small heaps of this sort.

In any case, it appears that the Macon Plateau had again demonstrated
its advantages as a habitation site, and that a people with a material
culture similar to that of the Shellfish Eaters dwelt here at intervals
during the period 2000 B. C. to 100 B. C. Their residence was not
continuous for very long at any one time, however, since their lives
depended on hunting. Instead they probably moved about over a fairly
large area, returning every so often to the familiar banks of the
Ocmulgee to set up their village again and to hunt the surrounding
region until the game once more became scarce.

[Illustration: Simple stumping, as in this Mossy Oak jar, often appears
like crude scratching. Height, 10 inches.]

[Illustration: The woven basketry fabric which produced these
impressions is among the earliest recorded in eastern North America.]

                        Potmaking Becomes an Art

The next period which can be clearly identified on the Macon Plateau is
the one whose inhabitants we have called _Early Farmers_. It lasted for
roughly 1,000 years and naturally witnessed considerable change; yet the
evidence for this change in middle Georgia is tantalizingly slender.
There are more and larger sites, and the increase of population
reflected in these might be thought to signify an increased food supply
such as the beginnings of planting and tending a few crops could
produce. Direct evidence for the introduction of such hoe cultivation,
however, is lacking; and we can only say that a number of different
lines of reasoning lead us to believe that some plants—possibly
pumpkins, beans, sunflowers, and tobacco—probably were being cultivated
before the period ended. Through the provision of increased leisure and
stability, an assured food supply may well have been one of the factors
permitting an enrichment of Indian life at this time. Since this cannot
yet be demonstrated, however, we must turn to what we do know. Perhaps
the reader will not be too surprised to learn that we shall again be
talking about pottery, since we have already mentioned it as one of the
archeologist’s most unfailing sources of information.

Like most archeological field work the excavations at Ocmulgee did not
result in an independent body of information which could be added
unchanged to the total fund of our archeological knowledge. We know in
detail what was found; but we must turn to work in nearby and more
distant areas for assistance in its correct interpretation. In the
present case, four main types of pottery occurred more or less
intermixed at almost the deepest levels excavated on the plateau. The
first of these was the fiber-tempered ware described in the previous
section. The other three are tempered with sand or with “grit” (finely
crushed stone) in varying amounts. Like the fiber-tempered pottery these
three types are important time markers in the Southeast. It would be
tedious to go in detail through all the steps involved in placing them
in their proper position in the time scale; but some idea of the nature
of the problem might help us to gain an understanding of its
complexities. It could help us, too, to realize what a jigsaw puzzle an
archeological reconstruction is likely to be.

First let us see what we know about the earliest appearance of pottery
in eastern North America. It has long been thought, and radiocarbon
tests have recently demonstrated, that the earliest pottery known in
this section has come chiefly from the area drained by the Ohio and
Mississippi Rivers from New York State to Illinois and south as far as
north Georgia. This pottery has such close parallels at a like early
period in northeastern Asia that many students believe it may have been
brought here by direct migration, though naturally over a period of
generations. Its chief characteristic is the roughening of its surfaces
with the marks of twisted cords and somewhat later with those made by a
plaited basketry fabric. Here, some believe, must have been the models
which stimulated the shellheap dwellers to their first experiments in
making pottery.

[Illustration: Restored eagle effigy of white quartz boulders near
Eatonton, Ga. Length, 102 feet; width, 120 feet.]

The two sand-tempered wares in the early Macon Plateau collections
referred to above are Mossy Oak Simple Stamped and Dunlap Fabric Marked.
The name of the first of these combines that of the site with which it
was first principally identified with an indication of its general type,
i. e., exhibiting the straight grooves left by the paddle used in
finishing the pot. The paddle itself may have been carved with simple
straight grooves, or it may have been wrapped with a thong or smooth bit
of plant fiber such as honeysuckle vine. Dunlap, on the other hand, is
the name of a family which had long owned a large part of the Ocmulgee
area, while the type designation refers to the use of a piece of woven
basketry used in finishing the vessel.

In order to place these two types of pottery we must examine their
occurrence on the Georgia coast and in north Georgia. Such a study
reveals that the simple stamping follows directly after fiber tempering
on the coast; and that in north Georgia, where the latter is absent, it
lies immediately above a fabric-marked pottery very similar to Dunlap.
It would seem likely, then, that this latter type of pottery might have
worked its way south by the end of the period in which fiber temper was
in vogue. Both types exhibit a kind of finish which, like the early
cordmarking farther north, resulted from techniques that had probably
been found most effective in working the wet clay. Some sort of
implement was needed for thinning and compacting the vessel walls, and
experiment has shown that a paddle with roughened surface is more
efficient for this purpose than a smooth one. No doubt this is caused by
the more tenacious adherence of the wet clay to the latter. In any
event, different ways were found of roughening a flattened stick or
paddle, whether by wrapping various materials about it or carving it
with deep grooves; and some groups may well have rolled up a piece from
an old broken basket or bit of matting and found it equally useful.
Then, if a smooth surface were desired, the marks of any of these
implements could be erased easily by smoothing with a wet hand.

[Illustration: Reconstructed pottery stamps. Designs taken from sherds
excavated at the Swift Creek site. Total length of paddle, 9 inches.]

[Illustration: Fragments of Swift Creek stamp designs. Scale about

The time we have been describing belongs to the general period of
eastern United States archeology known as Early Woodland. The Adena
culture, which apparently spread from centers in the Ohio Valley,
belongs to this period and is well known for its elaborate burial mounds
and other distinctive features which are regarded as typical markers
over a wide area. While no burial mounds are known from middle Georgia
at this time, the fabric-marked and simple-stamped pottery does belong
to a general class of wares occurring also in Adena sites. It seems also
to relate Ocmulgee to a pair of eagle effigy mounds of stone near
Eatonton, Ga.; and bird symbolism is likewise a distinctive Adena
feature, though one more fully developed in the following Middle
Woodland stage. So it appears that a few traits have been found to
connect this period quite definitely with some of the broader currents
affecting other areas in the same time span.

The fourth pottery type found mixed in the lower levels at Ocmulgee was
Swift Creek Complicated Stamped. Actually this was either grit- or
sand-tempered; but its outstanding characteristic was the complex
patterns with which the paddles were carved. The type is named for the
Swift Creek site only a few miles down the river which was occupied
almost exclusively by the people of this culture. This ware covers a
longer time span than the other two types, and its distinctive influence
was exhibited in some sections even into historic times. In its early
stages, it probably served as the source for a tradition of complicated
stamping which covered most of the Southeast and even spread to some
extent beyond its limits. We don’t know just when it began. In northwest
Florida and on the Georgia coast it seems to fall in the Middle Woodland
period. Since the type site, though, is close to its apparent center of
development, its occurrence on the plateau mixed with Mossy Oak and
Dunlap may well represent its true position and thus place its origins
in Early Woodland.

[Illustration: Swift Creek villagers preferred these roughly chipped
axes to ones of ground stone. Many are too light for real chopping and
may have been weapons, kitchen tools, or even digging implements.
Length, 22 inches.]

During its long history, a number of changes may be seen in the form and
decoration of Swift Creek pottery. The commonest vessel shape consists
of a deep jar with slightly flaring rim and nearly conical base. Many of
the earlier pieces had four small bumps at the point of the base, as a
sort of reminder of the feet which were common, also, on earlier pottery
in nearby areas; these disappeared in the later examples. The lip of the
jar, too, was only crudely finished in the earliest forms, being left
rough and irregular or sometimes haphazardly notched or scalloped with
pressure from the potter’s finger. In time the edge tended to be pushed
out a little; and this gradually developed into a smooth outward fold of
the lip and finally a collar of smooth clay about an inch in width about
the rim. This extreme “folded rim,” however, occurs after the Master
Farmer period shortly to be described.

As for decoration, no description can adequately convey the wealth and
variety of complex and often highly attractive designs with which Swift
Creek pottery is stamped. The fragments illustrated give some idea of
the general effect obtained, but only a painstaking reconstruction of
the entire stamp can do them adequate justice. Intricate and beautifully
proportioned combinations of curved and straight lines are numerous.
Despite the cruder efforts which are naturally common, one is constantly
surprised at the artistry exhibited in even the less expertly conceived
decorative motifs.

As we should expect, this form of expression underwent such changes as
might occur in the development of any form of art. The earliest paddles
were carved with many narrow, shallow grooves in a pattern of two or
more chief design elements. Smaller elements were used to connect these,
fill in blank spaces, and generally round out the paddle. In time,
however, the designs grow bolder and were more deeply cut as the motifs
became better organized and as unnecessary filler elements could be
eliminated. These, of course, are not the sort of differences to enable
one to judge a particular sherd as early or late; but in very general
terms, they describe the distinctions which become apparent when large
numbers of sherds from different time periods are examined. It should
also be pointed out that this remarkable pottery style covered such a
wide area that any simplified description can only suggest a few general
features which appear widely applicable, while recognizing that
particular areas had their own varying histories of the type.

[Illustration: Straight tubes of steatite or soapstone are the earliest
known form of pipe. They probably belonged only to shamans or medicine
men. These come from north Georgia. Lengths, 2 inches and 11 inches.]

Nothing has been said about other distinctive features of this period of
development in Georgia. Projectile points vary from heavy, shapeless
forms with stems to smaller triangular ones without. Flat stones with
two holes through them were once presumed to have been used as gorgets,
i. e., hung upon the chest as a sort of decoration, but they may well
have been atlatl weights or served some other purpose. “Boatstones” and
the prismatic form of atlatl weight are also said to occur, but there is
some disagreement on this and even on the continued exclusive use of the
atlatl in this period at all. In some areas the large numbers of smaller
points may suggest that the bow and arrow were beginning to be used. The
characteristic ax of the period was roughly chipped in a double-bitted
form. Steatite or soapstone was still fashioned into crude bowls and the
perforated net sinkers or pot boilers we have noted previously, as well
as into short tubular pipes which are found in the region of central

Just as Mossy Oak and Dunlap in Georgia appear to reflect more
noteworthy developments farther north, so Swift Creek has its more
spectacular parallels, too. These relate to Hopewell, the outstanding
culture of the Middle Woodland period. The Hopewell burial mounds and
other massive and complex earthen structures were accompanied by an
overall artistic achievement in pottery, chipped and polished stone,
bone, sheet mica, and copper which is probably without equal among North
American Indians. These materials were traded far and wide so that
Hopewellian influence is strongly indicated in the neighboring states of
Florida, Alabama, and Tennessee. Even Georgia shows some evidence of
Hopewell connections, although in middle Georgia this is confined to the
complicated stamped pottery. Types evidently related to Swift Creek
occur frequently in classic Hopewell sites. In north Georgia, however,
elaborately carved stone pipes are said to denote this relationship, and
it is even more clearly indicated by a number of burial mounds. One of
them, built of stones, contained a burial displaying such typical
Hopewell features as a covering of mica plates and a breast plate and
celt of copper.

During the Early Farmer period, then, we feel that the Indians in middle
Georgia must have become more settled. Fragile pottery is not easily
carried in any quantity by wandering bands of hunters. On the other
hand, the technique of gathering wild foods is not likely to have become
suddenly so efficient that this alone could account for the large
increase in population which must be reflected in the more numerous
sites. Knowledge of planting and plant care, too, is likely to have
spread piecemeal rather than as a single unit. Hence, as we have already
stated, this seems the most likely period for the Indians to have begun
learning to raise some of the many plants which not too long afterwards
became so important in their existence.

[Illustration: This temple mound is a lasting memorial to the energy of
the Master Farmers, the fourth group to occupy Ocmulgee.]


[Illustration: Early stage in excavation of the ceremonial earthlodge at

In central Georgia, though, we see instead a different side of their
lives. We follow the experiments made by the Indian women of the several
tribes in trying to improve the pottery which had now become such an
important utensil in their homes. Stronger vessels would break less
easily; so paste was improved from time to time, if this end was not
outweighed by other considerations. The attractiveness of the finished
piece, however, was soon a matter of universal concern, at least to the
potters themselves; and as their skill increased and their ideas and
standards became more clearly defined, we can follow a process which
never ceases to astonish us by its workings in our own society. The
whims of fashion surprise and puzzle us today as they are expressed in
our women’s clothing, our automobiles, our houses, and our furnishings.
Evidently, however, if we may judge by the variations in his wife’s
pottery, they were hardly less a problem to the Indian of 2,000 years

                     Temple Mounds and Agriculture

We now come to the period in Ocmulgee history which is the most
plentifully supplied with facts resulting from the excavations. The
_Master Farmers_, which is the name chosen for these people in the
Museum exhibits, were newcomers to Ocmulgee. It may be that their
arrival was strongly resisted by the Early Farmers who had claimed title
to these lands for the past thousand years. About A. D. 900, they moved
into this area, probably from a northwesterly direction, and started to
build villages with some very novel features.

[Illustration: Council meeting in Master Farmer winter temple. Museum

We do not know where this migration had its start; students of the
subject believe that it may have begun in the Mississippi Valley near
the mouth of the Missouri River. We do know, however, that some of their
closest relatives settled in northeastern Tennessee; and perhaps, as the
ancestral group journeyed up the Tennessee River it split apart at the
point of that river’s abrupt northward bend in northern Alabama. Then a
succeeding generation, which took central Georgia for its home, settled
in two places near the Ocmulgee River. The smaller village was about 5
miles below the present city of Macon on a limestone remnant known as
Brown’s Mount; the larger, with which we are here concerned, was the
“Ocmulgee Old Fields” of the early settlers, across the river from the
modern city and adjoining its eastern limit.

The most important feature distinguishing these people from their
predecessors, however, was not their town but their very way of life.
They were farmers; besides tobacco, pumpkins, and beans, they cultivated
the New World staff of life, corn. This way of life enabled them to
settle in one place long enough and in sufficient numbers to create a
large village, and to develop the religious and ceremonial complex which
was expressed in its numerous distinctive structures. They built it on
the rolling high ground above the river, where their square, thatched
houses were scattered among the many buildings connected with their form
of worship. These latter consisted of rectangular wooden structures
which we call temples, and a circular chamber with a wooden framework
covered with clay which was a form of earthlodge. From our knowledge of
the later Indian pattern in this area, we believe that these represented
the summer and winter temples, respectively, of the tribe. Here the
grown men took part in religious ceremonies and held their tribal
councils; and here the chief could render decisions in individual
disputes, or in matters of importance to the tribe as a whole.

[Illustration: A log tomb and its central location may indicate the
principal burial in the first stage of the Funeral Mound. The face-down
position could result from the reassembled bones being wrapped in a skin
or mat for burial.]

[Illustration: Masses of shell beads must have been valued possessions
of many of the earlier temple mound dignitaries.]

Perhaps the single outstanding archeological feature to be disclosed by
the excavations at Ocmulgee is the preserved floor and lower portions of
one of these winter temples. The remains consist of a low section of
clay wall outlining a circular area some 42 feet in diameter. At the
foot of the wall, a low clay bench about 6 inches high encircles the
room and is divided into 47 seats, separated by a low ramp of clay. Each
seat has a shallow basin formed in its forward edge, and three such
basins mark seats on the rear portion of a clay platform which
interrupts the circuit of the bench opposite the long entrance passage.

This platform, on the west side of the lodge and extending from the wall
almost to the sunken central fire pit, is the most remarkable feature of
all. Slightly higher than the bench, it forms an eagle effigy strongly
reminiscent of a number of such effigies embossed on copper plates which
are a part of the paraphernalia of the Southern Cult religion, to be
described in a later section. Surface modeling of the tapering body
section may once have been present, but is now so much obliterated that
only a sort of scalloped effect across the shoulders can be made out.
Nevertheless this feature is present on at least two of the plates
mentioned, one from the Etowah site in north Georgia and the other from
central Illinois. Moreover both of these figures, which represent the
spotted eagle, are distinguished by the same, almost square, shape of
the body and wings with only a slight taper from their base toward the
shoulder. Finally, the head of the platform eagle is almost entirely
filled with a clear representation of the “forked eye,” which is
presented also, though in smaller scale, on the two figures in question,
and is a distinctive symbol of the Southern Cult. The entire ceremonial
chamber has been reconstructed on the basis of burned portions of the
original which were uncovered by excavation. It forms one of the
principal exhibits of the monument, and represents a unique
archeological treasure.

Other structures uncovered included a small circular hut framed with
poles and containing a large fireplace, out of all proportion to the
size of the building. This was evidently a sweathouse where steam was
produced by throwing water on heated stones; but it is not known whether
this common form of purification was related to their religion or merely
a sanitary feature of the village life. At the west edge of the village
the tribal chiefs and religious leaders were buried in great log tombs
where from one to seven bodies, possibly those of wives and retainers,
were deposited with masses of shell beads and other ornaments befitting
their rank. Over the whole was raised a low flat-topped mound with 14
clay steps leading to the summit.

[Illustration: Fourteen clay steps, buried under later mound
construction, led up the west slope of the earliest funeral mound to its

Beside their large and thriving religious center, we can reconstruct
many aspects of their daily lives in which the Master Farmers were
different from their predecessors. This difference is noted in their
tools, weapons, and household utensils. These have survived because they
were made of such durable material as stone and pottery. The many
smaller projectile points now making their appearance suggest that the
bow and arrow were in general use at this time. Greater range and
accuracy have been advanced as possible reasons for adopting this weapon
in place of the spear thrower and dart, which preceded the bow in most
parts of the world. Perhaps equally important was an increase in tribal
unrest and strife which made a larger quantity of relatively small and
light missiles more effective in the brief skirmishes of Indian warfare
than two or three of the bulkier darts. With regard to their other
equipment, surprisingly few bone tools have been preserved; but this may
be due to their greater use of cane, which was very effective for
knives, awls, and other implements but did not last as well as bone.
Evidence has also been found to show that they manufactured and used
basketry and a simple twined weave type of cloth fabric.

[Illustration: Pottery for everyday use was plain but well made and came
in a large variety of pleasing shapes. Diameter of jar on right, 14

The pottery obtained in excavation has already been studied in
considerable detail because of the recognized importance of this time
marker to the archeologist. It is here that we find one of the most
noticeable differences between these people from the Mississippi Valley
and the native Georgia tribes whose pottery had developed along very
different lines for some thousand years or more. Now, in place of the
many forms of surface roughening which marked the history of the latter,
plain surfaces become the rule. Jar forms have rounded bottoms, are
often as broad as they are tall, or broader, and show a tendency toward
constricted openings. One common form has a straight sloping shoulder
which turns in from the rounded body contour of the pot rather suddenly.
Its slope may continue without change to the rim, but more often it will
turn upward again to form a slight lip or even a short neck. These
contrast with the deep jars of the preceding period in which the mouth,
regardless of neck or rim treatment, tends almost to equal the largest
diameter, and in which the base is conoidal, i. e., rounded to at least
the suggestion of a point.

[Illustration: The clay figures which often adorned the rims of open
bowls represented all manner of creatures both real and imaginary. About
one-third actual size.]

Of course the Master Farmers made other types of pottery, too. Some were
open bowls, and others had an incurving rim which gracefully repeated
the curve of the lower portion just below the belly. There were also
deep, straight-sided jars with extremely thick walls, and big shallow
bowls several feet in diameter which have been called salt pans from the
belief that the type was sometimes used in the making of that substance.
Actually they were probably the large family food bowl in common use
also in later times. Impressions of a twined cloth fabric on the outer
surfaces of the latter, some cord marking, and crude scoring or other
treatment of the sides of the former were exceptions to the general rule
of smooth surfaces during this period.

In place of surface decoration, however, we find another form of
elaboration which is somewhat less common but equally distinctive. This
is the attempt to depict some form, either natural or supernatural, in
the body of the vessel or attached to it in some way as an independent
figure. Small heads suggesting a fox or an owl or some night creature
with big staring eyes grow out of the rim of a bowl and peer into it.
The small handles which are fairly common on the straight-shouldered
jars often have two little earlike knobs at the top; and knobs and
bosses with more or less modeling of the body of the pot are frequently
used to represent gourds or squashes or some other vegetable which is
not easy to identify. One curious style of jar has a neck which is
closed at the top, something like a gourd, but has an opening about an
inch in diameter below this on the side. Modeling at the top suggests
ears, a style of hair arrangement, or some other human or animal feature
that gives rise to the name, “blank-faced effigy bottle.”

[Illustration: Effigy bottles were usually a finer grade of pottery and
generally accompanied burials. The hole in the human figure is in the
back of the head; the face is painted white, the body red, and the hair
the natural brown of clay. Diameter of bottle, 5⁵/₁₆ inches.]

In time, other changes began to mark the village of the Master Farmers.
The temples, built originally at ground level, were rebuilt
occasionally; and with the leveling of the old building to make way for
the new the surrounding ground surface was raised at first into a small
platform. Gradually this platform was increased in height and size until
the mound at the south side of the village was some 300 feet broad at
the base and almost 50 feet high. The other temple mounds grew in a
similar fashion but were either started later or were less important and
so never achieved as great a size. The earthlodges, too, were sometimes
rebuilt and often on the same site; but no attempt was made to increase
their elevation. The funeral mound, however, followed the pattern of the
others; and in each new layer of the seven there were fresh burials of
the village leaders, and on top of each a new wooden structure which may
have been connected with the preparation of the dead for their final
rites. In the later stages, too, the flat summit area was surrounded by
an enclosure of wooden posts.

[Illustration: The structure atop the funeral mound may have been for
preparing corpses for burial. From Museum exhibit.]

At the northwest corner of the village lay a cultivated field which
surrounded the site of one of the earlier temples. This was no ordinary
field since most of these must have lain in the bottom land below the
village. From its position, then, could we infer some sacred purpose,
possibly to create an offering to the spirits, or by the power in its
seed absorbed from the surroundings to increase the yield of the
villagers’ crops? In any case, the mounds for succeeding structures were
gradually raised above it; and by this act the rows were buried and thus
preserved as conclusive proof of the advanced state of culture which the
Master Farmers had achieved.

The construction of all these mounds and earthlodges required a large
amount of material as well as innumerable man-hours of labor. Two series
of great linked pits, averaging about 7 feet deep and 18 by 40 feet in
area, seem to indicate that the earth was obtained immediately outside
the main village limits, for they have been traced around considerable
portions of its north and south borders. They do not enclose the entire
area occupied by the temple mounds, though, because at least three of
these mounds lie outside their confines today; others were destroyed in
the construction of Fort Hawkins and the adjacent portions of East Macon
a little farther to the north. It is not unlikely that the irregular
ditches formed by these pits served also as a protection against raids
on the village; for otherwise, why would their course have outlined the
village area so closely?

All the evidence, then, points to the existence here at Ocmulgee of a
town of Indians who lived in a state of culture as advanced in some
respects as any to be found north of Mexico. We see a prosperous
community devoted chiefly to the yearly round of activities designed to
cement its relationship with the powerful unseen forces on which its
well-being depended. Not too much work was required with the abundant
rainfall on this fertile soil to raise the principal food supply for an
entire family. The men, like all later Indians, hunted to supply the
meat for their diet; but they had plenty of free time to devote to the
construction and repair of the town’s several temple buildings. Here
they gathered at stated intervals to go through the time-honored ritual
first taught to their fathers by the very spirits themselves, those
spirits which gave man the fish and the game and finally the wonderful
gift of the corn plant. All of these gifts and many more must be
accepted with reverence and treated according to the rules established
for their proper use; otherwise the spirits would be offended, the game
would disappear, and the fields would wither and die.

[Illustration: This series of cultivated rows buried beneath the fill of
later mound construction confirms our belief that the temple mound
builders lived mainly by farming.]

Of all the annual round of ceremonies the most important was that in
honor of the deity whose gift of corn had the miraculous power to renew
itself every year. The summer temple, then, was the scene of the year’s
biggest festival when the new crop was ripe. All the fires of the
village were put out; and after the men had fasted and purified
themselves with the sacred drink, the new fire was lit and offered with
the first of the new corn to the Master of Breath. With this act the
sins of the past year were forgiven, and the town entered upon a new
year with rejoicing. But ever so often the temple needed to be rebuilt,
perhaps at the death of the chief priest, who may at the same time have
been the chief of the town as well. This called for a mound to be built
or the old one to be enlarged and raised higher as a mark of extra
devotion; and every man must have given his allotment of working days to
complete the project, even if several years were required before it was
finished. For the new mound was proof to the divine forces of how much
their gifts had been appreciated, and a plea that their favor might
continue and the town prosper. Also it was proof to all the surrounding
tribes of the wealth and strength of the village which was able to erect
and maintain these large structures and at the same time to live in
plenty and defend itself from its enemies.

[Illustration: General view of excavations northeast of ceremonial
earthlodge, showing portion of trench surrounding the village.]

Much of this reconstruction depends heavily on our knowledge of the
later tribes of the Southeast and on broader analogies as well.
Archeological proof does not exist for much that we have inferred. Yet
we know that what we find here could not have been built by villagers
living at the level of bare subsistence. Economic surplus was essential,
and we know the Indians had the corn with which to create it. Strong
leadership was needed to carry such large projects to completion; and
with it there must have been a social and religious class system to
organize the economic and priestly functions of such a community. The
temple priests and their assistants and retainers would have formed a
rather numerous class with high status in a society so clearly impressed
with the importance of the physical expression of its religious ideas.
Wealth and power may likewise have rested with a specialized warrior
class which controlled the governing function of the group, or it may be
that these were combined with the religious duties of the priestly
class. Whatever the system employed, several hundred unusually important
individuals given special burial in the Funeral Mound attest to the
distinctions which existed. Class differences of this sort are the most
common basis for a high degree of social and political control; and
Ocmulgee is a good example of the real attainments of some American
Indians along these lines.

[Illustration: Ungrooved ax, or celt, of the temple mound builders.]

In spite of the relatively large amount of information we have about
them, however, we know surprisingly little of the ultimate fate of the
Master Farmers. We do know that these first bearers of an alien culture
from the Mississippi Valley did not persist very long in the area in
terms of its previous history. Within 200 years the busy village was
deserted, only to be visited by an occasional traveling band descended
from the Early Farmers who had lived on in nearby sections. We do not
know even whether the last occupants left here in a body to settle
elsewhere, whether they gradually died off, whether they were absorbed
into the surrounding population, or whether they were finally
exterminated by neighbors who had themselves developed large settled
communities capable of effective military action. Other ideas came to
Georgia from the Mississippi Valley, but Ocmulgee lay silent and was
passed by. Only in the last chapter of Indian history in this State was
the site again reoccupied for a brief time. Here at the end, to be
described in our final chapter, we find the Creek Indians once more
living among the haunts of their ancestors.

[Illustration: Model of portion of Lamar village, showing ball post in
plaza at foot of smaller mound.]

                              Early Creeks

After the mound village at Ocmulgee was abandoned we lose the thread of
Indian history in this area for about 250 years. When we pick it up
again in the _Reconquest_ period, it is at a new village some 3 miles
down the river. Much had happened in the meantime, though; and we are
able to piece together a good bit of the story.

In the first place, it is clear that the Master Farmers had been only a
small group which had settled in this one small section of Georgia; and
that the Early Farmers did not leave Georgia when they gave up their
settlements along the Ocmulgee. We cannot say for certain either that
they even quit the valley entirely. Their distinctive pottery seems to
have continued the course of development already outlined, but during
the interval a variety of new influences came in from other regions to
produce a number of striking changes. Noteworthy among these were the
“carinated” bowl form and incised and pinched or punctate decoration
around the shoulder or rim. In its extreme form the first of these may
be described as a shallow bowl with flaring sides which abruptly turn
inward to form a distinct shoulder and inward-sloping rim. The angle
thus produced may be as sharp as 90°, and the shoulder itself may vary
from abrupt to more or less gently rounded. It is this flattened rim
which normally bears the broad, deep incised-line decoration in the form
of scrolls alternating with nested flat-topped pyramids or with inverted
chevrons, all worked into a continuous pattern similar to the Greek
fret. Below the shoulder, the body of the bowl still carries the old
complicated stamping, but gradually the pattern becomes less distinct
and the paddle is applied several times to the same spot. It is even
impossible sometimes to make out any design whatever in the overall

Another new element is to be found in a series of notches, bosses, or
circular impressions which are applied just below the lip on jars or
bowls with only complicated stamping, or at the point of the shoulder on
“bold incised” vessels. The lip of most vessel shapes, except the
carinated bowl, is thickened by folding or with an added strip of clay,
and it is the lower edge of this band which is often pinched or
otherwise worked to produce a notched or beaded effect. On the carinated
bowls there is commonly a line of circular impressions made with the end
of a piece of cane or other hollow tube situated on the point or bend of
the shoulder to separate the area of incised decoration from the body
stamping below. Circles of this sort are sometimes used in place of the
beading around the rim.

[Illustration: Pottery bowl showing carinated shoulder, bold incising,
complicated stamping, and reed punctates typical of Lamar Bold Incised.
Diameter, 16 inches.]

[Illustration: Lamar Complicated Stamped jar. Clearly defined stamping
more common in early Lamar period. Height, 9¼ inches.]

Whether the incised decoration and the carinated bowl form came from the
Florida or the Mississippi Valley area has not yet been settled. Temple
mounds, however, are a definite Mississippian trait; and the Lamar
village below Macon, which has given its name to the archeological
period we are discussing, is typical in possessing two mounds with an
adjacent open court. The larger mound is rectangular, while the smaller
is circular; but the latter is most unusual in its spiral ramp which
leads counterclockwise to the top in four complete traverses about the
mound. Mounds showing this feature have been reported by early
travelers, but this is the only one known to exist today.

[Illustration: Lamar mound with spiral ramp, after initial clearing.]

The village occupied a low natural ridge of higher ground in the swamp
close to the river. This position may have been chosen for its
inconspicuous and defensible nature, or to be close to good farmland;
but we do know that it was surrounded by a palisade of upright logs some
3,500 feet in length to protect it from enemy attacks. Within the
enclosed area, the rectangular houses were grouped about the mounds and
the nearby court. Their construction consisted of a framework of light
posts interlaced with cane which was plastered with clay and roofed with
sod or some sort of grass thatch. Some of them were raised on low dirt
platforms, evidently as a protection from the periodic overflow of the

The life of these late prehistoric farmers was otherwise much the same
as that of their predecessors who had lived on the bluffs up the river.
To be sure, the region was now more thickly settled, and other villages
like theirs could be reached by a short journey in almost any direction.
Farming was doubtless the principal activity; and burned corncobs and
beans have been found, indicating two of the important crops. Hunting,
likewise, continued as a major pursuit; and the small, triangular
projectile points tell us that the bow was now the favorite weapon even
though large, stemmed dart or spear points were still made. Small, flat
celts of triangular outline were used. Shell was extensively worked for
ornament, mainly in the form of large beads, large, knobbed pins which
seem to have dangled from the ears, and circular gorgets bearing designs
of the Southern Cult, to be discussed presently.

[Illustration: Pipes in both plain and fancy styles were numerous.]

[Illustration: Gorgets were made of the outer shell, and large beads and
these knobbed “ear bobs” from the inner whorl of the marine whelk, or
conch. “Ear bobs” about 5 inches long.]

[Illustration: Some of the important beings of the Southern Cult as
depicted on shell or copper: Puma, Woodpecker, Deer Man, Rattlesnake.]

Finally, smoking appears to have become so habitual that it may have
been released from the religious implications which everywhere seem to
accompany the use of tobacco in aboriginal America. Pipes in an
astonishing variety of skillfully executed shapes, principally of clay
but also in stone, have been found scattered throughout the village
refuse. Human heads with great goggle eyes, bird and animal heads, boats
(?), and a stylized representation of a hafted celt are common.

DeSoto probably encountered some distant towns of these people when he
explored Georgia in 1540, and they were undoubtedly the ancestors of
various historic Creek Indian tribes of this State. We have suggested
that their culture was a mixture of very old elements in the region,
such as complicated stamping, with newer ideas coming in with the Master
Farmers or even later, such as temple mounds and incised decoration. We
know from work in other areas that the Early Farmer bearers of the Swift
Creek tradition had continued their existence uninterrupted save only in
the immediate vicinity of Macon. Therefore, despite the admixture of
many outside influences, we see in the reappearance here of one of their
major cultural elements, the old paddled pottery surfaces, proof that
the basic culture and presumably the people themselves were still the
same. In effect, an actual reoccupation of the area seems indicated; and
it is this fact that the museum exhibits recognize in the name
“Reconquest” given to the period we are discussing.

The culture represented at the Lamar site just described, which is the
type site for this archeological period, covered a very wide
geographical range and lasted in some locales into the historic period.
Typical Lamar pottery is found on numerous sites in regions as widely
separated as Florida, Alabama, the Carolinas, and even parts of
Tennessee. We know that it was made by the historic Cherokee, which
accounts for the persistence of complicated stamping into historic times
mentioned earlier, and possibly also by some Siouan-speaking tribes in
the Carolinas, as well as by the early Creeks. While not all elements of
the culture were uniformly shared in all of these areas, there can be
little doubt that the material aspects of the lives of these different
groups were surprisingly much alike. This may appear the more remarkable
when one considers the difference in language and even the active
hostility of such historic tribes as the Creek and the Cherokee.
Nevertheless, one has only to consider the diversity of modern European
nations sharing a single culture which we know as “Western Civilization”
to realize that language, nationality, and culture are not mutually
interrelated on any one-to-one basis.

Mention has been made of the Southern Cult. Briefly, this is the name
given to the religious idea behind a group of frequently recurring
symbols, and the paraphernalia on which they are depicted, which have
been found all the way from Oklahoma and the Great Lakes to Florida and
the gulf coast. These unusual articles occur in association with the
platform mounds, and at some sites appear to be limited to the graves of
an important class of personages who had the unique privilege of burial
within the sacred structures atop the mounds.

The objects themselves appear to be symbols of office or religious
vessels or regalia of diverse sorts. They include engraved circular
gorgets of shell, engraved copper plaques, hafted ceremonial axes made
of copper or from a single piece of stone, as well as stone axheads
either so finely made or of such soft material that they could not have
been put to practical use. A ceremonial atlatl looks to us more like a
mace or sceptre; both this form and that of the hafted ax are reproduced
in beautifully chipped flint, and these are found in association with
long blades and reproductions of other elements of the cult in the same
material. Vessels include conch shell cups and pottery bottles of
various forms.

Of perhaps even greater importance than the physical apparatus just
described are the symbols pictured on some of these specimens, and
representations of these and other objects being worn or carried by
god-animal beings, mythological creatures, or their impersonators.
Important figures of the mythology or the religious pantheon include the
eagle, ivory-billed woodpecker, and turkey; various forms of the
rattlesnake, the cat or mountain lion; and the human chunkee player.
These are depicted most clearly on some of the engraved copper plaques
like that of the Eagle Man from the Etowah site, which is reproduced in
the Ocmulgee Museum in the colors most likely to have been used in the
original costume. They are also engraved on shell cups, masks, and
gorgets and on pottery vessels. Among the important symbols occurring
alone or as ornament on these figures are the cross, swastika, sun
circle, bi-lobed arrow, forked eye, hand and eye, and death head. The
figures are also shown brandishing the ceremonial atlatl, holding a long
flint knife, or throwing the chunkee stone; and some wear the bi-lobed
arrow as a hair ornament. The forked eye, sun circle, and other symbols
are shown painted on these figures or on their regalia.

[Illustration: Museum exhibit portraying eagle-costumed figure embossed
on copper plate from the Etowah site, north Georgia. Original about 20
inches high.]

[Illustration: Ceremonial ax from burial near Funeral Mound. Length, 19

We are still uncertain as to the origin and significance of the Southern
Cult, although we know that it is associated with the platform or temple
mounds of the late Mississippian period, and that it very likely
represents the ritual which accompanied the use of these mounds. One
interesting suggestion has been made as to the motives behind its
development, relating these rather closely to the effects of the
introduction of corn agriculture. Populations naturally increased
rapidly with the improved food supply. Good land thus becoming
relatively scarce, tribes were no longer able to find suitable areas for
new settlements, as our Master Farmers had done, by the simple act of
moving to another region. At the same time the success of their crops
grew steadily more vital to the life of the tribe, and this, in turn,
led to a great elaboration in the worship of the special deities
connected with them, i. e., the Southern Cult. This theory seems logical
as far as it goes; but the forces which are seen at work are not of a
sort likely to reverse direction. Therefore other factors would have to
be introduced to account for the later decline of this religious

Various explanations have been advanced to account for the actual origin
of the Southern Cult, where it first appears, and from what source or
sources its several elements were drawn to enrich the ceremonial life of
the temple mound builders. Suggestions of Middle American origins have
thus far failed to receive any but the vaguest support from the existing
evidence. Agreement appears to be general, on the other hand, that many
of the basic elements from which it could have been formed are contained
in Hopewell. The emphasis on large marine shells and on copper is shared
by both; and acquisition from Hopewell of the method for supplying these
scarce or remotely situated materials might well have encouraged an
interest in expanding and beautifying the ceremonial apparatus. The
artistic skills of the older culture, too, might possibly have passed
into the hands of a new school of artists who sought to express with
them the religious ideas or mythology of their own people. The
techniques of the two art styles are basically similar, and the Southern
Cult closely approaches both the technical proficiency and the facility
of expression which are so characteristic of Hopewell. The connection
appears to stop there, however; for aside from one or two isolated
designs occurring on Florida Hopewellian pottery, nothing has been found
from which the Southern Cult designs could reasonably be thought to have

The earliest expressions of the Southern Cult to appear in the Macon
area occur in the Master Farmer period. The eagle effigy platform of the
ceremonial earthlodge seems to portray the spotted eagle of the Southern
Cult and, in any case, a distinct representation of the forked eye,
probably the earliest use of this symbol on record. A ceremonial ax from
the vicinity of the Funeral Mound is also typical, while the more
Hopewellian traits such as undecorated shell cups and gorgets and cut
animal jaws (unique, however, in their copper-plating) may be thought to
argue for origins from this direction. It was during the interval while
Ocmulgee was abandoned that this religious idea must have reached its
fullest and most elaborate expression; and this period probably
corresponds to that of the occupation of the Etowah site in north
Georgia, where much of the spectacular material was found. By the time
the Lamar village was occupied, however, the vigor of this form of
religious expression seems to have been already on the wane. Engraved
shell gorgets occur, but only in the simpler designs; perhaps the hafted
ax form of pipe could be considered a Southern Cult object or at least
to show its influence. Possibly more complete excavation would reveal
additional and more distinctive paraphernalia.

                          Ocmulgee Old Fields

After the Spanish exploration of Georgia in 1540, about 150 years
elapsed before the Ocmulgee tribe of the Creek Nation settled at a place
which we can now identify with reasonable certainty. This site in later
years was known as Ocmulgee Old Fields, for the evidence of ancient
cultivation can often be detected long after the signs of dwellings
themselves have disappeared. Needless to say, this was the last Indian
village of any importance to occupy the area now included in Ocmulgee
National Monument.

The recognition of this village site was partly brought about by the
intensive study of an interesting feature of Colonial construction
disclosed early in the excavations. This consisted of a ditch about 1
foot wide by 2 in depth which outlined a curiously shaped area on the
Macon Plateau some 200 yards north of the Great Temple Mound. Presumably
the footing ditch for a palisade, it enclosed a space shaped like the
gable end of a house with very low walls and a steep roof. The base
side, facing northwest, was about 140 feet long and was interrupted at
two points, suggesting a large central entrance gate with a smaller
postern 18 feet to the left. Surrounding the enclosure on all but its
long base side was a broad, shallow ditch which may have served as a
moat. It might, though, have been used instead to improve the drainage
of the stockade; for excavation showed that this lay close to old
springs which had once issued from the adjacent high ground. Finally,
the remains of a wide beaten trail from the northeast, worn a foot or
two into the old land surface, were found to terminate before the
entrance. This path had been traced at intervals across the plateau for
about half a mile, and was picked up again beyond the enclosed area
leading off down the hill toward the river.

Inside the stockade, rectangular blackened areas in the soil indicated
what appeared to be the decayed remains of several log buildings, while
mixed with the usual debris of an Indian village site were numerous
articles of European manufacture. Both here and at other points, chiefly
concentrated on the southwest corner of the Macon Plateau, excavation
revealed iron axes, clay pipes, trade beads, brass and copper bells,
knives, swords, bullets, flints, pistols, and muskets. All indications
pointed to a large and thriving Indian community situated generally at
the western edge of the old Master Farmer village site, and plentifully
supplied with English trade materials. The fact that a small fortified
structure existed in the midst of this community at once suggests the
very trading post from which these goods were obtained.

Returning, now, to the Early Creeks, we left them sharing in the
development of a distinctive material culture which characterized, with
minor differences, a large portion of the Southeast. When we encounter
their descendants on the site of Ocmulgee Old Fields, however, we find a
mixture of old elements and new; and it is often difficult to say what
part of the changes we observe was due to European contacts and what a
normal continuation of the development which had gone before.

[Illustration: Excavation of Trading Post stockade. Darkened soil,
indicating position of log wall footing, emphasized to show gates (right
half of long wall, top of picture).]

The remains of this period were found thickly scattered about the
Funeral Mound, between the latter and the Great Temple Mound, and about
the area of the Trading Post itself, as we shall term the fortified
enclosure, anticipating further discussion. They consisted of burials,
pits filled with refuse, oval patterns of post molds indicating small
house sites (although these were found only in and around the stockaded
enclosure), and refuse of all sorts scattered about on the general level
of the occupation. The burials were made both within the main village
area and about the Funeral Mound, where the signs of habitation may have
been destroyed by plowing. Usually the dead were buried in a flexed
position shortly after death, and were not subsequently moved. This was
true, also, of the earlier Lamar occupation, but in marked contrast to
the Master Farmer custom of secondary burial, or the reinterment of
bones already once buried or otherwise put away.

[Illustration: Beads, gun cocks, flints, lead shot, knives, pipes, brass
bells, and other trade goods show contact between Creeks and English.]

The pottery of these historic Creeks shows that they had finally given
up the ancient habit of complicated stamping. This seems all the more
curious when we reflect that their neighbors and enemies, the Cherokee,
retained this idea, as previously mentioned, until they finally gave up
pottery entirely. In place of it, the Creeks roughened many of their
pots by brushing or stippling the surface, probably with a handful of
small twigs or pine needles. The carinated bowl form was retained,
however, along with deeper jars and other more common shapes of former
times; and on its shoulder appeared a weak, thin incising, often hardly
more than a series of crude scratches. Still, the interlocking scroll
seems to have continued as one of the basic design ideas; but it was
crudely executed, as were the hatched elements of parallel lines which
were no longer carefully integrated with the remainder of the design.
One gains the feeling that the potter was striving for the same general
effect, but was no longer interested in achieving the precision of
pattern and boldness of line on which that effect originally depended.
The lower parts of these bowls are now smooth, and many vessels are made
without either decoration or roughening.

[Illustration: Creek pottery continued some of the more characteristic
older shapes, but the decoration was only a rough imitation of earlier

Other artifacts suggest the increasing reliance on European goods
supplied by the traders, which we know had already begun to destroy the
rude but effective and self-sufficient culture of the Indians. A highly
prized musket cost a man 25 deer skins; but once he had it, with bullets
at 40 to the skin and powder 1 skin to the pound, he could kill more
deer and would have little need to make arrow heads of flint. Another 4
skins would purchase an ax, 4 more a hoe; and again he had better, more
lasting tools without the work of making them and constantly replacing
them. Small wonder that stone tools and weapons become less frequent,
and that flint chipping itself, within a few generations, had become a
lost art.

While the Trading Post site has not yet been studied in detail, one gets
the impression that stone tools are actually less numerous. Projectile
points are mostly of small size, often very narrow triangles less than
an inch in length. European materials like gun flints and bottle glass
are used for scrapers. Glass trade heads are mixed with those made from
the central core of the big marine whelk, commonly called “conch.” Sheet
copper is used for decorative cuff-like arm bands; frequently it is
rolled into small cone-shaped janglers which were probably sewn to
clothing in clusters to replace the old deer hoof rattles.

The Indian trade was the most effective weapon of the English in their
contest with Spain and France for control of the southern frontier.
Indirect evidence points to the establishment of a trading post in this
vicinity about 1690 by the Charleston traders. Apparently lured by the
prospect of English goods, a number of the principal Creek villages had
moved about this time from the Chattahoochee, close to the Spanish
settlements in west Florida, to the Altamaha and its western fork, the
Ocmulgee. No direct reference to the position of the Ocmulgee town
during this period has yet been found, though in 1675 and again after
1717 it was reported on the Chattahoochee. Nevertheless, the Ocmulgee
are listed among Creek towns in this vicinity, and the river appears to
be called by this name as early as 1704-5.

Early maps show the site of Macon to be occupied by the Hitchiti, a
tribe of the Creek nation whose speech was older in Georgia than the
Muskogean of the true Creeks. The Ocmulgee also spoke Hitchiti, and a
Creek legend, recorded much later, states that the Hitchiti were the
“first to settle at the site of Okmulgi town, an ancient capital of the
Creek confederacy.” Legend also named the Ocmulgee fields as the first
town where the Creeks “sat down ... or established themselves, after
their emigration from the west.” This identification, made at a time
when the Old Fields were still in Creek territory, leaves little doubt
that the Ocmulgee tribe itself had once lived here. The further evidence
of a stockade erected here in a pattern then common to Colonial
fortifications in the Southeast, plus the quantities of trade material
in the village area, make it reasonably certain that this was another
center of the little recorded trading enterprise so important to
England’s success in the race for colonial territory.

While it cannot be considered evidence in identifying the site, two
additional bits of historic detail add interest to the part it may have
played in the important events of this period. In December 1703, Col.
James Moore set out upon a mission for the Carolina Assembly to destroy
the Apalachee Indian settlements in west Florida. These Indians lived in
agricultural communities, close to the missions where they received
their religious indoctrination from the Spanish. They supplied important
provisions for both St. Augustine and Havana; and their area served as a
base for Spanish efforts to win over the Creek Indians to the north and
so enlarge their dominion. Moore took with him 50 volunteers from
Charleston, and gathering 1,000 Creek warriors on the Ocmulgee, set off
southward for Florida. The raid proved highly successful and, with
others like it over the following 2 years, dealt a devastating blow to
Spanish colonial aims. By 1706, most of the Indian population of the
area had been killed, driven away, or captured. Carolina was secure from
inland attack, and Spain’s efforts to enlarge her hold in the Southeast
were at an end for all time.

Returning now to Ocmulgee, we note that as late as 1828 a map of this
region shows “Moore’s Trail” running down the west bank of the river
from a point about 2 miles below Macon. It is not hard, then, to imagine
the former governor of the colony setting off on that bold adventure. A
shouting horde of excited Creek warriors assembles near the trader’s
store. Moore watches as they fall in behind his sturdy band of
Englishmen, and the line files past the high walls of the stockade.
Following the Lower Patch down the hill, they march in the very shadow
of that imposing relic of former days, the Great Temple Mound. Then a
little distance down the river they reach the fording place; and
crossing it, are lost to sight as they enter the woods and take up the
trail to the south.

This episode, however, was merely the beginning of the Indian’s unhappy
involvement in the rivalries of European nations and of the destruction
of his own culture through his very eagerness to obtain the wonderful
products of those nations. More and more the trader’s goods were to
become a necessity to him rather than a luxury. His life shifted from
that of a village farmer to that of a hunter who left his village for
months at a time in search of the deer skins on which the new barter
economy was based. The women folk, of course, stayed home and tended the
fields; but the old ways were steadily breaking down. Moundbuilding had
been given up even before the coming of the English. With the barter
economy, the religious festivals connected with the farming calendar
were also abandoned during the prolonged hunting season. Only the great
summer harvest festival, the “busk,” or “poskita,” remained as the
central element of Creek religion. Finally, after the deer had been
largely hunted out and the market for skins had almost dried up, the
Indian became at last a log cabin farmer, exploited, but otherwise much
like any other resident of the frontier.

[Illustration: Creek warriors join the Carolina volunteers at Ocmulgee
for the start of Moore’s raid, 1703.]

Two scenes in the story of the Indians at Ocmulgee remain to be
described. All along the Atlantic seaboard the red man awakened at last
to his peril: the land hunger of the foreigners was insatiable, and in
it lay a threat to his very existence. If he could only have brought
himself to forget old rivalries and have joined his ancient enemies in
the common cause, perhaps they could have driven out the intruder before
it became too late. Sooner or later bloody uprisings took place in most
sections of the country, but the end was always the same. The old habits
were too strong; cooperation could not replace hostility overnight; the
Indian could not make the needed sacrifice though his life was at stake.

The Southeastern uprising was called the Yamassee War in which many of
the shattered tribes of Georgia and Alabama took part. There can be
little doubt that the Creeks, under the able command of their leader,
Brim, were the principal actors. Under his guidance, they had at first
helped the English against the better entrenched Spaniard, but now it
was the Englishman himself who posed the chief threat and who must be
driven out at any cost. The scheme was well planned—and came within a
hair’s breadth of success. It depended on winning over the Cherokee, who
from the first had befriended the Charleston colonists; and to do this
Brim took the unprecedented step of sending emissaries to his old enemy.
If they had agreed to forget old hatreds, the Indians could easily have
massed the strength to drive the colonists into the sea. Instead, the
Cherokee council voted to stand by their old friends; and the
announcement of their decision was the slaughter of the Creek

Nevertheless, the others decided to carry on without them. Their first
act in 1715 was to kill off the traders scattered about the Creek Nation
and to attack outlying settlements. Here, we can be sure, the trader to
Ocmulgee lost his life, unless by good fortune he happened to have gone
to Charleston to lay in supplies. In any case, the existence of the
store must have terminated. Little more was accomplished, however; the
Creek design had failed, and in 1717 the war came to an end. Ocmulgee
and the other towns along the river were then too close to the English
settlements at Augusta, and the Indians moved their villages back to the

About 1773 we have a vivid description of the mounds and of extensive
old fields along the river, but there is no mention of Indians living
anywhere near the site. It is then, however, that we first learn of the
high regard of the Creeks for this spot; for here it was, according to
tradition, that the confederacy was first established. In 1805 the
Creeks ceded to the United States most of the lands bordering the
Ocmulgee River on the cast; but in this treaty they specifically
reserved for themselves about 15 square miles encompassing the site of
Ocmulgee Old Fields, though allowing the Government the right to erect a
military post or trading house thereon. In 1806, Fort Hawkins was built
a short way to the north of the Plateau on high ground commanding the
river. It was designed as a frontier outpost and factory, or trading
house; and it served this end until 1817, when it was moved west to Fort
Mitchell in Alabama Territory to keep up with the movement of the
frontier. Once more the Indians gathered here in 1819 to receive the
annual payment for their lands east of the Ocmulgee; but the city of
Macon was founded only 4 years later, and in 1828 Ocmulgee Old Fields
was sold to the public.

                           Guide to the Area

The points of interest in the area are numbered on the map (pages 26-27)
as follows:

1. MUSEUM AND ADMINISTRATION BUILDING. The museum exhibits tell the
story of Ocmulgee Old Fields by the use of pictures and models, with a
minimum of explanatory text, to supplement the archeological materials
themselves. In addition to the administrative offices of the monument,
it also houses the enormous collection obtained during the excavations,
and a small archeological and ethnological library. The design for the
colored frieze around the outer wall of the building’s rotunda is copied
from the incised decoration on a Lamar Bold Incised pottery vessel.

[Illustration: The “husk” or green corn ceremony, still practiced today,
may be as old as the Indian’s use of corn. Here the priest offers the
new fire to the Master of Breath. Museum diorama.]

2. CEREMONIAL EARTHLODGE. Situated some 200 yards southwest of the
museum building, this feature is a reconstruction of the winter temple
which lay at the northeast edge of the Master Farmer village. It shows
the original clay floor and lower parts of the building as they appeared
in use about A. D. 1000. Because the building was burned, pieces of the
original timbers were preserved on the old floor just as they had fallen
from the roof; and for this reason the reconstruction is thought to
present a very accurate picture of the original building. Because of the
need to protect these irreplaceable remains the earthlodge is kept
locked at all times, and is opened only to visitors accompanied by a

3. CORNFIELD MOUND. A short distance northwest of the earthlodge, this
mound was probably a center for religious festivals during the summer.
It was built in successive stages over the rows of a cultivated field
and thereby served to protect this evidence of early agriculture well
into modern times. In use the mound served as the base or platform for
one or more religious buildings which we might well call summer temples
of the Master Farmers.

4. PREHISTORIC TRENCHES. At the north edge of the Cornfield Mound lies a
portion of one of the two ditches or concentric series of linked pits
which seem to have surrounded the Master Farmer village. Their principal
use appears to have been defensive; but they may well have served as
borrow pits connected with mound construction.

5. GREAT AND LESSER TEMPLE MOUNDS. The Great Temple Mound was the
principal religious structure of the Master Farmers at Ocmulgee. As in
the case of the Cornfield Mound, the buildings for which it served as a
platform were doubtless used in connection with the major religious
festivals of the year, those leading up to and including the great
summer harvest ceremony. No clear indication of the appearance of these
buildings was preserved here, but we find some evidence of a rectangular
framework of small posts set at intervals. These were very likely
intertwined with cane, and the whole building plastered with clay and
roofed with sod or thatch. Like almost all temple mounds, this one
achieved its great size through successive additions to an original
structure of rather modest size.

The relation of the Lesser Temple Mound to the Great Temple Mound is not
known. Its closeness to the latter suggests either that it was an
auxiliary structure; or that the two were built at different periods as
the demands of the religious cycle for periodic renewal of the temples
and enlargement of their bases caused changes in the original plan of
the area. The base of the mound lies at the level of the top of the bank
above the parking area. This is the old plateau level, while the present
park road at this point occupies the bed of an old railroad cut.

6. TRADING POST. The area around the Trading Post stockade and generally
west of it was the site of a Creek village situated here from about 1690
to 1717. The burials are those of Creek Indians interred in the village
area; and the ornaments and other articles placed with the body indicate
that they had been obtained by trade with the English.

The Trading Post itself was probably an active center of Carolina’s
trade with the Indians from shortly after 1690 to its destruction
incident to the Yamassee War around 1715. The five-sided enclosure with
two gates in its broad base side was fenced with a wall of posts
possibly 12 to 20 feet in height. The ditch around four of the sides may
have been to improve drainage within the compound or to provide
additional protection as a sort of moat.

The Trading Path, marked at the north corner of the stockade, ran from
Augusta to the Lower Creek towns along the Ocmulgee. English traders
from Charleston used this old Indian trail as a highway to the Indian
country. Traces of the path were found at intervals during the
excavation, leading from the northeast toward the palisaded enclosure
and thence toward the river.

7. FUNERAL MOUND. Important civil or religious leaders of the Master
Farmer village were buried here. At the base of the mound, log tombs
contained the bodies of several persons, possibly wives and retainers of
the leader. Like the temple mounds, the original mound covering these
graves was built over and enlarged six successive times. More burials
were made in each new stage, and the flat top of each supported a
building which may have been used in preparing the dead for burial. The
present height of the mound approximates that of the third building

OTHER MOUNDS. The Southeast, Dunlap, and McDougal Mounds, like others
which are known to have been destroyed in the building of East Macon,
lay outside the enclosed area of the Master Farmer village. They were
doubtless the platforms for relatively minor religious structures and
are not included in the interpretative scheme of the monument.

                       How to Reach the Monument

Ocmulgee National Monument lies east of the city of Macon, Ga., and
adjacent to the city limits on that side. It may be reached from the
downtown area by crossing the Ocmulgee River to its east bank and
driving east either along Main Street or the Emery Highway to the
entrance. By the first route the distance from the Fifth Street bridge
is 1.2 miles; while it is 1.3 miles from the intersection where the
highway begins just a short distance beyond the Spring Street bridge.

                            About Your Visit

The museum and administration building are open from 8:30 a. m. to 5 p.
m. during the week, and on Sundays from 9 a. m. to 5:30 p. m. A fee of
25 cents covers admission to the museum and earthlodge but is waived for
children under 12, organized educational groups, and members of the U.
S. Armed Forces in recreational or educational groups sponsored by
military centers, the USO, or like organizations. The exhibits are
simply and clearly explained so that the services of a guide are
unnecessary, but every attention is given to the particular needs of
organizations and special groups when arrangements are made in advance
with the superintendent. Free literature and other publications are
available. Interested students are welcome to the use of the library,
access to the collections, and the assistance of an archeologist. The
visiting hours of the museum do not apply to the monument area, which is
open at all times.


Ocmulgee National Monument is administered by the National Park Service
of the United States Department of the Interior. A superintendent, whose
address is Macon, Ga., is in immediate charge.

                    Suggestions for Further Reading

Fairbanks, Charles H. _Archeological Excavations in the Funeral Mound,
      Ocmulgee National Monument, Ga._ Archeological Research Series No.
      3, National Park Service, Government Printing Office, Washington,
      D.C. 1956.

Griffin, James B., Editor. _Archeology of Eastern United States._
      University of Chicago Press, Chicago, Ill. 1952.

Kelly, A. R. _A Preliminary Report on Archeological Explorations at
      Macon, Georgia._ Anthropological Papers, No. 1, Bureau of American
      Ethnology, Bulletin 119, Government Printing Office, Washington,
      D.C. 1938.

Martin, Paul S., George I. Quimby, and Donald Collier. _Indians Before
      Columbus._ University of Chicago Press, Chicago, Ill. 1947.

Swanton, John R. _Early History of the Creek Indians and Their
      Neighbors._ Bureau of American Ethnology, Bulletin 73, Government
      Printing Office, Washington, D. C. 1922.

—— _The Indians of the Southeastern United States._ Bureau of American
      Ethnology, Bulletin 137, Government Printing Office. Washington,
      D.C. 1946.

                         NATIONAL PARK SERVICE
                       HISTORICAL HANDBOOK SERIES

                      OFFICE, WASHINGTON 25, D. C.

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[Illustration: Back Cover]

                          Transcriber’s Notes

—Retained publication information from the printed edition: this eBook
  is public-domain in the country of publication.

—In the text versions only, text in italics is delimited by

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