This article continues our exploration of Macon, Georgia with a visit to the Lamar Mounds site to help solve the mystery of Georgia’s Native Americans. Around 900 AD, Georgia’s Creek Indians constructed a series of towns consisting of enormous earthen pyramids, the largest of which were the lost cities of Ocmulgee and Etowah. So far in this series of articles we’ve visited two of the actual locations where historical events took place and looked for clues to help solve the mystery of the origins of Georgia’s Native Americans. Our first stop was in Savannah, Georgia where we learned about the Creek Migration Legend and from where these Indian tribes believed they came. Our second stop was in Macon, Georgia where we explored the Ocmulgee Mounds site and the Brown’s Mount site where we discovered the time period in which the Muskogee Creek Indians first arrived.
The Reconquest of Macon, Georgia
Around 1150 AD the Ocmulgee Mounds site was abandoned. Perhaps their agricultural practices had exhausted the land. Perhaps something happened to disrupt their trade routes. Perhaps the original inhabitants of the region finally grew tired of these newcomers and either massacred them, as the newcomers had done to the original inhabitants of the site, or drove them out. Perhaps a combination of all three things occurred to bring an end to the Ocmulgee Mounds site.
Around 1325 AD, just a short distance away from the Ocmulgee Mounds site, the original Hitchiti Creek Indians constructed a new village named the Lamar Mounds by archaeologists. This site features the remains of one of the most unique Native American towns in Georgia. The site consists of two earthen mounds with a central plaza between them. The larger of the two mounds is a square truncated pyramid mound approximately 35 feet tall.
The smaller mound is oval or circular in shape and reaches a height of 20 feet tall. This mound includes a spiral ramp that winds around the mound and leads to its summit giving it the appearance of a circular stepped pyramid. Interestingly, recent archaeological work at the Ocmulgee Mounds site has revealed that the Great Temple Mound also once had a spiral ramp that led to its summit though the mound was originally octagonal in shape not oval or round like the mound at the Lamar site.
The pottery at the Lamar Mounds site shows a merging of ideas from the previous Hitchiti Creek occupants of the Ocmulgee Mounds site and the new Muskogee Creek who replaced them. This pottery, named Lamar by archaeologists, contains the shapes of the newcomer’s pottery but the decorative complicated stamped designs of the Swift Creek pottery. Did the original Hitchiti Creek Indians simply adopt the pottery shapes of the Muskogee Creek Indians or does this merging of ideas also represent a merging of these two peoples? Did some form of political union take place at this time and do the two mounds represent a dual capital for the two peoples?
The migration legends of the Muskogee Creek Indians do suggest that after years of fighting with the local tribes they eventually forged a peace with them and brought them into their nation. This could represent the beginnings of what early Europeans would later call the Creek Confederacy divided into the Upper Creeks and Lower Creeks. The Upper Creeks consisted of the Muskogee Creek Indians and the Lower Creeks consisted of the Hitchiti Creek Indians. This division reveals they they still realized they were two separate people with different languages yet saw themselves as one political unit nonetheless. In fact, Creek Indian tradition holds that this was, indeed, the location where the Creek Confederacy was born.
Another West Mexico Connection?
As noted in the previous article of this series, “Quest for Georgia’s Native Americans | Part 4: Brown’s Mount,” the Creek Migration Legend mentions that they encountered an erupting volcano as they left their original homeland and the only volcanic eruption that occurred in the right time period was at the Ceboruco Volcano in the state of Nayarit in west Mexico. Around 930 AD this volcano experienced the largest volcanic eruption in North America of the past 10,000 years.
Curiously, in this same region there are circular stepped pyramids in the nearby state of Jalisco part of the Teuchitlan tradition. Even more interesting is that construction of these pyramids abruptly stopped around 900 AD, about the same time as this volcanic eruption. Then by at least 980 AD the Muskogee Creek Indians arrived at the Ocmulgee Mounds site with cultural traits similar to those found in west Mexico and a migration legend which mentioned a volcanic eruption.
According to the migration legend, the Cussitaw or Kasihta tribe of Muskogee Creek Indians were the first to begin this migration. Then near this volcano they met three other tribes who would eventually migrate with them. Were the people of the Teuchitlan tradition in west Mexico one of the three other tribes that the migration legend mentions migrated out of Mexico with the Muskogee Creek Indians? Does the spiral mound at Lamar Mounds represent the reestablishment of this ancient tradition?
Comparison of Lamar Mounds and La Campana & El Chanal in West Mexico
As stated earlier, the siteplan of Lamar Mounds consists of a square truncated pyramid mound and a round or spiral stepped pyramid mound with a level plaza in between them. This arrangement is identical to the description of Creek Indian Chunky-Yards as described by early explorer William Bartram in the 1700s. Chunky was a game played by the Creek Indians that consisted of rolling a stone disc or ball down a level plaza then two players throwing javelins to either try to hit the stone disc or land their javelin closest to where they predicted the stone disc would stop.
Bartram described a chunky yard as consisting of a flat, level plaza situated between a round mound and a square mound, precisely the layout of Lamar Mounds. Bartram goes on to describe the Chunky-Yard:
“It is generally very extensive, especially in the large, old towns, is exactly level, and sunk two, sometimes three feet below the banks or terraces surrounding it, which are sometimes two, one above and behind the other, and are formed of earth cast out of the area at the time of its formation;…”
The description of a level playing field sunk below two terraces, “one above and behind the other” could also be used to describe the ballcourts discovered at sites in west Mexico such as at La Campana in the City of Colima and El Chanal, just four kilometers north of La Campana. Additionally, ceramics from this area show people holding a small ball in their hand, much smaller than that used in the typical Mesoamerican ballgame. In fact, it looks to be about the same exact size as a chunky stone.
Both El Chanal and La Campana both feature small truncated pyramid mounds usually faced with round river stones brought from nearby rivers joined with a clay mortar. Some of the structures were covered with a cooked clay stucco. It should be noted that most of the Mississippian truncated pyramids were covered with brightly colored clays.
Both El Chanal and La Campana also feature raised plazas accessed by steps. The walls of these raised plazas were also contained within river stone retaining walls. A similar raised plaza with stone retaining walls will be found at the next site in our quest: Etowah Mounds.
These two sites also feature symbols associated with the deities Tlaloc and Ehecatl, both aspects of the Mesoamerican deity Quetzalcoatl. According to Wikpedia, the Cascabel pyramid at La Campana featured:
“…a rattle (Cascabel) snake sculpted in stone at the bottom of the access 1; it is symbolically related to the water cult. The snake was part of the water God (Tlaloc) representation and was associated with clouds, rain and lightning. Tlaloc was supposed to be a fire snake which passed through the region and when falling sank into the ground. Similar representations are found in temples of the Teotihuacan culture.”
According to Wikipedia, the El Chanal site includes:
“a pyramid with remains of a stairway and bas-relief engraved steps. The motifs had 36 tablets (Nine per step) that displayed Gods images such as Tlaloc and Ehécatl.”
Tlaloc is usually represented as a man with goggle eyes. Ehecatl was a wind god and temples or pyramids dedicated to him were usually round. Since the wind blows in all directions he was also associated with the four cardinal points: north, south, east, west. Since Ehecatl was also associated with Quetzalcoatl, the feathered serpent, he is also represented as a coiled rattlesnake which symbolizes both the serpent and the spiral, i.e, the wind blowing in all directions.
Could the spiral mound at Lamar Mounds be meant to represent both Tlaloc, as the coiled form of a rattlesnake, as well as Ehecatl, as the spiral form of the wind symbol? Interestingly, a shell gorget found at Lamar Mounds includes the spiral symbol of the Muskogee Wind Clan, their oldest and most revered clan. A pipe from Lamar Mounds features a man with big goggle eyes, similar to the depiction of Tlaloc in Mexico.
The Quest Continues
Only further research will reveal the truth. And we’ve exhausted all the clues that can be found in our current location of Macon, Georgia. Thus it’s time to head north to the next site in our quest, the Etowah Mounds site in Cartersville, Georgia, and see what further clues we can find in our quest for Georgia’s Native Americans. To learn when I publish the next in this series, please use the subscribe button below or at the top of the page below my name. You can also visit my personal website to learn more about the ancient civilizations and lost cities of Native Americans.