Off The Beaten Path

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Georgia, United States
Some people come into our lives and quickly go. Some people move our souls to dance. They awaken us to new understanding with the passing whisper of their wisdom. Some people make the sky more beautiful to gaze upon. They stay in our lives for awhile, leave footprints on our hearts, and we are never ever the same.

Friday, January 18

Etowah Indian Mounds


Just west of the confluence of Pumpkinvine Creek and the Etowah River a V-shaped rock wall impedes the water of these two rivers. At least 500 years old, this wall is one of the lasting reminders of the Mississippian Culture which controlled this portion of Northwest Georgia.

A few feet from the wall are three much larger reminders of this culture, huge mounds that gave these Indians their common name, Moundbuilders. The culture that began in the Mississippi Delta perhaps more than 4,000 years ago spread to this part of northern Georgia as early as 850AD and flourished at this site from 950AD to 1450AD. By the time Hernando deSoto visited the area in 1540-41, the Moundbuilder population was in steep decline in general and the Etowah Mounds site was abandoned.

White settlers understood the Creek and later the Cherokee to call this site "Hightower," possibly for Itawa or Italwa city. The name Etowah may also be a corruption of this word. A Cherokee village took its name from these mounds. The "Hightower" Road was used to transport the saltpeter from the area of present-day Kingston, Georgia to Savannah after 1808 and it ran by the ancient Mound Builder city. Today, many people believe that the Creek Indians are descendants of this earlier culture.

In 1838 Colonel Lewis Tumlin purchased the land that contained the mounds. It would remain in his family for 125 years and he and his family served as caretakers of the mounds. He permitted people who wanted to see them access to his property. A book published by the Works Progress Administration in 1938 featured directions on getting to the mounds, advising readers to stop at the Tumlin residence (a yellow house at the time) and ask permission before entering the mound area. The area was purchased by the state of Georgia in 1953. Henry Tumlin was superintendent of the Etowah Indian Mounds from 1953 until 1981. His interest in preserving the mounds continues to this day; he donated additional land to be included in the park in 1994 and 1995. In 2000, the park was named as one of the most threatened in the nation.

A museum in the visitors center serves as an introduction to the Moundbuilder culture and the society that lived at this site. The most notable pieces in the Etowah collection are "Ike" and "Mike," the two largest effigies ever discovered in a Moundbuilder site. Visitors cross a bridge over one of the "borrow pits" that encircle the mound. Once believed to have been moats, these pits were excavated to create the three predominant mounds roughly in the center of the park. Stairs allow access to the largest of the mounds, known as Mound A. Once on the top of this mound, you can see the ceremonial plaza much as one of the culture's religious leaders might have viewed in the 1400's. From this vantage point you can also see the other, smaller mounds, near the outskirts of the plaza.

16 comments:

Libby said...

nea- this is SUPER intereting! the central christian church here in town has a stone in one of the entryways from the street that has 'etowah' engraved in it! i know it's nothing to do with the church, it used to be a private mansion...and how 'bout this for a coincidence? it's right down the street from what used to be 'indian mounds elementary school'!

Nea said...

That is interesting...... Where is it that you live, LIbby. Etowah is all over the place here, the river, our housing project, streets, schools. It is very popular here and I know it comes from the Indian word. Most of the names of things do around here. I wonder if the stone was "relocated?"

Louisiana said...

the pics are just beautiful and the facts are something i never heard of.

thank you for sharing this and your love and caring and your sense of humor and for being my friend.

you are on sweet lady and i can't wait for those rockers and hot tea and us both staying up all night chatting it up.

hope the kids and grandkids had a great holiday. hope you have had peace of heart, health of body and joy of spirit.

i need to move girl. don't want to be here, feel more and more like i'm sufficating and besides i miss family all around me...

i have to put it all in God's hands and see where and how and when He wants me to be.

i hope your finfer has healed.

i don't understand what that chat box in your blog is hon. i have never seen one. quite interesting, but i'm thinking it only shows the person's end of conversation....

i'm trying to get some work done in the house. i need to. either to live happier or better or because in the back of my head, i'm selling...

i hope it's the latter...lol..

i love you.

it's good to have you in my life..

bffe.

xoxooxo

bettygram said...

Near where we live there are Indian Mounds in a state park. My granddaughter and I walked around the path. There are many different shaped mounds. We didn't get to see anything else because it was late when we got there do to getting lost on drive there.

Nea said...

Hi Chana, I wondered where you had been up to lately, so glad that you were just off havin fun. :):) No my finger is still sore. this is turning into a bit of a nightmare, it isn't healing right. Well maybe if I kept it away from places that hurt it, it would do better.

I hope that everything works out and you get to move to where your family is located. I know that it would be best for all of you. Nothing like being near family.

Keep your chin up and keep smiling.....as I know you will. hugs bff

Nea said...

HI betty, yes those mounds are all over the US, well anyway around here. I suppose it was mainly just to be up and out of the water, because they are always near rivers. A person must have water to live, so the Indians would live near water, but since rivers are so unpredictable, what better way to keep your feet dry than to built UP. They do it with houses, I don't think there is the religious significance that people always think, I think it was just being smart.

Akelamalu said...

That was so interesting Nea, thanks for sharing it.

The Old Fart said...

I always enjoy my visits here Nea, you always have something interesting. I especially like it when you give a bit of history of where you are living.

Glad that you can post on the blog again.

Bill

Cindy said...

This was really interesting. But then, anything to do with the Native Americans and their history fascinates me. Our area is rich in history pertaining to the Senecas. My great grandmother on my Dad's side(from Maine) was half Penobscot. On Mom's side my great grandmother was part Seneca.

Nea said...

Hi akela, I always enjoy the history of this place, it is so full of native american history. but I often wonder how accurate it is........they often twist it to suit them. Like the fact that the indians were already in decline when deSoto arrived. It was at the exact same time that deSoto came to this are they had sharp decline, I have a feeling HE was the major cause of that decline., he probably brough all kinds of diseases they had no immunity to, and it killed them all off. Those are the things that history conveniently leaves out.

Nea said...

Hi Bill, I suppose I could write a story a day and never tell it all, but I have to do much research to write even one.....haha

Yes, the last time I visited you I was so glad that I could post, it is so frustrating to not be able to. But I will have to figure out what if going on with my computer, so that you can run music, it isn't fair that you can't just for me.

Nea said...

Hi Cindy, I am the same, facinated by the stories. I was married to a native american for 14 years, and I used to sit and visit with his old gram. She lived some of these stories. I was writing a book about her life, but she passed away before I could get enough material, and I didn't want to bastardize her life by filling in the blanks, so I gave up on the idea.

I am also part native american on my dad's side of the family.

Avus said...

Fascinating, Nea - you have just as much "ancient history" as old Europe. Yet many think of the US of A as a very "young" country.
Very appropriate that a "Tumlin" looks after the mounds, since the latin term for grave mounds (used on maps in the UK) is "tumuli"

Nea said...

Hi Avus, yes, the Indians here in many parts of the US had a thriving culture and famly life, until white man came. Their main problem was ignorance of the white man's way, and no tolerance for our diseases. The Indian's thought it silly to believe you could OWN land, they knew that it was there for everyone. So their lack of understanding led them to doom. As they were systematically drive deeper into uninhabitable lands. The moved them all to places like Oklahoma desert sands, thinking that know would want it, till they discovered oil there. hah.....

That is interesting about Tumlin...isn't it. How appropriate for his name to have been Tumlin.

Avus said...

Buffy St Marie says it all, Nea!

Nea said...

I remember Buffy........yes, she wrote and sang some songs about the plight of her people. I don't have any of them though. will have to go andsee what I can find.

I have a sore finger, so please forgive the typing. I don't hit the keys hard enough with that finger, so they often don't type, or the bandaide hits the wrong keys. and I never was the best speller in the world. ;)