Archaeological Myth-Busting in the Mountains
Union County, Georgia
By Richard L. Thornton, Architect and City Planner
“If you tell a big enough lie and tell it frequently enough, it will be believed.” – Adolf Hitler
“There are a whole bunch of people out there these days, who are trying to control what we do, how we think, what we believe . . . and who are totally insane.” – Bubba Mountain Lion
Beginning in 2001, the general public would intermittently read in Georgia newspapers the summaries of US Forest Service press releases about the Track Rock Gap petroglyphs, but never see the content of the two archaeological reports. The old wagon road through the stone ruins had deteriorated into a hiking path, but remained open. However, there was no mention of the spectacular ruins in either of the USFS Visitors Centers in Blairsville or Blue Ridge. Archaeologists in the Southeastern United States, including Georgia, remained largely ignorant of the hundreds of stone ruins in the Georgia Mountains and Piedmont. The archaeological profession had long maintained a simplistic orthodoxy of the Southeastern Indians, which stated that indigenous stone architecture in the Southeast didn’t exist. A handful of professionals in the National Park Service knew differently.
2002 – National Park Service Project
In 2002, while I was living and practicing architecture in Jasper, GA I received an RFP from the National Park Service that was quite intriguing. The Southeastern Regional Office was looking for a small architecture, engineering or surveying firm to climb to the tops of mountains in northern Georgia to photograph and measure stone circles and cairns. Afterward, drawings of these ruins were to be prepared according to HABS* standards. It had an unusual requirement that professionals assigned to the project must be physically fit and have extensive experience with hiking and camping in the mountains. Very little was said about knowledge of Southeastern Native American History. That seemed like an afterthought.
* HABS = Historic American Buildings Survey ~ It is a program of the Library of Congress.
The RFP made a vague reference to “studies of stone structures at Track Rock Gap have revealed their Native American origin.” There was no further explanation. I had talked with several of the firms submitting bids since we planned to actually have a consortium of our firms do the work. All of us assumed that the reference to Track Rock Gap were somehow related to the petroglyphs, but didn’t understand why.
At that time in my life, my knowledge of Southeastern Native cultures was limited to what I had picked up while living near Etowah Mounds for five years and buying the books that they had for sale. I would later learn that those books were not as comprehensive as their anthropologist authors would have you believe. However, I did hike up to thirty miles a week with my herd dog and I was a jock when it came to Mesoamerican architecture so I made the short list for proposals submitted. I noticed that all those on the list were small architecture, engineering or surveying firms in Georgia with low overheads.
Then we heard nothing. Finally, I received a letter from the Park Service, stating that the requirements of the RFP had been amended. The original RFP stated that the drawings had to be produced with Autocad compatible software. The new RFP stated that the drawings had to be produced with the most expensive CADD software on the market . . . costing about $54,000. It was primarily used by defense contractors. aerospace companies and the engineering design of large projects such as ships, roadways, railways, bridges, buildings, industrial plants, power plants, and utility networks. All of those on the short list withdrew their bids.
There was never an announcement of the firm selected to do the work. The Bush White House had pressured the National Park Service to modify the RFP so that some large political donor could be rewarded. Thinking that the stone cairn study would be like the RFP for a part on a stealth bomber, Defense Industry bidders submitted quotes in the millions of dollars. The short list bids had been in the range of $20-30,000!
The project was never carried out by the National Park Service. Later, in 2002 the budgets for the National Park Service and US Forest Service were drastically cut to provide funds for the invasion of Iraq. Instead, People of One Fire volunteers have been participating in the project for several years . . . at zero cost to the taxpayers.
Governor Thornton? LOL
During the summer of 2002, when I had been living in the mountains for two years, Sandra Graham, an accounting instructor in a state community college, was put into my life to give me a message from the oligarchs. If I joined the Republican Party, my professional practice would soon be overwhelmed with projects . . . I would soon have a rich, beautiful wife and I would probably be elected Governor of Georgia in 2010.
Well, first of all, I was not qualified to be a governor and not interested in the job anyway. Like most civil engineers, architects and surveyors with small practices, I avoided partisan politics like the plague. As soon as one places a political label on one’s self, you instantly alienate a legion of potential clients, who don’t wear that label.
After Sandra suddenly disappeared from my life, I was soon introduced to a wealthy, former beauty queen, who was recently divorced from a Lockheed-Martin Aerospace executive. Guess, it was planned that she become the glamorous First Lady of Jawja. The game plan was for me to move into her mac-mansion in Vinings, a posh neighborhood of Cobb County, choking from the air pollution that rises from nearby Interstate 285. The first question that she asked me as we were sipping wine in her living room on our only date was, “Why don’t you want to work for corporations?” I explained that “architects were like surveyors and dentists. We operate small businesses” . . . then I went racing for her front door. The stunned ex-debutante sat on her $3000 designer couch, holding her $25 wine glass . . . feeling suddenly powerless.
Humor: The following week, an attractive twentyish Republican lass from eastern Cobb County called me up for a dinner date. She was a complete stranger, but someone I knew, knew her, so I said yes. It turned out that the sole purpose of the date was for her to give me a copy of the book, The Millionaire Next Door. The premise of the book is that rich people are rich because they have been blessed by God because of their devout faith and good works. Poor people are poor because they are lazy and do not have strong Christian faith. I asked her, if this was true, then why hasn’t Al Capone been made a saint by the Roman Catholic Church? For that matter, Jesus didn’t own anything, but the crude clothes on his back. She didn’t know who Al Capone was and said that Jesus Christ was irrelevant in the matter.
Humor: This date wins the cake, however. In 1999, the lovely widow of a former classmate in Architecture at Georgia Tech asked me out for a dinner date. I really liked her (initially) and would have pursued the development of a relationship, except that . . . When the time in the evening came when normally a man and woman get more personal in their conversation, came, she said this: “Richard, I am here to tell you that you will soon be dead. I wanted you to know that dying isn’t that bad.” Please don’t try that statement in your next romantic encounter.
Other details of nine years of living hell, while living in Jasper, Georgia, plus two years of homelessness, are described in my March 2012 book, Itsapa . . . the Itza Mayas in North America. They directly relate to the events surrounding Track Rock Gap, but would take up two book chapters on their own. Let it suffice to say that the occult was very much involved with the events, which unrolled in rapid succession in 2012.
Corruption in the US Forest Service
In 2008, soon after newly elected President Obama appointed a Democrat to be Attorney for the Federal District of North Georgia, a scandal broke out in the US Forest Service. For many years, the Gainesville Headquarters of the Chattahoochee National Forest had required anyone doing business with the USFS to make sizable contributions to certain Republican candidates. In the 1990s and early 2000’s the program was intended to help the Republicans gain complete control in Georgia, but by 2006 there were no Democratic candidates in most elections. The complaint had come from Republicans, who resented their Republican opponents getting help from federal bureaucrats. It was a practice that violated a legion of federal laws.
Although it is obvious that such a blatant violation of American values was made possible by many people in several levels of government, only certain people were arrested, such as the people at the top echelon of the Chattahoochee National Forest. At the time that the History, National Geo and PBS TV channels applied for commercial filming permits at Track Rock Gap, the Gainesville USFS office still had no Director. Without a criminal investigation, it is impossible to determine who in the USFS actually gave the order to block access by film production companies after the Travel Channel was allowed to film there. However, this much has been confirmed . . . The USFS was going to automatically give film permits to the other TV channels, until someone in the USFS office in Gainesville, GA received a telephone call from an official of the Eastern Band of Cherokees in North Carolina. North Carolina Cherokees openly bragged about this incident for several years.
Old rocks in a power right-of-way
How I stumbled onto the Track Rock ruins were not discussed in the premier of “America Unearthed.” While I was homeless, I was National Architecture Columnist for the Examiner! That helped keep my mind working, plus opened my eyes to the many forgotten legacies from the past, which still exist.
While working on an article about the Track Rock Gap on the Creek New Year (June 21st), I drove a couple of miles from my chicken house to Track Rock Gap to photograph the petroglyphs. It was a hot summer’s day so my herd dogs told me they were thirsty. Across the road was a ravine with a stream in it, so we walked over there. As I passed through the Blue Ridge EMC right-of-way I noticed the remnants of an ancient stone wall, protruding through the soil. Then another one.
On the other side of the stream was evidence of old mining activities, such as a small basin and part of a dam. Then up the mountainside on the east side of the stream I saw a stone retaining wall then another and another. This section of the terrace complex was completely missed by Johannes Loubser, when he was paid to map the ruins. I assumed that I had found the ruins of a 17th century Sephardic Jewish gem or gold mine. Much later, I learned that it was a 19th century corundum mine, which had been super-imposed on the ancient Native American ruins.
When I got home (the office of the chicken house) I immediately called Roger Kennedy, former Director of the National Park Service and the National Museum of American History. He had subsidized my explorations, while I was living in a tent. I told him the good news that I finally found the ruins of a Sephardic mining village. He informed me that his cancer had come back with a vengeance. He would be able to pay me for one last bit of graphics work for his book on Greek Revival Architecture, but then medical bills would prevent any more payments. Roger died three months later.
A skillet too hot to handle
A few weeks later in the summer of 2011, Jon Haskell, who also appeared on the premier of “America Unearthed,” contacted me. He lived in Carmel, Indiana, which was the headquarters of my college fraternity, Lambda Chi Alpha. In retirement, Jon had become an avid film maker of archaeological sites. He became very interested in Track Rock Gap after I sent him a copy of Johannes Loubser’s archaeological report.
Throughout the summer, I was having problems with strangers following me everywhere I went in Union County. That made it quite dangerous for me to penetrate the Track Rock ruins very much. Most of them were the Neo-Nazi thugs, who protect the local drug dealers. One was a 6′-2″ blonde (former) beauty queen, who drove a 1960s, white Cadillac. I couldn’t figure out if she was friendly or a black widow spider. She would come up to me and smile at the Blairsville Post Office, but not respond to my hello.
I could not expect help from local law enforcement. At my last campsite on Wolf Creek before moving into the chicken house, two supervisory deputies had led an attack on my camp at 12:30 in the night by eight pickup truck loads of thugs from Choestoe Baptist Church. Choestoe Baptist came real close to holding about 12 funerals for “their good boys,” but I was able to escape without firing my rifles. Later investigation revealed that the parents of both deputies had become wealthy from selling cocaine in Florida then moved north to the Georgia Mountains. All was not as it seemed.
When I realized that the rabies tags on my three dogs had expired the previous week, I called my veterinarian in Jasper for an appointment. On the morning of the appointment, the Union County Sheriff’s Dept. set up two roadblocks on the two alternatives near my chicken house for getting to Jasper. They planned to issue me three $100 tickets for expired rabies tags. I was able to evade them by going north into North Carolina via an old dirt road then swinging around to Blue Ridge, GA.
Jon drove down on September 21 to jointly filmed the ruins. His wife was too ill with cancer to travel. He had obtained a permit from the US Forest Service to produce a commercial film on the site. I figured having two cars in the Track Rock parking lot would intimidate the thugs. We never could find the access trail to the terraces because of the dense undergrowth, but did document some more walls on the edges of the half square mile archaeological zone. Throughout that time, the blonde in the white Cadillac was parked in the Track Rock Gap parking lot.
When we returned back to the chicken house office, it was only seconds away from going up in flames. I had cooked sausages and eggs for us before we left then fed the grease to my dogs on the front porch. While we were at Track Rock “someone with a key” grabbed the skillet and entered the office. He or she then turned a gas burner on the stove, added cooking oil into the skillet and placed it on the burner. The person left the cap off the oil container thinking the arson was a done deal. The flames were two feet high when we arrived.
Had we found the access trail and stayed longer, the chicken house would have certainly burned down and its owners would have collected a huge insurance payment. I had to quickly vacate the premises soon thereafter when I discovered that the owners had tapped my meter to provide electricity for a marijuana growing operation in their basement.
I did not get to see all of the Track Rock ruins until Thanksgiving 2011. I correctly reasoned that everybody would be at Thanksgiving Dinner that afternoon. I returned on Christmas afternoon to get more photos. So all of the photos that you see in my book and that were shown (without crediting me) on the History Channel program, were made on those two holidays. I have spent every Christmas and Thanksgiving alone for the past 13 years.
The big surprise
The first article on the Track Rock ruins were completed on December 20th and published in the national architecture column of the Examiner on December 21st, the Maya New Year . . . I didn’t realize that until afterward. Since it was the holidays, I expected it to garner maybe 200 to a 1000 views. However, I hoped to attract the attention of one or more archaeologists, who then could get grants to fully investigate the Track Rock site. At the time, I did not envision writing anymore articles on the subject, since it seemed to be irrelevant to my desire of re-starting my architecture practice.
The next morning, I was stunned to see 256,000 views and my article ranked Number one among those produced by over a thousand Examiner writers. By the next day, it had jumped to over 600,000 views and by Christmas Eve to 1 1/2 million. The Editor of the Examiner called me on Christmas Eve to wish me a Merry Christmas. He said that this was the first time that he had communicated directly with any writer, but my article deserved it.
The viewer count on my article did not include copycat articles that appeared in most of the news services and newspapers in the world . . . including those in Mongolia and the Seychelle Islands . . . but NONE in Georgia! The actual reader count was certainly in the range of 100 million or more. Would you believe, though, that my articles on Georgia archaeological sites and the subsequent History Channel program were black-listed in Georgia? Nevertheless, I was interviewed by all of the major TV networks in the USA, plus several in Europe and Latin America.
Relatively few archaeologists from the Southeast commented on the series of Examiner articles that were subsequently written on the Track Rock site. All the comments were sarcastic and condescending, plus provided no alternative explanation for the ruins. As matter of fact, none of these archeologists had seen the Track Rock stone ruins. Some had never even been in Mexico. All displayed an appalling ignorance of both Maya and Creek Cultural History. Comments were typified by Professor Mark Williams of the University of Georgia, who ended his remarks with, “Now run along and play children. Stop dabbling in things that you know nothing about.”
None of them seemed to know that I was a Creek Indian . . . had studied in Mexico on a fellowship . . . taught Meso-American Architecture at Georgia Tech and had been for five years a research consultant for the Muscogee-Creek Nation.
Until the series of personal attacks by the archaeologists, I had intended to go back to hunting for the Sephardic Jewish mining villages in the Southern Highlands. I felt forced to write a book on the Itza Mayas to prove that I had professional knowledge to back up my journalistic statements in the Examiner. The book, Itsapa . . . the Itza Mayas in North America was the basis for the premier of “America Unearthed,” but the viewer was never told that . . . or that I was actually interviewed for eight hours. However, I never would have linked the petroglyphs displayed in the TV program with the Mayas. They date back thousands of years and are identical to Bronze Age European petroglyphs.
Satanic attack is a technique often used by occult groups to eliminate an especially onerous enemy. Typically, multiple persons and occult groups participate in the attempted destruction of an individual. The objective of such attacks at all aspects of a person’s life is to drive them into committing suicide or either being in a serious accident or committing a serious crime because of being under extreme stress.
By early February, CBS, National Geo, the History Channel, the Travel Channel and PBS were talking to me about producing documentary films on the Maya Thing or Native American history of Georgia. The Travel Channel immediately received a filming permit from the Gainesville USFS office and filmed at the ruins on March 1, 2012.
During the filming, Susan Muse, the Young Harris art student, who along with me, witnessed an attempt by University of Georgia professors and students to frame Dr. Arthur Kelly, died a few miles from Track Rock Gap. That night, someone put a screw into one of my tires. I had been communicating with a lady in Asheville, who I later realized was impersonating a woman, who I was acquainted with while living there. She was supposedly “all grown up” and now single again and I was lonely. We were to meet for the first time in person in Franklin, NC on March 2. I had to get my tire fixed before leaving, but found it odd that the tire shop moved my Explorer into a windowless garage space to fix a simple flat.
The drive over to Franklin involved going over a 5400 feet high mountain gap and pass 500-1000 feet cliffs. I was tailed all the way there and back by a black van and a black pickup truck with three dog transport crates in the back. Both vehicles had Union County, Georgia tags. Everywhere I have lived in the past 20 years, including here, the Nazi’s have hated my dogs and have killed several of them in diabolical ways. They are just sweet-natured, intelligent herd dogs . . . but as stated in the beginning of the article, there are a lot of crazy people out there. Nevertheless, nothing happened on the trip other than me realizing that the woman was a fraud. She didn’t know the name of the boyfriend of the real woman, when I knew her.
HOWEVER, the next day as I was taking the dogs to Jasper to get parvo shots, my steering wheel and ignition key box suddenly fell into my lap. I could neither steer nor turn off the Explorer. Had I been on the curving mountain road to Franklin, I would have gone off those cliffs. As it was, I was on a 4-lane expressway south of Ellijay and was able jam my brakes sufficiently to cause the car to skid off the highway and stop the engine.
The next day, March 3rd, Jim Langford of the Georgia Council of Professional Archaeologists, spoke to the Georgia Trail of Tears Association. Did he know that I had been its acting president in 2006? His speech was immediately posted online by GTOTA. The lecture began with “This Maya thing is a bunch of crap” and was entirely a personal attack on me after that. He displayed a gross ignorance of the Mayas and Creeks in the presentation . . . especially the Creeks, who make of the vast majority of real Native American descendants in Georgia. They promptly left TOTA . You see we Creeks are raised as kids being told that we are part Maya . . . and we are.
During the following month, the American Institute of Archaeology Journal published an editorial by Dr. Ramon Sarro, an ethnologist at Oxford University, who specializes in the cultures of West and South Africa. Sarro described me as an “ignorant peon, who knows nothing about the American Indians.” Sarro had never seen a Creek town site and obviously did not know that I was a Creek Indian . . . oh peon, yes . . . ignorant, no! I did some sleuthing. Johannes Loubser and Sarro were buddies in South Africa, before fleeing the collapse of the Apartheid government.
For the remainder of the year, although again having to cut staffs and maintenance programs because of budget cuts, the US Forest Service Office in Gainesville funded a special propaganda website and speakers program, which it cleverly named, “Maya Myth-Busting in the Mountains.” Funding for this program was also provided by the Eastern Band of Cherokees. The program involved multiple press releases, plus paying Georgia archaeologists to speak at civic clubs around the Atlanta Area in opposition to the future broadcast in December 2012 of American Unearthed.
The archaeologists had no clue what the TV program was going to say so instead just focused on making personal attacks on me. I was portrayed as a minimally educated white racist, who was trying to steal the Cherokees heritage away from them. Bill Torpy, who hails from Chicago, was a reporter with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution at that time. He is now a columnist.
Torpy gave full coverage to the Maya Myth-Busting-In-The Mountains presentations at Atlanta Area civic clubs . . . something that the AJC had not done in 60 years. We were told that the members of the Brookhaven Garden Club and Snellville Birdwatchers Club had learned that a minimally educated, white racist was trying to steal the heritage of the poor North Carolina Cherokees. Torpy could have easily looked up my bio, but since this news was really propaganda, he just regurgitated the lies and didn’t bother to fact-check them.
In May 2012, some members of the California Sierra Club contacted me about leading a hike up to the Track Rock ruins. I would be paid. Money is something I had little of. Obviously, my phone was still be illegally tapped by federal, state or local law enforcement. The next week, the Blairsville Office of the US Forest Service dispatched a large crew of USFS employees to saw or cut down over 100 trees along the Track Rock Access Trail and the Vent Trails. Union County residents were outraged and contacted me. The Californians were able to hike around the trees, but from then on, believed everything I said about the corruption in the USFS in Georgia.
In a AJC article, published in September 2012, I noticed a new twist in the message. At his latest speaking engagement to a Jewish cultural society, Loubser announced that I was also anti-Semitic! Huh? My dearest friends in Asheville had been Harry and Lillie Lerner . . . survivors of the Holocaust. My first love had been a Sephardic Jewish senorita in Mexico. I was actively trying to restore the early Jewish history of Georgia . . . the 17th century Sephardic colonists in the mountains . . . and he said that? Turned out that Ramon Sarro was also Jewish. Hm-m-m.
The following Saturday, two, very expensive sports cars roared up our country lane in Lumpkin County. Both had rear bumper decals that said “IDF Veteran.” (IDF = Israeli Defense Forces) Once the drivers realized that they were headed into nowhere-land, they turned around and came back to my cabin. I was just emerging from the woods in front of my cabin . . . carrying a machete and bush hook in each hand for chopping down wild grape vines. I didn’t threaten them with the tools. I just stood there in shock.
The two IDF veterans first had cocky smirks on their faces then took a closer look at the bush hook. They burned rubber in order to beat a fast retreat back to the safety of Hotlanta. Apparently, the IDF does not train its troops for combat against 6′-3″ Injuns, carrying bush hooks.
After the bush hook incident, rogue law enforcement officers in the federal government created the new lie for me. I was a dangerous, violent, ultra-rightwing, anti-government terrorist! That backfired. The anti-government mountaineers, living near me, suddenly viewed me as a hero. The truth, as always, was irrelevant. Periodic checks from former Director of the National Park Service, Roger Kennedy, had kept me afloat while homeless. Much farther back in history, Jimmy Carter introduced me to Senator Joe Biden as a future governor of Georgia and maybe president some day. That doesn’t sound like the profile of a rightwing terrorist, does it. Again though, we live in a time when the lie is everything.
The final days before the election
There is no greater proof that the Southeastern and Gainesville Offices of the US Forest Service was being run by idiots. A week prior to the premier of America Unearthed, the US Forest Service spent thousands and thousands of dollars to fly in tribal bureaucrats from North Carolina and Oklahoma to wine them, dine them and lie to them along with faculty members of the University of Georgia’s Department of Anthropology. However, the professors were so stupid that they didn’t know what a Creek Indian looked like. The Creeks, Uchees and Seminoles in the student body offered their services as spooks. They told us that they would rather be kicked out of the University rather than see their sleazy professors win this game. Also, by then we had a means of communication that Georgia or Federal cops couldn’t intercept.
But . . . I ended up not doing anything but laughing. USFS employees thought that they were still helping rightwing Republican candidates win elections. However, this was not an election and I was not a member of any political party. Most Georgians would not even know about the History Channel programs, filmed in their state, until they went on YouTube.
The USFS bused their guests up to Track Rock Gap, but none of the out-of-state Injuns were in sufficient physical condition to climb up to the ruins. They then were returned to Athens for a banquet. The next day, the out-of-state delegations and the profs, who knew nothing about the Creeks, signed a joined proclamation stating that (1) the Mayas did not come to Georgia (2) Georgia whites were trying to steal their heritage, and (3) the Muskogee Creeks in Oklahoma and the Qualla Cherokees in North Carolina built the Track Rock Terraces together. For the record, the Muskogee Creeks had nothing to do with building the stone architecture and major mounds in Georgia. They were built by my ancestors, the Itsate and Apalache Creeks.
Scott Wolter, the host of America Unearthed, told me that because of the dramatic ending of the program, I would be inundated with paid speaking requests. That never happened, mainly because most Georgians are just now finding out on the Travel Channel that the program existed. The Travel Chanel is owned by the Cox-Chambers families, who are from Atlanta. * HOWEVER, since moving to a decent house in a culturally progressive part of the Georgia Mountains, I am getting non-paid speaking engagements.
*You probably don’t believe me, but in late 2018, I actually had Jim Coxe-Chambers and friends as a guests in the rat-infested hovel above. They were extremely nice and I was extremely embarrassed that they saw me living there. LOL
Mainly because of the shenanigans of the rogue cops, I have not had a woman touch me in 14 years. Remember, in an earlier article I mentioned that in September 2000, they began calling women to tell them that I was a serial killer, plus simultaneously gay and a predator of college coeds! You can imagine how lonely a normal guy can get in that situation. While homeless, I would go for months without having a significant conversation other than phone conversations with Roger Kennedy.
So I had these fantasies of the lady of my dreams coming to my hovel, after seeing me on international television . . . and carrying me away from the 237 rats. I couldn’t decide, if she was going to be Native American, Scandinavian, Latin American or Asian. If that didn’t happen, at least female groupies would cluster at my door, begging to let in to receive higher knowledge and nurturing. None of the above happened. On a few occasions, little ole silver-haired men, carrying white, fluffy foo-foo dogs would come up to me with a sick grin. That’s not exactly my cup of tea, if you get my gist. A feller jest can’t get no respekt these here days. However, the blueberry and strawberry crops are doing well. That ain’t so bad.