Singer-Moye Mounds (Site 9SW2)
by Richard L. Thornton, Architect and City Planner
Another article in The Americas Revealed describes a 310 mile long line of important towns and mountaintop shrines were described, which run from the mouth of the Apalachicola River to a stone architecture observatory on Ladd’s Mountain, west of Cartersville, GA. Most of these towns and shrines were apparently constructed between around 0 AD and 600 AD. That certainly was the case for the two largest Woodland Period towns, north of Mexico . . . Kolomoki in SW Georgia and Leake Mounds in NW Georgia. These were true towns, not just ceremonial sites as in the Hopewell earthworks. The dates on the many stone shrines are not really known, because they have received very little study by archaeologists.
Two major exceptions for the Woodland Period chronology of these archaeological sites are Okafvne (Okafunee) and Potvli (Potauli):
- Okafvni means “water-sticking out” or “horseshoe bend” in Hitchiti-Creek. It was the nearest port on the Flint River for the attapulgite mines at the Creek village of Attapulgus, which supplied builders in the great Maya city of Palenque with their primary ingredient for Maya blue. However, this town was occupied in the Teminal Archaic Period, Woodland Period and Colonial Period.
- Potvli probably means “Head Bowed Down – People.” The “li” (actually “re”) suffix indicates Uchee heritage, but ultimately Bronze Age Northwestern Europe founders. “Re”, when pronounced with the typical rolled R of the Creeks and Uchees, sounded like an “Le” to English-speakers. The “Ree or Ry” suffix can still be found in many old Irish and southern Swedish place names.
- Potali was the same ethnic group, which was called Potafa by the chroniclers of the Hernando de Soto Expedition and Potavou by Captain René de Laudonnière, Commander of Fort Caroline, in his memoir.
Dating to the Mississippian Period (A.D. 800-1600), the Singer-Moye Mounds Archaeological Zone is located in south central Stewart County, Georgia. Eight earthen mounds, ranging from three to forty-six feet in height. 1 The well-preserved site occupies approximately thirty-five acres of mixed pine and hardwood forest. The excavation of the Singer-Moye Mounds in Stewart County has revealed the buried foundations of Proto-Creek buildings that were destroyed and abandoned more than 600 years ago. Thousands of ceramics fragments and animal bones have also been recovered.
Ceramic collections and radiocarbon dates from the excavations firmly place Singer-Moye structures within the Mississippian Period. These artifacts and dates, however, provide only a fragmented history of mound use, given that several of the mounds and early mound stages have yet to be tested. So far, Mound C has yielded the earliest dates of A.D. 1100-1200, a period known as the Rood I phase, named after the nearby Rood’s Landing site. Mounds E and H were used during the Rood III phase, A.D. 1300-1400. The final use of Mounds A and D dates to the Singer phase, A.D. 1400-1450.
In the late 1950s, professional archaeologists, Joseph Mahan, of the Columbus Museum of Arts and Crafts (which became known later as the Columbus Museum) and Harold A. Huscher of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., collected a small number of surface artifacts. From that time until 2007, teams from the University of Georgia and the Columbus Museum intermittently conducted a variety of tests and excavations in Mounds A, C, D, E, and H. Also discovered were extensive cultural remains and middens, or trash heaps, that indicate the presence of a sizeable village associated with the mounds.
- Mounds B, F, and G are currently being investigated by University of Georgia anthropology students, but no documents have been made available to the public, concerning their contents.
- Mound A, the largest mound, is believed by some archaeologists to have been the home of a powerful chief. Excavations of this mound revealed the remains of a 39-by-39-foot structure on the summit, with copper fragments, mica sheets, disc-shaped stones used for games, numerous smoking pipes, and a fragment from a painted bottle featuring a human head effigy. Researchers also found evidence that this structure was burned and later covered by a clay cap.
- Excavations on Mound C revealed five mound stages, and archaeologists recovered a small sample of ceramics with a high proportion of decorated bottles and beakers, which were used as fine serving wares.
- Mound D appears to have been built into the existing hillside, where a natural terrace was shaped into a rectangular platform. Six large fire pits were uncovered on the summit of Mound D, along with pottery and pipe fragments, sandstone stone discs, daub, and red ochre.
- The majority of Mound E has been excavated, revealing the remains of a wattle-and-daub earth lodge with a red clay floor and white clay daub walls. The excavation of Mound H exposed portions of several structures, a section of palisade wall, pottery (including decorated bottles), mica sheet fragments, and other artifacts.
I. Wood, M. J.. “Singer-Moye Mounds.” New Georgia Encyclopedia. 29 August 2013. Web. 04 July 2019.
Georgia archaeologists generally don’t try to learn the Creek languages or our cultural history. Therefore, known only to these archaeologists as the Singer-Moye Mounds (Site 9SW2), Potauli has always been an enigma to them. Located 22 miles up Pataula Creek from the Chattahoochee River, it seems to be in the middle of nowhere and does not adjoin massive expansive of bottom land like most proto-Creek towns. Its mysterious nature does not end with location, however.
An archaeological zone that few people know
Archaeological Zone 9SW2 is little known outside the community of archaeologists in Georgia. Yet, it is one of the larger mound complexes in the Southeast and certainly the best preserved.
Singer-Moye Mounds has received very little professional archaeological study until recently. In 1968, the families, who owned the Singer-Moye Site, donated 35 acres of the archaeological zone to the Columbus Museum of History. At the time, the museum was led by Dr. Joseph B Mahan, who devoted most of his life to the study of the indigenous people of the Chattahoochee River Valley. Mahan was the only Southeastern anthropologist, who was ever particularly interested in the Uchee. He and some other late 20th century archaeologists, puttered around there, but never even prepared a topographic survey.
It is anticipated that the archaeological zone will sometime in the future join the state park system as an historic site, once it is fully studied by archaeologists. However, progress has been slow for the professional archaeological work there. Outside the State of Florida, funds for archaeological work in the Southeast have dried up. The current batch of politicians, elsewhere in the South, seem uninterested in cultural concerns and the major foundations seem to be only interested in the Southwestern United States, Mesoamerica and South America.
A town that belongs in the highlands of southern Mexico or western Belize
I first became aware of the Singer-Moye Site about a decade ago when reading the book, The Chattahoochee Chiefdoms by University of Alabama professors, John Blitz and Karl Lorenz. However, the sketch site plan attached to the brief article on Singer-Moye in the book seemed implausible. In fact, the sketch only slightly resembled the actual site plan. Also, the book provided no information on the specific location of the site. All internet articles on this archaeological zone also intentionally leave out the locational information.
The anonymous nature of this archaeological zone continued until July 2016, when I stumbled upon a blog site by a University of Alabama anthropology student, who worked one summer at Singer-Moye. She also was careful to conceal the archaeological zone’s location, but left one tiny detail on a map, which an architect-planner, like myself, could quickly use to obtain the true location of the ruins from the Stewart County, GA Clerk of Court’s tax maps. From that the latitude and longitude on ERSI GIS high resolution satellite imagery-based mapping could be calculated. I also was able to match the location with a known Creek town of the Colonial Period, known as Potawlee.
The University of Georgia’s Department of Anthropology had published online its topographic survey of the mounds, without road or stream names. However, by interpolating scaled ERSI-NASA satellite imagery with the two sets of maps, I soon had everything I needed to create an extremely accurate, three dimensional computer model.
The Architecture and Urban Planning of Potauli
The results were astonishing. The town plan and orientation of the town plan was unlike anything I had seen in the Southeast. That traverse line, running from Ladd’s Mountain, GA to Apalachicola, FL goes through the center of Mound A at Singer-Moye, but the town was not aligned to it. All the earthworks were tilted to the southwest about 14.6 degrees like Teotihuacan, plus the largest mounds at Kolomoki in southwest Georgia and the Alec Mountain Archaeological Zone in Habersham County, GA (extreme Northeast Georgia) . . . YET, pentagonal Mound A was designed so that its two southern faces align with the sunrise and sunset of the Winter Solstice. There is a line of ponds and mounds in the southwestern corner of the site that align with True North-South.
There was nothing about Potauli that looked like an indigenous town of the Southeast. The only similar town site in Georgia is the one at Batesville, GA – recently discovered by the Apalache Foundation. The plaza of the acropolis gradually slopes uphill from south to north. At the highest point of visible ruins is a large platform with no mound on it – Mound D. The platform is essentially a massive terrace built into the side of the hill. Mounds B and C also began as modifications of the natural terrain, but conventional pyramidal mounds grew out of them. Mound B also contains terraces on the southeast corner. We see this mountain-or-hilltop platform feature at several of North Georgia stone terrace complexes.
Asymmetrical plazas are very rare in the Southeast, but typical of Highland Maya cities and towns. The “downtowns” of Highland Maya communities were typically placed adjacent to small, fast running streams as is the situation at Potauli. That is also typical of the terrace complexes in North Georgia, but not of proto-Muskogean towns in Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia. What Potauli most closely resembles are the Kekchi Maya towns from the Classic and Post-Classic Periods in the highlands of western Belize.
To this day, like most Highland Maya tribes, the Kekchi still cultivate mountainside terrace complexes. However, unlike the Itza Mayas around Lake Atitlan, Guatemala, the Kekchi did not incorporate temples and housing terraces into the cultivated terraces. There is at least one terrace complex, near Lake Atitlan that is virtually identical to the Track Rock Terrace Complex. Instead, the Kekchi built their medium sized towns on moderate slopes.
As seen below, Kekchi towns usually contain one or more five-sided mounds like the proto-Creek towns in Georgia. In fact, most of their temples were built on earthen mounds, not stone pyramids as in more sophisticated parts of the Maya realm. Some Kekchi pyramids have fieldstone veneers, but this is also seen in Apalache towns in North Georgia.
Although Potauli’s central plaza is asymmetrical, the arrangement of the mounds seemed planned. Highland Maya town centers are organic . . . not seeming to have been planned in advance, but rather structures were randomly placed as the community grew. This is true even for the great city of Palenque.
The Teotihuacan and Potauli connection to Pleiades Constellation
As the reader can see above, the urban plans of Teotihuacan and Potauli share some similarities. They are tilted at the same angle and have a north-south axis. In recent years, the orientation of Teotihuacan has been linked by astro-archaeologists to the Pleiades Constellation. The planners of Potauli went a step further. The locations and relative sizes of the mounds at Potauli exactly match the stars in the Pleiades Constellation. Why this town in the middle of nowhere was placed on a 310 mile long line between a mountain in NW Georgia and the mouth of a river in Florida . . . plus was modeled after the Pleiades Constellation . . . is in the realm of pure speculation. There has to be a very good reason and the answer is not going to be found in an Anthropology 101 textbook.