by Richard L. Thornton, Architect & City Planner
While studying the Amys Creek Archaeological Zone in northwestern Habersham County, Georgia during the autumn of 2019, I saw something odd in the infrared imagery. There was the footprint of a large rectangular structure with a semi-circular apse. It is called a “Roman basilica” by architectural historians, but the form actually dates back to the Late Bronze Age in the western Mediterranean Basin . . . most commonly in the Iberian Peninsula, Balearic Islands (Majorca), Sardinia, Corsica and western Sicily. What the heck?
Remote sensing techniques, in particular, infrared imagery and LIDAR scans are very useful to Historic Preservation Architects. I was first exposed to the technology in 1988, when a team from the National Park Service was surveying our colonial farm in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley in preparation for including the property as a “key unit” of the Shenandoah Battlefields National Park. It was the site of the Battle of Toms Brook, between Brig. General George Armstrong Custer and Major General Thomas Rosser. The US Geological Survey provided a high resolution infrared image of the entire battlefield. In the process, the NPS archaeologists quickly identified the footprints of nine farm outbuildings, which were no longer visible on the landscape. The NPS staff at their Harpers Ferry Facility later taught me how to apply the technology to both Colonial-Federal Period farms and Civil War fortifications. Ground radar is not as useful for me because I am primarily interested in architectural footprints, which normally contain high carbon levels . . . not artifacts.
There had once been a massive oval shaped mound at the intersection of GA Hwy. 17 and Amys Creek Road. Several of the most famous archaeologists of the late 1800s and 20th century drove right past it, without noticing it, because it was so large. In the early 1990s, the Georgia Department of Transportation scooped up the mound and used it for fill at a expressway construction site in eastern Habersham County.
Fortunately, with infrared I was able to see the faint footprint of the final mound, plus a stronger footprint of an intermediate mound and the very pronounced footprint of a diamond-shaped mound underneath it, which was typical of the Itza and Kekchi Mayas in the Chiapas Highlands of Mesoamerica. There were also the footprints of rectangular houses and a very large rectangular building, oriented to the Sunset of the Winter Solstice! Hm-m-m!
The rectangular building is aligned to the azimuth of the Winter Solstice Sunset. It was approximately 100 feet (30.5 m) on its SE-NW axis and 66 feet (20.1 m) on its SE-NW axis. There is a semi-circular apse, 16 feet (4.9 m) in diameter on its NE side. There is a dark spot near the center of the floor plan, which could either be a ceremonial hearth or a burial tomb.
The apparent building is discussed in the video below along with the three mounds built over it. When the video was created, I did not try to interpret the specific style and age of this footprint.
Several more months research were required to find kindred architecture elsewhere. I first had to make sure that a barn had not been constructed on the site after the mounds were bulldozed . . . although, whoever heard of a barn with a semi-circular apse? Nope . . . the land had been in continuous cultivation after being leveled.
Was there any similar architecture in the Americas? I could find none in my references . . . which includes well over a hundred books. The ancestors of the Uchee and Creeks did build log-walled tombs, which were later covered by mounds. The Adena and Hopewell mounds in the Ohio Valley also often contain log tombs in their hearts.
Two TV programs, funded by the LDS, stated that the Nephites constructed many Jewish temples and synagogues in the Midwest and New England and that these large rectangular buildings are now found under Hopewell Culture Mounds.* I contacted the Hopewell Culture National Park in Chillcothe, Ohio. The ranger-archaeologist said that no large structures have been found under Hopewell Mounds; only small log tombs for one or two persons. Many mounds only contain the ashes of human remains and no log tombs.
*”Book of Morman Evidence – Joseph Smith Knew” and “Hunting Nephi.”
In going through my architectural history texts, I immediately found very similar floor plans in Europe – thousands of historic buildings in Europe were constructed in a basilica plan. Even the great Gothic Style cathedrals were at their core, basilicas. The vast majority of these basilicas were either Roman law courts and temples or later, Christian churches.
A few basilica structures were much older than the Roman and Byzantine buildings. There is a basilica in a former Phoenician colony in Cádiz on the Mediterranean coast of Spain , which dates from the Late Bronze Age and Early Iron Age. It is very similar in size and plan to the footprint of the rectangular building under the Fritchey Mound. Just recently, a similar Sun God temple was found in Cuenca, Spain. Much better preserved, it was definitely built by a people, who lived in Spain, prior to being driven out by the Iberian invaders around 400 BC. This temple may be much older than 400 BC. It’s photographs were copyrighted, so I can’t reproduce them here.
In recent years, several similar structures have been found by archaeologists in England. They are not from the Bronze Age, but rather are chapels next to fortified Roman army camps, dating from 100 AD – 250 AD, where soldiers either worshiped the Roman Sun God, Sol Invictus, or the Persian deity, Mithra.
This is definitely not the footprint of a Jewish synagogue or Christian church. The orientation is wrong . . . and clearly aligned to the sun. Of course, I have not done any excavations at this site and also, have made no attempt to walk the site, looking for artifacts. Nevertheless, the architectural evidence suggests that this is the footprint of some immigrants, who originated in the Iberian Peninsula, Sardinia, Corsica or Sicily during the Late Bronze Age or soon thereafter.
This is not such a far-fetched interpretation of the architectural evidence. Pre-Columbian Basque, Pre-Celtic (Iberian) and Iberian DNA has been appearing the the genetic samples of Uchee and Creek descendants in the Lower Southeastern United States. Furthermore, ALL of the primary sacred symbols of the Creek and Uchee People can be found in the Bronze Age petroglyphs of southern Scandinavia, which may at that time been occupied by peoples similar to those in Iberia. The Truth is out there somewhere!