by Richard L. Thornton, Architect & City Planner
The Creek word, Alek, is key evidence that Southeastern North America has had a very complex ethnic history. It means “doctor” in Muskogee, but it also meant “doctor” or “healer, who uses herbs” to the archaic peoples of southern Sweden, southern Denmark, the edges of the Baltic Sea and Karolia in northwestern Russia. It comes from the pre-Indo-European and Indo-European root word for medicinal herbs, leka. One of those tribes migrated to Britannia en masse in the 4th and 5th century AD. They were called the Anglisk and their language was very similar to what was spoken by the ancestors of the Swedes back then. It mixed with the languages of the Jutes and Saxons to become Old English. Leka survives in modern English as the name of a vegetable, leeks.
The highly respected historian of the Early Medieval Period, Venerable Bede (673 AD – 735 AD) , stated that both the Picts and the Angles originated in southern Sweden. The Picts moved to the northern part of Scotland in the Early Iron Age. Prior to then, Scotland and Ireland were occupied by a people with dark hair and bronze-colored skin. The Angles first moved to southern Denmark and lived there several centuries before migrating to southeastern Britannia.
Who were the Alekmanni?
One of the most affluent tribes in Georgia at the time of early French and Spanish colonization efforts were the Alekmanni. They grew semi-tropical medicinal herbs such as cinchona (quinine) on the Lower Altamaha River, upstream from Fort Caroline. Feral chinchona was still growing along the banks of the Altamaha River, when William Bartram came through there in 1776. It is now extremely difficult to find.
The site of their capital is now called Doctortown and is near present-day Jesup, GA. Generations of “meaning of place names” authors were stumped in trying to find an explanation for the name. The Alecmanni also occupied the valley beneath Alec Mountain in Habersham County, GA.
The commander of Fort Caroline, Captain René de Laudonnière, stated that Alekmanni meant “Doctor People” or “Medicine People.” For years, I struggled with trying to find an indigenous American language, which contained the words alek and manni that meant “doctor people.” Creek was the only indigenous American language that used “alek” for doctor. Nobody used “manni” for “people or tribe.”
Then my brain’s search engine fought through cob webs to reach the Stone Age, when I was taking Latin in high school. We had to read Commentarii de Bello Gallico by Julius Caesar. His book on the Gallic wars mentioned several German tribes, whose name ended in “manni.” A quick check on the internet revealed that those tribes were in what is now Friesland (northern Netherlands), the northwestern portion of Germany and southern Denmark (Schleswig-Holstein). An alliance of tribes in that region, which successfully fought the Romans was called Allemanni (All Noblemen). Allemagne is now the French name for Germany. The Archaic English-NW Germanic word for a group of commoners was Mæn (pronounced men). The Archaic English-NW Germanic word for a group of nobles was manni!
The modern Danish word for a medical doctor is læge, which is pronounced leka. The archaic Danish and archaic English word for a medical doctor (herb healer) was alæga or pronounced aleka. Thus, the word for a physician or herb healer at one time were essentially the same words in Dansk, Anglisk and Muskogee-Creek
Multiple ethnic layers
There are thousands of earthen mounds, stone walls, stone effigies, stone cairns and stone building ruins in the State of Georgia. There is also a very wide variation in architectural characteristics and site planning traditions, associated with these structure.
Despite the fact that several branches of the Creek Confederacy have distinctly different homelands, described in their migration legends, Late 20th century Georgia archaeologists developed the orthodoxy that the same people lived in the same regions from the Late Archaic Period onward. The label “phase” replaced “culture” in this process. In other words, the same ethnic group in any given region built all the earthworks and stone structures.
Using LiDAR scans, infrared images and conventional architectural analysis, I am finding just the opposite situation. Distinct ethnic groups migrated long distances then modified mounds to appear like those in the region where they moved from. For example, at the base of the Fritchey Mound is the footprint of a standard Iberian Late Bronze Age basilica. These rectangular structures were typically utilized for the worship of the sun god. The next level was a typical pentagonal Itza Maya Mound with a large ramp on the west side. Above it was a round mound. Above it was a typical large, oval, Late Mississippian Period mound with a ramp on the west side.
Stone structures were built by different ethnic groups over perhaps a 4000 year period. However, most of the petroglyphs were carved long ago to create symbols identical to certain locations in Europe, thousands of years ago. Those in the Etowah-Amicalola River Basin are identical to Bronze Age petroglyphs in southwest Ireland and the eastern Scotland. The petroglyphs in the Tugaloo-Upper Chattahoochee- Nottely River Basins more closely resemble those in southern Sweden and eastern Denmark.
But who built the stone cairns, stone circles and stone ovals?
- A very large percentage of Muskogee-Creek words have Indo-European cognates.
- Eastern Creek and Uchee descendants are showing up with inexplicably high levels of Sami, Finnish, Pre-Celtic Irish and Scandinavian DNA markers.
- Most of the Uchee (Yuchi) language appears to be Eurasian in origin. There are many shared words with Pre-Celtic Irish and pre-Germanic Swedish.
- Ge or ke, pronounced as ge, is the suffix for “tribe or people” in the Irish Gaelic, Scottish Gaelic, Algonquian, Shawnee, Iroquoian, Cherokee and Muskogee-Creek languages. It also is used by several South American languages.
- The Panoan language of South America contains several shared words with Old Swedish and Old English.
I have recently had to rethink the origins and functions of the many hilltop and mountaintop stone enclosures in the Ohio Valley, Southern Highlands and Piedmont. While on contract with the Muscogee-Nation in 2007, I noticed that the stones in the asymmetrical enclosures were only utilized when soil was shallow. The stone walls were obviously utilized to support wood palisades, where the soil was thin. At the time, I took for granted that these structures were erected by people who were full-blooded American Indians. I was disdainful of anyone, who suggested that people from across the Atlantic had anything to do with the stone enclosures. Now, I am not so sure. For one thing, I had forgotten that my Uchee ancestors had said that they were from across the Atlantic. My other Native ancestries are Itsate Creek (Mexico) and Apalachete (Peru).
Closer examination in recent years of the stone structures, built by the Itza Mayas, Soque or their Itsate Creek descendants has revealed a very different architectural tradition, maintained by them. The early arrivals built stone-walled, rectangular temples. There was one at the bottom of Mound C at Etowah Mounds. They built stone retaining walls for plazas and agricultural terraces. Look carefully in back of the Batesville General Store and you will see fieldstone veneer on the walls of the pyramid, just was as the custom in Mexico. There was also a large, stone walled temple on the top of the Kenimer Mound in the Nacoochee Valley, until the stones were hauled off to build a foundation and chimney by a couple, recently arrived from Florida. However, you will never see massive piled stone piled stone walls, four to six feet thick, that define a circular or oval ceremonial area in a town founded by the Itza Mayas.
However, on Ladds Mountain in the Etowah River Valley and in Northeast Georgia, we are finding that the walls of the oval shaped enclosures were continuous except for a narrow opening facing the Winter Solstice Sunset. These walls are very thick like their counterparts in Scotland. They were all built on natural terraces at the crests of mountains or on the tops of steep hills.
Our decade long study of stone and earthen ruins in the Southern Highlands is focused on documenting their location and architectural details, not determining who built them . . . if that is even possible for those ancient stone ovals and circles. However, when I encounter similar or identical structures elsewhere, I do take note of it. The large town that LiDAR scans discovered around Batesville, GA at the headwaters of the Soque River is such a situation. The site is labeled on early 18th century maps as the location of the capital of the Soque People. The Soque-Miccosukee Migration Legend says that their ancestors came from Tabasco. The pattern of pyramidal earthen temples, partially veneered in stone, in Batesville is identical to the towns built by the Soque in Tabasco State, Mexico.
Scottish archaeologists are currently using exactly the same remote sensing techniques that we are using . . . satellite imagery, LiDAR scans and infrared scans . . . to examine a mountainous region of northeastern Scotland, which was generally ignored by English archaeologists, when Scotland was under the cultural domination of southern England. This was part of the land of the Picts, who to this day remain a very mysterious people.
Many new Bronze Age and Early Iron Age hill forts are being discovered in eastern Scotland. Several are perfect ovals like those on mountaintops in Northeast Georgia. These date from the Bronze Age. Despite being fortifications, they are usually aligned to either the Winter Solstice sunrise or sunset. So the Pictish ovals also had ceremonial functions. Some are identical to the “Old Stone Fort” in Manchester, TN and Fort Hill in Ohio. Others are identical to the stone circles on mountaintops in Metro Atlanta. Some are identical to the oval stone structures in northern Georgia. The Iron Age forts do not resemble any sites in the Southern Highlands . . . having more the feel of a Medieval English village with a castle above it.
The Hill Fort that really caught my eye was Tap O’ Noth, which is on a mountain about the same elevation as Alec Mountain. It is a mirror image of the Alec Mountain Stone Oval, since the only entrance coincides with the Winter Solstice Sunrise. Alec Mountain’s entrance aligns with the Winter Solstice Sunset. Like Alec Mountain Tap O’ Noth had an village in the valley beneath it with a mound in it. Coincidental? Maybe . . . maybe not.