Track Rock Gap Terrace Complex – 10 years later
by Richard L. Thornton, Architect and City Planner
Six months after I published a book on Track Rock Gap in March 2012, a former University of South Carolina anthropology student provided me absolute photographic proof that contemporary archaeologists were concealing the existence of an indigenous civilization in South Carolina, Georgia and Alabama, which constructed stone architecture. Since that time, new information has flowed in at such a furious rate that I have never seen a time, where it was appropriate to publish a new book on the subject.
As we start this Tenth Anniversary series, first I should make it clear . . . the migration of Mesoamerican peoples, agriculture and architecture to the Southeastern United States is a fact. It is not a “theory” that anyone . . . including someone with a PhD in anthropology . . . can legitimately disagree with or ridicule.
Like all Eastern Creeks, I carry Southern Mesoamerican DNA and furthermore, no DNA markers, typical of truly indigenous tribes of the United States or Canada. Both the Upper Creek (Kaushete) and Miccosukee (Sokee) Migration Legends provide specific geographic information on where their ancestors initiated their trek from southern Mexico to the Southern Appalachians. Both the Lower Southeast landscape and the Creek languages are rich with Itza Maya, Mixtec-Soque and Chontal Maya words.
Crops, developed from wild ancestors in Mesoamerica, “jumped” Texas and the Gulf of Mexico to be cultivated again in the Southeast. Did you know that the Uchee and Creek Indians on the Georgia coast were growing pineapples and cacao, when British colonists settled Savannah? Nearby Tybee Island gets its name from “taube” . . . the Itza Maya and Creek word for salt!
What we still are not certain of are:
(1) When did specific Mesoamerican plant seeds arrive in the Southeast?
(2) When did the first Mesoamerican traders arrive? [We know that Mesoamerican cultural influences began around 0 AD in South Florida and permanent colonization began c. 575 AD in North Georgia]
(3) Pottery was being made in Georgia 1600 years before it appeared in southern Mexico. Is it possible that the Soque originated in Georgia and Florida then “jump-started” the so-called Olmec Civilization?
(4) Did the so-called Teotihuacan Civilization obtain raw materials from Southeastern North America before the Mayas did?
(5) Why was Lakamha (Palenque, Chiapas) the center of trade with what is now Georgia?
An exponential increase in knowledge
When I published the Examiner article about Track Rock Gap in the Examiner on December 21, 2011, I assumed that it was unique in the United States. So did the archaeological report on the Track Rock ruins, prepared for the US Forest Service in 2001 by Johannes Loubser. This is absolutely not the case. Many other stone architecture and terrace sites have been discovered and studied by reputable professional archaeologists . . . mostly in northern Georgia, but also in northwestern South Carolina and east-central Alabama. Even if archaeological reports were published on these sites, the current generation of archaeologists in the region pretend that they don’t exist. This I was to find out very quickly after my book, Itsapa, the Itza Mayas In North America, was published in March 2012.
West Georgia: Shortly after the Examiner article was published, Susan Muse, a fellow Creek Indian descendant, called to wish me Merry Christmas and to remind me that decades earlier, her father had taken us to see stone cairns and walls on their family farm in West Georgia. Susan and I were platonic friends back in those days. We were classmates in high school and attended the same Methodist church. Susan had attended two years of college at Young Harris College before transferring to Georgia State. Young Harris is fairly close to Track Rock Gap.
In the summer between Young Harris and Georgia State, Susan had accompanied me on a Sunday afternoon to Site 9FU14, adjacent to the Chattahoochee River. We discovered a burial mound, exposed by Utoy Creek then observed an employee of Dr. Arthur Kelly, inserting a stolen stone hoe into the side of a ceremonial mound. Our collaborating testimony saved Dr. Kelly from being arrested for stealing the hoe and faking an archaeological find. After getting her master’s degree, Susan moved to Union County, where Track Rock Gap is located and lived there the rest of her life.
North-Central Georgia: Susan also told me that there were stone walls and ruins all over Fort Mountain in northern Union County. This was a different Fort Mountain than the state park of the same name in NW Georgia and had about 100 times more stone walls.
Susan had also seen smaller complexes of stone retaining walls in other parts of the county. Her health was not good at the time, but perhaps if she felt better in the spring, we could visit some of the other stone architecture sites. Unfortunately, she died of pancreatic cancer on March 1, 2012, just as a Travel Channel crew was filming the first program on Track Rock Gap.
About six weeks later, I was astonished when a slanderous editorial attacking me, appeared in the Journal of the American Institute of Archaeology. It was by Dr. Ramon Sarro, Associate Professor in the Social Anthropology of Africa and Director of Graduate Studies – Fellow of St Anthony’s College, Oxford, University. How did this guy even know my name?
Sarro absolutely knew nothing about me, because he described me as being arrogant in my treatment of Native Americans and totally unqualified to discuss issues related to Native American or Mexican cultures. He ended the editorial by calling me “nothing but an ignorant peon.” I later figured out that he was originally from South Africa and a former colleague of Johannes Loubser, who was also from South Africa.
Guess Loubser failed to tell him that I am from the same branch of the Creeks, whose ancestors built the Track Rock structures and was Architect of Oklahoma’s Trail of Tears Memorial. Loubser has never been in Mexico and the only Proto-Creek site, he’s been on is Track Rock Gap. More about him later.
Northeast Georgia: A resident of the Nacoochee Valley sent me photographs of stone building ruins and stone-walled terraces, overlooking the Nacoochee Valley, about 25 miles southeast of Track Rock Gap. After moving to the Nacoochee Valley in 2018, I have found many other Pre-Columbian stone ruins.
North-Central Georgia: I moved to a cabin near Dahlonega, GA on May 1, 2012. Almost immediately, a nearby property owner showed me a complex of stone cairns on the southwest slope of a hill. They were on his land, so I was able to study them closely. I began to see a pattern. All of the stone cairns were on the southwest slopes of hills and mountains . . . facing the Winter Solstice Sunset.
Throughout 2012, I continued to receive emails from people in northern Georgia, western Georgia and east-central Georgia, who attached photos of ancient stone walls and cairns on their land or on mountains near their homes. There were dozens of sites. They all wanted me to come authenticate them. I could only afford to visit sites within about 25 miles of my house.
I told the other people in Georgia and Alabama that I didn’t have the money to travel and my opinion wouldn’t mean much anyway. A series of articles in the Atlanta Journal Constitution by Bill Torpy, et al . . . .which only quoted archaeologists being paid by the US Forest Service, made me look like a redneck quack. He never mentioned that I was the only one, who had ever actually seen a Maya terrace complex. LOL
Oh, everybody in the power structure of North Georgia was having a grand time. I also was being hounded constantly by local, state and federal law enforcement. Anyone I came in contact with, could be expect to receive calls out of the blue from some law enforcement agency, telling them I was being investigated for a wide range of violent crimes or to tell them I was a librul, Marxist homosexual. I am very straight and a political moderate . . . but these North Georgia cops seem not to know that homosexuality is not a crime. Their obsession with sexual things made me seriously wonder if these rogue cops were the ones, who were into illegal, perverted activities.
As I interviewed a lady, whose family owned an apple-peach orchard in Gilmer, for an article on family farms in the Examiner, she received a cellular call from a federal law enforcement officer, stating, “We are watching you from up in the sky. Don’t believe anything that Thornton says about the Mayas. He’s crazy.” After the call, she looked up at me with a puzzled face and said, “Who are the Maya family?”
Those deranged cops even blocked me from collaborating my research with the University of North Georgia in Dahlonega. They spread the rumor that while being a gay male prostitute, I was also predator of college coeds. I had hoped to meet a female professor as an ideal mate, but didn’t dare even go on the campus during the six years that I lived nearby. I had to drive past UNG to get to the supermarket or Walmart. Every time that I did, campus cop cars would swarm out of the campus and tail me until I was a “save distance from the university.”
North-Central Georgia: Another person showed me a stone walled terrace complex on the Amicalola River near Dawsonville, GA . . . about five miles from my cabin. They were directly adjacent to a public road, which crossed over the river and in the Chattahoochee National Forest.
North-Central Georgia: Another person showed me stone walled terraces on a mountain, overlooking the Chestatee River, east of Dahlonega. They were also in the Chattahoochee National Forest.
Northwest Georgia: A resident of Ellijay, GA sent me photographs of a large stone terrace complex and building ruins in the Rich Mountain Wilderness Area . . . also managed by the US Forest Service, but kept a secret from the public. It was now obvious that the public relations officers of the USFS in Gainesville and Atlanta were lying when they said there were no other stone ruins in Georgia’s National Forests.
Central Georgia: A National Park Service ranger at what was then Ocmulgee National Monument called me on the phone. He had seen stone ruins and terraces along the Upper Ocmulgee and Oconee Rivers, north of Macon. I found an archaeological report from my old mentor, Dr. Arthur Kelly, for one of them.
West-Central Georgia: A Georgia Parks Division ranger emailed me from Pine Mountain State Park, east of Columbus, GA. She had records of stone cairns throughout West Georgia. She had visited ancient terraces on the side of a ravine along the Flint River, just north of the Fall Line.
NE Metro Atlanta: A county parks ranger in Gwinnett County telephoned me to tell me about dozens of ancient stone ruins in Northeast Metro Atlanta. They were concentrated along the tributaries of the Oconee River. He said that the Apalachee River was almost non-stop archaeological sites along its 40-mile length . . . including stone mounds, stone cairns, stone terrace walls and earthen mounds. He knew of at least a dozen stone-walled terrace complexes that were built in conjunction with conventional earthen mounds in the valley floor beneath them.
Two of the largest terrace complexes had been made into county parks – Sandy Creek Park and Little Mulberry River Park. Both could easily be visited by the public and studied by archaeologists. He said that for many years, the Gwinnett and Jackson County governments had tried to persuade the nearby Department of Anthropology at the University of Georgia to study these stone ruins, but the professors refused to do so . . . even though the largest terrace complex was only six miles from the university.
NW Metro Atlanta: I remembered that while I was Principal Planner of Cobb County in 1995 and 1996, the National Park Service had carried out an archaeological study of a large stone cairn complex in Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park. I called Kennesaw NBP to see what information they had on the stone cairns. An employee in the museum remembered me. She told me that there was a lot more than stone cairns in that part of Metro Atlanta. She referred me to a professional archaeologist on the staff of the nearby Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area.
The NPS archaeologist was elated to talk to me. He said that he had been extremely embarrassed by the stupid things being said by Georgia archaeologists. I was informed that there are two, large ancient stone circles at the foot of Kennesaw Mountain. The south slope of the mountain originally been the location of a large terrace complex. Until 1864, the stone ruins of buildings and walls has also been on top of the mountain. Just prior to the arrival of Sherman’s army, the Confederates had converted the stone ruins to fortifications, which successfully resisted the attacks of the northern soldiers.
This is was what really surprised me. The NPS archaeologist informed me that there were at least two terrace complexes on the Chattahoochee River near Roswell and that they had been studied by Dr. Arthur Kelly in the 1950s. The archaeologist emailed me Kelly’s archeological report. Although Kelly was at that time the Director of the UGA Department of Anthropology, the current generation of professors had redacted the complexes from the list of archaeological sites in Georgia.
NE Metro Atlanta: A lady emailed me from Gwinnett County. She introduced herself as a good friend of Marcia Hudgens Duggan at the Gwinnett Historical Society, before Marcia died of cancer in 2010. Marcia’s father, Scott Hudgens, was the developer of The Mall of Georgia. Part of the parking lot at the Mall of Georgia was over ancient stone walls.
I wrote back that I had been a high school classmate and friend of Marcia. My father was the former treasurer of the Scott Hudgens Co. – prior to the construction of this mall. Immediately, our communication converted to the telephone.
The lady explained that while the vegetation was being cleared for the mall, workers exposed ancient stone walls that were mostly covered by dirt. Scott and Marcia had tried to get a revision to the massive mall’s site plan in which the preserved area around the walls would be counted as part of the mandatory natural areas then some of the other natural areas would be used for parking. The county commissioners agreed on the provision that an archaeologist declare the buried walls to be historic . . . “historic” mind you, not Pre-Columbian Native American. No archaeological firm could be found who would do so. The ancient walls were therefore covered in dirt.
I told her, “Next time, please go to a historic preservation architect.” In most other countries, we are the ONLY professionals, who are allowed to make such determinations.”
Photographic proof of what’s been going on
NW South Carolina: In September 2012, I received an intriguing email from a young lady at Clemson University. She had formerly been an anthropology student at the University of South Carolina, but realized that there were very few permanent employment opportunities for anthropology graduates . . . even those with a PhD. While at USC she had worked on several sites in the Blue Ridge Foothills of northwestern South Carolina, which contained stone ruins identical to those at Track Rock Gap. They had also discovered large stone balls, typical of Central America. Her professors had intentionally concealed knowledge of the discoveries to the public and even other archaeologists, because, “they didn’t want to be associated with the Maya thing.” The photos are self-evident.
East Central Alabama: A member of the Lee County, AL Historical Society (Opelika/Auburn) emailed me. A few years earlier, I had spoken to them on their region’s Native American history. She said that there were stone cairns in the eastern part of the county and in Chambers, Randolph and Cleburne Counties to the north were several stone-walled terrace complexes. All were associated with Native American town sites.
A young female archaeologist had moved into the area. She was willing to admit that the walls were built by Native Americans, but would go into a mad rage, if anyone mentioned the Itza Mayas or even the word, “Maya.”
I told her that the Itza Mayas were a major portion of the Creek’s ancestors, but most the Creeks’ ancestors came from Mexico. The woman responded, “Yes, I know. I had a DNA test. I am part Maya, but my Creek DNA is 100% Southern Mesoamerican.”
A secret past, hidden by academicians
For a couple of years, I struggled with the question of how such a large region as northern Georgia, east-central Alabama and northwestern South Carolina could have so many Pre-Columbian stone ruins and yet they were invisible to the archaeological profession. I finally decided that the body of anthropological knowledge used by Dixie archaeologists was created by anthropologists, who moved to the Southeast from somewhere else. They were ignorant of our past and so subsequent future academicians were taught an inaccurate history of our region.
Here is proof. Charles C. Jones, Jr. was the first archaeologist in the Southeast. Georgia archaeologists like to call him an “amateur,” but the truth is that there were virtually no archaeologists in the United States with degrees in anthropology or archaeology until the 1920s. No native-born Georgia archaeologist with a PhD in Anthropology supervised archaeological digs here until the 1980s. *
*Margaret Elizabeth Ashley-Towle was the first native born Georgian to be involved in professional quality excavations, but she was never the supervisor and only worked intermittently between 1926 and 1930. She never quite completed her doctoral program at Columbia University.
Jones grew up in Savannah, GA. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Princeton University in 1852 then followed with a law degree from Harvard University in 1855. While at Princeton, he took several archeology courses. Upon returning to Georgia, he spent much of his free time studying major Native American town sites in Georgia and examining Native American artifacts. A civil engineer accompanied him to prepare accurate site plans.
These archaeological expeditions all ended, when the Civil War broke out. When hostilities began, he was Mayor of Savannah. While living in New York City, after the Civil War, he wrote the landmark book, Antiquities of the Southern Indians, Particularly the Georgia Tribes.
“Antiquities . . .” is still a highly respected reference. There are really no major errors in it. However, Jones lacked a means to date artifacts and never had the manpower assisting him to carry out comprehensive excavations of towns, or even mounds. Nevertheless, his book does confirm the presence throughout northern Georgia of a Native American civilization, which constructed stone architecture. The book also explains why it was forgotten.
“The beautiful valleys of the Nacoochee, Etowah, the Ocmulgee, Oconee, Savannah and the Chattahoochee are rendered remarkable by the presence of earthen tumuli of unusual size. When English speaking settlers came into the Southern Piedmont and Mountains, they also encountered many stone structures throughout the landscape. There were many stone walls, stone altars and even the ruins of ancient stone buildings. Within a generation most of the stone structures were gone and almost forgotten. They had become foundations, chimneys and the walls of new buildings. No one knew who had built these mysterious structures.”
“It was supposed that such things could not have been built by Indians, since they were thought too primitive to create such architecture. It was supposed that perhaps the Spanish or Prince Madoc built them.”
Charles C. Jones, Jr. Antiquities of the Southern Indians (1873)