The absence of professional-quality archival research characterized the attitudes of North Carolina and Tennessee university anthropology programs from their inceptions in the 1940s. Nowadays, their faulty orthodoxies are dispensed to increasingly fewer anthropology students, as if they are sacred knowledge.
Part 31 of The Americas Connected Series
by Richard L. Thornton, Architect and City Planner
VR Image above: This is the Uchee village of Choestoa, which was built on the Nottely River in Choestoe Community – Union County, GA in 1714 after their original, much larger town on the Hiwassee River was massacred by the Cherokees in 1713. Choestoa means “Rabbit Clan” in Uchee. “Toa” is actually an Archaic Irish word, which means “clan or people.”
Oh, to have a time machine. Aside from those precious moments long ago with the loves of my life . . . ladies in México and France . . . I would want to be back again in the inner sanctum of the Museo Nacional de Antropologia de México . . . the private office of Dr. Román Piña Chan, its curator. For him, it was a therapeutic and relaxing to have his student interns and myself join him for “talking” lunches, where he could be himself. I could tell that he really detested the constant flow of government bureaucrats and journalists into the museum, where he had to watch every word he said. However, most of those meetings occurred in the conference room, not his private office.
At the time, being a young man, I did not fully appreciate those extraordinary experiences in his office. Ten years later, his graduate assistant, Alejandra, and I were invited to spend a week at Christmastime at a hacienda near Tepoztlan, Morelos. Alejandra also felt that she did not fully appreciate those experiences, but also told me that I was the only Gringo invited into his private office, the whole time that she worked at the museum.
Dr. Piña Chan used the Socratic Method in teaching. Rather than dumping facts for us to remember, he constantly asked his students and his professional associates questions. He even challenged his own statements . . . sometimes appearing to be arguing with himself like a crazy person.
No fact was fixed in stone. Students were free to challenge and research any interpretation of an archaeological site by any professional. Dr. Piña Chan viewed archaeology as an on-going process . . . the knowledge base being expanded by each generation.
The defining moment, my first time in his office, was when finished lunch then switched from discussing Etowah and Ocmulgee to Moundville, Alabama. He invited Alejandra and I to sit on his side of the desk, so he wouldn’t have to constantly move books to the other side of the desk for us to see.
Dr. Piña Chan twisted his moustache with two fingers, stood up, turned around then grabbed a book from the shelf. It was THE book on the Toltecs, written by himself. He turned to the section on pottery. We beheld identical ceramics and identical artistic motifs in Tula, the Capital of the Toltecs, and Moundville, Alabama. Moundville had been founded by Toltec refugees . . . probably led by priestly scholars . . . who had fled their homeland after it was ravaged by Chichimec barbarians.
Meanwhile back on the Hiwassee River
Hayesville, NC – May 28, 2010 – Throughout my camping journey across the Southern Appalachians, I carried with me photocopied sections of the De Soto and Pardo Chronicles, which pertained to the two expeditions’ accounts of present day Up Country South Carolina, northern Georgia, western North Carolina, eastern Tennessee and northeastern Alabama. Also within the waterproof plastic tub were numerous archaeology books that related to the Southern Highlands. The most pertinent for this article was Cherokee Archaeology: A Study of the Appalachian Summit  by Bennie Keel. It was a refinement of Bennie’s dissertation at UNC-Chapel Hill
I spent most of the winter and early spring exploring the Little Tennessee River Valley then shifted my camp sites to the bottom and top of the Nantahala River Gorge. Juan Pardo’s Expedition definitely came through there and also camped in the bottom and the top . . . finding silver ore in the process.
Juan Pardo also definitely used the Hiwassee River Valley as the corridor to cross the Southern Appalachians, but returned eastward as far as Chiaha on the Little Tennessee before using the Nantahala River Gorge to reach the Andrews Valley, which took him back to the Hiwassee River.
The USFS personnel in its Murphy, NC office told me that I could camp out at the Fires Creek Primitive Campground for free. No one camped there this time of year and I would not have to keep my three dogs on a leash as long as they didn’t chase cars or the deer. I camped at Fines Creek until late May then moved to a camp site on the Hiwassee River near Hiawassee, GA.
A check from Roger Kennedy was in my post office box in Blairsville, GA so I decided to get a haircut then visit the archaeological zone on the Hiawassee River near Hayesville then eat at a nice restaurant in Hayesville. The lady at the Hayesville-Clay County Chamber of Commerce Visitors Center apologized that she was from Florida and didn’t know that there were Indian mounds in Clay County. A lady in the county library did give me directions to both the Clay County History Museum and the archaeological zone. The large archaeological zone was between the downtown and the river.
Interesting . . . the county museum gave out a brochure that said that the Cherokee town of Quanasee was originally very important and the capital of the Valley Cherokees, who spoke a different language than other Cherokee bands. During the early 1700s, it was the location of the only English trading post in the Cherokee Nation.
According to the Clay County Museum brochure, Quanasee was completely burned by the Creeks in 1754. “Continued attacks in later years by Creek towns nearby in the Georgia Mountains soon made the Hiwassee almost uninhabited. It was primarily used as hunting grounds by the Creeks until after the American Revolution.” Hm-m . . . the Museum of the Cherokee Indian states in both exhibits and brochures that the Cherokees “conquered all of North Georgia in 1754.” Both of these versions of history can’t be correct.
A walkway leads from the parking lot at the Clay County Recreation Center to a monument to the Cherokee town of Quanasee, which is set into a mound. Along the walkway one sees the heavily eroded remnants of another, much larger mound. Nowhere is it discussed in museums or literature.
Local residents and archaeologists called the mound at the monument the Spikebuck Mound. It was not linked to the Cherokee village of Quanasee until two decades after the original excavation.
At the Spikebuck Mound monument I made acquaintances with an elderly gentleman from Austria, named Gaston Glock. In 1981, he invented the Glock semi-automatic pistol and founded the Glock Firearms Company. A few years before we met, he had founded Glock, Inc in Smyrna, GA. That is why was living part time in Georgia and visiting North Carolina. He didn’t say so, but I suspect he owned a house on Lake Chatuge. For the rest of the visit to the archaeological zone, we walked together.
We noticed what appeared to be an archaeological dig about 100 yards from the monument. It was an archaeology class from Western Carolina University. Most of the students appeared to have some indigenous ancestry . . . undoubtedly Cherokee. They were excavating a typical Upper Creek house . . . almost square with a door in one corner. Identical houses can be found in the suburbs of Chichen Itza. The pottery shards being excavated were Lamar Incised – A Colonial Period Creek Indian pottery style.
In the 1960s, Dr. Arthur Kelly had found identical pottery at a town site on the Hiwassee River near it flows into Lake Chatuge. The official lab manual from the University of Georgia Department of Anthropology on Lamar Style pottery specifically shows the Hiwassee River Valley to be occupied by Creeks making Lamar-style pottery until the early 1700s.
Just as we arrived at the dig, the female professor asked the students to stop work for awhile, because she was going to give a lecture. Gaston and I decided to hang around for the lecture.
The professor stated that the class was working at a very sacred site. It was the location of the first Cherokee town on the Hiwasee River, Quanasee, which was founded around 1400 AD. The Cherokees then began constructing the mounds and precisely planned a great town with a plaza here.
She then stated that the smaller round houses and “Qualla Style Pottery” in a village on the west side of a stream nearby was where the Cherokees lived in the 1600s, 1700s and early 1800s. In other words, she was saying that the Cherokees mysteriously digressed culturally in the late 1600s . . . switching to small round huts and crudely fabricated pottery. She seemed unaware that the Cherokee village of Quanasee was burned in 1754 and never significantly occupied again.
Foolishly thinking that I was in Dr. Piña Chan’s office again, I raised my hand. The professor was shocked, but nodded approval for me to speak. I told her that in my Explorer, I had photocopies of a South Carolina archives, a 1713 sketch of the area immediately around where we were standing and Carolina colonial archives.
The sketch map labeled this location to be the Creek town of Konasee with an English trading post to the south. It was captured and burned at the onset of the Creek-Cherokee War in 1716. Until 1713, a Uchee town, named Choestoa, with round houses had been located downstream from Konasee.
“The South Carolina Archives state that this section of the Hiwassee River was originally known as the Euphasee River, because the north side of the river was occupied by the Euphasee People until the late 1600s or early 1700s, when their survivors were driven off by the Cherokees after a terrible smallpox plague.”
“Also, I have seen streets, roads and parks named Konahitee in Blairsville, GA, Murphy (NC) and Hayesville. The Konahitee were an Itsate Creek tribe that moved down into middle and southern Georgia. They eventually became Seminoles. Konasee was visited by Juan Pardo in 1567, so the Cherokees couldn’t have possibly been here in 1400 AD.”
The professor curtly asked me if I was an archaeologist. I said no. She then informed my that I was not qualified to discuss the subject and so could I either remain silent or leave. After I took a moment to photograph the “Cherokee” Lamar Style pottery, Gaston and I left. He grinned and suggested that maybe I should have been the professor there, not that woman. We walked for a few minutes on the broad flood plain where the Mississippian Culture town had been . . . then parted ways.
Later in 2010, I moved into the office of an abandoned chicken house near Track Rock Gap in Union County, GA, which had telephone and internet service. With fulltime access to the internet and nothing much else to do, I began spending long hours researching colonial archives and archaeological reports, posted on the internet. I quickly began putting together the puzzle of the Southern Appalachians’ Colonial Era history.
In 2014, I obtained a copy of the original manuscript of The Early History of the Cherokee People (1826) by Cherokee Principal Chief, Charles Hicks. Hicks was born immediately south of the Hiwassee River. He stated that the Cherokees entered the Southern Mountains (NE Tennessee) about the time that Charleston, SC was founded (1670). He said that they began moving into the North Carolina Mountains after a severe plague, which severely weakened the “Moundbuilders.” The Cherokees then began killing or driving off the Moundbuilders, town by town. The Cherokees burned the Moundbuilder temples on tops of the mounds then erected Cherokee council houses in their stead. Konahiti is an Itza Maya word that means “Moundbuilder People.”
In the next article of this series, I will explain how uneducated “archaeologists” in a Smithsonian Institute “make work program” for Union Army veterans mislabeled artifacts in the 1880s. That began a comedy of errors that was continued into the mid-and-late 20th century by anthropology professors in eastern Tennessee and North Carolina.
Spoiler Alert! What Carolina archaeologists call “Early Qualla Style Cherokee pottery is actually Shawnee and Ufasi pottery.
Until then . . .