The unanticipated discovery of a lost Maya civilization in the Nottely River Basin

Volunteers are continuing the research that was begun in 2011. The surprises include the discovery of many more mounds, small temple complexes and agricultural terrace complexes, plus tombs with painted murals on their walls.

Part 37 of The Americas Connected series

by Richard L. Thornton, Architect and City Planner

Do you remember this small temple with stone terraces in front of it? Ana Rojas and I came upon it, while exploring eastern Campeche State. It is discussed in my third Campeche Video in the People of One Fire Youtube Channel. Volunteers have found identical “Commoners” temple sites in Union County, GA. Actually, my first mentor, Dr. Arthur Kelly, discovered the ruins of an identical such temple site, northeast of Macon, in the Georgia Piedmont in the 1960s. He even prepared a precise site plan of it and published the site plan in a University of Georgia Archaeology Lab manual. The current generation of archaeologists in Georgia have evidently “forgotten” Dr. Kelly’s undeniable discovery. You can watch the third Campeche video below. This video is important, because our discoveries in eastern Campeche suggest that the origin of the Chickasaw is the result of Proto-Choctaws mixing with immigrants from eastern Campeche.

August 27 is a very special day for me. It is the 30th anniversary of when a U.S. Marshal saved my life. I have completely forgotten the details of my college graduations, but vividly remember every detail of that day. I will never, ever forget the grinning face on that US Marshal at my doorway.

I woke in the morning happy. Vivi and her daughter would be arriving from France on Sept. 2 to stay permanently. They had spent six weeks with me on a tourist visa, but Vivi had purchased land for a vineyard and winery, so after staying out of the country for the required month, she was now returning on a permanent E2 Visa. Vivi had rented a townhouse in Alexandria, VA, but they would be coming out to the Shenandoah Valley on weekends, when Aimee was not in school.

Soon, the goats were acting funny and the dogs were barking at the woods. I crept back to the woods and spied five Virginia State Police cars full of men in tactical gear, plus the county’s Commonwealth’s Attorney. Two sheriff deputy’s cars were parked near the entrance of the driveway on the west end of the farm. I got close enough to hear clearly that they planned to murder me and make it look like I was a drug dealer.

Alone on the farm, I went back to the house and said my prayers to say goodbye to this world. I had an assault rifle with a 30 round clip, full of armor piercing ammo, so probably would have won a gunfight against two or three of them, but not at least 12 men carrying assault rifles and shotguns.

Then doorbell rang. A jolly looking African American man in shorts and a Hawaiian shirt, flashed his US Marshal badge then silently signaled for me to come outside. Like me, he knew the house was bugged. He confirmed what I already knew. He said that I would have been killed earlier in the summer had not Vivi and Aimee been living there. The crooked Virginia cops wouldn’t dare murder a pretty French actress, who was secretly a narcotics intelligence officer with the Surete’ (French CIA).

The US Marshall stood between me and the killer cops and Commonwealth’s Attorney until they left. The marshal told me to move out of Virginia ASAP. May God always bless the United States Marshals Service. The recent history of the United States is not quite what you have been told in news media.

Moving on to Union County, Georgia

After spending two pleasant weeks in early June 2010, camping on the headwaters of the Hiwassee River in Towns County, I moved westward into Union County, GA and the Nottely River Basin.  I first stopped by the US Forest Service Visitor’s Center.  They had no clue that two years later, their Public Relations ladies in Gainesville, GA and Atlanta would paint me nationally as one of the most evil people, who ever entered their woodlands. The USFS staff in Blairsville, GA however, directed me to primitive camping sites along Wolf Creek on the northern edge of the county.  

I pitched my tents next to an old fish trap, which I rebuilt.  I then begin exploring the environs.   I found extensive evidence of gold-mining activities near the campsite.  On the mountainside above I found large areas of terracing with ancient trees growing up in them.  I thought that was odd.  I thought perhaps that Sephardic Jewish gold miners had established a vineyard up there.  I sent an email to former National Park Service Director, Roger Kennedy, in Chevy Chase, MD.   He agreed.  The Sephardim in Spain were known for making fine wines.

I then visited tourist-oriented establishments around the county to learn of any ruins or stone carvings that might pre-date the arrival of Anglo-American settlers in the 1830s.  I immediately hit “pay dirt.” An antiques dealer gave directions to an ancient rock quarry at the foot of Coosa Bald Mountain. 

I could not go in there until winter, when the rattlesnakes were hibernating.  Indeed,  it looked several hundred years old and looked European.  Many of rectangular stone blocks had simple crosses carved into them. I was on to something, but what that something was, I was not sure.

It should be understood that throughout my camping journey in the Southern Highlands, my prime directive was to find evidence of 16th and 17th century European campsites and settlements.  After Roger published his book on Greek Revival Architecture, we were going to co-write a book on the Early Colonial Period in what is now the Southeastern United States.  Roger would do the historical research. I would do the architectural research and identify probable routes of European explorers. 

Unfortunately,  Roger’s cancer came back with a vengeance in May 2011.  He stopped subsidizing me in June 2011, because of the high cost of medical treatments. Roger died on September 30, 2011.  I eventually wrote the book myself . . . just emphasizing the architecture.  It is Earthfast, the Dawn of a New World.  It is still the only comprehensive reference on North American Early Colonial architecture.

The camp site on Wolf Creek in Union County, Georgia

Getting the facts straight

Near the beginning of the Premier of “America Unearthed” on December 21, 2012,  it was stated that I had been studying the Track Rock Terrace Complex for 10 years.  That is untrue and I never said it.

The truth is that I never intended to be involved professionally in any prehistoric site, beyond just producing precise three-dimensional drawings, until several years later, when I realized that I knew far more about the cultural history of southern Mesoamericans and the indigenous peoples of Georgia than any Gringo archaeologist. 

What most of these people considered to be anthropology was the technology of detecting and extracting artifacts, plus a general knowledge of Native American history after around 1754.  I was astonished to learn that even those few archaeology professors in Georgia, who had worked at Maya city sites, were totally unaware that the Maya commoners were only allowed to make simple redware with shell tempering.  YET,  most Southeastern anthropologists date the beginning of the so-called Mississippian Period with the arrival of shell-tempered redware at Ocmulgee National Historical Park.

I didn’t become involved in the petroglyphs until several years after that, when I realized that I knew far more about the petroglyphs in the Southern Highlands than any archaeologist.  If they said anything about the petroglyphs, their statements were incredibly stupid. 

For example, the archaeologist, who the US Forest Service hired to study the Track Rock petroglyphs, interpreted them as being “merely graffiti from bored Cherokee hunters.”  Track Rock Gap was in the territory of the Creek Confederacy until 1785!  The symbols at Track Rock Gap are identical to those near Nyköping, Sweden . . . which have been dated to about 2000 BC.  They are the oldest petroglyphs in Scandinavia!

In truth, it was anger that drove me to become immersed into Native American research, which could not possibly produce much income for me.   Many people in 2012 perceived me as being defenseless because I was penniless and homeless.  I became everyone’s favorite scapegoat. The only way that I could fight back was to take advantage of my social isolation to do history-changing research and write constantly, so that the internet would be awash with my research.

Beginning in early March 2012, one of my email addresses was included in all email exchanges between the Maya-Myth-Busting-In-the-Mountains people.   Eventually, I was even being copied confidential in-house emails between US Forest Service personnel.  I did not save or print the messages, so no laws were broken.  In early July 2012, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation notified the Eastern Band of Cherokees that a History Channel crew had filmed at my cabin.  In response, the Museum of the Cherokee Indian sent out this national press release:

The Cherokee People are concerned that there is a white man in Georgia, named Richard Thornton, who is publishing false Native American history in the Examiner.  The most obvious is that the Maya people did not “die out” as he claims, and relocate to Georgia. *  More than four million Mayan people live in central America and continue to speak their ancestral Mayan language.

Thornton makes strange statements about Mesoamerican civilizations, but knows nothing about the subject and has never been in Mexico.  Undoubtedly, he has never known a Maya and would not recognize a Maya, if saw one. **

His most recent article has numerous errors that show he did not do the most basic fact-checking. In addition to erroneous details, his work shows a lack of understanding of the broad principles and findings of the fields of archaeology, anthropology, and history.

Thornton claims to be Creek, but the Muscogee Nation and Poarch Creek Nation, the two federally-recognized Creek tribes, do not recognize him. ***  Both they and the Eastern Band have serious concerns about his work.  Richard Thornton’s work is not creditable regarding the Maya, the Creeks or the Cherokees.”

*Obviously, I never said this, because I have spent extensive time with several branches of the Mayas, slept in their huts and eaten their food.  Obviously, neither the US Forest Service, Georgia archaeologists, nor Cherokees had a clue that I had spent so much time in Mexico.

**Actually, after my fellowship in Mexico, I TAUGHT Pre-Columbian Architecture classes at Georgia Tech.  They also obviously did not know that like most Georgia Creeks I am part Maya.  My 2005 DNA test showed all of my Native American DNA was Maya and their computer labeled my ancestry as being a Mexican Mestizo.  The 2014 DNA test said that my Asiatic ancestry was a mixture of Southern Mesoamerican, Panoan from Peru and Polynesian.  This test also changed a significant part of my Nordic ancestry to NW Eurasian (Sami, Finnish and Karelian).  That’s the Uchee ancestry.

I can with good conscience refute the “never known a Maya thing.”     Ana Rojas’s father had substantial Maya ancestry.  Vivi the French soulmate is 1/4th Maya through her Tamulte Maya grandmother.  I think that knowing a Maya Biblically should give significant bonus points over just knowing a Maya. LOL

***I don’t know how the author of the press release interviewed all 70,000+ Muskogee citizens to obtain this finding. For five years, most of my income came from paid research done for the Muscogee Creek Nation.  My 12 architectural models grace their buildings. The officials of the Muscogee Creek Nation recommended me to the State of Oklahoma to be the Architect of the Trail of Tears Memorial in 2008.  Obviously, this statement is caca de toro.

Photo of me at Labna . . . taken by Linda Schele, who 20 years later would publish A Forest of Kings. The book made her internationally famous because it contained the first translations of the Maya writing system.

Georgians are taking control of their history

During the past year,  residents of Union County, GA formed the Nottely River Basin Archaeological Guild.  It is composed of history lovers, amateur archaeologists and professionals.  They are continuing the survey work that I started a decade ago and making major discoveries.  Most of these discoveries are on privately-owned land, so my lips are sealed, until they give me the okay.

In the meantime, our series will continue with an account of events during the 20 months that I lived in Union County then during the six years that I lived in a rat-infested hovel between Amicalola Falls and Dahlonega, GA.

During the last three years, I have found extensive evidence that the first significant number of Maya refugees to Georgia came from eastern Campeche around 550-600 AD. They became the elite of Muskogean towns, which evolved into the Chickasaw People. If you have not seen this video, I urge you to do so.


  1. I am really enjoying your Americas Connected Series and hope to meet you in person one day and visit one or more of your sites. It is a shame that there is so little appreciation of the true history of Georgia.

    Liked by 2 people

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