Friday, April 29, 2011
Carib Glyphs Near Atlanta
This is a reminder that hunter gatherer populations were real and survived quite well into even the modern era making their living as their forebears without much enthusiasm for taking up agriculture. Their problem was simply numbers. They were never bigger that a large family in a living range. Agriculturalists could take the same range and put in place a village were a dozen or so survived.
In time, the band would be absorbed into the larger whole.
At least we now understand these images and their provenance when they are discovered.
Experts solve mystery of ancient stone monument near Atlanta
April 11th, 2011 9:07 am ET
Rock art specialists from around
North America have
finally solved this century old archaeological riddle. The stone slab is
evidence that native peoples from Puerto Rico or Cuba
once lived within the interior of Eastern North America.
One day, long before Christopher Columbus claimed to have landed on the eastern edge of Asia, a forgotten people cut steps in the rocks leading up a steep bluff near the
Chattahoochee River in the northwest section of the State of . They
carved a supernatural figure on a four feet by one foot granite slab and
erected it on the top of the knoll. The strange, primitive art was very
different than the highly realistic stone sculptures found in the region that
are known to have been created by the ancestors of Georgia’s Creek
During the mid-1800s a major industrial complex was developed near the ancient rock shrine. Somehow during the town’s construction, the tablet was overlooked; most likely because of a covering of soil. The town was called New
. It would have
inevitably become a major city of the Southeast, but in the autumn of 1864 the
notorious Union general, William Tecumseh Sherman, ordered the town burned, and
the hundreds of teenage girls who worked at its mills transported to a
concentration camp in the Ohio. Many of the girls were never seen
again. Some died in prison. Some married and stayed in the Manchester Midwest. Some were murdered while they tried to
walk home after the war. Some probably went to the West to start life anew
away from the ruins of war. Some just dissappeared without a trace.
The ruins of New
have remained a testimony to the fact that war is hell. The town was never
rebuilt and its landscape converted back to scrub woodlands within a decade
after the Civil War. In 1909 a man named W. H. Roberts was hunting wild turkeys
in a hilly area next to the ruins of Manchester .
After climbing the bluff over Sweetwater Creek that was known as “an Indian
cemetery” because of the stone artifacts scattered on its slopes, Roberts
happened to notice a granite slab laying flat on the ground. Apparently, rains
had washed away the thin top soil that had concealed it for centuries. Manchester
Most scholars, who viewed the images incised on the slab in the early 1900s, assumed it was created by Native Americans, but had no further explanation. Primitive rock art such as on the slab found by Roberts is now known as petroglyphs. There are now professionals and organizations that have developed the study of petroglyphs into a science, but a century ago such artifacts were viewed as curiosities
Throughout the mid-20th century, the Roberts (or Sweetwater Creek) petroglyph was on display at the
Mansion on Peachtree Street in . This landmark house was the original
office of the Atlanta
Division of Archives and History. After the state agency moved to a large
marble structure near the Capitol, the petroglyphs were put in storage. The
granite slab stayed there until Georgia Sweetwater
Park was created around the ruins of in the 1970s. The slab is now on
display at the park and protected by a Plexiglas screen. Manchester
A comment from a California professor opens Pandora’s Box
The national architecture & design column of the Examiner is currently running a series on the petroglyphs of the
Highlands. One of the articles of this series discussed the
Sweetwater Creek petroglyph and an cluster of petroglyphs on nearby Nickajack
Creek. Filmmaker and amateur archaeologist Jon Haskell of ,
was intrigued by the strange appearance of the Sweetwater Creek petroglyph. He
had filmed documentaries in many parts of the Carmel, Indiana Americas,
but had never seen any petroglyph like the Sweetwater Creek Petroglyph in the . United States
During the first week of April 2011, Haskell sent emails throughout
North America to friends who were either archaeologists,
petroglyph specialists or experts on Native American art. Most of the
responses also expressed bafflement that such a strange petroglyph design would
be found near .
Some respondents commented that it was similar to Ice Age cave art found in Atlanta Spain and North Africa.
However, because of its placement on a hilltop shrine associated with Native
American artifacts, the Sweetwater Petroglyph appears to date from a much more
Stephen C. Jett is a geography professor at the
of California at and a recognized scholar of the
petroglyphs and pictographs of the American Southwest. His brief comment
emailed back to Jon Haskell was the first interpretation in a century that
assigned an ethnic identity to the Sweetwater Petroglyph. He wrote, “It looks
vaguely Caribbean to me, but that's just an impression, I am not conversant
with the rock art of that region.” Davis
Images and descriptions of the Sweetwater Petroglyph were immediately emailed to several specialists on
rock art. The respondents sent back photographs of rock art in Cuba, Puerto Rico and Hispaniola that were the
same style as the one in .
One petroglyph from Georgia Puerto Rico seems to
portray the very same supernatural figure. It is a “guardian spirit” whose
presence warned travelers that they were entering a province or sacred area.
This style of art was typically placed on stone slabs 3-5 tall, which were
located on hilltops or beside major trails.
The Sweetwater Petroglyph is a stone slab 4 feet tall that was originally on a hilltop. It is very significant evidence that Native Americans originally from
Puerto Rico, Cuba or Hispaniola paddled to the Florida Peninsula;
followed the Gulf Coast up to the mouth of the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee
River; then ulitimately settled in the
vicinity of what is now .
The most likely time period for this migration is from 1,000 to 2,000 years
ago, but the date of the carvings on the granite slab are currently unknown. Atlanta
Waves of South American peoples settled the Caribbean Basin
Archaeologists currently believe that the
Basin was settled by waves of peoples
moving northward out of South America. The
presence of the oldest known pottery of the Western Hemisphere in
suggests that there may have also been movements of population and cultural
innovations in the other direction. It is documented, though, that the agricultural
villagers began island-hopping northward out of Georgia Venezuela
around 500 BC and by 500 AD had occupied most islands in the .
These early people grew tobacco and sweet potatoes, but not many other
cultivated plants. Their presence in the Caribbean Basin Caribbean
Basin coincides with the appearance of
tobacco in the Southeastern United States.
In the late 1960s archaeologists working in advance of an industrial park on the
Creek's outlet found three varieties of indigenous sweet potatoes
growing wild. They looked like "bushy" morning glories, but had
large, edible tubers growing underground. Intensive land development since then
has eliminated the wild sweet potato patches. Chattahoochee
A second wave of
by Natives speaking dialects of the Arawak language began around 600 AD.
These immigrants are associated with the Taino People of the Caribbean Basin
and the Timucua of .
They introduced the bow and arrow, plus advanced varieties of Indian corn
to the Florida . They were much sophisticated
artisans and farmers than the first wave of immigrants. The period also marks
the introduction of the bow and arrow, plus advanced varieties of corn into the
Caribbean Basin Southeastern United States. By 1150 AD
the second wave of Arawak immigrants had reached the peninsula. About that same time,
numerous towns with mounds were abandoned in northeastern Florida Florida
as was the large megapolis on the Ocmulgee
River near Macon,
GA, which is now known as .
Ocmulgee National Monument
Caribbean peoples in North America
It is commonly known that the Arawak-speaking Timucua occupied northeastern
Florida and the southeastern tip
of Georgia in the 1500s when
colonized the region. The public is not generally aware that there was also a
small cluster of Arawak-speaking villages in the vicinity of Spain
until the mid-1700s, when they were absorbed by the Creek Indian Confederacy.
The presence of what appears to be an Caribbean rock art in northern Georgia
suggests that the first wave of Caribbean immigrants were pushed northward into
the mainland of North America by the second wave, who were better armed with
bows and arrows, and better fed by a wide range of cultivated crops. Birmingham, AL
In 1541 the Hernando
Expedition observed an ethnic group in what is now South
Carolina that had a culture very similar to the first wave of
Arawak immigrants into the Caribbean. They
were described as primitive hunters who went naked, did not know how to grow
corn and beans, and relied on roots that they dug from the ground for
nutrition. The Creek Indian guides of the expedition called this primitive
people the Chalo-ke, which means bass (fish) people. They were not the same
people as the Cherokees, and are last seen on a map by French cartographer
Delisle, living in southeast
in the early 1700s. Georgia
The earlier occupants of the
depended on hunting, gathering, and the digging up of wild yucca roots
(cassava) or sweet potatoes for nutrition. They went almost naked. The
Guanajatabeyes and Ciboney people were pushed into the western sections of Cuba and Hispaniola
by the more sophisticated Taino. The Ciboney often lived in caves. They both
soon became extinct after the Spanish arrived.
The Sweetwater Petroglyph has never been scientifically dated by geologists. In order to interpret the stone more precisely, the general range of its age must be determined. There may be other stones like it hidden under the soil or forgotten in the basements of museums.