Georgia's Indian Heritage
Georgia History 101
The story of Georgia begins with the American Indians
who called the land home. From Paleolithic Man to early Woodland
Indians, nomadic tribesmen left their mark in little more than arrowheads
and pottery shards. Around the time of Christ a new American, the
Moundbuilder, entered the northwest corner and the southern portion
of the state. They did not expand their control, leaving the Woodland
culture intact. Later moundbuilding cultures (Mississippian) moved
up the great inland rivers of Georgia to sites like Ocmulgee and
several fluctuations in weather conditions (over thousands of years),
a warming trend began some 20,000 years ago. Earliest evidence of
human inhabitation comes from the Georgia side of the Savannah River
between Augusta and Savannah, where flaked micro-blades have been
found dating to 16,000-18,000 BC -- the oldest tools known on the
North American continent. Paleolithic Clovis arrowheads have been
discovered in Bartow
County dating back some 12,000 years. Unfortunately, no supporting
evidence of Paleolithic man has been located in this northwest Georgia
this beginning early man spread out across the Piedmont and Coastal
Plain of the state. Archaic sites in the state range from the Savannah
River Basin, throughout north Georgia. Artifacts like bone awls
County, arrowheads from Dade
County and socketed projectile points from Jenkins
County indicate the wide range of man during this period.
During the Middle Archaic period an advanced culture
arose in the delta region of the Mississippi River. These early
were possibly the first civilization in North America. From Poverty
Point, Louisiana, they spread throughout the river valleys of the
Mississippi and its tributaries. No evidence exists that this culture
made it to the state of Georgia.
Late Archaic Indians lived throughout the state.
Decorative pottery and ornamental pins dating to the late archaic
period have been found statewide. There is indirect evidence that
advanced fishing techniques and basic agriculture was used by these
Woodland Indians (1000 BC - 1000 AD in the Southeastern
United States) improved on the rudimentary cultivation techniques
of their Archaic Period predecessors. Decorative works became more
elaborate on arrowheads, tools and personal items. In 1969 the remains
of a Cartersville era (Middle Woodland Period) village was discovered
along the banks of the Chattahoochee River. It is believed that
Indians of the Woodland Period are responsible for the stone wall
at Fort Mountain and similar works on Alec Mountain, Sand Mountain,
Mount Alto and Ladd Mountain. Until 1923 a ring of stone probably
built by Woodland Indians encircled Stone Mountain.
A distinct development occurred in Putnam County
(Eatonton), Georgia, probably around 500 B.C. The Putnam County
Indians built two similar effigy mounds miles apart. Today, Rock
Eagle and Rock Hawk are the only testimony to this tribe.
An intermediate culture known as Adena built effigy
mounds throughout much of the Upper Mississippi, The Hopewell Culture
continued the Adena's penchant for building mounds, eventually carrying
it throughout the Mississippi watershed. A series of four Hopewell
Culture mounds were built in Dade
County (northwest Georgia). Another site believed to be from
the Hopewell Era was covered when Lake Walter F. George was formed.
Late Woodland Indian cultures appear to have "pull back," from a
wide area of the state. This may be do to the advance of the Mississippian
culture once again. Kolomoki (800AD) is frequently referred to as
a "transition site," displaying the traits of both a Hopewell site
and later moundbuilders.
Ocmulgee. Etowah. Nachoochee. These eerily quiet
temples are the final remains of the last prehistoric culture in
present-day Georgia. Starting in 900AD the Mississippian Moundbuilders
began to flourish. Ocmulgee, a short distance east of Macon,
just west of Cartersville
are both open to the public. The mound at Nachoochee, just south
of Helen is
visible from State Road 75.
These Mississippian Moundbuilders relied on advanced
cultivation to give them time to develop elaborate ceremonies, intricate
pottery designs, and a wide-ranging trading network. They flourished
in Georgia from 1000 AD to 1450 AD, but by the time deSoto visited
(1540) the civilization was in steep decline.
Enter the Creek.
According to their own mythology, the Creek Nation came from the
West and display many customs similar to the earlier Moundbuilders.
Because of these similarities, this loose confederation of tribes
has been described as the remnants of the Moundbuilder culture,
but their origin is as yet undetermined. From the early 1600's they
controlled all or part of the state. Like earlier prehistoric Indians
they lived near rivers, recognized some form of lineage (clans),
and relied heavily on agriculture for sustenance. In 1836 the last
of the tribe still in the state was forced to relocate to present-day
About the time the Mississippian culture began to
decline (1450 AD), the Cherokee
began a westward movement, establishing a village (called Tugaloo
Old Town) near an ancient Moundbuilder city. Moving west to Nachoochee,
the Cherokee inhabited another Moundbuilder city on the Chattahoochee
River. Over the years the Creek and Cherokee battled for control
of present-day north Georgia, eventually using the Chattahoochee
as a dividing line. Controlling an area stretching from the Ohio
River south, and west to the Mississippi, the Cherokee would see
this erode to little more than the area of present-day north Georgia.
In 1838 the Cherokee were forced to leave Georgia on "The
Trail of Tears."
Age of Exploration in Georgia
Our Georgia History: History 101 index
Georgia's Indian Heritage
The Age of Exploration in Georgia
The America Revolution in Georgia
Georgia and the Civil War
Georgia's Gilded Age
A State Divided
Depression and War