Type:Native American, National Park
Archaic Moundbuilders may have developed in Louisiana, spreading north to inhabit the rich valleys of the Mississippi and its tributaries, and following other coastal rivers inland. Around 1000 BC the first mounds appeared in the present-day state of Georgia. These mounds, some of which were located on the Macon Plateau, were similar in many ways to mounds built in other places throughout the Eastern United States.
Near the Ohio River two distinct cultures of Moundbuilders arose, first the Adena (400? BC) and then the Hopewell (100 BC). By 500 AD, the Hopewell appear to have been in decline. From the west came the Mississippians, in about 900 AD. Some Georgia mounds, especially Kolomoki, exhibit traits of both civilizations.
Built on a complex socio-political structure with advanced agricultural techniques, including perhaps crop rotation, the Mississippian culture spread throughout much of the Eastern United States. They used waterways as a major form of transportation, and had an extensive trading network.
Moundbuilders at Ocmulgee
Between 900 and 950 AD the mounds at Ocmulgee were constructed. Over the next 300 years the Moundbuilders inhabited this site, considered to be the largest village in the Southeast. During this time period the Great Temple Mound was constructed, along with the other lesser mounds and earth lodges nearby. By the end of the Early Mississipian Era (1200 AD) the mounds at Ocmulgee were in decline, while the Etowah Indian Mounds were flourishing.
Then, sometime after 1300AD a second culture, known as the Lamar culture, began to flourish near the Ocmulgee mounds. This site, not far from the Ocmulgee Mounds and within the same National Park area features a unique "spiral" mound, funeral mound, and other small mounds. The Lamar Culture spread throughout the Southeast and had contact with non-Moundbuilder tribes such as the Cherokee.
The Ocmulgee Indian Mounds history
First mention of the mounds is by a member of James Oglethorpe's Georgia Guard who saw the mounds on a trip with Oglethorpe to the Creek capital of Coweta. Naturalist William Bartram noted Ocmulgee on both his visits to the site during the 1770's, calling them the "Oakmulgee fields". The mounds remained in Creek hands well into the 19th century, and were exempted from a treaty ceding the surrounding area. The mounds, however, were finally ceded to the state and distributed to settlers (1828).
Macon's rapid expansion during the 1800's compromised the mounds with incursions to build railroad lines and public works projects. By 1930 the mounds had been heavily damaged. A group of concerned citizens and the Smithsonian Institute organized an excavation of the Ocmulgee Indian Mounds to prove their archeological value. Noted archeologist Dr. A. R. Kelly led the expedition. Based on Kelly's finds, the Ocmulgee National Park was created in 1936.
Today the park continues to grow thanks to donations of nearby land. It struggles to maintain the land as intact as possible not only for this generation but for future generations as well.
Visiting the Ocmulgee Indian Mounds National Monument
The park stretches from the Emery Highway to the Ocmulgee River, although access to the river is limited by Interstate 16. The only place to get under I-16 is at the bridge over Walnut Creek along the River Trail. A single road bisects the park, allowing access to each of the major mounds, and well-marked paths are used to access other sites. The earth lodge is a short walk from the visitors center along a well-maintained, paved, level path.
Take the road past the visitors center to the end. From this parking lot visit the funeral mound. Then return, parking at the next lot to visit the Great Temple Mound and the Lesser Temple Mound, which may be climbed if you desire. Return to the visitors center and park. Take a few minutes to visit the museum in the visitors center. From the center follow one of the paths to the Native American Earth Lodge. From here follow the path around to the Indian Village and the Southeast Mound, then return to the visitor center. This loop path is about 1.5 miles and requires less than a hour to walk.
The park is broad and flat, with large areas that are not shaded. Bring water. Caps are recommended for sun-sensitive folks. Fall (Nov. and Dec.) are good times to visit to avoid both the heat and the crowds.
Other Attractions in Macon
Georgia Music Hall of Fame
Native American Listing
Etowah Indian Mounds State Park
New Echota State Park
Funk Heritage Center
National Park Listing
Chickamauga-Chattanooga National Military Park
Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park
Carter Library and Museum