Ocmulgee National Monument : Museum And Artifacts At Macon, Georgia

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Ocmulgee Mound Builders

The lives and daily routines of the now vanished civilization referred to as the Mississippian Culture, or more commonly known as the “mound builders,” are well represented in this on-site museum at the Ocmulgee National Monument in Macon Georgia.

Artifacts, such as projectile points, pottery, copper ceremonial items, and other fascinating objects are on display for the history buff, or for the curious tourist or student. The wonderful earthworks, constructed by the ancient residents over 1,000 years ago, tell a tale of greatness and knowledge as well as, mystery and tyranny. For this complex was a member of the Southern Death Cult, a cult which believed in human sacrifice, not unlike their cousins in Mexico and the Yucatan.

They were the bringers of the “Three sisters” to the southeastern part of this country. These venerated foods--maize (corn), squash(including pumpkins and gourds) and beans(several varieties)--were the most important of the crops grown for sustenance of the entire complex. Along with other wild foods and wild game, these important crops allowed the Mississippians to achieve an impressive cultural society on the bluffs overlooking the Ocmulgee River.

A view of the great temple mound  as seen approx. one half mile away from the earthen council lodge.
A view of the great temple mound as seen approx. one half mile away from the earthen council lodge. | Source
The Earth Lodge at Ocmulgee
The Earth Lodge at Ocmulgee | Source

The History of the Ocmulgee Museum Artifacts

Dr. Kelly, standing atop the Ceremonial Earth Lodge before excavation.
Dr. Kelly, standing atop the Ceremonial Earth Lodge before excavation. | Source
The Ocmulgee complex showing the layout of the mounds and other aspects of the site.
The Ocmulgee complex showing the layout of the mounds and other aspects of the site. | Source
The entrance to the Ocmulgee National Monument Museum
The entrance to the Ocmulgee National Monument Museum | Source

Digging The History Of The Mound Builders

During the latter part of the Great Depression an anthropologist from Harvard University was hired to excavate and analyze the artifacts and other items you will see in the Ocmulgee National Monument Museum.

Even after over half a century has passed since Kelly’s archaeological research has taken place, there are still many artifacts in storage which haven’t been examined closely.

This testifies to the sheer number of items found in the relatively small area actually excavated during the archaeological digs on this site.

As you can see by the layout of the site, it covers a large area with some mounds being over half a mile from the others. Such is the case of the wonderful reconstructed Ceremonial Earth Lodge and its relation to the Temple mound in the distance.

The museum however, does display some of the most beautiful and intriguing of these artifacts, along with some beautiful paintings and scenes depicting the everyday life of these mysterious people.

Where they came from and where they went is still under scrutiny, but we are getting closer to being able to know the answers to these questions with each passing day.

Although these ancient folk are no more, their language seems to have been remembered as certain words, used by today's remaining tribes once living in the area, have identical meanings as the same words in certain parts of Mexico. Coincidentally, the place where maize is thought to have originated.

The Hunters

The hunters at the Ocmulgee complex used several different methods of bagging game to supplement the "3 Sisters."
The hunters at the Ocmulgee complex used several different methods of bagging game to supplement the "3 Sisters."

Ancient Hunting Tools and Projectile Points

A Clovis style point-12,000 to 13,000 years old.
A Clovis style point-12,000 to 13,000 years old. | Source
Dalton points used during the Paleolithic period were left here long before the mound builders arrived.
Dalton points used during the Paleolithic period were left here long before the mound builders arrived. | Source
An Atlatl along with the spear and other type banner stones
An Atlatl along with the spear and other type banner stones | Source

Hunting On The Bluffs

Hunting wild game was an essential part of the Ocmulgee people’s food supply. Since the Paleolithic era these high bluffs overlooking the Ocmulgee River have been productive hunting grounds.

The projectile points in the photos on the right are from that particular period. The use of an atlatl--a spear throwing stick with a stone banner weight--enabled these earliest Americans, known as the Clovis culture, to hunt the now extinct mega-fauna which once roamed the area.

The atlatls and unique butterfly shaped banner stone weights shown here are typical of those used during the Paleolithic period long before the mound builders came into this part of the country.

The atlatl enabled a hunter to throw the spear with much greater force which was needed for the giant animals they hunted at the time.

There also projectile points from the Archaic and Woodland periods displayed with their unique shapes and colors from the period of the mound builders.

The smaller game, left after the mass extinctions of the horses, mammoths, mastodons, camels, and other mega-fauna, required smaller projectile points and heralded the emergence of the bow and arrow as the main hunting weapon.

The mound builders, here at Ocmulgee and at other similar complexes around the country, utilized the bow and arrow to harvest the many animals living in the nearby forests and river bottoms.

The points and hunting tools on this page are merely a small representation of those contained in the museum at Ocmulgee. You must visit the museum in person to see the entire wonderful collection on display there

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Ocmulgee Complex Pottery

Several different types of pottery and ceramics are on display at the museum.
Several different types of pottery and ceramics are on display at the museum. | Source
A wonderful example of the pottery found at the Ocmulgee complex.
A wonderful example of the pottery found at the Ocmulgee complex. | Source
Another fine piece showing the design motifs used by the maker.
Another fine piece showing the design motifs used by the maker. | Source
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Pottery Tells the Tale

The wide variety of pottery and other ceramic items on display inside the museum attests to the different types of earthenware and bowls these innovative people used in their everyday lives.

One may even be able trace the advancement of pottery making over the period of time the Mississippians lived here on the river bluff by comparing the advancements made over the decades.

Some indicate their origin of manufacture as being from other Mississippian complexes in the southeast. Apparently trade was common between such cults.

Some of the pots were used for cooking while others were made for preparing or storing corn and other foodstuffs. The uses for these unique containers were many.

The particular shape of the ceramic vessels vary according to the maker and the intended purpose of the item. Each of these fascinating pieces seems to have a personality of its own.

As you can see, great effort was made to make the pottery useful, as well as, pleasing to the eye. Certain motifs were used by the makers to indicate religious and other cultural beliefs and to decorate the vessel.

Pottery can tell, not only a great deal about the people’s everyday lives, but how they developed their culture during those ancient times.

The examples shown here indicate a highly adapted society of maize producers with enough time left over for art and beauty in their daily lives.

The ability to store foodstuffs during the cold days of winter, and to cook the game and other crops without having to use heating stones dropped into the cooking vessels, greatly aided the mound builders in their daily lives.

The museum has a good variety of these useful and important vessels on display for your examination and enjoyment.

Again, one must see these beautiful ceramic pots and bowls in person to fully appreciate them.


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Items of Ancient Intrigue

A conch shell gorget with the birdman motif prominently displayed.
A conch shell gorget with the birdman motif prominently displayed. | Source
These copper pieces perhaps adorned a ceremonial mask used for certain religious rituals.
These copper pieces perhaps adorned a ceremonial mask used for certain religious rituals. | Source
Another human effigy on display at the Ocmulgee museum.
Another human effigy on display at the Ocmulgee museum. | Source

Trading For Copper and Conch Shells

Besides the wonderful examples of pottery on exhibit at the museum, there are also exhibits of ceramic human effigies and decorative pieces made from conch shells which were obtained by trade from other cultures much further south along the Atlantic and Gulf coastlines. .

Copper was also utilized for adorning certain items mainly used for religious ceremonies by the priests and chieftains.

It was also obtained by trade with other Mississippian cultures located near the mountains of North Georgia and Tennessee.A few examples of these interesting copper items are exhibited in the museum.

The human effigies are especially interesting as they are made in the abstract form in many cases. But they may actually be patterned after real people who had excelled in battle or leadership. But we will perhaps never know who these important figures represent.

These items represent just a few of the trade goods obtained from other Mississippian complexes around the Southeastern United States.

They indicate a strong network of trade between the different areas, each trading local goods for those they do not have access to otherwise.

Along with tobacco pipes and chunky stones, there are so many more exhibits to be seen at the Ocmulgee National Monument. Be sure to visit this fine museum and mound complex if you're ever in the area of Macon Georgia. More articles about this site are found in the links below.

More Museum Photos by Randy Godwin

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Comments 18 comments

Pcunix profile image

Pcunix 4 years ago from SE MA

Thank you so much for this. If i ever get down that way again (doubtful, as my wife doesn't "travel well" anymore, but if I ever do), I'll be sure to visit here and I'll have you to thank for making me aware of it.


Randy Godwin profile image

Randy Godwin 4 years ago from Southern Georgia Author

I hope you get the chance, PCunix! I took so many photos of the site and there was so much fascinating history there I had to make 3 hubs to cover only part of it.

Thanks for taking a look at this one and for your comments too! :)

Randy SSSSS


CMHypno profile image

CMHypno 4 years ago from Other Side of the Sun

Fascinating stuff Randy. This must have been an amazing place when it was being occupied, and raises so many questions. I'd love to visit some day and explore for myself.


My Minds Eye53 profile image

My Minds Eye53 4 years ago from Tennessee

I have heard of these, they have similar mounds in Missouri also. Voted up.


Randy Godwin profile image

Randy Godwin 4 years ago from Southern Georgia Author

Thanks, CM! Yes, it's hard to do justice to the place with only text and photos. Just down the river there is another mound complex which hasn't been properly excavated yet. So much history here and very little interest in fully understanding these ancient Americans.

I appreciate your time and input on my hub!

Randy-SSSSS


Randy Godwin profile image

Randy Godwin 4 years ago from Southern Georgia Author

@My Minds Eye--Thanks for taking a look and for rating my hub up too. Yes, the Cahokia Mound at St. Louis is one of the biggest complexes of the Mississippians.

Randy-SSSSS


Alastar Packer profile image

Alastar Packer 4 years ago from North Carolina

Thoroughly enjoyed and learned from this Randy, thank you. The only Mound Builder site I've been to is Town Creek Mound in N.C. and although its quite interesting yours down in Ga. trumps it. Definitely a must see when in the Macon area.


Randy Godwin profile image

Randy Godwin 4 years ago from Southern Georgia Author

Thanks Alstar! Actually, the Etowah Complex near Cartersville, Georgia is the best in the state with larger mounds and more archaeological research done there. But this site is very interesting too.

I still haven't visited the Kolimoki site in southwestern Georgia yet but plan to do so soon. Thanks as always for visiting and commenting on my hubs!

Randy SSSSS


dishia profile image

dishia 4 years ago from nigeria/ rivers state

thanks for taking the time to put this amazing piece of work down. i admit your piece of work is very informative


Randy Godwin profile image

Randy Godwin 4 years ago from Southern Georgia Author

I'm glad you found my hub interesting, dishia! These places alwys get my creative juices flowing. Thanks for the kind comments and your time.

Randy SSSSS


Bard of Ely profile image

Bard of Ely 4 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

Randy, I see what you mean and that your evidence is contrary to what is claimed by people calling themselves the Washitaw! I have voted up for this awesome hub!


Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

Wesman Todd Shaw 4 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

Great lot of rare education to be had here on page, and much more at the museum I'd like to see some day.

Great photos!!!

Gosh if I had it my way I'd study European history and Native American history as a dual major. Maybe some day I'll get the chance.


Randy Godwin profile image

Randy Godwin 4 years ago from Southern Georgia Author

Thanks so much, Bard! It's all very interesting to me how these people appeared so suddenly, built the impressive earthworks, and vanished just as fast. I hope you checked out the links to the 2 other hubs in which the earth council lodge is pictured It has the original baked clay floor.

I really appreciate your time and comments!

Randy


Randy Godwin profile image

Randy Godwin 4 years ago from Southern Georgia Author

Since I began collecting Native American projectile points and artifacts at age six on the family land I've been hooked on their culture, Wesman. This site is one of three such place in Georgia I've visited and plan to write about the other 2 at a future date.

One cannot walk the grounds without getting a feeling of kinship with these ancient people.

Thanks for taking the time to visit and comment on this hub, as always.

Randy SSSSS


GAbaptist profile image

GAbaptist 4 years ago from Alaska

Randy, very nice article. I actually grew up only a couple of miles from the Ocmulgee National Park and my parents still live there. I have many fond memories of climbing those hills and walking the trails as a child. It really is a hidden gem that is well worth the visit! Thank you.


Randy Godwin profile image

Randy Godwin 4 years ago from Southern Georgia Author

It is indeed a gem, GAbaptist! I can only imagine the place as it once looked during its peak period when the mounds were used for ceremonial rituals.

Thanks for taking the time to read and comment on this piece. I enjoyed researching and writing it as well as the visits I've made to the site.

Randy


Deborah Brooks profile image

Deborah Brooks 4 years ago from Brownsville,TX

what a great awesome hub.. I would to visit.. so many places to go and visit.. LOL.. Have a great evening

debbie


Randy Godwin profile image

Randy Godwin 4 years ago from Southern Georgia Author

Thanks for the comments, Debbie! Yes, it is an awesome place to visit and like you, I feel I'll never get around to seeing all of the places I'd like to.

Thanks for your time!

Randy SSSSS

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