Ocmulgee National Monument : Museum And Artifacts At Macon, Georgia
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.
The History of the Ocmulgee Museum Artifacts
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.
Ancient Hunting Tools and Projectile Points
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
Ocmulgee Complex Pottery
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.
Items of Ancient Intrigue
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 GodwinClick thumbnail to view full-size
More Ocmulgee Mounds Related Articles
- The Mississipian Southern Death Cult : Ocmulgee National Monument
Ocmulgee national Monument located near Macon Georgia is a fine example of the Mississippian mound building culture from around 900 AD. Wonderful platform mounds and the oldest earth ceremonial council lodge in North America. Photos and history.
- The Clovis Mystery : What Happened To Clovis Man
When numerous mammals suddenly vanished around 13,000 years ago, so did most of the earliest Americans. Referred to by some archaeologists as "Clovis Man" because of an early find in Clovis NM, these remarkable hunters of the extinct megafauna seemed
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- Arrowhead collectors : Hunting for Hunters
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