Secrets of the Track Rock Petroglyphs
Part Five of the Series on Track Rock Gap
Chattahoochee National Forest
Union County, Georgia
“The Track Rock Petroglyphs were graffiti created by bored Cherokee hunters.” US Forest Service Report (2000) & Georgia Council of Professional Archaeologists (2012)
“Thornton is a frequent blogger and self-styled historian, who has no knowledge about the Mayas. He is nothing, but an architect.” – Society for Georgia Archaeology (2012)
The Absurdity of it all
The photograph above apparently came from the files of the US Forest Service. It accompanied a legion of propaganda, produced by US Forest Service staff members, the Georgia Council of Professional Archaeologists and the Society for Georgia Archaeology in 2012 and 2013. All of the articles were very similar in content. Their key emphasis was that “professional archaeologists in Georgia and Johannes Loubser, an internationally recognized expert on rock art, have never found a single example of Maya writing or words in Georgia.” Most of the articles also stated that “someone with no background in the subject came up with his oddball theories out of thin air.” They didn’t use my name in order to avoid professional libel suits. It is obvious that these “experts” should change their organizational name to “Georgia Council of Aspiring Archaeologists.”
For many of our readers around the world, the above symbol probably seems familiar. It should. It was the logo for the popular PBS documentary in 2008, “Cracking the Maya Code.” It was the first Maya glyph translated by the now-famous Maya expert, Dr. David Stuart. It means “hena mako” (Great Sun or High King) in both Itza Maya and Itsate Creek. My Creek Indian ancestors spoke Itsate (Hitchiti). DNA labs classify us as Mesoamericans, not North American Indians. However, the absurdity of the above comments extend far beyond that.
Chattahoochee is derived from the Itza Maya words, tchata hawche, which means “marked stone (stela) – shallow river. The words mean the same in the Creek languages.
The first Society For Georgia Archaeology article on the Track Rock Gap “controversy” was written by a history major in the first month of her junior year at Gwinnett County Community College. I have eight years of university education from Georgia Tech, Georgia State and Lund University in Sweden. I was one of 18 members of my 187 member freshman class at Tech, who ultimately received a Professional Degree in Architecture. I passed the 48 hour long national licensing exam the first time with a score of 91. There is no licensing exam for archaeologists in the Southeastern United States. ‘Nuff said.
David Stuart’s father, George, became a long time friend of mine, after he photographed and interviewed me first in the Reems Creek Valley of North Carolina for the book, Appalachian Wilderness, and then later at our farm in the Shenenadoah Valley of Virginia for the book, The Blue Ridge Mountains. George was then Senior Archaeologist and Photographer for the National Geographical Society, but eventually became the Senior Editor for National Geographic Magazine. George Stuart, is best known however, for writing a series of National Geo articles in the late 1960s and 1970s, which introduced the Maya Civilization to the world.
George E. Stuart owned a vacation home, later his retirement home, in Barnardsville, NC . . . “just over the mountain” from my Reems Creek Valley farm. He grew up in Camden, SC and held a doctorate in anthropology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Our friendship continued after I moved from North Carolina to northern Virginia. We lost contact after, with no warning, I found myself living with my parents in suburban Atlanta.
Between 2000 and 2018, I was treated like dirt by the “Lilliputians” who had taken control of Georgia. Over and over again, “law enforcement” officers, monitoring my telephone and email would scare away girlfriends and architecture clients. After 2005, most of my income necessarily came from outside Georgia. Here is a classic example of what was going on.
While visiting my home in December 2005, Muskogee (Oklahoma) District Court Judge Patrick Moore asked me the cost of building a model of a Creek village for his new office. The professional compensation would come from his furniture-furnishings budget. He called me after he got back home and confirmed the contract. A little over a week later, Muscogee-Creek Principal Chief A. D. Ellis received a letter from the Georgia Council of Professional Archaeologists, personally signed by six archaeologists – three of whom were later involved with the Track Rock Thang – which demanded that he cancel the contract that the Creek Nation had with me and then give the contract to one of their firms. The letter said that I (a Creek Architect, working as a consultant to the Creek Nation) was not qualified to build an architectural model. LOL
Neither Principal Chief Ellis or anybody else in the Administrative Department knew who I was or anything about a contract for an architectural model. All of my work to date had been for the Judicial Department. However, Second Chief Berryhill asked around and finally determined that the model was a personal purchase by Judge Moore. Second Chief Berryhill telephoned me to ask about my professional background. I told him about meeting six members of the National Council at Ocmulgee National Monument. That ultimately resulted in contracts with the Creek Nation to build 11 more architectural models and then their recommendation that I be the architect for the Trail of Tears Memorial in Tulsa.
The Creek Nation wanted to have the six archaeologists extradited to Oklahoma then charged with multiple federal and state felonies for illegally eavesdropping on the telephone conversations of a federal judge, but they got no cooperation from law enforcement in Georgia. I wonder why? Nevertheless, the letter from the archaeologists was framed and mounted on the wall of the Creek Administrative Department. Principal Chief Ellis quipped that it was the first time in history that a Georgia archaeologist had communicated with a Creek Indian. LOL
Whoever tipped off the six archaeologists didn’t do their homework again in 2012 and assumed since they had denigrated me to “crumb bum” status, that it always been the case. I had friends elsewhere. In fact, it was former National Park Service Director, Roger Kennedy, who came to my aid, when I was illegally evicted on Christmas Eve, 2009.
Another key cast member of “Cracking the Maya Code” was Linda Schele. Until her untimely death from cancer, Linda collaborated frequently with David Stuart. David Schele, his wife, Linda, and I jointly toured the ruins of the Maya city of Palenque together. It was the first time for all of us.
David and Linda were from Mobile, Alabama. He was an architecture professor, who had received a grant to photograph Maya architecture. Several years younger than David, Linda was an art student with no particular interest in things, Native American, until that summer. We stuck together at several Maya city sites, while I was on my fellowship, because of the constant verbal abuse by tourists from the Northeast and Midwest, aka Yankees. I had the same problem two years later while working in Europe. As a result, while touring European cities, I hung out with Southerners, Canadians, Australians New Zealanders and Californians – who were not prejudiced like the Easterners. That situation changed radically with the election of Jimmy Carter as President.
In “Cracking the Maya Code,” Linda Schele recounted her thoughts as she viewed the sarcophagus of a Maya king deep beneath the Temple of the Inscriptions at Palenque. It was then that she decided to go back to school to become an archaeologist. I was standing immediately to the right of her at that key moment in her life, but Mesoamerican studies for me would remain an avocation until 2012.
The famous 20th century archaeologist, Dr. Arthur Kelly, founded the Society for Georgia Archaeology and was the first director of the Department of Anthropology at the University of Georgia. He was my first mentor in archaeology, but had been railroaded out of the University of Georgia in 1969, because he had told Atlanta Journal-Constitution columnist, John S. Pennington, that he had discovered artifacts along the Chattahoochee River, which seemed to be either made in Mexico or copies of Mexican artifacts.
Dr. Kelly and Architect Ike Saporta were directly responsible for me being awarded the first Barrett Fellowship at Georgia Tech. Ike Saporta was a Georgia Tech professor and President of the Atlanta Archaeological Society . . . still the largest unit of the Society for Georgia Archaeology. This fellowship, coordinated by Dr. Román Piña Chán (Director of the Museo Nacional de Antropologia de México) sent me all over the southern 2/3 of Mexico, plus Guatemala and Belize, to study its ancient architecture and urban planning. Dr. Piña Chán was 1/2 Maya from Campeche. I would not know that I also carried some Maya DNA until the 21st century.
None of the archaeologists and University of Georgia anthropology professors, involved with the “Maya-Myth-Busting-In-The-Mountains campaign, knew who the Itza Mayas were or had they seen a Maya terrace complex. Johannes Loubser had never even been in Mexico.
Decoding the Track Rock Petroglyphs
I wrote The Itza Mayas in North America while living about two miles from Track Rock Gap. At the time, I (correctly) assumed that the agricultural terraces on the mountainside dated from a much later era than most of the petroglyphs. I did discern at least four Itza Maya petroglyphs, which Loubser had drawn for the US Forest Service, but not recognized. They were included in the book. I would not give anymore thoughts to the Track Rock petroglyphs for the next five years.
On the morning after my graduation from Georgia Tech, I embarked on a 24 hour journey by jet, bus and ferry to Landskrona, Sweden to start a job that I had not applied for. Earlier in the year, I had received a telegram from Crown Prince Carl Gustaf Folke Hubertus, which invited me to work at the Landskrona Town Architect’s Office (Stadsarkitektkontoret) under a technical exchange program. On the third day at work, Town Architect Gunnar Lydh, asked me to accompany him via boat to my project site. It was on Ven Island in the Oresund Channel between Sweden and Denmark. The pedestrian village was to be built near Sankt Ibbs Kyrka, a church constructed around 900 AD at the location of a Bronze, Iron and Viking Age shrine. I now know that the shrine was very similar to several of those that we are finding in the Georgia Mountains, but back then, they just seemed to be a geometric arrangement of stone boulders.
We scrambled down the grassy cliff to some boulders at the water’s edge. Gunnar pointed some ancient Bronze Age petroglyphs and reminded me that I would be working at a site, where humans had been living for a long, long time. Archaeologists would be working with the agency from day one.
I noticed that all of the Bronze Age symbols were also Creek Indian sacred symbols. I told this to Gunnar, but he laughed at me. However, for decades to come, the fact that Creek sacred symbols were on a boulder in the Oresund Channel of Scandinavia, bothered me. How could that be?
By 2014, I already knew that the petroglyphs in the Etowah River Basin section of the Georgia Gold Belt were identical to those in County Kerry, Ireland. Now those articles have already spread over the internet. The mountains of southwest Ireland are also a major gold-bearing region. However, petroglyphic sites in other areas of the Georgia Mountains were distinctly different than those in the Etowah Valley. They also did not resemble anything that I had seen in Mexico. They remained an enigma.
Having nothing to do on an unusually pretty February weekend in 2017, I drove over to the Travelers Rest State Historic Site near the Tugaloo River, which contains a restored late 18th century inn. I noticed a blockish stone on the ground in the rear of the old inn. I photographed them.
When I looked at the photo images on the computer screen, I immediately noticed many symbols that could be found in the Northeast Georgia Mountains. However, three of the sides of the stone were dominated by strange curving lines with smaller perpendicular lines. Out of curiosity, I rotated the images 180 degrees. OMG! Bronze Age boats appeared, including a hjartspringer boat. Someone from Bronze Age Scandinavia had carved the Tugaloo Stone.
I contacted some friends from long ago in Landskrona to see if they knew any archaeologists at Lund University, who were experts on the Bronze Age. Because there was a a 1000 year old church and a Late Medieval farm complex next to my project sites, my employers had required me to audit courses in Swedish 10th Century History, Swedish Late Medieval History and Historic Preservation, but those professors were long gone. Soon I received an email containing the meanings of many of the Georgia petrolgyphs! Academicians in the Southeast had never advanced past the 1834 speculations of the director of the US Branch Mint in Dahlonega.
Next, I used my limited Swedish skills to google key words, which would pull up Scandinavian petroglyph websites. I came upon the website Nyköping Hällristninger (Newmarket Petroglyphs). They have been dated to at least 2000 BC. Almost all the symbols on the Track Rock Petroglyphs, the earliest glyphs of the Maya Writing System AND the Maya Numerical System may be found on the Nyköping Petroglyphs. This fact, once it gets out, will turn the history books upside down.