Friday, August 14, 2009

Kolomoki Mounds State Park - Blakely, Georgia

One of the most remarkable archaeological sites in the Americas is now nestled in the pines and surrounded by the peanut fields of Southwest Georgia at Kolomoki Mounds State Park.

Some archaeologists believe that the massive Native American culture once centered at Kolomoki Mounds was the most important of its era north of the powerful Aztec civilization in Mexico. Rising in around 350 A.D., the Kolomoki culture developed widespread trade networks, a highly ceremonial religion, advanced skills in art, astronomy and architecture and built a massive pyramidal mound that remains one of the largest in the United States. They also practiced human sacrifice.

One of the most amazing facts about the array of mounds that still exist at Kolomoki is that they were oriented to serve as a gigantic prehistoric calender and observatory. On the longest day of the year, for example, the sun rises from directly behind the center of the huge 56-foot high Temple Mound (or Mound A). Other mounds in the complex appear to be arranged to coincide with various constellations at key times of the year.

A major component of what scientists call the Weeden Island time period (which takes its name from a unique pottery style first documented at Weedon Island, Florida), the Kolomoki site includes the huge Temple Mound, burial mounds, a vast village plaza and other features such as an unusual "serpent-like" ravine or trench leading up to the base of the large mound.

The civilization vanished roughly 1,000 years before the first European explorers set foot on the Southern coastline. Replaced by the powerful Mississippian culture, the Kolomoki site faded away and never again regained its prominence.

Today the archaeological site is the center of a beautiful state park that features camping, picnicking, nature trails and more. The park's museum encloses most of a burial mound and visitors can follow wooden walkways into the heart of the mound where they can learn about an elaborate burial ceremony that took place there more than 1,500 years ago. The other mounds can also be explored and an interpretive trail and stairway lead to the top of the giant Temple Mound.

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