The Grand Tour – Day 1 – Etowah to Asheville


When we last left off, we had just gotten to the Etowah Indian Mounds, just outside of Atlanta, Georgia.  Etowah was a native American village site as far back as 900 AD, which was used by the Mississippian culture (it got the name Mississippian culture because the first village sites they found from this culture of Native Americans were in the Mississippi River Valley). The culture built mounds for the village leaders to live on top of, and they erected structures of ceremonial significance on top of the mounds. The Etowah site has 3 mounds, and the rest of the site is the village site, where their daily living would take place. Excavations show several structures were on top of the two larger mounds. The smallest mound was a burial mound where they excavated and removed 330 graves. A lot of the artifacts that are on display in the museum are grave goods that they found during the excavation of Mound C. The state of Georgia has built staircases up the mounds so you can climb (or crawl, depending on your fitness level) to the top. The three mounds range in height from 63 feet (135 steps), 25 feet (46 steps) and 10 feet (34 steps – not sure why this one needed quite so many steps!). I counted the number of steps on the two smaller mounds, but I trusted the little boy who told me he had counted the steps on the largest mound.

Mound A at Etowah Indian Mounds

Me on the Steps of Mound A

Looking at Mound B from the Top of Mound A

The Etowah site also had a community square area at the base of the largest mound where people traded goods and played chunkey, which was a game played with carved stones that had ceremonial significance to the tribe. Players rolled disc shaped stones along the ground and then tried to throw a spear as close as possible to where the stone would stop.  Games of chunkey were played by warriors, and doing well elevated their status in the community.

The Mississippian culture is a bit of a mystery to archaeologists.  They know that the culture are ancestors of the Muscogee (Creek) Native Americans, and that the Creek consider Etowah to be on of their most important ancestral sites.  Trading occurred regularly here, and trade items as far away as California have been found at the site.  The culture is believed to have been a warring tribe and the site was set up with several defensive mechanisms – an orchard was planted in staggered rows to prevent enemies from shooting flaming arrows into the village, and a fortification wall was built around the village as well.

 

Two Marble Statues that were Found in Mound C

Two Marble Statues that were Found in Mound C

It was a hot and muggy day and it was a pleasant relief to head down to the river and into some shade. There we saw where the Indians had created a fish trap – a V-shaped line of rocks in the river. They would put baskets or nets at the point of the V to catch the fish (I will remember this strategy if I am ever stranded in the wilderness or marooned on a desert island – with a river of course!). The fish trap that we saw is a re-creation made like the ones that were found by the hundreds at various parts of the river, and it was neat to see, but it is only visible when the water level is low.

Recreation of the Fish Traps Used at Etowah

After leaving Etowah, we got back on the road to head to Asheville, NC. I thought that since we had been heading north, we could just continue on our way north to Asheville. Not so. We had to backtrack south and east through northern Atlanta to get to Asheville. And we hit rush hour traffic. So, at this point, almost no sleep was catching up with us, and we got into an argument… That was kind of a low point… Fortunately it didn’t last too long… (the argument… the traffic lasted FOREVER!) Once we were out of Atlanta well out of the traffic, we stopped along the way at the Jaemor Farm Market, where we split a BBQ pork sandwich and got some Hot Peach sauce and some Peach flavored licorice. Even though the licorice wasn’t local (it was made in Ohio) it was delicious. I figured it still counted as something I tried that I couldn’t get at home too!

Jaemor Farm Market – Home of a Great BBQ Pork Sandwich!

We headed into the mountains and saw all sorts of neat places – antique shops and little stores and things. Of course, they were closed by that point, so that will have to be another trip!  You could go camping and fishing and hiking…  It really seemed like a great area for a summer vacation, and one that we will certainly have to visit again.  Plus, the Great Smoky Mountain National Park is in this area, and we eventually want to visit all of the 47 National Parks in the US.

By the time we got to Asheville, we were both exhausted zombies. We checked into our Best Western and went to the ingles grocery store (yes, I didn’t capitalize the i on purpose! – they didn’t either) and got deli salads for dinner.  We went back to the room, had our meal and some wine, watched a little TV and hit the sack, for a very good night’s sleep.

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7 thoughts on “The Grand Tour – Day 1 – Etowah to Asheville

  1. the stone carvings are still so impressive to me, just did not realize we had anything like that in N. America. Bad traffic always seems to bring out the worst in everyone 🙂
    That was a lot of stairs!

  2. Yes they are so beautiful! That’s the first time I’d seen anything like those here too! And yes, it was a lot of stairs! Between that, and the hike up Kennesaw Mountain, it was a great workout.

  3. We’re headed for a two week Southern roadtrip (NC, SC & north Florida) on Sunday, so I’m reading through your old posts for Charleston/Savannah tips. Can’t believe you flew in from the West Coast and did Kennesaw and the Indian Mounds and then drove to Asheville! I’d call you crazy but that’s exactly the sort of thing I’d do. (OK, so we’re both crazy.)

    • We flew in on the redeye, so we started our day really early, so we had time to do both Kennesaw and Etowah. The drive to Asheville did leave us both a bit zombiefied though. I hope you are enjoying these posts, and they help! It really was a fantastic trip.

  4. Fantastic post. It’s interesting that they planted an orchard for defenses – I’ve not heard of that strategy before with regards to the flaming arrows. Does the fortification wall date to ca. 900 as well? I thought that it was a relatively peaceful time in those parts that early.

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