The Kolomoki Mounds is one of the largest and earliest Woodland period mound complexes in the Southeastern United States and is the largest in Georgia. Constructed from 350CE to 600CE, they are located in present-day Early County near the Chattahoochee River.
The mounds were designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1964. Seven of the eight mounds are protected as part of Kolomoki Mounds State Historic Park.
Kolomoki Mounds State Historic Park is an important archaeological site as well as a scenic recreational area. Kolomoki, covering some three hundred acres, is one of the larger preserved mound sites in the USA.
In the early millennium of the Common Era, Kolomoki, with its surrounding villages, burial mounds, and ceremonial plaza, was a center of population and activity in North America. The eight visible mounds of earth in the park were built between 250-950 CE by peoples of the Swift Creek and Weeden Island cultures. These mounds include Georgia's oldest great temple mound, two burial mounds and four smaller ceremonial mounds.
The park's museum was built to incorporate part of an excavated mound; it provides an authentic setting for viewing artifacts. The museum features a film about how the mound was built and excavated.
As with other mound complexes, the people built and sited the earthworks according to a complex cosmology. Researchers have noted that several mounds are aligned according to astronomical events. For example, mounds A, D, and E, which form the central axis of the site, align with the sun at the spring equinox. Mounds F and D form an alignment with the sun at the summer solstice.
Soils at the Park are mostly dark red sandy loams or loamy sands of the Americus, Greenville, and Red Bay series. Some pale brown sands of the Troup series occur on the western shores of Kolomoki Lake, and at the northern end of the lake is brown or dark gray alluvial loam of the Herod-Muckalee soil association.
The Temple Mound is 56 feet (17 m) high and measures 325 by 200 feet (61 m) at the base. Research indicates that it would have taken over two million basket loads carried by individual workers, each holding one cubic foot of earth, to build this mound. The southern half of the mound is three feet higher and was probably the temple platform. From the top of the steps, most of the Kolomoki Archaeological Area can be viewed. Approximately 1,500 - 2,000 residents lived in a village of thatched houses arched around the plaza.
Mound D is one of the eight visible mounds at the Kolomoki site. It is a conical mound that is 20 feet (6.1 m) high from the ground. It is centrally located at Kolomoki. Archeologists discovered the remains of 77 burials and ceremonial pottery here. The effigy pottery discovered was shaped in various animal and bird shapes, such as deer, quail and owls.
Mound D was constructed in several stages, each time increasing in size. It began as a square-platform mound that was about 6 feet (1.8 m) tall. This original platform mound was built from yellow clay. Sixty pottery vessels were placed on the east wall including the above effigy pottery.
After many subsequent burials and the addition of more yellow clay in layers, the mound took shape as a larger circular mound about 10 feet (3.0 m) tall. These burials took place on the eastern side of the mound, and the skulls face eastward, apparently for religious reasons. Burial objects made from iron and copper and pearl beads were included as ceremonial objects with the burials. Finally, the entire mound was covered with red clay.
In March 1974, a thief entered the former museum at the park and stole more than 129 ancient pots and effigies, numerous arrowheads and other treasures. Every artifact on display was stolen. Several years later, many of the pieces were recovered from Miami and St. Augustine, Florida.
But, with more than 70 relics still missing, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has sought public help in recovering these artifacts. Archeologists believe the pots are somewhere in Georgia or Florida, perhaps held by dealers or private collectors.
Park Manager Matt Bruner said,
"These pieces are an important part of North American history and should be properly protected for future generations to study. They have significant meaning to the Native American people because many were used during burial ceremonies, plus they represent some of the finest craftsmanship of the Kolomoki culture."
He emphasized that the state is more interested in recovering the pots than prosecuting the people who have them.