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Rock Eagle Site
U.S. National Register of Historic Places
Rock Eagle Effigy Mound, viewed from adjacent observation tower, 26 August 2007
Nearest city: Eatonton, Georgia
Governing body: State
Added to NRHP: May 23, 1978
NRHP Reference#: 78001001[1]

Rock Eagle Effigy Mound is an archaeological site in Putnam County, Georgia, U.S.A. estimated to have been constructed 1,000 to 3,000 years ago. The earthwork was built up of thousands of pieces of quartzite laid in the mounded shape of a large bird. Although it is most often referred to as an eagle, scholars do not know exactly what type of bird the original builders intended to portray. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) because of its significance.

Contents

Archaeology

Only two such bird effigy mounds have been found east of the Mississippi River. The other, known as Rock Hawk, is also located in Putnam County, approximately thirteen miles to the southeast. (33°20.693′N 83°10.502′W / 33.344883°N 83.175033°W / 33.344883; -83.175033)

Rock Eagle was once thought to be as much as 5,000 years old. While there is strong evidence that the area was occupied by Archaic Indians at that time, scholars no longer believe that they created the mound. Current archaeology suggests the mound was built between 1,000 and 3,000 years ago by Woodland Indians. These Native Americans may have been part of the Adena or Hopewell cultures. It is more likely that they represented a unique group.

The Bald eagle was considered to be in direct contact with the spirit upper world. Many southeastern tribes were thought to be "sun" worshippers.

The mound depicts a bird with a large beak and a fan tail. It measures 120 feet from head to tail and 102 feet from wingtip to wingtip. The bird's head is often described as being turned to the east (see Marker) "to face the rising sun", perhaps to suggest a cosmological significance to its placement. However, the bird's head actually faces south by southeast, and its beak points almost due south. The rocks comprising the bird's chest are piled eight to ten feet high, while the wings, tail, and head rise lower. Archeologists found non-indigenous clay on the mound, suggesting that materials were brought to it from other areas during construction.

Early archaeologists also found evidence of a human cremation on the mound, as well as a projectile point. Some scholars believe the mound resembles a buzzard or vulture more than an eagle. As the buzzard was a symbol of death among some of the indigenous peoples, it would have been a fitting image for a burial mound.[2] Rock Eagle is known as a burial site.

Scholarly study of the Rock Eagle Effigy Mound began by 1877, when noted archaeologist Charles C. Jones published measurements of the image. University of Georgia archaeologist A. R. Kelly excavated much of the site during the 1930s. The property was sold to the United States government during this time. In association with the University of Georgia, the Works Progress Administration (WPA) constructed a granite tower at the foot of the effigy. This made an "aerial" view of the site possible for visitors.

Access to the mound itself is prohibited, and the site is surrounded by a tall fence. The University of Georgia administers the site. It uses much of the adjoining land for a 4-H camp, with cottages and other buildings, and day and residential environmental education.

Visitors are permitted to visit the mound free of charge. The site is located adjacent to State Route 441 between the cites of Madison and Eatonton.

Marker

In 1940 a state heritage society put a bronze marker near the head of the image. The text reads:

ROCK EAGLE MOUND

MOUND OF PREHISTORIC ORIGIN, BELIEVED TO BE CEREMONIAL MOUND, MADE WITH WHITE QUARTZ ROCKS IN THE SHAPE OF AN EAGLE, HEAD TURNED TO EAST, LENGTH 102 FEET, SPREAD OF WINGS 120 FEET, DEPTH OF BREAST 8 FEET. ONLY TWO SUCH CONFIGURATIONS DISCOVERED EAST OF THE MISSISSIPPI RIVER. BOTH ARE IN PUTNAM COUNTY.

"TREAD SOFTLY HERE WHITE MAN FOR LONG ERE YOU CAME STRANGE RACES LIVED, FOUGHT AND LOVED."

ERECTED BY THE GEORGIA SOCIETY COLONIAL DAMES OF THE XVII CENTURY

JUNE 1940

Legacy

  • The adjoining Rock Eagle 4-H Center is named after the effigy. It uses an image of the mound on the masthead of Wingspan, the center's newsletter.

Gallery

See also

External links

References

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