Since the State Department recently put out warnings about traveling to the Pyramids in Egypt as well as on-going concerns about Americans traveling in Mexico (Egypt and Mexico being the two preeminent destinations for those of us with a passion for pyramids), and not to mention the constraints a still sluggish economy continues to put on my travel budget; I decided to look for a safe, inexpensive alternative to my usual dependence on foreign archaeology -- and I found it, in Georgia, of all places!
I was actually born in Georgia and spent much of my youth down South -- and even though I have always been a history buff, as well as having Cherokee blood on my mother's side of the family -- about the only thing I remember ever being taught in school about the history of Native Americans in Georgia was the tragic "Trail of Tears." But Georgia has a long history of inhabitation by native people that far precedes the noble Cherokee and dates as far back as the nomadic Clovis Paleo-Indians and includes extensive habitation from the impressive mound-building Mississippian culture. Over the Memorial Day Weekend I went back down South to visit family and I took a day-trip to explore Rock Eagle Effigy Mound and Ocmulgee National Monument. The sites are free and open to the public (with the exception of Dec 25 & Jan 1) and I was pleasantly surprised to find that I had the grounds of both parks almost exclusively to myself even though it was a holiday weekend. Rock Eagle Effigy is located on a very compact site that consists of little more than the fence-enclosed mound and a viewing tower, whereas Ocmulgee is quite expansive and includes wetlands and walking trails in addition to the massive earthworks such as Great Temple Mound and the reconstructed Earth Lodge. The visitor center is also home to an informative archaeological museum with historical exhibits and a short film entitled, Mysteries of the Mounds.
And though the archaeological record may pale in comparison with the sheer volume of the prolific Maya of Mexico or the astounding accomplishments of the ancient Egyptians, there is still a mysterious yet undeniable and almost sacred beauty at places like Ocmulgee -- and it was well worth the trip to see it. I've already begun to plan a trip to visit two of Georgia's other archaeological sites, Etowah and Kolomoki. Georgia, who knew?