"Etowah Indian Mound Excavation"
1965 & 1978
In the summer of 1965, I was a water boy for the archaeologists involved with studying the site. The
work they did was labor intensive, but very fascinating to me. I was there
with my Dad who also was interested in this type of work. My cousin was part of the team as he was
doing field research for credit at the University of Alabama. He let me volunteer to bring water to the
workers who were sweltering in the heat.
Then in 1978, I returned to do field research on the site for a team who studied the area outside the
perimeter of the village site. There were many artifacts found showing that there had been other
Indians who had fought the mound builders. These two visits to the site during the summers of 1965
and 1978 were very helpful in my study of the past.
For those who do not know about the Etowah Indian Mounds at Cartersville, GA here is an overview
of the site that is provided by those who worked on the site. This is provided courtesy of the United
States Department of the Interior.
The Etowah Mounds and village site, the largest and most important settlement in the Etowah Valley
was occupied between 1000 A.D. and 1500 A.D. Etowah, the center of political and religious life in
the Valley, was the home of chiefs who directed the growing, storage, and distribution of food. Here
the population of the area gathered for great religious festivals.
At it's peak there may have been several thousand Indians living in this fortified town,
surrounded on all sides except for the river section by a wood post stockade and a deep moat.
Within the palisade the people of Etowah built windowless houses, using a post framework,
clay-plastered walls, and grass thatch or cane mat roofs. A basin-shaped clay fireplace was built in
the center of the earthen floor and smoke escaped through a hole in the roof.
Seven pyramids were grouped around two public squares in the town. Using baskets full of earth
from borrow pits near the moats, the Indians constructed these mounds. The largest, called Mound
A, fifty-three feet high and occupying several acres, dominated the scene. A clay ramp stepped with
logs led to the tops of the mounds, where temples or residences for chiefs and priests stood. These
structures, built like houses, were larger and more elaborately decorated.
Elaborate religious rituals centered on the burial of chiefs. Several hundred burials have been
excavated around the base of Mound C and beneath the floors of funeral temples which stood on its
summit. The dead were buried in elaborate costumes, accompanied by special paraphenalia.
Etowah Indians were skilled in many crafts and used copper, shell, cane, flint, wood, clay and bone to
make hundreds of different items. Pottery was one of the most important Etowah crafts. Wood was
carved into masks, ornaments and rattles; copper wsa shaped into decorative ornaments; and shells
were made into bead necklaces. Baskets and matting were woven from cane and cloth from plant
fiber, hair, and feathers. Sewing implements, weaving tools, hairpins, and fishhooks were cut from
bone; and stone was used in the manufacture of axes, arrowpoints and knives.
Etowah had close contact with other areas in the Southeast. Marine shells from Florida, flint from
Tennessee, copper form North Carolina and pottery made in the Mississippi Valley all found their
way to Etowah. Decorations found on pottery and religious objects are typical of a wide area of the
Cultivation of crops provided the Indians with their most important food resources. Most of the
Valley was one stretch of corn. Besides a variety of corn types, the Indians grew beans and
pumpkins. On wooded hills lining the valley, they gathered wild nuts, fruits, and roots. The Indians
did not raise food animals as hunting and fishing provided their meat. Excavation of refuse areas
indicated that deer and turkey were the most important game; mussels and fish were obtained from
In the 1880's the Bureau of American Ethnology of the Smithsonian Institution received many
spectacular artifacts from the village and Mound C. During the late 1920's, Phillips Academy of
Andover, Massachusetts, undertook three short seasons of excavation, uncovering exotic and
interesting specimens; these were distributed to various United States museums. Both institutions felt
that Mound C had been completely explored.
In 1953, the Georgia Historical Commission purchased the property. Since then Commission
archaeologists have found more than two hundred ceremonial burials and associated artifacts in
Mound C. The latest archaeological techniques have provided new information about mound
construction and cultural developments.
Archaeological research continues at this exceptionally well preserved site. Results
of some of the archaeological excavations that were done in the summers of 1964 and 1965 are
exhibited in an in-place burial building constructed over the excavated area.
In addition to the preservation of the remaining mound group, an interpretative museum has been
developed. This museum exhibits the many unusual specimens found by archaeologists at this site.
One outstanding exhibit is a pair of male and female mortuary figures carved from white marble with
traces of their original paint.
The Etowah Mounds Archaeological Area has been designated a U.S. Department of the Interior
Naitonal Historical Landmark under the provisions of the Historic Sites Act of August 21, 1935. This
award is reserved for sites possessing exceptional value in commemorating and illustrating the history
of the United States of America.
The Archaeological Area is also on the Naitonal Register of Historic Places of the United States
Department of the Interior.
1. The U.S. Dept. of the Interior, Washington DC.
2. The Smithsonian Institute, Washington DC.
3. The State of Georgia Archives.
4. Bartow County Chamber of Commerce.
5. Reports of the 1964, 1965, & 1978 archaeological work.