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'Land of White Oak' beckons visitors

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POSTED: March 17, 2012 7:00 a.m.
Randy C. Murray/

Replicas of the skeletons found in Mound E are on display in the park's museum, as they were found when the mound was excavated. The skeletons were reburied nearby.

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The site of Kolomoki Mounds State Historic Park by Blakely near the Alabama border was occupied by Native Americans more than 2,000 years ago.

Today, the area offers Georgia residents a glimpse into the ancient past as well as modern recreational opportunities, like camping, fishing, hiking and picnicking.

According to information provided by the Georgia State Parks, Kolomoki means “Land of the White Oak” in the Creek Indian language. The seven earthen mounds found at the 1,293-acre park date back before the first century up to the 14th century and include some of the largest mounds in the Southeast. The largest — Mound A, called the Temple Mound — is believed to have been constructed about 700 years ago.

Its base is 325 feet by 200 feet, and it reaches a height of nearly 57 feet. Archeologists estimate it took more than 2 million basket loads of dirt to build the mound, which they believe served as both a religious center and the home for the tribal chief.

Mound D, located several hundred meters from Mound A, is one of the oldest and most elaborately constructed burial mounds in the Southeast. It was built around 30 A.D. to contain the remains of a tribal leader.  This “grave” includes the leader’s remains as well as his servants and wives, plus trophy skulls, pottery and decorative beads.

Similarly, Mound E is believed to have been the resting place of an extremely important tribal chief. It contains the chief’s ashes and remains of four servants, who were possibly mid-level chieftains. Archeologists believe this because of the clothing and beads found with their bones, and since there’s no evidence of trauma to the bones, they’re believed to have been sacrificially strangled to death.

Trophy skulls, pottery and other artifacts also were excavated, but apparently no wives were found.

The bones that visitors now see at this excavated site are replicas of the originals, which were reburied at another site. This mound, which is housed inside the park’s museum and visitor center, is the oldest and has been dated to 170 B.C.

The huge, open plaza between Mounds A and D was the site of a Native Indian village, which continually was occupied for hundreds of years. Today, the plaza appears to be the home of the endangered gopher tortoise, whose red-clay burrows dot the landscape throughout the plaza. Parents shouldn’t allow their children to dig for the tortoises as they often share their underground homes with rattlesnakes.

Camping opportunities include a group campsite, 24 individual campsites with a central bathroom and sanitary disposal station, plus water and electrical hookups. Great fishing can be found at Lake Yohola and Lake Kolomoki. Picnicking opportunities include many tables, six covered shelters and two group shelters.

Three nature trails take hikers through pine and white oak forests that offer quiet getaways with an opportunity to see wildlife. Day visitors have the option of parking at the visitor center and taking the Indian Mounds Tour, parking behind Mound A and walk back up to the mounds or taking one of the nature trails.

Admission is $5 for parking, with an additional $5 to see the museum and the excavation site of Mound E. To get to Kolomoki Mounds, take U.S. 84 southwest through Valdosta to Bainbridge, then U.S. 27 north through Blakely, then take state Highway 1940 to the park.

For more information, call 229-724-2150.

 

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