Soil discolorations in the shapes of a triangle the size of a typical early Spanish colonial fort and several rectangles were identified by researchers on October 30, 2013. They appear to be the vestiges of the lost Apalache gold-mining colony, which last appeared on the maps in 1693.
In 1873 pioneer archaeologist, Charles C. Jones, Jr. described a small 16th and 17th century Spanish gold mining village on Dukes Creek in the Georgia Mountains. It had been discovered by employees of Senator John C. Calhoun, while mining gold. The village contained at least 20 log cabins and a vertical mining shaft lined with timbers. Numerous iron tools, typical of the 1500s and 1600s were found on the village site. Other artifacts included a Spanish cigar mold.
Since the publication of Jones’ book, “Antiquities of the Southern Indians,” historians have pondered where the main European colonial village, called Apalache, was located. However, Georgia archaeologists showed no interest in finding the site of the settlement. In fact, Spanish colonists in the mountains were not even mentioned in Georgia history textbooks, which for many generations inferred that the British were the first Europeans to colonize Georgia. Possibly, one reason was that these miners were not British subjects and predominantly Sephardic Jews.
After several years of frustrating study, Native American researchers with the People of One Fire finally identified the probable site of Apalache on October 30, 2013, using high tech analysis of NASA satellite imagery. The location is virtually in the shadows of the massive Kenimer Mound, which played a major role in the early stages of the “Mayas in Georgia” controversy during 2012.
The evidence consists of soils containing higher levels of carbon and organic particles deposited by past human occupation in regular geometric shapes. The minerals cause the vegetation in the Chattahoochee River flood plain to be a slightly different color. This slight light spectrum difference was enhanced by computer software. The enhanced satellite imagery also revealed previously unknown channels of the Chattahoochee River, probably dating from the Early Colonial Period.
Both the Kenimer Mound and the probable European village site are at the location of a Creek town known as Itsate, near the headwaters of the Chattahoochee River. Itsate is what the Itza Mayas called themselves, but also was what a major branch of the Creek Indians in the Georgia Mountains called themselves. Another branch of the Creeks in the region was called the Apalache. The Appalachian Mountains are named after them.
In March of 2013 an international team of anthropologists and historians, being filmed in Georgia’s Nacoochee Valley for a public television documentary, were the first people to specifically suggest the probable location of the Spanish settlement. They stated that the community of Sautee in the Nacoochee Valley was the likely location because several major Native American trade routes once converged there. It was a logical place for the Spanish to erect a fortified trading post. Ironically, the group of experts were only about 100 yards from the probable site of the fort when they made that recommendation.
The scholars appear to have been absolutely correct, but nothing was visible on the surface. Standard satellite images did not reveal anything, but Native American mound locations. Some European artifacts found in the field near the Kenimer Mound in the early 20th century, had been interpreted by Georgia archaeologists as being European trade goods obtained by the Cherokees, even though the Cherokees did not capture the Nacoochee Valley until the 1720s.
The Southeast’s cryptic history
According to 17th century French historian and ethnologist, Charles de Rochefort, six survivors of the Fort Caroline massacre in 1565 traveled up Georgia’s Altamaha River to the Oconee River and then to the Appalachians, where they were given sanctuary by the King of Apalache. They married Native women and spent the remainder of their lives in the Nacoochee Valley. They were French Huguenots, who persuaded the king to convert to Christianity. This was the beginning of a thriving polyglot colony in the wilderness in which Christians and Jews; English, French, Dutch, Spanish, Portuguese, African and Middle Eastern colonists; lived in peace with each other and their Native American neighbors.
Spanish traders from the Colony of Santa Elena began traveling to the Georgia Mountains around 1568 to exchange Spanish manufactured goods for gold, silver, rubies, sapphires, freshwater pearls and furs. According to two captured Spaniards, depositioned by Englishman Richard Hakluyt, the Spanish governor of Florida paid 5000 crowns for a diamond obtained from the capital of Copal, which is now called the Track Rock Archaeological Zone. It was definitely not a "Cherokee ceremonial ground" as stated by some Georgia archaeologists in 2012, but a proto-Creek capital with an Itza Maya pedigree.
At some time during the late 1500s, Spanish and Portuguese Sephardic Jews began colonizing the Southern Highlands in large numbers. Radiocarbon and tree ring dating of mine tunnel timbers in the Appalachians have placed their initial operations around 1600 or earlier. One North Carolina mine was abandoned around 1600. A Jewish wedding on September 15, 1615 was memorialized on a boulder 5400 feet high in the Great Smoky Mountains. Apparently, the Jewish colonists were too remote to be harmed by the Spanish Inquisition or else they paid off the governor of Florida. The gold, silver and precious stones mined in the Appalachians were primarily shipped out of North America by Jewish Sephardic traders and privateers.
Eight stone tablets found in a cave burial near Sautee, GA around 1939, were engraved in Elizabethan English. One was the grave marker of Eleanor Dare, a survivor of the Roanoke Colony. According to the marker, she married an Apalache chief, bore him children, but died of a disease in 1599. Other survivors of the Lost Colony also married Natives and bore mestizo children. The tablets were originally declared authentic by scientists from Harvard University. A writer for the Saturday Evening Post, with no credentials in geology, declared them frauds and they were soon forgotten. Geologist Scot Wolter of the History Channel’s “America Unearthed” examined them with modern forensic equipment and determined the oxidation in the letters to be at least 400 years old.
According to Charles de Rochefort, in 1622 a boatload of English colonists turned away from Jamestown because of an Indian war and smallpox outbreak. Their ship captain, most likely a Dutch Sephardic Jew, told them about the European settlements in the Southern Appalachians. The English families traveled to Georgia Mountains and found it peaceful, prosperous and ruled by an enlightened Apalache king. They settled in the Nacoochee Valley and were allowed to build a Protestant chapel.
In 1646 Governor Benito Ruíz de Salazar Vallecilla directed that a fortified trading post be constructed at the headwaters of the Chattahoochee River in the Kingdom of Apalache (Georgia Mountains.) The purpose was to establish the deerskin trade in the Southeast. In order to build and supply the trading post, a pack mule road was constructed to the Nacoochee Valley. It was later extended along the closely situated sources of the Chattahoochee and Hiwassee Rivers to reach the Tennessee River Valley. This section became known as the Unaka or Unicoi Trail.
Charles de Rochefort stated that the Spanish were allowed to build a small Roman Catholic mission near the fortified trading post. No mention of this mission has been found in other sources. Several years ago, highly respected anthropologist, John Worth, studied the Spanish Colonial Archives in Seville, Spain but only found references to numerous missions in the Coastal Plain of Georgia. However, the Spanish may have kept the mission a state secret, just like the gold mining operations.
The Spanish road appears on a French map published by Jean Baptiste Franquelin in 1684. A 1693 map by David Morden also shows the Spanish settlement in the Nacoochee Valley. It is named Apalache on his map. However, the European village and fort disappeared during the Queen Anne’s War.
Knowing for sure
The only way to be absolutely certain what is under the ground near the Chattahoochee River in Sautee, GA is for archaeologists to dig into the site. It is privately owned land and at the present time, no archaeologists are working on sites in the Nacoochee Valley. The researchers at the People of One Fire are certain that there is “something” under the surface in that area of the flood plain where geometric shapes appear. The ruins may be Native American instead of European in origin. The ruins may date from the Georgia Gold Rush days in the early 1800s. However, triangular forts are primarily associated with European outposts in the late 1500s and 1600s. Only time will tell.