The secrets of the ancient Kolomoki Mounds

Posted by Angela Huffman on Aug 18, 2016 2:00:00 PM

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The Kolomoki Mounds site is the largest and oldest tribal mound complex east of the Mississippi. Located just west of White Oak Pastures outside Bluffton, Georgia, these eight mounds were hand-built by some of the earliest inhabitants of the area, the Swift Creek and Weeden Island cultures. Building these mounds was a monumental task, toting dirt one basketful at a time. The largest mound, the size of a football field at the base and 56 ft high, required more than two million basket loads of soil.

These early hunter-gatherers had to have been very prosperous to be able to engage in an extravagant extraneous activity like mound-building, and the reason this was possible is the high productivity of the land.

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There’s something special in this little strip of land right through here that’s about 15 miles long and just a few hundred yards wide. We call it the Bluffton Ridge, and it’s the area where the Appalachian Mountains have gone underground and project like a finger under the coastal plains weather pattern.

Generally, the land in the coastal plains is sandy and of poor quality. But in this ridge we’ve got uneroded, incredibly rich mountain soil. We’re also in a highly productive weather pattern, with optimal rainfall and temperatures. It’s the perfect storm of weather and geology, where plants and animals grow and produce really well.

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These tiny Appalachian rocks are treasure chests of minerals.

It’s interesting to note that the people of ancient Kolomoki built the mounds right next to this strip of land, but not on it. They knew this soil was special.

From 350-600 A.D., Kolomoki was the largest settlement north of Mexico. These early Native Americans were the first of many prosperous inhabitants who thrived on the rich soil of the Bluffton Ridge.

Andrew Jackson defeated the Creek Nation in 1814, and founded Bluffton in 1815. The Creeks inhabited Southeast Alabama, Southwest Georgia, and North Florida, but Jackson and the early Europeans chopped their way through the jungle with purpose, founding Bluffton before any other city in the region.

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Before the industrialization of agriculture drove people away in the mid 1900s, Bluffton was a prosperous city, too. Will Harris’ grandmother attended Bluffton’s Pine Plains Boarding School for Girls, where she learned to paint oil on canvas and studied Emily Post etiquette during the era when girls weren’t commonly taught to even read or write. Bluffton had one of the first concrete swimming pools in the state back in 1920, called The Bluff. And in 1924, a successful initiative called the “Lord’s Acre” was featured in Time magazine, in which farmers in the Baptist Church congregation each donated one acre of production as a tithing. In the era of “40 acres and a mule,” most farms couldn’t afford to donate an acre of production, but because of that highly productive mountain ridge soil, it was possible in Bluffton.

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Kolomoki translates to “Land of the White Oaks,” and it is now our turn to care for this little strip of land. At White Oak Pastures, we’ve tapped into the richness of this soil to build one of the 17 accredited Savory Hubs around the world, and we proactively support nature’s food chain using only sun, soil, and rain to grow organic sweet grasses for our animals to eat. Regenerative agriculture is a core value of White Oak Pastures, for the sake of our animals, our environment, our community, and for those who will inhabit this land after we’re gone.

Topics: Environment, Regenerative Land Management, Rural Community, Harris Family, Will's Wisdom

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