One of Macon, GA’s best attractions is the Ocmulgee (pronounced Oak-mull-gee) Mounds National Historical Park. A former National Monument, Ocmulgee is the largest archaeological dig in the United States and is definitely worth seeing. It’s very similar to an attraction I’m very familiar with called Cahokia Mounds. In fact, they derive from the same culture. In addition to the cornfield, temple, and funeral mounds at Ocmulgee, there is a fully restored Earth Lodge that’s the best reason to visit.
The people who laboriously built these mounds carrying baskets of dirt to each mound site and their descendants, the Mississippian Culture, have lived here for 12,000 years. The traders who exchanged furs for guns and their descendants have been in the area for less than 300 years. The mound-builders’ village overlooked the Ocmulgee River. The mounds were used for public ceremonies. Excavation of the village site and the mounds began in 1933, and 2½ million artifacts have been found. Ice didn’t occur here, but mammoths and saber tooth tigers came to the river and were hunted for food. About the time the humans began building the mounds they learned how to make pottery that was as fine as the ceramics found all over the American southwest. The human effigy shown below was used as a bottle stopper. The film available in the Ocmulgee Visitor Center shows early humans hunting now extinct animals and is worth seeing. At its height this was a population center for 2,000 people, making it one of the largest concentrations of humans on the planet.
Over 2,000 found artifacts are seen in the visitor center, and some cabinets show how they are sorted and stored. After looking at this, I recommend walking to the nearby Earth Lodge. You will have to stoop to enter it. The doorway was purposely made low to humble all who entered. The floor is the original one and is estimated to be 1,000 years old. This reminded me of the mounds I have seen in Europe especially the ones in Ireland at Newgrange built by Stone Age farmers in the Boyne River Valley. Like in Ireland sun rays entered this Earth Lodge twice a year in what are now the months of February and October and shone directly on the fire pit. This engineered phenomenon shows the brain power of Stone Age humans.
The 11 mile Ocmulgee Heritage Trail will take visitors along the Ocmulgee River but not to this National Historical Park. The trail ends downtown at New Street not too far from the also-worth-seeing Tubman Museum. The permanent display about Harriet is upstairs in a museum that mostly displays contemporary African-American art, and the Tubman Museum is a fine tie-in to the current movie about her called Harriet. On a nice day, folks like to kayak or canoe on the river and hike this trail. These are only 3 of the notable attractions in this Georgia city.