Ancient Native American Site Is Defaced in Georgia Forest

An historic web site of carved boulders and rock formations in a Georgia forest that has lengthy been sacred to Native Americans has been vandalized with paint and deep scratches, the United States Forest Service mentioned.

The boulders are a part of the Track Rock Gap web site in the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forests, a protected space of greater than 800,000 acres the place greater than 100 determine carvings often known as petroglyphs had been made on soapstone boulders by Native Americans in precolonial instances, the service mentioned.

Five boulders had scratches and two had paint on them, mentioned Steven Bekkerus, a spokesman for the Forest Service.

“It’s one of the most significant rock art sites in the Southeastern United States and the only such site located on public land in Georgia,” the service mentioned on Facebook on Monday.

The space in northern Georgia consists of two forests, the Oconee National Forest in the jap a part of the state, and the Chattahoochee National Forest in the north Georgia mountains. The Track Rock Gap web site is sacred to the Muscogee Creek Indians and the Cherokee individuals, the Forest Service mentioned.

Credit…U.S. Forest Service

Mr. Bekkerus mentioned in an interview on Wednesday that the service’s regulation enforcement unit was investigating the vandalism with the assistance of its tribal companions. He mentioned the Facebook put up concerning the vandalism had been eliminated due to the investigation.

“This is their site that we manage,” he mentioned, referring to the Muscogee Creek and Cherokee individuals. The vandalism, which was reported by The Charlotte Observer, is believed to have taken place in 2020, however the precise timing and the way it was found weren’t instantly clear, Mr. Bekkerus mentioned. Nearby campgrounds had not too long ago opened after being closed for the winter, he mentioned.

Damage to historic websites will be investigated beneath federal legal guidelines together with the Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979, which goals to guard archaeological sources on public and Native American lands.

Mr. Bekkerus mentioned that the boulders had been surrounded by fencing to make them accessible for individuals to study their historical past, and that the realm was clearly marked as a web site of significance.

Credit…U.S. Forest Service

Archaeological excavations confirmed that ancestors of the Muscogee Creek and Cherokee used the site, probably for greater than 1,000 years, telling tales via the rock etchings, the Forest Service mentioned in 2012 when it announced the results of research that dominated out a potential Mayan settlement on the web site.

James Wettstaed, a Forest Service archaeologist, offered particulars concerning the web site on the time, saying that its rock piles and options just like rock partitions dated to at the least 800 A.D., and probably earlier.

The Cherokee Tribal Heritage Preservation Office mentioned in a press release that the Eastern Band of Cherokee individuals had been “sad and frustrated” to study of the vandalism.

“They are special sites for the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and for all people as part of the Heritage of this region,” the assertion mentioned. “Whether through ignorance or malice — the result is irreparable damage to a unique site that connects us directly to the people of the past.”

Petroglyphs are additionally discovered in different states. Richard Sneed, the principal chief of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, mentioned on Wednesday that giant rock petroglyphs have beforehand been vandalized, together with one in Cullowhee, N.C., in 2016 that was later lined with an acrylic panel to guard it.

Some petroglyphs are believed to speak a tribal story. Another, in Macon County, Ga., is believed to have been used in a fertility ceremony, he mentioned.

“This demonstrates the need for greater education,” he mentioned of the vandalism.

“When you are talking about historic sites and culturally sensitive sites, it really is the most offensive thing,” he mentioned. “It is our history, and to have that defaced and to be treated with such disrespect, it is very sad.”

Emman Spain, who previously oversaw historic preservation for the Muscogee Creek Nation, mentioned the Track Rock Gap web site consists of rocks stacked up in linear trend, creating terraces, with burial urns and websites stretching up a mountain.

“There is always a real problem with looters who come in and don’t care anything about the human remains,” he mentioned. Some take arrowheads and pots, he mentioned.

Mr. Spain mentioned the Muscogee Creek Nation prolonged into elements of what’s now jap Tennessee, northern Alabama, northern Georgia, and elements of the Carolinas earlier than the arrival of Europeans, who encroached on the lands and expelled the tribe in the 1830s to what’s now Oklahoma.

“But we still remember our homelands there,” he mentioned.

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