Kolomoki Mounds State Park, one of the most remarkable archaeological sites in North America, is tucked away in the peanut fields and pine trees of Southwest Georiga.
The park preserves the site of an amazing Woodland culture that rose to prominence more than 1,500 years ago and vanished long before the first European explorers set foot on the Southern coast. Some of the most amazing Native American mounds in the nation today stand as reminders of these ancient people.
Kolomoki was settled long before the Mississippian culture spread east across the South. The prominence of such Mississipian mound centers as Lake Jackson, Ocmulgee, Etowah and Emerald Mound has prompted some to assume that Kolomoki was also from that era (A.D. 900 to A.D. 1450), but the site was actually built hundreds of years before those well known complexes.
The ancient city grew in around 350 A.D. to become a political and ceremonial center. Builders designed the original mounds along an axis that pointed to the rising sun and eventually built the Great Temple Mound so the sun rose directly over it on the shortest day of the year. The enormous platform mound is 56-feet high and took millions of baskets of earth to build.
As the Kolomoki culture grew, its influence spread over a vast area of the Southeast. Many archaeologists believe that it was the largest city north of Mexico. Smaller towns and villages - many with their own smaller mound complexes - have been identified across Georgia, Florida and Alabama as having an association with Kolomoki.
The people of the site developed their own unique style but were also influenced by the Swift Creek and Weeden Island cultures. The latter was named for a pottery style first discovered on Weedon Island in Florida. Its influences dominated the region south of the Kolomoki chiefdom.
There is no evidence of contact between the people of Kolomoki and the Maya civilization of Central and South America, although both began to build massive public works at about the same time. The huge platform mound at Kolomoki long predates the later Aztec civilization.
The people of Kolomoki Mounds exhibited great knowledge of astronomy and engineering, were militaristic, had a highly organized religion and practiced human sacrifice. The central city was supported by a vast network of farms and boasted trade networks that extended from the Gulf of Mexico throughout the Southeast.
The Kolomoki Mounds site thrived for 300 to 400 years. Over that time the people built at least ten and possibly many more mounds. Archaeological research also suggests that the complex was surrounded by a wide earthen enclosure or wall. Whether this was defensive or ceremonial is not known. It could have been both.
The great city eventually peaked and faded away. The reasons are unknown today but the site appears to have been abandoned by around 750 A.D. A few families returned to live there during the later Mississippian era, but Kolomoki never again served as a city or ceremonial center.
The citizens of Early County deserve much of the credit for preserving the ancient site. They acquired the lands and donated them to the State of Georgia in the early 1900s. The mounds and other surface features were mapped and major archaeological work has taken place at the site on and off again through the years. The complex is so large, however, that much of it has not been excavated.
Kolomoki Mounds State Park welcomes visitors from around the world. The sheer size of the Great Temple Mound is startling to behold. A concrete staircase built during the 1940s leads to the top of the mound where interpretive panels describe the city that once lay below. The view is spectacular.
Visitors to the site are equally amazed by the chance to see inside one of the burial mounds. The park's museum encloses most of Mound E, where a major ceremony took place more than 1,500 years ago.
The mound was built after the death of a powerful chief and archaeologists uncovered his burial site and learned about much of the ceremony that took place when he was interred. Scientific views on digging up human graves were very different in those days. The remains of the chief and those sacrificed and buried with him were on public display for many years but have since been removed and reburied in an undisturbed part of the mound. The "bones" on display today are reproductions.
Walkways lead through the ancient mound and artifacts are preserved in the places where they were laid by the ancient residents of Kolomoki. A film shown in the mound chamber explains current theory about the history and importance of the site.
The adjoining museum features exhibits about the Kolomoki people along with displays of their pottery and other artifacts. Some of the items on display show that advanced artistic skills of the people who once inhabited the site.
Trails and a park road lead through the archaeological site. Interpretive signs at key points offer information on the history, design and
significance of the mounds and other features.The park also offers camping, picnicking, a lake for fishing and swimming, nature trails and more.
Kolomoki Mounds State Park is at 205 Indian Mounds Road, Blakely, Georgia. Please see the map at the bottom of this page for directions. The park is open daily from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. The museum can be toured from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily while the mounds area is open from 7 a.m. until dark.
A $5 parking fee is charged to visit the park. The museum costs $5 for adults, $4 for seniors (62+) and $3.50 for youth (6-17). Children under 6 are admitted free with an adult.