Step back to prehistoric times at the Ocmulgee National Monument

  • Published
  • By Angela Woolen
  • Robins Public Affairs
For 17,000 years the Ocmulgee National Monument site has been the center of some incredible points in history.

From the Ice Age to the current day, the land has seen its share of turbulent times.

In the 1920s and '30s, individuals from Macon decided the area needed to be preserved from looting and development, said Jim David, park superintendent.

The railroad took one of the mounds and sliced it in half to build the tracks. Both sides of the Civil War were based out of the Dunlap House which was built in 1857 and two battles were fought at the park.

One of the largest archeological digs took place just 20 minutes up the road from Robins Air Force Base in the 1930s. At one time, more than 800 people were employed at the site by the Civilian Conservation Corps.

Archeologists thought the site was about 1,000 years old with the visible funeral and temple mounds until they found a Clovis point, a type of projectile tip that was used in the Paleoindian period.

"That meant there were mammoth hunters in this area," David said. It also meant that the site was much older than originally thought. People had been in the area during the Ice Age and hunted the large sabre tooth tigers and wooly mammoths.

One of the most unique features of the park is the Ocmulgee Earth Lodge. The floor of the preserved lodge is 1,000 years old. Crouching through the original opening through a small tunnel, visitors can view the floor which contains 47 seats around the outside of the circle as well as three central seats near the bird effigy.

The interior is an inch or two from being a perfect circle while the fire pit is almost directly in the center and the four poles form an almost perfect square, David said.

"Twice a year, the sun comes in the hallway and lights up the center seat," he said.

There are seven mounds on site including the funeral mound, the great and lesser temple mounds and the cornfield mound. Six and a half miles of trails will take visitors to each of the historic sites.

The visitor's center houses a lot of the artifacts in its exhibits which were revamped in 2009. The collection from the 1930s dig netted 2.5 million items. The Ocmulgee National Monument ended up with the largest archeological collection in the National Park Service.

David explained that the location is ideal for settling because of the climate and its location geographically to both the coastal plain and the Piedmont regions.

The park has an average of 120,000 people each year, although in 2015, the park has already hosted more than 139,000 visitors.

The third weekend in September is the Ocmulgee Indian Celebration which is the only time there is an admission fee to the park.

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