Ocmulgee National Monument: An Attraction of Prehistoric Proportions

June 29, 2017Travel Ideas
Viktor Posnov, Share The Experience

Just minutes from the downtown center of Macon, Georgia, Ocmulgee National Monument is untouched by modern development, yet the site of this remarkable Georgia national park has been shaped by 17 millennia of continuous human habitation. From the prehistoric civilizations that inhabited this area, to the arrival of the European settlers, to the Civil War battles fought on this land, the rich history of this place emanates from its surroundings, making it a must-see on your #FindYourPark/#EncuentraTuParque bucket list. 

A Monument through the Millennia

The Greater and Lesser Temple Mounds are covered in bright green grass with trees lining the background at Ocmulgee National Monument.
National Park Service

In 1933, the largest archaeological dig in American history began at  Ocmulgee. Over the course of the next three years, scientists and workers would uncover 2.5 million artifacts, painting an illuminating portrait of the many civilizations that have called the Macon Plateau home. 

The Paleo Indian people were the first on the scene, migrating to the region around 17,000 B.C.E. These nomadic hunters arrived during the last Ice Age, spreading throughout North America by about 12,000 B.C.E. As the weather warmed and Ice Age mammals became extinct over the next several thousand years, the Paleoindians would gradually adapt, giving rise to many cultures that would later call the plateau home.

Around 9,600 B.C.E, the Paleoindian culture gave way to what is known as the Archaic era. Like their predecessors, the Early Archaic people were highly mobile hunters. However, evidence suggests that by the Middle Archaic period, the people of the Macon Plateau increasingly gathered wild plants, collected shellfish, and built more permanent camps that they moved between from season to season. 

Archaeological finds in Ocmulgee National Monument also show substantial advances in tool-making between 9,600 and 1,000 B.C.E., as well as increased trading with neighboring groups. By the time the Woodland period arrived – roughly 1,000 B.C.E. to 900 C.E. – the people of the plateau were building semi-permanent villages, developing agriculture, and beginning to construct the earthen burial and platform mounds that their descendants would take to new levels. 

Recent Residents

Beneath a grassy mound, wooden beams form the entrance of the Earth Lodge at Ocmulgee National Monument
Michael A Leon, Share The Experience

The Mississippian people who migrated to the Macon Plateau around 900 C.E. would leave the most lasting mark on the landscape. The Mississippians brought advanced agriculture and ambitious methods of construction, and the villages they built reshaped the landscape. In fact, their enormous earthworks are still visible today.

Circular earthen lodges, elaborate platform mounds, and enormous earthen temples left a lasting impression of the Mississippians' complex political and religious systems. Sadly, the 1539 arrival of Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto – along with foreign diseases to which the Mississippians had no immunity – marked the decline of this vibrant culture. 

The Ochese Creek Nation, who lived on the Macon Plateau from 1600 until their forced removal under President Andrew Jackson in 1836, considered the mounds their ancestors built to be sacred places. To this day, visiting the ancient earthworks of Ocmulgee National Monument is a powerful experience. 

Plan Your Visit

Ocmulgee National Monument Celebration dancer
National Park Service

The visitor center at Ocmulgee National Monument is your gateway to experiencing the history and natural beauty of this park. It includes a museum housing more than 2,000 artifacts that span the entire history of the Macon Plateau, some dating as far back as 10,000 B.C.E.

Six miles of trails meander through the landscape of Ocmulgee National Monument, providing access to the park's many historic sites, such as the Hitchiti Village Site, Great Temple Mound, and the Earth Lodge. Admission to Ocmulgee National Monument is free of charge.

Ocmulgee National Monument is truly a place unlike any other, with a history that reached all the way back to the dawn of North American civilization. There's no better way to experience 17,000 years of this land’s history than to visit this Macon, Georgia, national park for yourself. 

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