Track Rock Site Tour

Site Tour of the Track Rock Gap Archaeological Zone

1 – Vent Trail: The entrance to the Vent Trail was only about 125 feet from Track Rock Gap Road.  The Vent Trail appeared to be an old logging road that varied from about eight to fourteen feet wide.  The trail’s lack of use had allowed dense stands of wild blackberries to grow up at the entrance along sections exposed to sunlight.  Since the trail leads to the dormant volcanic vent, it is also possible that centuries of foot and horse traffic have widened the original trail to the scale of a road.

Until this point in time, we really did not appreciate the scale of the archaeological zone.  Despite having fairly precise maps, the steep slope created far more surface area than one would suspect from looking at a two dimensional topographic map.

2 – Right-of-way walls:  The footprints of walls can be seen in the power right- of-way. They have been leveled down to grade, most likely by the Blue Ridge Mountain EMC.

3 – Track Rock Branch: There are vestiges of stone retaining walls on both sides (east and west) of the creek. They are straight and run in a north-south direction.  It is quite probable that roadway improvements destroyed or covered features located farther to the west.

4 – Lower terraces: The retaining walls for the mountainside terraces are mostly concave and about 18” to 24” tall. Judging from the grade, these walls were originally about 36” tall. They all face west and appear to have been carefully laid. They show evidence of being damaged by tractors or logging machinery.  Some of the terraces have as much as half of their soil and retaining walls missing due to past damage.  Hardwoods predominate along the stream flood plain, while a thick stands of scrub pines grows on the lower mountainside.

Track Rock Site Tour
Track Rock Site Tour

5 – Southern terraces: This cluster of terraces also was not shown on the 2001 site plan. These are low walls composed of crudely stacked stones.  They may or may not date from the same era as the better constructed walls. They face south-southwest.  The vegetation is a mixture of scrub pine and immature hardwoods.

6 – Ravine: A deep, steep ravine marks the northern boundary of the terrace complex. The bottom of the ravine is filled with boulders and stones of varying size.  A small stream flows through the rocks, except during dry periods in the summer and early fall.

7 – Northwest terraces: As a hiker on the Vent Trail passes across a deep ravine and small stream, the first retaining walls near the trail become visible. The first walls are low, relatively short and composed of crudely stacked fieldstones.  They could best be described as erosion barriers.  Typically, three to five lines of stacked rocks are spaced about 20-25 feet apart in each cluster, going up the mountainside.

8 – Upper southern terraces: Structures in this area consist of stacked stone cairns and low retaining walls that are essentially stacked field stones.  The slope of the mountainside becomes extremely steep on the western edge of this area.  There is a terrace cut into the side of the mountain here.  It appears to have been made in the last 200 years rather than being associated with older structures. This may or may not be the case.

9 – Village terrace: The Vent Trail passes near a terrace in the mountainside that appears to have been a natural feature that was expanded to create either locations for housing or a gardening area.

10 – Central terraces:  These are relatively low retaining walls of simple construction.  Many of the walls appear to have been knocked over or damaged by centuries of erosion and rainstorms.

11 – Upper northwest terraces:  This cluster of retaining walls was also missed by the archaeologists.  They consist of about 16 regularly spaced, stone retaining walls that have a northwest orientation. The walls are only 18: to 24” in height, but are generally in excellent condition.

12 – Hydraulic structure:  On a terrace below the acropolis is a semi-circular stone wall, approximately 120 feet in diameter. It appears to be either a hydraulic structure for distributing water to terraces or perhaps is ceremonial in nature. Identical structures can be found at several Itza Maya terrace complexes in western Belize.

13 – Earth berm: On the edge of a steep cliff on the southern side of the archaeological zone is a concave earth berm, which is obviously man-made.  It is up to 12 feet in height.

14 – Upper acropolis terraces: To the southeast of the acropolis plaza are the ruins of perhaps a dozen stone retaining walls rising up a steep mountain slope.  They are in varying condition.

15 – Acropolis plaza:  A U-shaped manmade plaza is located about 600 feet above the base of the Track Rock terraces. It appears to have been sculpted from the mountainside. It is oriented to the sunset of the Winter Solstice and contains a solid stone altar with steps carved into it at the tip.  There is also a 15’ x 15’ rectangular fieldstone pile near the center of the plaza that probably was originally a pyramidal shape. The remnants of stone steps can be seen on the slopes leading up to the plaza.

16 – Acropolis building ruins:  The ruins of several rectangular and round structures can be seen on the terrace above the plaza. The sides of one rectangular building are still about four feet high.  The “Migration Legend of the Kashita People” has an account of a great city on the side of Georgia’s highest mountain, which contained a large stone temple dedicated to a serpent god.

There are two geological features in the acropolis that have not been explained. Compasses oscillate about 32 degrees each two seconds in the vicinity of the plaza. The oscillation is very regular. This suggests that some form of electromagnetic wave is the cause.  Also, the most fertile soil of anywhere in the Track Rock archaeological zone can be found in the vicinity of the acropolis. Dense vegetation makes this portion of the archaeological zone inaccessible during the growing season.  Normally, the higher one climbs a mountain in northern Georgia, the less fertile the soil.

17 – Serpent effigy:  A fieldstone effigy of a serpent is located due north of the acropolis. It is about 75 feet long.  The abstract form of the serpent is very similar to one due west of Track Rock Gap on a mountain in northwestern Georgia near Dalton.  The serpent god, Kukulcan, was one of two principal deities worshiped by the Itza Mayas.  The other principal deity was Ixchel, the goddess of fertility, who was symbolized by the crescent moon.  The name of the section of the Gulf Coast between Mobile Bay and Apalachicola Bay was Am Ixchel, which means Place of the Moon goddess, Ixchel. See Location # 20.

18 – Semi-circular walls:  This ruin was also not documented by the 2001 archaeological study.  It is about 200 feet northeast of the acropolis.  It consists of a stone masonry wall at the base of a conical hill and another stone masonry wall at the top of the hill.  The top of the hill has been graded flat.  Structures such as these are common in Mexico at the former locations of Itza and Chontal Maya forts that guarded mountain passes.

19 – Spring, dams and stone-lined channel: To the southeast and about 100 feet above the acropolis plaza is a small spring coming out of the mountainside.  There is the remnant of a small fieldstone dam about 20 feet from the spring.  The channel of the small stream coming out of the spring is lined with flagstones.  This channel continues down the mountain until it reaches the probable hydrological structure (Item 12.)  Here the stream disappears into ground.  The stream reappears about 300 feet down the mountainside and then flows to Track Rock Branch.  The lower channel of this stream also appears to have been lined with zones.

20 – Ixchel shrine:  Up the mountainside about 30 feet from the serpent effigy (Location #17) is the ruin of a fieldstone effigy in the shape of a crescent moon.  Such shrines, either built out of stone, shells or earth throughout the Gulf Coast Region where Chontal Mayas or Itza Mayas established communities or trading stations. The serpent god, Kukulcan, was one of two principal deities worshiped by the Itza Mayas.  The other principal deity was Ixchel, the goddess of fertility, who was symbolized by the crescent moon.  The name of the section of the Gulf Coast between Mobile Bay and Apalachicola Bay was Am Ixchel, which means Place of the Moon goddess, Ixchel.

21 – Dormant fumarole:  The termination of the Vent Trail is at an ancient fumarole or volcanic vent.  Arkaqua Mountain appears to be the rim of a collapsed caldera volcano.  There are several ancient volcanic mountains in northeast and north-central Georgia.  Most appear as highly eroded cones that rise out of older mountainsides, or as free-standing cones in the Stephens County, GA, the Nacoochee Valley of White County, GA or Pickens County, GA.   According to tradition, sulfurous fumes rose out of the Track Rock vent when European settlers arrived.  However, the fumes have not been noticed since the 1886 earthquake near Charleston, SC.

Although caves are normally associated with sedimentary rock formations, Union and Towns County, GA have several caves that apparently resulted from ancient volcanic activity.  The Track Rock Vent Hole may lead to an underground cavern.  The Mayas considered caves to be sacred locations that were portals to the “Spirit World.”

Thornton, Richard. The Trail to Yupaha. Web. 2012.

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