Rock Eagle Effigy Mound

Eatonton’s Enigmatic Eagle map

The Bird's Head
From Rock Eagle Ef...

One aspect of our Georgia History I find fascinating is the Indian Culture that once resided here. An intriguing aspect of that is the penchant for the local Native Americans to build perplexing structures. We’ve seen the mounds they built at Etowah (there are others). We’ve seen rock structures like the one at Fort Mountain . But I think the most curious of the bunch is the Rock Eagle Effigy Mound located outside of Eatonton, Georgia, a little over an hour East of Atlanta.

Bird in Entirety

While its relatively easy to understand why a towering mound or a rock wall would serve a purpose as either a town centerpiece or a defense structure, the Eagle Effigy is more ornamental, its significance is more in its actual design. Which begs the questions: why a huge bird? And why here? And why do they insist on calling it an eagle when it seems to be more like a buzzard or vulture? The local, modern-day Indians offer that it was some sort of ceremonial center, which I will defer to their expertise, but the unanswered questions leave this place more enigmatic, more romantic, and greater fuel for our imaginations.

the Height of Rocks at the Breast

In a 1950’s archeological excavation of the site by A. R. Kelly with the backing of the University of Georgia, a single set of cremated remains was found (along with a single arrowhead, though the more accurate term projectile point is used in the literature) inside the breast of the creature. Despite this finding, its is not considered to be an Indian Burial Ground, but we know for sure someone was once buried here.

Tower in Background

The bird measures 120 feet in wingspan, and 102 feet from head to tail. The quartz stones are piled some 8 feet high at its highest point at the breast, but at the extremities of the bird are much smaller rising no more than a couple of feet. There is evidence of non-indigenous rocks being part of the mound, which may explain the eye of the eagle which has a reddish coloration. Because of the size of this Indian Artifact, a 3-story tower was built to make viewing its entirety easier (I found this video of someone climbing the tower, if you‘d like to see).

Closer view of Rocks at neck and head

The site is currently controlled by the University of Georgia as a 4-H Center. Though parking and the tower are free, they have some programs there that charge fees. If you stay for a while, you might see some interesting native wildlife, like doves, owls, and maybe a tortoise.

peering out the base of the tower

As I’ve always said there is much more to our history than the Civil War and the local Indian Culture here is captivating. The Rock Eagle Effigy Mound is one of the more beguiling sites and one of the more memorable ones I have seen. It’s certainly worth a side trip if you find yourself in the Eatonton Area.

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