Rock piling in Georgia

The 1990 issue of Early Georgia (volume 18) featured Thomas H. Gresham’s article “Historic Patterns of Rock Piling and the Rock Pile Problems.” In the introduction, Mr. Gresham notes:

Rock piles, a term that can be broadly applied to a wide array of prehistoric and historic features, have long been of interest to the archaeologist and the general public. Rock piles occur in many parts of the world and appear to have great time depth. Since rock piles are often one of the most conspicuous aspects of a past society (the great pyramids of Egypt being an ultimate example), they persistently provoke general curiosity and scientific interest. Although I have not attempted even a cursory cross-cultural review of rock piling or archaeological investigation of rock piles throughout the world, I believe it true to say that most rock piles that have provided evidence of function have been determined to be mortuary or funerary.

He adds that the goals of this article are:
1) formally defining categories of piled rock features;
2) discussing uncited or rarely cited studies of rock piles;
3) presenting unpublished archeological data on historic rock piles;
4) presenting documentary and ethnographic data on historic patterns of rock piling;
5) introducing new ideas on the historic origin of rock piles; and,
6) critiquing some prevalent assumptions on historic rock piling.

Mr. Gresham concludes that Georgia rock piles date to at least three major chronological periods, including, Woodland, protohistoric Cherokee, and historical, and some rock pile clusters date to more than one period. He concludes that most rock piles made during the historical period date to the early, frontier days when the land was being cleared and improved to make agricultural fields. He believes that apparent distribution patterns of rock pile in clusters can be subjective and very misleading. Nevertheless, Mr. Gresham thinks most rock piles in Georgia were constructed in prehistory, although some excavated rock piles certainly have firm evidence of historic period construction.

To download a PDF of this article, Historic Patterns of Rock Piling and the Rock Pile Problems, click here.