Walking the landscape: Georgia’s prehistoric trails

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

The Appalachian Trail in north Georgia in March 2009.

Before Georgia had roads, it was laced with Indian trails or paths. These trails served the needs of Georgia’s native populations by connecting their villages with one another and allowing them to travel great distances in quest of game, fish, shellfish, and pearls, as well as such mineral resources as salt, flint, pipestone, steatite, hematite, and ochre.

These are the opening sentences of Dr. Louis DeVorsey’s 2003 entry in the New Georgia Encyclopedia, titled Indian Trails.

In pre-modern days, peoples living in what is now Georgia did travel, both short and long distances. They did it most commonly on foot, but also sometimes aboard watercraft.

Why did they travel? Dr. DeVorsey points out that they traveled to obtain resources necessary for daily life—food, for example—but also for items not available within their daily travel area, like special mineral resources.

As is clear from this quote by Dr. DeVorsey, these resources were so important that people made regular trips to distant places to obtain them—trips that were sufficient to establish and maintain foot trails.

Today’s Ponder question: Why were mineral resources so important that people made long trips to obtain them?

If you are interested in Georgia’s Indian trails, you may want to track down a copy of Marion H. Hemperley’s Historic Indian Trails of Georgia (1989, Garden Club of Georgia: Atlanta). You also may be interested in another post on this website about trails, here.