A few days ago, my wife and I ventured out to a park we had never hiked in before: Little Mulberry Park in northeastern Gwinnett County, Georgia. After circling Atlanta (I hadn’t the courage to attempt the downtown route) and driving for a near-eternity through the northeast suburbs, we arrived at last at the 890-acre park. The property offers a wide variety of trails, including a number of paved multi-use routes, plus a few for horses, bicycles, and pedestrians, and a couple limited to hikers only. We had only a couple of hours before sundown, so I proposed taking the Gorge Trail loop, a 2.16-mile route through an upland hardwood and pine forest and along the edge of a gorge. I was particularly intrigued to read that the trail included over 200 stone mounds, possibly prehistoric in origin.
Setting out on the trail, we soon came to this stunning old oak tree. Its abundant lower branches attest to a time when it stood alone in a pasture, perhaps as recently as 50 to 75 years ago.
After going up and down several steep hillslopes, we began seeing stone piles everywhere we looked. Some of them were just scatterings of amphibolite gneiss (a metamorphic rock that outcrops throughout the park), while others seemed to be intentionally stacked. Who constructed them, and why were they there?
We came to an information sign about the stone mounds, offering an explanation for them and urging visitors to treat them with respect.
The text above asserts that “they are almost certainly associated with native american cultures.” But if archaeologists “have failed to uncover artifacts”, then on what basis was the connection made? How do we know that the mounds are prehistoric in the first place? I will explore this mystery further in my next post. The answers, as far as I can determine them, teach us as much about human nature as they do about the landscape history of the upper Piedmont of Georgia.